Speeches, so it turns out, are an excellent substitute for policy. There’s no solution to the problem of radical Islam? Talk about reaching out in friendship to moderate Islam. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is stuck? Talk about the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. The war on Al-Qaida is not progressing? Speak of building a nation in Afghanistan. Iran is being impudent? Issue an elegant warning. Wait a year. Let it be forgotten and then make another speech. Erase all that did not succeed, bypass the major crises and continue on to the next year.
Indeed, President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address reveals that what stirred the world’s imagination during the past year, what led to his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, what caused sandstorms in Middle Eastern and Muslim states and sowed terror in Israel – simply popped like a bubble. Not a single word on the Middle East peace process. Only a restrained “promise” to Iran’s leaders of “growing consequences.” No new outstretched arm to moderate Islam. A word about human rights? Nothing. Just let us make it through the year in peace.
The great vision came down to local politics. To fighting against tribes, gangs, or, in the case of Israel, nationalist parties. Whoever thought that Obama would fulfill the message of Arab-Israeli peace can, like Obama, kick himself for nurturing lofty expectations. But if Obama can chalk up his meager achievements in the Middle Eastern marketplace to inexperience – as if every U.S. president has to reinvent the wheel – that doesn’t absolve the Israelis from paying the bill.
Looking at the way the right acts makes one go green with envy and want to learn from them. Four hundred criminal cases opened against opponents of the 2005 Gaza Strip disengagement, people who threw oil, acid, garbage and stones at soldiers and police, were closed last week and their criminal record expunged. Fifty-one MKs voted in favor of the closure, nine against. That is the true map of Israeli politics (and society). Only about seven percent of the lawmakers believed that this was a worthless and dangerous decision. All the rest agreed with it, or did not bother to vote or take an interest.
Neither did anyone think to apply a similar rule to 800 protesters against Operation Cast Lead, who were arrested and charged, perhaps because they are Arabs, nor to the dozens arrested for protesting in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, perhaps because they are leftists. Left-wing demonstrators never acted as violently as the settlers do, but no one thinks about pardoning them. Not even a semblance of equality before the law, not even the appearance of justice for all – that is unnecessary in a place where public shame no longer exists.
Area C doesn’t sound very ominous. A land of stone-sprinkled grey hills and soft green valleys, it’s part of the wreckage of the equally wrecked Oslo Agreement, accounting for 60 per cent of the Israeli-occupied West Bank that was eventually supposed to be handed over to its Palestinian inhabitants.
But look at the statistics and leaf through the pile of demolition orders lying on the table in front of Abed Kasab, head of the village council in Jiftlik, and it all looks like ethnic cleansing via bureaucracy. Perverse might be the word for the paperwork involved. Obscene appear to be the results.
Palestinian houses that cannot be permitted to stand, roofs that must be taken down, wells closed, sewage systems demolished; in one village, I even saw a primitive electricity system in which Palestinians must sink their electrical poles cemented into concrete blocks standing on the surface of the dirt road. To place the poles in the earth would ensure their destruction – no Palestinian can dig a hole more than 40cm below the ground.
Inside Israeli land grabs, Real News Network:
He hops here and he hops there. Hops to Jerusalem and hops to Ramallah, Damascus, Beirut, Amman (but, God forbid, not to Gaza, because somebody may not like it). Hops, hops, but doesn’t take anything out of his pouch, because the pouch is empty.
So why does he do it? After all, he could stay at home, raise roses or play with his grandchildren.
This compulsive traveling reveals a grain of chutzpah. If he has nothing to offer, why waste the time of politicians and media people? Why burn airplane fuel and damage the environment?