Bush whitewashes, tries to prop up Abu Mazen

President Bush today made a speech in the White House with the clear intention of assuring an ever-skeptical world that he is concerned about the Palestinian question, and that he’s confident that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Abbas’s illegitimately installed Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, can “deliver” something worthwhile to the Palestinian people.
In order to do this, Bush had to airbrush out a whole lot of extremely unsavory facts about the circumstances in which the Fayyad administration came into being. For example, he said,

    The alternatives before the Palestinian people are stark. There is the vision of Hamas, which the world saw in Gaza — with murderers in black masks, and summary executions, and men thrown to their death from rooftops…
    There’s another option, and that’s a hopeful option. It is the vision of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad; it’s the vision of their government; it’s the vision of a peaceful state called Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people. To realize this vision, these leaders are striving to build the institutions of a modern democracy. (Ahem, what about the parliament that the Palestinians democratically elected back in January 2006, which the US government systematically tried to undermine from the day it was elected, and which has now been rendered inoperative through Israel’s broad arrests of legislators and through Abbas’s unconstitutional appointment of Fayyad?? ~ HC) They’re working to strengthen the Palestinian security services, so they can confront the terrorists and protect the innocent. (!) They’re acting to set up competent ministries that deliver services without corruption. (!) They’re taking steps to improve the economy and unleash the natural enterprise of the Palestinian people. And they’re ensuring that Palestinian society operates under the rule of law. (!) By following this path, Palestinians can reclaim their dignity and their future — and establish a state of their own…

So the way he presents it, Hamas is only a “terrorist” organization that uses unconscionable violence against Palestinians (as well as Israelis). He makes zero mention at all of Hamas’s victory in the 2006 elections– or, of Israel’s quite unforgivable detention of more than half of the duly elected Hamas legislators. All that is airbrushed out of Bush’s view of “history.”
Luckily, yesterday US readers were able to read this sterling piece of reporting by the NYT’s Steve Erlanger, who used his extensive understanding of the realities in the occupied Palestinian territories to write at length about the deep corruption into which Fateh has fallen, the horribly corrosive effects Israel’s stonewalling on the peace “process” has had on the lives of Palestinians, the commission by some Fateh bodies of torture and other forms of gross abuse against other Palestinians over the years, the US- and Israel-orchestrated campaign against the Parliamentary leadership elected by the Palestinians last year, and so on…
And nor does he spare Hamas from his scrutiny (though he gives a far more informed description of the political realities within which it operates, and in which it has grown so strong in recent years than anything G.W. Bush could even dream of producing). Erlanger led his piece thus:

    Palestinians never used to do these things to one another. Putting bullets in the back of the heads of men on their knees. Shooting up hospitals. Killing patients. Knee-capping doctors. Executing clerics. Throwing handcuffed prisoners to their deaths from Gaza’s highest (and most expensive) apartment buildings. There is a madness in Gaza now. Hamas — a religious political-military organization that dominated the last Palestinian elections — claimed it was fighting infidels, with a holy sanction to kill. Fatah — the largest group in the Palestine Liberation Organization — was nearly as brutal as Hamas and claimed it was fighting the Nazis. Poor young men from the squalid, stinking refugee camps of Gaza, their heads filled with religious slogans and revolutionary cant, took off their knitted black masks to pose in front of the gilded bathrooms of the once-powerful and rich men of Fatah. Then they stole the sinks, toilets, tiles and pipes, leaving the wiring and the metal scraps for the ordinary, unarmed poor.

Not quite the image of Fateh as the nonviolent “peace-lovers” that George Bush was trying to convey, it seems?
(Do read the rest of Erlanger’s piece, if you can.)
So, back to Bush…
He describes a few fairly rapid steps he wants the US and its allies in the so-called “Quartet” to take. Then, he says this:

    With the proper foundation, we can soon begin serious negotiations toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
    These negotiations must resolve difficult questions and uphold clear principles. They must ensure that Israel is secure. They must guarantee that a Palestinian state is viable and contiguous. And they must lead to a territorial settlement, with mutually agreed borders reflecting previous lines and current realities, and mutually agreed adjustments. America is prepared to lead discussions to address these issues, but they must be resolved by Palestinians and Israelis, themselves.

I really don’t see how anyone can take seriously any more the notion that America has any remaining legitimacy to continue “leading” the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. For 34 years now– ever since the brief convening of an international Middle East peace conference in Geneva in December 1973– the US arrogated to itself the claimed “right” to dominate all aspects of Israeli-Arab peacemaking. And for a while, the rest of the world was, for a broad variety of reasons, prepared to go along with that.
Twenty years later, in 1993, the Norwegians handed to the Americans on a plate a unique opportunity to build on the relationships of trust that Norwegian negotiators had built up between the PLO and Israeli leaders, including a commitment the Israelis and Palestinians had both signed on to, that by 1999 they would have concluded a permanent peace agreement between them– and the Americans completely squandered that opportunity… Through first and foremost their continued pursuit of blatantly one-sided pro-Israeli partisanship, but also through their recourse to all sorts of silly, time-wasting ruses under the rubric of “confidence-building”, peace-“processing” etc, etc, and through President Clinton’s deep failure to engage with the need to work seriously on the all-important negotiations for a final peace agreement (as opposed to all those time-wasting little side-talks about this or that situation under the endlessly prolonged ‘interim’ situation.)
Well, 34 years of failed American “leadership” in the Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy notwithstanding, here is President Bush breezily telling us that once again, “America is prepared to lead discussions to address these issues, but they must be resolved by Palestinians and Israelis, themselves.”
No mention there, you will note, of such things as “the principles of international law”. No. Under this so-called American “leadership”, these two parties– the one a state with the world’s third- or fourth-largest army, a GNP in the mega-billions, nuclear weapons, a massive prison system, and many other means of violent coercion at its disposal, and the other a ragtag collection of sad and corrupt little US-financed “ministries” under Abbas’s and Fayyad’s control, deploying a few little pop-guns (but oh, not against Israel)– are going to be able to sit down together and negotiate a fair, sustainable outcome?
I don’t think so.
That’s why getting a firm grounding of “the principles of international law” into the process is so important. Without that, the Palestinians can’t “negotiate” anything worthwhile or lasting.
Bush goes on, embedding some fairly racist assumptions about the nature of Palestinians into his discourse:

    To make this prospect a reality, the Palestinian people must decide that they want a future of decency and hope — not a future of terror and death. They must match their words denouncing terror with action to combat terror. The Palestinian government must arrest terrorists, dismantle their infrastructure, and confiscate illegal weapons — as the road map requires. They must work to stop attacks on Israel, and to free the Israeli soldier held hostage by extremists. And they must enforce the law without corruption, so they can earn the trust of their people, and of the world. Taking these steps will enable the Palestinians to have a state of their own. And there’s only way to end the conflict, and nothing less is acceptable. (I’m not sure what the first half of the preceding sentence means. But maybe it doesn’t matter? ~HC)
    Israel has a clear path. Prime Minister Olmert must continue to release Palestinian tax revenues to the government of Prime Minster Fayyad. Prime Minister Olmert has also made clear that Israel’s future lies in developing areas like the Negev and Galilee — not in continuing occupation of the West Bank. This is a reality that Prime Minister Sharon recognized, as well. So unauthorized outposts should be removed and settlement expansion ended. At the same time, Israelis should find other practical ways to reduce their footprint without reducing their security — so they can help President Abbas improve economic and humanitarian conditions. They should be confident that the United States will never abandon its commitment to the security of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people.

The “reduce their footprint without reducing their security” line is quite cute… But it falls far short of calling for an unequivocal withdrawal of Israel from the areas its army occupied during the war of 1967. Whatever happened to that fine clause embedded in Resolution 242 about “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”? Has George Bush, the Emperor of the Whole World, now decided that acquiring territory by force has become quite acceptable?
Bush again:

    The international community must rise to the moment, and provide decisive support to responsible Palestinian leaders working for peace. One forum to deliver that support is the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee — a group chaired by Norway that includes the United States and Japan, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. (This ‘Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee’ completely follows the model the Bushites love to use for addressing thorny international issues. Rather than using the existing and far more legitimate channels for multilateral action– primarily, the UN– they like to pull together ‘ad-hoc committees’ of their own choosing, and under their own leadership, to address this or that problem– and quite free from the constraints of anything called ‘international law’. I really don’t don’t see why other countries continue to go along with this norm-corroding, self-serving approach. Unfortunately, regarding the ‘Quartet’, even the UN itself went along. ~HC) Today I call for a session of this committee to gather soon, so that the world can back its words in real support for the new Palestinian government.
    The world can do more to build the conditions for peace. So I will call together (He honestly thinks he’s been elected ‘leader of the whole world’? What madness is this?) an international meeting this fall of representatives from nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties. The key participants in this meeting will be the Israelis, the Palestinians, and their neighbors in the region. Secretary Rice will chair the meeting. (Take that, Tony Blair!) She and her counterparts will review the progress that has been made toward building Palestinian institutions. They will look for innovative and effective ways to support further reform. And they will provide diplomatic support for the parties in their bilateral discussions and negotiations, so that we can move forward on a successful path to a Palestinian state.

And then we have this… I knew it had to come into the speech somewhere!

    The conflict in Gaza and the West Bank today is a struggle between extremists and moderates. And these are not the only places where the forces of radicalism and violence threaten freedom and peace. The struggle between extremists and moderates is also playing out in Lebanon — where Hezbollah and Syria and Iran are trying to destabilize the popularly elected government. The struggle is playing out in Afghanistan — where the Taliban and al Qaeda are trying to roll back democratic gains. And the struggle is playing out in Iraq — where al Qaeda, insurgents, and militia are trying to defy the will of nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a free future.
    Ceding any of these struggles to extremists would have deadly consequences for the region and the world. So in Gaza and the West Bank and beyond, the international community must stand with the brave men and women who are working for peace.

So let’s see what this sudden burst of (claimed) Bushist enthusiasm for Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy leads to… Will we see a serious attempt by the US government to curb Israel’s settlement-building project? Will we see a serious attempt by them to push Israel into lifting the debilitating shackles it has placed on the ability of the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza to maintain anything like a “normal” economic, social, and political life?
I wait to be pleasantly surprised. But I am not holding my breath. Quite honestly, I think humanity could devise a better mode of global “leadership” than this one.

39 thoughts on “Bush whitewashes, tries to prop up Abu Mazen”

  1. Bush is doing exactly what Helena was demanding just a couple of months ago. Holding a “peace conference.”
    I guess the problem is that it would be under the auspices of those who don’t strictly adhere to Helena’s misguided and counter-factual positions. Or maybe it’s just that they don’t hate Israel as much as she does.
    Helena thinks that if she repeats the lie that “UNSC 242 requires Israel to withdraw from ALL territories occupied in 1967” that it somehow becomes the truth.
    Her recounting of the history of the peace process is also inaccurate. The fact is that no country has done more to try to broker a peace arrangement between Israel and its enemies than the U.S., and that the return for such efforts has just been more hatred and lies.
    For Helena “peacemaking” means that she gets to sanctimoniously scold the Israelis and demand that they follow her lead.
    Particularly ironic considering that this comes one day after Helena reprimanded “whitefolk” (what a cute, racist term) who want to “save” Africa. But apparently Helena the Great White Mother can save the middle east.

  2. Here we are again, with Jeremy and Joshua, here simply to chastise rather than dialogue-how whiny and immature.
    Noneheless, here is the American Task Force on Palestine’s Press Release regarding Bush’s statement on the I/P conflict:
    Contact: Rafi Dajani
    Phone: 202-887-0177
    Washington, D.C., July 16 – The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) today welcomed the speech by U.S. president George Bush in which he reiterated U.S. support for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Following his speech, President Bush and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas spoke by telephone in a half hour conversation about U.S. steps meant to strengthen Palestinian moderates and the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
    In his speech, President Bush called upon the Palestinian people to reclaim their future and work towards establishing a Palestinian state based upon the hopeful vision as represented by President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. The President spelled out the financial, political/diplomatic and institution-building commitments of the U.S. towards the Palestinian people. These included the allocation of $190 million to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, $80 million for the security services, and the building of Palestinian state institutions with the coordination of new Quartet Mideast envoy Tony Blair. The president also outlined Palestinian responsibilities including fighting corruption, ending attacks against Israel and establishing the rule of law; and Israeli responsibilities including releasing Palestinian tax revenues, removing outposts, ending settlement expansion and ending the occupation of the West Bank. President Bush also announced the convening of an international conference later this year in order to focus international support for the Palestinians to be chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
    Commenting on the presidential speech, ATFP president Dr. Ziad Asali said: “We welcome President Bush’s devotion of a entire speech on the issue of Palestine today and his support for measures aimed at restarting the peace process. Equally important will be the prompt and full implementation of the measures in support of the Palestinians and the beginning of a meaningful political process leading to statehood.” He added, “Both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples are yearning for peace, and peace can only be achieved through the establishment of a Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace.”

  3. H, have you ever investigated or written about “NGO Monitor”? They have written a scathing piece about the French. Frightening, these folks are.

  4. The occupation has not made Israel safer and it has only inflamed the passions of the Palestinians and the Arab world. Before the Hamas victory in elections, Israel had ample opportunity to negotiate with the moderate Palestinians, but instead chose to stonewall the process and continue to build settlements, settlements that violate the letter and the spirit of the peace process. However, due to their lobbying efforts and media domination they have been able to present the occupation as being humane and in the best interest of the Palestinians. The Palestinians are too barbaric to be able to govern themselves and require the benevolent assistance of the Israelis to save them from themselves. This picture will again be played out in the main stream press as the violence intensifies.
    Of course throughout this process what won’t be discussed are the efforts of the Israelis and the US to destabilize the Palestinians and to keep them splintered so they cannot mount an effective defense against the media savvy Israelis. Thus allowing them to present the Palestinians as uncivilized and therefore unworthy of having a place at the bargaining table. This has allowed the Israelis to continue to fortify their positions and settlements in the occupied territory. The Israelis and the US will disavow any complicity in the violence that is now taking place in Gaza, not accepting that this violence is in direct response to the fact that the lawfully elected government is being kept from governing by the interference of Washington and Tele Aviv.
    Am I a fan of Hamas? Certainly not. But I am not a Palestinian and so my vote doesn’t count for anything in this struggle. I do know that you cannot create an environment that fosters frustration, hopelessness, and fear and not expect some backlash. You cannot restrict the daily movements of a people and interrupt their interactions with their families and then be shocked when they respond. Let’s not forget that for a long time this land belonged to them as much as it did to Israel, if not more. Are they also entitled to self-determination? Are they not entitled to their own state?
    So what is there to do? We can continue to play the blame game and the retaliation mess or we can try something novel and maybe talk to all parties. If we continue to marginalize and isolate those who we disagree with we only continue to foster their beliefs that we are insensitive to their needs. We open the door for even more radical elements, because the moderates have shown little, if any gains. Hamas is a creation of the corruption of the Fatah party and the frustration at the lack of progress for the average Palestinian. In a conflict of this magnitude, one that runs this deep there are only two options: either we make peace and sacrifice for that peace or we kill all of them. Because as long as they are there, there will be no peace. There will be no peaceful co-existence. So either sit down with all parties and negotiate in good faith or stop the “snipe hunt” and let the killing begin…
    False history gets made all day, any day,
    the truth of the new is never on the news – Adrienne Rich

    The Disputed Truth

  5. The occupation has not made the Israeli people safer (except in the mind of some); what the occupation has allowed successive Gov’ts to do is continue to appropriate land and build settlements-with US permission, funding and pleasure!

  6. Helena, are you saying that Salam Fayyad’s government has no chance or even intention of providing uncorrupt good governance to Palestine?
    Has Abbas, a foundation member of the PLO, no credibility at all among the Palestinians?
    If so then you are right in your implication that the PNA and PLO is truly dead.

  7. BB, I would gather that Salam Fayad has some credibility on the street-the compelling question here is what of other Palestinian politicos? How tragic that Hamas and Fatah are the only options-

  8. Bush wants a “contiguous” Palestine?
    Won’t that divide Israel in half?
    No wonder Israel impedes peace.

  9. All of the posters here seem to be ignoring reality. A person or a nation should be judged by their actions, not their words. Israel (at least the Zionsists) has one intention: to keep all of the land and none of the people. Israel and the US are seeking a Quisling in Abbas who will sell out the human rights of the Palestinian people under clear international law – return of refugees, no collective punishment, no land taken by force of arms, no settlement of the occupiers people, no aparatheid, etc., etc. – for a small reduction in the mistreatment of the Palestinaian people and a limo and nice office and Dahlan style villa and a pat on the head from George W. The whole purpose of this “conference” seems to merely be to get someone other than the Quislings Mubarak, Abdullah, and Abbas to sit down in public with Israel and try to get some legitimacy for the illegal occupation and ongoing apartheid.

  10. Israel has one intention: to keep all of the land and none of the people.
    I’m sure that’s Israel’s exact intent: mass extermination!
    No wonder Israel impedes peace.
    It’s definitely in the way. Let’s get rid of it. Down with Zionism! Only when Zionism has been erased from the pages of time will peace prevail in the Mideast, as it did for the prior 2,000 years. Sorry to let you down, JES. If you need a place to stay, I’m sure Norm can put you up in his garage.
    This conforming of the Middle East to our own impeccable values reminds me so much of neocon-ism. You’ve got wishful thinking, intrusive nation building (and destruction), contempt for the will of the ‘indigenes.’ Ignorant cultural broadsides — instead of ranting about the essentially backwards and violent Arabs its all about the genocidal and exploitative Zionists. But hey, it’s meant in the most constructive way possible, right?

  11. Vadim – thanks for at least not denying the ethnic cleansing (see Benny Morris) or the apartheid or the consistent violations of the Security Cuncil resolutions, the Geneva Conventions, etc. There is still some hope for realism.

  12. There is still some hope for realism.
    No, claiming the “party of God” or the “Islamic resistance” is championing an inclusive, secular state– that’s hard headed realism, right alongside the “one state” idea so unpopular among the people of the region (who, them?)

  13. Yes Jack, a nation should be judged by their acts. We Israelis – Zionists anyway (I love it) – have a pretty piss-poor record of ethnic cleansing. Forty years and, rather than declining, the Palestinian population of the territories has nearly doubled.
    I think, however, that one also needs to look at words, as they often are indications of future actions. The Hamas Covenant is one document that tends to bother me.
    Anyway Jack, no need to worry. Now that Farfour is gone – having been beaten to death by a black Israeli shabak agent – his cousin Nahoul has arrived to avenge the rodent and ensure a whole new generation of martyrs:

  14. Amazing how little it takes to bring out the true nature of the Zionist (not Jewish, not even Israeli) right wingers. My Jewish friends who visited the occupied territories were appalled
    at the conditions that are being imposed on the Palestinians and so should all people of the world who have a chance to view the reality instead of the zionist propaganda. How would you react to 40 years of oppression by a colonial occuppying power? Israel is a continuing reality and no one can blame the Palestinians who are willing to give up so much for even a decent life as opposed to the oppression they have suffered for so long. So long as Israel has the unqualified support of the world’s only superpower for their policy of apartheid it will continue. Whether for 50 myears or 100 years or 500 years. But to ask them to validate what has been done to them is too much.

  15. Helena, you ask: “So let’s see what this sudden burst of (claimed) Bushist enthusiasm for Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy leads to…”
    I answer: Ever wondered what happened to Harkin Oil?
    (Actually, wasn’t this, rather than being serious, more about scene-setting for Lord Blair?)

  16. Words Jack. Words. “Colonial occupying power”. “oppression they have suffered”. “policy of apartheid”.
    Deeds Jack. Deeds. I was trying to point out deeds, as yo suggested. If Israel and, yes Zionists, were bent on ethnic cleansing, then we would have a hell of a lot more to show for it. The implication – knock on head – is that if you look at deeds instead of the pseudo-leftwing drivel that you repeat here, you’ll see that the accusation is pathetically false.

  17. jes –
    It’s not left wing drivel. Have you been there and talked to the people involved? I have. It is apartheid, plain and simple. If the ethnic cleansing plan of 1948 could pass muster in the international community of the 21st century, you would see it. The slow ethnic cleansing of oppressivw apartheid is all they think they can get away with at this time. I have seen the mole holes that Israel is burrowing under the “Jews only” roads across the West Bank to allow “contiguity” , at least on those days when the teenage, undisciplined IOF decides to allow it. Israel , with US support , has the power at this time, and will prevail. but a real reaching out with good faith and a total end to the occupation is the only and last best hope for real peace in the region. As long as Bush and company continue to support the radical zionist Israeli forces, there is no hope at all. Even Abbas, with all his Israeli and US support could never survive agreeing to what the Bush people call the “moderate” solution : total capitulation to ongoning apartheid.

  18. Yes I have been there, although I have always considered the territories (or OAT) to be outside of Israel. And I don’t believe it is “apartheid” simply because you say so based on your – or your “Jewish friends” (not sure why you needed to bring that up in the first place) having been there, on the ground.
    The so-called “Jews only roads”, if you will recall, were constructed under the Oslo agreements as bypass roads, and they were never intended to be for “Jews only”. They became such, de facto, as a direct result of violence directed at Israelis using those roads. The fence was, likewise, a response to violence and was, in fact, vehemently opposed by both Sharon and by the settler movement.
    Your talk about the “ethnic cleansing plan of 1948” fails to take into account a couple of historical facts. First, that irrespective of the fact that some ethnic cleansing did, indeed, take place, more than half of the Arab population of Israel remained, intact, within Israel’s borders. Further, it is quite clear, to me at least, that the historical record indicates that tohnit dalet was neither a strategic plan for all of the Jewish state, nor was it intended to remove all the Arabs from Israel.
    The seccond point that you fail to take into account is that the expressed purpose of the Arab League and Palestinian leadership from Partition onward was to ethnically cleanse Palestine of Jews. They not only said this openly – numerous times – but effictively removed Jews in every single instance in which they achieved a victory on the ground in an area populated by Jews. The fact that they were not able to do more does not in any way lessen or mitigate this fact. (Need I remind you also of the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish (non-Zionist) communities of Hebron and Kfar Silwan in 1929 or of the expressed aims of the Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1890s to terrorize the Jews so they would leave Palestine).
    And what of your assertion that you know what Zionists “think they can get away with” and the rather ridiculous claim of “slow ethnic cleansing”? The fact, which I have been trying to get across to you, is that far from dessimating the population of the West Bank and Gaza, the past 40 years has witnessed unparalleled growth in those populations. Please feel free to tell me how this contradiction can be reconciled with your claim of “slow ethnic cleansing”.
    Frankly, your rambling about “mole holes that Israel is burrowing”, on the one hand, and about the “teenage, undiciplined” IDF soldiers (this is in contrast to the mature, diciplined Hamas fighters who killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians just a month ago?) only sometimes allowing it is quite unclear to me.
    Finally, I think that the majority of Israelis – including myself – would like to see an end to the occupation. I agree that radical Zionist elements have impeded this. But I also think that the maximalist aims and violence of the other side are in no small way also a contributing factor.

  19. jes –
    I wonder where you get your figures. Since more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of Israel in 1948 and they and their descendants now number over 3,000,000, why are there only 1,500,00 arabs in Israel now, if they represented 1/2 of the arab population at the time? Are they just less fruitfull than their diaspora cousins?

  20. According to the USCOP plan, about 320,000 Arabs were to remain within the boundaries of the Jewish State, out of a total population of roughly 1.2 million. The Arab population of Israel in 1949 was about 160,000, and during four years following the armisice anywhere between 30,000 and 90,000 Arabs returned to Israel (this is according to Morris).
    If you want to maintain that “more than half” overstates the case, then fine. This does not substantially change the arguments I raised. Even if a larger percentage were “ethnicly cleansed”, a large percentage were not – certainly not indicative of an “ethnic cleansing plan”. Even Benny Morris indicates this and, more recently, has faulted Ben Gurion for not actually carrying out a strategy of ethnic cleansing. Further, the fact, as you suggest, that both the Israeli Arab population has grown somewhere in the vicinity of eight to nine times over the past 60 years, and that the Palestinian population of the territories has more than doubled during the past 40 years, his hard to reconcile with your assertion of a policy of ethnic cleansing – slow or otherwise.
    Moreover, arguing about the numbers does not address the questions of ethnic cleansing on the other side.

  21. JES –
    A slight correction. The Israeli historian, Benny Morris, found, from a review of 1948 documents that there was a policy of Ben Gurion and Israel to ethnically cleanse greater Israel of Palestinians. He does agree with you that they did a bad or at least incomplete job of it.
    Benny Morris’ interview with Haaretz:
    “There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing. I know that this term is completely negative in the discourse of the 21st century, but when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide – the annihilation of your people – I prefer ethnic cleansing
    And that was the situation in 1948?
    “That was the situation. That is what Zionism faced. A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.”
    The term `to cleanse’ is terrible.
    “I know it doesn’t sound nice but that’s the term they used at the time. I adopted it from all the 1948 documents in which I am immersed
    . . . .
    I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying that Ben-Gurion erred in expelling too few Arabs?
    “If he was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job. I know that this stuns the Arabs and the liberals and the politically correct types. But my feeling is that this place would be quieter and know less suffering if the matter had been resolved once and for all. If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country – the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River. It may yet turn out that this was his fatal mistake. If he had carried out a full expulsion – rather than a partial one – he would have stabilized the State of Israel for generations.”
    I find it hard to believe what I am hearing.
    “If the end of the story turns out to be a gloomy one for the Jews, it will be because Ben-Gurion did not complete the transfer in 1948. Because he left a large and volatile demographic reserve in the West Bank and Gaza and within Israel itself.”

  22. Jack, have you read Ilan Pappe’s latest book, titled The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine? One of the things he does is challenge the myth that the ethnic cleansing was merely an “unfortunate” side effect of the 1948 war, but rather that the main purpose of the war was to effect ethnic cleansing. Benny Morris’s more recent remarks, such as the ones you quoted above, do tend to support Pappe’s thesis.
    And by the way, it is a fine point, but the number of Palestinians “cleansed” by Israel in 1948 and the early years of statehood was probably closer to one million than 700,000. As I recall, the official UN count was around 750,000. There were an unknown number of Palestinians who fled or were expelled or otherwise forced out who did not make it onto the refugee rolls because they had their own resources. I am personally acquainted with tens of such Palestinians who were able to resettle themselves in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon or some other country. As far as I know there are no numbers for those who were ethnically cleansed, but did not end up as part of the UN refugee count, but there must be thousands of them. I don’t think 10-20,000 is an outlandish estimate.

  23. No Jack. You are confusing two things: What Ben Gurion established as policy (i.e. the famed tohnit dalet) and Benny Morris’ post fact opinion about the merits of expulsion, transfer and ethnic cleansing (i.e. “If he was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job.”).
    For the record, Benny Morris did not discover tohnit dalet in the archives. Uri Millstein did. What Benny Morris did was to take information from the documentary record – including meeting protocols, diary entries and reported conversations – and try to show that the intention was other than what was actually specified in tohnit dalet as a military directive. Efraim Karsh and Anita Shapira have done a good job of showing how Benny Morris either misread the historical record, or used highly selective (or misrepresented) quotes to substantiate his case.
    At any rate, this still does not speak to the question of the intent and actions of the other side. I think that it is safe to say that both sides were intent on at least some level of ethnic cleansing. One could even say that it was a basic premise of the 1948 war. I think we both agree that this was wrong. The fact, however, that one side happened to be more successful in its efforts doesn’t lessen the culpibility of the other side.

  24. The facts are irrefutable…
    *The 1947 UN Security Council Resolution in favor of partition was accepted by Israel and rejected by the Arabs.
    *The 1948 war resulted in approximately 750,000 Arab refugees…a roughly equivalent number of Jews were expelled from Arab lands.
    *Until 1967 the West Bank was occupied by Jordan, not Israel…and Gaza by Egypt.
    *To Hamas, “occupation” means the whole Zionist enterprise – not just the territories Israel wound up with after Nasser expelled the UN peacekeepers from the Sinai, blockaded the Straits of Tiran, mobilized his army and succeeded in enlisting both Syria and Jordan as war allies.

  25. What conclusion are we to draw from either thesis (that Israel coherently attempted/did not attempt ethnic cleansing during the 1948 war?) Is the idea of the Israelophobes that Zionism demands ethnic cleansing? Obviously that isn’t the case, since neither Israel nor the territories are ‘cleansed’ of Palestinians today. The Israelophobes seem to be ignoring this fact.
    Moreover, how does impugning the motives of an entire people advance the cause of Palestinian statehood? Or is it just to show (again) that Israelis are “generally speaking, aggressors” or some other bigoted generalization? Some dialogue.

  26. I’m not sure that this is relevant either KDJ. But anyway…..
    Hezbollah, and for that matter, Lebanon, is at war with Israel. This remained the case, even after Israel withdrew from all Lebanese territory in 2000.
    Israelis were told “get out of Lebanon, and you will have peace!” That of course, did not happen. In fact, over the next 6 years, Hezbollah built its armaments up so that it could further menace Israel.
    Last year, you may have missed it, Hezbollah launched an unprovoked attack on Israel, shooting rockets into Israeli territory and capturing Israeli soldiers. One person I know who fancies herself a peace activist giddily exclaimed how “daring” and “inventive” Hezbollah was for doing this. The result, of course, was devastating for Lebanon, which suffered severely from the flare up that Hezbollah caused.
    As a result of this, the “international community” demanded a cease fire. Under this cease fire, Hezbollah still refuses to disarm, and by most accounts is rebuilding its weaponry. It has refused to release the soldiers it captured, even though the UN resolution brokering the cease fire demanded their unconditional release. And Lebanon as a whole refuses to recognize Israel. I could tell you the number of days it has now been that Lebanon has failed to recognize Israel, but that is a fact which our blog owner has deemed forbidden for publication. It doesn’t fit her narrative, after all.
    As a result, it is not at all surprising that Israel engages in mock exercises against entities that have called for its destruction. If Lebanon doesn’t want the mock exercises to become actual exercises, it can do something very simple. Agree to immediate recognition of Israel and declare and end to its hostilities. Who could object?

  27. I do not believe in psychological terrorism, Joshua. I do recall that Lebanon is in full compliance with UNSCR 1701-and Israel continues not to be. This blind patriotism explains little.

  28. Reading how quickly the commentary reverted from the subject matter of Helena’s post to a slanging match over the foundations of the jewish state highlights why this issue has been so intractable for 60 plus years?
    The dividing line is between three camps – those who will never believe or recognise that Israel has any legitimacy as a UN mandated jewish state, those who do and those who unhappily believe there is no other choice (eg PLO).
    Those in the first camp have always shared common positions on the crucial issues for eg: “Palestinians were and are being deliberately ethnically cleansed”; “Israel is an apartheid state”; “Palestinian Right of Return to Israel is non negotiable”; “One State solution”; “Hamas government should be recognised even though or especially because it rejects recognition of Israel and by its Covenant swears to destroy the jewish state” and, most crucially “PLO/PNA is to be condemned and opposed because it recognises Israel”
    Those in the third camp share most of these positions except for the last two but believe the reality of Israeli power dictates recognition to allow Palestinian sovereignity to be achieved.
    Now Hamas, by expelling the PNA/PLO government security forces and taking control of Gaza via its own non govt authorised militia, has brought the issue between camps one and three to a showdown.
    That’s what was behind Bush’s speech and I wish there was more discussion and information here about which view – the Abbas/PLO realpolitick or the Hamas rejectionist ideological – will prevail?
    The most significant aspect of all the recent manouvres to me was Abbas’s appointment of the long time supposedly incorruptable independants to government and his call for new elections.
    Am hoping Helena might apply her extensive knowledge of intra Palestinian politics to address these developments and provide some illumination?

  29. KDJ,
    First of all I do not feel I have to “justify” everything on the face of the earth related to Israel.
    Secondly, you state: “I do recall that Lebanon is in full compliance with UNSCR 1701”.
    I might ask: What world do you live in?
    The last time I saw Nasrallah, he was bragging that Hizballah had totally rearmed. I think you should look at the terms of UNSCR 1701 on this issue and ask how this puts Lebanon in compliance.
    The last time I checked the paper, I saw that UNIFIL troops had, again, been the target of a roadside bomb.
    The last time I saw Karnit Goldwasser, she was alone, and neither she, nor the other family members of Ehud Golwasswer and Eldad Regev have had the most basic sign of life. So, not only is Lebanon not in full compliance (or minimal compliance) with UNSCR 1701, I believe that Nasrallah and Hizballah are in complete contravention of the terms of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, and are war criminals.

  30. These discusions of history and transgressons by both sides are not off the mark. To discuss the reasons and prospects for the Bush conference, one must have some presumptions about the true aims and interests of the parties.
    Is Bush’s purpose to advance peace or to carry out the agenda of the right wing Christian zionists (a more formidable block than the so-called Jewish lobby)? Or perhaps to take some heat off the “moderate” middle east states by restarting the “peace process”? (Why do we pursue a peace process as an neverending goal instead of making actual peace our goal?) Does Israel really mean to allow a viable Palestinian state, or just some way to rid itself of the responsibility for the Palestinians? Does Israel intend to keep the Jordan valley and therefor extend its boundaries from the Med to the Jordan, as well as keeping the settlements and Access roads? If so, is not the issue of a Palestine state merely a sop to those actually seeking peace and a way to maintain the status quo dynamic of expanding control while diminishing responsibility? Does Hamas really intend to drive Jews into the sea, or merely to end the exclusive Jewish nature of the overall state? Or despite Hamas, is this the true goal of a majority of Palestinians? In any case, what are the risks and benefits to all sides of a respite achieved by each side making real concessions? Is Abbas merely acting as a quisling for the Israeli and US interests whether for personal gain or because he sincerely believes that he can make the lives of the Palestinian people better now? Can any Palestinian leader give Israel what it wants and survive? Does Olmert really have anything in mind other than trying to preserve his political skin? Can the three least popular and weakened leaders of democracies in the world actually accomplish anything?
    I think that these and similar questions are necessary to try to understand what is going on here, and the best evidence on the character of the individuals and the goals of them, their parties and their governments is what they have actually done not only in the immediate past,but also in view of the overall history of the entire zionist enterprise. Before any hopes are raised or dashed, it would be wise to try to determine what this “conference” is really all about. For my money, the only thing we can say for sure based on prior experience is that none of the statements by any of the parties can be believed.

  31. bb, the discussion of the necessity of ethnic cleansing to Israel’s creation is hardly off topic given that Israelis continue to consider ethnic cleansing necessary both inside Israel (to maintain the “Jewish character” of the state), and in the territories it occupies. The fact that ethnic cleansing continues internally (google judaization of the Galilee, or Negev Bedouins, or check out some of the urban gentrification programs) and outside of Israel’s recognized boundaries makes discussion of the original ethnic cleansing perfectly pertinent.

  32. Jack – regarding Abbas, one view is he has done the hard yards for Palestinian liberation going back more than 50 years. On the other hand, perhaps he has been a Mossad agent since 1957?
    This question deserves centre stage attention now he and Fateh, the liberation organisation that he and Arafat founded five decades ago is facing off an existential threat from Hamas?
    The conference needs to be seen in its context – ie it is nothing more than a tool the US is using to help Abbas maintain political momentum. Ditto Israel’s amnesty for Fateh fighters. However Abbas’s most significant and possibly far reaching step was to appoint the “uncorrupt” independants and technocrats to run the interim government, leaving the trough slurping Fateh snouts on the sidelines. Dahlan has been reportedly bounced off to Europe. Abbas also sems to be bent on early presidential and government elections. Since these will no doubt be supervised by the UN, the results will be seen as Palestinian judgement on the merits of PLO/PNA recognition of Israel versus Hamas’s rejection of same. It should be remembered Hamas did not campaign on this issue in 2006, but on “reform and change”, so its rejectionist policy has never been put to the electoral test.
    High stakes all round. Very.

  33. JES:
    What I will say is the following-it is high time for Israel and Lebanon to engage in a FULL prisoner exchange-including accounting for the scores of people disappeared from Lebanon, all the way back to 1982.
    Without question, the ICRC must have immediate and unconditional access to the two soldier captured.
    With that, I do not agree with “mock air raids”.
    Stay out, would be my suggestion.

  34. JES:
    What I will say is the following-it is high time for Israel and Lebanon to engage in a FULL prisoner exchange-including accounting for the scores of people disappeared from Lebanon, all the way back to 1982.
    Without question, the ICRC must have immediate and unconditional access to the two soldier captured.
    With that, I do not agree with “mock air raids”.
    Stay out, would be my suggestion.

  35. Vadim, you seem to be referring to me above. Your usage and understanding of language is hard to understand. How on earth can saying “generally speaking, aggressors” be considered “bigoted?” If I said that Japan was “generally speaking, the aggressor” in its wars against China, Korea etc. in the first half of the 20th century, would I be an anti-Japanese bigot? Or would I be expressing the general opinion of history and historians? It’s a mild statement that is right or wrong, calling it bigotry seems to say you don’t think it is logically possible. Why? Are you sure you don’t have unexamined prejudices?
    Are you opposed to generalizations or conclusions in general? Israel is not intrinsically the aggressor in some mystical way – it is the aggressor, because that is what the historical record since the signing of the 1949 armistices shows. Since then it has consistently refused peace and relied on military superiority, although its neighbors’ and the Palestinians’ behaviors hardly win them any prizes.
    Considering the way the Jews were treated in the Second World War, this history of paranoia is hardly surprising. Unfortunately, the US has increasingly abetted this folly, preventing the solution of this strikingly easy to solve conflict.
    The solution is for Israel to stop attacking its neighbors and the Palestinians,abjure expansionism and accept their extraordinarily reasonable peace offers, e.g. Abdullah’s initiatives.
    Your idea in that earlier thread that divestment and economic sanctions are sooper-evil “collective punishment” is as I said before, bizarre, Again, all I am saying is apply the UN charter and the Geneva Conventions the way that the whole world has understood them. Israel’s behavior clearly merits UNSC economic sanctions, as were threatened during the 1956 war, or US direct sanctions, as were actually enforced then. If this is collective punishment, I say – Good! It is the usage of non-violent methods to punish and deter violent crimes. It’s like saying that if the cops cordon off a neighborhood, temporarily preventing residents from going to their homes, while looking for an escaping murderer, the cops are collectively punishing the residents. Neither the Israelis, the Germans or the USA is an aggressive race of barbarians. On occasion, these states have committed war crimes and aggression against other states. It is much better that these war crimes and aggressions be stopped by non-violent methods. If we eliminate these, then what is left? – Bombing? Or do nothing at all – allow Israel, Germany or the US to keep attacking, keep robbing other people’s land, for no sane reason at all. If the other nations of the world could band together to thwart criminal American aggression as in Iraq by nonviolent, economic, collective punishment means, I as a hopefully collectively punished American would be all for it. You may be convinced that any people can take any amount of punishment and survive – but this is again an unusual and bizarre position. You seem to write as if the Palestinians have some magical resistance force on their side. Well, the European Jews discovered there was none.
    Divestment campaigns – like any other economic sanction- punish innocents & they’re blatantly coercive. Do you favor group punishment and economic coercion?
    Well, yes, of course. I do favor “punishing innocents” and “blatant coercion” etc if the punishment is not drastic. If it is in response to more severe and more coercive “punishment of innocents” by the target, here the state of Israel, and will rationally deter and end this prior and much greater “punishment of innocents” leading to a lower total of innocents punished. If there is no better method. The idea that divesting from Caterpillar would punish innocents in any real way is beyond silly. The main effect would be publicity, as would practically any non-governmental boycott/divestment campaign (not all of which I definitely support, btw.) Did you oppose the divestment campaigns against South Africa?
    It is wishful thinking, but US/UN action like that in 1956, “coercing” Israel to obey the treaties it has signed and say accepting the Geneva Accords, would end the conflict in short order. Nobody has a crystal ball, but the US policy of doing nothing except support Israel and its often criminal actions has a good probability of a catastrophic outcome according to many experts.
    In short, do it by the book – the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions. I do not understand your tender solicitude for the minor adversity that Israel and the Israelis might face by these horrible economic sanctions, compared to the misery that Israel has been mindlessly foisting on its main victims, the Palestinians, for decades. Again, and for the infinitieth time, in the face of what even the Israeli cabinet deemed “generous” or “acceptable” peace offers from its adversaries. This Amazon of generous Arab peace offers is perhaps not necessary for demonstrating the superiority of the Arab case, but it is certainly sufficient. Bringing up Hamas is a joke. In the first case, their violence and irrationality is but the mirror of their parent, Israel, and if Israel didn’t want dragon’s teeth, it shouldn’t have sowed them and supported them against the PLO.
    Vadim, do you object to collective punishments, even when doled out by Israel and the United States? Answer: Of course I do!
    In an earlier discussion, you didn’t seem to oppose the sanctions against Iraq so clearly. What does this objection really mean, if it is not just word play? How do you propose to stop Israeli or American “collective punishment” if not by the weaker and gentler methods prescribed by international law? And you even eliminate the far weaker, far gentler means of private citizens’ economic boycott or divestment campaigns! The stronger means is of course physical force. Which is why I asked you whether you propose bombing Israel (or the US). What is left? – total nonviolence, human shield tactics, moral suasion a la Quakers? Your morality seems to out-Gandhi Gandhi who was engaged in these proscirbed economic sanctions campaigns himself. But your moral suasion seems generally directed far more about the Arab or Palestinian response to Israeli aggression (Hezbollah, Hamas) than the initial and larger aggression. As far as your position is comprehensible to me, it seems that it would be entirely ineffective and inevitably means giving a free pass to the aggressor – Israel or the US, to attack, rob and kill innocent people and continue spurning a more peaceful and reasonable world.

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