[News] Palestine - A glimmer of hope

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 12 16:28:06 EST 2009

A glimmer of hope

Ziyaad Lunat and Max Ajl, The Electronic Intifada, 12 November 2009

The Obama Administration proved twice recently that it intends to 
continue to consider Israel above the law. Secretary of State Hillary 
Clinton caused consternation amongst the US's allies in the 
Palestinian Authority and across the region by declaring Israeli 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's intention to "restrict" 
settlement activity in the West Bank "unprecedented." Netanyahu's 
restriction restricts very little. Three thousand housing units that 
are already approved will be built. Netanyahu announced plans for 
building a new settlement in Jerusalem, Ma'aleh David, while settlers 
continue their violent assault against Palestinians, intending to 
expel them from the city. Last week, settlers invaded a Palestinian 
house, backed by a court order. The US responded with a statement 
calling Israel's moves "unhelpful," but did nothing to stop them.

If Obama's first message to the Palestinians as elected president 
went to those living in the occupied West Bank -- as president-elect 
he was quiet during Israel's winter invasion of Gaza -- the second 
was to the families of the thousands of victims of that three-week 
attack. Last week the US voted against a UN General Assembly 
resolution to endorse the findings of the Goldstone report, which 
calls for Israel and Hamas to investigate allegations of war crimes. 
Hamas accepted the report. Israel, which killed 1,417 Palestinians, 
926 of them civilians, including 437 children, according to the 
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, did not. The US consented to 
Israel's disapproval and initiated a campaign in the UN to discredit 
the report. The facts in the report remained unchallenged.

The US House of Representatives condemned the report as "one-sided 
and distorted." In a letter to the sponsors of the resolution, Judge 
Goldstone pointed out gross "inaccuracies" in the resolution. It is 
probable that most of those who voted for the resolution, sponsored 
by the powerful lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee 
(AIPAC), did not read the 575-page report. What's called "support for 
Israel" in Congress has achieved the status of a sacred cow. Dissent 
comes only at significant political cost, and inevitable smear 
campaigns by the pro-Israel lobby. Notwithstanding these facts, 36 
representatives opposed the resolution, and 22 abstained, signs that 
the lobby's control of Congress may be cracking slightly. In 
contrast, the House was almost unanimous in its support of the 
Israeli offensive in January.

The US has a long history of vetoes to protect Israel from 
accountability. During the Nixon presidency, in 1972, the US first 
used its veto power in the Security Council to protect Israel. This 
was its second veto overall, preventing the passing of a resolution 
that would have condemned Israel for the killing of hundreds of 
civilians in air raids against Syria and Lebanon. The US has since 
used its veto power more than 40 times to give Israel a free hand to 
commit atrocities against Palestinians and the region's peoples.

Bush Administration Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, defending 
the US's refusal to support a cease-fire during the 2006 assaults on 
Lebanon and Gaza, said that "It is time for a new Middle East, it is 
time to say to those who do not want a different kind of Middle East 
that we will prevail; they will not." The "new Middle East" that Rice 
was referring to is one where Israel can continue to occupy the land 
of millions, kill thousands and kidnap hundreds, all the while 
running roughshod over human rights and international law.

Susan Rice, the Obama Administration ambassador to the UN, is 
scarcely distinguishable from the other top diplomat sharing her last 
name. She said in an interview with The Washington Post that the 
Goldstone "mandate was unbalanced, one-sided and unacceptable." She 
justifies this statement by claiming that it was "85 percent oriented 
towards very specific and harsh condemnation and conclusions related 
to Israel."

Yet, even if Judge Goldstone had wanted to dedicate an equal number 
of pages to both sides, there is only so much one can write about the 
three Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian fighters, or of the 
holes punched in roofs by the home-made projectiles. The difference 
in power, Israel's status under international law as an occupying 
power, and the catastrophe that befell a besieged population that had 
nowhere to flee (unprecedented in modern warfare) suggest nearly 
indisputable grounds for substantiating the allegations of "war 
crimes" and "crimes against humanity." Moreover, all that the report 
asked for were credible investigations and prosecution for those 
found to merit it. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said 
that Israel arrived at a "silent understanding" with the Obama 
Administration that a veto will be applied if there are attempts made 
to put the report before the Security Council following the UN 
General Assembly vote.

But there is a glimmer of hope that the people of Gaza will see 
justice. The massacre brought about sweeping change, across the 
world, in perceptions of Israel. Citizen-led mobilizations in the 
past few months have showed that where governments have failed, 
ordinary citizens can, perhaps, make a difference. Even in the US, 
where public support for Israel has been consistently high, a 
discourse supporting justice for Palestinians is now voiced in 
mainstream media. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was met 
with a frigid reception in a series of lectures around the country, 
with audience members interrupting constantly, calling for his 
immediate arrest. Moreover, there are signs that opposition to 
AIPAC's dominance within the Jewish American community is gaining strength.

The movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) called for 
by Palestinian civil society in 2005 has also gained momentum, as the 
Norwegian government has divested from Elbit Systems as a result of 
its role in the construction of the apartheid wall. Last month, an 
Israeli deputy prime minister was forced to cancel a trip to the UK 
for fear of arrest. He has since announced that he will forgo all 
trips to European capitals.

And while the world's most powerful governments cavil over making 
Israel comply with international law, their citizens do not. Some of 
them -- some of us -- are taking up the banner of the international 
nonviolent struggle, staying loyal to principles of human rights and 
international law, following the wishes of the Palestinian people. In 
December, we will march in solidarity with the Palestinians living 
imprisoned in Gaza. In December, the Gaza Freedom March will attempt 
to lift the siege of Gaza, as we commemorate the one-year anniversary 
of Israel's invasion. From 29-31 December, we will move through Rafah 
and Khan Younis and Gaza City, the length of the Strip, with a host 
of luminaries including Alice Walker and Walden Bello. On 31 
December, we will march to the threshold of the Erez crossing. The 
peoples of nearly every continent will be there, in Gaza, demanding 
that the world take action, that the leaders of the world recognize 
their peoples' solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, and 
recognize the inhumanity of the siege, and end it. Punishing a people 
in this way is not only illegal. It is wrong. It is time to make it stop.

Ziyaad Lunat is one of the organizers of the Gaza Freedom March 
and an activist for Palestine. He can be contacted at z.lunat A T 
gmail D O T com. Max Ajl is also one of the organizers of the Gaza 
Freedom March and blogs on the Israel-Palestine conflict at 

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