Professor Richard J. Norton in the article, “Friedman way off mark on use of U.S. troops for Mideast peace” does an excellent job responding to New York Times writer Thomas L. Friedman’s suggestion that the United State’s deploy troops to Israel to serve as “peacekeepers” between the Palestinians and the Israeli’s. Norton mentions in his response losses that the United State’s incurred when we attempted to serve as peacekeepers in the Israeli/Lebanese conflict. Not understanding that one people’s terrorists are another people’s freedom fighters, the United States went into Lebanon with good intentions, and as part of a multinational peacekeeping force supervised the evacuation of Palestinian troops from Beirut. Unfortunately good intentions were not sufficient protection for U.S. troops then, and my guess is that they wouldn’t be now. Writing on this topic in U.S. Policy On Palestine from Wilson to Clinton, Profes! sor of Political Science and Associate Director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at Villanova, Ann M. Lesh describes the Lebanon tragedy in her 1986 analysis of events leading up to the deaths of U.S. Marines serving as peacekeepers, saying:
Sharon wanted to attack Lebanon, both to destroy the PLO’s political and military presence and to create a new Lebanese government sympathetic to Israel. (Alexander) Haig had restrained Sharon in December 1981, when an Israeli strike might have damaged Egyptian-Israeli relations and undermined the agreement to restore Sinai to Egyptian control. But Sharon built up Israeli forces along the Lebanese border in the spring of 1982 and launched raids against the PLO in an effort to provoke them into breaking the cease-fire. Sharon then used an attempt by the renegade Abu Nidal organization to assassinate the Israeli ambassador in London, as the pretext for a full-scale invasion of Lebanon on June 4éAs Israeli forces withdrew from the central sector during the summer of 1983, the U.S. Marines lost their neutral status as peacekeeperséa fatal shift from their peaceke! eping role led to the devastating attack on the Marine barracks in October and total withdrawal of the American peacekeeping contingents in February 1984.
The United States has its own interests in the Middle East. Pundits like Friedman seem to be oblivious to the fact that Israel also has its own interests, and even though pro-Israeli pundits work very hard to blur the lines between these interests, they are starkly different. Zionism is not an American project. It is not a capitalist project, it is not a democratic project, and it is not a humanitarian project. Zionism is a secular and socialist political ideology, which is the vehicle for the establishment of a racist Jewish only state in the land of Palestine. It is the relationship between Zionism and Israel and the influence that Zionism has on the formulation of Israeli public policy and the Israeli government overall that is the primary point of contention between Palestinians and Israelis. In this respect, the United States cannot effectively participate as a peacekeeper, since there is no clear U.S. policy object! ive or interest at stake in the ideological battle between Zionists and those seeking democracy. In fact it could be argued that U.S. credibility dictates that the United States remain neutral to the extent that it can, considering that Israel is an ally, and U.S. credibility is also tested by its ability and willingness to stand by its allies in times of crisis. The people of the Middle East and Palestine must understand that the United States cannot t>
In 1977 Palestinian National Council member Sabri Jiryis, writing in the Journal of Palestine Studies said:
The Palestinians may, in certain circumstances, be ready to seek a settlement in the area to which Israel is a party. But they are not prepared to conclude an agreement recognizing the legitimacy of Zionism; no Palestinian Arab can ever accept as legitimate, a doctrine that he should be excluded from most parts of his homeland, because he is a Muslim Arab or a Christian Arab, while anyone of the Jewish faith from anywhere in the world is entitled to settle there. Realism may require recognition of the existence of a Jewish state in Palestine and that this fact be taken into account in seeking a settlement. But this can never mean approving the expansionist and exclusivist tendencies of Zionism.
Nothing has happened since 1977 to cause us to believe that this sentiment has changed. From as far back as 1919 the Palestinian people have sought to discover ways by which the Palestinian and Jewish people could co-exist peacefully in the land of Palestine. According to author Shaw J. Dallal in, “The Question of Palestine: Palestinian Attitudes Toward Civil Rights and Liberties,” a Palestinian delegation issued a statement before the General Syrian Congress on July 2 of that same year which said:
We desire the government of Syria to be ébased on principles of democratic and broadly decentralized rule, which shall safe guard the rights of minorities. We reject the claim of the Zionist for the establishment of a Jewish commonwealth in that part of southern Syria, which is known as Palestine. Our Jewish fellow citizens shall continue to enjoy the rights and to bear the responsibilities which are ours in commoné. the lofty principles proclaimed by President Wilson encourage us to believe that the determining consideration in the settlement of our own future will be the real desires of our people.
As we contemplate both the history and the present situation in Palestine, it seems clear to many that cease-fire will not come about until there is a real cause, or reason for a cease-fire. The people will not be intimidated or cowed into accepting any agreement that forces them back into Oslo, or that positions them to yield the Al-Aqsa mosque to Israel under any pretense. Whereas the Tenet Plan and the Mitchell Plan focus mostly on moving the people to a period of clam, or quiet and then to measures designed to encourage trust, it does not seem logical that trust can be created where there is no cause or reason to assume risk. What is the incentive for trust between two peoples who have no commonly recognized goal? It does not seem likely that the Sharon government will renounce Zionism, or that the Palestinian will ever give up hope of a democratic state where its people enjoy full rights of citizenship. Yet, Palesti! nian independence, secure borders, and peace in the region appear to be logical reasons for a step forward that could also serve as a cause for cease-fire. Short of a reason to end the violence, it does not seem likely that it will ever end, since as Jiryis and others have made perfectly clear, the conflict is not premised upon the fact that there are Jews and Arabs attempting to simultaneously inhabit these lands as some believe, but rather the conflict is premised on the fact that Zionism is incapable of accommodating non-Jews living side by side with Jews within a Zionist state. Within what proximity they can co-exist is yet to be seen, making Friedman’s suggestion that U.S. troops would serve along with Palestinian troops to protect the Temple Mount and prevent a Palestinian state from becoming a staging ground for attacks against Israel at best, a premature assessment of Israeli and Palestinian security needs, since no Palestinian state yet exists, and outside a negotia! ted settlement it is impossible to guess what types of security arrangements would be suited to the protection of the Temple Mount or borders. Norton, who is a professor of national security at the U.S. Naval War College, is right in his argument that “inserting U.S. troops into this mix, with an ill-defined mission and an indefinite timeline, is indicative of dangerously wishful thinking and overwhelming hubris.” He says further: “It ignores the lessons of the past, and it is an incorrect reading of the realities of today. It is in short, a recipe for disaster.”
Professor Cheryl Rubenburg, says in “American Efforts for Peace in the Middle East,” that Zionist leaders have always seen American support as key to the success of the Zionists enterprise in Palestine. She wrote: ” to ensure American support Zionists have undertaken extraordinary measures to construct a social reality that conforms to their interests. In so doing they have attempted to dehumanize Palestinians, and they have distorted and perverted the entire history of the Middle East in this century.” She adds:’
One of the striking aspects of all the various American efforts is the implicit values contained within theméa belief in democracy as expressed in the concepts of equality before the law for all citizens regardless of ethnic identity or religious affiliation; a respect for international norms, principles, and laws; and a commitment to a peaceful resolution of disputes based on justice and equity. However, in addition to sharing an underlying values consensus, the common denominator amongst all the American peace efforts is their abysmal failure. And perhaps as important as the tragedy of the failures themselves, is the fact that they occurred against the triumph of an ideology and an organization that manifested values antithetical to those described above. Israeli-Zionist society is predicated on a concept of religious/national exclusivity, resting on the distinction between “Jew” and “non-Jew” that is! institutionalized into the formal state structure; and on a concept of democracy as no more than rule by the majority without any protection of the rights of the minorities.
So long as Israel is determined to follow the Zionist diktat, the United States should limit its assistance in the Middle East to encouraging a cease-fire, and assisting both sides through mutual consultation, toward peace, while committing only to financially supporting along with the Arab countries and Europe, the establishment of a viable, independent, and sovereign Palestinian state. In this way the United States is neither morally or tacitly complicit in the Zionist project, yet can support and assist in the legal and political separation of the two peoples which as of this writing appears to be the only solution to the problem created by Zionism.
In 1988 Rabbi Elmer Berger, founder of the American Council for Judaism, and author of The Jewish Dilemma, sought to inform the world that indeed the relationship between the State of Israel and the Zionist organization is the primary obstacle to peace in this historic conflict. In “Zionist Ideology: Obstacle to Peace,” Berger stated the following:
The official description of the legal relationship between the Zionist movement and the Israeli government, and the glimpse of the political national substance of the implementing legislation, make it clear that Zionism is an important and over-riding national interest of the Israeli state. It is, therefore unrealistic to expect to negotiate with the Israeli state about anything, peace included, without taking Zionism into consideration even as it would be unrealistic to attempt to negotiate with any other state while ignoring or objecting, even implicitly to the fundamental value-system of the particular stateé
Regrettably, most examinations of the phenomenon [Zionism] have been done by and their significance has been limited to academicians, theorists and others removed from the many negotiating formulas, which, over the years, have been constructed in the search for peace. The accessible records of these negotiations offer almost no evidence that the participating statesmen confronted this central factor. It is at least a credible deduction that all the formulas to manipulate territory, compromise formulas for establishing the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” schemes for guaranteeing security of “all states” in the area have failed because by design or ignorance this vital interest of one of the major parties has never been put on the agenda.
Professor Cheryl Rubenburg, again addressing the issue of the U.S. and Israel, in Israel And the American National Interest; A Critical Examination, stated the following:
The root cause of the conflict is not Arab state aggression against Israel; it is the unresolved question of Palestine. Israel exists at the expense of Palestinians; their homes and lands were usurped, and they were transformed into stateless refugees as a result of the creation of the Jewish state. Israel, however has persisted in denying the existence of a Palestinian people, has refused to consider the establishment of the Palestinian state recommended in the 1947 partition resolution (181) that legitimized its own existence, and has refused to engage in any diplomatic or political negotiations with the legitimate representatives of the Palestinians.
Since Rubenburg wrote this book in 1986, several important changes have taken place, 1). The United States supports at least rhetorically, the establishment of a Palestinian state, 2). Israel has softened to the idea and seems to recognize that occupation has no other solution, and occupation’s days of convenience have ended. 3). The European Union suggested several months ago that talks begin immediately between Israel and the Palestinians on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. All of this is an indication that the political climate is right for separation and statehood, the only challenge now is to find the few good men who can make it happen. As much as we all sympathize with the plight of PA President Yasser Arafat, and the immense evil of the humiliation being heaped upon him by Ariel Sharon, the reality is that no one man is greater than a movement of ! a people to be free. The focus of the Palestinian, the Muslim and the Arab must be shifted somehow from Arafat and Sharon, and it must be refocused onto the plight and future of the Palestinian people. Perhaps the media’s most dishonest ploy against the Palestinian freedom movement has been its insistent focus and preoccupation with the Arafat/Sharon melodrama, while the real issues of independence, sovereignty, and the Palestinian national identity are being ignored. Various announcements have been made indicating that talks have been taking place for cease-fire, that Arafat has accepted a process, etc. Yet the terms, the objectives, the media is not covering the premise of such talks. The media wants us to believe that the people of Palestine are killing themselves to either avenge or to free Arafat, when the reality is that the people are struggling for a cause, a reason for Israel to come to the peace table and resolve itself to cease-fire, and a negotiated settlement th! at is transparent, and that is based on resolution 181 (partition), withdrawal to the 1967 borders as called for in 242, and an end to military violence and aggression as stated in resolution 338 which “calls upon all parties to present fighting to cease all firing and terminate all military activity immediately…” To date Israel has refused peace, or cease fire and has opted since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa intifada to use assassination, intimidation, home demolitions and other illegal and violent methods to impose its will upon the Palestinian people. Having failed to achieve its objectives through the Camp David II Summit, Israel decided that it would make an example of Arafat, take what it wants, and set its own terms for peace to which the Palestinian would have no choice but to accept. Conventional thinking always suggested that the Palestinian should be desperate for an end to any type of military engagement with Israel, since Israel has superior and greater! firepower than the Palestinians, but conventional wisdom is wrong. The Palestinians are able to withstand Israeli attacks, and they have proven their ability to retaliate against Israel, making it more important than ever that Israel end its violence, and that both parties negotiate a cease- fire. For perhaps the first time since the beginning of the occupation a win/win situation presents itself for our review. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis can win significant concessions in a cease-fire that is premised upon Palestinian independence and sovereignty and Israeli security, recognition and acceptance in the Arab/Muslim world.
Oren Yiftachel, Chair of the department of geography at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, opined in “Between Apartheid and Peace” published in Tikkun, Vol.16, No.1, saying:
It is important for Israeli leaders and the Israeli public to open their eyes widely, and to see that, despite the uniqueness of every state, there exists a political-geographical logic from which Israel cannot, and will not escape. This logic points to the existence of two and only two options to temper the Zionist-Palestinian conflict. The first is a political-geographical partition perceived as legitimate and just by both sides, with UN decision 242 as a basis. Israel would then retreat from all occupied territories, except for very small areas mutually agreed upon by the Palestinians. Most Jewish settlements would be evacuated, and would form an important infrastructure for the resettlement and rehabilitation of Palestinian refugees, while the large near border settlements such as Gilo and Ramot in the Jerusalem region, may stay under Israeli sovereignty,! subject to territorial exchange.
The only other option, according to Yiftachel “is the granting of equal citizenship to all residents of the Israeli/Palestine space, with the establishment of a bi-national (as distinct from a secular) democratic state.” Yet even Yiftachel, whose observations emanate from a reading of history that casts the Palestine/Israel dilemma in the shadow of such historic events as the division of Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the early 1990’s, known as the “velvet partition” and “Greece, which received its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1833” accepts that “given the urgent need to give full expression to Palestinian national sovereignty, and given the severe level of hostilities demonstrated during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, a political partition into two states, even if temporary, is currently the preferred option.” In a section of the Yiftachel article subtitle! d, “International lessons: What can we Expect?” the author lists a series of historic lessons that Israel should draw upon for guidance:
1). Mutual agreement between two peoples to separate as equals is likely to lead to a stable, peaceful, and democratic political order.
2). A forced unilateral separation, of the type planned by former Prime Minister Netanyahu, and by Barak, (apartheid) is doomed to turn into a double-edged sword (emphasis added).
3). Unilateral annexation of settlement blocks as planned by Barak in areas such as Ma’ale Adumin/Abu Dis or around the city of Ariel is likely to fan the flames of ethnic conflict for generations to come.
4). A partition perceived as illegitimate will prompt the creation of a belligerent state and generate a cycle of wars instead of enhancing peace.
A transparent process that is aimed towards implementation of a mutually agreed upon plan, that is acceptable not only to governments but also to the people of the region will bring both peoples to the peace and security they desire. Peace is not impossible in Palestine/Israel. Yet it is clear to most observers that the political and military gamesmanship of the past will not lead to any significant gains for either side. There must be a cause for cease-fire, and it should not be fear and intimidation, but rather it should be reason. Providence has accomplished what human beings could not have planned, nor foreseen and that is that these two peoples have at the same time, everything to gain and everything to loose, which is the perfect incentive for peace.
The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women.