Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
American Intermediaries, Including John Kerry,
Are Not Neutral, Favor Israelis on the Expense of Palestinians
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 13, 2014
January 4, 2014
Neutral – in whose favor?
A FORMER Israeli army Chief of Staff, a man of limited intelligence, was
told that a certain individual was an atheist. “Yes,” he asked, “but a
Jewish atheist or a Christian atheist?”
Lenin, in his Swiss exile,
once inquired about the party affiliation of a newly elected member of the
Duma. “Oh, he is just a fool!” his assistant asserted. Lenin answered
impatiently: “A fool in favor of whom?”
I am tempted to pose a
similar question about people touted to be neutral in our conflict: “Neutral
in favor of whom?”
THE QUESTION came to my mind when I saw an
Israeli documentary about the US intermediaries
who have tried over the last 40 years or so to broker peace between the
Palestinians and us.
reason, most of them were Jews.
sure that all of them were loyal American citizens, who would have been
sincerely offended by any suggestion that they served a foreign country,
such as Israel. They honestly felt themselves to be neutral in our conflict.
Bur were they neutral? Are they? Can they be?
My answer is: No, they couldn’t.
Not because they were dishonest. Not because they consciously served one
side. Certainly not. Perish the thought!
But for a much deeper
reason. They were brought up on the narrative of
one side. From childhood on, they have internalized the history and
the terminology of one side (ours). They couldn’t even imagine that the
other side has a different narrative, with a different terminology.
This does not prevent them from being neutral. Neutral for one side.
By the way, in this respect there is no great difference between American
Jews and other Americans. They have generally been brought up on the same
history and ideology, based on the Hebrew Bible.
LET US take the
latest example. John Kerry is carrying with
him a draft plan for the solution of the conflict.
It was prepared
meticulously by a staff of experts. And what a staff! One hundred and sixty
I won’t ask how many of them are fellow
Jews. The very question smacks of anti-Semitism. Jewish Americans are like
any other Americans. Loyal to their country. Neutral in our conflict.
Neutral for whom?
Well, let’s look at the plan. Among many other
provisions, it foresees the stationing of Israeli troops in the Palestinian
Jordan valley. A temporary measure. Only for ten years. After that, Israel
will decide whether its security needs have been met. If the answer is
negative, the troops will remain for as long as necessary – by Israeli
For neutral Americans, this sounds quite reasonable.
There will be a free and sovereign Palestinian state. The Jordan valley will
be part of this state.
If the Palestinians achieve their long-longed-for independence, why
should they care about such a bagatelle? If they are not considering
military action against Israel, why would they mind?
Logical if you
are an Israeli. Or an American. Not if you are a Palestinian.
Because for a Palestinian, the Jordan valley constitutes 20% of their
putative state, which altogether consists of 22% of the territory they
consider their historical homeland. And because they believe, based on
experience, that there is very little chance that Israelis will ever
willingly withdraw from a piece of land if they can help it. And because the
continued military control of the valley would allow the Israelis to cut the
State of Palestine off from any contact with the Arab world, indeed from the
world at large.
And, well, there is such a thing as national
pride and sovereignty.
Imagine Mexican – or even Canadian - troops
stationed on 20% of the territory of the USA. Or French troops in control of
20% of Germany. Or Russian troops in 20% of Poland. Or Serbian troops
Impossible, you say. So why do American experts take it
for granted that Palestinians are different? That they wouldn’t mind?
Because they have a certain conception of Israelis and Palestinians.
THE SAME lack of understanding of the other side is, of course, prevalent in
the relations between the two sides themselves.
On the last day of
anno 2013, Israel had to release 26 Palestinian prisoners, who had been held
since before the 1993 Oslo Accord. This was part of the preliminary
agreement achieved by John Kerry for starting the current negotiations.
Every time this happens, there is an outcry in Israel and rejoicing in
Palestine. Nothing exemplifies the mental gap between the two peoples more
clearly than these contrasting reactions.
For Israelis, these
prisoners are vile murderers, despicable terrorists with “blood on their
hands”. For Palestinians, they are national heroes, soldiers of the sacred
Palestinian cause, who have sacrificed more than 20 years of their young
lives for the freedom of their people.
For days, all Israeli
networks have reported several times a day on demonstrations of bereaved
Israeli mothers, clutching in their hands large photos of their sons and
daughters, crying out in anguish against the release of their murderers. And
immediately after, scenes in Ramallah and Nablus of the mothers of the
prisoners, clutching the portraits of their loved ones, dancing and singing
in anticipation of their arrival.
Many Israelis were cringing at
this sight. But the editors and anchormen would be astonished if they were
told that they were inciting the people against the prisoner release, and –
indirectly – against the peace negotiations. Why? How? Just honest
This revulsion at the other side’s rejoicing seems to be
an ancient reaction. The Bible tells us that after King Saul was killed in
the war against the Philistines, King David lamented: “Tell it not in Gath,
publish it not in the streets of Askelon (both Philistine towns) ; lest the
daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the
uncircumcised triumph.” (II Samuel. 1:20)
Binyamin Netanyahu went
further. He made a speech denouncing the Palestinian leadership. How could
they organize these demonstrations of joy? What does that say about the
sincerity of Mahmoud Abbas? How could they rejoice at the sight of these
abominable murderers, who had slaughtered innocent Jews? Doesn’t this prove
that they are not serious about seeking peace, that they are all unreformed
terrorists at heart, out for Jewish blood? So we cannot give up any security
measures for a long, long time.
The prisoners themselves, when
interviewed by Israeli TV immediately after their release, argued in
excellent Hebrew (learned in prison) that the main thing was to achieve
peace. When asked, one of them said: “Is there a
single Israeli, from Netanyahu down, who hasn’t killed Arabs?”
THIS GAP of perceptions is, to my mind, the largest obstacle to peace.
This week Netanyahu gave us another beautiful example. He spoke about the
continued incitement against Israel in Palestinian schoolbooks. This item of
right-wing Israeli propaganda pops up every time the other tired arguments
are let out to grass.
How can there be peace, Netanyahu exclaimed,
if Palestinian children learn in their classes that Haifa and Nazareth are
part of Palestine? This means that they are educated to destroy Israel!
This is so impertinent, that one can only gasp. I don’t think that there
exists a single Hebrew schoolbook that does not mention the fact that
Jericho and Hebron are part of Eretz Israel. To change this one would have
to abolish the Bible.
Haifa and Hebron,
Jericho and Nazareth are all part of the same country, called Palestine in
Arabic and Eretz Israel in Hebrew. They are all deeply rooted in the
consciousness of both peoples. A compromise between them does not mean that
they give up their historical memories, but that they agree to partition the
country into two political entities.
Netanyahu and his ilk cannot imagine this, and therefore they are unable to
make peace. On the Palestinian side there are certainly many people
who also find this impossible, or too painful.
I wonder if Irish
schoolbooks have obliterated 400 years of English domination or abomination.
I doubt it. I also wonder how English schoolbooks treat this chapter of
In any case, if an independent (neutral?) commission
of experts were to examine all the schoolbooks in Israel and Palestine, they
would find very little difference between them. Of Israel’s four main school
systems (national, national-religious, western-orthodox and
eastern-orthodox), at least the three religious ones are so
nationalist-racist that a Palestinian competitor would be hard-pressed to
trump them. None of them says anything about the existence of a Palestinian
people, not to mention any rights on the country they may possess. God
TO BE more than a mere fragile armistice,
peace needs reconciliation. See: Mandela.
impossible if either side is totally oblivious to the narrative of the
other, their history, beliefs, perceptions, myths.
John Kerry does not need 160 or 1600 experts,
neutral or otherwise. He needs one good psychologist. Or maybe two.
One can easily understand the feelings of a mother whose son was killed
by a Palestinian militant. If one tries, one can also understand the
feelings of a mother whose son was ordered by his leaders to attack Israelis
and who returns from prison after 30 years.
Only if the American
intermediaries, neutral or otherwise, understand both can contribute to