Imperial Fantasies: Behind the U.S. Commitment to Israeli-Palestinian "Peace"
Is anyone surprised that the most recent round of “peace talks” between Palestinian and Israeli representatives is ending in failure? The peace process sham has been ongoing for the last few decades, with Israeli leaders paying lip service to peace and a Palestinian state, but moving forward steadily with illegal settlement building. Not much has changed this time around. Al Jazeera reports that, “with a 10-month Israeli moratorium on housing starts in settlements in the occupied West Bank due to expire on September 30 and without agreements on core issues including Israel's security, the borders of a future Palestinian state, the future of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, many analysts do not hold high expectations for future talks.” Such critical reporting gets right to the heart of the problem: the Israeli contempt for the basic prerequisites needed for a Palestinian state.
The U.S. media likes to frame American and Israeli leaders as hard headed, but willing to make reasonable concessions – even major sacrifices – in order to achieve peace. Palestinian leaders like the late Yasser Arafat were seen as treacherous, greedy, and unreasonable in his demands. The reality with regard to U.S, Israeli “benevolence” and Palestinian “depravity” is very different than the message Americans are receiving. As long as the settlements in the West Bank continue to grow, no peace will ever be possible, and this appears to be the Israeli goal from the get-go. These settlements blatantly violate the United Nations Charter, which outlaws the use of force to occupy land outside of self defense and U.N. Security Council approval. Israel can claim neither self-defense or U.N. authorization for occupying foreign land, as it hasn’t suffered under a suicide bombing in over two years, and the U.N. Security Council has presented dozens of resolutions condemning Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank. Additionally, the rocket attacks that have been directed against Israel are from Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and have no relationship with the occupation of the West Bank. By elementary logic, then, the West Bank occupation (in which the secular Palestinian Authority is in control) has nothing to do with Israeli security – lest one defines “security” as encompassing the illegal occupation of another’s land. Furthermore, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has explicitly recognized Israel’s territorial integrity. Similarly, Hamas has even announced in the past that it would be willing to recognize Israel, within the 1967 borders.
Israeli officials’ refusal to take Hamas up on its offer to recognize the 1967 borders is instructive. It shows that Israel prefers the punching bag of a demonized paper tiger to real peace. No one I know justifies rocket attacks directed against Israeli civilian areas, but the most likely way to end those attacks is to engage in serious negotiations with Hamas. Israel’s unwillingness to do so demonstrates their true commitment to colonial expansion at the expense of a sustainable peace.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama have repeatedly called for an extension of the settlement freeze, despite Israeli leaders having ignored these requests. Such an initiative on the part of American officials represents little more than a band-aid on an open, infected wound that is the “peace process.” No real peace will ever be achieved without Israel’s acknowledgement that the settlements are illegal, and without the unqualified removal of them from the West Bank. Sadly, U.S. imperial dominance throughout the Middle East has long been seen as reliant (to a large extent at least) upon Israeli power and aggression. The Palestinian people have long been forgotten by American imperial planners, who realistically view this population as nothing more than an inconvenient embarrassment in light of the global backlash against U.S.-Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
In my class introducing students to global politics, I teach students about the basic prerequisites for the creation of a state. Among these prerequisites scholars typically include: 1. people, 2. a military, 3. land, and 4. sovereignty, defined by control over a country’s air space, borders, people, and the maintenance of some sort of armed forces. Of these four prerequisites, just one – the existence of a Palestinian people – is present in regards to the path laid out by the “peace process.” Israel in its “generous offer” in 2000 (and during the “Road Map” peace process as well) would allow for no dismantlement of the settlements or the military roads and infrastructure that link them. The continuation of the settlements will ensure the cantonization of the West Bank, prohibiting free movement and control over Palestinian land. Israel’s refusal to allow a Palestinian army, or full control over borders and airspace, also ensure that the basic conditions needed for statehood will not materialize. By failing to control its own land, then, a Palestinian state also cannot exercise sovereign control over much of its population.
We must do our best to alter the public dialogue on the “peace process” as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This phrase was always a grotesque, propagandistic fiction. The American left appears to be split between some who support a bi-national state and those who see the two state solution as the way forward for achieving peace. However one looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is important to challenge the falsehoods involved in the current mass-mediated narrative which frames U.S. and Israeli leaders as the lynchpin of peace. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Palestinians have so painfully learned.
is the editor of media-ocracy (www.media-ocracy.com), a daily online magazine devoted to the study of media, public opinion, and current events. He has taught U.S. and Global Politics at Illinois State University and North Central College, and is the author of When Media Goes to War (2010) and Mass Media, Mass Propaganda (2008). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org