International

Obama: Squeezing the Palestinians for Israel

Anyone curious to know to what extent President Obama would go to be the hatchet man for Israel-and its legions of friends in his administration, the Congress and, not least, among the neo-cons that have taken over his White House for good-should look at the cat-and-mouse he’s playing with the Palestinians to please the Israelis.

A grand spectacle is unfolding in New York, as these lines are being written.

The UN General Assembly has opened today, September 22, for its annual session, as per the tradition, on the last-but-one Wednesday of September. And with this annual ritual, the Zionist-friendly US media are getting into stride, in full swing, to caricature and media-assassinate those world leaders not on the good books of US and Israel. On top of the list, of course, is none other than President Mehmood Ahmedinejad of Iran, who has been a favourite whipping boy and a bogey for western media anchors and hacks. His speech on the inaugural morning of the General Assembly is being analysed with a fine-toothed to cherry pick all that was deemed unsavoury by US and Israel.

However, the real show is taking place-at least not yet-on the podium of the GA but on the sidelines of it-in the lobbies and corridors of the UN headquarters building and in the US Mission to UN just across the street. Obama, himself, Hillary Clinton and all other ‘heavy-weights’ of Team Obama have descended down on New York-and more specifically on the UN-to display the combined strength US would be ready to deploy on behalf of its ‘eternal’ ally, Israel.

The show of US strength has been triggered by the Palestinian decision, announced months ahead of the GA session, that they would be taking their case to UN for statehood and sovereignty as a fully-fledged state and, concomitant to that, seek full membership of UN like any other state, old or new. Yasir Arafat, the late legendary leader of the Palestinians, had declared the Palestinian State, back in 1989, in Algiers, Algeria, but the Palestinians didn’t go the whole hog, till to date, to seek UN membership on that basis.

The Palestinian decision to seek the world body’s membership and enter the comity of nations on a footing of equality is, no doubt, a desperate thing. But they have been forced into it because Israel left them no other alternative. Under Benjamin Netanyahu, the hawkish Israeli Zionist PM, Israel has doggedly avoided the path of dialogue with the Palestinians to arrive at a negotiated settlement of the tangled Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A Zionist to his bone-marrow, Netanyahu has been dodging Israeli obligation to seek a negotiated end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands that could, theoretically, pave the way for the emergence of a Palestinian State.

On the contrary, Netanyahu, wedded to Ariel Sharon’s diabolical expansionism, has been feverishly busy in enlarging and further expanding the illegal Israeli Jewish settlements on the West Bank in order to create ‘facts on ground’, as Sharon had preached, to thwart any prospects of a contiguous Palestinian State. Netanyahu has the fullest backing and support of US in this mischievous plan although, for the sake of record and hoodwinking the Palestinians and the world, US goes on paying lip service to its scheme of a two-state solution to the imbroglio. The whole world knows, however, that it’s US funding and availability of generous resources from friends of Israel in US that has all along been the principal crutch for the likes of Netanyahu to expand Jewish settlements and rob the Palestinians of their legitimate rights on their usurped land.

The Americans and their western cohorts-all of them votaries of Israel-have long been giving lollipops to the Palestinian leadership that they are eager and anxious to get them a state, to live in harmony and peace with their Israeli partisans. But the American and western perception of a Palestinian State is no better than a bunch of Bantustans, disjointed and amorphous, unarmed and perpetually a basket-case, living at the mercy of Israel and its powerful western mentors and allies to whom nothing in the world is more sacrosanct than the halo of ‘Israeli security’; and that too an Israel armed to the teeth and with a license to pounce on its hapless neighbours.

For years, the Palestinians have been kept prisoners to western and Israeli shenanigans. The mantra of US and European-sponsored ‘talks’ with Israel has been used, with impunity, to keep the hapless Palestinians moving in circles and bereft of any workable solution to the problem that would satisfy their basic demands for a fully-fledged and sovereign state living on a footing of equality with Israel.

Finally the Palestinians have seen through the façade and farce of these ‘talks.’ They’re nothing but a ruse to keep the Palestinians laboring under a false perception that the powers-that-be are serious about their problem with the occupier of their land, while in actual fact these so-called peace brokers have only been working to buy precious time for Israel so that it may occupy as much of Palestine with its ‘facts-on-ground,’ the illegal Jewish settlements, and then claim that it’s impossible to move more than half-a-million settlers from their illegal abodes, built with the help of those who have been hoodwinking the Palestinians as their well-wishers.

Exhausted with American and European chicanery, the Palestinian leadership decided to tap the last option: the UN General Assembly, where US arm-twisting cannot wrest concessions in favour of Israel at the expense of Palestinian rights.

For months, the Americans have been breathing down the necks of the Palestinian leaders and using every trick in their bag of diplomatic deceptions to keep the Palestinians away from using the UN track as the last throw of their dice. While Obama has used his power of persuasion to insist that the beaten and unproductive path of US-backed talks with an intransigent Israel is the only viable path for Palestinian salvation and statehood, Congress, on its part, has been blowing hot and cold, wielding the stick like a gung-ho cowboy, and threatening the Palestinians with the cut-off of US economic aid to them, which, in any case, is pittance compared to the billions poured into Israeli coffers in defence and economic aid.

In concert with Washington, the European Union got into the act, too, as an advocate of dialogue with a belligerent and bellicose Israel to whom the whole issue is a one-sentence game: Israeli security.  The EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, visited Ramallah a week before the GA session to persuade Mahmood Abbas, the Palestinian lame-duck President, to desist from putting his faith in UN and remain bogged down, instead in a going-nowhere charade of a dialogue with Israel.

However, by now the Palestinians can see through the charade of western-backed talks with Israel as nothing more than a theatre of the absurd that’s unlikely to produce anything good for them. They are putting their eggs, finally, in the UN basket because that’s where they hope to get a better deal, sans the ludicrous western hypocrisy and arm-twisting.

So as these lines are being written, Mahmood Abbas is just hours away from formally handing over the Palestinian request for UN membership to Secretary-general Ban ki Moon in New York. Friday, September 23, is the D-Day chosen by the Palestinian leaders to cast their dye at the UN, much to the consternation of US.

Under the UN rules, the secretary-general will be obliged to refer the Palestinian request for full membership of the world body to its Security Council where US, armed with its power of veto is determined to cast a negative vote. For weeks, from Obama down to ordinary factotums of his administration, have been wielding that threat over the heads of Palestinian leaders to knock fear into their hearts. But US blackmailing is not going to work this time.

Despite the certain exercise of veto by Washington-a naked and brutal use of its privilege-the Palestinians would still be free and entitled to take their case to the General Assembly where a simple majority of its 197 member states would land them, if not a full membership then at least a non-member status at the world body. This would entitle it to membership of UN specialized bodies, such as UNESCO, WHO, UNICEF and, most critical of all, the International Criminal Court (ICC).

US, Israel and their western minions and cohorts are most worried about the prospect of Palestine entering the ICC, because that would give the Palestinians the right to sue their tormentors and human rights violators, such as Netanyahu, in the criminal court. At the very least, if no other sanctions could be forthcoming from ICC, a verdict against a habitual violator of international law and civilized conduct, such as Netanyahu, could be subjected to international shame and humiliation.

The ugly spectacle of American diplomats, from Obama down, twisting the arm of the Palestinians and all those in support of their legitimate claim on statehood and full membership of UN, has put on full display to the world the hypocrisy of a super power that never tires of claiming a high plateau of morality and justice in international relations.

Obama and his minions are well aware of the moral and psychological damage their profligate and blatant use of their veto power is going to do to their international reputation. Those who have somehow been naïve enough, thus far, to accept Washington’s protestations of being an honest broker between the Palestinians and the Israelis at their face value will have amply scope to review their perception of an unbiased US. It will expose, for good, Washington’s unbridled partisanship of Israel, at the expense of its claim that it values the friendship of the Arabs and Islamic states. The ugly face of a US prepared to go out on a limb on behalf of its Israeli comrades should nail the canard of its fair-mindedness and being just between a belligerent Israel and its Palestinian quarries. Like the fabled emperor walking down the street without clothes, US will stand naked in the eyes of the world, robed in its armour of shame.

To the Muslim world, the Palestinian case at UN is the final litmus test of Obama’s campaign rhetoric that he wished to repair the damage his predecessor had done to the fabric of US-Muslim world relations.

The comity of Islamic states has given Obama all the time in the world to prove that his heart was where his mouth was. But at the end of nearly three years that this self-styled champion of US-Muslim amity has been sitting in the Oval Office, his score card of damage-control, vis-à-vis the Muslim world, is zero; it’s as dismal and pathetic as was George W. Bush’s record of blatant aggression against the Muslim world.

Measuring Obama’s professed sincerity to repair the torn fences of relations with the Muslim world against his performance on ground any fair-minded commentator or observer of the contemporary scene will have little difficulty in pronouncing a verdict against Obama. He has not only failed, miserably, to inject anything fresh or new into the stale policy of naked partisanship of Israel, but, to rub salt into Muslim wounds he has emerged as a more steadfast friend of Israel than George W. Bush.

The only conclusion the Islamic world would be entitled to draw from the ongoing episode at UN is that US under Obama-or for that matter under any other president before him or the ones to come after him-is not a friend of the Arabs and the Muslims. Deeds speak louder than words and empty rhetoric. That’s the bottom line.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 October 2011 on page no. 26

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