At a panel on the defense and foreign policy impact of the midterm election, sponsored two days after the election by Congressional Quarterly, Steven Simon, late of the Clinton administration and still a member of the Democratic, pro-Zionist mainstream at the Council on Foreign Relations, pronounced on prospects for Palestinian-Israeli peace and essentially declared it not worth anyone’s effort. Using words, a tone, and a body language that clearly betrayed his own disinterest, he said that Hamas is “there” (exaggerated shrug), that the Israeli government is in turmoil after its Lebanon “contretemps” (dismissive wave of the hand), that both sides are incapable of significant movement, and that therefore there is no incentive for anyone, Democrat or Republican, to intervene (casual frown indicating an unfortunate reality about which serious people need not concern themselves). There is simply no prospect for more unilateral Israeli withdrawals and therefore for any progress toward peace, Simon said in conclusion — signaling not only a total lack of concern but an utter ignorance of just what it is that might bring progress, as if Israeli unilateralism were truly the ticket to peace.
Thus spake the Democratic oracle. Not that anyone who knows the Palestinian-Israeli situation from other than the selective focus of the Zionist perspective had any expectations in the first place. No one ever thought the new Democratic Congress would hop to and put pressure on Israel to make peace. Just remember John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, to say nothing of Bill Clinton, when any question of the Democrats’ stance arises. And don’t forget Nancy Pelosi, who rushed to condemn Jimmy Carter for using the word “apartheid” in the title of his new book and for whom, according to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency profile, support for Israel is personal and “heartfelt.” One Jewish activist and long-time friend described her as “incredibly loyal” (interesting term) and as feeling Jewish and Israeli issues “in her soul.”
But Simon’s brief disquisition on the futility of even making an effort was particularly striking for its profound dismissiveness and its profound blindness to what is and has been going on on the ground. Simon’s “contretemps” in Lebanon was no mere embarrassing misstep but a murderous rampage that killed 1,300 innocent Lebanese and dropped over a million cluster bomblets in villages across the south, left to be discovered by returning residents. But the Democrats don’t care, and Steven Simon considers this hardly worth a second thought. Israel gets itself in trouble, showing its true brutal nature in the process, and this gives Simon and the Democrats a handy excuse to avoid doing anything.
Eighteen Palestinian innocents in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip were murdered while sleeping in their beds a day before Simon spoke, killed by Israeli shellfire, round after round fired at a residential housing complex — 16 members of one extended family and two others who came to help them after the first round exploded. The Democrats don’t care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.
In the six days preceding this incident, Israel assaulted Beit Hanoun the way it assaulted Jenin and Nablus and other West Bank cities in 2002 — a murderous assault reminiscent of Nazi sieges or of the Russian siege of Chechnya, in which in these six days 57 Palestinians were killed, to one Israeli soldier. The dead include Palestinian fighters and a large number of civilians, including children and including two women shot down in the street while attempting to lift the Israeli siege of a mosque. The mosque was leveled. The Democrats don’t care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.
In the four months preceding this six-day siege, the Israelis killed 247 Palestinians in a prolonged attack on Gaza. Of the dead, two-thirds are civilians, 20 percent children. Of nearly 1,000 injured, one-third are children. The Democrats don’t care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.
Israel is planning a larger siege of Gaza, concentrating not just on Beit Hanoun in the north but on Rafah in the south, ostensibly to unearth arms-smuggling tunnels. This has been going on for years; Rafah has been the scene of Israel’s murderous pummeling periodically since the intifada began — in 2003 when Rachel Corrie was killed trying to protect the home of an innocent family from demolition, in 2004 when hundreds of homes were demolished in multiple sieges and a peaceful protest demonstration was strafed from the air. But the Democrats don’t care. Steven Simon considers this not worth a mention.
Gaza, of course, is not the only Palestinian territory being raped and pillaged. Its 1.4 million residents are the most distraught — living imprisoned in a territory with the highest population density in the world, walled in with no exit except as Israel sporadically allows, being deliberately starved by the official policy of Israel, which dictates to the U.S., which dictates to Europe, vulnerable to constant Israeli assault. But the West Bank’s 2.5 million Palestinians are not much better off. They continue to be killed by Israelis and squeezed by Israel’s separation wall, by settlement expansion, by movement restrictions, by theft of agricultural land, by diminishing economic opportunity, and by massive Israeli-fostered unemployment. Their death toll is only minimally less than Gaza’s.
This obscenity of oppression and murder does not faze the Democrats or any of Israel’s Zionist supporters in the U.S. Whatever Israel wants is all right with the Democrats. The 110th Congress will screw the Palestinians just the way the Republican 109th did.
Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.
Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis. They spent October 2006 in Palestine and on a speaking tour of Ireland sponsored by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.