Words (excluding footnotes): 640
Date: January 27, 2002
Once again Americans witness the Kafkaesque spectacle of our leaders condemning the Palestinian people for daring to resist Israel's 34-year-long occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Reacting to the Karine-A incident, President Bush and his advisers contemplate how harshly to "punish" Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority for allegedly "enhancing terror." The charge? Attempting to "smuggle" in weapons. While the Afghans had the right--armed by the U.S.--to fight the Soviet occupation, the Palestinians apparently have no such right to contest Israeli occupation.
For two decades the U.S. has insisted on molding the so-called "Middle East peace process" in its proprietary image: A "peace" defined by Israel, imposed by the collective military might of Israel and the U.S., resulting from a process from which the international community has been excluded.
Through all this, the U.S. has called itself an "honest broker"--despite the obvious absurdity of claiming to be an impartial arbiter between one party whom Washington deeply disdains and one with whom it has a longstanding "special relationship."
The mandates of international law are clear: Settlements in occupied land are illegal, and acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible. Since these basic principles, to which the U.S. nominally subscribes, invalidate Israeli positions, they are simply ignored by Washington. By framing the Middle East conflict as one on which only Israel and the Palestinians, acting under American auspices, have the right to be heard, Washington creates a diplomatic arena in which Israel, freed from the constraints of international law and the compulsion of international opinion, can simply impose its terms by virtue of its military superiority.
And if the Palestinians seek to alter this dynamic--say, by bringing in a boatload of weapons--the U.S. cries foul.
Naturally, these are rules devised by Washington to isolate the Palestinians diplomatically and enfeeble them militarily. No matter that even a hundred boatloads of mortar shells would be no match for Israel's F-16s, much less its nuclear weapons.
Occasionally the international community gets a little uppity and tries to become involved, say through the U.N. Security Council. Not a concern--the U.S. veto is available to protect Israel.
Remarkably, 39 of the 74 vetoes ever cast by the U.S. have shielded Israel from censure for its misconduct, including the last six, spanning 11 years. Washington's most recent veto, on December 15, was of a proposed resolution that, in condemning all "acts of terror," impetuously suggested that Israel's occupation might itself involve terror.
The perversity of the U.S. imbalance is even more striking given the status of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon--who is about to meet with Bush for the fourth time--as a mass murderer. Sharon commanded Israeli troops invading Lebanon in 1982. In September they surrounded the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, outside Beirut, and sent their Lebanese Phalangist allies in for a slaughter. Three unspeakable days later, 2000 civilians lay dead. People trying to escape the massacre were turned back at Israeli gunpoint. Israel initially dismissed reports of its involvement as a "blood libel."
Sharon's invasion ultimately killed 20,000 civilians (while failing to exterminate the PLO, as it was intended), but Lebanese and Palestinian deaths don't disturb the American conscience.
Sharon is being sued for war crimes in a Belgian court. Former Phalangist militia leader Elie Hobeika was prepared to testify against him. Oddly, Hobeika was just assassinated, only a few after he agreed to participate. The assassins used a remotely-detonated car bomb, the same method often employed by Israel in assassinating Palestinian militants.
Just a lucky break for Mr. Sharon?
Alas, the Palestinians receive no such lucky breaks. Not when Israel denies their right to national existence, and the U.S. rides shotgun on Israel's outlaw campaign.
1. Middle East Information Center, "US Vetos on the UN Security Council Related to the Middle East," http://middleeastinfo.org/article63.html (citing http://www.al-bushra.org/palestine/veto.html). This list isn't updated to include the December 15, 2001, veto. As to that, see "U.S. Vetoes U.N. Terror Resolution," USA Today, December 15, 2001, http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2001/12/15/us-veto.htm.
Virtual Jewish Library, "U.S. Vetoes of UN Resolutions Critical of Israel," http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/UN/usvetoes.html
Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nation, "Security Council Resolutions on Palestine Vetoed by the U.S.," http://www.palestine-un.org/res/1f.html
Donald Neff, "The Peace Process: Lessons to be Learned From 66 U.N. Resolutions Israel Ignores," Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 1993, http://www.washington-report.org/backissues/0393/9303040.htm
Donald Neff, "It Happened in September: The U.S. Cast the First of 29 Security Council Vetoes to Shield Israel," Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September/October 1993, http://www.washington-report.org/backissues/0993/9309082.html
2. For information on the Sabra/Shatila massacre, see:
The Beirut Massacre: Press Profile, NY: Claremont Research and Publications, 2nd ed., 1984
Claud Morris (ed.), Eyewitness Lebanon: Evidence of 91 International Correspondents, NY: Morris International, 1983
Israel in Lebanon: The Report of the International Commission to Enquire into Reported Violations of International Law by Israel During its Invasion of the Lebanon, London: Ithaca Press, 1983
Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, cited in note 7
For websites, see:
Sabra/Shatila Memorial Website
"Sabra & Shatila: Dealing with Facts" (BBC program)
International Campaign for Justice for the Victims of Sabra and Shatila
3. "Israel Calls the Charge of Implication 'Blood Libel,'" The Times (London), September 21, 1982, reprinted on page 45 of The Beirut Massacre: Press Profile, cited in note 2.
4. Page 223 of the 1983 first edition of Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, cited in note 7, cites a figure of 19,000 confirmed dead by the Lebanese government.
5. For the official website of the International Campaign for Justice for the Victims of Sabra & Shatila, see
6. Robert Fisk, "The Man Who Would Testify against Sharon Is Blown Up. Was This Another Targeted Killing?," The Independent (UK), 25 January 2002, http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=116256.
See also the news stories collected at http://fullcoverage.yahoo.com/fc/World/Lebanon.
7. For thorough documentation of U.S. policy in the Middle East, see:
Naseer Aruri, The Obstruction of Peace: The U.S., Israel, and the Palestinians, Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995
Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, Boston, MA: South End Press, 1999, 2nd ed.