Posts Tagged ‘Israel and Palestine’

America’s Violent Extremism

June 6, 2009


By Paul Craig Roberts | Information Clearing House, Jume 6, 2009

What are are we to make of Obama’s speech at Cairo University in Egypt?

“I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

Cairo is the capital of Egypt, an American puppet state whose ruler suppresses the aspirations of Egyptian Muslims and cooperates with Israel in the blockade of Gaza.

In contrast to the Islamic University of Al-Azhar, Cairo University was founded as a civil university. Obama’s Cairo University audience was secular.

Nevertheless, Obama said startling words that many Muslims found hopeful. He said that colonialism and the Cold War had denied rights and opportunities to Muslims and resulted in Muslim countries being treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. The resulting blowback from “violent extremists” bred fear and mistrust between the Western and Muslim worlds.

Obama spoke of the Koran, his middle name, and his family connections to Islam.

Obama praised Islam’s contributions to civilization.

Obama declared his “responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

Obama acknowledged “the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.”

Obama acknowledged Iran’s “right to access peaceful nuclear power.”

Obama declared that “no system of government can or should be imposed by one nation on any other.”

Obama’s most explosive words pertained to Israel and Palestine: “Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”

Obama declared that “the only resolution [to the conflict] is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires.” For Obama’s commitment to be fulfilled, Israel would have to give back the stolen West Bank lands, dismantle the wall, accept the right to return, and release 1.5 million Palestinians from the Gaza Ghetto. As this seems an unlikely collection of events, the nature of the “two-state solution” endorsed by Obama remains to be seen.

After the euphoric attention to idealistic rhetoric dies down, Obama will be criticized for extravagant words that create unrealizable expectations. But were the extravagant words other than a premier act of schmoozing Muslims designed to quiet the Muslim Brotherhood in our Egyptian puppet state and to get Muslims to accept US aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Obama decries regime change, but continues to practice it, invoking women’s rights to gain support from secularized Arabs. He admits that Iraq was a war of choice but claims that al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and 9/11 make Afghanistan a war of necessity.

Obama said that “the events of 9/11” and al-Qaeda’s responsibility, not America’s desire for military bases and hegemony, are the reasons America’s commitment to combating violent extremism in Afghanistan will not weaken. Will Muslims notice that Obama’s case for America’s violent extremism in Afghanistan and now Pakistan is hypocritical?

Al-Qaeda, Obama says, “chose to ruthlessly murder” nearly 3,000 people on 9/11 “and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale.” These deaths are a mere drop in the buckets of blood that America’s invasions have brought to the Muslim world. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of the Muslims America has slaughtered are civilians, just as are the unarmed Palestinians slaughtered by the American-equipped Israeli military.

Against al-Qaeda, whose “actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings,” Obama invokes the Koran’s prohibition against killing an innocent. Does Obama not realize that the stricture applies to the US and its “coalition of forty-six countries” in spades?

America’s wars are all wars of choice. The more than one million dead Iraqis are not al-Qaeda. Neither are Iraq’s four million refugees. Yet, Obama says Iraqis are better off now, with their country in ruins and a fifth of their population lost, because they are rid of Saddam Hussein, a secular ruler.

No one has a good tally of the dead and refugees America has produced in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, declared Obama, “The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals and our need to work together.”

In his first 100 days, Obama managed to create two million Pakistani refugees. It took Israel 60 years to create 3.5 million Palestinian refugees.

What Obama has really done is his speech is to accept responsibility for the neoconservative agenda of extending Western hegemony by eliminating “Muslim extremists,” that is, Muslims who want to rule themselves in keeping with Islam, not in keeping with some secularized, Westernized faux Islam.

Muslim extremists are the creation of decades of Western colonization and secularization that has created an elite, which is Muslim in name only, to rule over religious people and to suppress Islamic mores. All experts know this, and most of them hail it as bringing progress and development to the Muslim world.

Obama said that “human progress cannot be denied,” but “there need not be contradiction between development and tradition.” However, the West defines development and education. These terms mean what they mean in the West. Muslim extremists understand that these terms mean the extermination of Islam.

In typical American fashion, Obama offered Muslims money, “technological development,” and “centers of scientific excellence.”

All the Muslims have to do is to cooperate with America and be peaceful, and America will “respect the dignity of all human beings.”

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What do we do if the “two-state” solution collapses?

February 11, 2009

Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy

Tue, 02/10/2009 – 4:50pm

Lots of smart people have been focusing on the Israeli elections and trying to make sense of their immediate implications for the peace process. I can’t improve on the analyses provided by Glenn Greenwald, Yossi Alpher, Bernard Avishai, or Uri Avnery, who explain why there is little reason to be optimistic and many reasons to be worried.

I want to focus on a different issue, which is likely to be more important in the long run.

It’s this: What do we do if a “two-state solution” becomes impossible?

During the past 10 years, the “two-state solution” has been the mantra of most moderates involved in the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni say they want it, and so does Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The 2007 Arab League peace plan envisions two states living side by side, and George W. Bush and Condi Rice repeatedly said that a two-state solution was their goal too (although they did precious little to achieve it). Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton all say they are going to push hard for it now. I might add that the two-state solution is also my preferred option.

Interestingly, this moderate consensus in favor of two states is itself a fairly new development. The 1993 Oslo Accords do not talk explicitly about a Palestinian state, and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the agreement, never endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state in public. And when First Lady Hillary Clinton spoke about the need for a Palestinian state back in 1998, she was roundly criticized, and the White House promptly distanced itself from her remarks. In fact, Bill Clinton didn’t endorse the idea of a Palestinian state until his last month in office. The mainstream “consensus” behind this solution is in fact a relatively recent creation.

Today, invoking the “two-state” mantra allows moderates to sound reasonable and true to the ideals of democracy and self-determination; but it doesn’t force them to actually do anything to bring that goal about. Indeed, defending the two-state solution has become a recipe for inaction, a fig leaf that leaders can utter at press conferences while ignoring the expanding settlements and road networks on the West Bank that are rendering it impossible. Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is a perfect illustration: He has lately become an eloquent voice in favor of two states, warning of the perils that Israel will face if the two-state option is not adopted. Yet his own government continued to expand the settlements and undermine Palestinian moderates, thereby putting the solution Olmert supposedly favors further away than ever, and maybe even making it unworkable.

There are two trends at play that threaten to undermine the two-state option. The first is the continued expansion of Israel settlements in the land that is supposed to be reserved for the Palestinians. There are now about 290,000 settlers living in the West Bank. There are another 185,000 settlers in East Jerusalem. Most of the settlers are subsidized directly or indirectly by the Israeli government. It is increasingly hard to imagine Israel evicting nearly half a million people (about 7 percent of its population) from their homes. Although in theory one can imagine a peace deal that keeps most of the settlers within Israel’s final borders (with the new Palestinian state receiving land of equal value as compensation), at some point the settlers’ efforts to “create facts” will make it practically impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state.

The second trend is the growing extremism on both sides. Time is running out on a two-state solution, and its main opponents — the Likud Party and its allies in Israel, and Hamas among the Palestinians — are becoming more popular. The rising popularity of Avigdor Lieberman’s overtly racist Yisrael Beiteinu party is ample evidence of this trend. And it’s not as though Kadima or Labor have been pushing hard to bring it about. According to Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times:

The result is that the next Israeli government, left to its own devices, is likely to opt for the status quo with the Palestinians – continued occupation of the West Bank, desultory peace talks, steadily expanding settlements and military force in response to Palestinian rockets or bombs. The long-term pursuit of a two-state solution will be brushed aside, with the argument that the Palestinians are too divided and dangerous to be negotiating partners.”

One does not need to look far down the road to see the point where a two-state solution will no longer be a practical possibility. What will the United States do then? What will American policy be when it makes no sense to talk about a two-state solution, because Israel effectively controls all of what we used to call Mandate Palestine? What vision will President Obama and Secretary Clinton have for the Palestinians and for Israel when they can no longer invoke the two-state mantra?

There are only three alternative options at that point. First, Israel could drive most or all of the 2.5 million Palestinians out of the West Bank by force, thereby preserving “greater Israel” as a Jewish state through an overt act of ethnic cleansing. The Palestinians would surely resist, and it would be a crime against humanity, conducted in full view of a horrified world. No American government could support such a step, and no true friend of Israel could endorse that solution.

Second, Israel could retain control of the West Bank but allow the Palestinians limited autonomy in a set of disconnected enclaves, while it controlled access in and out, their water supplies, and the airspace above them. This appears to have been Ariel Sharon’s strategy before he was incapacitated, and Bibi Netanyahu’s proposal for “economic peace” without a Palestinian state seems to envision a similar outcome. In short, the Palestinians would not get a viable state of their own and would not enjoy full political rights. This is the solution that many people — including Prime Minister Olmert — compare to the apartheid regime in South Africa. It is hard to imagine the United States supporting this outcome over the long term, and Olmert has said as much. Denying the Palestinians’ their own national aspirations is also not going to end the conflict.

Which brings me to the third option. The Israeli government could maintain its physical control over “greater Israel” and grant the Palestinians full democratic rights within this territory. This option has been proposed by a handful of Israeli Jews and a growing number of Palestinians. But there are formidable objections to this outcome: It would mean abandoning the Zionist dream of an independent Jewish state, and binational states of this sort do not have an encouraging track record, especially when the two parties have waged a bitter conflict across several generations. This is why I prefer the two-state alternative.

But if a two-state option is no longer feasible, it seems likely that the United States would come to favor this third choice. After all, supporting option 2 — an apartheid state — is contrary to the core American values of freedom and democracy and would make the United States look especially hypocritical whenever it tried to present itself as a model for the rest of the world. Openly endorsing apartheid would also demolish any hope we might have of improving our image in the Arab and Islamic world. Lord knows I have plenty of respect for the Israel lobby’s ability to shape U.S. foreign policy, but even AIPAC and the other heavyweight institutions in the lobby would have great difficulty maintaining the “special relationship” if Israel was an apartheid state. By contrast, option 3 — a binational state that provided full democratic rights for citizens of all ethnic and religious backgrounds — is easy to reconcile with America’s own “melting pot” traditions and liberal political values. American politicians would find it a hard option to argue against.

Bottom line: If the two-state solution dies, as seems increasingly likely, the United States is going to face a very awkward set of choices. That’s one reason why Obama and his team — as well as Israel’s friends in the United States — should move beyond paying lip-service to the idea of creating a Palestinian state and actually do something about it. But it’s hard to be optimistic that they will.

And while I’m at it, here’s one more heretical thought. Shouldn’t someone in the U.S. government start thinking about what our policy should be in the event that the two-state solution collapses? Starting to contemplate this possibility is risky, of course, because it might undermine our efforts to create two states if it became known that we were beginning to plan for an alternative future. But the fact is that we may face that future before too much longer. If so, then it might be a good idea if somebody began thinking about how to deal with it now, so that we don’t have to invent a new approach on the fly.


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