[News] ‘Leaving Aside’ International Law: Why Democrats are as Dangerous as Republicans to a Just Peace in Palestine

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Fri Feb 19 13:30:45 EST 2021

Aside’ International Law: Why Democrats are as Dangerous as Republicans to
a Just Peace in Palestine
by Ramzy Baroud <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/ramzy-baroud/> -
February 19, 2021

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Motivated by their justifiable aversion to former US President Donald
Trump, many analysts have rashly painted a rosy picture of how Democrats
could quickly erase the bleak trajectory of the previous Republican
administration. This naivety is particularly pronounced in the current spin
on the Palestinian-Israeli discourse, which is promoting, again, the
illusion that Democrats will succeed where their political rivals have

There are obvious differences in the Democrats’ approach to the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but only in semantics and political jingoism,
not policy. This assertion can be justified if the Democratic
administration’s official language on Palestine and Israel is examined, and
such language considered within the context of practical policies on the

Take recent remarks, made by the new US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken,
during a CNN interview on February 8. Blinken’s comments reminded
us of the clever – albeit disingenuous – US foreign policy under previous
Democratic administrations. His select words may seem as a complete
departure from the belligerent, yet direct, approach of former US Secretary
of State, Mike Pompeo.

“Look, leaving aside the legalities of that question (meaning the illegal
Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights), as a practical matter, the
Golan is very important to Israel’s security,” Blinken said. Later in the
interview, he went on to, once again, acknowledge, yet, at the same time,
sideline the question of ‘legalities’. “Legal questions are something
else,” he said, before continuing to speak vaguely and non-committedly
about the future of Syria.

Juxtapose Blinken’s position on the illegal Israeli occupation of the Golan
Heights with statements made by Pompeo in November, just before the end of
Trump’s Presidency. “This is a part of Israel and central part of Israel,”
Pompeo said, as he was accompanied
by Israeli Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, and speaking from the occupied
Golan Heights.

Pompeo’s position, which is a stark violation of international law, was duly
by Palestinians and Arabs and criticized by various governments and
international bodies. Blinken’s position, however, generated little media
attention and negligible, if any, serious reprimand regionally or
internationally. This should not have been the case.

By acknowledging the relevance of the issue of legality, then “leaving it
aside”, in favor of the seemingly more pressing question of Israeli
security, Blinken simply defended the status quo, that of perpetual Israeli
military occupation, which is also championed enthusiastically by

Succinctly, this is the Democratic doctrine on Palestine and Israel, in
effect largely since the Bill Clinton
era. The current Administration of Joe Biden is, undoubtedly, following the
same blueprint, which allows Washington to offer itself as a neutral party
– an ‘honest peace-broker
– while helping Israel achieve its strategic goals at the expense of the
Palestinian and Arab peoples.

The clear distinction between the Democratic and Republican discourses on
Palestine and Israel is a relatively new phenomenon. Interestingly, it was
the Republican George H. W. Bush Administration that, in 1991, established
the current Democratic narrative on Palestine. At the end of the First Gulf
War, Bush championed
the multilateral talks between Israel and Arab States in Madrid, Spain.
Within a few years, a whole new American discourse was formulated.

The September 11, 2001 attacks
on the US supplanted the peace process discourse in Republican foreign
policy literature with a new one, which is avowedly dedicated to fighting
‘Islamic terror’. Israel cleverly used the new American language and
conduct in the Middle East to present itself as a direct partner in the
US-led global ‘war on terror’.

To stave off the collapse of US global political leadership as a result of
the Iraq invasion of 2003, the Barack Obama Administration quickly restored
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-21885613> the traditional
American position, once again offering US services as a benefactor of peace
in the Middle East. True, Obama labored to restore America’s relevance as a
‘peacemaker’. His administration still utilized the disingenuous language
of the past, one which constantly put the onus on the Palestinians, while
gently reminding Israel of its responsibilities towards Palestine’s
civilian population

Obama’s Cairo speech
in April 2009 remains the most powerful, yet indicting document on the
numerous moral lapses and legal blind spots of US foreign policy,
particularly under Democratic administrations. The speech, which was meant
to serve as a watershed moment in the US’ approach to the Middle East
region, fully exposed the caveats of US bias towards Israel, predicated
mostly on emotional manipulation and historical misrepresentations.

Obama deliberately fluctuated between the persecution of Jewish communities
throughout history and Israel’s ‘right’ to ensure its security at the
expense of oppressed Palestinians, as if the systematic Israeli violence
was carried out as genuine attempts to prevent further persecution of
world’s Jewry.

Contrastingly, Obama insisted, with little sympathy or context, that
“Palestinians must abandon violence”, thus painting the Palestinians and
their rightful resistance as the true obstacle to any just peace in
Palestine. Concerning Palestine and Israel, blaming the victim has been a
central pillar of US foreign policy, shared by Democrats and Republicans

Yet, while Republicans increasingly ignore
the rights and, sometimes, the very existence of the Palestinians,
Democrats, who continue to support Israel with equal passion, use more
moderate – although inconsequential – language.

For Democrats, Palestinians are the instigators of violence, although
Israel may have, at times, used ‘disproportionate force’ in its response to
Palestinian violence; for them, international law exists, but can easily be
‘left aside’ to accommodate Israeli security; for them, there is such a
thing as internationally recognized borders, but these borders are flexible
in order to accommodate Israel’s demographic fears, strategic interests and
‘military edge <https://2009-2017.state.gov/t/pm/rls/rm/176684.htm>’.

Hence, it is easier to discredit the foreign policy agenda of Trump, Pompeo
and other Republicans as their aggressive, dismissive language and action
are unmistakably objectionable. The Democratic discourse, however, cannot
be as easily censured, as it utilizes a mix of superficial language,
political platitudes and historical clichés, worded meticulously with the
aim of placing the US back at the driving seat of whatever political
process is underway.

While the Democratic discourse remains committed to arming
and defending Israel, it provides Palestinians and Arabs with no meaningful
change, because substantive change can only occur when international law is
respected. Unfortunately, according to Blinken’s logic, such seemingly
trivial matters should, for now, be ‘left aside’.

*Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He
is the author of five books. His latest is “**These Chains Will Be Broken*
Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity
Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the
Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU).
His website is **www.ramzybaroud.net* <http://www.ramzybaroud.net/>
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