By Ramzy Baroud
In a spacious yet fortified United Nations compound in Rome, members of a Palestine committee at the General Assembly repeated old mantras: vowed support for Palestinians, issued a Press release and went for lunch.
The committee consisted of several UN ambassadors; all well-intended, sympathetic and concerned; nonetheless, they also knew too well that their efforts were, more or less, futile. One of the ambassadors, of a country not so friendly by American standards, exclaimed: ‘no matter how hard we try, America blocks our efforts’.
Things went fine, more or less, until an Israeli activist, with a dishevelled beard and scattered thoughts, shared some of his observations; he dreamed of a Middle East in which Arabs and Israelis are well integrated, living in seamless harmony, sharing and benefiting from their economic leverages; a day in which Israel is accepted as part and parcel of the entire region. As he grasped for a badly needed breath, another NGO person opted to bring such a fantasy a step closer to reality; she suggested dialogue, between Israeli and Palestinian parliamentarians. I simply fumed.
It has been increasingly apparent to me, that the Palestinian crisis is losing its appeal at an international scope: it’s neither urgent, nor defined according to its proper parameters, that between a colonial master — that doesn’t hesitate to commit the most atrocious crimes to achieve its decided colonial project — and an oppressed and nationally disintegrated nation, that has fought, more or less, alone, using all means, terrorist notwithstanding, to achieve its liberation.
“I too wish that the Middle East would become an oasis of economic harmony and political integration,” I told the ambassadors. “In fact, I wish that all conflicts everywhere would cease in favour of a one world predicated on the principles of equality and justice. But until that happens, we must carry on with our fight against injustice everywhere, and with whatever means is available to us.”
Before we turn the suffering of the Palestinians into a benign topic, that could easily be solved through dialogue — as if 60 years of killing, colonial settlements and ethnic cleansing was the cause of a simple misunderstanding. Let’s recall the facts, harsh and pressing: a nation imprisoned and persecuted in the Occupied Territories, another treated like second, if not third class citizens inside Israel, and millions of others dwelling in refugee camps across the Middle East.
The Libyan leader, Muammar Al Gaddafi was recently reported to have reached a decision to evict all Palestinians from Libya: for they belong in Palestine. Gaddafi’s notable wisdom has already caused thousands of Palestinians to be deported, after Arafat’s Oslo agreement: they dwelled in the desert, my uncle and his family included, between Egypt and Libya, before they were divided between various countries. The Libyan ‘brother’ knows well the fate awaiting those Palestinians if his decision actualises, but once a revolutionary always a revolutionary, they say.
In Iraq, the plight of the Palestinians is deteriorating; it’s like a horror story. Saddam, though he treated Palestinians well, he blocked their attempts to own property, so that they wouldn’t settle, thus concede their rights to return to their homeland. The result was, the moment his statue came down, Iraqi landlords moved to evict thousands of Palestinian families. Over 500 Palestinians to date has been murdered in Iraq; thousands more have been wounded; and much of the rest are living in tent cities in various parts of Iraq and near the Jordan border. In a recent onslaught, Iraqi militias and US soldiers attacked al-Baladiat neighbourhood in Baghdad, killing and wounding many. Those lucky enough to possess the cash, exchanged the lives of their families for $250 per person, and were then forced to flee. Yet they had nowhere to go but in circles.
Louise Morgantini of the European Parliament informed me in Italy that the crisis befallen Palestinian refugees in Iraq is currently being discussed at the UN behind closed doors; one key solution made thus far is to ‘transfer’ them to South America. She angrily demanded something to be done to move them to the West Bank. There was little I could do aside from writing about it. Palestinian leaders are too busy squabbling about their terrible factionalism and splitting imaginary political power.
These are not mere symbolic problems that can be addressed via a well articulated Arab Peace Initiative or that can be solved via ‘dialogue.’ Israel understands well that a Jewish state can only be established in a domain that is free from anyone who fails to subscribe to such a quality. Joseph Weitz, who was appointed by the Jewish Agency to head ‘transfer committees’ in 1948 captured the underlying essence of the Israeli project since day one: “Between ourselves it must be clear that there is not room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal of being an independent people with the Arabs in this small country. The only solution is a Palestine without Arabs.”
From the early days of Ben Gurion’s transfer to Vladimar Jobotinsky’s ‘Iron wall’ to today’s ‘Separation Wall’ and pure Jewish colonies, the impetus of the Israeli project has never lost momentum. Meanwhile, Palestinians are in a constant state of transfer and re-transfer. It is undoubtedly clear that Israel will not achieve peace out of benevolence and through unconditional ‘dialogue’; it can only be pressured to do so; it neither needs Arab initiatives nor joint parliamentary meetings in which misunderstandings are smoothed over; we must either begin to think on that front, or quit wasting precious time in extravagant conferences, symposiums and NGO meetings.
-Ramzy Baroud is a US writer and journalist. His latest book: The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London) is available online via Amazon.com and the University of Michigan Press.