Thursday, November 22, 2007

All Bullplop at Annapolis

The much-heralded summit is fast approaching, and with it the new hopes that finally there will be peace in the Holy Land, that Israel has finally found a "willing partner to negotiate" with and that it is a mere formality that two states will become of it. But most of us are not fooled; after all, how many summits and meetings can we go through this lifetime and still expect anything concrete to come out of it? Oslo; Camp David; Madrid; the Road Map; and etc. We've seen it all, and we're still stuck at where we began back in '67 (and to a much larger contextual view, in '48).

Lifting the veil, it is well known that this is going to go nowhere. It is being peddled by one Condoleezza Rice, who in a desperate effort to maintain diplomacy is basically backing both Olmert and Abbas in a corner. Rice is determined to see some progress in an already turbulent and misguided tenure as Secretary of State. And Bush is eager to see some rewards come his way, and what better way to do it than by brokering peace between what many has seen is a conflict that is eternally divided. But what is more evident is not that there is any real plan here, but that both Olmert and Abbas are too dependent on Washington not to go ahead and do as they're told. Olmert is hanging by a string and Abbas does not even have legitimacy with his own people. Both are pulpits of America, and both are reliant on the US to maintain their power.

But the skepticism is not just left to us analysts. Jim Lobe has reported that much of the Israel right-wing is doing its best to sabotage the Annapolis talks, and setting the stage for more failure that could prevent any hint of Israel giving up a thing (aka no territory).

"Hard-liners...close to...Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu...are mounting a concerted attack against next week's meeting which they fear could result in pressure on Israel to make territorial concessions."

There are familiar names, members of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Freedom Watch, but Danielle Pletka, the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies of AEI, "was particularly scornful of Abbas, whom she described as "powerless" and a "pretender," and of Rice who, she complained has "recently sought advice from not just Bill Clinton but, of all people, Jimmy Carter". Although Pletka did nail Abbas, seeing that he had no authority at all over the territories. (Perhaps it's because his government is illegal?) But Pletka sees that negotiating in accordance with "North Korea" is something of a terrible folly, even though North Korea did end up freezing their enrichment without a single bomb being dropped on them.

Interestingly enough, there is enough maneuvering going on that is leading to an entrapment for the Palestinians. Not only is the sole body who represents the Palestinians not invited, but Ehud Barak has already stated that if the talks fail, it is purely the fault of the Palestinians. If Israel concedes to not one single point of Palestinian contention, and if Palestinian concedes to everything but one, then it is still all the Palestinians fault.

"We mustn't allow ourselves to be blamed for the failure of the upcoming Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, because we didn't make enough concessions to the Palestinians."

So can Israel be blamed at all for any failure? Or is the continued settlement construction, annexation of more land, a total completion of the Separation Barrier, the encirclement of East Jerusalem and usurpation of all the water resources just not part of the negotiation?

And what can happen if the talks fail? Well, total annexation of the West Bank.

"[I}f the summit does not yield the desired increased international pressure on Israel to annex the Palestinian territories and establish a bi-national state within its borders."

That's all part of the bargain, is it not? If it were the fault of the Israelis, should the Palestinians have a claim to the Galilee and the Negev? Or how about Tel Aviv?

Those "stubborn" Palestinians are only rejecting what they are meant to reject. Every document offered to them has been totally unacceptable, and only acceptable to one who just wants a share of power, some kind of figurehead, to do another superpower's bidding. I am still unclear whether Abbas is that candidate but he sure is sidling close to it. He has been known to call for the blood of his own brothers. But he is not just another demagogue; he knows what he his doing, or he seems to know the game to play it so well. But Abu Mazen is not well-liked amongst the common people, and Hamas is on its way out also, despite the fact that they did win back in 2006. Hamas has been demonised and targeted, and they have been resilient but they are not impervious to all that is happening. They joined the political wing that was a figment of Israeli occupation, and now they're paying for being a part of it. The movement is slowly petering out, and with it, the hopes of a somewhat moderate leadership. Gaza is embroiled with tiny factions all wanting a piece of Hamas and Fatah for renouncing their armed struggle against the occupier. Now the Palestinians are caught with no one really to represent them.

So why are these talks going to fail? Ultimately, it is because they are no different from the other 'talks', that it is a 'joke' and it has no muscle in it at all. Annapolis does not discuss anything of importance to the Palestinians, and that is deliberate because every one of those points is "off the table", and are too extremist to even talk about, let alone attempt Israel to concede to it. So what are those points?

Well, East Jerusalem seems to be left out. This is the most important city for a future Palestinian state. Any process that leaves out the impending capital city is surely only a pathetic theatre of fools which leaves the West Bank totally cut off and split into isolated enclaves, all surrounded by Israel's military and their hardcore settlements. And that barrier seems unphased, and it is not going to be moved back to the Green Line, so the Palestinians are left with a fraction of what was proposed back in '67.

UN Resolution 242? Nope. This has been slowly removed from every talk until it was stripped totally. This is the core issue that sits deep down in every Palestinian, from the occupied territories and throughout the Diaspora. The omission of UN Resolution 242 further limits the context to a '67 issue, and not a '48 issue, absolving any crime that Israel perpetrated upon their Independence and what act created a refugee problem in the first place. And it is no accident that the Right of Return is left out; it is a callous act that enables Israel to do the unthinkable, and that is declare itself a state of superiority, Zionism that rules above democracy.

And that is the most odious distinction that Palestinians will ultimately reject. This insistence of recognising Israel as a Jewish state, is sure to leave plenty to scratch their heads over. For how is anyone meant to accept the fact that they are morally inferior to another ethnicity? How is a normal Palestinian meant to act when there is a state that embarks their rule over them? How is a child meant to know that he is an equal in every other country but not in Israel because the Jews have rights and you don't?

This is what Annapolis means, and the Road Map, and Olso, and etc. It is meant to deprive the Palestinians with anything remotely familiar to what we know as equality. Uri Avnery, probably the most active proponent of the two-state solution, sees through it:

"The sting is, of course, that this formula is quite unacceptable to Palestinians because it would hurt the million and a half Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. The definition "Jewish state" turns them automatically into – at best – second class citizens. If Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues were to accede to this demand, they would be sticking a knife in the backs of their own relatives."

Oren Ben-Dor wrote a brilliant article over the insidious question of the Jewish state. The article needs to be read in its entirety, but Ben-Dor asks that in a post-colonial century where human rights is what is asked for in every country, then why is it necessary for the Palestinians to accept a state that regularly tramples on their human rights?

"In our world, a world that resisted Apartheid South Africa so impressively, recognition of the right of the Jewish state to exist is a litmus test for moderation and pragmatism. The demand is that Palestinians recognise Israel's entitlement to constitutionally entrench a system of racist basic laws and policies, differential immigration criteria for Jews and non-Jews, differential ownership and settlements rights, differential capital investments, differential investment in education, formal rules and informal conventions that differentiate the potential stakes of political participation, lame-duck academic freedom and debate."

Anyone pretending to adhere to human rights must not see Israel as a Jewish state, for it is the perfect anathema to a democracy. You cannot have both. Avnery has stated that there is no such thing as recognising the USA as a

"Christian" or "Anglo-Saxon state"? Did Stalin demand that the US recognize the Soviet Union as a "Communist state"? Does Poland demand to be recognized as a "Catholic state", or Pakistan as an "Islamic state"?"

The two-state solution would only protect Israel, and the retooling of Zionism would only be of little importance when the Palestinians have given up that demand of a Jewish state. Ben-Dor again:

"The path of two states is the path of separation.Its realisation would mean the entrenchment of exclusionary nationalism for many years. It would mean that the return of the dispossessed and the equality of those who return and those non-Jew-Arabs who are now there would have to be deferred indefinitely consigned to the dusty shelved of historical injustices.Such a scenario is sure to provoke more violence as it would establish the realisation and legitimisation of Zionist racism and imperialism."

So if Israel is seen as a Jewish state, what was wrong with South Africa being an Apartheid state? Aren't we justifying the same thing since Israel can separate itself from non-Jews, treat non-Jews as if they had no rights in their state, and destroy any hint of resistance that could "threaten" the existence of a Jewish state? Is it not, once again from Ben-Dor,

"[an] accepted recognition of Israel right to exist is, as Joseph Massad so well puts it in Al-Ahram, to accept Israel claim to have the right to be racist or, to develop Massad's brilliant formulation, Israel's claim to have the right to occupy to dispossess and to discriminate. What is it, I wonder, that prevent Israelis and so many of world Jews to respond to the egalitarian challenge? What is it, I wonder, that oppresses the whole world to sing the song of a "peace process" that is destined to legitimise racism in Palestine?"

Everything we have fought for in the Palestinian cause would be to naught. Sure, there may be a state, or what everyone will call a state which does not resemble one, and the bloodletting may slow down immensely, but it would mean that the Palestinian is under total control of the Israelis. The Jews would have trumped non-Jews. And they would have no right to say otherwise because they have accepted Israel's right to do so. It's in their constitution. (Wait, they don't have one yet.) And not only that, the civil rights movement, the outcry against Apartheid, the struggle for equal rights for women, gay rights, human rights abuse, corporate abuse in Third World nations; all that we know and to uphold as the right thing to do is destroyed when we speak of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Partition is a flawed idea that has never worked, and right now we're seeing the true dilemmas that are ensuing because of it. The whole facade of Annapolis is only really propelled by Bush and co. trying to salvage something from an Administration that is largely known as the worst in recent history. While the record books is still for those in the future to judge him, Bush wants to leave his impression, and now just the bad one that people will recall in Iraq. Iran may be in the cards, but Israel-Palestine is definitely number one.

And with such a hollow preparation for peace, it is predicated for failure, dutifully upon the Palestinians. The cycle can only begin yet again. Nothing is asked of Israel; everything is asked of Palestine.

There may be two peoples, but they are both equal in the one land. It remains to be seen if Annapolis is going to undermine the egalitarianism we have all learned to take for granted and support those who are without rights. Whatever happened to fighting for (true) democracy? Why all the furore about Pakistan and its state of emergency, Afghanistan's repression of women, and Cuba's so-called dictatorship? Isn't it all about our belief in the equality of all men and women to live free from oppression and colonial rule? Here is the litmus test: will we pass it, or will we continue to deflect the Palestinians into something close to sub-human levels, not obligated to have any water, land, or citizenship of their own; no identity, no history and no future?

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