Palestinians, properly outraged at the Obama administration’s decision to veto a UN Security Council declaration on the illegality of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, are planning a Day of Rage this Friday. It would be wonderful if that demonstration happened in front of every American and Israeli embassy and consulate in the world. The power of the common people, as we have recently expressed in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Algeria, Libya and other Middle East countries is a wondrous thing. Nothing, including dictators, police or armies can stand in the way of a determined and peaceful mass of unarmed but insistent citizens determined to gain their rights even at the risk of death. It was and is a moving experience to watch and it harkens back to the halcyon days of our founding forefathers before we lost our democratic ideals, souls, and freedoms to interest group politics and corporate greed.
Of all the downtrodden peoples of the Middle East, the Palestinians are certainly the most deserving of help. They alone among Arab nations have never achieved independence and a country of their own. They alone remain under the boot of a ruthless colonial power, Israel, which is intent on keeping all their ancestral lands and homes for its Jewish citizens. Unlike the Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans and others, they have no country of their own. Nor do they have any freedoms. Instead, they are subject to the daily humiliation of military control and oppression by Israeli Defense Forces who routinely kill unarmed civilian demonstrators, arrest small children, seize homes and act to protect Jewish settlers no matter how outrageous their conduct toward their Palestinian neighbors.
One would think that my own country, the United States, known for its democratic history and as a champion of civil rights, would be the first to stand up in support of Palestinian independence and freedom. Alas, we, virtually alone among the nations of the world, ignore, except for occasional lip service, the plight of the Palestinians. We instead act as Israel’s great benefactor, funding its illegal settlement enterprise and brutal military occupation in Palestine at the tune of more than $3.0 billion per year. We claim we are acting as a neutral and fair mediator in our attempts to resolve the conflict but in fact we are “Israel’s Lawyer” and promote Israel’s positions no matter how unfair to the Palestinians. We further protect Israel from any and all international sanctions for its gross misconduct in its military adventures in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Lebanon and Gaza by vetoing any UN resolutions aimed at curtailing and sanctioning unlawful conduct by the Israelis.
The latest veto, this past Friday, was of a resolution that merely confirmed the US position of the last 43 years that Israel’s exclusively Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law. It is difficult to know the logic behind the decision to veto something we supposedly are in complete agreement with. We are told that the resolution would interfere with the negotiation process. That makes little sense since the negotiation process is effectively dead and has been largely moribund from the beginning. In her lame attempt to justify the veto, US UN Ambassador Susan Rice said “the US rejects in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continuing Israeli settlement activity”. Such crafty language is the tool of moral cowardice. The settlements are not illegitimate, they are illegal under international law. Opposing continuing Israeli settlement activity implies that we do not oppose past or completed settlement activity. What she should have said was that the US opposes all Israeli settlement building from 1967 on as illegal and a direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The reason for the veto and crafty language is very clear: Israel and its US Jewish Zionist lobby hold great sway in American politics and in our Congress. Defying that lobby could result in a loss of as much as 50 percent of the funding of US congressional and presidential campaigns which would then be directed to parties and candidates who show complete fealty and obedience to the whim of Israel’s US Jewish Zionist lobby. The existence and power of this lobby is no secret and is freely admitted to and bragged about by its own supporters, and has been described in detail by past American presidents, secretaries of state and lessor dignitaries.
The power of Israel’s lobby over President Obama has been astonishing to watch. He began his administration with strong talk about how it was a vital national security interest of the United States to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He, Secretary of State Clinton and others said that Israel must immediately stop all settlement activities. After Vice President Biden was humiliated in a visit to Israel by the announcement of further settlement building, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu admonishing him for his conduct.
These largely verbal attempts at controlling illegal settlement activity by the Israelis caused major efforts by Israel’s lobby to change the administration’s approach to Israel. Normally dependable political funding sources dried up for democratic candidates. Obama soon faced not only the loss of his democratic majorities in Congress but also the destruction of his chances for a second term as President, a fate suffered by two former presidents who tangled with Israel’s US Jewish Zionist lobby, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.
Within weeks President Obama was making peace with Netanyahu. Despite total intransigence by the Israelis in the few months of peace talks, the Obama administration took no more adverse actions toward Israel, verbal or otherwise, and instead resorted to bribery as a form of persuasion. Nothing worked and the peace talks collapsed. Meanwhile illegal settlement building increased at exponential levels. There are now well over 500,000 Israeli Jews living in exclusively Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands intended by the UN for the Arab State of Palestine. This is the equivalent of 30 million Americans being moved into exclusive, Americans only, gated and guarded compounds throughout Canada without the permission of the Canadians.
The recent disclosures from the Wikileaks and Palestine Papers diplomatic documents have shown conclusively that the US is not acting as an honest broker mediator in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, and that Israel has no intent of entering into any remotely fair or equitable agreement. The Palestinians, justly disappointed, have turned to the UN for help and justice in the hope that they might finally receive the independent state of their own promised yet still denied them for some 64 years. They were supported by 130 nations and all fourteen member states on the UN Security Council, save one, the United States who killed the motion with its lone veto vote.
The Palestinians now have turned to their last hope, the power of the ordinary people of the world, like the Egyptian, Libyan, Tunisian masses who braved bullets to throw out dictators. Their hopes for American or UN justice forlorn and shattered, they have turned to all of us for help, for justice. They want and deserve their Day of Rage, their day of reckoning against Israel and its US Jewish Zionist Lobby, but most of all they want to express their rage against the US and its feckless president and gutless congress.
It would be wonderful to see this coming Friday large crowds gathering in front of US and Israeli embassies and consulates throughout the world demonstrating and chanting for Palestinian independence and freedom from Israeli oppression. The demonstrations should be peaceful but the chanting loud and forceful: “Freedom and independence for Palestine”. “Stop Israeli Oppression of the Palestinians”. Chants could even be rude if accurate, such as: “President Obama: Netanyahu’s Bitch”, or “President Obama: Israel’s Uncle Tom”, or “Yankee Go Home – to Tel Aviv”, or “US Foreign Policy: Bought and Paid for by AIPAC”.
These demonstration would be empowering for us all. They would show our corrupt governments that the lobby or interest group they should fear the most is the People’s Lobby. They would show us that we too have the blood and courage of Tunisians and Libyans coursing through our veins, that we too can walk and demonstrate like an Egyptian, that we too care about independence and human rights for all oppressed people, and most of all we care for our Palestinian brothers and sisters who have suffered under Israeli oppression far too long.
We have little time left before now and Friday to organize this massive effort but so what, the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions were largely spontaneous. We can do it if we care enough, if we have courage enough to do so. This will be the fourth Friday of February. We should meet again in another demonstration on the fourth Friday of March and every month until Palestinians are at last free and independent. If we see no progress we should demand the closure of US and Israeli embassies and consulates and a boycott of Israeli and US goods and services until a fair solution is reached.
People Power is an awesome force. We need to use it.