US Congress Session 9 September 2009 (WIkimedia Commons)
Here in the UK we have so many craven politicians paying homage to the likes of Murdoch and playing stooge to the pro-Israel lobby that there’s little time to take much interest in US politics. So I apologise to American friends for briefly intruding on their grief; but somebody has sent me a copy of a letter from a US Congresswoman to one of her constituents.
“As the only democracy in the region, I believe that the United States has a special relationship with Israel… During my time in the House of Representatives, I will support our funding our ally and help to forward Israel’s efforts to keep their citizens safe, which currently stands at $2.8 billion in general foreign aid, and another $280 million for a missile defense system…
“Our foreign aid to Palestine is intended to create a virtuous cycle of stability and prosperity in the West Bank that inclines Palestinians towards peaceful coexistence with Israel and prepares them for self-governance. Continued failure to reach a two-state solution, combined with lack of consensus on any of the alternatives, may also mean that the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza could continue indefinitely. In addition, with the West Bank and Gaza currently controlled by Hamas, an entity listed as a terrorist organization by U.S. State Department and many other world governments, this may ultimately impact future aid our nation will provide.
“Most recently, I became a co-sponsor of House Resolution 268, which reaffirms our support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states. This resolution also opposition to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, as well as outlined consequences for Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations. This bill passed in the House on July 7, 2011 by a vote of 407 – 6…”
Resolution 268 actually states that “Palestinian efforts to gain recognition of a state outside direct negotiations demonstrates absence of a good faith commitment to peace negotiations”. It threatens withholding US foreign aid to the Palestinian National Authority if it presses ahead with an application for statehood in the United Nations in September. It also calls for the Palestinian unity government to “publicly and formally forswear terrorism, accept Israel’s right to exist, and reaffirm previous agreements made with the Government of Israel.”
Senator Ben Cardin, who initiated the resolution, announced: “The Senate has delivered a clear message to the international community that United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state at this time does not further the peace process.”
Israel is the only democracy in the region? The West Bank and Gaza are controlled by Hamas? An application to the UN for Palestinian statehood is “circumventing” the peace process? Rep Colleen Hanabusa’s letter shows that she is poorly briefed. There is nothing on her website to suggest that she has a special interest in foreign affairs, let alone the Middle East. So why does this nice lady lawmaker from Hawaii suddenly find herself co-sponsoring a resolution that’s designed to scupper the hopes for freedom of another people halfway round the world, who have suffered betrayal and brutal military occupation for 63 years?
Disinformation is a recurring feature of US foreign policy discourse, and I’m reminded of the twisted comments of Alejandro Wolff, US Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, when he faced journalists’ questions at the Security Council on that infamous day, 3 January 2009, when Israel’s tanks rolled into Gaza to deal further death and destruction to a community that had already been air-blitzed for 8 days and suffered siege and blockade for nearly 30 months before that.
Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, you made no mention, sir, of any Israeli violation of those agreements that you’ve referred to, particularly in the opening of the crossings. And then there is a major development today, which is Israel’s land attack and that’s threatening to kill hundreds of civilians. Doesn’t this deserve some request for Israel… to stop its ground military attacks, sir?
Ambassador Wolff: Well, again, we’re not going to equate the actions of Israel, a member state of the United Nations, with the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. There is no equivalence there. This Council has spoken on many times about the concerns we had about Hamas’s military attacks on Israel. The charter of this organization [the UN] respects the right of every member state to exercise its self-defense, and Israel’s self-defense is not negotiable…. The plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza is directly attributable to Hamas.
Reporter: But Hamas represents the people, because they voted, over 70 percent of them, for Hamas in the last election.
Ambassador Wolff: Hamas usurped the legitimate authority of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.
Even US ambassadors should know that Hamas was and still is the legitimate authority. Hamas was democratically elected in 2006 in a contest judged by international observers to be clean. The result didn’t suit Israel or its protector America so, together with the UK and the EU, they set about trashing Palestine’s embryonic democracy. Losers Fatah, a corrupt faction rejected by the people for that reason, was recruited and funded to do the dirty work, for which they were well suited. As John Pilger has pointed out, when Hamas foiled a CIA-inspired coup in 2007 the event was reported in the western media as ‘Hamas’s seizure of power’.
Hamas simply took the action necessary to establish its democratic authority against Fatah’s US-funded militia. Which angered the US and Israel even more.
For Mrs Hanabusa’s information, thanks to America’s meddling Fatah controls the West Bank but has no democratic legitimacy while Hamas is holed up in Gaza. And Israel is far from being the full-blown western style democracy that many think.
“No equivalence” between Israel and terrorist Hamas?
The US uses a perfectly good form of words to brand, outlaw and crush any organization, individual or country it doesn’t like. Under Executive Order 13224 (“Blocking Property and prohibiting Transactions with Persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support Terrorism”), Section 3, the term “terrorism” means an activity that —
(i) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and (ii) appears to be intended
(a) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(b) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(c) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.”
The order was signed 23 September 2001 by George W Bush. Its definition of terrorism fits the conduct of the United States and its bosom-buddy Israel like a glove, the irony of which seems totally lost on Congress.
Let us also look at Netanyahu’s definition since he runs Israel’s current government. His book Terrorism: How the West Can Win defines terror as the “deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends”.
In an interview with Jennifer Byrne in February 2002, he said: “Terrorism is defined by one thing and one thing alone, the nature of the act. It is the deliberate systematic assault on civilians that defines terrorism.”
It’s like he’s signing his own arrest warrant.
If terror is unjustifiable, then it is unjustifiable across the board. The Palestinians had no history of violence until their lands were threatened then partitioned and overrun by a brutal intruder whose greed is never satisfied. Demands for Palestinians to cease their terror campaign (if you buy the idea that resistance = terror) must be linked to demands for Israel to do the same.
As for the resistance movement Hamas, its charter is objectionable and the leadership are foolish not to have re-written it in tune with modern diplomacy. Nevertheless the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, within days of being elected, offered long-term peace if Israel recognised Palestine as an independent state on 1967 borders. Previously the PLO had unwisely “recognised” Israel without any reciprocal recognition of a Palestinian state. The Oslo Accords were supposed to end the Occupation and give Palestine independence. “What we’ve got instead are more settlements, more occupation, more roadblocks, more poverty and more repression,” he said.
Omar Abdul Razek, Hamas’s finance minister, when interviewed by Aljazeera in May 2006, asked: “Which Israel would you want me to recognise? Is it Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates? Israel with the occupied Golan Heights? Israel with East Jerusalem? Israel with the settlements? I challenge you to tell me where Israel’s borders lie.”
Interviewer: “… the 1967 borders.”
Razek: “Does Israel recognise the 1967 borders? Can you tell me of one Israeli government that ever voiced willingness to withdraw to the 1967 borders?”
So the question remains: why should Hamas or any other Palestinian party renounce violence against a foreign power that violently occupies their homeland, bulldozes their homes at gun-point, uproots their beautiful olive groves, sets up hundreds of armed checkpoints to disrupt normal life, batters down villagers’ front doors in the dead of night, builds an illegal ‘separation’ wall to annex their territory, divide families, steal their water and isolate their communities, and blockades exports and imports to cause economic ruin… and now plans to steal Gaza’s offshore gas?
Palestinians too have a right to defend themselves, and their self-defence, like Israel’s, is non-negotiable.
As for recognizing Israel right to exist, no Palestinian is likely to do that while under Israel’s jackboot. Nor should they be expected to. It would simply serve to legitimize the occupation, which is what Israel wants above all and what Israel wants Israel must get, even if the US has to make a complete fool of itself.
The terror that stalks the Holy Land
American and Israeli politicians love quoting the number of garden-shed rockets launched from Gaza towards Sderot. But can they say how many (US-supplied) bombs, shells and rockets have been delivered by F-16s, helicopter gun-ships, tanks, drones and navy vessels into the tightly-packed humanity of Gaza?
But at least we have an idea of the death-toll over the last 10 years. B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights, keeps a close check.
In the period between the start of the second Intifada (September 2000) up to Operation Cast Lead (26 December 2008) 4,836 Palestinians were killed by Israelis in the Occupied Territories, including 951 children. 235 of these were targeted killings (i.e. assassinations) while 2,186 were killed during targeted killings although they were not taking part in hostilities. 581 Israelis, including 84 children, were killed by Palestinians in Israel.
During Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009) 1,396 Palestinians including 345 children were killed by Israelis. In Gaza itself they killed 344 children, 110 women and 117 elderly people. Only 4 Israelis were killed by Palestinians in this period, no children.
Since Operation Cast Lead and up to the end of May 2011 Israelis killed 197 Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, including 26 children. 5 were targeted killings during which 65 non-participants were killed. In the same period 3 Israelis were killed by Palestinians in Israel including 1 child.
I make that 6,429 to the Israelis and 589 to the Palestinians – a kill rate of 11 to 1. When it comes to snuffing out children Israel is even more proficient with a kill-rate of over 14 to 1.
And it’s not just the dead. The Cast Lead assault on Gaza is reported to have injured and maimed some 5,450. Israel also destroyed or damaged 58,000 homes, 280 schools, 1,500 factories and water and sewage installations. And it used prohibited weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorus shells.
Assassination has been official Israeli policy since 1999. Their preferred method is the air-strike, which is often messy as demonstrated in 2002 when Israeli F-16 warplanes bombed the house of Sheikh Salah Shehadeh, the military commander of Hamas, in Gaza City killing not just him but at least 11 other Palestinians including seven children, and wounding 120 others.
I’m told resistance ‘terrorists’ like Hamas account for less than a thousand victims a year worldwide, while ‘good guy’ state terrorists slaughter civilians by the hundreds of thousands… some say millions.
The long list of Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians – attacks that cannot be justified on grounds of defence or security and are so disproportionate as to constitute grave violations of human rights – puts Israel near the top of the state terrorist league. The demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes in the West Bank for “administrative” and planning reasons, the wholesale destruction of businesses and infrastructure, the impoverishment and displacement of Palestinians through land expropriation and closure, the abductions and imprisonments, the assassinations, and especially that 22-day blitzkrieg on the civilian population of Gaza who had nowhere to run… all this add up to mega-terrorism on the part of America’s “special friend”, according to their own definitions.
Negotiations? “We have spoken to Israel for more than 18 years and the result has been zero.”
Finally, what is this nonsense about Palestinians lacking good faith and somehow “isolating Israel” by applying for UN recognition rather than wasting more time on fruitless negotiations? Israel obtained its statehood by accepting the borders of the UN’s 1947 partition, which was agreed without even consulting the Palestinians whose land was being carved up. The Jews didn’t stop to “negotiate”. Well before the ink was dry Jewish terror groups had ethnically cleansed and driven off hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs from their lands and villages so that the new state’s already generous boundaries were immediately expanded (example, Najd now Sderot). The land-grab had started and Israel’s borders have been ‘fluid’ ever since.
Why are US lawmakers now trying to thwart the Palestinians’ dream of their own independent state? No-one is demanding the 1947 borders. They are willing to accept the 1967 armistice lines recognized in numerous UN resolutions and generally accepted by the international community. Even Hamas has agreed. So what is the problem?
The problem is that the Israeli occupation should have collapsed long ago under the weight of its illegality, but Israel shows no willingness to return the stolen lands or relinquish enough control for a viable Palestinian state.
Netanyahu heads Israel’s Likud party, which is the embodiment of greed, racist ambition, lawlessness and callous disregard for other people’s rights. In any other country it would be banned and its leaders locked up. Yet he is welcomed like a hero in the US and given 29 standing ovations by Congress.
Likud intends to make the seizure of Jerusalem permanent and establish Israel’s capital there. It will “act with vigor” to ensure Jewish sovereignty in East Jerusalem (which still officially belongs to the Palestinians as does the Old City). The illegal settlements are “the realization of Zionist values and a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel”. They will be strengthened and expanded. As for the Palestinians, they can run their lives in a framework of self-rule “but not as an independent and sovereign state”.
So we can see where he’s coming from.
Kadima, the party of Livni, Olmert and Barak, is little better and has also pledged to preserve the larger settlement blocs and steal Jerusalem.
In the 1947 UN partition Jerusalem was designated an international city under independent administration to avoid all this aggravation.
Rather than force compliance with international law and UN resolutions the international community, led by the US, has let matters slide by insisting on a solution based on lop-sided power negotiations in which the Palestinians are at a serious disadvantage. During this dragged-out failed process Israel has been allowed to strengthen its occupation by establishing more and more ‘facts on the ground’, and its violations of human rights and international law have escalated with impunity. And that is what this dirty game is all about – Israel needs more time to make its occupation permanent.
Funny how we never hear the US talking about law and justice. It’s always “negotiations” or “talks”, buying time for Israel.
What the situation is crying out for is justice, and it’s all set down in UN resolutions, international law and humanitarian law. Once both sides are in compliance negotiations can commence… if there’s anything left to negotiate.
Fr Manuel Musallam, for many years the Latin Catholic priest in Gaza, recently told members of the Irish government: “We have spoken to Israel for more than 18 years and the result has been zero. We have signed agreements here and there at various times and then when there is a change in the Government of Israel we have to start again from the beginning. We ask for our life and to be given back our Jerusalem, to be given our state and for enough water to drink. We want to be given more opportunity to reach Jerusalem. I have not seen Jerusalem since 1990.”
Indeed, when I met Fr Manuel four years ago he had been effectively trapped in Gaza for 9 years unable to visit his family a few miles away in the West Bank. Had he set foot outside Gaza the Israelis would not have allowed him back in to re-join his flock. So he stayed put until he retired. This is just a tiny part of the ugly reality that America supports and applauds.
If Mrs Hanabusa and the rest of Congress were in the Palestinians’ shoes would they bog themselves down yet again in discredited negotiations with a gun to their heads?
Or would they apply to the UN for long overdue enforcement of its resolutions and international law?
There is only one thing worse that being lied to, Congress. And that’s acting on a lie.
15 July 2011
Stuart Littlewood is an industrial marketing specialist turned writer-photographer. In 2005 he was invited to write and shoot pictures for a book about the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. ‘Radio Free Palestine’ was published in 2007. For details please see www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.
- The Author is a regular contributor to RamallahOnline.com. Find more Articles by Stuart Littlewood on RamallahOnline.