HASSAN: Israel’s lies about the “peace process” 15Oct10 October 20, 2010

by Omar Hassan  -  Socialist Alternative -  15 October 2010

Many are cynical about the possibilities for peace given the belligerent posturing by Netanyahu, Lieberman and others in the far-right Israeli government. Still, Israel and its allies in the corporate media spend a lot of energy spreading myths and lies about the peace process in an attempt to blame the Palestinians for their eventual failure. So here are a few facts to remind ourselves of the true nature of these talks, and what the real barrier to peace really is.

Myth: Both sides are both to blame for ongoing violence and conflict, and so both sides need to compromise.

Framing the issue of Israel/Palestine as a conflict between two equally culpable sides is one of the most disingenuous achievements of the Zionist propaganda machine. Let’s clarify, shall we?

First, Israel is a colonial settler state with a fundamentally racist ideology at its core, which for decades has ethnically cleansed the Palestinian people from most of their land. Israel is an apartheid state, and an extremely militaristic one at that.

It treats Palestinians in Israel as second-class citizens, maintains the siege of Gaza which is slowly starving thousands to death, and every so often decides to bomb the crap out of the Palestinians, just to let them know they’re not wanted in the Jewish state.

Just last week we read about a vile attack on a mosque in the West Bank and watched in horror as an Israeli soldier filmed himself belly-dancing around a blindfolded Palestinian woman, mocking her culture and her captivity simultaneously.

Worse than this is the bill about to be passed, which will require anyone taking Israeli citizenship to swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”. Notice the order.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, are merely the victims of this racist, violent, illegitimate entity. Their acts of resistance, therefore, are entirely justified and totally incomparable to the persistent brutality of one of the world’s largest military machines.

Myth: The US is a neutral arbiter.

The US is about as “fair and balanced” as Fox News. America has long used Israel as a sort of watch-dog, using Israel to expand its influence in the oil-rich Middle East. To this end it has given Israel roughly $US110 billion of aid since 1949, and aside from the “reconstruction aid” given to US contractors in Iraq, Israel remains by far the largest recipient of US grants, receiving roughly $US3 billion a year.

This special relationship is no secret; a Congressional Report released last year explained that support for Israel is strong due to the “strategic goals in the Middle East (concern over Iran, Syria, Islamic extremism)” shared by both nations. The same report goes on to describe how “US military aid has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world [in order] to maintain Israel’s ‘qualitative military edge’ over neighbouring militaries.”

Despite the occasional public spat, this strong relationship has remained a feature of US foreign policy. Again, the report is clear:

Although there have been occasional differences over Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (prior to the 2005 disengagement) and Israeli arms sales to China, successive Administrations and many lawmakers have long considered Israel to be a reliable partner in the region, and US aid packages for Israel have reflected this sentiment.

The US has a strong geo-political interest in preserving Israel’s economic and military supremacy in the region, and brings this perspective to the negotiating table. Far from being neutral, America just plays the “good cop” to Israel’s bad, exaggerating the tiny “concessions” made by the Zionists in a cynical attempt to force the Palestinians to give up their demands.

Myth: The partial settlement freeze was a generous token of goodwill from Israel, and the possibility of a renewal reflects America’s desire to push Israel towards a peace agreement.

In March this year Obama asserted that Israel must renew the “partial settlement freeze” it instituted in November last year as a precondition for peace talks. Now even at the time it was notable that Obama was prepared to countenance some settlement building, but at least there was recognition that the settlement building was a clear provocation.

Predictably, Israel has insisted on its “right” to build in occupied Palestinian land, and Obama is now calling for discussions around a settlement freeze to be part of the negotiation process. This despite the fact that any and all settlement construction on occupied land is a breach of international law!

The Palestinians should be demanding the destruction (or handover) of all settlements in the West Bank, and Obama’s backdown simply reflects his lack of desire to confront Israel, for reasons already given.

Even more damning is that the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now released a report which documented 492 violations of the so-called “freeze”, finding that construction had begun on at least 600 housing units in 60 different settlements. The “partial settlement freeze” was just a carrot to cajole the PLO into negotiations – it was never real.

Myth: The last serious peace talks – the Oslo Accords of the 1990s – had the potential to deliver justice and peace for both sides, if only both sides had stuck to the agreements. They show that progress can be made.

The Oslo Accords were a disaster for the Palestinians. Through the talks the PLO effectively sanctioned apartheid and the occupation of Palestinian land, in return for the privilege of being “Israel’s enforcer”, as Edward Said put it at the time.

For example, prior to Oslo it was nearly universally accepted that Israel had no right to any land in the West Bank or Gaza, but in Oslo II in 1995 the PLO accepted that “neither party shall be deemed, by virtue of having entered this Agreement, to have renounced or waived its existing rights, claims, or positions.”

In this way, the PLO ceded the ground, equating its legitimate claims over territory Israel had occupied after the 1967 war with Israel’s illegitimate desire to hold on to those territories. This agreement transformed Gaza and the West Bank from occupied territories into disputed territories, and is the reason why the word occupation was not mentioned once in the Accords.

The Oslo Accords saw the Palestinians lose ground on every issue of importance; Jerusalem, water rights, reparations, sovereignty, security, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and land. The official map of the Accords placed Jerusalem totally inside Israel.

It also legislated for the continuation of “average annual quantities” of water distribution – giving 80 per cent to Israel. It justified this in reference to Israel’s “historic usage patterns”, which basically rewards it for having stolen Palestinian water for decades.

In terms of reparations, not only did Oslo II exonerate the Israelis from any financial responsibility for the many crimes it has committed, but it also contained a beautiful little clause which meant that the Palestinian representatives would actually have to reimburse Israel if anyone ever finds it guilty of anything. The sheer nerve is incredible, but what’s worse is that the Arafat and the PLO signed up to it.

The Oslo Accords also said nothing about the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank, focusing instead on a redeployment of IDF forces. So the 1995 Oslo II agreement mandated that Israel would withdraw from 3 per cent of the territory, continue armed patrols in about 23 per cent (sometimes alongside traitorous PA security forces), while about 74 per cent of the territory – including all of the 145 settlements and the new Jewish settlements in and around East Jerusalem – would remain under full Israeli control.

Interestingly enough, Oslo explicitly denies Palestinian sovereignty over “Jerusalem, settlements, specified military locations, Palestinian refugees, borders, foreign relations, and Israelis” – despite its nominal goal being the creation of a Palestinian state. It even stipulates that the Palestinian Council cannot “amend or abrogate [it’s own] existing laws” without gaining Israel’s consent! Once again, Arafat signed on.

But in addition to these despicable agreements, the period of the Oslo Accords also witnessed the largest-ever expansion of illegal Israeli settlements. Between 1994 and 2000 Israel confiscated 35,000 acres of Arab land in the West Bank, built 30 new settlements, and doubled the number of settlers living on occupied land from 200,000 to 400,000.

It’s no wonder, then, that Israel refused to even talk about defining its borders as part of the negotiations – it was creating “facts on the ground” even as the negotiators sat down and talked!

Far from being a period of hope and progress, the Oslo period was actually a time when the Palestinians faced defeat, retreat, and increasing domination by Israel. Israel successfully tied the Palestinians down in negotiations that they had no intention of honouring, all the while stealing more and more Palestinian land.

Myth: Despite the problems with the negotiations, getting the two sides to sit down and talk is a positive step towards peace.

It should be clear by now that negotiations with Israel are worse than a waste of time; they’re a road to certain defeat. As with Oslo, talks with Israel have only opened the door to betrayals and compromises, with nothing given in return. But what else could we expect, given Israel’s overwhelming military and economic strength and the facilitating role of America, its closest ally?

The Palestinians don’t need more US-sponsored talk shops, they need a third intifada. History shows that it will take a mass movement of epic proportions and a strong international solidarity campaign to bring Apartheid Israel to its knees.

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