Resistance is the Path to Peace
"This was an affront, it was an insult but most importantly it undermined this very fragile effort to bring peace to that region … We have just started proximity talks, that is shuttle diplomacy, between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and for this announcement to come at that time was very destructive.” This is how David Axelrod, a top political advisor to President Barack Obama, described Israel’s decision to announce the building of 1,600 more housing units for Jewish settlers inside Palestinian East Jerusalem during the visit of Vice President Joe Biden the week of March 8. Biden himself criticized the move and its “timing,” explaining that “the substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also denounced the Israeli decision and its timing as “deeply negative” for U.S.-Israeli relations.
It would appear, then, that, in the words of the monopoly media, there is a “confrontation,” a “diplomatic row,” and a “fall-out” between the “two allies” because of the “betrayal” felt by the U.S. imperialists that the announcement for more expansion of the Ramat Shlomo colony in Palestinian East Jerusalem occurred while Biden was in Israel. It also came after the Palestinian Authority (PA), endorsed by the Arab League, had decided to engage in indirect negotiations with the Israelis, now known as “proximity talks.”
How can the Zionist state humiliate so arrogantly the very entity that underwrites its existence and supports the continuation of its crimes and occupation of Palestine? Is the emphasis on a “rift” perhaps a means to make any eventual Israeli “concessions” appear more significant — an example of U.S. “success” — while the U.S. again gives the green light for increased aggression against Palestinians and perhaps Lebanon. Israel has in the past agreed to “postpone” construction, all while illegal settlements are expanded.
And if acting in contradiction with the demands and plans of the U.S. imperialists were the case, does this foreshadow the possibility of the Zionists initiating aggression against Iran despite what appears to be U.S. efforts to deal with the “Iran problem” non-militarily through tougher sanctions? The U.S. military is sending a large shipment of “bunker-buster” bombs to the area, while also upgrading its eight missile systems in four of the Gulf States.
The Israelis did apologize for the “unfortunate timing” of unveiling the plan to build the 1,600 new units during Biden’s visit. But, as has repeatedly been the case, they persist in expanding illegal settlements. And the U.S. persists in funding them and the Israeli military at $3 billion a year.
Timing is a real issue for the U.S. and the “rift” between the U.S. imperialists and their Zionist allies can be explained with reference to this concern. But there are no substantial differences between the two over their crimes against the Palestinian people, like their refusal to end the siege of Gaza. U.S. funding and backing for Israel remains, as Biden put it, “unbreakable.” Biden emphasized, even after the insult, “Our nations’ unbreakable bond borne of common values, interwoven cultures, and mutual interests has spanned the entirety of Israel’s history. It’s impervious to any shifts in either country and either country’s partisan politics. No matter what challenges we face, this bond will endure… There is absolutely no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to security, none. No space.” The U.S. backs, implicitly and explicitly, Israel’s on-going illegal construction, demolition and displacement of Palestinians.
While Biden said he condemned the planned construction in East Jerusalem, there has been no support given to the hundreds of Palestinians demonstrating against demolition of homes, threats to mosques and graveyards in East Jerusalem and closure of the city’s gates to prevent Palestinians from entering at all. It is the Palestinians, standing up to denounce all the settlements, the occupation itself and U.S. backing for it that are expressing the just stand of the peoples. It is this unbreakable stand of resistance that the U.S. and Israel seek to eliminate, through occupation, settlements and “proximity talks.”
Palestinian resistance underlines the difficulties U.S. imperialism faces at this time. It is at a critical juncture, as it sees that its aggressions against the peoples of the Middle East and South Asia have not quenched the determination and will to resist and fight against the schemes of U.S. Empire for more domination and plunder. Its latest aggression in Afghanistan, along with other NATO forces, has failed to eliminate resistance and broad support for continued resistance. The unabated U.S. slaughter of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan is strongly condemned and opposed by the peoples of the two countries and the peoples of the world. Its puppet government in Iraq is struggling to maintain a veneer of legitimacy after the last elections brought about further fragmentation and discontent at U.S. occupation. Its aggressive plans against Iran are met with opposition not only from the peoples of the Middle East and the world, but also the governments of China and Russia. Demonstrations March 20 in DC and San Francisco demanded All U.S. Troops Home Now!No War, No Sanctions on Iran!
With all these challenges, the U.S. imperialists had hoped that a “breakthrough” between Palestinians and Israelis through “proximity talks” could achieve two objectives. One, it would distract from the failures of the Obama administration. Two, it would show that this administration is committed to a future Palestinian state, something that could, in return, consolidate the support of its Arab allies, especially in the Gulf, ahead of a possible action against Iran, whether in the form of more sanctions or military operations. The Israeli announcement undermined these efforts to secure Arab support and that is a main reason for the irritation with Israel that the U.S. has expressed.
U.S. Concerned Plans for the Region will be Undermined
According to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Vice President Biden privately told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu: “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had just visited Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to coordinate possible responses to what the U.S. promotes as the Iranian “nuclear threat.” The U.S. will equip its Gulf allies with upgraded Patriot missile systems that could hit not only aircraft, but also missiles in flight. It will additionally increase the presence of its Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. already has eight missile systems in four of the Gulf States, according to General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, responsible for U.S. military actions in the region.
Petraeus took the belligerent rhetoric of the U.S. against Iran to a higher level when he described its government as a “thugocracy.” However, U.S. plans for more sanctions are being opposed, not only by China, but Brazil and Turkey.
Reports in the Arab press indicate that the U.S. has tried to convince its oil-producing allies to increase their supplies to China so that it could be bribed into agreeing to tougher sanctions against Tehran. The timing of the Israeli announcement made U.S. efforts to cement support for its aggressive plans more difficult.
As well, the “rift” cannot hide what people in Palestine and around the world know quite well — that the Zionist state could not maintain its occupation of Palestine and crimes against Palestinians without U.S. funding and political and military support. Palestinians and their supporters worldwide know that Zionist impunity would not be possible without U.S. defiance of and disregard for international norms and standards. One recent example was U.S. imperialism blocking the referral of the Goldstone Report on Israel’s crimes against humanity in Gaza to the UN’s Security Council. And now Prime Minister Netanyahu will visit with President Obama. Such meetings have been the precursor to increased U.S.-Israeli aggression, against Palestine and Lebanon and now perhaps Iran. Israel may well announce some “concession” that can be made in words, while behind closed-doors the U.S. gives the green light for more genocide.
The peoples are saying NO to the U.S.-Israeli war criminals! Palestinians themselves, through their demonstrations over the past week and their persistent refusal to submit to occupation and sieges, are making clear that resistance against Zionism and U.S. imperialism are the path to a just peace, in Palestine and all the Middle East.
End the Occupation Now! End the Siege of Gaza!
The week of March 15 saw Palestinians defending their rights to their lands and homes and expressing their outrage at continued Israeli provocations and impunity. Actions in Gaza City, Ramallah, Hebron, at checkpoints and refugee camps have confronted Israeli troops and demanded an end to the Gaza siege and occupation of Palestinian lands. The “days of rage” are targeting various Israeli efforts to eliminate the Palestinian identity and presence in East Jerusalem. These include plans for thousands of more illegal settlements, bulldozing Palestinian homes and driving many hundreds out of the city and threats to important mosques. Hundreds have repeatedly demonstrated, with women and youth playing a main role. They have persisted despite use of tear gas, rubber bullets and acoustic weapons by the Israelis.
The Israelis also recently consecrated a synagogue in East Jerusalem, just a few hundred yards from the al Aqsa Mosque and the entire compound of al-Haram al-Sharif. The provocation is seen by many as a step toward Israeli efforts to destroy the Mosque, one of the most important for Muslims. Repeated actions in the nearby neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz have shown Palestinian determination to defend their identity and right to be as a people.
In Gaza City numerous demonstrations have also occurred. Palestinian children joined in, opposing Israel’s attacks and demanding an end to the siege. Various actions rejected the collective punishment against Gaza, emphasizing, “1000 Days is Enough!” The actions are taking place while the white phosphorous bombs dropped by Israel in their war on Gaza are being removed. These bombs are chemical weapons, outlawed by international law and their use is another U.S.-Israeli crime against humanity.
At the Qalandia checkpoint imposed by the Israeli’s between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, large demonstrations have also taken place, with many women participating. Israel arbitrarily closed entrances to Jerusalem for days, blocking Palestinians from work and their families.
Israel also closed the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem for Friday prayers March 12. They sealed off the West Bank and massed riot squads in Arab neighborhoods and at all the Jerusalem gates, blocking people from entering the city. Palestinians stood firm in their resistance, demanding their right to their lands and mosques and refusing to submit to Israeli efforts to drive Palestinians from Jerusalem.
At some actions, near Bethlehem, Palestinians were joined by Israeli and other international supporters, opposing Israeli settlement expansion and use of the Apartheid Wall to isolate Palestinians and separate them from their land.
The mass actions brought forth support from the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) that called for a maximum expression of anger against Israeli provocations, including settlement expansion.
Deputy Speaker of the PLC, Ahmad Bahar joined one of the many rallies held March 16 across Gaza, initiated by the Hamas movement as Palestinians' Days of Rage. "Express your anger to the maximum and call on the Arab League to cancel its decision to support the resumption of indirect negotiations with the Israeli occupation," Bahar emphasized, speaking to a crowd of demonstrators in Gaza.
He condemned restrictions imposed by Israel to prevent Palestinians from accessing the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Bahar said the recent events, particularly the opening of the Hurva synagogue a few hundred yards away from the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, should be brought before the Arab League summit. "The Israeli government once again declared their defiance against the Arab and Muslim world, continuing its expansion of settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank," he said.
Demonstrations are continuing.
The U.S. government has long been largely silent on the illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land and their growth, especially in Jerusalem. Palestinian families have been forced out almost daily in order to transform Jerusalem demographically and physically — to eliminate its Palestinian character.
There are 450,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, with around 200,000 living in colonies in and around East Jerusalem. The year 2009 in particular saw a dramatic rise in the construction and/or planning for building more housing units on illegally annexed Palestinian lands in and around the city. In November construction of 3,000 new units began in the Palestinian neighborhood of Ras al-Amud and the settlement of Pisgat Ze'ev; approval was also given to build 900 new units in the settlement of Gilo. Overall, the number of new settler housing units approved for construction during 2008 – 2009 in and around East Jerusalem stands at 9,000, which, according to the Palestine Monitor, accounts for 55 percent of the total Zionist settlement construction activities. The number of illegal settlements in and immediately around East Jerusalem is 12, with close to 200,000 residents.
Israel, with U.S. support, is acting to eventually eliminate Jerusalem’s Palestinian identity and to completely sever it from the rest of the West Bank. This is being done through more outer-ring settlements and through the illegal Apartheid Wall.
When Israel started building its Apartheid Wall in June 2002 it also approved a supplemental plan to “develop” East Jerusalem known as Plan E1, which aimed to connect East Jerusalem’s illegal settlements with the major settlements in the West Bank. These were to be located west of the Wall upon the completion of its construction. These settlements were constructed, with more housing units planned to expand the colony of Ma’ale Adumim. An industrial park and settler-only bypass roads are being built to eventually extend the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem by stealing more Palestinian lands and further isolating any Palestinian pockets inside the city. An ongoing indication of this Zionist policy can be seen in how Israel maintains the closure of all 10 Jerusalem gates that are supposed to allow movement across the Apartheid Wall into and out of the West Bank.
The transformation of Jerusalem has been systematically aggressive, even when gradual, to achieve the Zionist objective of not only isolating Palestinian East Jerusalem from the West Bank, but also to penetrate the city and create facts on the ground that cement the Zionist claim over Jerusalem as an eternal and undivided Jewish capital. This may explain the shift in Zionist colonial expansionism from traditionally constructing illegal settlements on hilltops overlooking Palestinian areas (the case of East Jerusalem’s outer-ring settlements and those through-out the West Bank) to expanding right in Palestinian neighborhoods.
The U.S. imperialists have also been silent on how Israel carries out this illegal theft of Palestinian lands. The low-intensity removal of Palestinians relies on making it increasingly difficult for Palestinian East Jerusalemites to live in their homes and on their land. House demolition is a main mechanism. Both the Zionist municipal authorities and the Israeli occupation forces demolish Palestinian homes as a “punitive” measure against Palestinians refusing to abandon their right to resist the occupation, or for alleged “violations” of building codes and permit procedures.
The United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 80 Palestinian homes were demolished in 2009, along with 93 in 2008, which led to the displacement of 300 people including 149 children. Another 186 people were similarly affected due to the partial demolition of their homes or workplaces. The UN also estimates that there are at least 1,500 demolition orders outstanding in East Jerusalem, which puts around 60,000 Palestinian residents at risk of house demolitions and displacement. The UN Office adds: “In addition, 53 people (two extended families), including 20 children, were forcibly evicted from their homes in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah following organized attempts by settler organizations to gain control of the area. At least 24 other homes, and their 300 residents, remain at risk of forced eviction, with legal proceedings already having been initiated against eight families.” Another way Israel seeks to achieve its aim to transform the Palestinian city is through revocation of residency. In 2008 alone, 4,600 Palestinians lost their residency status in comparison with 289 in 2007 and 1,363 in 2006.
At the beginning of March, the mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat unveiled plans to transform many Palestinian areas in the city into Jewish “biblical heritage parks.” Widespread archeological excavations are also taking place all around Palestinian neighborhoods. These serve to continue a longstanding Israeli practice to use archeology to circulate an historical narrative that legitimates Zionists claims over Palestine. Digging across Palestinian East Jerusalem is also done in the name of “developing” the city in order to upgrade its sewage system.
The forced removal of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, which has dramatically intensified over the last four years, has merited almost no protest from the U.S. As a matter of fact, Zionist expansionism into the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which is a serious violation of international law, is almost always justified by the U.S. as Israel’s prerogative for “security” reasons. Obama, in this regard, maintains the commitment of previous U.S. administrations to the security of the Zionist state directly against Palestinian rights under international law. As Vice President Biden stated while in Israel, speaking of the U.S.-Israeli bond, “President Obama and I represent an unbroken chain of American leaders who have understood this critical, strategic relationship. As the President said recently, ‘I will never waver from ensuring Israel’s security and helping them secure themselves in what is a very hostile region.’”
The apology offered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai recalls the joke about the servant who pinched the king's bottom. En route to the gallows, the servant apologized: He thought it was the queen's bottom. The statement issued by Netanyahu's bureau said that in light of the ongoing dispute between Israel and the United States over construction in East Jerusalem, the plans for new housing in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood should not have been approved this particular week. It also said the premier had ordered Yishai to draft procedures that would prevent a recurrence. In other words, Yishai is welcome to submit more plans for Jewish construction in East Jerusalem next week, when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will no longer be here.
Based on Biden's reaction, it seems that he (and, presumably, his boss) has decided that it is better to leave with a few sour grapes than to quarrel with the vineyard guard. In his speech at Tel Aviv University, he said he appreciated Netanyahu's pledge that there would be no recurrence. But what exactly does that mean? That next time he comes, the Planning and Building Committee will be asked to defer discussion of similar plans until the honored guest has left?
With the media storm dying down, Netanyahu can breathe a sigh of relief.
In a sense, the uproar actually helped him: To wipe the spit off his face, Biden had to say it was only rain. Therefore, he lauded Netanyahu's assertion that actual construction in Ramat Shlomo would begin only in another several years.
Thus Israel essentially received an American green light for approving even more building plans in East Jerusalem.
Biden might not know it, but the Palestinians certainly remember that this is exactly how East Jerusalem's Har Homa neighborhood began: Then, too, Netanyahu persuaded the White House that construction would begin only in another several years.
When Biden arrived, the Arab League had just recommended that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas accede to Washington's proposal for indirect talks with Israel. But instead of being able to leave with an announcement that the talks have officially begun, Biden is leaving with the news that the Arab League has suspended its recommendation.
Netanyahu can thus hope that the Ramat Shlomo imbroglio has deferred the moment of truth when he must reveal his interpretation of "two states for two peoples." And just in case anyone failed to realize how impartial a mediator the U.S. is, Biden said in his Tel Aviv speech that the U.S. has "no better friend" than Israel.
For Netanyahu, the cherry on top was that the onus for advancing the negotiations has now been put on the Arab states — just two weeks before the Arab League summit in Tripoli, where the league's 2002 peace initiative will again be up for discussion. For months, U.S. President Barack Obama has been trying to persuade Arab leaders not to disconnect this important initiative from life support. His argument is that nothing would make Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad happier than a final blow-up of the peace process and the outbreak of a third intifada. And his joy would be redoubled if the fire started in Jerusalem.
But while the U.S. may be papering over the rift for now, Western diplomats said the bill will come due once the talks with the PA begin (assuming they do). The U.S. has already said it will submit bridging proposals of its own during these talks, and its anger and frustration over the Ramat Shlomo incident are likely to make it far more sympathetic to the Palestinians' positions, the diplomats said.
For instance, Netanyahu wants security issues to top the talks' agenda, an Israeli source said. But the Palestinians want the first issue to be borders, including in Jerusalem.
And the European Union, which had planned to upgrade various agreements with Israel this week in honor of the resumed talks, has now postponed the upgrade until it becomes clear whether the talks will in fact take place.