By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
The pro-US President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia ordered the bombardment of the Russian-majority South Ossetia province. This gave the Russians the justification to invade Georgia on August 8, 2008 and occupy South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions, just as the abduction of two Israeli soldiers in July 2006 by Hizbullah gave Israel a convenient cover to invade Lebanon. The brief Georgian war ignited a barrage of condemnation of Moscow by the West. President Bush described the Russian action as “disproportionate and unacceptable” and demanded immediate ceasefire and withdrawal from Georgian territory. Condoleeza Rice was shown standing next to Saakashvili demanding from Russia immediate implementation of a ceasefire agreement that had been negotiated by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy. And NATO allies met in emergency session in Belgium and demanded Russia fulfill its promise to withdraw.
Two years before Georgia’s invasion, another friend of the US and the West, the Prime Minister of Lebanon Fouad Siniora was weeping and distraught pleading for help to stop the mass killing of his people and destruction of his country infrastructure by Israel for the abduction of its two soldiers. The release of the soldiers had been all but forgotten and Israel was busy destroying Lebanon. The US response to Siniora had been completely different from its reaction to the Russian attack on Georgia.
Unlike the condemnation of the Russian invasion, the response by the US government to Siniora’s plea was extremely callous and cruel. It added insult to injury to the Lebanese people and their Prime Minister. It never uttered one word of sympathy for the Israeli disproportionate response. Israel massive attack against Lebanon triggered a major humanitarian crisis and the US opposed an immediate ceasefire even when Israel committed many massacres of innocent civilians including children and women. The systematic bombardment of Lebanon reduced residential neighborhoods, factories, bridges, roads, tunnels, electricity generators and government buildings to rubble and burned out ruins. Israel even dropped anti-personnel cluster and phosphorous bombs against the Lebanese, according to the Israeli Cabinet Minister Yaakov Edri.
The US vetoed a Security Council ceasefire resolution and obstructed peace efforts during the July 26 conference in Rome in order to give Israel enough time to achieve its political and military objectives regardless of the destruction and human suffering. Siniora, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, France and the Russians pleaded for an immediate ceasefire but there was no sign the US was ready to heed the pleas. The US was openly supporting destruction of Lebanon.
UN relief coordinator Jan Egeland expressed alarm on July 22, 2006 over the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon and in Gaza and the inability of his organization to provide badly needed relief supplies amid the Israeli offensives there. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was rude and cruel when publicly suggested that the destruction of Lebanon and the killing of civilians including children and their parents was nothing but the "birth pangs" of a new Middle East. US refusal to call for a ceasefire or a truce “until the time was ripe for a sustainable ceasefire in Lebanon” confirms the perception that the US has nothing but contempt for its Arab friends.
Arab governments friendly with the US lost legitimacy among majority of the Arab public for their failure to use their influence with Washington to stop the deliberate destruction of an Arab state. The US let down the Arab secular reformers and betrayed its friends. The US policies had created an environment where only the radical Islamists would have more support by the Arab population.
Arabs demonstrated in many capitals to protest the Israeli incursion and in support of Hizbullah and Hamas which are perceived as the only organizations that challenge Israel and its illegal and brutal occupation of Arab land. Nasrallah was riding a wave of popularity in the Arab world especially among the Palestinians who have been searching for a hero to confront Israel. The Palestinians may be divided between Hamas and Fatah in politics, but they were united in their support for Hezbullah.
Arab leaders had nothing to show for their friendship with the West. The bias against the Arabs should not come as a surprise since they have always been at big disadvantage in their relations with their Western allies. Arab irregulars fought side by side with the British against the Turks in World War I. Then after winning the war, Britain granted a homeland to the Jewish people in Palestine and divided the region into small satellite states dependent on the great powers for their defense and survival. The Arabs have never been in control of their destiny since then.
The PLO leadership denounced terrorism and accepted the two states solution repeatedly since 1988, but Israel continues to create insurmountable political obstacles against creating the Palestinian state. The obvious reason for the failure to have a just Middle East peace and establish an independent Palestinian state is the US support for Israel’s colonialist policy.
Saudi Arabia’s initiative at the Beirut Arab League Summit Meeting of 2002 called for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders in exchange for normalization of relations with all the Arab states that do not have formal ties with Israel. The Saudi initiative came in the post September 11 frenzy following the wave of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim provocations in the US. Azmi Bishara argues that Arab regimes had been feeling insecure when putting forth the initiative to prove that they wanted peace rather than confrontation with the strategic ally of the US in the region. But the US and the Israelis ignored the initiative because they know it emanates from weakness to curry favor with its friends in Washington and they expect the Arabs will make more concessions. And when the US called its Arab allies to Annapolis to witness another start of peace negotiations to counter their own peace initiative and nullify the United Nations resolutions, the Arabs made more concessions. Arab states were happy to attend the meeting and even praise elements in the US initiative that was based on President George Bush vision.
The US vision for Peace was spelled out by US President George Bush in writing to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in June 2004. Bush pledged to support Israel in its refusal to withdraw to the pre-June 1967 borders, refusal to recognize the Palestinian refugees’ right of return and its insistence on annexing Jewish only settlements in the West Bank to Israel.
The US has opposed dealing with Hamas since it won free elections in January 2006 and supported the blockade and the starvation of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza since Hamas took over the strip from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in June 2007. The Arab states complied with the US-Israeli imposed embargo and participated in the inhumane punishment of the most vulnerable Palestinians in Gaza. The PA President Mahmoud Abbas, a darling of the US, refused a national dialogue with Hamas and preferred to be an accomplice to Palestinian disintegration and sacrifice the national cause just to appease the US and avoid the threat of becoming international pariah. Nine months of negotiations with Israel under the auspices of the US and fifteen years after Oslo Accords, Ehud Olmert offered his friend Mahmoud Abbas to administer the daily life of the Palestinians in a non-sovereign state of disconnected enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Israeli offer as reported by the Israeli press makes the status quo, with little cosmetic adjustments, a final solution. It denies the indigenous Palestinians control over their economic resources, water, the Jordan River valley, borders and airspace, thus preventing the emergence of a functioning Palestinian state. The US calls for the two-state solution rhetorically but it always accepts and defends what Israel does and wants, without imposing any cost for its illegal actions. The US has undermined the power and credibility of its Arab friends.
Working together, the Arabs can have real power and recognition by all actors in the international arena, but they have become a fragmented collection of states with conflicting agendas. The separate peace agreements with Israel, the Oslo fiasco, the 1991 US led Gulf war with Egypt and Syria participation to free Kuwait from Iraqi occupation and the stationing of the US military in the Gulf region shattered the myth of the Pan-Arab regimes solidarity. And when members of the Arab League provided the US armed forces the necessary bases and logistic support to assemble and launch the attack against Iraq, a member of the League, Arab nationalism and solidarity had been practically dead and local tribal and sectarian/ethnic loyalties emerged. Palestine is not high on the agendas of the Arab states any more and the Arab-Israeli conflict has become a Palestinian-Israeli issue. Arab leaders have no one to blame but themselves for being irrelevant in shaping the destiny of their own nations. Palestine and Lebanon are only exhibits one and two.
-Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D, is a political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.