American led show a Middle East no go

Antony Loewenstein

The resumption of self-described peace talks between Israel, Washington and the Palestinian Authority produced headlines across the world last week. The public was told that each side was pessimistic about the prospects of finally sealing a deal after decades of stop-start negotiations. The stated goal was a two-state solution, the supposed ideal of both Israelis and Palestinians.

But most Western media coverage has simply accepted the talking points offered by the major players and not examined facts on the ground in the territory itself.

As leading Israeli blogger Noam Sheizaf documented, the US media was more excited about peace talks than the Israeli press itself.

Sheizaf noted: “The current stage in the conflict is not just about peace. It’s about ending the occupation and getting the Palestinians their rights. Some people in the American administration understood that, but for their own reasons, they decided to pursue the failed policies of the past two decades.”

Equally on the Palestinian side, recent polling by the Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion found only one in three Palestinians supported the current negotiations but neither did they support another intifada.

There is a feeling of resignation that the status-quo is likely to continue for years to come, despite one prominent Palestinian journalist optimistically writing that the world will soon have to accept an independent Palestinian state.

One of the greatest reasons for global scepticism is Israel’s insistence on continuing to build illegal colonies in the West Bank. Despite the oft-repeated and false claims that Israel is currently having a “settlement freeze”, there is vast evidence that building has continued across the West Bank and even accelerated in some places. More than 1000 new homes are being constructed. Israel’s Netanyahu government initiated a “settlement freeze” as a political tool to fool America and it’s worked comprehensively (though it’s likely many in the Obama administration were very happy to play along with the fraud).

One of Israel’s leading followers of the colonies, Dror Etkes, told Der Spiegel last week that, “It’s not just that the building freeze has been undermined – it was a fiction right from the outset” and complicit construction firms have not been fined or punished for the breaches. It’s been business as usual. I’ve heard from various Israeli peace activists who visit the West Bank weekly and tell me that countless settlements have continued expanding in the last months. Even worse are the growing attacks by settlers and the IDF against innocent Palestinians in the West Bank.

An ever-deepening occupation makes a viable Palestinian state impossible and alternative ideas are inevitably gaining traction. Documents proving a covert Israeli plan to permanently divide the West Bank and Gaza recently emerged as well as serious discussion within Israel about what kind of Palestinian entity is imagined by the Israeli elites (a nation with no army, borders, control over airspace or communications).

But ideas once seen as radical are growing in stature. Palestinian academic George Bisharat had published in last week’s Washington Post a compelling argument for a one-state solution, an increasingly discussed option due to the logical call for “principles of ethnic rights rather than ethnic privilege”.

Despite these sensible solutions, it appears likely that talks about the two-state solution will continue for many years to come. Ahmad Tibi, an Israeli Palestinian and member of the Knesset, writes that the Israeli government has no desire for a just resolution and prefers inequality before the law. There is great fear within Palestinian circles of an imposed two-state solution, whereby the Obama administration is so desperate for a foreign policy success (there have been none of note thus far) and twists the arm of the Palestinians to accept a truncated “state”.

One has to ask why the global Jewish Diaspora continues to back racial discrimination in a way they would never accept in their own countries. All Australian Zionist spokespeople want to do is improve the community’s PR and use Twitter instead of realising that apartheid in Palestine is causing incalculable damage to Brand Israel. Even Australia’s leading churches have initiated a boycott against products made in the occupied territories.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in office illegally after his term expired and yet he refuses to hold new elections, is weak. Although he has belatedly refused to accept Israel’s demand that the Palestinian Authority accept the country as a Jewish state – therefore disenfranchising the over one million Israeli Arabs – he has nothing to show for years of fruitless negotiations.

Many in the Western press accept the exclusion of the democratically elected government of Hamas, a futile act, as its leader Khaled Meshaal said last week. His group had realised that “the legitimate rights of the Palestinians will only be gained by snatching them, not being gifted with them at the negotiating table” and “resistance” was the only way to achieve Palestinian independence. However, Meshaal “does accept a Palestinian state on the lines of 1967.”

The occupation has corrupted Israeli souls, as evidenced by a new study of Israeli teens aged 15 to 18 that found 59 per cent didn’t believe Israelis Arabs should have equal rights. The dehumanisation of Arabs is part of daily life, rendering true reconciliation extremely difficult.

Zionists constantly talk these days about the growing global trend of “delegitimisation” of Israel, implying that Israel is entitled to exist in whatever form it wants and behave as it chooses. Instead, Palestinian rights have been ignored and delegitimized for decades, every motive questioned and thanks to the occupier expected.

The most hopeful sign of progress in the last years have been the explosion of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions). Just last week the band Massive Attack announced its support with member Robert Del Naja saying that, “I can’t play in Israel when the Palestinians have no access to the same fundamental benefits that the Israelis do. I think the best approach is to boycott a government that seems hell-bent on very destructive policies.” The internet has been central in raising this worldwide awareness.

The movement is starting to bite. The sentiments were best expressed in Haaretz in early September:

“…Underlying the anger against Israel lies disappointment. Since the establishment of the state, and before, we demanded special terms of the world. We played on their feelings of guilt, for standing idle while six million Jews were murdered… But then came the occupation, which turned us into the evil Goliath, the cruel oppressor, a darkness on the nations. And now we are paying the price of presenting ourselves as righteous and causing disappointment.”

It is past time to simply repeat the tired mantras of failed paradigms and American Presidents keen to do the vision thing who end up frozen by the Zionist lobby. The situation is already headed for Greater Israel and the Palestinians will be blamed.

This is the real legacy of the “peace process”.

Antony Loewenstein is a journalist, blogger and author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution.

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