Pain, injustice and humiliation
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

May 15, 2008, 00:10

Every anniversary of Israel's birth is another scar on the soul of every Palestinian. Six decades have elapsed since Israel's reign of terror when 700,000 Palestinians were forced or intimidated into fleeing their homes little knowing they would never be allowed to return.

Most were destined to live out their lives in refugee camps, stateless and reliant upon charitable donations. The few who managed to return clutching precious keys and deeds were usually devastated to discover their homes had been demolished or their villages erased, giving fuel to the Zionist slogan "A land without a people for a people without a land".

This 60th commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba or "Catastrophe" is particularly poignant because not only are the Palestinians physically split between the West Bank and Gaza, they are also divided ideologically and politically. Many are disillusioned with their own leadership and are sceptical of Israeli and US promises which sound positive but never seem to manifest.

Most of all they are tired of chasing moonbeams. Today, a Palestinian state is as elusive as ever. So much injustice! So much pain and humiliation! So much violence! So many dead children! Yet 60 years on, the Palestinians are still crying out for the birthright of every one on earth -- the right to live in peace in their own homeland.

We must surely ask the question: Why? With so many of the planet's finest minds focused on how to bring about Middle East peace, why is it in all these years nobody has succeeded or even managed to come close?

Are we to believe that the US, which is Israel's closest ally and the most economically and militarily powerful nation in the world, is unable to coax or batter a two-state solution into fruition?

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is currently engaged in shuttling around the region. She says she still believes an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is achievable before her boss leaves office at the end of this year. Who is she trying to kid!

Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have a leader that speaks for the majority in the way Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin did, while George W. Bush is no Carter or Clinton when it comes to being a proactive mediator.

In any case, Washington pays only lip service to Middle East peace. It's merely used as a carrot to dangle in front of Arab nations every time the US needs to tempt them to sign on to an unpopular policy. In reality, a comprehensive peace involving Israel plus all 22 members of the Arab League and rubber-stamped by Iran would be strategically disastrous for US interests.

A Middle East where everybody got along in harmony, prosperity and security would become an area over which the US would have little control. With flourishing economies, trade and tourism no country would be dependent on American handouts and the demand for "made in the USA" weapons would swiftly decline.

This is why the US administration has always been lukewarm about the 2002 Saudi initiative that called for normalisation of relations between all Arab states and Israel in return for the latter's withdrawal behind 1967 borders, a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem and the setting up of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Normalisation of relations, which flies in the face of the old divide and rule principle, is not what Washington wants.


To understand this bulwark of American Middle East foreign policy, we need to step back in history. Although the US was the first country to recognise the fledgling State of Israel in 1948, it considered the area as part of the British sphere of influence. It was only later, when it became evident that Britain had lost its grip, leaving a power vacuum that the Soviets were eager to fill that Washington got involved.

When Israel put on an impressive display of military prowess during the 1967 war, the US took notice. For the first time, Washington realised that "little Israel" was capable of acting as its surrogate.

Following the 1973 war, it promptly increased its aid to Israel by more than 400 percent. By then the US had supplanted France as Israel's main weapons supplier and had begun to champion Israel's interests in the UN Security Council, irrespective of whether or not Israel's actions contravened international treaties or humanitarian law.

It was President Richard Nixon who sealed a mutually beneficial partnership with Israel designed to further US hegemony. Nixon devised a geopolitical strategy known as the Nixon Doctrine, whereby the US would select certain allies to stand as sentinels of American power within their own regions. Israel was and is America's sentinel in the Middle East. Its preferred status relies on its regional military superiority and its willingness to abide by US diktats.

The only way the US will cease to be part of the problem and become part of the solution is if the White House gets an incumbent with a strong moral code; someone with enough courage to lean on Israel even if this means incurring the wrath of Congress or the pro-Israel lobby.

In the meantime, a miracle might be nice!

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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