Thursday, September 29, 2011

Anger Management in New York City

It was in 2005 when I visited a geopolitical course in Geneva. One day was dedicated to the Israel - Palestine conflict and there were lecturers from both sides of the conflict present in the classroom. The Israeli expert was Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad officer and special advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and now the co-editor of bitterlemons, a web-based "Middle East roundtable". Certainly not a hardliner in the conflict, Alpher laid out in his speech that the existence of Israel was based on two mandates: a mandate from God, who told the Jewish people to settle in Palestine, and a mandate from the United Nations who granted the Jewish settlers in Palestine the state of Israel in 1948. Wow, I thought, this is powerful. The Israel - Palestine conflict will not end soon if Israel justifies its right of being where it is with God and the UN. Who could stand up against this?

Last week I got extremely angry. Once again I felt a vast feeling of injustice creeping up inside me. 63 years after the UN approved of an Israeli state, it denied the same right to the people of Palestine. On what grounds? On no grounds that stand any test of plausibility and fairness. The United States threatened to veto any bid for Palestinian statehood in the UN security council, clearly taking sides in this one sided battle, dropping their self woven mask of an "honest broker" for once and for all. The ultimate stupidity, and my ultimate anger, came when Obama told the UN General Assembly that this is no place where you can achieve peace through resolutions and statements. Wasn't it the original idea of the United Nations to just be that place? Wasn't the UN meant to be an organisation of all nations to whom states can turn to when all other means of finding solutions fail? Wasn't the recent bombing campaign in Libya grounded on a UN resolution with the goal of protecting civilians and bringing peace to the Libyan people? In New York, the US was ready to bury the UN in order to save Israel from a Palestinian state. 

But the opposition against a state of Palestine came not only from the United States. And it had more to do with the internal politics of the different actors than with their external politics, even though the Palestinian bid was discussed in New York City, in an international setting. To start with, it was not even a Palestinian demand - let's end this myth - but a bid by the Palestinian Authority, by Fatah and by Mahmoud Abbas himself. Hamas was against the initiative from the beginning because a victory in NYC would have meant a victory for their arch rival Fatah at home. God forbid. Powers like Hamas are born in and out of war. It is almost impossible for them to survive without war, with a peace process finding its peace. Their reason for being is war, is resistance, is the fight against Israel. Many anti-colonialism movements end up becoming the colonizers of their own people. Who would Hamas fight if Israel and Palestine live in peace, side by side? If there ever was an unholy coalition, it is the the tag team of Israel and Hamas arguing against the state of Palestine. 

Anger: Nicholson, Sandler, Yorikirii

Of course Abbas, with his drive for statehood, had a very personal benefit in mind as well: to win much needed popularity among the Palestinian people and to finally establish a legacy for himself after being accused of being to easy on Israel when Wikileaks revealed that he was even ready to deal away his grandmother's grave in East Jerusalem to make way for an Israeli settlement. Or something like that.

For others in the game it was internal politics as well. Netanyahu, besides being totally opposed to any room for Palestine, has the settlers and Lieberman on his back to reinforce this notion. Obama is already sweating when merely thinking about the election year 2012; his ratings are almost at Bush level. He kills Osama bin Laden, he kills Gaddafi, he kills Palestine to secure votes from left to right. Who would have thought that "Yes We Can! - Obama" turns out to be Barry the Grim Reaper. 

Others in the United States felt like killing the Palestinians even more thoroughly. Die-Hard Israel lobby senators were demanding to stop US aid to Palestine to punish them for purely stating their aspirations. US aid to Palestine is actually US aid to Israel! It is a big bucket of Prozac, meant to appease the Palestinians and make them more submissive to Israeli oppression and occupation. My blood pressure was rising again.

Even a pre-revolutionary Egypt is not entirely warm on Palestinian statehood. Could it be, the Junta in Cairo might think, that a state of Palestine could strengthen the hand of the Muslim Brotherhood in a distant Egypt? Shouldn't we rather deal with the devil we have come to know, Israel?

Activists for Palestine out there: I admire you, your enthusiasm, your persistence. But I wonder how long it will take until the last pro Palestine activist turns his or her back to this quagmire where every good thought has a thousand enemies and every well-meaning project has a million traitors. I was very angry thinking about this last week and it makes me angry writing about it today. Where is Jack Nicholson when I need him?

Further reading: "The Amoral Familism of the United Nations" - why the UN system is not working. My post from November 2010.