The Obviously False Objections to Palestinian Statehood at U.N.

Harry Siegman has a brilliant takedown at the National Interest of U.S.-Israeli objections to a September bid for Palestinian statehood at the U.N. I wrote a bit about the false arguments against Palestinian statehood last month. As I did, Siegman explodes the rationale that the U.N. is not the right venue for unilateral bids for state recognition. Not only is that, in part, explicitly the purpose of the U.N. – to help end colonialism and give rise to independence for indigenous nationalist movements – but it is also precisely the route taken to secure Israeli statehood. So either the U.S. and Israel admit that different rules apply to them than apply to the rest of the world, or they drop this phony argument.

But Siegman astutely goes much further. First, there is the falsehood that a unilateral attempt to get U.N. recognition represents a stubborn abandonment of the so-called “peace process.” This falls flat on its face. As I’ve highlighted before, the peace process is futile and the deck is inherently stacked against Palestinians. As Siegman writes, “So far, this ‘peace process’ has enabled the transfer of over half a million Jews from Israel into Palestinian territory and East Jerusalem, but not one square inch of Palestinian sovereignty.”

And then, more fundamentally:

The United States and Israel have warned Palestinians to abandon their UN initiative on prudential grounds as well, for even if they were to succeed in obtaining UN recognition of their right to statehood in the Occupied Territories, nothing would change on the ground, for Israel’s government would be as indifferent to such a UN declaration as it has been to countless other UN directives. Indeed, Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has threatened that in those circumstances Israel would feel free to annex far more West Bank territory than it already has.

But if were true that UN action would have no effect whatever in advancing the Palestinian cause, except perhaps to spur an even greater Israeli land grab, why is Israel engaged in such frantic efforts to prevent a UN showdown? Indeed, why does it not welcome the Palestinian initiative?

The answer is that what the Netanyahu/Lieberman government fears most is an international confirmation that the 1967 border is the point of reference for Israeli Palestinian territorial negotiations, for despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s alleged acceptance of a two-state solution, he remains as committed to the retention of most if not all of the West Bank as are most other members of his government, most of whom belong to the “Whole Land of Israel Caucus” in Israel’s Knesset. (Imagine what would have been the U.S. reaction to a Palestinian parliamentary caucus for the retention of the “Whole Land of Palestine.”)

And there we have it. The fundamental objection to Palestine seeking statehood at the U.N. is that it is actually constructive for Palestinians to do so. Israel has had virtually full reign to gradually encroach upon Palestinian sovereignty for decades, but a U.N. recognition of the 1967 borders seriously limits Israel’s ability to ignore that basic assumption of this conflict. Hopefully, they’ll only be able to keep it up for another month or so.

Ineffectual Intimidation

Journalism is a tough gig. Do not get me wrong, it is an extremely privileged role and one that any reasonable human being would very much treasure. However, you receive no training for the bombardment of abuse that follows much of what you put out there. There is no opportunity to reply to criticism – unless you wish to be labelled unprofessional – and there is no follow-up window in which to provide your evidence and justify yourself to detractors. You merely have to take it on the chin.

Recently, legendary veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk found himself at the centre of a journalistic storm when his article concerning the Syrian trial of 48 medical professionals was lambasted by Syrian officials. With threats to sue his newspaper, The Independent, for libel and potential to ruin what must surely be one of journalism’s greatest careers, this incident brought to light the serious repercussions that result from ones writing.

Writing on the affairs of the Middle East, rather unsurprisingly, leads to insults. People with a difference of opinion challenge your viewpoint and angrily defend what they believe to be correct. There are ample examples. Take Fisk’s latest predicament. Or my own recent skirmish with a pro-Israeli website. Following an article I wrote, “Transparent and Trustworthy Israel“, I found myself featured heavily on My article had been well and truly analysed and scrutinised. No stone left unturned. Lazy attempts were made to tag me as anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish. This was nothing more than an ineffectual effort to intimidate.

But why should I have been surprised. Journalists such as the brilliant Israeli reporter Gideon Levy have been dealing with this treatment relentlessly for over a decade now. He has been shot at and terrorised for merely speaking the truth and detailing the appalling situation in the Israeli-occupied areas of Gaza and the West Bank. My episode is not worthy of comparison. Nevertheless, it is the nearest I have come to the brutal realities of the Israeli propaganda network; hard at work in their efforts to silence truth-tellers.

In respect of Robert Fisk’s case, a story today provided abundant proof that what he had spelt out in his article last month was nothing but stark reality. Al Jazeera, in their reports on anti-government demonstrations taking place in Yemen, revealed how the crowds were chanting “tell Saudi Arabia that Yemen is a republic” and “Yemen is not Bahrain”. These protests act as evidence to Fisk’s – and my – claims that Bahrain is being ‘occupied’ by the Saudis. It is clearly a sentiment felt throughout the Middle East. There is no denying now.

Worse still, critics of journalists fail to gather any concrete proof to their claims despite aiming hypocritical criticism at the fact-collecting of their victims. To criticise Mr Fisk for not knowing the Middle East inside-out is preposterous. And to accuse me of being anti-Jewish without evidence is disgraceful. My issue is not with the majority of Israelis – who, on the whole, support my views – but with the malfeasant government that continues to torment and abuse the people of Palestine.

No matter how much abuse I receive, and however much intimidation is thrown my way, I shall never stop telling it as it is. A journalist’s number one priority should be to challenge those in power and stick up for the ‘little’ people. The voiceless. The victims. Not enough mainstream journalism is about that. Conflicts are treated and reported as if they were sporting events. Equal time offered to both sides. Equal admiration and denouncements. No ‘bias’ – a word I am sick of hearing – or subjectivity.

Instead, warfare needs to be emotionally conveyed. We are not robots. If we witness death and destruction, then what is so wrong with reporting it with passion and feeling? Why can we not state who the perpetrator is and provide a voice to the sufferers? Perhaps I am unprofessional. Too attached to my work. Perhaps I ought to transform myself into a robot, possess a completely neutral state of mind and merely report uncritically. Thankfully for my employers – and readers – this is not something I intend to do.

Egyptians on Israel Peace Treaty

Several Egyptians shown on various networks have said they reject the treaty with Israel. It’s also been cited in articles I have been reading for days. I just want to make the point that the peace treaty fosters Egyptian collaboration with Israel in its oppression of Palestinians. It means the Egyptian Army cannot even station troops in Sinai, its own territory.

Obviously, this is ridiculous and unacceptable to Egyptians and anyone who believes in national sovereignty and especially universal human rights. To call for the revocation of this unjust treaty is not to call for war. Countries don’t just have peace treaties or war; the default is peace, that’s why, for example, most countries don’t have treaties with most other countries with which they are at peace.

Why Argentina’s Palestine Recognition Matters

We interrupt this endless WikiLeaks news cycle to report on something else. (It isn’t likely to end anyhow, and will probably be the dominant news paradigm here at for many months, at least.)

You may have heard that Argentina and its small, similar neighbor Uruguay have followed Brazil’s lead in recognizing Palestine as a state. This is significant and desirable for several reasons.

First, it is desirable that Palestine be recognized as a state because for now, this is the only way any geographical area or people can be even somewhat independent. To clarify — the recognition of a Palestinian state does not conjure one out of thin air and it doesn’t cast off Israel’s occupation as if it only took a certain number of countries to just stop believing in the monster anymore. It is just a rhetorical and diplomatic wedge. Yes, even once independent they will still have to deal with a crappy government run by crooked religionists. This is indisputably better than dealing with Jews-only roads, wholesale theft of ancestral land, psychotic settlers, and the possibility or likelihood of being murdered for protesting all of this.

Previously, only other Muslim countries and some former Soviet states recognized Palestine. This is not a bad thing, but as they say, you are judged by the company you keep, and these countries aren’t generally known as, well, good. We’re talking about blatant kleptocracies and theocracies that make Gaza look like Vegas. They also happen to have few or no Jews, with the exception of Iran. All of this is why the latest round of recognitions is so significant.

Brazil is on its way up as an economic powerhouse, and is quite liberal, democratic, and Western all around, despite its problems. Uruguay and Argentina are (more or less) long-time first-world countries, which, combined with Brazil, represent another several hundred million of the world’s people. These countries have close ties with Europe and the United States. They also have large, assimilated Jewish populations — especially and famously, Argentina. In fact, the official who announced the Argentine decision is himself Jewish. This bolsters the Palestinians’ point that their struggle is not anti-Jewish; they simply want to stay on their own land.

Israel is angry, of course, not least of all because it relies on anti-Jewish sentiment to scare up money and support from American Jews.

I expect a wave of recognitions across Latin America in the coming weeks. Contrary to Israeli-US talking points on the issue, this does not undermine peace, which despite decades of expensive blather was never really on the table. It rather ramps up the discussion, forces it onto a new plane. Israel can either try and probably fail to continue to buy the world’s support for its occupation, or it can serve itself and the world better by cutting its losses and making the situation right. It would certainly not put Israel in a good position to block these countries’ efforts to establish diplomatic relations with the Palestinians.

It’s not clear what actual changes we may see after these developments, but it will at least be something new to watch. The endless cycle of fake peace talks and ignored “agreements” between parties of such obvious bad faith is so tiresome.

A Snapshot of Linguistic Cynicism on ‘Terrorism’

A quick but illustrative juxtaposition of news tonight, before I start building tomorrow’s page:

Shin Bet chief: Hamas will use terror to thwart talks


Likud MKs threaten to withdraw support for budget if settlement freeze extended

Same newspaper, same night. In the first piece, it is clear that any action taken by Hamas is automatically terror, even if directed at Israel soldiers. As pointed out often here, this is not terrorism but a military attack on state actors by non-state actors (though in Hamas’ case, the “non-state” is debatable). But let’s just assume they mean the typical Tel Aviv café attacks of the Intifada. This warning about Hamas’ intentions has within it the assumption that Israel is doing all it can to help along the peace talks. The second piece shows that it in fact does the very opposite.

Hardline Israeli MPs are calling for an end to the (false) settlement freeze in order to pass the budget, just as another round of certainly pointless “peace talks” are to resume. If this happens, it will certainly kill any agreement, and the Likudniks know it. Israel, of course, doesn’t have to do terrorism to be able to build its settlements, because it has achieved terror in totality throughout Palestine. That is, Israel’s terror is a finished product of many decades. None have the power or inclination to challenge the state’s land grabs and colonial project on any level.

Except, you see, for Palestinian “terrorists.” Neat, huh?

Schumer: It Makes Sense To Strangle Gaza

Via ThinkProgress:

This past Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) delivered a wide-ranging speech at an Orthodox Union event in Washington, D.C. The senator’s lecture touched on areas such as Iran’s nuclear program, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and several domestic policy issues.

During one point of his speech, Schumer turned his attention to the situation in Gaza. He told the audience that the “Palestinian people still don’t believe in the Jewish state, in a two-state solution,” and also that “they don’t believe in the Torah, in David.” He went on to say “you have to force them to say Israel is here to stay.”

New York’s senior senator explained that the current Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip — which is causing a humanitarian crisis there — is not only justified because it keeps weapons out of the Palestinian territory, but also because it shows the Palestinians living there that “when there’s some moderation and cooperation, they can have an economic advancement.” Summing up his feelings, Schumer emphasized the need to “to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go makes sense.”