Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

For Want of An Honest Broker … Genuine Peace in Palestine Needs Washington’s Willingness To Curb Israeli Hubris and Aggression

right_of_return_palestinian_boy.jpgIt was JFK who said that “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Our thoughts are with Gaza, where GWB’s recent visit to the region has seen Israel only ratchet up its violence and airstrikes upon a territory from which it only nominally withdrew and in fact continues to choke, killing dozens of people in the space of a few days.

Let us recall that after maintaining a ceasefire or hudna for eighteen months, the democratically elected government of Hamas was subject to nothing but economic siege, divide and rule, sabotage and targeted killings. Let us also recall that Israel rejected the offer of a truce, instead continuing its collective punishment of a whole population already brutally repressed and assassinating leaders and civilians alike, including the son of Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar.


The criminal strangulation of a whole population of a million and a half people in one of the most densely populated places on the planet is being committed on the pretext of rocket attacks on Israel using primitive weapons like Qassams; with pretext being the operative word. As Uri Avnery recently observed in Help! A Ceasefire: “If the Qassams were really bothering our political and military leaders, they would have jumped at the cease-fire offer. But the leaders don’t really care … [it] has an important positive side: it provides an ideal pretext for the actions of the army. The Israeli strategic aim in Gaza is not to put an end to the Qassams. It would still be the same if not a single Qassam fell on Israel.” Israel’s policy is to deliberately destroy Gaza.

The continued lobbing of these low-lethality weapons are in response to gross Israeli violations of airspace, terrifying sonic booms, the longest running illegal military occupation in modern history, Kafkaesque checkpoints which Israel closes with impunity, the indefinite holding of thousands of “administrative detainees” without charge or trial, and continued theft of Palestinian land. Add to that striking electricity generators and water treatment plants, and closing off Gaza crossings to aid and any free movement in or latuff_israeli-barracks.jpgout, making life hell for ordinary people and truly spreading fear and terror.

As Yair Lapid, an Israeli journalist observes, while the outward objective of the IOF’s operation in Gaza is to prevent the Qassam fire, “[it is] the operation in Gaza [that] is causing Qassams to be fired. The Qassam fire will, in turn, bring about the next operation in Gaza, which will lead to the next round of Qassam fire.” Is this the way to end the cycle of violence? How would anyone feel if their home was bulldozed and their land stolen, with no hope of recourse in the courts? And so the cycle of violence continues, because Israel (thinks it) gains from it.

What can be done? Charley Reese expresses in plain and clear terms what is currently missing to achieve a genuine, just and lasting peace in the Holy Land: the US needs to be willing to constrain Israeli aggression, not give it a blank check. While this seems obvious, it bears reminding.

Respect for international law would also greatly accelerate a satisfactory resolution. Frankly, that’s not going to happen with this current President, Congress or the mainstream media in the US—sadly, the most likud-zionist-occupied territories yet—nevertheless, his recognition of the key to what would bring this conflict closer to a just resolution is to be commended. He writes:

latuff_anti_semitism.jpgTo understand the failure of the president’s trip to the Middle East, which is foreordained and doesn’t have to be completed in order to fail, take note of two words that the president will not utter: “occupied territories.”

Let’s review the situation from the standpoint of international law. The West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and a smidgen of Lebanon the Israelis still occupy are officially designated as occupied territories. They were seized in war. Jerusalem is officially an international city, so designated by the United Nations partition resolution that created the state of Israel. The Israelis, of course, long ago declared the resolution null and void.

As occupied territories, they fall under the Geneva Conventions. An occupying power is not allowed to take land or to build settlements in occupied territory. It is not allowed to destroy homes, to uproot olive groves, to deport people, and to wall the area off – all of which the Israelis have done and are continuing to do.

This brings us to the question of negotiations. It is impossible for the Palestinians, whose land is occupied and whose lives are totally controlled by the most powerful military state in the Middle East, to make any concessions. To make a concession, you have to have something. They have nothing. They have no power. They don’t control their land, their borders, their access to the sea or the air, the water or even their movements within the territories. Thanks to the American vetoes, they don’t even have any recourse in the U.N.

The only party, then, that can make concessions is Israel, and Israel is not making any concessions, since it far prefers land to peace with an enemy that is virtually powerless.

israel_defined.gifTherefore, if the U.S. refuses to pressure Israel, there will be no peace. President Bush’s trip is nothing more than a public-relations ploy to simulate an interest in peace. Bush is, however, unwilling to say or do anything that might actually result in Israeli concessions and therefore in peace. In fact, the main purpose of Bush’s visit is to harangue the Arabs about the alleged dangers of Iran. He refuses to talk to the elected representatives of the Palestinians, who are Hamas members.

If Americans knew—incidentally an aptly named organization focused upon coming to a just settlement of this conflict, not at all irresolvable—the court of public opinion might also act as a greater brake on Israel’s bellicosity. As Paul Craig Roberts has recently written in a recommended piece, “The ignorance of Americans commits US foreign policy to the service of Israel.”

To support Gaza, please consider such actions as supporting Gush Shalom’s Gaza Relief Convoy campaign to get water filters into this beleaguered strip. You might also be interested in some of these current press picks:

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"