International

Changes in the Middle East to force Israel to seek peace

By M. Azhar Ali Khan

Ottawa: Visiting American Jewish scholar Dr. Norman Finkelstein brought a surprise message to Canadians on his recent tour – that there is now a real possibility of a just peace in the Middle East. This differs from the message Canadians get from government officials and most of the media – that Israel is the innocent victim of hostile forces bent on destroying the state.

The message also differs from what noted Israelis have told Canadians: that most Israelis are comfortable -- courtesy partly of massive U.S. military and economic aid -- and Israel's government will continue its illegal settlements and land grabbing that would turn the Palestinians into a permanently occupied and oppressed people in their own homeland.

But Finkelstein explained that swift changes in the Middle East, and the West, are thwarting Israel and the U.S. He said the process will accelerate if people in the West pressured their governments to push for a just settlement.

Canadians benefit from such discussions in that they present a more balanced picture of the Middle East than the distorted one they get from the government and most of the mainstream media.

Among the factors that Finkelstein feels will push the parties towards a settlement is the changing attitude of American Jews, particularly the youth. Where they used to vigorously defend  Israel they now find it increasingly difficult to reconcile their values with Israeli actions. They no longer see Israel as an embodiment of liberal, humanitarian values.

Israeli repression of Palestinians and illegal settlements apart, Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006 when, in the last 72 hours of the war despite the proclamation of a ceasefire, Israel dropped four million cluster bombs, killing and maiming on an ongoing basis innocent men, women and children, and its dropping white phosphorus on hospitals during its attack on Gaza in 2009, shocked American Jews. Finkelstein stated that some American Jews still support Israel and attribute criticism of Israeli brutality to anti-Semitism. But most avoid the subject because such barbarity horrifies them.

He said other Americans and Westerners are also dramatically changing their perceptions of the Middle East and believe that Israel bears the major, but not full, responsibility for the impasse. They are now speaking out more against the oppression. Finkelstein stated that a BBC poll suggests that Europeans and North Americans see Israel as the biggest threat to peace, even more so than Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. He said polls show that 20 per cent of Canadians view Israeli policies favourably compared to the 60 per cent who are critical. During the Palestinian statehood bid, he continued, most people in every country favoured the Palestinians. In the U.S., he added, two polls suggested that 45 per cent supported the Palestinians while 25 to 35 per cent were opposed despite the false propaganda of American politicians and the media.

In General Assembly votes every year, he stated, the entire world favours a two-states solution and only Israel, the U.S., a couple of American satellite states and now Canada oppose a just agreement. Finkelstein declared that the Arab Spring has toppled Israel’s strongest Arab ally and now all Arabs will likely support a just peace. Israel’s traditional ally, Turkey, now strongly opposes Israel’s illegal and inhumane siege of Gaza and strongly champions human rights and justice.

He asserted that Iran backs the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s policy of favouring a two-state solution. Even Hamas is willing to accept a two-state solution, even though in principle it views the creation of Israel as unjust. The only obstacles to a just settlement in the Middle East are Israel and the U.S. and now Canada, he declared. Finkelstein said that most Israeli settlers were lured to the occupied territories by government patronage and will leave if they are refused subsidies and government protection and are assisted in moving to Israel. Another possibility is a reasonable exchange of equivalent land, he declared.

This is the second time in recent months that Finkelstein has spoken in Canada. His talks draw crowds, as do those of other Jews or Israelis who seek to promote peace. Such lectures are welcomed on campuses, underlining Finkelstein’s statement that youth, in particular, are repelled by the savagery in the Middle East and they don’t trust the government or the mainstream media for truth about the Middle East. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East is a grassroots organization that seeks to promote justice and peace in the Middle East by presenting the real picture. Finkelstein taught at American universities but was ousted by Zionist pressure. He makes a living by writing and speaking. His next book will be, Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Love Affair with Israel is Coming to an End.

Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2012 on page no. 15

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