By Iqbal Jassat – South Africa
The imminent departure of America’s leader from the White House, signals the end of eight disastrous years under the Bush administration. As biographers and others prepare to document a comprehensive list of the failures of George W Bush, they certainly will not be able to ignore his Middle East policies.
In fact, it is safe to assume that alongside his illegitimate wars of aggression resulting in the invasions of two sovereign states, Iraq and Afghanistan, his much vaunted desire to establish a subservient Palestinian “state” – albeit ala Bantustan – in the service of a nuclear power Israel, lies in tatters.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has as much as shrugged her shoulders in frustration, following years of to and fro between Washington and Tel Aviv. In seeking to follow her boss’s blinkered views on Palestine, which amazingly included ignoring the results of a free and fair election (endorsed as such by former US President Jimmy Carter), Rice adamantly refused to recognize the legitimacy of a Hamas victory. Instead in traditional colonial style, Rice has been courting Mahmoud Abbas, the failed leader of defeated Fatah, to collaborate with Israel in order to be installed as a stooge in a so-called “independent” Palestinian state.
These obscurantist policies were well received in Israel. After all it’s the Zionist-Apartheid structure of the Jewish state, whose well-being and security remained a top priority for the Bush administration. In the same way that America and before it former colonial powers such as Britain had installed unelected tyrants and protected their client-states, the same has been attempted at huge cost to Palestinians, to deny Hamas any opportunity to undertake its mandate following its victory at the polls.
As the world awaits the final exit of Bush, it must be reminded that the Annapolis Conference convened exactly a year ago, is also doomed to fail. Ostensibly designed to bring many countries under the American umbrella to support the “peace process” – a euphemism for retaining Israeli settler status – Annapolis was no less than deception.
Its major weakness has been that it failed to articulate the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian masses. By elevating Fatah, notwithstanding its rejection by these masses, Bush sought to manipulate its leaders to endorse and actively pursue policies flying in the face of Palestinian rights enshrined in International Conventions.
South Africa’s participation at the conference and financial support to underwrite Annapolis’ questionable objectives, while it raised eyebrows in some quarters, did not surprise many. This due to the fact that the Mbeki government had unreservedly accepted various US/Israeli inspired “peace” initiatives despite inherent weaknesses arising from unfair and unjust proposals. Participation in Annapolis meant voting against democracy.
It also meant an endorsement of policies crafted to punish Palestinians by means of starvation for having rejected Fatah at the polls.
More importantly, Annapolis meant ignoring the findings and recommendations of various reports by UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Professor John Dugard.
It is astounding that South Africa would be party to deliberate attempts by Israel’s main benefactor, the USA, to undermine such findings. You cannot invoke the need to operate within a multilateral forum while supporting unilateral initiatives such as Annapolis.
Dugard’s reports reveal that the West has failed in its commitment to human rights for Palestine. By the same test based on the conditions in the OPT it could be argued that South Africa under Mbeki had also failed. After all for South Africa to pay “conscience” money to the Quartet for so-called “institution building” while participating with the USA in a process which is defined by its failure to apply pressure on Israel to discontinue its violation of human rights, is akin to abandoning principles requiring the promotion of human rights.
Now that Mbeki has been deposed from the Presidency by his ruling party the African National Congress (ANC), its left to be seen whether the new leadership under Jacob Zuma will break from ill-defined policies vis-à-vis Israel.
Will the ANC as the ruling party re-commit to principles – in policy and in practise – which recognize that colonialism and apartheid are contrary to international law?
Will it recognize that the legal consequences for Israel, who according to Dugard has acquired some of the characteristics of colonialism and apartheid, may result in it ceasing to be a lawful regime?
Annapolis didn’t survive it first year. As Bush acquires a lame-duck profile, developing nations such as South Africa have a responsibility to ensure that until and unless Palestine is liberated, Israel too should have its wings clipped.
– Iqbal Jassat is the Chairman of the South Africa-based Media Review Network – www.mediareviewnet.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.