Monday, June 29, 2009

What about Palestine? - Part 2

Dandelion - Weed? or Flower?

Historian Noam Chomsky writing about the Palestine/Israel conflict provides a few perspectives that are highly discouraging to those who would like to see a resolution to the struggle. As we all know, Israel has established numerous settlements in the West Bank and on the Golan Heights, in defiance of assorted resolutions at the UN and accords made over the years at Camp David, Oslo, etc. The world community has protested this expansion into what is occupied territory, but no action has been taken to cause this practice to stop. The US could have insisted and taken steps to make certain that Israel respected established borders, at least. This could easily havebeen achieved by tying aid to compliance.

There exists an often-reiterated opinion in Israel that Palestinians are not “a people” and Judea and Samaria do not constitute a country. If this is false, Israelis are invaders and plunderers; if it is true, they are simply repossessing what has always been rightfully theirs. The argument seems absurd when one considers how Arabs in the area have had vineyards and farms, homes and villages confiscated and have been driven off land that has been in their families for centuries. What does it matter if the area they inhabited as a people is or was a nation or not?

The encroachment into the West Bank particularly is not simply a natural evolution; it’s a deliberate policy to establish a fact. This fact is that as ever more settlers make a home in disputed territory, their presence there makes it ever harder to reverse the process. It could be compared to the expropriation of North America, Australia, Latin America, by colonial powers. The push to settle the prairies of Canada, for instance, made it more and more difficult for the aboriginal people to assert their rights in the land, and the argument that this was not “their nation” after all served to excuse their eviction as it does that of the Palestinians.

So who benefits from Israeli expansionism to such a degree that putting an end to it is outweighed by other interests? Well, the state of Israel, one supposes, but according to Chomsky the future of Israel has been placed in grave jeopardy by its actions. One would think that the US would benefit from peace in the Middle East, but it has to be remembered that the US is an oil importer on a large scale and Israel’s neighbours are sitting on much of the oil needed by US industry and people. Israel as it exists right now serves as a policeman in the area; it has weapons and a military machine that is unmatched by any of its neighbours. Israel has disciplined Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, in the past and the US is commercially better for it (and by extension, possibly, Canada and Europe).

Aboriginal people in North America resisted the colonialism that eventually resulted in the countries of Canada and the US. Their resistance was put down brutally, pitilessly, as if they were less than human and their lives counted for very little. Such an obscenity ripples through the centuries; it’s being repeated in Palestine, a place where it is not nearly as clear that the colonialists will prevail. Reading Chomsky, in fact, could easily lead one to believe that a catastrophe that will destroy both Israel and the Palestinians is in the making.

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