We’ve been here many times before. The “peace process” through which the U.S. allegedly seeks to broker a long lasting stability between Israelis and Palestinians reaches back a number of decades. Many readers of the American press will no doubt be fed up with the entire charade. How many negotiations does it take before a real peace agreement materializes? We’ve seen numerous initiatives in the form of the Bush I Baker Plan, the 1993 Oslo agreement, the 2000 Camp David meetings, the 2001 Taba Negotiations, the Bush administration’s “Road Map,” and now a renewed initiative under the Obama administration – yet peace has eluded Israelis and Palestinians every step of the way.
To say that one favors “peace” is largely a meaningless statement at this point. American officials want “peace” in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the way they pursue it is through infinite war, occupation, and widespread destruction. Israelis strongly favor peace; they simply want a peace where Palestinians allow permanent settlements, military checkpoints, and bypass roads that will permanently create a set of Palestinian Bantustans which prohibit the emergence of a sovereign contiguous state. Israeli leaders also want to continue settlement construction, and maintain permanent control over Palestinian borders and airspace, not to mention over the city of Jerusalem (which has also been illegally occupied since 1967) and a prohibition on the establishment of a Palestinian army. American officials are more than happy to broker a “peace” on such terms, as Clinton attempted to do in 2000, which will result in permanent instability and misery for the people of Gaza and the West Bank.
Enter the new round of “peace” negotiations with Barack Obama. The New York Times reports that a major potential sticking point is that “the Israeli and Palestinian leaders did not confront the one issue that could sink these talks…whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will extend a moratorium on the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.” Of course, this point of contention is not the main obstacle to peace; rather it is the all-encompassing contempt for the Palestinian people among Israelis, as manifested in the creation and maintenance of the settlements [more properly called colonies] for more than 40 years (not simply the possible end of the settlement freeze, as suggested by the New York Times) that is the major threat to a real and long lasting peace. This basic truth, however, can never be uttered by American journalists who have long been intoxicated by the American-Israeli imperial alliance that seeks to dominate the Middle East through force in the name of “peace.”
Reporting from Israel’s Haaretz now indicates that the moratorium on settlement expansion in the West Bank will be allowed to expire on September 30th, and will not be renewed by the Israeli government. Israel’s Foreign Minister – Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beitenu Party – promises that he will prevent any extension or even a patial freeze on settlement building. Support for expanding the colonies, of course, has received major support from both the Labor and Likud parties as well over the years.
Israeli officials have tried to hide behind the “Palestinians must promote Israeli security” façade in order to continue settlement construction, while appearing to be supportive of peace. The BBC reports that “Israel had demanded [as a precondition to talks] that the Palestinian Authority take action against Hamas, and has said that the recently re-launched peace talks must involve further moves to protect Israeli security.” Such requirements represent a callous hypocrisy on the part of Israelis, as they demand that Palestinians ensure Israeli “security” by destroying what is left of their nation under a renewed civil war between the PA and Hamas, at a time, revealingly, when there hasn’t been a single suicide bombing against the people of Israel for more than two and a half years, and the Israeli economy has greatly prospered while it continues to starve out the people of the Gaza Strip under a cruel and blatantly illegal embargo.
Of course, the destruction of Hamas (led by Abbas and the PA) will do incalculable damage to the people of Palestine (as civil wars always do), and will never bring about a real peace either. It’s not intended to, since Israeli leaders will simply continue to develop their colonies in the West Bank under the justification that this land was promised to them by God (hence the biblical references to the “promised land” in the West Bank, dubbed by Israelis as “Judea” and “Sumeria”). Israelis officials refuse to even concede that the colonies are a violation of international law; as a result, there’s no reason to believe they will abandon them of their own free will.
The basic obstacles to peace surrounding the Israeli Palestinian conflict are obvious enough for those who are willing to consider them. Don’t count American officials or journalists among those who are open minded enough to do this, however. Despite the rather radical and polemic sounding title of its recent article “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace,” a recent Time news story on the “peace process” falls back on age old racist stereotypes against the Palestinian people, and only faults Israelis for being apathetic and ignorant in that they care more about fashionable consumption than they do about returning to the farcical “peace process” promoted by those who realistically are succeeding in permanently colonizing the West Bank.
Amid the distortions in the Time piece include the assumption that Palestinians greedily rejected the “generous offer” from Clinton in 2000 of a permanent Palestinian non-state, responding to this “unprecedented” peace initiative with a violent Intifada designed (among other Arab efforts) to “wipe Israel off the map.” In reality, of course, Israelis and Americans cannot “generously offer” land that never belonged to them, although this point is viewed with so much contempt in the American press that it cannot even be conceded by “rational” observers of the “peace process.” Other falsifications in the Time piece include the assertion that the Israeli wall was created for “security” purposes, and that the Palestinians (in the Intifada period) represented an all-encompassing “terror” threat to the peace loving people of Israel. These grotesque fictions obscure the fact that 1. the wall was built on the Palestinian side of the 1967 border in order to take more Palestinian land, rather than on the Israeli side, where it just as easily could have provided “protection” without violating international law regarding the theft of another nation’s land, and 2. That the Palestinians suffered far worse injustices under the second Intifada, with the number of Palestinian civilian deaths estimated to be four times greater than the losses suffered by Israelis (for more details, see Howard Friel and Richard Falk’s seminal work, Israel-Palestine on Record). In short, the Time piece conveniently ignores the far wider terrorism of the Israeli occupation itself, which has cost the lives of a far larger number of Palestinians, when compared to the Israeli lives than have been lost from all the suicide bombings that have taken place over the last twenty years.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was already selling out prospects for real peace when he insisted that the settlement extension freeze be extended as a precondition for talks. If he had a serious commitment to a Palestinian state, he would have demanded that an Israeli acknowledgement that it is willing to completely dismantle the settlements be a precondition for talks. Only this step (if it were successful) would change the narrative of the “peace talks” away from the claims that Israel is being “generous” by refusing to steal any more land, and toward a basic understanding that illegal occupiers are required under international law to end their occupations unconditionally. In other words, bargaining over stolen land can never be a part of any legitimate efforts for peace.
I have no delusions that the preconditions for peace I and countless international observers have established will be met with scorn by Israeli and American officials, American journalists, and apologists for Israeli aggression. These people, however, have no interest in ever establishing a viable Palestinian state, so their objections are of no consequence. At this point, the Palestinian people will be better served by a rejection of the entire “peace process,” as pursued under the basic assumptions and guidelines of Israeli and American officials. Previous rounds in this process have produced nothing of substance short of an expansion of Israel’s colonial control. It is certain that this round of talks will be no different.
ANTHONY DiMAGGIO is the editor of media-ocracy (www.media-ocracy.com), a daily online magazine devoted to the study of media, public opinion, and current events. He has taught U.S. and Global Politics at Illinois State University and North Central College, and is the author of When Media Goes to War (2010) and Mass Media, Mass Propaganda (2008). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org