By Stuart Littlewood
Israel’s elaborate hasbara (propaganda) machine has done a sterling job over the years of distorting the truth and re-framing the Holy Land narrative to make the regime in Tel Aviv appear blameless and its war criminals sweetly innocent.
Not only that, but also painting the unarmed, impoverished and captive Palestinians as aggressors who have no right to self-determination or self-defence.
And, of course, assisting the army of pro-Israel stooges in Western capitals to defend the indefensible.
It was no surprise, therefore, to come across an article, ‘The Two-State Solution: The Way Forward’, published a few days ago in Fathom, promoting the idea that all would be well in occupied Palestine if only Palestinians were to recognise the state of Israel as “the Jewish state of Israel” in return for Israel recognising the Palestinian state. The piece is supposed to have been written jointly by the Palestinian ambassador in London, Professor Manuel Hassassian, and Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Chair in Politics at Hull University.
It kicks off with the statement that “to build genuine peace, it is essential to have trust, good will and mutual security….” Unfortunately there’s no mention of justice, without which there can be no genuine peace. “The peace deal should be attractive to both, equally. It cannot be one-sided, enforced or coerced.” But justice doesn’t do deals. And it often has to be enforced.
Not a good start then.
“Of all the possible solutions presently on the table,” continues the article, “a two-state solution is the most viable…. The Palestinians aspire to have an independent state in the 1967 borders, with Arab Jerusalem as its capital and a substantial return of refugees to Israel. The Israelis wish to retain the Jewish character of Israel, being the only Jewish state in the world….. Both sides need to make painful concessions….” Not at all; international law and natural justice should be allowed to decide these matters.
The endgame, say the writers, will include a sovereign Palestinian state and mutual recognition: “Israel shall recognise the State of Palestine; Palestine shall recognise the Jewish State of Israel.”
But stop right there. The idea that Palestinians should accept an Israeli state in their homeland while they are left with the shredded remnants is hard enough to swallow. That they must also recognise it as a Jewish state surely didn’t come from Professor Hassassian, judging by what he has said and written in the past. And pigs may fly before the Israelis agree to recognise a Palestinian state.
The article does, however, cover a number of common-sense suggestions, including the Old City of Jerusalem coming under a separate regime. As for water, it proposes “a fair solution that would not infringe the rights of any of the sides and will assure that the Palestinian people will have the required water supply for sustenance and growth” — though not, I suspect, for washing their cars, sprinkling their nice lawns and filling their swimming pools as the Israelis do. The condescending tone of voice sounds too much like they’re doing the Palestinians a favour, forgetting that the water aquifers largely belong to them in the first place.
The border will be on the 1967 line. “Having an undisputed, internationally-recognised border is the best security arrangement for both sides.” And Israel will agree to withdraw in principle to the Green Line (the 1949 armistice line), evacuating its settlements. However, the major settlement blocs – Maaleh Adumim, Givat Zeev, Gush Etzion, Modiin Illit and Ariel – which account for approximately 70 per cent of the Jewish population illegally occupying the West Bank may be annexed to Israel when a land-swap deal is reached.
To achieve territorial contiguity between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip there would be a connecting corridor allowing safe and free passage. Furthermore, the Separation Wall should run roughly along the 1967 mutually agreed border.
As for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, the article explicitly says that Israel will not allow it except on a limited quota basis for family unification. This is in defiance of UN resolution 194, which resolved that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible”. This has been reaffirmed by the UN General Assembly every year since 1949. But the article suggests that monetary compensation for those who no longer wish to return but were nevertheless dispossessed and driven out wouldn’t be a matter for the “governments responsible” but left to the hard-pressed taxpayers of countries of good will.
That probably includes you and me.
Communication and media are also touched on. “Mutual channels of communication will be opened on television, radio and the internet.” Oh yeah. From long experience, we can imagine who will ultimately control the new ‘mutual media’.
And there is of course no mention of proper safeguards for Palestine’s offshore gas-field.
Anyone with a passing interest in the Holy Land situation must be asking themselves, would a Palestinian ambassador in his right mind put his name to such a ludicrous bunch of proposals?
Dirty Tricks Department Strikes again!
In tandem with the article, and to reinforce the pretense of Palestinians approving a ‘Jewish state’ on their turf, Fathom’s editor Toby Greene printed his own response praising the joint Hassassian/Almagor paper. “It is particularly noteworthy that Professor Hassassian accepts that lasting peace means acknowledging the ‘Jewish character of Israel’ alongside Israeli recognition of the State of Palestine…. in contrast to the strong opposition shown by President Mahmoud Abbas to this principle.
“The willingness of the Palestinian ambassador to recognise Israel’s Jewish character is the most remarkable element of this document’s admirable attempt to bridge the current gaps,” says Greene.
This alone drops Hassassian into deep hot water.
He then attacks those “formulations and terminology” suggested by Hassassian/Almagor that no Israeli leader would accept. For example, says Greene, they endorse the 1967 line itself as the legitimate border and appear to make territorial exchange dependent on Palestinian goodwill – something the Israeli leadership could not go along with. He complains that no attention is paid to the Israeli security concerns that would result from giving up control of territory seized, nor to demilitarisation. Another Greene grumble is that there’s no explanation of how Gaza and its armed groups are to be dealt with and no sign that Hamas is ready to give up its military independence or drop its opposition to recognising Israel.
But, he concludes, the document is a timely reminder that a negotiated two-state agreement “offers both sides a future of much greater promise than any alternative.”
Dr Toby Greene, interestingly, is based in Israel and is Director of Research for BICOM as well as Deputy Editor of BICOM’s Fathom journal. BICOM (Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre) describes itself as “dedicated to creating a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain”. It claims to be independent but is supported in part by the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC). Greene joined BICOM’s Israel office in 2008 and was previously Head of Policy and Research for Labour Friends of Israel. Pro-Palestinian activists worked out long ago what sort of outfit BICOM really is and will no doubt reach the same conclusions about Fathom.
BICOM claims, among a multitude of lies and half-truths, that the Israeli occupation is not an apartheid act but “a complicated and long-running national conflict between two peoples about their equally legitimate national claims over a piece of land”; and that in 1948 the Jews accepted the UN partition plan but an Arab invasion of the infant Jewish state caused a war. “The Palestinian refugee problem was born of this war, not by design, and certainly not by ethnic cleansing.”
Actually most Israelis have no ancestral connection to the Holy Land and no prior or equal claim to Palestinian lands. They did not accept the UN partition otherwise they would have dutifully remained behind their 1947 borders. Besides, the ethnic cleansing programme in which Jewish terror gangs and militia murdered and looted their way through the Holy Land putting some 750,000 Muslims and Christians to flight, destroying or depopulating between 400 and 500 towns and villages, began before 1948 and before the Jews even declared statehood. The generous allocation of territory by the UN partition was not enough for greedy Zionist leaders who went on an expansionist rampage, at the Palestinians’ expense, that continues to this day.
Narrow Escape from Jaws of ‘Hasbara’ Trap
Professor Hassassian’s office in London promptly issued a “clarification”. The article was written by Rafi Almagor. Ambassador Hassassian received the first draft of the article and commented on it with various corrections. The official position is that the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is responsible for external affairs] recognises the State of Israel but not a Jewish State. To suggest otherwise would be political suicide for any Palestinian ambassador. “Hassassian strongly opposes the recognition of a Jewish State because it denies the right of return and jeopardises the status of 1.5 million Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship. This has been evident in previous statements and talks given by the Ambassador.”
The final draft of the article was not seen by the Ambassador but sent directly to Fathom. Hassassian therefore “categorically denies what was attributed to him”. The views expressed by Professor Almagor are entirely his own.
The Ambassador’s office adds that the PLO recognised the state of Israel in 1988 and again in 1993. “Twenty-five years later we are still waiting for Israel to recognize the state of Palestine.” Furthermore, recognising Israel as a Jewish state is out of the question because it asks Palestinians to adopt a Zionist narrative that effectively wipes Palestinians from history.
As for Palestinian refugees who wish to return, this is an alienable right. “In any future peaceful settlement, the Palestinian refugee issue must be resolved in accordance with international law, including UN General Assembly Resolution 194, and Israel should acknowledge its responsibility for the creation and perpetration of the refugee issue.”
On this occasion the Ambassador, thanks to his record, escapes the hasbara trap by the skin of his teeth. He should be more careful in future who he collaborates with and his media ‘minders’ need to be more vigilant.
The antics of BICOM and its subsidiary Fathom look suspiciously like a clumsy attempt to re-jig the Israeli occupation narrative by putting words into the mouth of the ambassador and driving a wedge between him and his boss President Abbas. If that’s the case it confirms the Israelis’ increasing desperation for the rest of the world to endorse its repugnant, racist character and carry on supporting the two-state solution, which most people now see as unworkable.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk.