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Peace in the Middle East?


 

We express our determination to bring an end to bloodshed, suffering and decades of conflict between our peoples; to usher in a new era of peace, based on freedom, security, justice, dignity, respect and mutual recognition; to propagate a culture of peace and nonviolence; to confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis. In furtherance of the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, we agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements. We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations, and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008.


Thus went the meatiest-part of the "Joint Understanding" between the Prime Minister of Israel and "
Mahmoud Abbas in his capacity as Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and President of the Palestinian Authority," as read-out by the American President on the 27th of last November, then playing host not only to the Israeli PM and the officially designated head of the PA, but also to the UN Secretary-General, to the head of the so-called Quartet, Tony Blair — and, all in all, to "more than four dozen governments, international organizations and financial institutions" attending a Middle East Peace Conference at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis (Nov. 26 – 30, 2007). 

On the evening that the conference began, CBS Evening News in the States reported that "When the President got [to the conference] this morning, the Israelis and Palestinians had still not been able to agree on an agenda….Secretary of State Rice pressured the Palestinian President…to ‘come up with something to avoid the appearance of failure’.  An hour later, Mr. Bush read the hastily drafted pledge…to try to make peace by the end of [2008]."

In case anyone felt less-than-inspired by the effort, there was good reason.  The Washington regime "worked hard to provide arresting images," the Washington Post‘s Michael Abramowitz noted.  But the "signal achievement" of the Annapolis peace conference was the simple fact of "getting 16 senior Arab officials into the same room as the Israeli leader."  Thus to Dennis Ross‘s query whether the conference was more "statecraft or stagecraft," the answer was without a doubt: It was stagecraft from top to bottom.    

Perhaps it was Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli ambassador to the United States through 2006, who best explained the significance of Annapolis.  "The fact that all these Arab countries are here is a great coup for the U.S.," Ayalon said.  "We hope it could be a pivotal point where dynamics change in the Middle East.  For the first time in years, the camp of the moderates is together."

 

Now.  We know that ‘moderate‘ is a term of propaganda, and that its usage by establishment sources is roughly synonymous with "aligned with American Power," rather than "contrary to American Power," the standard terms for which include ‘terrorist‘, ‘extremist‘, ‘militant‘,  and so on.

 

Okay then.  The camp of those Arab countries whose leaderships align their states with American Power was together.  But towards what end, exactly?  Nominally, towards a settlement of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, and, even more nominally, towards an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.  (Though under what form of rule wasn’t so much as hinted at.  And I’ll bet that the models in circulation are closer to the phantom states of Bosnia – Herzegovina and Kosovo, and the outright counterinsurgency states of Afghanistan and Iraq, than they are to that implemented by the United States of America, ca. 1787.)
 

Yet, in reality, this whole Annapolis charade was staged to give all of the so-called "moderate" and would-be "moderate" Arab states — even Syria was invited at the last moment, and Syria remains a "state sponsor of terrorism," in the State Department’s nomenclature, and outside the "mainstream of the international community," as the Secretary of State likes to say — a chance to display their fealty towards the Americans, and, ultimately, to show whose throne they stand behind.

Hence: Absent from this particular instantiation of the Middle East Peace Process was anybody from Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, two Palestinian groups now synonymous with the fate of some 1.5 million Gaza Palestinians and an unknown percentage of the West Bank Palestinians as well — and, as it turned out, holding their own counter-conference in Gaza City the same week as Annapolis.  (See, e.g., the various sources archived by the Palestinian Information Center for the date November 26, 2007 and several dates thereafter.  Also see the latest opinion survey released by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, Poll No. 64, April, 2008.)

As for the dawn of the "great new era" then proclaimed by the American President, "founded on the equality of all people before God," and the pursuit of a "common goal: two democratic states — Israel and Palestine — living side by side in peace and security"?

It may be in the name of a settlement to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict that Annapolis was held; but this was a "bluff," as the Gaza Palestinians recognized clearly, and nothing but the empty promise that the Americans traded for attendance by the "camp of the moderates." 

 

As with all so-called Middle East Peace Processes, Annapolis bought more time for the Americans and the Israelis, who traded yet another promise of a looming settlement of the conflict for the Arab states’ show of solidarity with the Americans. 

 

What this trade gained for the Americans — along with the billions of dollars of new weapons they also promised the Arab states — was the great coup for the U.S. 


What the conference gained for the Israelis was more time to seize more of the West Bank Palestinians’ land — and to continue to crush the center of resistance to this process, which is to be found not on the West Bank, but among the Gaza Palestinians. As evidence, consider what the Israelis have done to the Gaza Palestinians since Annapolis.  Take a look at the two tables I’ve drafted below.  The data derives from — and I’ve represented the data according to — the same categories used by the Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, in its assessment of the "Fatalities" to have occurred during the Second Intifada (Sept. 29, 2000 – March 31, 2008, which is as far as B’Tselem’s data stretches as of this date).

 

12 Months Through Annapolis

(Dec. 1, 2006 – Nov.  30, 2007)

 In the Occupied Territories

 In Israel

Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces

                331

    5

Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians

                    0

    0

Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians

                    2

    5

Israeli security force personnel killed by Palestinians

                    4

    0

  

4 Months Since Annapolis 

(Dec. 1, 2007 – Mar. 31, 2008)

 In the Occupied Territories

 In Israel

Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces

                338

    1

Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians

                    3

    0

Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians

                    0

  10

Israeli security force personnel killed by Palestinians

                    6

    0

What these two tables show is that whereas in the 12 months leading to the completion of the international "peace" conference at Annapolis (i.e., Dec. 1, 2006 through Nov. 30, 2007), 336 Palestinians died by Israeli hands, and 11 Israelis by Palestinian hands, during the first 4 months since the completion of the Annapolis conference (i.e., Dec. 1, 2007 through March 31, 2008), 342 Palestinians died by Israeli hands, and 16 Israelis by Palestinian hands.    

As always, the ratio of Palestinians killed by Israeli hands to Israelis killed by Palestinian hands not only is grossly asymmetrical, but, of course, it also correlates positively with the relative asymmetry that exists between each side’s overall killing power.  For the 12 months through Annapolis, 30 Palestinians were killed by Israelis for every 1 Israeli killed by Palestinians; while for the first 4 months after Annapolis, the ratio was 21 to 1.  (Largely because of the 8 Israeli students murdered at the Mercaz Herav yeshiva in West Jerusalem on March 6.)

 

In more dramatic terms: It has taken just four months since Annapolis for deaths on all sides to outstrip the deaths that this conflict produced during the 12 months leading up to Annapolis.

 

But most revealing of all: Since Annapolis, the pace of killing overall has tripled from what it was during the year before the "peace" conference.

 

This, friends, is how the Americans and the Israelis make peace.  

 

"Joint Understanding Read by President Bush at Annapolis Conference," White House Office of the Press Secretary, November 27, 2007 

 

"How does the future of Gazafit into the Annapolis agenda?" Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post, November 27, 2007

"Hamas Urges Taking Hard-Line against Israel," Isabel Kershner and Taghreed el-Khodary, New York Times, November 27, 2007


"Fatalities," B’Tselem, September 29, 2000 – March 31, 2008

"Hamas figure Al-Zahhar dismisses Mideast conference as ‘bluff’," La Stampa, November 27, 2007

Human Rights Situation in Palestine (A/HRC/7/17), John Dugard, UN Human Rights Council, January 21, 2008

"Gazan Holocaust," Jennifer Loewenstein, CounterPunch, March 3, 2008

 

"The Gaza Bombshell," David Rose, Vanity Fair, April, 2008


"Deepening Crisis," Khaled Amayreh, Al Ahram Weekly, April 24 – 30, 2008

 

"Principles of the Imperial New World Order," Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, ZNet, April 21, 2008

"Peace in the Middle East?" ZCom, April 25, 2008

 

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