Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The other holocaust

The competence of George W. Bush in foreign policy has become the subject of uneasy conjectures since he has been considered a serious contender for the U.S. preisdency. It was placed under the crucible with the decision to invade Iraq, the facts and realities proceeding from which are looking to be increasingly lopsided against Mr. Bush’s case. Today, the jury is out once more to see if Americans are being treated by a White House second-termer to another skewed reading of the current Middle East crisis or he thinks the whole world are as credulous as middle-schoolers failing their history. The President’s bullet rendition: The root cause of the problem is Hezbollah.

If Bush at least has said it’s about an ongoing land dispute, he would have earned enough points to pass. But can even a U.S. president be blamed for the poverty of his assessment if nobody seems to talk seriously anymore about the root of the matter? Is it really about the breach of United Nations Resolution 1559 that was passed in 2004 by the terms of which Hezbollah is supposed to disarm? To be sure there are other U.N. resolutions that have been violated by the parties before, so why just invoke 1559?

If I were to inquire into some of the underlying issues, I would pose this starter: Isn’t the Israeli-Palestinian conflict about two peoples of different national aspirations claiming the same historic piece of small territory lying by the Mediterranean Sea?

Without searching ancient titles to establish bygone markers, the one operative fact that cannot be denied is that these two peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians, are now warring neighbors as a consequence of certain recorded historical facts. Below is a brief account of these facts which highlight more or less the narrative that we don’t often read or hear about anymore.

In 1948, Israel was created with the resolute support of the United States on the same territory that native Palestinians had inhabited for generations. The birth of the state of Israel is actually traceable to some small pioneering agricultural settlements of Russian Jews in Palestine in 1880s. Until then the Jewish people never had a state in nearly 2,000 years.

The diasporic Jews during the formative years were willing to settle for just “a national home” in Palestine or elsewhere like in Uganda, or at least, as aspired for by Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, to have a common homeland with the indigenous Palestinians. The settlements founded by the Jews from Russia had laid the groundwork for the colonization of Palestine, which became the early aim of political Zionism.

As late as 1939 or just before WW II, it was not preposterous at all for the British government, which then had the “mandate” (commission to administer) of Palestine, to propose a “Palestinian State” where Jews and Arabs would serve as co-partners in its administration. Also, as of 1939, Jewish immigration to Palestine in excess of 1,500 per month was illegal. However, demand especially by American politicians for unrestricted immigration was impelled by the Holocaust.

The British position, seen as impeding the Jewish ambition, set off terrorist activities by the Zionist militias (Haganah, Irgun and the Stern Group or the Lehi) against the mandated government. The fighting could be the equivalent of what is now known as “war on terror” the British carried on against the Jewish terrorists/guerillas even while the Arabs and the Jews attacked each other. Finding its military presence in Palestine too costly to maintain, and subjected to terrorism by the Zionist militias culminating in the blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem containing British government and military offices which killed 91 people, the British decided to refer the matter to the U.N. while welcoming U.S. involvement.

In 1947, the U.N. recommended the partition of Palestine but maintaining some form of economic union. Stunned and furious, the neighboring Arab states took up the Palestinian cause and opposed by force the U.N. decision. In the ensuing Palestine war, the Zionist gained the upper hand and secured full control of the Jewish territory under the U.N. partition. During the war, the Zionist forces massacred the Palestinian villagers in Deir Yasin, and terrorized, other Palestinian villagers began a mass exodus and settled in dire condition of deprivation and humiliation as stateless persons in neighboring Arab states such as Jordan and Lebanon and in the Gulf states; Palestinians became convenient source of cheap labor in those host countries.

On May 14, 1948, on the same day the British High Commissioner left Palestine, the state of Israel was created which the victorious WW II powers, U.S. and Soviet Union, immediately recognized. Meanwhile, the U.N. appointed Count Folke Bernadotte to mediate between the Israel and Arab states. Bernadotte was however assassinated by Jewish terrorists. Another U.N. mediation gave Israel the territories it won supposedly by conquest. When Palestine officially ceased to exist, the exodus of Palestinian Arabs from their lands left the newly formed Israel with a substantial majority. The Israeli Knesset soon enacted the Law of Return which gave every Jew the right to immigrate to Israel. However, Palestinians who had opted to stay in Israel were treated as second-class citizens.

Many Arabs would still consider Israel as forcibly installed on their soil but even then they were at least willing to accept the 1947 U.N. partition and the repatriation of Arab refugees. However, Israel gained additional territories as a result of another war in 1967; but under U.N. Security Council resolutions (242 reaffirmed by 338) “emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” advocating for “the just settlement of the refugee problem,” and calling for “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from (the) territories occupied in the recent conflict,” Israel was supposed to withdraw from “the occupied territories.” Unfortunately, Israel took semantical exception from the resolution particularly the absence in the English version of the article “the” describing the territories, which to Israel only meant “some” but not “all” the occupied territories. Meanwhile, as military administrator of the occupied territories (which is what remains of the former homeland of the Palestinians), Israel authorized further settlements by new Jewish immigrants in those territories.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), an umbrella resistance movement, was formed in 1964. For a while, PLO became a military power in Jordan and when Israel retaliated against raids by Jordan-based PLO, Israel also attacked the host country. Jordan was then forced to fight and drive PLO from the kingdom. PLO came under the leadership of Yasser Arafat who first denied Israel’s right to exist but in 1993 under the Oslo Accord Arafat, as Chairman of the PLO, officially recognized Israel and in return Israel recognized PLO’s authority to represent the Palestinian people. But groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, in a reversal of fortune, have in a way emulated the extremism of the Zionists during the early Jewish struggles for a homeland, determined at all cost to drive the Israelis to the Mediterranean Sea.

Meanwhile, Israel in 1982 invaded Lebanon and allowed Lebanese Christians (the Phalangists) to massacre Palestinian civilians in two refugee camps. The Israel succeeded to force the PLO out of Lebanon.

There have been continuing raids and retaliations between the Israelis and Palestinians. In 1987, against the now nuclear-armed and copiously U.S.taxpayer-funded (between $3 to $5.5 billions annually) war machine that is Israel, the Palestinians of the occupied territories dared to wage the intifadas, the stone-throwing and people-powered uprising to dramatize the Palestinian struggle for nationhood. Some demonstrators who were arrested were tortured by the Israelis.

In January 2005, Hamas defeating Arafat’s party was democratically elected to govern the Palestinian Authority, which nominally administers the Palestinian territories.

It was only in 1982 that Hezbollah was founded in Lebanon to fight Israel’s occupation; it succeeded in driving the Israelis out of the country in 2000. The Shi'ite organization considered by the European Union a resistance movement is now a legitimate Lebanese political party. Interestingly, Hezbollah’s resume resembles the history of Haganah, the precursor of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

IDF’s invasion of Lebanon two weeks ago under the the pretext of rescuing two soldiers captured by Hezbollah is the seventh on record.

So, is the claim by President Bush that the root cause of the problem is Hezbollah borne by historical facts?

Or isn’t the fundamental dilemma really about finding an honest answer to the following: Is Israel, as well as the United States and the whole world, willing to end the holocaust of the Palestinian people and recognize their right to self-determination and their dream of nationhood?

15 Comments:

Blogger cvj said...

abe, it just ocurred to me. seriously, if the dispute is the strip of land by the meditarrenean, why not israelis and palestinians reclaim some land from the sea to resolve the issue of 'right of return'? that would solve the issue of real estate and leaving just the issue of Jerusalem, which is more of a symbolic issue anyway.

July 28, 2006 2:27 PM  
Blogger HILLBLOGGER & Hillblogger Jr said...

Abe,

First of all, I would like to say I greatly appreciated your simple and clear narrative.

Your narrative is educational and is an excellent jumpstart point for anyone wishing to know about the modern day Middle East and how the debacle came about.

I do believe that while we cannot go back to the existing conditions pre-1948, we must acknowledge that the Palestinians need a homeland of their own because they have a right to exist.

Lastly, cvj's suggestion smacks of great common sense! Why not indeed? The billions that are lost to destroy each other could very well be avoided in the future if only the UN and the Western powers that be could look into into reclaiming some part of the sea to accomodate a potential Palestinian homeland.

Thanks.

July 28, 2006 3:50 PM  
Blogger Abe N. Margallo said...

cvj and HB,

The good thing about this new “spasm” of violence is that it could stir the passion of concerned people like you to grapple with these very emotionally disturbing events and actually think outside the box, instead of being merely on the receiving end of the agitprop mills.

Noam Chomsky is of the view that the other superpower today is public opinion (I used the think it is the Roman Catholic Church). Mr. Chomsky’s thinking is probably truer today than any other time in humankind’s history. Consider for instance how we are conversing this way despite being geographically distant: we are basically just a keyboard away from each other. Unfortunately, as we already know, so is the fate of the world – just a push on a button away.

Don’t you believe that bystanders like us could become powerful vehicle if only we dare to communicate our minds and then play a role? By doing so, according to Professor Ervin Staub, certain values and norms of caring can be promoted. Unfortunately, those who prefer to be fence sitters, as cvj once expounded, (or rabble-rousers on the other extreme that we’re sometimes drawn into being one) can affirm and embolden the perpetrators.

Anyway, I like the reclamation idea, cvj. And as HB obsrves it’s a lot better than expending the money for war materiel (although certainly that would be bad for the weapons business). My own favorite however is for all the parties concerned to declare the Levant (Israel, “the occupied territories” and Lebanon) an international enclave upon concluding a treaty of disarmament. The Levant State, a sort of confederation, will be a neutral country like Switzerland. It should be protected by a buffer zone end to end .If more space is needed on the Mediterranean side, by all means the sea should be reclaimed. The US, the EU and the surrounding Arab states should guarantee the neutrality of the confederation.

Our small thoughts may sound funny but certainly doable if the will is there to have a “sustainable” or “lasting” peace.

July 28, 2006 6:23 PM  
Blogger cvj said...

Abe, i hope your proposal of a 'Levant Confederation' along the lines of Switzerland catches on, if not in the present generation, hopefully in the next. This relatively new medium which makes it possible for us to interact is indeed a boon to Chomsky's conception of 'Public Opinion' as the 'Other Superpower'. At the minimum, it is one more foundry for new ideas, with the better ones eventually entering the mainstream. BTW, based on your comments above, i notice a convergence between your thoughts on 'People Power' and Chomsky's remarks on 'public opinion'.

July 29, 2006 1:21 PM  
Blogger HILLBLOGGER & Hillblogger Jr said...

Hello Abe, Cvj...

Abe posed a few which to me require questions straightforward answers as basis for potential negotiations.

Of particular note is, "So, is the claim by President Bush that the root cause of the problem is Hezbollah borne by historical facts?" Sadly, this question might be waylaid because I doubt very much that Pres Bush is willing to go back into history to try to settle disputes today. It seems Bush lives for today.

Abe's other questions, however, smack of good faith and require turthful answers. The answers will define the degree of seriousness (or lack thereof) with which people, powers, leaders regard the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict. Fundamentally, and as Dean said, it all boils down to people's moral consistency. So, I suggest that Israel or the United States or both should really answer Abe's question straightforwardly and as truthfully as they can:

"Or isn’t the fundamental dilemma really about finding an honest answer to the following: Is Israel, as well as the United States and the whole world, willing to end the holocaust of the Palestinian people and recognize their right to self-determination and their dream of nationhood?"

July 31, 2006 10:07 AM  
Blogger HILLBLOGGER & Hillblogger Jr said...

Hi Abe,

If you haven't read the column of Robert Fisk in The Independent, I invite you to read his accounts of the war on Lebanon.

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/fisk/article1202824.ece

July 31, 2006 5:51 PM  
Blogger HILLBLOGGER & Hillblogger Jr said...

Even The Daily Telegraph, the ultra right-wing, most conservative paper in the UK which has been known to be pro-Israel is starting to buckle under the weight of Israel's scorch earth policy.

For starters, it writes:

"Israelis make a bad position worse
(Filed: 31/07/2006)
"There is a terrible familiarity to the killing of more than 50 Lebanese civilians in an Israeli airstrike in Qana at the weekend. A decade ago, more than 100 Lebanese sheltering in a UN compound in the same village were killed by Israeli bombs.

"The international outcry that followed forced Israel to halt its last sustained onslaught against Hizbollah. Will the same thing happen now?

"The call by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for an "urgent end" to hostilities suggests the first crack is appearing in what has, until now, been Washington's rock-solid support for Israel's strategy.

To read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/07/31/dl3101.xml
(Filed: 31/07/2006)

July 31, 2006 6:01 PM  
Blogger Abe N. Margallo said...

HB,

Thanks for the links.

cvj,

I have tried to answer your question in the new thread. Thanks.

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