In the past few years, both friends and critics have predicted that Palestine eventually would be Israel's undoing. The first thing that had to happen, however, was for the world to open its eyes to Israel's systematic murder, imprisonment, selective assassination, and repression of the Palestinians as they took the lands they wanted build the Jewish national home. That process began long before communications with the world outside the Middle East were adequate to exposing the tactics of Israeli state building.
The world's blindness persisted through decades as Zionist propaganda painted Jewish migrants as the victims of an Arab plot to drive the Israelis into the sea. As the Zionists told it, the displaced survivors of Holocaust were going to turn the "empty lands" of the Levant (then the ancestral homes of a million Christian, Muslim and Jewish Palestinians) into a prosperous Jewish national home, but the Arab neighbors were opposing Jewish rights to return to the Promised Land. Those were the earliest of the Zionist falsehoods that have distorted the world's picture of what goes on in the Middle East.
It took a catastrophe to finish the world's awakening. While the Palestinians in Gaza had small arms and crude homemade rockets to protest their persecution, the Israelis had the best and most modern killing machines the United States could supply. And as they mercilessly had pounded Lebanon in 2006 with US cluster bombs, they used new and experimental US weapons without restraint to destroy at least a hundred thousand homes and business, indiscriminately kill an estimated 1,300 Palestinian men, women and children, and wound over 5,000 others.
Evidence on the ground, especially in hospitals, shows that Israel Defense Forces experimented with white phosphorus weapons that are internationally outlawed against civilians-and should be prohibited against anyone. They also used a Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) weapon that doctors working with victims in Gaza believe is the likely cause of many very severe wounds to women and children. Apparently Israel is the first and so far only user of this weapon, but it is of US design and development. The number and severity of the wounds caused by DIME weapons are part of the world's awakening to Israeli attacks on the Palestinians.
It is worthy that compassion finally has found its way into the hearts of the world, but that is only the beginning of Israel's troubles. The crudest awakening is occurring in the United States where for decades the Zionists have run a successful effort to keep Americans in the dark about Israeli crimes in Palestine. Perversely, the first book of any consequence on this subject was _What Price Israel_ published in 1953 by an American Jew named Alfred Lilienthal. That book, republished in 2003, told it like it was at the time. Also at that time, in the early 1950s a group of American Jewish scientists and intellectuals led by Albert Einstein published an objection to Zionist activities to create the new state in a letter to the New York Times. However, until the recent appearance of works by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (The_ Israel Lobby_), former President Jimmy Carter (_Peace not Apartheid_) and Israeli historian Ilan Pappe (_The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine_), Israeli behavior had gained little American attention.
Now, largely because of the Internet and televised graphic horrors, the lid is off. Israeli excesses in Gaza in the past few weeks finally ripped away any remaining scales. An ultimate kind of proof was contained in January 25 Central Wisconsin Gannett newspapers in which one lead editorial proposed divesting of Israeli companies as a way to force the Israelis to reform, while the other laid out in gory detail the range of Israeli crimes in Gaza. Both articles were written by American Jews.
All eyes turn now toward President Barack Obama. Throughout his election campaign, Obama did what American presidential candidates uniformly do; he declared unconditional support for Israel. After his election, which coincided with the beginning of Israel's effort to destroy Gaza, Obama insisted on remaining mum respecting comment on the situation in Gaza or on his future intentions. Even as the situation in Gaza became even more brutal and bloody, and the illegal uses of American weapons became more destructive, the President-elect remained silent. In his inaugural address, he did not mention Palestine, but on his first day on the job, it appears that the first foreign leader he spoke to was Mahmoud Abbas, an action not lost on the leadership of Hamas.
In a statement at the State Department following installation of new envoys (George Mitchell to the Middle East and Richard Holbrooke for Afghanistan and Pakistan) the Washington Post reported that Obama stuck to the Bush position. He said that Hamas had to meet three conditions to be accepted: Recognize Israel's right to exist, stop the rockets and other resistance activities, and accept all previously worked out agreements with Israel. The latter is an interesting condition, since the Israelis have yet to either recognize the Palestinians or to miss an opportunity to break or ignore existing agreements. Obama did add, however, that Gaza needed to be reopened.
In short, in no public action so far has the real Obama stood up. However, pressure is mounting in the rest of the world for him to do so. In a January 22 editorial in the Financial Times, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal (brother to the Foreign Minister and former Ambassador to the United States) executed a sharp new turn. Pointing to conditions in the Middle East, the Prince said: "America is not innocent in this calamity." Specifically on Gaza, the Prince said that "through an arrogant attitude about the butchery in Gaza" America "contributed to the slaughter of innocents." Then he delivered a rare ultimatum: "If the United States wants to continue playing a leadership role in the Middle East and keep its strategic alliances intact-especially its "special relationship" with Saudi Arabia-it will have to drastically revise its policies vis a vis Israel and Palestine."
So there could be no question about where he was headed and, incidentally, for whom he was speaking, the Prince said that "Obama should strongly support Saudi King Abdullah's peace initiative." That would require the Israelis to (a) withdraw from all territories occupied in 1967, (b) withdraw from East Jerusalem, (c) pull back to the June 4 1967 line (the UN Green Line), and (d) negotiate a "just solution to the refugee problem according to General Assembly Resolution 194." In exchange, the Prince summed it up: "There would be an end to hostilities between Israel and all the Arab countries, and Israel would get full diplomatic and normal relations." That is the basic proposal originally put forward by then Crown Prince Abdullah in Beirut in 2002. This proposal has been accepted in principle by Hamas, but Hamas leadership, while conceding the existence of Israel per se, refuses to extend formal recognition to Israel except as part of an overall Palestinian settlement.
In the fragmented political/religious context of the Middle East, Prince Turki's article produced a powerful reaction. Iran's Prime Minister Ahmadi-Nijad is reported to immediately have called Prince Turki and said that Iran would follow Saudi Arabia's lead in this matter. That concession produces the previously unlikely appearing situation of placing the leading Sunni (Saudi Arabia) and Shia (Iran) communities on the same side of the region's most important political issue, the future of Palestine.
The critical anomaly of the situation is the position of Hamas. As pushed by Israel and the US, one of the charges against Hamas is that it is a terrorist group. That is true because Hamas members violently have opposed Israeli repression, and the notion that anyone who resists Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is a terrorist is a powerful and highly successful Zionist propaganda tool. The second charge, which has some resonance among the Arab country oligarchs, is that as an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas is an Islamist, that is, religious political movement; it is therefore a potential threat to oligarchic regimes. Its basis of support in Palestine, however, rests on two rather more sturdy pillars: First, it stands for the basic goals of the Palestinian people and represents them more forcefully than its Palestinian competitor Fatah. Second, as a political movement it takes greater interest in and does a great deal more substantial work for the welfare of its constituents. Hamas is a genuine political success without being corrupt.
Those qualities make Hamas a serious political threat to the Fatah following of Mahmoud Abbas. They also make it anathema to the Zionists who would much prefer to deal with Palestinians who do not insist on a fair and just Palestinian future.
The upshot of the Palestine situation at the moment is that twice in the past three years Israel has attempted militarily to destroy movements favorable to the basic cause of the Palestinians, and the attempts have failed. As a result of the 2006 Israeli military fiasco in Lebanon, Hezbollah was transformed into a strong and highly regarded political player, not only among Shia, but among Muslims in general. A repeat of the Israeli strategy in Gaza appears to have had similar effect. Hamas was damaged in the attack, but it is still alive and largely well in Gaza as well as the West Bank. Its prestige in the region has been enhanced, and it is reasonably predictable that in any future (free) election- without substantial US and Israeli financial and operational support -Fatah would lose its shirt.
It is unlikely that Prince Turki would have taken his frank and decisive public position without seeing Hamas in the equation. It is also very doubtful that Iran's leadership would have handed the mantle to the Saudis on any premise that Hamas would be ignored or suppressed. On any other premise than a significant political role for Hamas, the region is in for even more trouble than Prince Turki may have imagined. It would be a tragic error for Israel and its allies to push the Palestinians back toward global resistance to repression by refusing to deal with their leadership. The gathering storm around Palestine could easily double in intensity. That outcome would be most unfortunate, because as Hamas has shown, it has more real capacity to grow and respond to the needs of the times than virtually all other Palestine players.
Terrell E. Arnold
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The writer is the author of the recently published work, A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist on rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State whose overseas service included tours in Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Brazil. His immediate pre-retirement positions were as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National War College and as Deputy Director of the State Office of Counter Terrorism and Emergency Planning.
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