Friday, January 25, 2008

Siaran Media Pilihan / Selected Media Statement

Bush’s Middle East Visit and the Issue of Palestine.

President Bush’s just concluded visit to the Middle East, his first to Palestine, reflects the importance of the Palestinian issue in international politics. Mr. Bush wants to be known as a peace maker in history. That is why he wants to see the conflicting parties sign “some form of peace treaty” before he leaves office in a year’s time. In his speeches in a number of countries in the region he has expressed his optimism about the prospect for peace in the region. But our question is how realistic is this optimism? Let alone the one year that is left of the Bush Administration, one would be surprised if peace between Israel and Palestine could be reached in decades. Why do we say this? A few references to the history of the conflict will elucidate this point.

The State of Israel had declared its “Independence” almost six decades ago. Why do we put the term ‘Independence’ in inverted commas? Israel’s so-called Independence was totally different from that of other countries that had been colonized by Western powers in the nineteenth century. It was colonialism, specifically British colonialism, that facilitated the emergence of the state of Israel through Zionist colonization of Palestine mainly via the Balfour Declaration of 1917 in which the British government promised the Zionists of Europe a Jewish homeland in Palestine. It explains why ninety-five percent of the citizens of Israel at the time of “Independence” in 1948 were recently domiciled Jewish migrants from Europe. These migrants fought against the indigenous Muslim and Christian communities of Palestine. There were also small numbers of indigenous Jews in Palestine living in relative peace with their Muslim and Christian neighbours. Though the indigenous Palestinians revolted against the Zionist influx in the nineteen twenties and thirties, the British colonialists suppressed these revolts. After they had grabbed land from the Palestinians and terrorized them, the Zionists turned against the British who in any case were in a hurry to abandon a Palestine that was in turmoil.

Mr. Bush referred to ending of occupation by Israel. Of course in order to attain peace in the area there has to be an end to occupation. The majority of Palestinians have already indicated that they would be content with 22 percent of original, historical Palestine. They have already acknowledged their military and economic weaknesses and agreed to accommodate realities on the ground and accept only this tiny piece of land. But Mr. Bush is again asking both parties to make adjustments “to reflect current realities.” He is clearly asking Palestinians to make even more concessions to Israel. We say this because even in the presence of Mr. Bush the Israeli government has continued with setting up new settlements in that mere 22 percent of the land.

What new realities does Mr. Bush want the Palestinians to accept? Should the Palestinians accept a total bondage by the Israelis? Should Moses have accepted the reality of Pharaoh’s military and economic strength? Should David have accepted the reality of Goliath’s rule only because the latter was powerful? Should God choose any people to be His model community even though they don’t know what justice means and how justice is practiced? Is God unjust? What type of God does one believe in? Would God like His servants to indulge in the oppression and suppression of other peoples?

One of the most unfortunate aspects of Bush’s visit was the role of the mainstream media. According to the mainstream media Mr. Bush had used strong words against Israel; he had used the word ‘occupation’ to describe Israel’s continuous holding of that 22 percent that is left of Palestinian land. Is it not a fact that Israel is an occupying power? Hasn’t the UN declared that this occupation is illegal? Israel has not only occupied the land, it has confined the people of Gaza in a large prison. Even in an ordinary prison, the prisoners are allowed basic necessities such as food, electricity, water and medicine. Israel has despicably denied the people of Gaza even such basic needs. Perhaps never in history has an imprisoned population been targeted and bombarded the way Gaza has been in recent months. Are the ‘civilized’ nations of the world blind to the slaughter of children, women and innocent individuals by the state of Israel?

The media has also sympathetically highlighted the potential problems that the Israeli Prime Minister would encounter from within Israel if he grants any “concessions” to the Palestinians. Shouldn’t the media be telling the world of the monumental sacrifices, the huge concessions that the Palestinians have made? Shouldn’t the media persuade Israel to act justly? Will the media help Israel understand how a civilized nation should behave? Can Mr. Bush help in this regard? Of course, he can, if he follows the footsteps of President Woodrow Wilson and recognizes the right of self-determination of the people of Palestine.

Professor Abdullah al-Ahsan,

International Movement for a Just World (JUST).

22 January 2008.

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