Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Palestinians Would Be Foolish To Trust Obama or Netanyahu

There's an old saying that goes "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me". I'm not sure what the appropriate riposte is when you've been scammed by the same dishonest brokers a hundred times over. That sadly describes the behaviour of the Palestinian Authority who have gone along with the charade of negotiations and broken treaties so often that it's like watching reruns of a syndicated TV series - you know how every episode is going to end but you can't help but watch it anyway. Granted, the PA have often been duped not so much out of political cowardice or foolishness as a lack of alternatives. During the civil war in Lebanon in the early 1980s, the PLO were effectively defeated by the combined power of Lebanese fascists and Israeli military power and accepted a "peace agreement" that saw the Palestinian guerillas leave the country in return for a guarantee that Palestinian civilians would be protected. Within days the Israelis had facilitated a horrific massacre at the Sabra & Shatila refugee camps, carried out by the Israeli allied Lebanese falangists.

The same inability to mobilize sufficient levels of resistance during the first Intifada to defeat Israel - though enough to make Israel look like the child-murdering bastards that they are - led to the Oslo Accords. Oslo, lovingly pined after by squishy liberals everywhere as a way to avoid dealing honestly with Israel's racist colonialism while appearing sympathetic to an obviously oppressed people, was never anything other than an agreement to outsource the oppression and colonization to the Palestinians themselves. In return for suppressing resistance, the PLO would get authority at about the level of a municipal government, be allowed to fly the Palestinian flag, and Israel would even hand over tax dollars that were collected from and therefore legally belonged to the Palestinians. Israel would continue to build illegal settlements, kill Palestinians that the PLO, by then the Palestinian Authority, hadn't jailed or suppressed and, finally, chop up the West Bank with an Apartheid Wall and turn Gaza into a giant open-aired prison on the brink of starvation. Oslo, far from being the basis to establish a Palestinian state and end the conflict, was about neutering Palestinian resistance while continuing with the same genocidal policies.

That thoroughly dishonest, not to mention murderous, modus operandi has always been how Israel carried out its dirty deeds - claim to be under existential threat, plead a desire for peace, and then stage pre-emptive attacks on a people who have been disarmed by international conspiracy using the most advanced weapons on the planet, gifted to them by the most powerful empire in world history. When the oppressed fight back with stones and bottles filled with gasoline against heavily armoured tanks and sniper rifles with night vision or jet fighters flying at 10,000 feet, claim that this demonstrates the Palestinians are murderous, trained from birth to hate Jews, religious fanatics, etc. There is, in other words, "no partner for peace." How often did we hear that in the 1990s in relation to Yasser Arafat, even as he jailed oppositionists. That is, until Abbas finally stepped up and agreed to be a mini-Mubarak happily working on behalf of Israel's pantomime of being the USA in oppressing his own people even more profoundly. Then Arafat was no longer necessary and was conveniently disposed of.

This - and much more, frankly - is worth rehearsing as we hear Obama and Netanyahu pleading with Mahmoud Abbas not to bring the issue of recognizing Palestine as a state to the UN. Hilary Clinton even pretends to want to see a two-state solution and professes to be struggling to bring one about. Netanyahu has even offered direct negotiations. The only accurate words to describe this little charm offensive ought not to be used in polite company. Suffice to say that only an absolute moron with a profound memory disorder would fall for any of this. Obama had his chance to demonstrate having the Palestinians' interests at heart when Netanyahu accelerated the settlement building program and snubbed Obama's plea for a serious hiatus. Obama and the US government could have suspended the $3 billion in annual gift cash that Israel receives each year. They could have suspended the military aid and joint training exercises. They did nothing and not because of any Jewish/Israel lobby in Washington. They did nothing because of the vital role that Israel plays as America's loyal little Sparta, their watchdog in the Middle East, a bulwark against Arab democracy or any Arab dictator who gets delusions of anti-colonial grandeur. Or simply gets too big for his britches, as Saddam Hussein found out.

The trouble now for the Americans and the Israelis is that revolution is sweeping the region and all the old calculuses no longer hold. Just over a week ago Egyptians rioted outside of the Israeli embassy, forcing the embassy staff to flee for their lives. Turkey, emboldened by years of China-style economic growth, is flexing its muscles in the region and has threatened to send Turkish warships to accompany aid vessels going to Gaza. Turkey, with 74 million people and a modern economy and modern military is not so easy to push around as the disarmed Palestinians. Egypt, Israel's neighbour, is no longer under the thumb of a pro-Israel, pro-US dictator and everything, including the 35-year peace accord is now up in the air. The revolutionary wave has made Israel more isolated and the Palestinians more powerful than they have been in generations. And Abbas knows that. He also knows that the division between Hamas' controlled Gaza and the PLO controlled West Bank was a machination by the White House/Israel - one that he actively went along with, to be sure. But rather than cementing his rule and destroying his Hamas enemies, as it was meant to do, it weakened him, made him look like what he is - a comprador tool of Israel and the USA. All of this may have emboldened Abbas. Certainly he can't turn back now or he will be a corpse politically. He has nothing to lose - the Palestinians have nothing to lose - by pushing for a symbolic victory at the UN. Of course, the USA will - as they have promised - veto the Palestinian application in the Security Council. But at a time when the USA is trying to appear as the friend of the Arab Spring, this will seriously damage their image. And the world will see that the Palestinians have the support of the vast majority of countries. Israel will appear, again, as the molly-coddled bully boy of the Middle East, kept solvent and dangerous by their American benefactors. And there is yet a further danger. If the Americans and Israel publicly and actively stand up and say that Palestine isn't a country, there is every danger that the strategy of the "two-state solution" will be finally and completely dead; revealed as a fa├žade behind which Israel could engage in endless, meaningless negotiations while creating "facts on the ground." If that leads to a civil rights struggle for a truly civil state - as opposed to the theocratic monstrosity that is Israel, the "Jewish state" - including calls for the right to democratic representation and an end to Apartheid-like policies, this will be very dangerous ground, especially in an era where everyone in the Middle East is engaging in the fight for democracy and freedom. If Abbas doesn't back down, this could open up a new round of struggle in Palestine that aligns it with a regional revolution. Palestine could truly join the Arab Spring. That can only end badly for Israel - and rightly so; they have sown the wind, it's about time for them to reap the whirlwind.

Netanyahu calls for talks with Palestinians - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

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