The US and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Al-Jazeerah

In interactive editorials, the editor of Al-Jazeerah answers questions and or responds to comments of readers, which are more general than readers’ responses to specific articles or issues. It is an effective method of interaction in electronic journalism.

Tony Lombardini:
Thank you once again for your valuable comments on this complicated situation. They have assisted me as I try to understand the dilemma. I would, however, request clarification on a few items:

1.            The viewpoint of history in my response was mine, I do not completely understand nor speak for the Israeli perspective.

2.            My opinion of Islam is as follows: it is a legitimate religion, legally practiced by millions of law-abiding citizens, with a belief structure that is agreed to by all participating members. I accept that Muslims have nuances to their behavior as do Catholics, Baptists, Hindu, etc. They have the right to practice their faith with the understanding that my participation is not mandatory.

3.            If the Palestinian people have been wronged and are entitled to something promised by the United Nations, then their case has a right to be heard. Since the Palestinian cause has been largely ignored to this point (meaning multiple UN resolutions with no follow-up action), then they must ask why.  Is the cause just? Have the international agreements  been reached? If the answer is yes then why has nothing been done? Is the problem the message or the messenger?

I refuse to believe that the United States government has a policy in which Palestinian subjugation is the desired result. The Palestinian dream of nationhood is totally consistent with America’s “give me liberty or give me death” history.

4.            I need to understand your definition of  “racist and oppressive regime”. I would think that any individual or exclusive group forcing their beliefs upon others without concern of individual rights, the absence of due process and failure to be tried by a jury of their peers, being persecuted because of race or sex, and losing property or life for noncompliance would qualify as a “racist and oppressive regime”. If this statement can be made against Israel, how about Iraq? Possibly China?

5.            The United States, at the request of many parties, has often attempted to assist in the resolution to the question of Palestine with less than ideal results. The current proposal from the United States is unacceptable as compared to ………what?

6.            I believe your comment regarding Egypt to be substantially inaccurate. You infer the Egyptians are only staying away from the Israelis as a condition of funding from the United States. Does this mean the Egyptians can be bought? I think the government and people of this country look upon them as friends, not mercenaries.

7.            The murder I mentioned prior was that of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The fact that Mr. Pearl was slaughtered was sad enough. The manner in which it was completed and videotaped simply showed the ruthless nation of the perpetrators. My point here is not the political or religious motivation but the presentation. If the world in general sees this act as that of savages, then how does it perceive the actions of the homicide-bombers? A group of individuals operating within a support structure blowing up civilian buses in which the victims are chosen at random. These are the actions of sociopaths, not martyrs.

If the Palestinians are out to win the hearts and minds of democratic societies around the world then improvement in public relations might be suggested.

As we discuss this most crucial issue it is good to find common threads of understanding. Those who strive for peace need only find the path.


Hassan El-Najjar:

Your first two notes were statements. That is why I’ll start with the third. There are scores of UN resolutions that address the Palestinian rights, particularly to a state (the Partition Resolution 184, passed in 1947) and to return to their homes and be compensated for their property (Resolution 191, passed in 1949). Resolution 242, which was passed in 1967, called on Israel to withdraw from the Arab occupied territories. Resolution 338, which was adopted after the 1973 October War, reaffirmed the previous resolutions. Finally Resolution 1407, passed in 2002, called for the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005. More than 68 resolutions were passed to solve the Palestinian problem but Israel has not observed any one of them. Why?

There is one reason only. Successive US administrations have provided Israel with the money and the weapons that allow the most aggressive nation in the world to continue their occupation of the Arab lands. The US also has consistently shielded Israel from any UN Security Council resolutions that may order Israel to observe the previous resolutions. The US has used its veto power more than other permanent members of the UN Security Council and mainly to protect Israel. In deed, the US unqualified support for Israel is the main reason that there have been wars in the Middle East for the past 54 years. The Israelis have launched a major war on their Arab neighbors in every decade. In every one of these wars (except the 1956 war), the US government has replaced their military hardware and increased its economic and financial aid to them.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not complicated for anyone who looks at issues with fairness. Palestinians were in their country living in peace for thousands of years until Zionist immigrants came from Europe and America and established their state, Israel, in 1948. Had they accepted the Palestinian people as fellow citizens of that state, with full rights of citizenship, there would have been no problem. Instead, Israelis denied Palestinians their right to live in their homeland. Moreover, they took their property, lived in their homes, and left them as refugees. That Israeli wrong doing could be corrected by allowing Palestinians to have their own state, some of them return to their villages and cities to regain their property, and the rest who do not want to go back should be compensated.

But why has the US government assisted the Israelis to continue their wrong doing against the Palestinian people? The answer lies is in the huge influence supporters of Israel have on the US government. Their influence is so overwhelming that they have been successful in making the US a follower to Israel. Actually, there has been no US foreign policy in the Middle East independent of the Israeli policy. But how could they manage to have that influence? The answer is in their ability to control foreign policy making for both parties, Democrats and Republicans. They are given the major foreign policy decision making positions in any administration. This is also echoed in Congress, which even supported Sharon directly after the Jenin massacre. Thus, Zionist Israel is not only a Palestinian problem, but it is also an American problem. It has led to dragging the United States to the present conflict with the Arab and Muslim worlds.

I agree wholeheartedly with you that majority of the American people do not accept the US foreign policy, which has catered so far to the special interests of the Israelis irrelevant to the US national interests or the values that Americans cherish. That is why there is hope. Peace loving Americans who believe in human decency should not stay as the silent majority. They must speak out and translate that into voting for pro-peace candidates. They should insist on applying the principle of checks and balances in high positions of decision making in government that the founding fathers insisted upon. Right now, the US government is one-eyed. It only sees the world with an Israeli eye. The balance is not there. For this to happen, there should be Arab and Muslim Americans wherever there are supporters of Israel in high positions of government. This will give decision makers another viewpoint, which is lacking now, and which is responsible for the hostility between the US and the Arab and Muslim worlds.

I can’t see a better way to change American foreign policy to make it American rather than Israeli than by more participation in voting in elections. It is so sad that only about 36 percent of American eligible voters voted in the Congressional elections of last month. This means that the present Republican-dominated Congress, with all the legislations that it will pass, represents only about half of that, that is about 18 percent of eligible voters. The Democratically-dominated Congress in the previous decades was not better either. It is the government of the minority that acts on its own narrow interests, not the interests of the American people as a whole, let alone the interests of peace in the world.

With regard to your fourth paragraph statement, it only applies to Israel, the only remaining racist regime in the world. The Zionist regime is the only one in the entire world in which about half of the population is deprived of citizenship after being dispossessed. Neither Iraqi nor Chinese regimes deprived people of citizenship.

Concerning Iraq, there is no discrimination on basis of race, religion, or sex. The major complaint of Iraqi dissidents is not oppression targeting people because of their beliefs, sex, or skin color. Rather, it is the lack of democratic rule in the Western liberal sense. In fact, Iraqi Kurds are the only Kurds who have an autonomy since 1975. Both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims in Iraq have the same complaints and are subjected to the same rule of law. In fact, the Ba’ath Party, which rules Iraq, is a secular party that does not treat people on basis of their religion. One of the most prominent leaders in Iraq, Tareq Aziz, is an observing Christian in a pre-dominantly Muslim country. There are many regimes around the world, which are more oppressive, but nobody is paying them any attention. Iraq has been the focal point of Cold War II strategists since 1988. Now, it’s the Israeli interests and the Iraqi oil that are moving all this war fever in the US and the UK.

With regard to China, nobody there is deprived of citizenship rights, including the Tibetans. If you have a problem with the non-democratic nature of the Chinese one-party political system, many Chinese have the same problem. However, the government of China does not discriminate against people on basis of religion or race, like Israel does. This is the truth. The Israeli crimes against humanity are unprecedented because they have so far denied the existence of about half of the population after stealing the country from them.

In response to your fifth paragraph, I can say that the US government has never been serious about finding a solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict simply because Israelis do not want this to happen. That is why you hear about the Mitchell Plans, the Tenet agreements, and the present Road Map. All of these have proved to be time-buying activities to serve the Israeli government in each stage of its war against the Palestinian people. America can do better than that. In 1956, President Eisenhower “ordered” Israel to withdraw from Sinai and Gaza and it did. But since then, no American President has been powerful enough to withstand the pressure of Israel’s supporters in the US. That is why the giant super power of the world has become a follower of that small state of Israel. 

Sixth, more than half of the US foreign aid goes to Egypt and Israel, what is left of it goes to countries that Israel is pleased with. It is the carrot part of foreign policy. Egypt had experienced the stick before, like Iraq has been experiencing it since 1991. The war in Yemen exhausted its resources but the 1967 war and the war of attrition thereafter were devastating to the country. Therefore, Sadat went to Jerusalem. He said that he could not fight the US, in reference to the huge US military and economic assistance given to Israel. The US foreign aid is the carrot given to Egypt for its peace with Israel. 

In the same sixth paragraph, you returned to using the term, the American people. As I observed earlier, the US government, particularly in foreign policy, represents the interests of the minority power elite (the 18%). This means that the vast majority of Americans are absent from the process. They can never agree to give Israelis all this assistance while they are the aggressors and the bully of the Middle East, if they have a say on the issue. 

Finally, I share with you your observation concerning the crime against the journalist, Daniel Pearle, or any other innocent civilian. But we should not implicate the “nation” like you mentioned. Rather, that group should be held responsible. With regard to your observation about the violence of Palestinian victims, it cannot be taken unless you mention the Israeli crimes against humanity first. This is simply because the Israeli occupation of Palestine is the ultimate violence and all what Palestinians have been doing is a reaction to that Israeli violence. If you have a problem with the method Palestinians have been using, think about the following example. What about dropping a one-ton bomb over a three-floor residential building just to kill one person? Isn’t that socio and psycho-pathetic, too. This was what Sharon did in Gaza on July 23, 2002, killing about 17 and injuring about 170 innocent civilians, including children. Think about his massacres in Sinai in 1956, in Beirut in 1982, and in Jenin in April 2002. Aren’t these socio and psyco-pathetic acts too? How can anyone describe him as a man of peace? Is killing people with missiles from Apache helicopters, F-16s, and Merkava tanks a civilized and humane act while killing them with a suicide bomb a socio-pathetic act? There is nothing civilized or good about war. How about killing Afghanis, Taliban, and Alqaeda prisoners by suffocation in tanks? How would you describe it? What about napalm and the Orange element in Vietnam? Finally, what about annihilating entire cities by nuclear bombs? How would you describe it? My point is that aggression and greed are the real human problems. We need to work on that for the peace of present and future generations. Peace. 


* In interactive editorials, the editor of Al-Jazeerah answers questions and or responds to comments of readers, which are more general than readers’ responses to specific articles or issues. It is an effective method of interaction in electronic journalism.

** Dr. Hassan A. El-Najjar is the editor of Al-Jazeerah.