Ramzy Baroud is a
veteran Palestinian-American journalist and is editor-in-chief of the Palestine
Chronicle. He worked at Al-Jazeera as a producer, and is the author of The
Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People�s
Ramzy is a veteran
media professional and has been a guest speaker at many universities around the
world. He talked about the war between Palestine and Israel with Munish Nagar
Q. What is the importance of Hizbollah�s last year
victory to Hamas and other Palestinian groups?
Hizbollah�s victory is important for more than one reason;
one aspect is pertinent to the timing of that victory, which comes at a time
that the US had just discovered the limitation of its military capabilities in
Iraq. Israel was trying to achieve a military victory for itself and others:
the US, those who were set to benefit from the elimination of Hizbollah in
Lebanon and for the region�s traditional US allies (corrupt regimes, business
elites, etc). Following its Lebanon adventure, which was weighed in at least
one year in advance, Israel has also learned that its military power, as well,
had its own limits and was taught a hard lesson, and the results of that lesson
continues to reverberate throughout Israel�s political scene.
Another factor is that Hizbollah emerged as a formidable foe
in Lebanon, and is now trying to translate its popularity and military strength
into political strength, stirring a battle (mostly a political one that had
recently spilled into violent confrontations following the debilitating strike)
whose outcome is yet to be determined.
Moreover, the US hoped that a quick Hizbaollah defeat would
both intimidate Iran before the sheer might of the Israeli military, which also
served an American purpose. The opposite transpired, as Iran emerged more
powerful and confident, further exasperating America�s woes in the region, but
also compounding fears of a regional Shiite-Sunni clash.
Q. It�s in the hands of Israel to stop or end violence on
Palestinian people or is Israel is being played like a puppet in American
Israel is by no means a puppet in American hands. The
relationship between the two is rather unique. Israel is not exactly a �client
regime� per se, yet it doesn�t necessarily �control� American foreign policy in
the region. What is taking place is rather an exchange, equitable or otherwise,
where both parties are hoping to advance their own interests in the region,
while mutually benefiting from each other�s unique advantages. Traditionally,
Israel served as an American proxy and ally, whereby the US uses Israel�s
strategic position to further its own designs in the region, warranted or
otherwise. Israel, on the other hand, has benefited tremendously from American
financial and military aid, in addition to political backing that has shielded
it rather successfully from any accountability to international law.
To guarantee its interests in America, Israel has relied
heavily on several lobbying bodies, notwithstanding the American Israeli Public
Relations Committee (AIPAC), whose degree of success in fortifying Israel�s
position is hardly debatable. However, during the George W. Bush years, that
relationship began tilting more in Israel�s favor than in favor of the
traditional American foreign policy view; this was due to the ability of the
neoconservatives -- a group of influential pro Israeli ideologues, purporting
to be patriotic Americans -- to sway US policy in the Middle East to fit
Israel�s regional agenda, thus getting the US to achieve what Israel couldn�t
do alone, hence the regime change in Iraq, containing Iran and Syria, etc. The
neoconservatives shrewdly convinced the US administration that what is good for
Israel is good for America. Three thousand sixty-eight dead and 40,000 wounded
American soldiers later, the US is beginning to realize this fatal mistake,
despite the stubbornness of the president.
Q. To the extent you are right that Israeli leaders, with
the support of the US and allies, want to dominate the Arabs, was the Iraq�s
invasion by US and allied forces and the execution of Saddam a step towards the
domination of Arab World?
In many ways America had often determined its relationship
to Arab states based on these states� perception and/or relationship with
Israel and the so-called peace process. Most Arab states are more or less
dominated by the US and even �rogue� states had at times good relations with
Washington and were very willing to become client regimes at a whim. But while
some either agreed to normalize with Israel openly (Jordan, Egypt, Mauritania),
others did so in more subtle ways (some Gulf countries, Morocco, etc). Those
who rejected Israel�s terms of peace or exhibited hostility toward the Zionist
state were branded as �rogue,� and their sins were augmented beyond reason.
(The submissive camp was dubbed moderate and friendly, despite the fact that
some were brutal and utterly despotic).
So what has happened following the murder of Saddam and the
intimidation of Syria is not exactly an overhauling of the relationship between
Washington and Arabs, but rather a redefining of that relationship. America is
realizing that is has to change the rules of the game to guarantee that �rogue�
states become a thing of the past. It wants to deny even its allies in the
region the most basic bargaining power so that the relationship shifts from
that of superpower-client state to a super-power and mere proxies. This is what
Washington is currently concocting. There are many obstacles standing in the
way of course, including the resurgence of Islamic forces, Hamas and Hizbollah
and the resistance in Iraq.
Q. Palestinians are suffering from the Israeli forces for
a long time. What role has been played by United Nations Human Rights
Commission in this regard?
The United Nations Human Rights Commission is to a large
degree free of US influence in the UN. The US uses various control mechanisms
to influence the proceedings of various UN bodies, including the use of veto at
the Security Council, political pressure in the General Assembly and
withholding of funds from various UN arms. UNHRC however, despite occasional
failures has held its ground and on many occasions called Israel on its
brutality. The commission however has little or no executive power. It can
embarrass Israel at times, and has repeatedly called on the international
community to intervene on behalf of Palestinians. The commission�s position
however, was hardly ever translated to an actual work plan at the UN for the
US� control mechanisms were much greater than the commission�s limited powers
and ability to withstand pressure.
Q. Article 3 of the UN Declaration clearly states
�Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.� But the
killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces seem to say that rules and
regulations are meant to be broken. Do you agree with this?
The UN founding principles and original declaration are very
noble, as they clearly spoke out against the cruelty of WWII where human
dignity and the sanctity of life sunk to their lowest levels in recent memory.
However, aside from the theoretical aspect of this, since its founding nearly
six decades ago, the UN is yet to become an equally representative organization
that is capable of translating its principles into action, guiding and guarding
its Human Rights Declaration in a serious enough manner that is capable of
challenging the arrogance of both superpowers like the US or smaller entities
that violate international law such as Israel and Ethiopia. To answer your
question more directly, while the spirit of the UN declaration shall endure, it
is yet to be substantiated with concerted and meaningful action, at least as
far as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is concerned.
Q. What would you like to say on the �cease-fire� concept
Israel doesn�t believe in cease-fire as a step toward calm,
thus peace. Israel is a state that still believes that military supremacy must
be maintained and exercised at all times to ensure the submission of its
enemies, and it does so disproportionately and frequently. Israel would resort
or use the term �cease-fire� on the three following occasions: as a farce,
meaning using the term but not implementing its conditions to evade criticism;
two, when it�s forced to do so, as was the case in Lebanon following the
July-August war with Hizbollah. Even in this occasion, this was a tactical
cease-fire. Third, as a political strategy, such as strengthening Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas� position against his rivals in Hamas. As a
concept in itself that aims at establishing meaningful peace, cease-fire is yet
to exist in Israel�s lexicon.
Q. If the violence on the Palestinians by Israeli forces
remain sames, then where will be Palestine stand over next 10 years?
It�s unlikely that there will be any truly sovereign
Palestine in the next 10 years. Indeed, all signs are pointing to the contrary.
Even if one wishes to circumvent the question, for now, regarding the viability
of a Palestinian state over parts of the West Bank and Gaza, one cannot expect
that the current balance of power, the dishonesty of the US, the absence of a
strong third party, the fragmentation of the Arabs politically and the regional
upheaval that was engendered by the US� chaotic Middle East policy, and
notwithstanding the Palestinian internal strife, could possibly create a
situation that would convince or force Israel to heed the calls for peace and
respect international law, thus withdrawing from the Occupied Territories.Munish
Nagar is an Indian cyber journalist based in India. He has a master�s degree in
journalism and is currently pursuing a postgraduate degree in human rights.