Sham Palestinian peace plan is business as usual

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Growing up in the northern city of Lebanon’s Tripoli, the sight of Palestinian camps was part of the landscape. Just over the hill in the village of Jabel Mohsen, these camps (we called them mukhayems) were sprawled against the backdrop of a local mosque, green fields and unpaved roads. 

President Trump Meets with Israeli PM Netanyahu at The White House (Photo by Sarah Silbiger)

But the camps weren’t tents — the Palestinians had been in Lebanon too long for that — they were makeshift posts with eateries, coffee shops and retail. My father would even take me and my brothers to the mukhayem for ice cream sometimes.

One of the first Palestinians I remember meeting in Lebanon was called Saeed, a jack of all trades working for an uncle in construction, delivery and maintenance. He used to play cards with my dad and uncles. Saeed was tall, mild mannered and seemed to hardly ever smile.

In retrospect there was something about his demeanour that was fatalistic, perhaps even defeatist. Gauging Palestinians’ statelessness and how they have generally fared in the Israel debate, his demeanour isn’t unjustified. Like many Palestinians abroad, Saeed has likely given up on seeing justice served in his homeland.

American administration after administration have failed to bring any meaningful change to Palestinians both in Palestine and beyond. Trump’s latest ‘deal of the century’ is just the newest iteration of that continued charade American presidents like to play in the Middle East. The Palestinians, and Arabs more generally, have gotten used to this sham of semantics and pretences of peace, watching on as America continues to fund and support Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its projection of military power in the region with impunity.

The media is partly to blame. Their employment of language gymnastics often downplays Israel’s occupation. Robert Fisk, a long-time Middle East correspondent with the UK’s Independent, has lamented this ‘flabby’ and ‘mealy mouthed’ journalism where a de facto siege is called a ‘closure’, assassinations are called ‘targeted killings’ or occupied land is ‘disputed’.

In his essay, ‘Politics and the English language’, George Orwell drew a link between decadent civilisation and the collapse or conscious obscuration of meaning in language. It is this (ab)use of language that commends Israel for being a ‘democracy’ and its leaders as men of ‘peace’.

 

'It’s difficult to imagine a peace plan when one side of the conflict is not even at the media briefing. As Trump talked of ‘peace transcending politics’ during a news conference with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there was no Palestinian delegation in sight.'

 

It isn’t just Republican presidents who continually overlook Palestinian rights and sovereignty, but also democratic ones like Clinton and Obama. On the footsteps of the US presidential election in 2008, Obama’s message of hope quickly soured as he fell in step with Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’ during Occupation Cast Lead. In that conflict on the besieged Gaza strip over 1100 Palestinians lost their lives compared to 13 Israelis. During the 2006 war with Lebanon, where Israel used phosphorus weapons and dropped over 4 million cluster munitions, then Senator Obama cosponsored a resolution in support of Israel’s actions.

It’s difficult to imagine a peace plan when one side of the conflict is not even at the media briefing. As Trump talked of ‘peace transcending politics’ during a news conference with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there was no Palestinian delegation in sight. Trump went on to mention ‘peace’ ten times in less than six minutes but did not mention ‘occupation’ once.

Criticism of Israel by US Presidents in office is almost unheard of, and when it comes to stalling peace it is almost invariably the Palestinians who are blamed for missing the opportunity. Bill Clinton, in his book My Life, blamed the Palestinian delegation for the failure of the Camp David negotiations in 2000.

While the media is making something of the right of return not appearing in Trump’s plan, according to Clinton that has never really even been on the table. As Clinton’s recount of the negotiations tells us, the right of return would necessarily mean that Israel’s Jews would be demographically outnumbered by Palestinians. In essence, there is no right of return lest Israel cease being a Jewish state.

When it comes to how America is perceived in the world, poll after poll have shown that the US scores lowest in the Middle East and Muslim world. The reasons include America’s unequivocal support for Israel and the backing of dictatorships. Trump’s plan is just entrenching that image of America — an America that uses its power to dispossess Palestinian Arabs and deny them their basic human rights.

The despondency of being dispossessed and denied justice will continue to be ignored by American administrations in the pursuit of hegemony and oil interests. Some Palestinians, like Saeed, will continue to feel that dispossession from beyond Palestine and others in Palestine will ultimately be faced with no other option but to resist this modern-day colonialism. While any Jew in the world can go live in Israel, a Palestinian like Saeed will never be able to return to his home.

 

 

Daniel SleimanDaniel Sleiman is a freelance writer and journalist based in Canberra.

Main image: President Trump Meets with Israeli PM Netanyahu at The White House (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Daniel Sleiman, Palestine, Israel, Donald Trump

 

 

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Existing comments

The Trump 'peace plan' is, as you point out, ludicrous. Of course the Palestinians reject it out of hand. They have nothing substantial to gain from it and a great deal to lose, including both their integrity and credibility. The ultimate aim of the Americans and Israelis in the Middle East appears to be to destabilise Iran and bring about regime change, despite Trump's denial of this.
Edward Fido | 04 February 2020


“The despondency of being dispossessed and denied justice will continue to be ignored by American administrations in the pursuit of hegemony and oil interests.” America’s solicitude for Israel seems to violate Lord Palmerston’s dictum, “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” One wonders what permanent interests would require being a permanent big brother to a small country with no oil against neighbours with plenty of oil. If the Palmerston dictum is realpolitik, America’s continuous failure to abide by it in the case of Israel must be its opposite.
roy chen yee | 04 February 2020


Daniel, I read your piece and note that no comments seem to have been raised, I cannot but wonder if this is a further sign that the Palestine/Israel matter, which is as it were a primary cancer, is of such long standing that it is accepted as incurable. Brian V.
Brian V. | 05 February 2020


I thoroughly recommend the book "Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict" by Charles D. Smith. ISBN: 9781319028053 On Book Depository it looks like the 2016 9th Rev Ed is the latest version. .... Originally written for a US college course, inside the book is what it says on the cover. Referring to the documents and what happens on the ground after "peace talks" and UN resolutions is instructive - so much double speak, much more from Israel, the duplicity of the US, the horror of it all via documents that have been drawn up along the way. I can only say - Read it! You will get a very different picture to that presented in the mainstream media.
MargaretMC | 05 February 2020


This article hits the nail on the head. The west has for years and years refused to even acknowledge Palestinian suffering at the receiving end of the brutal Israeli occupation. It doesn't look like changing either, especially with the massive indoctrination campaigns being promulgated by Israeli lobbies the world over.
Bernie, from Richmond | 07 February 2020


Note also President Jimmy Carter's Peace Not Apartheid - a different voice from an American evangelical Christian not among Mr Trump's fans.
John Bunyan | 07 February 2020


p.s. And also Jimmy Carter's 2009 We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land... (Can we ? !)
John Bunyan | 07 February 2020


i frankly think that the only thing Trump cares about is having his name on the document and international attention........... again..................
hilary | 07 February 2020


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