"This is how I understand the struggle...To stand steadily like spears, and never give up." Naji Al-Ali

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Congress Aids Terrorism with Position on Palestinian State

On November 29th, 2010 Congressman Ted Poe (R- Texas) submitted H.R. 1734 to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The main text of the bill, which can be found in its entirety here, does the following:
(1) reaffirms [Congress’] strong opposition to any attempt to establish a Palestinian state outside the negotiating process;

(2) strongly and unequivocally opposes any attempt to seek recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations or other international forums;

(3) calls upon the Administration to continue its opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state;

(4) calls upon the Administration to affirm that the United States would deny any recognition, legitimacy, or support of any kind to any unilaterally declared ‘‘Palestinian state’’ and would urge other responsible nations to follow suit, and to make clear that any such unilateral declaration would constitute a grievous violation of the principles underlying the Oslo Accords and the Middle East peace process;

(5) calls upon the Administration to affirm that the United States will oppose any attempt to seek recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations or other international forums and will veto any resolution to that end by the United Nations Security Council;

(6) calls upon the President and the Secretary of State to lead a high-level diplomatic effort to encourage the European Union and other responsible nations to strongly and unequivocally oppose the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state or any attempt to seek recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations or other international forums; and

(7) supports the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the achievement of a true and lasting peace through direct negotiations between the parties.

Since this submission, another bill proposed by Rep. Howard Berman, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and allegedly penned by AIPAC has passed as of December 15th.  Though the text of this bill has yet to be made public, the American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation are basing their critique of the legislation on the text of H.R. 1734.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX)
This legislation stands in testament to the well-established fact that American politicians not only consistently act unfairly in the interests of Israel to the detriment of Palestinians, but further imperil the lives of  American citizens with their actions by directly and unnecessarily contributing to the perpetuation of terrorism against the United States.

H.R. 1734 speaks to the inherent hypocrisy of the US government’s position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in that it takes specific issue with the concept of “unilateral declarations of statehood,” apparently lost to President Truman’s recognition of Israel’s (unilateral declaration of) statehood within 11 minutes of the 1948 proclamation. Upon being recognized by a majority within International Community of States, Israel was accepted into the United Nations, against the objections of Palestinians and various Arab nations. 

Seemingly, there is nothing objectionable in this series of events in the House's view regardless of its impact on the conflict. However, Palestinians cannot be afforded the same opportunity to appeal to the international community when negotiations prove unproductive. Because the legislation makes no mention of the means by which Israel declared statehood, nor of the violence that resulted, one cannot conclude that congress is trying to avoid making the same mistake as before. Instead, the House simply contends that Palestinians must be subjected to Israel’s proclivity for intransigence for an indefinite period of time ,so as not to adversely affect the virtually non-existent peace process, remaining trapped by agreements that Israel routinely violates while the Palestinian Authority falls over itself to improve Israel’s security situation.

While congress claims that the PA has not lived up to its Oslo promises, a charge that stems from alleged shortcomings in preventing terrorism and incitement, reality tells a different story. According to recently released wikileaks cables, Israel is fact quite pleased with the PA. What’s more Palestine solidarity activists, investigative journalists and human rights organizations routinely accuse the PA with human rights violations in its attempts to strangle both violent and non-violent resistance, and generally accepting Israel’s attempt to outsource the occupation.

Even the Department of State agrees that the PA has done exceedingly well in living up to its security obligations, stating, “the Palestinian Authority (PA) continued its counterterrorism efforts in 2009, with an emphasis on controlling the activities of terrorist organizations, particularly Hamas, in the West Bank.” The report goes on to state that the main threat to Israeli security comes from Hamas’ qassam fire, and that during the reporting period “Israeli authorities, among others, identified the improved capacity and performance of PA security forces as a leading contributor to the improved security environment of the West Bank.”  Finally, “Security cooperation between the PA and the Israeli government was close and productive, although there were continued Israeli military incursions in Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, which the PA strongly criticized. PA officials stressed the importance of close security cooperation with the Israeli government.” Thus the PA is not only fully engaged in maintaining security within the occupied West Bank and for Israel, but would like to cooperate with Israel even more so than it already does.

Yet Palestinians are no closer to achieving statehood, and instead are being called upon by congress to continue to engage “without precondition” (read: while simultaneously letting Israel confiscate Palestinian land in violation of international law). Why on earth should they? Simply because Congress is under the impression that peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations, despite the utter lack of progress toward a lasting solution, and continuous steps in the opposite direction.

Congressmen Poe and Berman would rather attempt to strong-arm Palestinians and the international community at large into sitting down to Israel’s table. This brings us to the next issue with the bill: the United States government’s insistence on actively interfering with Palestinian diplomacy on behalf of Israel. The United States is perfectly warranted in refusing to recognize a Palestinian state along pre-1967 borders. There are many states within the United Nations that do not recognize one another. However, actively attempting to convince other nations to follow suit, and threatening to veto any legislation that would otherwise pass through the Security Council is not only inherently wrong and prejudiced, but perfectly exemplifies one of the main reasons the United States is a consistent target of terrorism.

Authors of The Israel Lobby John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt content that there is “abundant evidence that U.S. support for Israel encourages anti-Americanism throughout the Arab and Islamic world and has fueled the rage of anti-American terrorists.” [1] Mearsheimer and Walt go on to explain:
While some Islamic radicals are genuinely upset by what they regard as the West’s materialism and venality, its alleged “theft” of Arab oil, its support for corrupt Arab monarchies, its repeated military interventions in the region, etc., they are also angered by U.S. support for Israel and Israel’s harsh treatment of the Palestinians. Thus, Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian dissident whose writings have been an important inspiration for contemporary Islamic fundamentalists, was hostile to the United States both because he saw it as a corrupt and licentious society and also because of U.S. support for Israel. Or as Sayyid Muhammed Husayn Fadlallah, spiritual leader of Hezbollah, put it in 2002, “I believe that America bears responsibility for all of Israel…America is a hypocritical nation…for it gives solid support and lethal weapons to the Israelis, but it gives the Arabs and the Palestinians only words.”
Unconditional American support for Israel was also one of the chief reasons Al Qaeda used to target the World Trade Center in 2001. The 9/11 commission determined in a background study, bin Laden attempted to expedite the attack upon witnessing the beginning of the Second Intifada in the fall of 2000 and again when he learned Ehud Barak was to visit Washington in June 2001. What’s more, the 9/11 Commision Report states Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the so-called “principle architect” of the attack, had an animus toward the United States that “stemmed not from his experiences there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.” [2]

In the same vein, Osama bin Laden articulated myriad justifications for targeting the US and its citizens in his global jihad in his 2005 “Letter to America.” First and foremost, bin Laden explains that “it is very simple: Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.” His first example: “You attacked us in Palestine.”

Pre-dating the letter by nine years, bin Laden’s 1996 Fatwa was primarily concerned with the fact that “people of Islam had suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Zionist-Crusaders alliance and their collaborators; to the extent that the Muslims blood became the cheapest and their wealth as loot in the hands of the enemies. Their blood was spilled in Palestine and Iraq.” The title of the fatwa was “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places."

Clearly, US foreign policy in general and unwavering support for Israel in particular has contributed greatly to the United States’ problem with terrorism. When politicians advance such potentially destructive pieces of legislation, they must keep this fact in mind, or be prepared to face the consequences –hopefully not with calls to escalate the War on Terror, thereby missing the point entirely.

This is not to say that Americans should yield uncritically to the demands of terrorists, letting them control US foreign policy as citizens cower in fear. Yet the United States consistently exacerbates its own problems by arrogantly dabbling in the affairs of other nations, offering fuel for the fire, and American citizens and troops (not to mention citizens of other countries) pay the price, ...all for what? The truth of the matter is that congress is worried that unilateral declaration and recognition of a Palestinian state will not offer Israel the guarantees it was hoping to squeeze out of the PA with the help of its largest benefactor.

Unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, and the subsequent recognition of that state by the international community will not solve the conflict. It will simply allow Palestinians to act from a place of authority and empowerment when settling final status issues with Israel.  Without some kind of political capital to rely on, the PA will not be able to guarantee a just solution for its people. Far from being concerned with simply settling the conflict –which the United States could easily do by applying serious pressure to Israel and the PA equally, the US wants to settle the conflict on Israel’s terms.

Some might contend that this characterization is overly cynical, and perhaps congress truly believes negotiations are the answer. Unfortunately, regardless of the veracity of that contention, one can say with confidence that it is the not the way the international community, or the enemies of the United States for that matter, will view such legislation.

[1] The Israel Lobby - John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, 2007, pg 67
[2] 9/11 Commission Report -National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, 2004, pg 147 

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