Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A number of perspectives on Middle East issues

"The Arab peace initiative has been widely misunderstood, and occasionally even deliberately misconstrued.

The initiative is not a road map providing a step-by-step approach to an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, nor does it demand of Israel prior acceptance of certain Arab or Palestinian conditions.

It does not provide a framework for peace negotiations other than what is already specified in the road map that Israel claims it fully supports: Israel's return to the pre-1967 armistice line as the basis for negotiations for alterations, if any, to that line; the location of a capital of a Palestinian state in East Jerusalem; and a resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem.

Negotiations over these three principal permanent-status issues are not a condition dreamed up by the Saudis or the Arab League. They are the universally accepted ground rules for peace negotiations that even President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have stated categorically Israel cannot alter on its own"

So writes Henry Siegman in the IHT. Siegman is a director of the U.S./Middle East Project and the Sir Joseph Hotung professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

What is clear that Israel isn't keen on pursuing peace at all. It is the same theme put forward by Gideon Levy writing in Israeli newspaper Haaretz [reproduced on counterpunch] under the headline "Israel Does Not want Peace":

"The moment of truth has arrived, and it has to be said: Israel does not want peace. The arsenal of excuses has run out, and the chorus of Israeli rejection already rings hollow. Until recently, it was still possible to accept the Israeli refrain that "there is no partner" for peace and that "the time isn't right" to deal with our enemies. Today, the new reality before our eyes leaves no room for doubt and the tired refrain that "Israel supports peace" has been left shattered.

It's hard to determine when the breaking point occurred. Was it the absolute dismissal of the Saudi initiative? The refusal to acknowledge the Syrian initiative? Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's annual Passover interviews? The revulsion at the statements made by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, in Damascus, alleging that Israel was ready to renew peace talks with Syria?

Who would have believed it? A high-ranking U.S. official says Israel wants peace talks to resume and instantly her president "severely" denies the veracity of her words. Is Israel even hearing these voices? Are we digesting the significance of these voices for peace? Seven million apathetic Israeli citizens prove that we are not."

Finally, Sara Roy, under the headline "How Can Children of the Holocaust Do Such Things?" writing a balanced and moderated piece on counterpunch makes a plea for a resolution of the Palestinian-Israel conflict if for no other reason than at least humanitarian grounds:

"Many of the people, both Jewish and others, who write about Palestinians and Arabs fail to accept the fundamental humanity of the people they are writing about, a failing born of ignorance, fear and racism. Within the organized Jewish community especially, it has always been unacceptable to claim that Arabs, Palestinians especially, are like us, that they, too, possess an essential humanity and must be included within our moral boundaries, ceasing to be "a kind of solution," a useful, hostile "other" to borrow from Edward Said. That any attempt at separation is artificial, an abstraction.

By refusing to seek proximity over distance, we calmly, even gratefully refuse to see what is right before our eyes. We are no longer compelled, if we ever were, to understand our behavior from positions outside our own, to enter, as Jacqueline Rose has written, into each other's predicaments and make what is one of the hardest journeys of the mind. Hence, there is no need to maintain a living connection with the people we are oppressing, to humanize them, taking into account the experience of subordination itself, as Said would say. We are not preoccupied by our cruelty nor are we haunted by it. The task, ultimately, is to tribalize pain, narrowing the scope of human suffering to ourselves alone. Such willful blindness leads to the destruction of principle and the destruction of people, eliminating all possibility of embrace, but it gives us solace."


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