By Ahmed Moor – September 17, 2010
Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael B. Oren, argues in his Sept.
15 Times Op-Ed article that Israelis want peace, and I believe him.
They’ve said so often enough. But the Israelis want lots of other
For instance, they want the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In addition,
they want the Palestinian aquifers situated beneath the West Bank, and
they want to preserve their racial privilege in the Jewish state. They
also want to shear the Gaza Strip from Palestine.
Most of all, the Israelis want Palestinian quiescence in the face of
Israeli wants. Those wants have made the two-state solution impossible
For decades, the Israelis have taken what they want from the
Palestinians. Consequently, there are about 500,000 settlers in
Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Today, the
Israelis are discovering that what one wants and what one can afford
Some Israelis — but apparently not Oren — are beginning to realize that
the deep, irreversible colonization of territory comes with a price:
the end of the Jewish state as it is. It’s a painful lesson to learn,
especially after decades of superpower indulgence. America’s obsequious
coddling turns out to have been a curse for the Jewish state. Serious
cost-benefit analyses around occupation policies — collectively,
apartheid — were evidently never conducted.
When Israel killed 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza — proportionally
equivalent to 300,000 Americans — in Operation Cast Lead, incoming
President Obama stayed mum. The Israelis counted on and got American
cover. But they didn’t anticipate the impact of Richard Goldstone’s
damning report on world opinion and the American layperson’s views. No
one seems to have ever asked, "Wait, what will killing more than 300
children do to our image abroad? Can we afford to launch an assault
against a defenseless and captive population just because President
Bush says we can while Obama remains silent?"
Oren’s words fail to obscure the "facts on the ground" Israel has
established in recent decades. These facts were engineered to entrench
Israel’s permanent presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The
conversation the ambassador is engaging in would have been timelier 42
years ago before Israel’s colonies killed the two-state solution, which
was never an equitable solution anyway.
Today, the ambassador’s words are not just empty platitudes to peace
but also effectively irrelevant. That’s because honest and
well-informed observers understand that there will never be a viable
Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza.
Obama’s circus — the so-called peace process — is designed only to
pacify the perennial bugaboo of U.S. politics. The Israel lobby wants
to promote the illusion that Israelis want a Palestinian state to
enable the continued colonization of occupied land. It’s unclear why
anyone seems to think that the theatrics are an effective smokescreen
at this late stage.
Yet the reality is that Palestine/Israel is already one country. Five
hundred thousand settler-colonists in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
have congealed in place; small numbers may be evacuated, but the vast
majority are not going anywhere.
Furthermore, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad stand for no one and nothing. The two men have no
democratic mandate. Their terms in office having long expired, they are
propped up by American and Israeli leaders who seek weak leaders as
more apt to concede fundamental Palestinian rights. Of course, these
are concessions they are incapable of making legitimately.
Abbas’ presidential term ended in January 2009, and Fayyad was
illegally reappointed after the Fatah coup attempt against Hamas in
June 2007. They cooperate so extensively with Israeli forces that the
Palestinian Authority is more like a subcontracted colonial government
than an adversarial negotiating party.
Obama recently asserted that Abbas knows "the window for creating a
Palestinian state is closing." But Abbas, Obama and Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are already too late. Unless Abbas accepts
noncontiguous "Bantustans" and uses U.S.-trained forces to enforce the
abandonment of Palestinian rights, one state will become increasingly
clear to all involved as the only alternative to apartheid. In effect,
Israel will have colonized itself out of existence.
As in South Africa, it is time for Israeli leaders to embrace a
pluralistic and humanistic vision for the state. Rather than lecture on
Israel’s desire for a lopsided "peace," Oren should begin to imagine a
state in which each person — Jewish or non-Jewish — is equal under the
law irrespective of religion or race. He can begin to imagine an
To see it in practice, he could travel through the American South. Yes,
the American South and post-apartheid South Africa are not perfect, but
they are dramatically improved over the reality of 50 years ago — a
discriminatory and racist reality still endured today by Palestinians.
To be fair, we Palestinians also want a lot. We want what people
everywhere else do: to live as free human beings in our country, in the
absence of a foreign military occupation. We want to return to our
towns and cities that were ethnically cleansed of us in 1948. We want
to vote for our government, the one that controls every aspect of our
lives. We want a united Jerusalem. And, when the state is united, we
want an ambassador who speaks for all of us, not just the Jewish half
of the country.
Put differently, we want equality and justice.
Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian American journalist living in Beirut.