If the Obama administration had been as visionary as Obamamania promised it might be, Chas Freeman might not have merely been briefly offered the post of chair of the National Intelligence Council; he could have become a fine Secretary of State. Instead, the Israel lobby made sure he gained no position at all, but by doing so ensured that he would retain the freedom to speak with more candor than any government official ever dares.
In a speech he delivered yesterday in Norway, Freeman laid out the US role in seeking and obstructing Middle East peace, with a clarity and style rarely found in foreign policy discourse.
Islam charges rulers with the duty to defend the faithful and to uphold justice. It demands that they embody righteousness. The resentment of mostly Muslim Arabs at their governing elites’ failure to meet these standards generates sympathy for terrorism directed not just at Israel but at both the United States and Arab governments associated with it.
The perpetrators of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States saw it in part as reprisal for American complicity in Israeli cruelties to Palestinians and other Arabs. They justified it as a strike against Washington’s protection of Arab governments willing to overlook American contributions to Muslim suffering. Washington’s response to the attack included suspending its efforts to make peace in the Holy Land as well as invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. All three actions inadvertently strengthened the terrorist case for further attacks on America and its allies. The armed struggle between Americans and Muslim radicals has already spilled over to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and other countries. Authoritative voices in Israel now call for adding Iran to the list of countries at war with America. They are echoed by Zionist and neo-conservative spokesmen in the United States,
The widening involvement of Americans in combat in Muslim lands has inflamed anti-American passions and catalyzed a metastasis of terrorism. It has caused a growing majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to see the United States as a menace to their faith, their way of life, their homelands, and their personal security. American populists and European xenophobes have meanwhile undercut liberal and centrist Muslim arguments against the intolerance that empowers terrorism by equating terrorism and its extremist advocates with Islam and its followers. The current outburst of bigoted demagoguery over the construction of an Islamic cultural center and mosque in New York is merely the most recent illustration of this. It suggests that the blatant racism and Islamophobia of contemporary Israeli politics is contagious. It rules out the global alliances against religious extremists that are essential to encompass their political defeat.
Freeman went on to say:
Vague promises of a Palestinian state within a year now waft through the air. But the “peace process” has always sneered at deadlines, even much, much firmer ones. A more definitive promise of an independent Palestine within a year was made at Annapolis three years ago. Analogous promises of Palestinian self-determination have preceded or resulted from previous meetings over the decades, beginning with the Camp David accords of 1979. Many in this audience will recall the five-year deadline fixed at Oslo. The talks about talks that begin tomorrow can yield concrete results only if the international community is prepared this time to insist on the one-year deadline put forward for recognizing a Palestinian state. Even then there will be no peace unless long-neglected issues are addressed.
Peace is a pattern of stability acceptable to those with the capacity to disturb it by violence. It is almost impossible to impose. It cannot become a reality, still less be sustained, if those who must accept it are excluded from it. This reality directs our attention to who is not at this gathering in Washington and what must be done to remedy the problems these absences create.
Obviously, the party that won the democratically expressed mandate of the Palestinian people to represent them — Hamas — is not there. Yet there can be no peace without its buy-in.
Peacemaking must engage those who are willing to use violence. Yet this assertion — whose truth is so obvious — is still being treated as a bold idea.
The narrative of peace promoted through the Bush era and still being propagated by Obama, suggests that peace is somehow produced by rallying together everyone who is willing to denounce violence — as though those who are willing to use violence will lose that capacity if they can be sufficiently marginalized. But on the contrary, political marginalization invariably has the opposite effect as those whose grievances are ignored, look for increasingly extreme means to make themselves heard.