Sunday, July 05, 2009

What about Palestine? - Part 3

Storm over Rosthern - June 29, 2009
Hadawi, Sami. Bitter Harvest: a modern history of Palestine. New York: Olive Branch Press, 1989. ISBN 0-940793-29-6, 346 pages.

Chomsky, Noam. Middle East Illusions. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, inc., 2003. ISBN 0-7425-2699-2, 280 pages.

Carter, Jimmy. Peace, not Apartheid. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. ISBN 0-7432-8502-6, 250 pages.

Here’s what should happen in the Middle East: Israel should withdraw from all occupied territory into the boundaries as they existed in 1967. Jerusalem should be declared an open city administered by its own, democratically-elected council. Palestine and Israel should be acknowledged to be sovereign, democratic states by the world community. The Palestine/Israel territory should undergo a genuine disarmament process.

Here’s what will probably happen: Israel will continue to eat up Palestinian territory by small stages, will continue to impoverish and harass Palestinians in the hope that they will take up permanent residence in Jordan and other neighbouring states. The US will continue to give lip service to the 2-state option while continuing to arm Israel and block all criticism of Israel’s actions in the UN Security Council. Desperate Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank will repeatedly resort to improvised attacks on Israel and Israel will retaliate with extremely disproportionate force. Many will die; 20 or more Palestinians for each Israeli.

Here’s what could happen: US and Israeli intransigence and shortsightedness in Palestine will increasingly frustrate the rest of the world. The Arab states surrounding Israel will coalesce against the US/Israeli unwillingness to deal justly with Palestinians. Terrorist organizations will grow and expand their activities to include states seen to support the US policies in the Middle East. Israel will find itself more and more isolated as pressure from the outside world begins to recognize that Palestine represents a flash point that could trigger worldwide conflict. A concerted attack by the united Arab states to eliminate Israel will fail because of US intervention, but will leave all of Palestine in ruins with masses of Israeli and Arab refugees. The exchange of nuclear attacks between Iran and Israel is a possibility.

Palestinian Sami Hadawi, historian Noam Chomsky and former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter differ on some of the details, but agree on almost all the essentials. Israel and the USA are playing with fire in the Middle East and may be preparing the region for an unimaginable tragedy. Although justified on the premise that security is at stake, Israel has first signed on to, then broken a series of proposals for ending the conflict in Palestine. The US has run a rear guard action to protect Israel’s backside as it proceeds to steal land, disenfranchise the former owners and generally solidify it’s hold on the entire area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

All three books have shortcomings. Hadawi’s analysis is dated, of course; much significant history has occurred since his book was republished 20 years ago. The history of the region, however, going back to the early 20th Century is enlightening. It’s difficult to grasp all the implications of Palestinian history, especially if one wishes to go back to Joshua’s conquest of Canaan, or even to the boy David’s killing of the Palestinian, Goliath. But modern voters in the USA and its allies should at least have a concept of the progression from the early days of the discussions on a Jewish state (ca. 1919) through the Holocaust to the present. Hadawi’s book leads the reader through all this—at least up to the 1980s. Hadawi worked as a land valuer through the British Mandate period and is well placed to comment authoritatively on land issues as seen through Palestinian eyes.

Noam Chomsky’s book (Middle East Illusions) is a compilation of material produced by him over many years. Eminently readable, it offers the reader a history of Palestine after the 1967 war. Chomsky proposes a socialist Palestinian state, with independent, primarily-Palestinian and primarily-Israeli provinces operating with considerable autonomy under a central government, not unlike Manitoba and Saskatchewan under Canadian federalism.

Jimmy Carter’s book is, of course, mostly about what Jimmy Carter is doing and has done about the Palestinian conundrum before, during and after his presidency. You have to give Jimmy credit; bringing about the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel was a groundbreaking achievement, and his interest in pursuing continued progress on a peace settlement goes on unabated. Like the others, he sees clearly the failure of Israel and the US to seize opportunities for a settlement.

A solution in Palestine is hindered by several key factors. Mixed motives in the region is probably the big one; the USA’s hunger for a secure energy supply means it has a vital interest in controlling Middle Eastern affairs; an Israel in the centre of it all, possessing military superiority and the threat of nuclear weapons serves this motive. Secondly, the world has somehow been kept ignorant of the enormous wrong that has been and is being done in Palestine. It’s time more people became aware of this, and reading Hadawi, Chomsky and Carter makes a good start.

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