Who’s to Blame?
George Szamuely
New York Press


It is, of course, an unshakable axiom of U.S. policy toward Israel that none of the standards normal for every other state apply to it. Night after night people see on their tv screens Israeli soldiers shooting at people throwing stones. Yet, during last week’s presidential debate, Al Gore announced: "Israel should feel absolutely secure about one thing: Our bonds with Israel are larger than agreements or disagreements on some details of diplomatic initiatives. They are historic, they are strong, and they are enduring." George W. Bush echoed him: "I want everybody to know, should I be the president, Israel’s going to be our friend. I’m going to stand by Israel." No criticism, not even the mildest reproof, for Israel. Neither man was in any doubt about whom to blame for the violence. "We need to insist that Arafat send out instructions to halt some of the provocative acts of violence that have been going on," Gore warned. Bush again echoed him: "Like the Vice President, I call on Chairman Arafat to have his people pull back to make the peace."

Israeli violence is invariably taken to be a response to "provocative acts." Israel’s reasonableness and readiness to compromise are beyond question. In that same debate, Bush and Gore both defended last year’s bombing of Yugoslavia, carried out, allegedly, to halt the excessive use of force by Serbs in Kosovo. Yet Kosovo is part of Yugoslavia. Israel, on the other hand, uses guns, helicopter gunships and missiles on lands it conquered in the 1967 war and occupied ever since in defiance of innumerable UN Security Council resolutions demanding that they be surrendered. The Israelis are an occupying army suppressing a rebellion by an indigenous population that does not want them there. Yet the U.S. could not even bring itself to support the Oct. 7 UN Security Council Resolution 1322, which imposes no sanctions and exacts no penalties on Israel. It merely "condemns acts of violence, especially the excessive use of force against Palestinians, resulting in injury and loss of human life." And – horror! – the resolution stresses the importance of "establishing a mechanism for a speedy and objective inquiry into the tragic events of the last few days."

Israel recalled its ambassador to Austria when its voters had the temerity to vote in large numbers for the party of Jorg Haider. But it is outrageous that Israel should have to endure the indignity of anyone other than its noisy American champions having any say in how it conducts itself in occupied lands. America’s refusal to veto the UN’s extremely mild rebuke, needless to say, provoked fulminations in all the predictable quarters. The "one-side condemnation of Israel is shameful and ignores the reality of what’s happening in the Mideast," Hillary Clinton fraudulently fumed. Clinton, according to Marty Peretz, "wouldn’t shoulder the burden of a truthful veto. Clinton’s much-vaunted love for Israel, it turns out, was just another piece of theater, and in this real-life drama he now declares himself neutral. Well, shalom, chaver… Ours, then, is the most spineless of great powers."

Israel has made it a policy to ignore United Nations resolutions. The most famous one, UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed just after the Six Day War, talked of the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security." It demanded the "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict." Israel had to withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Thirty-three years have passed and Israel has yet to comply. Subsequent UN resolutions urged Israel to cease building Jewish settlements on conquered lands. Israel consistently ignored them, without suffering any adverse consequences in the United States. It was easy to pull this off during the Cold War. The UN could be dismissed as a hotbed of totalitarians. That 242 had been sponsored by that notorious Soviet client-state, Great Britain, was safely ignored.

Nearly 100 Palestinian and Israeli Arabs are dead as I write. Clearly, they are to blame for their sorry plight. The Israelis had gone the extra mile for the sake of peace, while the Palestinians refused to compromise. At Camp David in July, Ehud Barak was hailed for his courage. He offered "peace terms of breathtaking generosity," in the words of Charles Krauthammer. This "generosity" amounted to allowing the Palestinians to run 90 percent of their own land on the West Bank. In addition, he offered to transfer some of Jerusalem’s Arab residential areas to Palestinian control. He rejected Palestinian sovereignty over the Old City and its religious sites. Israel would continue to exercise sovereignty over Temple Mount, and hence over the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. The illegal Jewish settlements on Arab lands would stay. There would be no return of refugees. And Jewish expansion into Arab East Jerusalem would continue. And in return for these concessions, what would the Palestinians get? Israeli recognition of a Palestinian "state" – one that would in fact be nothing more than an Israeli protectorate and a source of cheap labor.

This was the staggeringly generous offer that Arafat has been widely attacked in the U.S. media for rejecting. Yet it is Arafat whose stance is in accordance with international law. The strength of Palestinian feeling would suggest that Arafat could not accept the miserable deal on offer at Camp David even if he had wanted to. The absurdity of the U.S. pretense of being the "honest broker" became apparent after the breakdown of Camp David. Clinton blamed the failure on Arafat and threatened to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. The bombing of the USS Cole is the inevitable consequence of Clinton’s recklessness.

Read George Szamuely's Antiwar.com Exclusive Column

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Prison Love

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Laws of Return

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Liar, Liar

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A World Safe for Kleptocracy

Proud To Be Un-American

All articles reprinted with permission from the New York Press


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