US foreign policy: at a crossroads

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The terrible tragedy inflicted on the cities of New York and Washington last Tuesday was a deadly combination of globalization, advanced technology and easy access to information on the one hand and rising poverty and injustice on the other. There is no doubt that all human beings, on different levels, were shocked by the resulting display of hatred.

Equally, this incident uncovered the great deal of hostility directed from abroad towards the foreign policy of the United States government. The majority of the ordinary public outside the United States identified with the innocent American victims, but had strange mixed feelings between that sympathy and a sense of righteousness against the policies and practices of the US.

The Palestinians may have been among those who felt most greatly the pain of the American victims because they themselves are victims of the ongoing violent Israeli attempts to maintain the Israeli illegal, military and belligerent occupation of their land. That is true despite cheap Israeli propaganda that sought to falsely portray Palestinians as jubilant in the face of the attacks.

Nobody will blame the American government for taking the necessary security steps in order to punish the perpetrators of these attacks. But those Americans who have turned introspective and might blame themselves or their government for not going further and dealing with the environment that allows for this level of hatred and violence should take notice.

At this stage American foreign policy is the only policy not subject to public monitoring and accountability for the simple reason that the American people have little interest in following world affairs, including their own government’s course of action. The result is disastrous foreign policy, including that governing the Middle East.

The recent Conference Against Racism in Durban was one example of how isolated and unconvincing the American government’s support for Israel, for one, can be. The United States delegation withdrew together with the Israeli delegation as a result of a consensus among many of the other delegates to criticize the racist policies of Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories.

Another prominent example of problematic US policy in the Middle East is the contradiction between stated American support for international law, and support for the Israeli occupation which is also, according to official US policy, a violation of international law.

In the same way, one can point to the contradiction between the declared American support for democracy and human rights, on one hand, and the US government’s friendship and support for the most fundamentalist and least democratic regimes in the Middle East, on the other.

The recent American pressure on the Israeli government to stop its ongoing attacks on Palestinian civilians and to resume the political discussions was welcomed and reciprocated by the Palestinian side with a unilateral declaration of ceasefire. The US pressure has been received here in Palestine as a positive indicator, but certainly continuing support will depend upon whether the Americans will try to consolidate their relationship with Arab countries with a position that is in line with international law and critical of the Israeli occupation.

Will the new efforts result in a responsible American policy and an end to the Israeli occupation? For now, the future of the American relationship with the Arab world depends on two things: first, the establishment of a clear definition of terrorism that is in harmony with international law, the United Nations charter and relevant Security Council resolutions and second, American involvement in the peace process producing an end to the Israeli occupation in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement.

American Middle East policy is now at a crucial crossroads. In essence, this is the time for the US to show whether stated American policies will prevail or whether the terrorist claims about American hostility towards Muslims and Arabs is, in fact, the truth.

Mr. Ghassan Khatib is the publisher of the Palestine Report.

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