Imperial Israel – by Stephen Lendman
In his book “Against Empire,” Michael Parenti defines imperialism as “the process whereby the dominant politico-economic interests of one nation expropriate for their own enrichment the land, labor, raw materials, and markets of another people.”
In a September 21 article, titled “What Do Empires Do?” he says “Imperialism is what (they) do.” They don’t just pursue “power for power’s sake. There are (significant) interests at stake, fortunes to be made many times over,” including land, mineral wealth, cheap labor, and easily exploited markets. They’re there, so take them, the strong dominating the weak. Besides seizing and controlling Syrian and Lebanese land, it’s how Israel rules Palestine, no regional country a match for its military might with no shyness about using it.
The Latest Peace Process Round
On and off again for 35 years, it’s a charade going nowhere, a cul-de-sac ending “road map.” Strategically rebranded and reemerged periodically, it’s neither a process or way to peace, and according to a September 3 Time magazine article, Israelis care more about other things. Titled, ‘Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace,” it’s a controversial notion given how close they live to a war zone. In spite of it, however, their lives go on, perhaps not wishing to hunker down or take to the barricades.
Writer Karl Vick said:
“As three Presidents, a King and their own Prime Minister gather at the White House to begin a fresh round of talks on peace….the truth is Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They’re otherwise engaged: they’re making money; they’re enjoying the rays of late summer.” As for a “blood feud” with Arabs, they “say they have moved on.”
They’re indifferent, says Vick. They don’t care about war or peace. “They live in the day,” affluent Israelis, that is, enjoying the good life, “while all the rest is somehow blurred,” especially in cities like Tel Aviv, known as “the bubble,” its sidewalk cafes “a way of life.” Israel is a country “whose quality of life is high and getting better,” at least for some, not those Vick leaves out, ignoring the many poor and growing numbers experiencing hunger and homelessness. As for others, one says “We’re not really that into the peace process. We are really, really into the water sports,” making money, and enjoying life.
“It’s a state of mind….I’m on vacation,” says another. “Part of (it) is not to listen to the news every half-hour.” Perhaps rarely or the wrong kind. As for the new talks: “If they’re talking, they’re not fighting.” In Tel Aviv’s “bubble,” Israelis ignore them, well off ones, that is.
“Peace,” Settlements, and the Construction “Moratorium”
So-called peace talks are a charade, for some a sick joke regurgitated like a bad meal. The construction moratorium also was bogus, Peace Now settlement tracking project head Dror Etkes (writing in Haaretz) explained it in his September 28 article headlined, “Settlement freeze? It was barely a slowdown,” if that, saying:
“What took place in the past few months (since last December, in fact) is, in the best case scenario, not more than a negligible decrease in the number of housing units….built in settlements.”
According to official Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics data, “the story can be called many things but ‘freeze’ is certainly not one of them.” At year end 2009, 2,955 housing units were under construction. Three months later, “the number stood at 2,517,” and building continued apace thereafter.
In fact, “settlers know better than anyone else that not only did construction in settlements continue over the last 10 months, and vigorously, but also that a relatively large part of the houses were built on settlements (lying) east of the separation fence,” including Bracha, Itamar, Eli, Shilo, Maaleh Mikhmas, Maon, Carmel, Beit Haggai, Kiryat Arba, Mitzpeh, Yeriho, and others.
In other words, Israel not only flouts the law and its commitment, it does it throughout the Occupied Territories, including east of the Green Line, stealing as much Palestinian land as possible while pretending to want peace.
Etkes called the “freeze” little more than a “PR stunt,” an “Israfluff,” a rhetorical commitment only while illegal construction continued. In the six months preceding it, settlers (with government help) prepared “dozens of new building sites….especially in isolated and more extreme settlements east of the” Wall. Official statistics documented them.
In addition, “the government announced in advance that it planned to approve” hundreds of new housing units “with no connection to the ‘freeze.’ ” As a result, settlers got permission “to build where(ever) and when(ever)” they wished, what really has gone on for the past 10 months and years before.
As for Abbas and the PA, they “turn(ed) a blind eye to the construction,” pretending a “freeze” was in place, literally ignoring Israel’s theft of Palestinian land.
With a touch of irony and humor, Etkas added a final thought, saying “Netanyahu will (not likely) win the Nobel Peace Prize,” but he might get one for physics or chemistry, disproving what scientists have long believed – that “water is not the only substance that expands instead of contracting when it freezes.”
Building never stopped, Haaretz writers Chaim Levinson and Barak Radiv headlining their September 27 article, “Bulldozers roll out across the West Bank as (rhetorical) settlement freeze ends,” in fact, a moratorium. It was never called a freeze with good reason, and now it’s full speed ahead.
Besides ongoing construction, new building began in dozens of settlements, including Ariel, Ravava, Yakir, Shavei Shomron, Adam, Oranit, Sha’arei Tikva, Kedumim, Karmei Tzur, Beit Hagai, Kochav HaShachar, Anatot, Kfar Adumin, Kiryat Netafim, Ramat Shlomo, and many others. In all of the them, the scene is similar – bulldozers clearing land, excavators and cement mixers in plain site, and workers building homes for residents in 121 settlements and 100 outposts. Around 500,000 Israelis, including 200,000 in East Jerusalem, own them, all on stolen Palestinian land, and their numbers grow daily.
Haaretz writers document it. Western ones barely notice, reporting little and most often nothing. For example, New York Times writers Ethan Bronner and Mark Landler headlined their September 26 article, “US Scrambling to Save Talks on Middle East” peace, mentioning the “freeze” as little more than a side issue, threatening to disrupt peace talks that both writers pretend are real.
For his part, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas repeatedly threatened not to continue them if settlement construction resumed, despite turning a blind eye to it throughout his tenure, having expired over 21 months ago. Now, changing his rhetorical indignation, he signaled a willingness to keep talking even with no moratorium extension, saying:
“I cannot say I will leave the negotiations, but it’s very difficult for me to resume talks if (Netanyahu) declares that he will continue his activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem. In fact, he’s done it, stressing full speed ahead on construction. Speaking to Likud ministers, he said, “Regarding the freeze, there has been no change in our position,” meaning no extension after September 26.
No matter, Abbas (earlier) told US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “We all know there is no alternative to peace through negotiations, so we have no alternative other than to continue these efforts.”
Then, on September 25, before the UN General Assembly, he said “Israel must choose between peace and continuation of settlement,” construction, followed by reversing his position the next day, saying talks will continue despite no “freeze” extension.
In response, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) suspended its participation in the PLO’s Executive Committee, Deputy General Secretary Abdel-Rahim Mallouh and Political Bureau members Khalida Jarrar and Omar Shehadeh, warning of serious consequences and repercussions of appeasing Israel and America. A policy statement said:
After decades of failure, “The decision to return to direct negotiations….is an affront to the blood of our people (and) represents the persistence of the PLO leadership to continue the devastating Oslo path.” Current talks “provide cover for the occupation practices and policies of settlement building, land confiscation, displacement, siege, detention, imprisonment and killing, (contributing) to the deepening of the disastrous internal Palestinian division.”
A Haaretz September 28 editorial was also harsh headlined, “Netanyahu is failing to create a climate for peace,” saying:
The rhetorical moratorium “was intended to convince Palestinians (that Israel) really intends to end its occupation of the territories,” what, of course, it has no intention of doing. As a result, Palestinians continue living “under occupation and violence,” unable “to achieve economic, and especially employment, independence.”
Thousands given permits work in Israel, many others in settlements. “Every morning, they (head for) building sites and fields throughout Israel,” but not easily, Haaretz writer Avi Issacharoff and photographer Daniel Bar-On documented “the disgraceful conditions at the Qalandiyah and Bethlehem checkpoints into Israel.” Before getting there they endure delays and humiliations at other checkpoints along the way.
Unless Netanyahu eases passage and treats Palestinians with respect, “peace and reconciliation” are impossible – the continuing status because there’s no chance he’ll do it.
Why Illegal Settlements Matter
In a September 24 Foreign Policy article titled, “Down to the wire on settlements,” B’Tselem’s Executive Director Jessica Montell explained that in the past two decades, “the West Bank settlement population has tripled.” Their municipal boundaries alone comprise over 9% of the land, areas Palestinians can’t enter without permit permission. In addition, settlement “regional councils encompass vast swaths of land; fully 42 percent of the West Bank is under settlement control,” a figure steadily increasing.
What this means for Palestinians and their future is “self-evident.” Israel relentlessly circumvents their rights in a “politically manipulative way….One of many striking examples: the Dead Sea abuts Israel and the West Bank, as well as Jordan.” While tourists visit the Israeli part, “Palestinians earn no income from this unique natural wonder. In fact, the entire area around the Dead Sea belongs to a settlement regional council.” Palestinians can’t even go there “for a picnic. Certainly they cannot develop tourist sites there.”
Settlements also cause numerous other problems and hardships for Palestinians, including movement restrictions, continued land theft, sewage treatment, access to clean water, the Separation Wall’s route, an oppressive military occupation, and much more. Combined, they’re prevented from living freely on their own land in their own country.
Montell calls living under two distinct legal systems most disturbing, Palestinians under military rule, Israelis “enjoy(ing) all the benefits of….democracy. This discrimination is manifest in almost every sphere of life: access to justice, due process, protection from violence, planning and building codes, access to water, and much more.” Core issues as well, including the right of return and viable self-determination or a one-state solution treating everyone equally under the law.
So-called peace talks exclude all of the above, why they assure one of two results – failure or unconditional surrender, granting Jews full rights, Palestinians none, the same fruits from on and off negotiations for the past 35 years – an exercise in futility and hypocrisy.
Israel always promised to half construction. It was explicitly part of the 2003 Road Map and 2007 Annapolis conference. Nonetheless, settlements grew faster than ever because Israel grants generous benefits, encouraging Israelis to move. Included are low-cost housing, liberal housing and mortgage subsidies, free preschools, a long school day, industry and agriculture grants and subsidies, various tax breaks, and government help to municipalities for their debts. For many Israelis, these incentives are too attractive to refuse.
However, the occupation and expanding settlements are “a daily thorn in the side of hundreds of thousands of” Palestinians prevented from building a home, expanding an existing one, farming their land, traveling freely (within and outside the Territory), accessing clean water, sewage treatment and proper sanitation, and living in dignity freely on their own land, safe from violence and an oppressive occupier.
Peace is only possible if negotiated equally for both sides, a prospect nowhere in sight, nor is Palestine’s legitimate Hamas government even invited to try. The entire process again is a sham, little more than theater, one side entirely excluded, a story-line with a familiar bad ending.
A Final Comment
On September 24, heavily-armed FBI goon squads raided homes of anti-war/pro-Palestinian activists in Chicago and Minneapolis, abusively ransacking them and seizing various items, including computers, cell phones, books, photos, papers, correspondence, and more. Though no arrests were made, many targeted were subpoenaed to appear before grand juries in October, apparently to be questioned on their activities, including foreign travel to meet with like-minded people.
Most of those targeted are Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) members or supporters, publishers of the newsletter Fight Back. Arab-American Action Network (AAAN) Executive Director, Hatem Abudayyeh’s home was also raided. Founded by Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi, it “strives to strengthen the Arab community in the Chicago area by building its capacity to be an active agent for positive social change.” Abudayyeh, like many others, openly condemns “the Israeli government and its military killing machine,” leaving him vulnerable to state-sponsored persecution.
An FBI spokesman said the raids targeted people “providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support” to “terrorist” organizations, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (both legitimate parts of their respective governments), and the FARC-EP in Colombia.
Noted Latin American expert James Petras calls FARC the “longest standing, largest peasant-based guerrilla movement in the world (that was) founded in 1964 by two dozen peasant activists (to defend) autonomous rural communities from” Colombian military and paramilitary violence.
If indicted and convicted of providing “material support to terrorism,” activists face 15 years in prison – for exercising their First Amendment and other constitutional rights, on a fast track toward extinction under a president promising “change.”
These raids, others, and Obama administration policies overall signify deepening hostility toward individuals and organizations against imperial wars and militarism, as well as strong support for human rights, civil liberties, and democratic freedoms for many of the world’s oppressed. They include Palestinians for over 62 years, over 43 under a brutal military occupation that fake peace talks won’t end.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.