Hanging to straws in Gaza and in Washington
Hanging to straws in Gaza and in Washington
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD*
After 9/11/2001, President Bush told us to: a) we are in danger and “we” will take care of it, and b) go shopping. Indeed many heeded the advice and allowed a government run by extremist neo-conservatives do what it pleases. The administration continues to claim we are succeeding in Iraq even though the violence is not only not subsiding but is now spilling over into nearby countries (Jordan). Attempts to find other successes were "dead on arrival": the summit in South America, the media PR efforts to "gain the hearts and minds" of people we are bombing and oppressing, the effort to convince the American public that this administration did not lie (majority of Americans believe otherwise), social security "reform", failure to capture Bin Laden coupled with growth of Al Qaeda terror network (admitted by the CIA), and more.
With a seemingly endless slide in public support, the administration is looking to novel diversions. Rejected in the backyard of the Americas, Bush is trying his luck in the Far East. Meanwhile he dispatched Secretary Rice to the Middle East to see if there is anything that can be salvaged there. After unusually extending her visit, she succeeded only in clinching a deal between the leaders of the Palestinian authority and Israel on the opening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza. The agreement was not publicly released. From the little we know, it will maintain Gaza as a large open-air prison. The airport will not be rebuilt or opened and the seaport can be built but not open until further "agreements" are reached. The passengers allowed through the Gaza-Egypt crossing will be only Palestinians holding ID cards issues/approved by Israel and elite diplomats and businesspeople. All traffic will be "monitored" by Israel through cameras. One commentator in a Palestinian newspaper likened this agreement to "a mountain in labor which gave birth to a mouse" and most Israeli papers explained it as driven by US needs of a PR success.
While this charade goes on, Israel has been consolidating its control of Palestinian lands in the West Bank and will be developing the Negev and the Galilee in such a way to adversely effect Israeli Arab citizens (openly having policies to make these two remaining Arab areas “more Jewish”). As for Jerusalem veteran Israeli journalist Amira Hass stated in Haaretz: “Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not dividing Jerusalem. Neither is Minister Haim Ramon. They have simply found a faster and more efficient way than those tried before to get rid of tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem - after the process of robbing them of their lands for the benefit of the Jewish residents has been exhausted.” Bethlehem will celebrate Christmas with its Christian and Muslim community jailed behind he walls (see openbethlehem.org).
Republican leadership is interested in Israel for more than small PR successes. They believed it is good for campaign coffers and in relationship with Israeli apologists in the mainstream media. This message is also clear to leading Democrats. Hillary Clinton was in Israel (the first campaign stop for aspiring presidential candidates) speaking in support of the war on Iraq, uttered no word about freedom for Palestinians but instead supported the segregation barrier. The apartheid wall is being built on Palestinian lands to finish maximizing Palestinian lands confiscated and reduce as many Palestinians in those areas coveted by Israel (including East Jerusalem). The International Court of Justice condemned the barrier a flagrant violation of International Law. The conflicts in the Middle East will continue unless the US government reverses course and stops supporting violations of International law.
Among leading Democrats and leading Republicans, political expediency has long trumpeted national interests and basic human rights. Alternative rising voices include the anti-war movement (now a majority of the population), the Green Party, and some voices of conscience among Democrats (e.g. Cynthia McKinney and Dennis Kucinich) and Republicans (e.g. Richard Clark, Paul O’Neill).
The "breakthrough" touted by Rice will be added to other failed documents and plans (Rogers, Oslo, Zinni, Tenet, Mitchel, Road Map). It is clear that more and more people are rejecting the efforts of those who want us to abdicate our civic responsibilities and push us to be merely "consumers" rather than engaged citizens. We already footed the bills of $250 billion to support the occupation of Palestine and $200 billion for Iraq's occupation. American citizens are made to pay not only in money but also in lives. Taxpayers are now demanding truth and accountability from the media, elected officials, and special interests ranging from the Israeli lobby to corporate profiteers such as United Technologies and Haliburton. We must ensure that US Foreign policy comply with International law and basic human rights rather than serve special interests.
* Author of “Sharing the Land of Canaan” and board member of the US Campaign to End the Occupation and the Association for One Democratic State