The Hizbullah factor in the Syrian conflict

Practically all westerners looking at the influence that Hizbullah’s entry into the Syrian conflict has been having on the conflict have focused wholly on the military role that Hizbullah’s very well-trained and highly motivated fighters have played on the battlefield, especially in helping bring about the Syrian government’s reassertion of authority on Tuesday night, in Qusayr. But having studied Hizbullah’s development and SOP’s in Lebanon over the course of many years (see e.g. here and here), I suspect that the main impact its involvement has on events in Syria could well be in civilian affairs– that is, if the Baath Party and its allies are open to receiving coaching from Hizbullah’s civilian-affairs cadres on how to organize and build resilience in traumatized communities in times of war, then that could make all the difference.

During both of Hizbullah’s “definitive” battles against the (militarily very much stronger) IDF, in 1996 and 2006, it was the strength of the party’s civilian mass organizing that allowed it to “win”: In both cases, the Israeli government’s key war aim was to inflict such terrible losses on all Lebanese citizens that they would turn against Hizbullah; and in both cases, the effectiveness of the civilian mass base and the network of strategic alliances that Hizbullah had previously built up ensured that those bullying– one could even say openly terroristic– tactics pursued by the Israeli leaders were completely ineffective (even, very counter-productive) at the political level. In both cases, Hizbullah emerged from the Israeli assault politically stronger than it had been prior to the assault, and with its core military infrastructure unbroken.

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Visser on the 10th anniversary of Iraq invasion

Reidar Visser has an intriguing blog post today, titled, “To Hell with Iraq: Ten Years of Western Ignorance, Incompetence, and Bureaucratic Madness”. In the post, this experienced analyst of Iraq’s internal politics (and the author of my company’s 2010 publication A Responsible End? The United States and the Iraqi Transition, 2005-2010) makes this important argument:

The suggestion that the Iraq War served as inspiration for the Arab Spring comes across as ahistorical in the extreme. By 2006, the Arab world had largely concluded the war in Iraq was a disaster. If anything, by the end of 2010, with sectarian fronts hardening in Iraq again, this impression had only grown stronger. In fact, a cogent argument in the opposite direction can plausibly be made: If it hadn’t been for the increased sectarian polarization in Iraq under the Obama administration, the Arab Spring – a natural result of stale authoritarian regimes crumbling under their own weight –  might  well have taken on a less sectarian direction, with fewer opportunities for regional states like Iran and Qatar to fish in sectarian waters.

In his blog post, Visser reflects with his usual wisdom on the extremely tragic situation that Iraqis have lived through over recent years– and that they continue to live through today, ten years after Pres. George W. Bush’s invasion of their country. He also writes in the post about the sad toll that the past few years have taken on him personally.

In what Visser writes about Iraq it is probably appropriate– since Pres. Barack Obama is still in office– that he places particular emphasis on the serious mistakes that he sees Obama as having made in Iraq policy since he came into office.

He writes:

Continue reading “Visser on the 10th anniversary of Iraq invasion”

Iraq, Palestine, and America’s fetishization of ‘constitutions’

I watched BBC World News as long as I could tonight. It was the dreadful Katty Kay on again. In the story on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, her guest was– L. Paul Bremer! Oh my goodness, the BBC are such lapdogs, these days. So Kay gave Bremer (and he took) every opportunity to whitewash the effects of the invasion and subsequent ten years of U.S. military occupation of Iraq… At the end, he said the thing he was “proudest of” regarding the years he spent as the U.S. pro-consul in Iraq, was that “Iraq now has the most liberal and progressive constitution of any country in the Arab world.”

This, on a day in which at least 65 Iraqis were killed in vile, sectarian bombings that demonstrated to everyone worldwide (if this still needed demonstrating to anyone?) that the country still has very deep, unresolved issues of internal political difference that plague the lives of all of its 33 million people.

So a “constitution”– that is, a piece of paper with words on that at one point in time  a certain number of “parliamentarians” who were elected in complex circumstances and under the jackboot of the occupying force signaled their support for, but that the ruling powers transgress on a daily basis, anyway– is supposed to somehow make all this terrible and continuing grief worth while?

Americans have such a strong capacity to fetishize constitutions! It is almost unbelievable. I mean, even though Bremer was talking to the representative of a (nominally) British news outlet, he somehow thought everyone around the world would join him in seeing that a “constitution” in Iraq could be counted as a signal achievement?

Britain, I note, has never had a constitution– and nor have a number of other countries. In some of them (e.g. Israel), internal conflict is deepseated but is managed in ways other than through recourse to a constitution. In others, including Britain, the internal conflict is not so deep; but when it occurs is generally fairly effectively managed through a plethora of other national institutions.

For Americans, I think, having a constitution is one of the only things, really, that draws and keeps this disparate group of settlers and immigrants all united. That probably accounts, at the domestic level, for the high regard in which the idea of a “constitution” is held. (Even if the constitution in question denied the vote, at the time of adoption, to women, indentured people, enslaved people, and native Americans… ) And then, Americans at the official level are so solipsistic that they think that whatever they value for themselves, must be ipso facto, valuable for everyone else, too!

But I bet that more than a few of them also see the whole idea of trying to foist  “constritutions” and “constitutionalism” off onto captive peoples as an alternative to actually resolving the deep issues of national sovereignty and self-determiation, as more than a little bit attractive. (Plus, how many American people’s careers have been made, or substantially  enhanced, by the wor they have done in “training” Iraqis in the finer points of constitution-writing?)

The other main example I’m thinking of in this regard is Palestine. Remember how, back in 1993-94, the PLO and the Israelis agreed that there would be created in the occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank a “Palestinian Interim Self-Governing Authority” that would perform certain functions in some parts of the OPTs on an interim basis, pending the conclusion within the next five years of a final status peace agreement (between the PLO and Israel, I not– and NOT between the PISGA and Israel)?

Well, very soon indeed after that interim agreement was reached at Oslo, two things happened. One was that everyone started treated the PISGA– soon renamed the “PA”– as if it were a Palestinian government. The other was that many otherwise fine people in the Palestinian movement started getting very engaged and tied up in knots over fine points to do with the constitution of the PISGA— as if it were, indeed, a government!

Meantime, as we know, Israeli control over all the OPTs continued; additional settlers were systematically pumped into the OPTs; and the lives of the OPT Palestinians became more and more thoroughly curtailed an controlled by the Israeli occupying authorities.

What a dangerous distraction that whole exercise in “constitutionalism” turned out to be… In Palestine, as in Iraq.

At the Paris International Cookbook Fair

Gaza Kitchen at the Paris International Cookbook Fair, 2013

Today is the second day of the Paris International Cookbook Fair, which is taking place all around me in the Salles du Carousel, at the Louvre. It’s been pretty exciting to be here representing the team that put together the fabulous Gaza Kitchen cookbook. This morning I went to a talk given by the main Fair organizer, Edouard Cointreau of Gourmand International magazine. He made the very important point that producing a cookbook is ALWAYS a team effort– and that has very much been the case with Gaza Kitchen!

I wish that Maggie Schmitt and Laila el-Haddad, the co-authors– or at least, one of them– could have been here too! But sadly, both of them have smallish babies at home to look after. (Last year, in addition to birthing the book, each of them also had a new baby. Wonderful babies! Fabulously talented and capable women!) Laila, Maggie, Juan Alarcon the graphic designer, and I as publisher formed the core of the Gaza Kitchen team,

Gaza Kitchen at the Paris Cookbook Fair
Gaza Kitchen at the Cookbook Fair

But all of us (especially I) have had a lot of other people we’ve needed to draw on throughout the project. When Ed was talking about teamwork this morning, he said that some cookbook projects have 30 or even 50 photographers working on them! That made me even more admiring of Laila and Maggie, who between the two of them produced ALL the content in Gaza Kitchen… the recipes, the photographs, and the info-boxes. And the quality of their photographs certainly holds up to the best of what I’ve been seeing here. In fact,because the photos have not been extensively “styled”, to me that makes them even better.

Talk business at the Paris Cookbook Fair
Talking business at the Paris Cookbook Fair

There have been two main benefits to being here. One has been that I have learned a LOT here! I wish, actually, that I had come last year, or two years ago, when we were still planning the project. There is a huge display on the upper level, showing many hundreds of cookbooks that have been published around the world in the past year or so: An invaluable learning tool. Then, there are all the displays on the floor of the exhibition hall… and the talks that are scheduled throughout the day in two or three different venues. Finally, many of the presenters and other attendees whom I’ve met here have been generous with their advice and their interest.

The other big advantage of being here is that I’ve been able to make some fabulous contacts… I’ve had two fairly solid expressions of interest from people who are considering buying foreign-language rights to the book; and a couple of good leads to other possible rights deals.

Some other big points from Ed Cointreau’s talk this morning on ‘Trends in Global Cookbook Publishing’, in brief, were as follows:

  1. Continue reading “At the Paris International Cookbook Fair”

United Airlines mag in contortions over Palestinian food…

I’m in Paris. I brought Laila el-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt’s fabulous book The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey here, to the Paris International Cookbook Fair. So what do I discover in the seatback pocket on my flight over from Washington? A multi-page series in the United Airlines seatback mag that’s about the “wonderful” food scene in Jerusalem.

Hilariously (or not, depending on your POV), it says this

what’s long been considered Israeli food– hummus, falafel, mixed grilled meats, fresh chopped salads– is in fact cuisine borrowed from the local Levantines.

These dishes have “long” been considered Israeli food… By whom? And for how long? Longer than, say, 65 years?

And then are those mysterious “local Levantines”. There are a number of references to these strange creatures throughout the article, which was written by someone called Wendell Steavenson. But zero references to Palestinians or even “Arabs”… just denatured, completely de-cultured “Levantines”.

I could understand, maybe, an Israeli magazine publishing something parochial and silly like this. But the seatback mag of a major American airline? And one that flies to large numbers of destinations around the world– including, more than a dozen in Arab countries? Really, United Airlines, this is pathetic.

What I’ve been doing (the short version)

I realize I haven’t blogged since December 30. I believe January 2013 was the first month in the TEN YEARS that I’ve now been blogging in which I didn’t post anything at all.

Meantime, as many readers helpfully informed me, various nefarious forces (would that include you, Google, I wonder?) decided to either post malware on JWN, or to flag the blog so that readers would get scared there was malware there and would thus avoid it.

So, the CTO helped me move the blog over to another server– and also, toput it onto a WordPress platform. Potentially, that means it could end up looking better. But for me, the content will always be more important than the appearance, so I’m not going to spend too much time on redesigns, etc.

The MAIN thing I’ve been doing over these past seven weeks is work-work-work at the book-publishing business. I love the work! My company, Just World Books, has now published 14 titles! Almost none of them would even have existed– and certainly, none would have existed in anything like its present form– if I hadn’t founded the company and worked with this amazing bunch of authors.

I also made JWB’s first hire: the amazing Ms. Kim MacVaugh moved to Charlottesville to join JWB as Associate Publisher in early January. Just in time! the biggest thing we’ve been working on is the whole series of events to launch the ‘Gaza Kitchen’ cookbook…. events that, taken as a whole, I decided to dub the Gaza Cuisine Discovery Tour 2013. This tour will take/bring the book’s authors, Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt, to multiple gigs in New York, Washington DC, Boston, and London between March 10 and May 10.

At the same time, JWB author Miko Peled is doing huge numbers of speaking engagements around his great ‘General’s Son’ memoir, on a number of different continents… we’ll be launching Amb. Chas Freeman’s second JWB title– ‘Interesting Times’, a very timely examination of China’s increasing role in the world– with an event in DC at the end of March… other JWB authors like Matt Zeller and Brant Rosen are continuing to do author events.. and we’re keeping in good touch with a whole range of other signed authors as they bring their work to completion…

We’ve put a unified event calendar onto the JWB website so you can keep up with all these happenings. If you look at it now, you’ll see that on Friday I’ll be in Paris– taking The Gaza Kitchen to the Paris International Cookbook Fair. So that’s pretty exciting…

Well, I feel really bummed that the actual tenth blogiversary of JWN (Feb.3) passed  at a time when i was really up to my eyeballs in these other things, so I didn’t even blog anything about it. I’d been meaning to write a big ‘ten-year anniversary retrospective’ on what blogging has meant to me– and also, I venture, to the whole global information environment– over the past ten years. That opportunity passed… But here we are, coming up to the tenth anniversary of George W. Bush’s launching of the disastrous war against Iraq.

Oh, so much to blog about. And so little time.

But the book publishing is a complete blast, too. This year could truly be a breakout year for Just World Books! We have a whole range of amazing titles scheduled to come out… Plus, I’ve learned a whole lot about all aspects of 21st-century book publishing over the past three years… So I’m feeling good about where the company’s heading. And I think it is already starting to make a bit of a difference. So I no longer feel as “guilty” as I used to, about not having enough time to blog.

I mean really, there are enough things in life to feel guilty about, without that, as well. So I’ll just tell anyone who’s reading this what I plan to do with JWN over the months ahead: I plan to blog when I darn well feel like it. And who knows how often that will be?

So anyway, folks. Welcome  to JWN 2.0 here. Stick around. Maybe we can make it fun again.

Four important reads on Syria

The first two are excellent, on-the-ground reporting from Aleppo, by the seasoned, native Arabic speaker Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: Dec 27 and Dec 28.
The second two are from the Carnegie Endowment: This thoughtful Dec 24 piece by Yezid Sayegh: Can the National Coalition Lead Syria?; and this very well-informed Dec 4 piece by Aron Lund: Aleppo and the Battle for the Syrian Revolution’s Soul.
I have been arguing for more than 18 months now that the Syrian “opposition” (more accurately, “oppositions”) is/are incapable of entering into any meaningful negotiations under their own steam– even should they want to do so; since unlike the Algerian FLN, the ANC in South Africa or all other successful national liberation movements they lack internal unity, political clarity, and internal discipline.
The developments of the past 18 months have surely shown this to be the case.
Of course the Syrian government has made many mistakes– at the strategic, tactical, and moral levels. But so has the opposition. It is past time for all the Western and other international groupies and enablers of the opposition to stop indulging it and to work in a concerted way with the rest of the international community to bring an end to the carnage, fitna, and intense human suffering the conflict has already imposed on Syria’s people, in the only way possible: That is, through the negotiations that UN/AL Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi as been working tirelessly to convene.

Crunch time for funding G. Porter’s book on Iran!

Hi, everyone! We have just six days to go in our online fundraiser for Gareth Porter’s very important planned book Manufactured Crisis: The Secret History of the Iranian Nuclear Scare. We’ve just topped getting pledges for 2/3 of the $10,000 we need for this.
Can you do anything to help us get the remaining (as of now) $3,303?
As I explained on the main Kickstarter fundraising page there, we need the money because Gareth needs to take 4-5 months out from his (excellent!) daily journalism in order to write the book– and yes, he has bills he needs to continue paying during that time. My publishing house, Just World Books, is run on a shoestring. We simply can’t afford to pay the kind of “advance” that big publishers dole out (or, used to– not so much these days, anyway.) And we don’t have the time it would take to get foundation funding… even if there were any foundations prepared to invest in this hard-hitting, myth-smashing work of Gareth’s.
Our BIG thanks to all JWN readers who’ve contributed so far! (Including those of you who’ve recently increased your pledges at the site, which was very much appreciated.)
If any of you have been sitting on the fence, or saying– “Oh, that looks worthwhile. I must get around to sending them a pledge sometime… “– Well, the time is now. Please do it!
If we don’t reach our $10,000 goal by 8 am EST on December 12, then according to the rules that Kickstarter uses, we don’t get ANYTHING at all. That is, we don’t get any of the $6,697 pledged so far– and we don’t even get the contact details for the 103 fabulous people who’ve made those pledges. So we’d be starting, essentially, back at Square One in our quest for funding for this project, which would set it back by many months.
Our current plan is to have Gareth start his work on the book about now and spend 4-5 months writing it. (He HAS so much material that he’s amassed for it. Now, he just needs to pull it all together into book chapters.) Then, JWB will do our usual excellent and speedy edit and layout on the manuscript… and we’d hope to have the final PDF’s ready by next September; printed copies by October.
We are so ready to get this project rolling.
Please do everything you can to urge your friends and colleagues to chip in, too. Here is a short URL you can use for the fundraising page on Twitter, Facebook, listservs, etc: And here is the PDF of a flier (leaflet) that you can print out at home and hand out to family, friends, or colleagues.
You can tell them about the super rewards that are offered there at various levels of support. (Hey, no-one has yet signed up for the “Dinner for you and three friends with Gareth, where he’ll talk about his book” option yet!) But in a very real sense, the biggest reward is knowing that by getting this vitally needed project on the road, you’ll be helping to prevent the warmongers and disinformation experts from jerking us all into yet another catastrophic– but oh, so easily avoidable– war.
Thanks for all the help you can give us in getting this fundraiser successfully over the finish line.

Palestine and the Arab Spring

Plenty of western commentators have asserted that the attention that participants in the Arab Spring have been paying to governance issues in their own countries means that somehow they no longer really care about Palestine. (A few people, most notably As’ad Abou-Khalil, have challenged that assertion. Over the past 22 months As’ad has repeatedly highlighted news items from the Arab Spring countries that clearly indicate a deep concern for Palestine.)
Right now, downtown Cairo is the scene of extremely serious discussions and clashes over Egyptian governance/constitutional issues. The fact that, at such a time, more than 500 Egyptian social activists– including several of the leaders of last year’s revolution– have taken time out to make the lengthy and very dangerous trip to Gaza to express solidarity with its people in the present crisis is very significant.
You can read a good (English-language) account of the group’s visit to Shifa Hospital, here.
Note the important evaluation voiced there by Ragia Omran, a prominent Egyptian women’s rights activist and leader in the anti-Mubarak/anti-SCAF movement last year– and today, and one of organizers of the convoy to Gaza:

    “Thank you Gaza, thank you for finally making the fragmented political public speak in one voice. Thank you for uniting us once again.
    “The pro-Palestine protests and movements in Egypt following the Second Intifada were the building blocks for the January 25 Revolution.”

Indeed they were.
Perhaps all those people in the Obama administration– which is, at this point, just about all of them–who take seriously only the views, interests, and politics of that tiny portion of Middle Easterners who are Jewish Israelis, could come up with more effective and humane policies for the region if they based their analyses instead on these few simple ideas:

  • the idea that ALL the 300 million people of the region are equally human and thus equally deserving of rights;
  • the idea that ALL the region’s countries have complex internal political dynamics that need to be understood; and
  • the idea that you can’t for long maintain a policy in the region that is based only on the (sometimes rather fanatic) preferences of just the 6.5 million Jewish-Israeli residents of Fortress Israel.

Obama admin wilfully blind on Gaza crisis?

Quick! Someone help free Pres. Obama from the kidnappers who are holding him hostage! The kidnappers in question are, of course, our old friends from the Israel Lobby, who have succeeded so thoroughly in their decades-long campaign to stuff the whole of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment with their acolytes and toadies that it seems that the President of the USA is currently unable to get any even halfway accurate information about the true situation in the Middle East.
Consider this statement that “Deputy National Security Adviser” (actually, a jumped-up speechwriter) Ben Rhodes made to reporters in Phonm Penh today: “the reason there is a conflict in Gaza is because of the rocket fire that’s been launched at Israeli civilians indiscriminately for many months now. And any solution to this challenge has to include an end to that rocket fire.”
That was it. Nothing about the many steps Israel has taken in the past ten days deliberately to escalate the tensions with Gaza (the killing of Ahmed Jabari, etc). Nothing about Israel’s maintenance of a crippling siege around Gaza for the past seven years. Nothing about Israel’s maintenance of a military occupation regime over and around Gaza for 45 years now… No, the only reason there’s a conflict in Gaza is “because of the rocket fire that’s been launched at Israeli civilians indiscriminately for many months now.”
And thus, the only step that Mr. Rhodes and his boss the president see as necessary in order to end the conflict is that Hamas should cease its launching of rockets. Nothing about Israel taking any steps whatsoever to halt its massive, sustained use of lethal violence against Gaza.
Mind-boggling. And outrageous.
There is no public recognition at all from Obama or his officials that both sides should be a party to any ceasefire if it is to have any chance of taking hold. (Preferably, too, some neutral monitoring mechanism should be put in place so that future infringements or accusations of the same can be speedily reviewed and resolved.)
Still today, one week into the current very lethal and tragic flare-up, Obama is giving a flashing green light to Israel: “Yes, Israel, go, go, go! Use all your lethal firepower against Gaza, as much as you want; and we will certainly replenish your military supplies if you need that!”
When Obama spoke with Egyptian Pres. Morsi on the phone yesterday, this is what, according to the White House, transpired during the call:

    The two leaders discussed ways to de-escalate the situation in Gaza, and President Obama underscored the necessity of Hamas ending rocket fire into Israel.

That was it.
My first question is, why this blindness? Well, I guess that’s easy. Time was, back in the old days, when there were people in the White House and in positions of influence in the State Department who understood the broad dynamics of Middle Eastern politics and who had a well-grounded sense of what, broadly speaking, the American people’s interests in the region were. Back in the day, “even-handed” used to be a term of praise for U.S. officials involved in the sometimes complex work of negotiating issues between Arabs and Israelis.
Oh boy, how that has changed. With the rise of AIPAC’s influence over all relevant branches of the U.S. administration (except for some remaining small pockets of resistance in some portions of the Defense Department), kowtowing to Israel became the order of the day. “Even-handed” even came to be understood as a slur expressed against those who were insufficiently zealous in the cause. Too deep and granular an understanding of the dynamics of a region that is host to some 300 million Muslims and just 6.5 million Jewish Israelis came to be seen by everyone in the self-referential bubble that is Washington as a clear career-ender. (Exhibit A: Amb. Chas Freeman, and the humiliation meted out to him in March 2009. But there are numerous other examples, too..)
A self-imposed blindness became the order of the day in Washington.
And today, that blindness matters.
The Middle East of late 2012 is not, it turns out, the same as the Middle East of 2006 (the days of George W. Bush, Condi Rice, and the “birth-pangs of democracy” criminality over Lebanon.) It is not even the same as the Middle East of 2008-09 when– as in 2006– an apparently strongly seated Pres. Mubarak was still in power in geopolitically massive Egypt, able to extend his support over other, more fragile U.S. allies in the region like the PA’s Abu Mazen and Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Hullo! Perhaps someone should tell Pres. Obama and his minions that, um, something rather serious has changed in Egypt over the past 22 months?
Just one small sign of this change is the fact that Egyptian solidarity activists have been able to go to Gaza this time. Back in 2008-09, Mubarak declared it “high treason” for any unauthorized Egyptian to even get as close to Gaza as crossing the Suez Canal (which is still a good three hours’ drive from Gaza.)
I don’t think we’ve seen Egyptian solidarity activists able to get into a zone under Israeli attack since 1982, when a number of leading Egyptian cultural figures went to Beirut at the time it was being pounded senseless by the Israeli military. (And the effect they had there was, by all accounts, quite pronounced, in terms of raising the morale of the city’s defenders and assuring them that they had not been forgotten by the world.)
Don’t under-estimate the effects of such sojourns, and of the reporting thereon, dear Mr. Ben Rhodes.
Do you think that Mr. Ben Rhodes has even heard of Mosa’ab Elshamy, an Egyptian social activist whose Twitter profile reads, quite straightforwardly, “I revolted and overthrew a dictator.” Well, perhaps there is just a tad of exaggeration there– Elshamy didn’t do it ALL by himself back in February of last year… But during those amazing days of January-February 2011 in Cairo, he certainly was one of the key activists…
So today, Elshamy is in Gaza. Today, he posted this slideshow onto the U.S. website U.S. officials don’t even have to know Arabic to be able to appreciate the impact of his photos and their (English-language) captions. But imagine how much more they might understand about the geopolitical dynamics of the whole region today, if regional knowledge had not been systematically besmirched and derided by the past 30-plus years of campaigns by AIPAC and its allies?
Actually, it doesn’t even require a Ph.D. in area studies, or anything close to it, to understand such things. All that’s required is a recognition that you can’t carry on privileging the claims, interests, and assertions of 6.5 million Jewish Israelis over those of their 300 million neighbors forever and expect that situation to be stable and sustainable.
To imagine that that might be possible requires a certain, very extreme kind of colonial (and essentially racist) blindness!
If there is to be a ceasefire that works for Gaza– as I so sorely hope– then evidently, it has to be reciprocal. It is strongly preferable, in addition, that some neutral monitoring mechanism be in place. And it is absolutely necessary– for the sake of the 1.7 million Palestinians of Gaza, and for all Israelis and Palestinians everywhere– that a decent and sustainable end to the longstanding conflict between the two peoples be attained in the shortest possible time.
For 39 years now, ever since the Geneva Conference of December 1973, Washington has successfully maintained its monopoly over all Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy. The record of this tenure has been especially poor regarding the crucial Palestinian strand of the effort. Over the past 39 years, the Israelis have implanted 500,000 settlers into the occupied Palestinian territories. They have maintained total control over all of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. They have killed several tens of thousands of Palestinians– between Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank– and have displaced hundreds of thousands more from their ancestral homeland. They have completely transformed the human geography of Jerusalem. They have refused any attempts by the eight million or so Palestinians living in exile to return to their homeland. Palestinian acts of violence over that period have killed some hundreds of Israelis.
Every so often throughout the past 39 years– and especially in the aftermath of a flare-up of tensions– Washington would trot out some version or another of a new “peace initiative”, or even (heaven forbid!) a peace “process”, involving the Palestinians. All of it was flim-flam, smoke and mirrors whose main effect (and in some cases, also the intention) was to give the Israelis more time to continue their colonial taking of the Palestinians’ land and resources.
It is time to end that charade. Time for the grown-ups in the world system to take the reins away from Washington and work to speedily find and implement a solution to the Palestine-Israel question that is based on international law and a respect for the basic equality of all human persons.
… But first, we need that two-sided ceasefire in Gaza. Two-sided. How blind must this U.S. president be if he can’t understand that?