The Specter of Peace: U.S. Diplomacy and Israeli Apartheid

by Alan Shihadeh

The diplomatic strife over Israel's latest seizure of Palestinian land
in Jerusalem offers considerable clarity into the imperatives of the
unfolding "peace process" in the Middle East. Ethan Bronner, writing
in the Boston Globe, provided an apt metaphor for what is transpiring
in the aftermath of the PLO-Israel accords: "Egypt is leading an Arab
effort to force Israel to abandon its latest land seizure in East
Jerusalem but is running into a surprising foot-dragger in the
campaign-the Palestinians." (19 May 1995) The situation was
temporarily defused when Prime Minister Rabin abandoned the seizure
after the conservative Likud party announced it would support a
no-confidence measure (for other reasons) introduced by the half-dozen
Arab members of the Israeli parliament to protest the land
grab. Shortly after the measure was introduced, Bronner continued,
Arafat "asked Arab members of the Israeli parliament to withdraw the
no-confidence measure...in order to preserve the peace process."
	Naturally Arafat's betrayal was "seen by Israel and the United
States as encouraging...by contrast, Egypt's sudden pan-Arab efforts
are a sign of malaise over its regional role," Bronner adds. But
Israel and the US have much else to be encouraged about, a matter to
which we will return.

The Peace Process™
	Joining Arafat's efforts, the US vetoed an otherwise unanimous
UN Security Council resolution that called for Israel to rescind the
seizure. Following the veto, Secretary of State Warren Christopher
explained that the veto was necessary to "prevent institutions outside
the peace process from taking steps that might interfere with it,"
reflecting the long established principle that the "peace process" is,
by definition, limited to US policy, and therefore any outside
institution, as a point of logic, can only "interfere."
	Following this protocol, Christopher re-iterated that the
Jerusalem dispute "ought to be resolved between the parties," where
"parties" means the US and Israel: "we have reservations about the
action that was taken by the Israelis in Jerusalem. I think those
concerns have been registered because of the [assurances] by the
Israeli cabinet indicating there would be no further [land
confiscation] of this kind taken in the near future," which should be
enough, obviously-no need to brook outside interference.
	The principle is far reaching. In the aftermath of the Hebron
Massacre last March-when Israeli army reservist and physician Baruch
Goldstein fired his machine gun at Palestinians kneeling in prayer,
killing 46, and injuring hundreds-UN Secretary General Boutrous Gali
offered to provide UN troops to protect Palestinians from Israeli
settlers. Clinton summarily rejected the proposal as "annoying" and
"neither useful nor helpful...the answer now is to re-double our
efforts...and begin implementation of the [Israel-PLO] agreement as
soon as possible." Israeli settler rampages continue as before, and
the "peace process," by definition, remains on-track.
	Returning to Christopher's recent remarks, "the United States
feels a tremendous responsibility to protect the peace process...and
so we took the unusual step yesterday of vetoing a resolution." Indeed
the US has accrued an unusually long record of UN vetoes and isolated
votes in the General Assembly "to protect the peace process" and has
been unwavering in its rejection of Palestinian rights, even siding
alone with Israel in voting (153-2) against a General Assembly
resolution that strongly condemned terrorism because it contained a
clause which recognized the right of people to "resist racist or
colonialist regimes," which at the time was taken to refer to South
Africa, but with obvious implications for Israel.
	Other instances include vetoes in 1976 and 1980 of UN Security
Council resolutions calling for Israeli withdrawal from the territory
it captured in 1967 and the creation of an independent Palestinian
state with security guarantees for all states in the region, in
accordance with international consensus, including the PLO. In the
General Assembly similar resolutions have regularly passed, for
example by votes of 144-2, 151-3, 138-2, in 1990, 1989, and 1988
respectively, with Israel and the US constituting the radical
rejectionist minority, an occasional Dominican Republic joining for
solidarity. Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly
resolutions, however, are not enforceable.
	Reasons for the US's rejectionist stance in Palestine stem
from its support for Israel as a barrier to "indigenous radical
nationalism" in the Middle East which could interfere with US control
over the region's oil production. Control over the World's most
valuable commodity was recognized by the State Department in 1945 as
"...a stupendous source of strategic power," leading the US to ensure
that the oil remained in the domains of compliant family dictatorships
which were created by the British following World War I. Part of
ensuring that this "Arab facade" remained in power was to set up a
system of local gendarmes, including Iran (under the Shah), Turkey,
and Israel who could be called upon as needed. The system is described
and documented in detail in Chomsky's Fateful Triangle (South End
Press, 1983).  New Bottles...
	Little has changed apart from the fact that the PLO has
finally agreed to depart from international consensus on Palestinian
national rights and instead participate in the "peace process," as
Arafat's actions in the recent dispute over Jerusalem have shown
again.
	Returning to why the US and Israel have much to be encouraged
by, it is useful to recall Rabin's remarks shortly after signing the
Oslo Agreement: "I prefer the Palestinians cope with the problem of
enforcing order in the Gaza [Strip]. The Palestinians will be better
at it than we were because they will allow no appeals to the Supreme
Court and will prevent the [Israeli] Association for Civil Rights from
criticizing the conditions there by denying it access to the
area. They will rule there by their own methods, freeing...the Israeli
soldiers from having to do what they [the PLO] will do. All Gaza Strip
settlements will remain where they are, The Israeli army will remain
in the Gaza Strip to defend them...." (Yediot Ahronot, 7 September
1993)
	The current situation in Gaza flows logically from Rabin's
the-PLO-will-do-our-dirty-work-for-us formula, as New York Times
reporter Joel Greenberg inadvertently notes: "first reports from the
Palestinian Authority's closed trials of Islamic militants indicate
that tribunals are handing down summary verdicts after short court
proceedings, some no longer than a few minutes." (27 April
1995). Again, the paymasters are encouraged: "While Israeli and
American officials have welcomed the hearings, human rights groups
have condemned them as violating the defendants' civil liberties...the
trials have been held secretly at night, with judges, prosecutors and
defense lawyers drawn from the Palestinian security forces." Amnesty
International has described the trials as "grossly unfair, violating
the minimum standards of international law, including the right to
have adequate time to prepare a defense, the right to a fair and
public trial by an independent tribunal, the right to be defended by a
lawyer of one's choice and the right to appeal to a higher court,"
essentially reproducing its own critique of the Israeli military
courts throughout the Occupied Territories, a point not lost on
ordinary Palestinians.
	In other respects as well the new face of Israeli occupation
hasn't relegated its duties. Last month, the West Bank affiliate of
the International Commission of Jurists reported "many cases of
torture of persons detained by Palestinian police and arrests of
dozens of persons suspected of being members or supporters of
opposition groups," during the first quarter of 1995. The old face has
also been busy, with "a significant increase in numbers of
administrative detention [imprisonment without charges], significant
deterioration in prison conditions, a dramatic increase in land
confiscation throughout the West Bank, tightening of the closure of
East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Jericho Areas, intensified settler
violence in Hebron, Nablus and Tulkarem areas, continued raids on
Mosques and religious sites, and torture during interrogation."

Black November
	Perhaps the most spectacular demonstration of Arafat's new
role in the peace process was the PLO massacre of 12 Palestinians
(with hundreds wounded) in Gaza last November during what was supposed
to be a peaceful rally in solidarity with 200 suspected members of
Islamic Jihad who had been rounded up by the PLO police (Reuter, 18
November 1994). The massacre came three days after a warning by
Israeli Prime Minister Rabin to the PLO to "toughen its campaign" in
the Territories; "we expect a more serious effort from the Palestinian
Authority than we have seen thus far," he said. Its not unlikely that
the weapons used in the massacre were supplied by the Israeli army, as
noted by Ariel Sharon in Yediot Ahronot (25 November 1994), the main
Israeli daily.
	The Israeli security system responded to the massacre with
delight, since it made clear that Arafat would indeed take on Hamas as
hoped. Former senior Military Intelligence officer and Rabin's advisor
for PLO affairs Jacques Neriya commented that "the violence of last
Friday was neither ruthless nor pervasive enough. Arafat did not win a
victory as decisive as that won in Syria [by Assad] against the Muslim
Brotherhood [in which 10,000-20,000 were massacred in Hama], or by
King Hussein in Jordan in September 1970 [8,000-10,000 massacred]."
(Yediot Ahronot, 20 November 1994)
	Nahum Barnea, writing in Yediot Ahronot, similarly reported
that "the bloody riots which took place in Gaza on Friday didn't
surprise Arafat's Israeli patrons. If anything, they rejoiced
them.....The Security System people want Arafat to emulate the
massacre of Palestinians by King Hussein in September 1970. The
Israelis want to see blood gushing: for Arafat's benefit, but also in
order to neutralize the Islamic terror's disconcerting influence on
Israeli public mood by the sight of piles of corpses in Gaza." (Yediot
Ahronot, 20 November 1994) Barnea also quotes a high ranking Israeli
minister as saying that "unless Arafat begins to shoot in Gaza, the
Israeli government will not be able to proceed with the peace process,
because the Israeli public will not allow it," again offering no small
insight into the "peace process," or the Nobel Prize for Peace, for
that matter.

...Old Wine
	Arafat has taken a new position as local enforcer, but the
position itself is not new. Israel has from the beginning of the
occupation searched for the most efficient methods for ruling the
Territories and appropriating its resources. Initially the strategy
was to cultivate relations with Palestinian "notables" who would run
the Territories according to Israel's wishes in return for various
privileges such as building permits. From 1967 to 1974 the practice
was quite effective, requiring that Israel station 10,000-15,000
soldiers in the Territories to enforce the system. Eventually Ariel
Sharon replaced the "notables" by instituting the Village
Leagues-councils of Palestinian collaborators who created one of the
most totalitarian regimes on Earth.
	One of the great accomplishments of the Palestinian uprising
was to eliminate the Village Leagues. As a result, Israel's
administrative costs sky-rocketed: at the Intifada's peak, in 1988,
180,000 Israeli soldiers were required to impose Israeli rule in the
Territories. Since then, approximately 100,000 soldiers have been
stationed there. This form of direct rule was more costly, more
embarrassing, and intensified Israel's moral degeneration in the eyes
of its own citizens.
	By now the lessons are clear: the PLO, having lost its popular
support and being on the verge of collapse, preserved itself by taking
over responsibility of repression in the Territories, partly under the
assumption that it will be immune to outside criticism and will
therefore be able to employ even more brutal methods than those of the
Israelis, as Rabin explained.

Prospects: Apartheid
	One should add the West Bank to Rabin's dictum "that all Gaza
Settlements will remain where they are." Currently, 70% of the land in
the West Bank, and about 30% of the Gaza Strip has been confiscated
for people "of Jewish race, religion, or origin," and the confiscation
has continued since the Oslo agreement, as has spending on permanent
infrastructure and housing-up by 70% in 1994 compared to 1993.
	Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza have been
located so as to "fragment the Palestinian community by creating
islands, cantons, small spheres of containment," according to Dutch
geographer Jan de Jong, and thereby preempt the possibility of a
contiguous Palestinian territory which could one day form the basis
for an independent state.
	This cantonization has its roots in the Israeli Allon Plan of
1969, which proposed that Israel maintain control over the West Bank
and Gaza, except for areas of dense Palestinian settlement which would
be allowed some form of home rule. In this way Israel could maintain
sovereignty over the land and resources of the Territories without
facing the "demographic problem" in which too many non-Jews are
allowed citizenship in what remains by law "the sovereign state of
Jewish people."
	Rabin reiterated this imperative again recently in a Globe
editorial: "I am not prepared to forcibly annex the territories and
their inhabitants, thereby changing the state of Israel into a
binational state. I don't believe that for 2,000 years, the
generations of our people dreamed to 'return to Zion' in order to
establish a binational state in which 35 percent of the citizens would
not be Jewish." (11 February 1995)
	The Israeli government has become even more brazen in
constructing the symbols of apartheid in the Territories, and is now
proposing a "security fence" which would "separate Israelis on one
side, and Palestinians on the other," according to Rabin. (Boston
Globe, 11 February 1995) Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin,
considered a great dove, affirmed the Nobel Laureate's sentiments: "an
electronic fence is the only way to make good neighbors...My heart
yearns for a fence, enforcing physical segregation and at the same
time symbolizing spiritual segregation between us and them."
	Segregation is being achieved by other means as well. Yediot
Ahronot recently reported construction of two tunnels and a long
bridge linking settlements south of Bethlehem with Jerusalem. "The
first tunnel is half a mile long and leads to an overpass bridge above
the Palestinian town of Beit Jallah. The bridge is 164 ft tall and a
fifth of a mile long." (2 December 1994) Similarly, the army "already
proceeded to execute the formidable job of linking each settlement's
water pipes and electricity supply lines with Israeli sources so as to
make them independent from Palestinian water and electricity
supplies." (Yediot Ahronot, 11 November 1994)
	There should be no illusions about what future is being
planned for Palestinians; this is the essence of the "peace process,"
as it has always been. Israeli dissident Israel Shahak recently wrote
that "an apartheid regime...is no longer just planned but already
implemented. The sooner this grim reality is recognized–together
with the role played by Arafat and his supporters in the whole
scheme–and the sooner the illusions about the 'peace process' are
discarded, the easier will it be to put up resistance to the advancing
apartheid." US taxpayers must recognize their direct responsibility
for this "grim reality" and stop paying for the continuing
dispossession of the Palestinian nation's land, culture, and
future. Justice demands no less.  

*Note: all quotations from theIsraeli press were translated by
Professor Israel Shahak; his important reports are available on-line
through Gopher at alquds.org



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