As Israel's primary benefactor on the political, military, and economic levels, the United States has a special responsibility to contain that country's proclivity to engage in aggressive acts against the indigenous peoples of the Middle East. While the new Bush II administration is not displaying the outright hatred for the Palestinians displayed by his predecessor, and while President Bush has not brought Israel's partisans into his government wholesale as the corrupt Bill Clinton had done, this administration is still ultimately responsible for and complicit in the acts of its Israeli protg.
US President George W. Bush(C) meets with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel(L) and an unidentified man, in the Oval Office at the White House 20 March 2001 in Washington,DC.
As such, the actions of this administration in regard to Israel, whether these be acts of commission or omission, will be registered with the indigenous peoples of the Middle East and compared, first and foremost, with the policies of Bush the father. Until now, Bush the son is failing to live up to his father's own standards, particularly in the area of Israeli settlements.
Arabs and Muslims wonder why Bush II has not condemned Israel for its incendiary expansion of settlements in the way that his father did. The Bush I administration explicitly called Israeli settlements an "obstacle to peace" and threatened to withhold its aid until Israel reversed itself. When Israel continued its defiance, Secretary of State James A. Baker III appeared on television and scolded Israel, saying that if it wished to change its mind it could call the telephone number of the White House switchboard, which he gave on the air. Could not this Secretary of State, Colin Powell, with all that moral authority he holds in this country, show the same resolve? Bush II should explicitly condemn settlements as a matter of principle and international law and demand a complete freeze.
That freeze should include so-called "natural growth" expansion, which to Arabs and Muslims sounds eerily similar to World War II Germany's lebensraum, or living space. For Israel's existing settlements are "growing naturally" not into empty space, but into occupied Palestinian lands, farms, and villages, and connecting roads - into spaces in which Palestinian families indigenous to those lands are themselves trying to live.
|"... Arabs and Muslims who voted for him - have also noticed that Bush II proceeded to embrace the career war criminal Ariel Sharon in the White House, during the first 100 days of his presidency no less. This is a direct insult to all the Palestinian families who saw their loved ones butchered in Sharon's massacres, and by extension, to the entire Palestinian people."|
Some would say that America should not dictate policy to Israel because it is a US ally. Yet such claims ring hypocritical to Middle Eastern ears, as Washington does not hesitate to dictate policy to Egypt, Jordan, and other regional states in the most derogatory fashion, to states it refers to as its allies. Further, demanding that Israel stop expanding settlements does not require Israel to comply with American dictates per se, but rather with international law as expressed in the Geneva Convention, which explicitly forbids all civilian settlement activity inside occupied territory. Furthermore, one cannot condemn the concept of lebensraum in World War II Germany and yet in the same breath condone Israel's "natural settlement growth" by continuing to lend political, military, and economic support to the state which is conducting this activity on a daily basis. Nor would it be politically difficult to condemn it: the existence of the Mitchell report and its stance on Israeli settlements provides the administration a safe and open invitation to do so.
Arabs and Muslims both in the region and in the United States - Arabs and Muslims who voted for him - have also noticed that Bush II proceeded to embrace the career war criminal Ariel Sharon in the White House, during the first 100 days of his presidency no less. This is a direct insult to all the Palestinian families who saw their loved ones butchered in Sharon's massacres, and by extension, to the entire Palestinian people. Nor are Sharon's war crimes limited to that single episode; we can go all the way back to the 1956 Suez war with Egypt in which Sharon's troops buried thousands of surrendered Egyptian soldiers alive in an act of unspeakable barbarity. The peoples of the region also remember Sharon's bulldozing of entire rows of Palestinian homes throughout the Gaza Strip in 1970, in order to widen the roads to facilitate the passage of Israeli occupation tanks. The administration says it considers Slobodan Milosevic to be a war criminal, yet this declaration rings hollow when one looks at Sharon's war crimes and President Bush's hearty embrace of a career war criminal when he happens to be an Israeli.
To add insult to injury, the Bush II administration declares as terrorists (including the so-called tanzim or cadres) the new generation of Palestinian people involved in conducting the civil uprising against Israeli occupation, and against the so-called "closure" that has been strangling and suffocating their daily lives since 1992. The closure is part of Israel's declared policy of "separation," initiated by Rabin and pursued by each of his successors ever since. The term "separation" in Afrikaner language translates precisely as "apartheid," and it comes complete with "Jewish-only" roads, "Jewish-only" housing, and a pass-permit system to prohibit the normal movement of all non-Jews (i.e., Palestinians) within their own territories. Since when do indigenous populations not have the right to rebel against apartheid?
Arabs and Muslims also wonder why Bush II continues to use the term "violence" to describe events, thereby presuming a moral and military equivalency between civil resisters and Israeli tanks. They remember back in the days of Tiananmen Square and the collapsing Soviet Union how Bush's father reacted to unarmed civilians facing down tanks, calling them heroes and their actions heroic. Yet when Palestinian civilians do it, this Bush condemns them as terrorists and their actions as "violence."
The true violence is the Israeli act of occupation, closure, and "separation," and now, assassination. Everywhere in the world the United States condemns assassination as anathema to civilized societies, even refusing to practice it itself. Yet when Israel systematically targets Palestinian rebel leaders for assassination, the administration condones it by continuing to lend Israel its unconditional political, military, and economic backing. Even when Israeli troops deliberately tried to assassinate a French television reporter who was filming Israel's suppression of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, Bush II condoned this act with his silence. Since when is Israel exempt from universal standards concerning the rules of war?
Along those same lines, Arabs and Muslims, who are being asked to contribute to Bush's genocidal dictates in enforcing the now-obsolete Security Council resolutions against Iraq, wonder why President Bush would then turn around and veto Security Council resolutions condemning Israel for failing to comply with long-established international law. Is Israel exempt from international law? In that case, other countries should see it as their duty to unearth the hypocrisy and to disregard the very same that Bush is so desperately trying to enforce on Iraq.
Dr. Ahmed Yousef is the Executive director of the United Association for Studies and Research and Editor in Chief of the Middle East Affairs Journal (MEAJ).