During an interview in Davos Switzerland, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice offered a touching analogy, comparing the struggles for the right to vote of African Americans in the south, and the recent Palestinian elections, as she simultaneously called for discontinuing humanitarian aid to Palestine. Her use of this analogy reveals a very fundamental misunderstanding of the Palestine/Israel conflict, and the plight of Muslims in the Muslim world that may be the reason that Rice never seems to get it right when dealing with issues related to Arabs and Muslims, and also the Palestine/Israel conflict. Unlike the US descendants of, and former slaves living in the south, the Palestinians are living in their own native country, living on their own land, speak their native language, and have a religious and traditional culture that is in tact. They have never been enslaved, even though the Israelis, after invading and occupying their land, made every attempt to utilize the Palestinians as cheap labor, and treated them as inferiors, referring to them very often as animals, and by other names not suited to human beings, and treating them even worse. Attempts to enslave the Palestinians having failed, the original Israeli invaders, who are East European colonialists, opted to import people, including many who claim to be Jewish, from Eastern Europe, other parts of the Middle East, Africa, and also Asia, to satisfy their labor needs.
The Palestinians are a people living as refugees in their own, and other countries due to forced expulsions, and not due to slavery. Palestine is a country that has been illegally and military occupied by Israel for many years. The recent elections is a step in an ongoing process of survival that has been adopted by the Palestinian people with the hope of continuing their progress towards political, economic social, and material freedom from the illegal occupation, while organizing their affairs in a way that facilitates improved administration of Palestinian political social, and economic affairs. It is not part of a struggle for civil rights. To suggest, or rather to impose this definition, or caricature of the Palestinian struggle upon the world, is to further distort the very basic truths that will define what justice is in respect to this conflict.
Whereas Europeans victimized both African Americans and Palestinians, the similarity in their historic struggles pretty much end at that juncture. Africans Americans struggled to be a part of something that was foreign and unwelcoming, and hatefully racist, yet we had no claim to anything except the promise of 40 acres and a mule. Integration, and the bestowal of rights was court ordered in the US, and stemmed from the recognition that we are equally human beings, that had been illegally and wrongly stolen and kidnapped from our native lands for the simple and evil purpose of slavery, and it was racism that justified that crime, and that stood in the way of African American inclusion and integration until the courts resolved the matter, making racial and all other types of discrimination a crime. The right to vote was a part of the integration of former slaves and their descendants into US society, thereby making us parties to the Constitutional contract that recognizes our inalienable rights as fully entitled citizens. The resolution of the Palestine/Israel conflict cannot be resolved through court order, and Israel did not grant Palestinians the rights vote.
This is why the call to end US and European aid to the Palestinians in retaliation for the people exercising their right to vote, and also to select their own representatives while typically European, is also typically racist and wrong. The mere idea that Europe and the US would respond to the Palestinian people as if they are slaves being incrementally freed, and the right to vote being simply a stage in their progress towards that end, should be insulting to the modern and civilized world. So since they didn’t please the masta they get starved to death? Imagine that countries who claim to be the most civilized and advanced nations, are so backwards and blinded by their own racism, that the exercise of fundamental, and inalienable rights by a people living in their own country, and upon their own land is ignored to the benefit of an illegal usurper and occupier, and to what end? In fact, it is so absurd that decent and conscientious people throughout the world should oppose this attempt to punish the Palestinians, and demand that all efforts be made to continue aid. The Muslim countries should also step up to the plate, and contribute more to help Palestine, and to decrease Palestine’s dependency on European and US aid. Already the cost to restore the damage caused by Israel in Palestine, and Lebanon, and also by Israel in Iraq, is very high. Israel pays nothing for its destruction, while its victims are forced to pay, and ask for help from others to restore their infrastructures once Israel has destroyed them. This historic destruction of Muslim countries should serve to warn us what we as a world, will have to look forward to if we don’t seize this opportunity to change things.
It has become almost a knee jerk European, UN and US reaction to anything that has to do with Muslims, to either sanction and deny food and the essentials for life, killing by attrition, or simply invading and wiping most everyone out. To date, no country has dared to stand up to the UN or Europe or the US and say “no more.” This is our chance. World leaders have no greater right to cause harm and suffering than anyone else. They cannot rewrite, ignore, and compromise the law to appease their friends, while working only to always eliminate and annihilate “others.” So long as this type of racist injustice is allowed to succeed, the world will always be at war. It’s hard to imagine why the smaller countries have remained silent, as this pattern of abuse of power by Israel, the US and Europe has been established as normative. Perhaps they believe that it is only Muslims and Arabs who are subject to such treatment, much the same way that people thought Hitler’s appetite for conquest was limited to Poland.
The UN declared a humanitarian crisis in Palestine, which has yet to be resolved. Rather than responding to that crisis, Israel continued its advance into the territories and also continued to destroy the Palestinian infrastructure, and also prevent the delivery of needed humanitarian aid and supplies. At one point even ambulances were prevented from entering areas were people had been seriously injured by Israeli military forces, and hospitals complained of low supplies, no medicines, and too few personnel.
Anyone who thinks that Palestine’s recognition of Israel will bring peace in this conflict is mistaken. The PLO recognized Israel, and a few months later Israel entered Jenin and massacred hundreds, if not thousands of Palestinians. The UN refused to investigate the Jenin massacre, or to issue a formal report as it has in the Hariri case in Lebanon because it didn’t want to embarrass Israel. Fatah didn’t understand that if you recognize Israel’s right to exist before Israel defines exactly where it wants to exist, it is similar to saying that Israel has the right to exist wherever it chooses, or wherever it can.
Israel needs to end its illegal occupation of Palestine. Rather than attempting to punish the Palestinians for exercising their right to vote, the Quartet needs to convince Israel that it must recognize that it can no longer sustain its illegal occupation, and that it is time for Israel to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to exist in their own land, and stop killing them, and seeking to make their lives so miserable that they will voluntarily leave the land to Israel. Israel also needs to abide by the more than 100 UN resolutions it has violated, or ignored, along with international law. That is justice, and justice is the foundation for real peace, not voting.