International Day of Peace
In his first speech at the UN, President Obama stated that he prohibited torture and ordered Guantanamou prisons closed. He also said he will work to cut the nuclear arsenal of the US and Russia and move towards a world without nuclear weapons. He said that peace must be pursued by actions of all nations working together and that the era of unilateralism is finished. He said he will work aggressively to advance peace based on two states: Israel and Palestine. He said, “America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements”. All were big fat LIES. And now comes Obama with new lies in front of the UN and at this International day of peace. Here he shows Palestinian leaders did not give him any briefing on history. I hope any Palestinian leaders should object strongly and with facts and figures to these misstatements [my brief comments in brackets]:
“Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. [false] Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. [correct but this should be balanced by explaining that 10 times more Palestinians were butchered] Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. [Israelis teach hate 100 more times than the other way around and hate of the colonizer to the colonized is not the same as the reverse]. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. [That is nonsense; Israel wiped Palestine including 530 villages and towns and now is the fourth strongest country plus having you Obama and Congress as its lackeys]. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were. [Irrelevant and highly emotional: just study the history of Nazi-Zionist collaboration to see how absurd to link Apartheid Israel with "The Jewish People", itself a mistaken term no more valid than concepts of "The Christian People" or "The Muslim People"]. These facts cannot be denied [they are regurgitation of Zionist myths, irrelevant facts, and half truths]. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland [a racist apartheid state based on land theft and ethnic cleansing; is that your definition of success?]. Israel deserves recognition [no it does not, Israel deserves to be faced with the truth and pressured to transform just like Apartheid South Africa]…
All who meet with him to go back and read his first speech in the UN should level with Mr. Obama. Perhaps they should give him a gift: a copy of Prof. Naseer Aruri’s excellent book titled “Dishonest Broker” about the destructive role of the US.
Perhaps what might awaken some sense of shame in Obama is for him to be given his own words uttered less than 2 years ago:
“The choice is ours. We can be remembered as a generation that chose to drag the arguments of the 20th century into the 21st; that put off hard choices, refused to look ahead, and failed to keep pace because we defined ourselves by what we were against instead of what we were for. Or, we can be a generation that chooses to see the shoreline beyond the rough waters ahead; that comes together to serve the common interests of human beings, and finally gives meaning to the promise embedded in the name given to this institution: the United Nations.”
Hypocrisy and double standards are standing naked and exposed more than ever thanks to the Arab spring and the corruption of political leaders from Netanyahu to Obama to the Arab leaders that do not follow their conscience. In Palestine and the rest of the Arab world, the forces of status quo fight the forces of change tooth and nail. Human rights and democracy cannot be used as tools in some countries and violated in others. The US administration for example says the leadership in Syria lost its legitimacy and must step aside. In Yemen and Bahrain the same politicians merely mumble useless words like “different parties should resolve their differences”. The reason is obvious: the Israel lobby. The Arab people hate what the Zionists had done and continue to do to fellow Arabs (7 million of us Palestinians are now refugees or displaced people). Arabs are prevented by their own dictatorial governments from providing direct help to liberate Palestine. The US thus acts not in its own interests or in defense of any liberal or democratic ideals but largely in defense of apartheid and racism that is distilled in this state called Israel.
Hypocrisy will be more evident at the United Nations these coming few days. It is already evident in the use of bullying by the US administration to other countries to force them to not vote for a Palestinian state. This bullying will remind us of how they bullied in 1947 to get the unjust resolution recommending partition of Palestine against the wishes of its people (contrary to UN Charter and the right of self-determination). Hypocrisy will also be evident in Netanyahu’s speech in the UN that will say to the world: Israel wants peace and “why are we at the UN when Israel and the Palestinians can negotiate directly.” After decades of direct negotiations between slaves and heavily armed masters, excuse the world for not believing you. Mr. Abbas (whose term as president of the “Palestinian authority” long expired) will give a speech where he will again reiterate that Palestinians renounced violence and want their own state on the borders of 1967 under the US government parameters (which recognize demographic changes including that 500,000 colonial settlers sit on the best parts of the West Bank). Here in Palestine, the people want him to 1) consult with them and rebuild the PLO with direct elections to the PNC, 2) that if and when he then goes to the UN as a real representative to the Palestinian people that he tells them about our concerns and the historic and current injustice that we are subjected to. I am afraid neither will happen. In fact he explicitly stated that he does not want to “delegitimize Israel”; this means he accepts the racist Zionist project as legitimate. Netanyahu will present a false/concocted history that mixes a religion with nationality and claims rights while delegitimizing Arabs and Palestinians at every turn. Abbas’s speech will likely validate that narrative. Netanyahu will talk about security (for the colonial occupiers) while Abbas may not even touch on security for the native people but will again emphasize we are “peaceful in protesting/gatherings.” Indeed today there were hundreds of gatherings throughout the West Bank cities that organizers said would show support for Abbas.
Who will address the fact that the Palestinian people were subjected to the largest armed robbery in the last 100 years accompanied by massacres and ethnic cleansing? Who will mention that the value of hard assets alone stolen by the Zionist project exceed $30 trillion? Who will speak of the over 60,000 Palestinian civilians massacred or the hundreds of thousands who were injured or jailed? Who will explain to those gathered in New York that International law recognizes the right of such native people to resist including by armed means? Who will explain to world leaders that 99.99% of the people resisted by methods of popular unarmed resistance (see my book “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of hope and empowerment”, Pluto Press)?
Before 1991, Israel was largely ostracized around the world for committing these injustices against the native Palestinians. But unfortunately, acceptance of Israel mushroomed when Mr. Yasser Arafat listened to people like Mahmoud Abbas and went down the path of the disastrous Oslo accords. Dozens of countries then established diplomatic, business, scientific and even military cooperation with the apartheid state. Israel just also joined CERN, the European nuclear organization. Is it possible to abandon the trap of Oslo that legitimizes colonialism? Is it possible to stop begging for a statelet in parts of the West Bank and Gaza by going to the UN to marginally improve bargaining positions between a jailer and a jailed people? Is it possible to build-up boycotts, divestments, and sanctions and real popular resistance (not mere gatherings in Al-Manara square) to apply pressure that insists on the right of return for all refugees first and foremost? Politicians worry that admitting mistakes and changing course would bring them down or they lose privileged positions. But let me ask you how a position of a key Palestinian leader like Abbes would be if he gave a speech with total honesty telling his people something along these lines:
“We went into Oslo with good intentions, it was supposed to last for five years and give us a state in all of the West Bank and Gaza. For the past nearly 20 years it did not work, our refugees are still refugees and Israel doubled its settlement activities and killed the two-state solution. Now I recognize that we lapsed in our judgments not only about our colonizers but also about the US and some other Western Countries who have strong Zionist lobbies. Because of this, I am stepping down soon. My fate will be up to the Palestinian people and I will work hard to obey their just demands for change. In the coming few weeks we in Fatah will work together with all political factions to create a transition body to prepare and run elections for the Palestinian National Council to represent all Palestinians around the world (in diaspora and on both sides of the Green line). This PNC council will be bound by the original charter of the PLO that calls for a democratic pluralistic state in all of Palestine among other things unless the new representative PNC decides to change elements of such a charter. By going back top the people, we join the era of the Arab spring…”
Or imagine if Obama got the courage to go to the American people and say that he has demanded a settlement freeze and rollback based on International law to achieve real and just peace but that a strong lobby in Washington ensures that US foreign policy is held hostage to Israel. What will happen to the statute of such politicians? What happened when President Nasser admitted mistakes and took responsibility for the Naksa of 1967? What happened to president Eisenhower when he asked Israel to get out of Gaza and the Sinai in 1956 (and Israel complied)? While we are not the same it is also good to reflect on our own history. What happened between 1929 and 1939 to the 30+ Palestinian factions then in operation (some of them had tried and failed in their accommodationist/moderate stances with the British)? Decency can be done by political parties and by politicians but it seems to be absent at the UN this week. But history shows that peace is achieved in spite and not because of politicians. We will have to again rely on ourselves (the people) to change history. Starting a new chapter on this International day of peace may not be such a bad idea.
On failure of us Palestinians to challenge “leaders”
When will the Arabs Resist? A panorama of desolation. By Prof. Edward Said
As a reminder: the PLO charter
State of recognition: Whether the UN grants the PA status as a state or refuses to do so, either outcome will be in Israel’s interest
Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine. He serves as chairman of the board of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Sahour He is author of “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle” and “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment”