suffering rarely hits the headlines in a world preoccupied with North Korean
nukes, British politicians pontificating about the rights or wrongs of veil
wearing and Madonna�s new baby. It�s doubtful that many in the West are even
aware of Israel�s �Operation Summer Rain� targeting Gaza that has robbed the
lives of 290 Palestinians -- almost half of them children -- or that Israel is considering
re-occupying this overpopulated open-air prison.
I�ve just finished
reading an excellent book by the American-Palestinian author Ramzy Baroud, �The
Second Intifada: a Chronicle of a People�s Struggle," which takes the
reader on an excruciating journey from the failed Oslo Accords until the
present day. It�s a catalogue of pain that doesn�t make easy reading for anyone
with a conscience. But it�s also a fine salute to the courageous and tenacity
of the Palestinian people, who refuse to conveniently fade away.
the Palestinians� right to resist occupation, Baroud believes that �the
front-line in the battle for Palestine is public opinion in the United
States." He maintains that �only by changing popular attitudes toward
Israel and the Palestinians can we hope to end US sponsorship of Israel�s
ongoing war . . ."
He has a point but
given the powerful pro-Israel think tanks and lobbies that wield influence over
Congress and the corporate media any such opinion-altering process would take
untold decades and thousands more deaths to reach fruition, if ever. There is
another way -- one that would require the Arab world adopting a unity of
purpose, speaking with one voice and proactively seeking an end to the
conflict. There was a glimmer of this during the 2002 Arab League Summit held
in Beirut when Saudi Arabia put forward a peace plan that was endorsed by all
22 member nations.
It didn�t get off
the ground due to lack of support from Washington, which favored a �road map�
to nowhere as a concession to Britain�s Tony Blair in the run-up to the
invasion of Iraq. Moreover the timing wasn�t conducive as the proposal came
when the Sharon-led Israeli government was in no mood to talk peace.
Today, the climate
is very different. The recent Israel-Lebanon conflict exposed Israel�s military
vulnerabilities and triggered existential concerns among ordinary Israelis, now
well aware that their nuclear arsenal provides little deterrence to hostile
neighbor states or non-state actors.
that Israelis are now debating whether to make peace with Syria that would
necessitate the relinquishment of the strategic Golan Heights, formerly
considered a �no-no."
Then earlier this
month the Israeli Minister of Justice Meir Sheetrit urged his government to
engage Saudi Arabia and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in talks on the
lines of Israel�s pull back to its 1967 borders in return for full peace. �In
other words, if you want peace -- we welcome you,� Sheetrit said, adding, �We
are prepared to make far-reaching concessions and fix the permanent borders of
the State of Israel."
This is a historic
moment . . . or should be. If Israel truly wants peace and the Arabs want peace
while Palestinians need a viable, secure state then where is the obstacle? It�s
doubtful that Hamas would continue its reluctance to recognize Israel in the
event land occupied post-1967 was returned and even if it did it would no
longer receive popular support. Palestinians may be idealists but they are also
The problem is the
so-called honest broker, the US, is far from honest. If Bush administration
genuinely wanted peace in this region, the president would have flown to the
area himself in an attempt to put the parties together.
Blair would have sought permission from the White House to shuttle between
Riyadh, Ramallah and Tel Aviv so as to secure a meaningful legacy before he
leaves office next spring.
Instead, the US is
busy sowing division between Palestinian groups with its campaign to provide
millions of dollars, weapons and military training to anti-Hamas factions. If
Palestine ends up embroiled in a civil war, Israel can confidently say it
doesn�t have a partner for peace and be believed.
sought peace, it would be engaged in uniting those factions and putting
pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to meet with his Palestinian
Let�s face it, if
the Arabs and the Israelis got together to produce a fait accompli this would
not be in America�s interests.
A region devoid of
enemies would not need Washington�s �protection� or US bases. In such a
peaceful region economies would flourish and in time the Israelis would no
longer require US aid while foreign investment would flood into the fledgling
Israelis and Arabs should cease looking toward Washington for direction. The
Bush administration harbors its own secret road map, one that facilitates its
grip on the region and enables it to control the area�s rich natural resources.
I recently received
an e-mail from Albert Pardo, an Egyptian Jew now residing in France, in
response to an article I wrote on the subject of Cairo�s famous Groppi teashop
(Maison Groppi) that�s approaching its 100th anniversary.
Pardo thanked me
for what he described as a �moving evocation of our carefree and happy
youth." Another communication came from an American journalist requesting
permission to republish that article in a memoir she is writing on her Jewish
Arabs and Jews have
lived together harmoniously and, given time, they could do so again.
It was Britain and
France that pulled the political strings initially driving Arabs and Jews
apart, a role since adopted by the US. Only when regional leaders are able to
look that unpalatable truth in the face will they say �no� to faux honest
brokers and �yes� to a genuine road map to peace rather than one with inbuilt
hurdles and untenable aims.
S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback
and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.