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Palestinian Quest for Justice

US/Israel (a singular entity here given shared policies, geopolitical vision, and militarism) are livid and are threatening strong reprisals because Abbas has applied for membership to the International Criminal Court in consequence of Israel’s manifest unwillingness, fortified by American security guarantees and military assistance, to engage in meaningful peace negotiations leading to an independent Palestinian state. Decades of stalling, forcible eviction (ethnic cleansing), settlement construction, blockades, walls, checkpoints, daily humiliation—and Palestinians finally have said, enough, freedom not only delayed but cynically spit upon by an overpowering, unrestrained Military State convinced it has the right to act with impunity because of its superior force. Israel does not even offer a moral justification for its actions; its armed forces, tanks, planes, shells, determination to use them at whatever human cost to have its way, marks the high degree of ruthless consistency for which, in this uneven struggle, Palestinians with their feeble rockets and tunnels cannot offer effective resistance. I watch, and think of the Spanish Civil War, although even that parallel (the Nazi Stukas versus the IDF airstrikes in Gaza) is inexact in light of the helplessness of the Palestinian people murdered and displaced before the eyes of an indifferent world.

The carnage wrought serves as backdrop for the US/Israel vindictive drive to punish the Palestinians and Abbas for turning for remedy to the Hague Court. Why the resistance? Before the bar of world opinion, US/Israel, once the facts are set out, will stand indicted for war crimes, and in more practical terms, now prosecutable before an international tribunal. No, Obama, Netanyahu, their respective decision-makers in repression, will not stand in the box to be cross-examined or hear the verdict rendered; they will, as expected of the powerful, go scot-free, as will their predecessors and successors, free to embark on the seemingly endless political-economic-ideological sport of Slaughter of the Innocents, until, if ever, the balance of world power permanently shifts in a democratic direction. For Palestinians, the ICC in world terms is an incremental step, but for US/Israel it is a horrendous assault on self-proclaimed prerogatives of power as custodians of the established order of things. In a way, we are right back to Vietnam, what is essentially a counterrevolutionary posture opposed to self-determination wherever and whenever it conflicts, as usually happens, with US hegemonic goals (and they are universal and demanding), Israel being an apt pupil of the US in following through on that conflict, sharpening its own hegemonic claws when self-determination strikes closer to home.

Abbas, heretofore taken for granted as a moderate-to-insipid leader, has been transformed literally in the last few days, first, his unsuccessful appeal to the Security Council on ending the Israeli occupation (the new membership will force the US to use its veto when the Council convenes, bribes, personal calls by Obama and Netanyahu to kept leaders, as just happened, no longer availing, thus exposing the US to public admission of its bias toward Israel and lack of sympathy for ALL oppressed peoples), and now, his direct move for ICC membership, with the result of his being demonized as practically himself a terrorist, therefore repudiated, and rendered politically unacceptable. All because he seeks legal redress for the grievances of his people. US/Israel, significantly, both refusing to join the Court (nor presumably willing to accept its jurisdiction in the trial of war crimes), have thumbed their noses on international justice per se—ordinarily sufficient evidence for raising a howl and declaring them pariah states. This, too, will not happen.

***

Exercising rights by seeking juridical remedies through adjudication of a recognized court system then becomes subversion of world order, and is vociferously castigated by the party at wrong—or rather, if not, why then prevent the process from working? Instead, US/Israel, as seen in Jodi Rudoren’s New York Times article, “Palestinians Set to Seek Redress in a World Court,” (Jan. 1), have arranged punitive measures to deter or cancel the effect of Abbas’s action of joining the ICC. She recognizes this move has momentous consequences, “opening a new front in the Middle East conflict that could lead to war-crimes prosecutions of Israeli officials and that risk severe sanctions from Washington and Jerusalem.” Of the two, my interest is the latter, an absolutistic defiance in response to a subjugated people’s desire for nationhood. In the circumstances, decades of abuse, that desire is minimal yet totally disparaged. To squeeze the life out of the Palestinians, should have, but to all indications has not, engendered feelings of guilt among Israelis.

Abbas, a rather tragic figure in having miscalculated Israel’s will to reach an accommodation, even one that is unjust, plaintively stated—perhaps at the end of his tether—as he signed the Rome Statute (ICC’s founding charter): “’There is aggression practiced against our land and our country, and the Security Council has let us down—where shall we go? We want to complain to this organization [ICC]. As long as there is no peace, and the world doesn’t prioritize peace in this region, this region will live in constant conflict. The Palestinian cause is the key issue to be settled.’” Eloquent words, to which Jeff Rathke of the State Department pronounced to chilling effect, “’counterproductive,’” pushing the parties further apart. “’It is an escalatory step [the simple step of joining a UN body, as opposed to Israeli bombing and shelling to the saturation point, and directed to civilian targets—presumably not an escalatory step] that will not achieve any of the outcomes most Palestinians hoped to see for their people.’” The momentum had to be stopped, have faith in a nonexistent process: “’Actions like this are not the answer. Hard as it is, all sides need to find a way to work constructively and cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence and find a path forward.’” So much for US good offices, neutrality, the goal of peace. As Rudoren notes, “Israel and the United States have promised to respond harshly to the move.”

Khalil Shikaki, director of a policy-oriented think tank in Ramallah, observed: “’There is no question mark as to what are the consequences, that there will be immediate American and Israeli financial sanctions. Those sanctions will gradually become more and more crippling, and this could indeed be the beginning of the end of the P.A. They fully realize that.’” Unified US/Israeli actions, if doubts remained, intended to crush, not negotiate with, the Palestinians, still less join the International Criminal Court themselves and present their case in open court. Beyond financial pressures Rudoren refers to the March 17 Israeli elections, in which Netanyahu and his party, viewing the move to the ICC as “an aggressive unilateral act,” are just waiting to smear the Palestinian authority (traditional McCarthyism brought up to date), in which Netanyahu, matching stride with Naftali Bennett all the way, threatens reverse-prosecution via guilt by association using an exaggerated image of Hamas: “’It is the Palestinian Authority—which is in a unity government with Hamas, an avowed terrorist organization that, like ISIS, perpetrates war crimes—that needs to be concerned about the International Criminal Court in the Hague.’”

Poor Abbas, practically a member of ISIS, along with the Palestinian people, but why stop? Netanyahu accuses Palestinians, to all intents powerless, of trying to turn the tables on Israel, its full-scale conquest, thereby sanctioning Israeli all-out TOTAL warfare against them: “’We will take steps in response, and we will defend the soldiers of the I.D.F. [Israel Defense Forces]. We will rebuff this additional attempt to force diktat on us, just like we rebuffed the Palestinian appeal to the U.N. Security Council.’” Proud of obstructing the path to lawful protest, he then, by using the word diktat [Webster’s Ninth Collegiate, “a harsh settlement unilaterally imposed (as on a defeated nation)”], turns upside down the power of the opposing forces, creating a political-ideological matrix for justifying the extermination of the putative Enemy. No expectation of peaceful negotiations from that quarter, the US fully applauding the charade.

The fix is on, Go after Abbas, threaten to drag him before the Court (in the hope he will desist). Shurat HaDin, an Israeli legal group, has already “filed war-crimes complaints” against Hamas at The Hague, and Abbas sees the handwriting on the wall, that he and PA officials will be next. This is not far-fetched in light of the Israeli spirit of vindictiveness (driven by desperation of the long-term consequences of their actions?—mine). Ah, Bennett, on bringing Abbas before the ICC: “’Someone who has terrorism smeared all over his head should not stand in the sun.’” The poetics of oppression neatly put. Wednesday, Dec. 31, saw several demonstrations in Gaza, one Gazan saying, in somber tones: “’I’m here today to express my love for Palestine. I want to see Gaza in a new year that has some kind of stability and peace.’” Is that asking too much?

My New York Times Comment on the Rudoren article, same date, follows:

That the US and Israel refuse to join the International Criminal Court speaks volumes about their stonewalling the investigation and prosecution of their own war crimes. This contempt for international law has not a MORAL leg to stand on, and is only implemented through force. Abbas is castigated for seeking the redress of grievances through authoritative legal action. Think of it: denying the right of the victim to go to Court–a throwback to a preconstitutional Middle Ages, or more recent, the mentalset of Nazi Germany. Punish the victim. Destroy his identity. Make his life insufferable. Threaten him with worse (the March 17 Israeli elections to return a still harsher, militaristic, self-righteous regime), all of which because finally he seeks legal remedy.

This contempt for the ICC, arm-twisting of EU, threatened economic strangulation of the Palestinians hardly speaks to democracy, freedom, and other shibboleths invoked by Israel and America to justify their actions. The world knows better. The world detects desperation, not on Abbas’s part (as per NYT editorial heading), but that of the US and Israel, both joined at the hip, in a losing battle over the issue of HUMAN RIGHTS.

Every strategem used and/or planned to deny Palestinian statehood will ultimately backfire. The US and Israel are on the wrong side of history; Americans, Israelis, I regret to say, tyranny is out, democratic aspirations are in, as we begin the New Year of 2015. You’re being left behind.

***

We are not through yet. The New York Times, in its editorial, “The Palestinians’ Desperation Move,” also Jan. 1, adds its bit of wisdom to the vilification (I don’t fault Rudoren on this score), its analysis, as in the heading, revealing a hard-bitten pro-Israel stand implying the need for still more punitive treatment of Palestinians because of their temerity—i.e., unmindful of the full weight of US/Israel power–in going to the UN. First, mock-tears for Abbas: “At nearly 80, he has to be tired and deeply frustrated with the failure of years of peace negotiations with Israel to achieve the Palestinian dream of an independent state.” But the fault lies with Hamas for the presumed impasse (better, one assumes, he should dissolve the unity arrangement if peace is to be achieved—mine), the editorial’s biting indictment characterizing Hamas, “the militant group that would rather lob missiles at Israel than recognize it,” being quite direct.

True, “prospects for a two-state solution grow dimmer by the day, with right-wing Israeli politicians opposing a Palestinian state and the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, steadily expanding settlements, making the creation of a viable Palestinian state harder.” A surprising admission by The Times, except for the fact that it immediately throws the ball in Abbas’s court, whose “actions will almost certainly make the situation worse, setting back the cause of statehood even farther.” It is as though joining the International Court was a seismic event, unforgiveable to the last. Again, the upcoming Israeli elections, the sword of Damocles hanging over Palestinians’ heads: “By taking this tack [NYT’s trivializing the decision, as one out for a Sunday sail] before the Israeli elections, which are set for March 17, he has given Israeli hard-liners new ammunition to attack the Palestinians and reject new peace talks. And he may have set in motion the collapse of the Palestinians’ self-governing authority.”

At the risk of trying the reader’s patience, these and previous remarks are important for revealing the Israelis’ mindset, a mental texture of DENIAL readily translated into the license to act with impunity, in this case, internalized and institutionalized by The Times, but it is the quotations found in Rudoren, which the editorial so nicely complements, that bring out an underlying authoritarianism based on the powers of domination to liberate and feed, for that reason, sadistic impulses. Even an election drives home the urge to punish and degrade. This, of course, is the ugly face of militarism peeping out. The warning, “hav[ing] set in motion the collapse of the Palestinians’ self-governing authority,” shows as much empathy for peoples’ hopes and aspirations as if they were ciphers, pieces on a chess board, to be manipulated at will and ultimately discarded.

Punishment awaits: “Congress has long threatened to impose sanctions against the Palestinian Authority, including the loss of about $400 million in annual aid, if it joined the court.” Israel, too, “could withhold tens of millions of dollars in tax remittances … and could move more aggressively to build settlements in sensitive areas.” And Netanyahu said, “the Palestinians may now be subject to prosecution over support for Hamas.” The cards are stacked against them on practically all sides, yet dreams are not easily extinguished, particularly when they have right and justice on their side.

My New York Times Comment on the editorial, same date, follows:

Yes, punish the victims for going to Court in pursuit of justice. Why this venom directed to Abbas and the Palestinians? Why the denial of seeking peaceful redress for grievances, itself central to the rule of law and the pacific settlement of disputes in the international arena? Why wrong for Abbas to go to the ICC? The Times holds him hostage to the Israeli March elections–lest Israel turns further Right and more barbaric in its treatment of the Palestinians.

I believe, smoke out the lawless forces, here the US and Israel, who show contempt for and try (successfully) to manipulate the UN. The Times here is on the side of stifling just recourse to peace via acceptable international order and procedures. The alternative? A world ruled by FORCE, injustice, domination of the strong over the weak. NYT even seeks to warn off the EU, so that any move toward Palestinian statehood is construed as self-defeating–the victims thrown into the grave, not one of their own making.

When will Israel be brought under the power and influence of international law? Perhaps never, and therefore more Gazas, more demonization of Hamas (would there be rockets if the people could be allowed to live in peace, sans blockades, checkpoints, etc.?), more Israeli internal distortion of Torah given its militarism and hatred for the stranger. The Times was once internationally constructive; this shows otherwise, the sacrifice of principle for politicized ends.

Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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