Middle East Summit

The joke being told in Palestinian circles at home and in the diaspora is that the only part of the speech of Prime Minister Abbas not scripted by the Israelis is the part that says “in the name of God the most merciful.” To viewers around the world, he Summit in Jordan was appeared totally surreal. While supposedly intended to begin implementing a road map for peace, the other authors of the road map were not invited: the Europeans, Russia, and the United Nations. Of the Arab countries, only those dictatorial regimes towing the Bush line were invited.

As expected, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon talked about Israeli but not Palestinian security. The Palestinian “Prime Minister” Abbas talked about Israeli security but not Palestinian security. This is ironic since Israel has the fourth strongest Army in the world and massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The decimated Palestinians who have not seen security in 55 years were not allowed to talk about security for their own people but only to talk of “improving humanitarian conditions.” But then again that is what is expected in negotiations between a jailer and prisoners.

King Abdullah of Jordan talked about his vision of “lets all get along.” President Bush talked about the New World Order the same as he always does with minor but important changes. While he had problems saying the word “contiguous”, he was not allowed to utter words such as sovereignty for Palestine, International law, human rights, equality, or non-discrimination. In fact, for the first time a US president supported a theocracy by stating than not only he supports Israel as a sovereign state but he supports a “Jewish state” (verbally emphasizing the word “Jewish”).

No one mentioned UN resolutions or addressed whether the envisioned Palestinian State will be analogous to the Bantustans/Ghettos under Apartheid South Africa. No one mentioned the massive walls being built around Palestinian enclaves. No one mentioned Arafat, the elected and yet isolated leader of the Palestinians. Sharon promised to immediately “begin” to dismantle unauthorized settlement outposts. No one mentioned that all Israeli settlements in the areas occupied in 1967 are illegal per International law and the 4th Geneva Convention. Israel has not even agreed to abide by the provisions of the road map calling for freeze on settlement activities.

Everyone plays a game of “let us pretend.” We pretend that the occupied and dispossessed will stop their resistance before their freedom is attained. We pretend that refugees will simply forget their rights to their homes, lands, and businesses. We pretend that settlements do not exist on confiscated Palestinian lands. We pretend that the Arab vassal regimes of Washington can keep the lid on their people’s frustrations. We pretend that Israel, which doubled the number of settlers in the occupied areas after signing the Oslo accords will “deal with the settlements.” And we pretend that all this talk will bring peace.

The US government is based on a constitution that includes separation of Church and state, equality, and withholding support of brutal regimes. Yet, according to Amnesty International all countries represented at this summit violate human rights. Further, our taxes finance an Israeli government with no constitution and a set of basic laws to ensure it remains a country of, by, and for the Jewish people all while denying return of Christians and Muslims brutally and ethnically cleansed from their villages. 70% of Palestinians are refugees or displaced persons and their right of return is not only legal and moral but also logistically possible as studies have shown. Further, a quarter of Israel’s 1.3 million non-Jews are considered by the Israeli legal system as “present absentees.” Lands and homes vacated by Christian and Muslim refugees and “absentees” are considered state property and turned over to the Jewish agency that administers the land and leases it only to “Jewish development.” Thus, the only objection to return is not security nor feasibility but merely maintaining a discriminatory and illegal behavior to favor one religion over others.

Incomplete success of the removal of the natives led Israeli governments to isolate the remaining Palestinians in ghettos with high walls. Amnesty International stated that the basic flaw of the Oslo accords and what follows is that they ignored human rights. This is the essence of the “plans” to solve the “problem” in violation of International law. Thus, an alternative International conference is being held in Toronto June 20-22 and will draw emphasis on refugee rights as key to enduring peace in the Middle East and as an alternative to the game of pretense.

Dr. MAZIN QUMSIYEH, associate professor at Yale, writes on behalf of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition. He can be reached at: mazin@counterpunch.org