There is nothing that makes me more ill than to read about a new US diplomatic initiative for Israel-Palestine. And today’s news that Pres. Biden is sending two senior diplomats covering the Middle East to the region for “talks” in Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Jordan, is no exception:
Acting assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Yael Lempert and Deputy Assistant Secretary Hady Amr are expected to arrive in the region on Wednesday for talks with senior officials in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Amman and Cairo.
The president is trying to avoid last year’s embarrassment when he was caught flatfooted by Israel’s invasion of Gaza, felt boxed in by traditional Democratic acquiescence before Israeli interests, and then was shamed into voicing his displeasure after a tarmac tongue-lashing from Reps. Debby Dingel and Rashida Tlaib. Only after he publicly urged a ceasefire did Israel stop the missiles and the mayhem.
Gaza is currently under attack by Israel. With around 2 million Palestinians, half of them children, on some 362 square kilometers, Gaza, is considered one of the most densely populated cities in the world. #StandWithPalestine pic.twitter.com/qLW8UIPGLj
— Supporting Humanity (@SocialistAnyDay) April 19, 2022
Last night, brought the first missiles from Gaza attacking Israel, and Israeli retaliation with air attacks on “Hamas camps.” By the way, how do you have a “camp” in a tiny enclave perpetually under air surveillance and attack? At any rate, this is precisely how hostilities developed last year. It’s Ground Hog Day for Middle East mayhem. Clearly, Biden is trying to get ahead of curve this time by sending officials to calm the waters before a storm hits.
But what is the basis for this trip? What will it do and who will the US diplomats consult? Turns out, it’s the usual suspects: Abbas, Abdullah, al-Sisi, and Bennett. They are the same figures who, if not responsible for the hostilities, at least do nothing to fundamentally resolve them.
Israel is advancing the same lies and half-truths to justify the possible looming invasion of Gaza by blaming the Palestinians for praying at their own holy site, while describing the rampage by Israeli Border Police as necessary to end a “civil disturbance:”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said police had been sent in to “disperse” a group of Palestinian “rioters” who were throwing rocks toward the nearby Jewish prayer area of the Western Wall. Over 150 Palestinians were injured and hundreds arrested during the raid.
I have seen no video evidence of images of such alleged rock-throwing. And even if there had been, can we blame Muslim worshippers who see black-coated settlers invade their holy precincts while praying for the rebuilding of the Temple (and destruction of the Haram al-Sharif) aided by black-suited Border Police, with black-coated worshippers at the Kotel below them. Why wouldn’t they assume they’re all one and the same project by Israeli Jews to destroy their holy site?
The truth is as I wrote yesterday, Israel has no right to send settlers to the mosque courtyard. It has no right to send riot police to defile the third holiest site in Islam. This site is Muslim. It houses an existing mosque where millions of Muslims pray every year. True, there was once a Temple on this site, but there is no longer. The Temple has not been there twice as long as it existed on the site. Jews accepted this for nearly two thousand years. They managed to live with it.
Now, as Judeo-fascist power raises its ugly face, all of a sudden there is a Jewish imperative to visit the site, pray for the rebuilt Temple, and deliberately incite Muslim worshippers. Why now? Because the Israeli far-right has gained control of the levers of political power. It has gained control of most of what it considers Biblical Israel (though a few million Palestinians remains to be dealt with later). Now the grand jewel that remains unclaimed is the Temple. This, or so these religious sociopaths believe, will bring the days of the Messiah (or something like that).
Note here how Israeli diplomatic reporter, Barak Ravid diminishes the suffering of Palestinians:
Israeli security forces have also been on high alert amid a wave of terror attacks that killed 14 people in Israel over the last two weeks. Several Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank since early March.
Not quite. The last terror attack in Israel was March 29th. That’s three weeks ago, not two. Not a single Israeli has died since then. And 17 Palestinians (not “several”) have been murdered over the past two weeks (not “since early March”) at the hands of Israeli security forces. This is yet another example of the erasure of Palestinian suffering and the magnification of Israeli suffering. It’s standard for global media, but even more typical for Israel.
Here, Secretary of State Blinken offers the same tired old tropes about “reducing the violence,” etc.:
Blinken and Safadi discussed the importance of Israelis and Palestinians working to end the cycle of violence by refraining from actions and rhetoric that further escalate tensions.
I imagine some ragged old tomes in the bowels of Foggy Bottom, which must be taken down from the shelf and dusted off whenever Israel murders more than its usual share of Palestinians in hostilities. Some factotum is assigned the job of pulling the thing out and opening the pages to “Israel-Palestine conflict.” Then he offers incantations to the Secretary, consisting of the same old bromides that his predecessors murmured, and theirs before them.
Returning to Blinken’s statement: actually, no. It isn’t important to “end the cycle of violence by refraining from actions that escalate tensions.” It’s important to resolve the deep underlying issues of Israeli rejectionism and Palestinian subjugation. It’s important to offer the same national and political rights enjoyed by Israelis. If you can’t do that (and they can’t or won’t) then those tensions will escalate repeatedly and result in endless conflict. And Secretaries of State will come and go sticking their fingers in the dyke that is Israeli apartheid. They’ve been doing this and coming up with “peace plans” for well over 60 years: remember the Rogers Plan? Do you know how many Secretaries of State there have been since then?
I for one am through with supporting such nostrums. I don’t believe the violence can or should be stopped. Certainly not by the Palestinians. What have they to gain by remaining quiescent? If you ask: what have they to lose? Their lives of course. And their homes. But what are these worth living under the Israeli boot heel? While I wish that no one would die, that’s simply not possible under these circumstances. Israelis will die. Even more Palestinians will die. But Israeli deaths are no one’s fault but Israel’s. They are the price it pays for being a garrison state at perpetual war with its Arab neighbors.
And do not blame Palestinians for this, even if they pull the trigger. If you lash a tiger hard enough it will react with fury and kill or maim you. Will you blame the tiger for responding in this way? Or blame the man who whipped him? Only in Palestine do they blame the victim for his/her own suffering.
Blinken offers yet more sophistry here:
Blinken emphasized the importance of upholding the historic status quo at the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sarif, and expressed appreciation for Jordan’s role as custodian of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, the State Department said.
What “status quo?” The status quo that gave Jews control of the Kotel while Muslims controlled the Haram al-Sharif? That status quo hasn’t existed for years, if not decades. Israeli Jews encroach upon the Muslim holy site virtually daily. Border Police desecrate the holy sanctuary weekly. The Mishanic tract, Ethics of the Fathers, says the person who claims “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” is a “wicked person.” So is Israel, which maintains control of the Kotel, while ever so gradually reducing Muslim control of its sacred spaces.
Again, the only status that is fair for both religions is total, absolute separation. Jews control the Kotel, Muslims the Noble Sanctuary. No Jews on what they call the Mount, and no Palestinians interfering with Jewish worship. Anything else is self-delusion.
Perhaps the worst, most offensive rhetoric came from the Israelis (of course):
Lapid told Blinken that Israel is making efforts to ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.
He also said Israel acted in a “responsible and measured way” in response to the “riots” on the Temple Mount and condemned “disinformation” that he said was “fanning the flames of violence.”
Ensuring “freedom of worship?” How? By restricting access to the site for Muslim males under 50? By sending Border Police rampaging into the Muslim holy site? By flooding it with hundreds of settlers with messianic visions in their eyes, by locking worshippers into Al Aqsa so that these settlers may pray for holy war against the infidels?
Israel “acted in a responsible measure way” by sending thousands of its troops throughout the West Bank, arresting hundreds, and murdering nearly 20 Palestinians? And “riots?” Sure, Palestinians protecting their sacred spaces from the brutality and thuggery of Israeli forces. That’s a riot. But hundreds of heavily armed police whaling on Palestinians with batons and firing tear gas and stun grenades into the sanctuary is…what? Keeping the peace?
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Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.