[Thanks to Online Journal for publishing this article. Future posts will explore its ramifications.]
In an interview at the end of his first year in office, Obama admitted that, “for all our efforts at early engagement [with Israel and Palestinians], it is not where I want it to be….Both sides…have found…that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation….” Now this sounds so far like an admirably honest admission of failure that might just serve as the basis from doing a better job during the Administration’s second year until the next few words, in which Obama referred to “a two-state solution in which Israel is secure and the Palestinians have sovereignty.”
Why not a solution in which both have security? Because even nice-guy Obama seems as trapped in the blind Washington prejudice of putting Israelis on a pedestal as the blatantly pro-Israeli neo-conservatives who preceded him. Solutions will not be found until Washington can conceive of what “solution” means. “Solution” means eliminating the problem.
Netanyahu at least has a solution: ethnic cleansing. The solution of Zionist extremists who believe in a Greater Israel expanding far beyond Israel’s legally recognized 1949 borders in fact remains somewhat unclear. So far, it appears to constitute ethnic cleansing from desired portions of the West Bank plus an apartheid-like system of Bantustans or reservations for those Palestinians not completely driven out. The goal of this group, which currently controls Israel, thus appears to fall somewhat short of Hitler’s genocide, more nearly resembling the white American campaign to destroy the social integrity and political power of Native Americans while leaving token remnants of the population alive but marginalized.
Implementation of this policy takes the form of relentless theft of Palestinian land, by means of government encouragement of Israelis to settle in regions where Palestinians live, with, when necessary, the protection of the Army to ensure that the settlers have a monopoly of force. Employing a form of terrorism that is effective but typically stops short of outright murder, the Israeli settlers destroy precious Palestinian olive groves and Palestinians are, by a combination of settler pressure and government action, forced to surrender their homes. Palestinians are thus squeezed into smaller and smaller living spaces rigidly controlled by an apartheid policy that, for example, restricts Palestinians to the use of side roads.
Once no more Palestinians exist in the areas Israel wants to expand into and once they are completely repressed and reduced to living on the margins of Israeli society, there will, these Israeli extremists apparently believe, no longer be a “Palestinian problem.”
No matter that this vision of a “pure” Israeli society might substitute for the “Palestinian” problem a Lebanese problem or a Syrian problem or an Iranian problem: it is not clear where the ambitions of Greater Israel advocates stop nor is it clear how its neighbors might react to the fulfillment of the Palestinian stage of their grand project. But at least on paper, Netanyahu has a “solution”—one just as “final” as that of white America toward Native Americans.
Some in Hamas—born from the harsh mother of Israeli oppression—seem once to have had in mind the mirror image solution, though it is no longer at all clear who in that organization may still hold fast to its founding vision. Khaled Meshal notably has been quoted as saying, “Hamas has already changed–we accepted the national accords for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, and we took part in the 2006 Palestinian elections.” That puts Hamas in a considerably more moderate position than that of the current Israeli regime, which has in mind Palestinian Bantustans completely under Israeli control rather than the legitimate two-state solution implied in Meshal’s remark.
The original Hamas solution of expelling Israelis, which quite logically was no nicer than that of the Greater Israel types, might also have contained the seeds of new problems, for it would have left a weak Palestinian state at the mercy of powerful Arab dictatorships that would see the very fact of its victory as an unacceptable threat to their domestic oppression. In any case, the habit apologists of Israeli extremism have of dwelling on the original Hamas concept of a solution seems misplaced today, given the moderating trend in Hamas thinking. Indeed, it seems little more than a red herring to cover up the fact that Hamas now seems to be more moderate than the Israeli government.
Tragically, Obama seems unable to see through the Israeli propaganda. He cannot, evidently, understand that the “problem” in the Levant will not go away unless it is addressed, and that will require overcoming the bias now so deep in the veins of Team Washington.
“Washington” is a tribal culture; one must accept the perspective of the elders in order to be part of the group. Labels matter little (one must have some way to differentiate you from me). The Team comprises Democrats and Republicans, office-holders and Big Finance and Big Oil and Big Arms Proliferator, but they all must prove they are “team players” by absorbing the culture into their bones. That oh-so-provincial culture includes much about which one might usefully speak, such as the core value of avoiding the embarrassment of superiors with mere facts and the insistence that short-term brutality (sorry, “realism” is the preferred term) trump the agonizing process of actually listening to the views of others. But to stay on subject, one of the core values of that culture is that “Jews own suffering.”
As long as Team Washington cries for the suffering of the wave of European colonialists that has spent the last century creating what has become a little nuclear empire more than it cries for the Palestinian victims who have lost their homes and land and freedom and all of their security, it will be unable to discover any “solution” except that of the Zionist extremists. (By “extremist,” to be clear, I mean a person who prefers one-sided solutions achieved through force; I leave for self-professed Zionists to say whether or not it is possible to be a Zionist and still support a fair partition of the old Palestinian territory into two modern, independent, secure states—one for Palestinians and one for Israelis.)
If the colonialists have now had children who have nowhere else to go and also deserve a right to their own homes, then no real justice seems possible. Palestinians will have to compromise. But the compromise that will achieve a “solution” will have to be based on equality. If Israelis deserve security, so do Palestinians. For those who are politically illiterate, that is spelled: “national army.” Or, dear Team Washington, were you thinking about the alternative option…that a “sovereign” but dependent and helpless Palestinian Bantustan would turn to a Hezbollah-like solution? No? Not what you had in mind? I thought not.
Yet, I only see five alternatives: 1) Jordan Becomes Palestine – the transfer of Palestinians to Jordan, which would probably give Palestinians control of Jordan; 2) Two States – a sovereign and secure Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state, 3) Secular Democracy – a single, secular state in which Palestinians and Israelis are equal, 4) Bantustan – a disarmed Palestinian Bantustan, next to Israel, that will stimulate the desperate Palestinians to turn to a radical militia for protection, or 5) Genocide. Obama is talking publicly about Two States, while the Israeli government is demanding Bantustan (without thinking about the long-term dangers).
Whatever Obama may think, Netanyahu has no intention of allowing the creation of a Palestinian state. Consider the following summary from Israel’s leading English-language daily:
Netanyahu called his endorsement of a Palestinian state without military capabilities, which he presented in a policy speech at Bar Ilan University earlier this month, a “winning formula for peace.”
That is not called a “state;” that is called a Bantustan or, to use an older term, a “reservation.”
Add to that the remark by Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman that “we cannot accept a vision of stopping completely the settlements,” and you have a clear Israeli insistence not only on preventing Palestinian independence but continuing to steal what little attractive land remains in Palestinian hands. And that is why it is “hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation.”
A “solution” will require the replacement of the nuclear mini-empire by a modest state living like a good neighbor, resolving the normal issues of life by shouting across the backyard fence or inviting the neighbor to dinner, as the case may be, but not by nuclear blackmail, infringing on the neighbor’s airspace, demanding the right to tell the neighbor what arms he cannot have that that already fill your garage to the roof, or jamming the neighbor into some tiny open-air jail in the desert.
One might imagine the solution as two states with equal rights (e.g., to regional water sources) and capabilities (e.g., for self-defense). One might alternatively imagine the solution as a single state that would reject both the fundamentalist bias of a caliphate and a “Jewish state” and that would therefore have no use for apartheid. Those are details, albeit crucial ones.
But whatever the details, the “solution” will have to address the “problem.” The problem is not the existence of Hamas or the anger on which it is founded. The problem is the injustice of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Team Washington has not yet even caught a glimpse of the problem so how could anyone think that it would be able to imagine the solution?