Why has the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians persisted for so long? What is required for peace and justice to be realized?
To be able to see the path forward, we must first understand the true nature of the conflict.
Unfortunately, its true nature has long been kept hidden from Western audiences. The narratives about the conflict taught to the American public by the US government and mainstream media are grounded in myths and deceptions. The media serve largely to manufacture consent for government policies, within a narrow range of allowable dissent.
One assumption underlying discussion of the conflict in the US is that, while certainly capable of making “mistakes”, the government only ever acts benevolently—never absent good intentions. This is why Americans will never learn from the mainstream media what the greatest obstacle to peace is between Israelis and Palestinians: the government of the United States.
Simply stated, Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people could not go on without the US’s financial, military, and diplomatic support.
The US has historically given Israel more than $3 billion annually in military aid in the form of grants that serve largely as a taxpayer subsidy to the US arms industry as Israel uses the money to purchase military hardware used to oppress the Palestinians. This was increased last year under the Obama administration to $3.8 billion annually. The US also provides Israel with loan guarantees that are underwritten by the American taxpayers and allow Israel to borrow at lower interest rates.
When Israel commits war crimes against Palestinians, as during its major military operations in Gaza in 2008-09, 2012, and 2014, it does so largely with US arms. US-supplied military hardware includes Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters, GBU bunker-buster bombs, and white phosphorus munitions.
The US also acts to protect Israel from censure and Israeli leaders from being held accountable for their crimes. For example, the Obama administration in February 2011 vetoed an uncontroversial UN Security Council draft resolution condemning Israel for its illegal settlement regime in the occupied West Bank. This veto occurred even though the Obama administration was rhetorically opposed to settlement expansion and despite the fact that the US, like the rest of the planet, has long officially recognized Israel’s settlements as a violation of international law.
Another key aspect of the US’s diplomatic support for Israel’s crimes is the so-called “peace process”.
What is the ‘Peace Process’?
The so-called “peace process” is the means by which Israel and the US have long blocked implementation of the two-state solution.
It is premised on a rejection of the applicability of international law toward resolving the conflict, on a rejection of the equal rights of the Palestinian people, and on Zionist mythology, not historical reality, including about the origins of the state known today as “Israel”.
The ostensible goal of the “peace process” is to bring about a “two-state solution” to the conflict. But while the US government says it favors a two-state solution, it is emphatically not the two-state solution. There is a critical distinction between what the US wants and what the two-state solution actually is in terms of the international consensus grounded in international law.
One of the key documents comprising the legal foundation of the two-state solution is UN Security Council Resolution 242.
The Meaning of Resolution 242
There is an extremely widespread misunderstanding about the meaning of Resolution 242; what is nearly universally reported as the meaning of the resolution is in fact an invalid Zionist reinterpretation of the text.
One often hears about Resolution 242 in terms of the “land for peace” formula. This is the idea that Israel would have to give up land in exchange for peace. Resolution 242, however, did not outline a “land for peace” formula; the simple reason for this is that none of the land in question was Israel’s to give.
There are two key operative subclauses in Resolution 242. It called for (i) the “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” and (ii) the establishment of “secure and recognized boundaries” between them.
According to the Zionist reinterpretation, the absence of the article “the” before the words “territories occupied” means Israel only had to partially, not fully, withdraw.
In other words, the argument is that, since it doesn’t say “the territories”, we must understand it to mean “some of the territories”—patently absurd and self-defeating logic.
As a simple matter of English grammar, the absence of the article “the” has no effect on the meaning of the clause with respect to the extent of withdrawal. The extent was rather determined by the principal emphasized in the resolution’s perambulatory section that the acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible under international law.
The extent of withdrawal is also determined by the phrase “occupied in the recent conflict”. The Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, the Syrian Golan Heights, and the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are all “territories”, plural, occupied during the 1967 war and hence territories, plural, from which Israel must withdraw.
A secondary argument underlying the Zionist reinterpretation is that implementation of subclause (i) was made conditional upon implementation of subclause (ii).
In fact, the Council stated that both withdrawal and the establishment of secure and recognized boundaries were necessary, conditioning neither one upon the other. However, there was a logical reason for placing the demand for Israel to withdraw first in order: the UN Security Council did not intend for Israel to be able to use conquered territory as a bargaining chip during peace negotiations.
The Security Council did not intend for the Palestinians to be forced to negotiate under gunpoint with the Occupying Power over how much of their own territory they would be allowed to retain for their own state.
Even if the Council had so intended, any effort to exert the force of the UN behind that intent would have been in violation of the very Charter under which they were operating and hence illegal, null and void.
In short, Resolution 242 requires Israel to completely withdraw from the occupied territories to the 1948 armistice lines (also known as the pre-June 1967 lines or the “Green Line” for the color in which it was drawn on the map in 1949).
The Role of the Palestinian Authority
Just as one cannot talk about US diplomatic support for Israel’s crimes without talking about the “peace process”, one cannot talk about the “peace process” without discussing the role of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The PA is the administrative body that was established under the Oslo Accords to serve as Israel’s collaborator in enforcing its occupation regime.
After the death of Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas became the US-Israeli-approved leader of the PA and has served his role well, including by conspiring with Israel and the US to overthrow the democratically elected Hamas government in 2007 (which partially failed and resulted in Hamas remaining in control of Gaza as a separate government while the PA establishment remained in power in the West Bank).
However, Abbas’s obedience to his masters is tempered by the pressures placed upon his office by his political opposition—namely, Hamas—and, more importantly, by the collective will of his people.
It was public pressure that drove Abbas to the UN in 2011, unsuccessfully, and again in 2012, successfully, to seek recognition from the UN of Palestine as a state.
Since the UN has recognized Palestine as a non-member state, the Palestinians have recourse to legal mechanisms like the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Criminal Court (ICC).
Unfortunately, the PA has been reluctant to pursue the next logical step due to pressure from its overlords. Israel has threatened to withhold (or periodically withheld) taxes it collects from Palestinians in the occupied territories on the PA’s behalf. The US has also threatened to withhold aid to the PA—and did temporarily withhold aid after the Hamas government was elected in 2006—if it persists in its disobedience by failing to return to US-led talks under the guise of the “peace process”.
However, the US and Israel are largely bluffing with these threats because they understand that cutting off aid to the PA would result in its collapse. And, as Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized in a major speech in December 2016, if the PA were to collapse, it would place a much greater burden on Israel—and hence risk the occupation regime’s sustainability.
How Can This Obstacle Be Overcome?
The US government has been able to sustain its policy of supporting the Israeli government’s crimes against the Palestinian people primarily because the American public has long consented to it.
Americans have in turn long consented to it because they are systematically misinformed about the nature of the conflict by the mainstream media, whose narratives on the history of the conflict are equivalent to the US government’s narratives, which are equivalent to Zionist mythology.
Therefore, the key to overcoming this obstacle is to effect a paradigm shift. We need to change the way people think about and understand the conflict. We need to effectively counter the Zionist mythology and educate others about the reality until it becomes no longer feasible for the media to engage in blatant deceptions.
Rather than the mainstream media engineering public opinion, public demand through the market needs to engineer media that will report critically and objectively. Toward that end, media consumers need to choose wisely to which journalists and publications they want their resources directed.
After all, once Americans become aware of the extent to which they are being deceived by the New York Times and other mainstream media (case studies of which are provided in my book Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict), it is less likely that they will be willing to direct their dollars toward these publications absent a shift in the nature of their coverage of the topic.
It is not only up to independent journalists and alternative media sources to increase this awareness; this is a task every caring individual can participate in by gaining the knowledge required to become an effective voice for peace and then acting on that knowledge by speaking out to help educate others.
A ‘War of Independence’ or ‘al-Nakba’ (the Catastrophe)?
Americans need to become aware, for example, how Israel was established by ethnically cleansing most of the Arab inhabitants of Palestine from their homes.
While this fact is well known among activists who support Palestinians’ rights, it is systematically hidden from the general public; it isn’t even discussed in the US mainstream media.
It’s not even that there are voices in the US media that still deny that the ethnic cleansing occurred—it’s that the very topic of ethnic cleansing is entirely absent from the discussion. It is never mentioned.
Necessarily, the ethnic cleansing is alluded to when the topic of Palestinian refugees comes up. But even then it is only in the context of people made refugees as a result of a war started by the Arab states to wipe the nascent state of Israel off the map after the Zionist leadership declared its existence on May 14, 1948.
In reality, by the time the neighboring Arab states managed to muster a military response, 300,000 Arabs had already been ethnically cleansed from their homes in Palestine in order for the desired “Jewish state” to come into existence.
Furthermore, in their May 14 declaration, the Zionists cited as legal authority UN General Assembly Resolution 181, the famous “partition plan” resolution. In fact, Resolution 181 neither partitioned Palestine nor conferred any legal authority to the Zionists for their unilateral declaration.
The partition plan was based upon the majority recommendation of a UN committee set up at the request of Great Britain, which was seeking to withdraw from the conflict situation its occupation of Palestine from the end of World War I helped to create.
The report of the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) called for the establishment of a Jewish state on roughly 55 percent of the land in Palestine, while the Arabs were allotted just 45 percent for their state (with Jerusalem under international control).
UNSCOP made this recommendation despite the fact that the minority Jewish community at the time owned less than 7 percent of the land in Palestine; Arabs owned more land than Jews in every single district, including Jaffa, which included the main Jewish population center of Tel Aviv.
The reason for this decision was not kept hidden by the majority members of the commission: “the principle of self-determination”, the UNSCOP report candidly stated, was “not applied to Palestine, obviously because of the intention to make possible the creation of the Jewish National Home there.”
Indeed, the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate itself, the report further noted, ran “counter to that principle.”
This should not be surprising, given the fact that the Mandate was drafted by the Zionist Organization (as one can learn from reading page twenty-eight of Britain’s 1937 report of the Peel Commission).
Facts such as these are systematically withheld from Americans by the US government and mainstream media. It’s up to us to change that by increasing awareness until a critical tipping point is reached and the media can no longer exclude reality from the mainstream discussion.
The ‘Six Day War’
Another key talking point from Zionist mythology is that Israel’s attack on Egypt in June 1967 was “preemptive”, an act of self-defense in the face of yet another genocidal threat of war from the Arab states.
In fact, as documented by no less authoritative a source as former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael B. Oren in his book Six Days of War (widely considered the definitive account), Israel’s own intelligence community had assessed that there was virtually no chance that Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser would attack Israel (they judged him not to be insane).
The CIA concurred with the Israeli assessment. Indeed, the CIA described Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula as having taken up defensive positions, and President Lyndon B. Johnson was accurately warned not only that a war was coming, but that it would be Israel that would start it.
It was during this war that Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank, and it was in the aftermath of this war that the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242 calling on Israel to fully withdrawal from land recognized under international law as “occupied Palestinian territories” (quoting from the ICJ).
The Path Forward
To reiterate: To effect the paradigm shift necessary for peace to be realized, we need to challenge the Zionist mythology surrounding the conflict and expose the masses to historical reality.
This is an information war. We need to educate people about the true nature of the conflict. Most people are not just un-informed, but are grossly mis-informed.
It’s not that people don’t know what the conflict is all about; it’s that what most people think they know about it just isn’t true.
We need to reach the tipping point where enough of the public knows the truth that for the US to continue its support for Israel’s crimes will no longer remain politically feasible.
Educating ourselves and gaining the confidence to speak up and on this important subject to help educate others is the key. Gaining the knowledge of what the conflict is really about and why peace has remained so elusive and then acting on that knowledge is what it will take.
Change in government policies—whether the policies of the US, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the EU, the UN . . . whichever—will not occur from the top down. Change will occur from the bottom up.
When the filters of control over public perception are no longer able to contain reality and a critical mass of people becomes aware of the true reasons for the conflict’s persistence, the status quo will no longer be sustainable.
Maintenance of Israel’s occupation regime will no longer be politically feasible.
When officials at the highest levels of the Israeli government can’t leave the country for fear of being arrested for war crimes, the end of the occupation will be in sight.
When other countries fear that their existing policies might be recognized as complicity in violations of international law, with potential legal consequences, those countries’ policies will change, and the end of the occupation will be in sight.
When the American people cease giving their consent for the US government’s policy of supporting Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, the end of the occupation will be in sight.
One additional obstacle the Palestinian people must overcome, however, is their own leadership.
If the PA will not do what is necessary to secure their rights, then the Palestinians must find a new leadership who will. The PA’s parent body, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), could withdraw from the Oslo Accords and dissolve the PA, but politically this would require reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party and the establishment of a unity government.
Presently, the “peace process” has no credibility. It has long since ceased to have credibility in the eyes of the publics of the world, but today it lacks credibility even among the world’s governments. This presents the Palestinian leadership with an important opportunity, but rather than seizing it, Abbas is treacherously intimating a return to the “peace process”.
The Palestinians must therefore rise up and empower leaders who will do what is necessary and withdrawal from the Oslo Accords and seek remedy through the international legal mechanisms now available to them.
After all, Israel’s obligation to respect international law is non-negotiable; and neither should Palestinians’ rights be subject to negotiation.
This article was originally published at Foreign Policy Journal and is adapted from a lecture given by the author to a conference in Gaza organized by the Council on International Relations – Palestine (COIR-P).
Learn more about the author’s book Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict at ObstacleToPeace.com.