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Obama’s not entirely new Middle East direction

So, Senator Mitchell was duly despatched by the new President to the Middle East. He sorted out the Northern Ireland troubles, so he is given credit for a magic touch when it comes to these things. But in N. Ireland he spoke to both warring factions, In Palestine he will only speak to one. And not the one involved in the fighting.

The West has taken the wrong turn in this area and persists in marching pig-headedly away from or around the issue, and refuses to address the core issues which underlie all the problems of unpopularity that the US faces around the world. Let’s face it, it’s the US veto that protects Israel, no matter what Israel does. This nullifies the UN, and forces countries that are more supportive of the Palestinians such as Britain tow the line. Sadly the current Labour government in the UK is a George Bush look-a-like in only seeing black and white. 

Hamas must be talked to if peace is to ensue. They are the democratically elected party in Gaza, and they won that election because the people were tired of watching relief aid filter through into the personal riches of senior Fatah politicians instead of being used for the good of the people. Corruption is rife in Fatah. But not any longer in Gaza, at least, not with the very little money that gets into that beleaguered prison.

Before the elections that brought Hamas to power, the West had said, “You can’t have what you want without going down the democratic route” so they entered the elections, and won. That wasn’t in the script the West was reading! Their corrupt favourite, Fatah was supposed to have won. But they had worn out their welcome with the Gazans, and lost.

You can imagine the consternation in Washington, London, Paris and particularly Tel Aviv when that result was declared to be a free and fair election, can’t you! So, Western governments immediately began to sulk like little boys who weren’t allowed to play with their favourite toy.

First thing they did was cut off all payments to the government of Gaza, payments that had already been agreed to. The Americans also stood by while Israel froze the tax payments of Palestinians who worked in Israel but lived in Gaza, money that was rightfully that of the elected Gazan government, but which could of course be much better spent on building new illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, or even better, spent on nastier and nastier new space age armaments. Not only that, but they also began a blockade of trade into and out of Gaza, easy to do because they controlled the borders, the airspace, and the maritime approaches.

Gazans were fenced in, cut off, besieged. The strategy must have been to break them by forcing them into poverty (fat chance, they already were in poverty!) and forcing the people to vote the right way this time. Certainly many Israelis have been interviewed on TV saying the recent war was caused by Hamas because the people elected them, so they were just getting what they deserved. What a load of rubbish.

The problem is, this word “terrorist”. Once you use that against a group, for some reason all reason goes out of the window in some Western capitals. And Israel loves calling groups that don’t agree with them terrorists. Which means the West doesn’t question it, they just go along with it. After all, the Israelis are very persuasive. They know exactly how to label a bunch of dissidents as terrorists, because they themselves were once such a group. Even Israel’s current Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni is the grand-daughter of a Jewish terrorist who bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1948, killing 12 people – including Jews. 

When it comes to Israel, anyone who doesn’t agree with it is either labelled “anti-semitic” or “terrorists” and the George W Bush Administration just went along with this. Old Georgie didn’t really have much of a grasp of things with any nuance, and anyway, his friends made lots of money selling armaments to Israel. Ok, they didn’t really sell them, they gave them away for free but sent the bill to the US taxpayer and called it “Aid for Israel”.

So, Gazans continued to suffer, but they are nothing if not resourceful. They built tunnels to smuggle everything in from food, to medicine, to tobacco, to machine parts – and of course, some parts needed to make their home-made drainpipe rockets. Without these attacks on Israel, would the West have even noticed them? Would their concerns ever have reached a political arena? Not if the Israelis had had anything to do with it. They would have been left cut off and isolated, forgotten and forlorn, just as those refugees in the Lebanon that were in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps were forgotten by the West. Forgotten until the Israeli supported militia massacred them.

So back to Senator Mitchell. He may have gone to the Middle East early in Barack Obama’s new Presidency, espousing a new approach, but he continues along the same wrong track of US Foreign Policy that has gotten us nowhere for so long, not talking to Hamas.

So why is that track getting nowhere? Because the agenda is being set by the Israelis. We saw how little they care for anyone else with the viciousness of their attacks on the civilian population of Gaza. And we know that despite having one of the worst war crimes of the 20th Century visited upon them in the Holocaust, they are not averse to a bit of ethnic cleansing themselves. Ehud Olmert even said the State of Israel would protect any soldier accused of War Crimes – presumably because he knows that Israel did conduct itself poorly and is scared of being held responsible himself.

I won’t go into the Israeli use of White Phosphorous or DIME bombs that used Tungsten powder as shrapnel in civilian areas, or the fact that the disproportionate attacks caused 100 Palestinian deaths for every Israeli. I won’t talk about the extra-judicial killings Israel has rained down upon Gazans from F-16s for years. After all, they do what they can get away with.

It seems to me that the US has a dossier on the Middle East that every President bases his actions on. For some reason nobody has questioned the contents and conclusions in this dossier, and so the problem has remained, unsolved, because it is just not being addressed. This dossier was written with a pro-Israeli viewpoint, clearly.

So until the US talks to and listens to someone other than the Israelis or their stooges, no real peace or progress will be made. Because Israel is the main obstacle to peace, because a significant part of their population really wants to ethnically cleanse all palestinians from the occupied territories, to eject them from the water sources, from the prime agricultural land, and are even willing to assasinate their own politicians such as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because he was a peacemaker.

Is the Middle East a hopeless cause? No. But unless change comes to US thinking, the status quo will remain, and the peacemakers that do exist on each side will not be able to make progress.

The whole world sighed a sigh of relief when Obama won the Presidency promising “Change”. Let’s hope he really meant it.


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