US/Israel Can Respect Palestinian Rights

The clock is ticking on what could be the next explosion in the Middle East, if Palestinians press their demand for United Nations recognition as a state and the United States and Israel continue to spurn this acknowledgement of Palestinian rights. But Adil E. Shamoo says this political bomb can be defused.

By Adil E. Shamoo

If conditions do not change quickly by the time of the U.S.-promised veto of Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 20, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could explode into a new uprising with hundreds of deaths.

The recent attack of Palestinian extremists on a bus in the southern Israeli resort town of Eilat and the eager over-reaction of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu is a harbinger of what is to come.

The uprising will bring the United States into sharp conflict with not only the Palestinians but also the rest of the Arab world. A new Arab spirit is demanding that the rest of the world, especially the United States, treat Arabs with equal respect and dignity.

The Palestinians will ask the upcoming UN General Assembly to vote for “non-member state” status for the Palestinians on Sept. 20. Since this resolution bypasses the Security Council, the promised U.S. veto will not be operative.

The least desirable choice for the United States is to vote no in the General Assembly. It would isolate the United States from the rest of the world community, which is expected to agree to the Palestinians’ sought-after status.

With the United States at its lowest popularity in the Arab world, this further isolation would only create additional challenges as the Arab Spring turns cloudy and many long-term challenges complicate U.S.-Arab relations.

The Palestinians have struggled for over 60 years to regain their rights, economic justice, and dignity. They have tried peaceful confrontation, military action, terrorism, and negotiation — without any success.

The 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza live in an open-air prison with the highest unemployment (45 percent) in the world, near-starving conditions, and little or no medical care. Israel even stops humanitarian flotillas from reaching Gaza.

Another 1.5 million Palestinians live in Israel as second-class Israeli citizens. Do the Israelis consider the Palestinians as equal human beings?

The Israelis paint the conflict at every step as an existential threat. Israel has legitimate security concerns, which have been addressed as part of successive deals.

The existential threat may have been true in the first few decades of Israel’s existence. However, most reasonable observers and many Israelis know that a demilitarized Palestinian state is not an existential threat.

Israel has the upper hand militarily, and it has used it with a vengeance to suppress Palestinian aspirations. The Israelis are engaged in a policy of open-ended negotiation while confiscating and resettling Palestinian land.

President Obama has attempted to move the negotiations forward slightly by endorsing the blueprint used by previous administrations, namely the 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps. But the Obama administration remains as reluctant as its predecessors to pressure its Israeli ally to negotiate in good faith.

The Israeli lobby remains powerful on Capitol Hill, the State Department is staffed by strong supporters of Israel, and the U.S. media features very few voices representing Arab concerns. It’s no surprise that U.S. policies rarely reflect Arab views.

Israel’s policy has increased its isolation in the Middle East and the rest of the world, everywhere in fact except in the United States.

Turkey used to be the closest ally of Israel in the Middle East. But after the killing of nine Turkish citizens (one also having U.S. citizenship) in the Gaza flotilla raid last year and Israel’s refusal to apologize, the relationship between the two countries could not be any colder.

Playing Catch Up

U.S. foreign policy toward the Arab world has not changed to catch up with the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring is a result of centuries of occupation and indignity. Arabs are now more educated and more connected to the outside world. But instead of working with this new generation, the United States is trying to leverage its relationships with military contacts in Arab militaries to indirectly maneuver the Arab Spring in a way to sustain U.S. interests.

Arabs can easily see the inconsistency of a U.S. policy that supports the overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi while taking no action in Bahrain and remaining silent about Saudi Arabia’s oppression.

The Arab Spring has forced the Arab people to face their reality of occupation, colonization, and U.S. and Western support of their corrupt regimes.

The current crises in several Middle Eastern countries, such as those in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, and Iran are destabilizing the area. The U.S. veto of the Palestinian statehood resolution at the UN will further aggravate a difficult situation.

This destabilization can become further inflamed if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict deteriorates into another massacre of the Palestinians by Israeli forces. Arab anger can easily be directed against the United States.

As a primary issue among Arabs, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains a barometer that shows the willingness of the United States to grant Arabs equal respect. At this tenuous time in the Middle East, the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military with U.S. acquiescence is explosive.

But the United States can do something to change the situation. It can acknowledge the new realities in the Arab world by recognizing Palestinian self-determination at the UN. Treating Arabs as equals rather than a people to be manipulated for political and economic gain is a lesson of the Arab Spring that the United States can still learn.

Adil E. Shamoo, a senior analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus, writes on ethics and public policy. He is the author of the forthcoming book Equal Worth: When Humanity Will Have Peace. He can be reached at [email protected].

8 comments for “US/Israel Can Respect Palestinian Rights

  1. August 28, 2011 at 11:20

    My reply: Yes, they can. But they won’t.

  2. Norman
    August 25, 2011 at 12:47

    Interesting comments here, each has a ring of truth to it. One commenter said that he wasn’t saying the “Israelis were behind the attack, because they weren’t”, is a leap of faith if you ask me. To begin with, we will never know whether or not they are. Nonetheless, the Israelis have gotten away with treating the Palestinians as less than human ever since they took the land away from them. The simple truth in the matter being the Israelis have used blackmail all these years to get what they perceive as their birthright. Considering all the Neo-cons that have had access to Americas intelligence as well as the secretes too, it isn’t a fair stretch of the imagination to think that Israel is in receipt of such today. Nothing would surprise.

  3. Karen Romero
    August 24, 2011 at 22:26

    The Palestinians have struggled for over 60 years to regain their rights, economic justice, and dignity…
    This is so true. Well the good news is that Allah, who prefers to be called Jesus (because that is what his Mom named him)has heard the prayers of the Palestinian people.
    Though as for the United States government to get involved I personally believe it is none of our business. However, as human beings it is our business. So when Ray and his friends went over to Israel that is being a true humanitarians. That is why they are protected by the very Grace of God!
    And, that is my comment on this story.

    As for website…well I love this website.

    Karen Romero

  4. rosemerry
    August 24, 2011 at 17:24

    Israel has constant attacks, little reported on our MSM, on Gaza all the time. Any attack on Israel (rare) is blamed on Palestinians, but in this case it could be Bedouins in Egypt, or non-Hamas Gazans fed up with never responding to murderous attacks by IDF. Uri Avnery noted that this could happen to help Netanyahu, and, miraculously came the attacks to drive all social justice thoughts from Israeli protestors.

  5. John Partington
    August 24, 2011 at 15:18

    It is my understanding that one bus driver said the attackers wore Egyptian military uniforms. I don’t think we really know who the attackers were.
    Also, it is to Netanyahu’s advantage to smother the embarassing uprisings in Israel by enhancing fear and re-aquainting fearful Israelis with his toughness I call brutality. That is not saying Israelis were behind the attack, they weren’t, but the Israeli politicians will distort it and use it to their advantage.
    Perhaps Zionists would like to return the land to the previous owners before the unsubstantiated Exodus, when God supposedly told them to take the land and kill every foreign man, woman, and child. It sounds like old fashioned nationalistic hyperbole common in those days and still with us today. Many world powers have been under the illusion that God is on their side, a manifest destiny (building Jerusalem in England, US manifest destiny, Boer’s in South Africa). It’s a dangerous misleading assumption.

  6. Joe
    August 24, 2011 at 03:02

    RE: The attack on the bus in Israel, the article you refer to says the attackers were suspects,…you say the Palestinians did it. Why? In view of Israels long history of false-flag attacks, how are we to know who the attackers were? And how convenient that it happens now. I personally can’t see any reason on the Palestinian side for such an attack, but do see one on the Israeli side.

  7. John Ellis
    August 23, 2011 at 22:48

    Thought control by mainstream Western corporate media, this is where 95% of an article is all about the most stressful effects of a problem, not a word about the root cause of the problem, and if it offers a solution, which is hardly ever, you are expected to except it on blind faith, as void is mainstream media of something absolute upon which to anchor a conviction.

    “Israel has legitimate security concerns…”

    Is that true, a dictator has the right of self defense? Well then, planet earth is a dictator’s paradise and once you are enslaved the dictator owns you body and soul, as the dictator may kill you if ever you try to kill him.

    “a demilitarized Palestinian state is not a… threat.”

    Pure fiction surely, for Israel is sitting on stolen land, and a demilitarized Israeli dictatorship would be a threat to no one but itself.

    In what legal and moral way did Israel become 80 percent Jew, when for over 2,000 years and until 1900, all of Palestine was only 6 percent Jew?

    • monmon 368
      August 27, 2011 at 14:36

      Same apply to America and the Red Indians. ! With your philosophy and ideology the Red Indians should starts claiming the land taken by the European invaders since 300 years ago. As long as the Zionists thinking and behaving your way no peace will ever comes to the middle East

Comments are closed.