It is hard to understand how, as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, you can be so far removed from reality with regard to relations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Your constant refrain demanding that the Palestinians take “the path of negotiation and compromise,” suggests a level of ignorance and arrogance rarely seen on the international stage unless, of course, you are speaking on behalf of the Israeli government.


You suggest that “the Palestinian leadership has a choice to make between two different paths. There is the path of absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence. That path has led, and will continue to lead, to nothing but hardship for the Palestinian people.”

You insist, too, that the path to negotiation and compromise remains open, if only the Palestinian leadership had the courage to take it. You go on to accuse the U.N. body of using the most democratic country in the Middle East as a scapegoat for the region’s problems.

The problem, Madame Ambassador, is not the Palestinian leadership or its people, even though both have made mistakes. The problem is Israel and its almost fifty-one-year-long occupation of the Palestinian people and the policies it continues to pursue.

Imagine, Madame Ambassador, you are a Palestinian. You would be the descendant of one of the 700,000 Palestinians who were evicted from, or fled from, areas in 1949 that had been allocated to the State of Israel, or occupied by Jewish forces during the fighting, and could quite possibly still be living in a deplorable refugee camp. At the time, and to deter any attempt to return to your village, Jewish forces razed your home after you left and declared your village part of the then newly established Absentee Law which claimed your village henceforth to be the property of the Israeli government.

As a path toward peace, Yassir Arafat agreed to sign the Oslo Accords with Prime Minister Rabin in September 1993 even though it offered only a vague promise of self-government after five years. Unbeknownst to the Palestinians at the time, Israel intended this agreement to function as a civilian arm of the its military occupation forces, making Arafat’s PLO unwittingly Israel’s enforcer in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Accords called for limited autonomy in parts of Gaza and Jericho in the West Bank, neither of which ever materialized.

As a Palestinian, and you still owned a house or an apartment, it could, with scant notice, and at the discretion of the authorities, be demolished to make way for an illegal Israeli settlement. As if that indignity was not enough, you would then be handed a bill to clean up the demolition site or pay a stiff fine.

As I explained in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides, in case you haven’t yet read it, you would, as a Palestinian, also be subjected to subtle, bureaucratic and legal restrictions which would entangle you in a web of closures, work discrimination, restrictions on movement, displacement through exile, limits on planting of crops and their sale.

With the construction of Israel’s Separation Wall, you would be one of the millions of Palestinians affected on a daily basis by the barrier’s route, preventing you access to primary urban centers where essential services such as hospitals, schools, markets and places of worship are available.

The areas in the Wall’s path include the most fertile in the entire West Bank and contain just about all of the region’s water resources. If your father was a farmer, he would need permission from Israeli forces to access his land and tend to his crops.

As a Palestinian, you suspected all along that the wall had little to do with security but then Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confirmed you suspicion when he admitted that the Wall’s purpose was to maximize the number of Jews in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank, while minimizing the number of Palestinians.

So, Madame Ambassador, Israel’s survival as a democracy, a questionable status as an occupying force, is dependent on the concessions it is willing to make to ensure peace with the Palestinians, not the other way around.

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According to the American Jewish Congress (AJC) Executive Director, David Harris, Israel is the only UN member subjected to a relentless chorus of nations and institutions denying its political legitimacy and actions.

With few exceptions, the vast majority of nations recognize Israel. What Mr. Harris fails to understand is that those nations and institutions that do criticize Israel do so based on behavioral standards that are of paramount importance to the preservation of international law. Any country, if left unchecked, risks eroding a global mechanism that strives to maintain stability and security through a balance of power that is based on legitimacy and responsible behavior.

He goes on to claim that “no one would question the right to exist of countries whose legitimacy is more questionable than Israel’s, including those nations that were created by brute force and occupation.” The continuous criticism of Israel is based on the fact that its creation was, in fact, a function of “brute force and occupation,” having expelled over 700,000 Palestinians, and that fifty years later is still ongoing.

In Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides, I quote Dr. Jeff Halper, Coordinator of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, who calls Israel’s system “a Matrix of Control,” that has created facts on the ground including expropriation of land, construction of hundreds of illegal settlements on confiscated Palestinian land, massive systems of highways for Israeli-use only, control over aquifers, closures, work discrimination, travel permits, restricting movement, displacement, to name but a few of the hardships Palestinians endure on a daily basis. Such conditions remain largely unseen by the outside world and are, therefore, rarely, if ever, covered by the media.  At issue, therefore, is not the political legitimacy of Israel but rather the political legitimacy of its guiding ideology, and by extension, the political legitimacy of a state operating in a racist and oppressive way against others.

Harris also claims that Israel is the only UN member state targeted for annihilation by another member state. Here he refers to Iran and more specifically to a 2005 NY Times article that claimed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” The misquote came from an Israeli enterprise founded by a former Israeli intelligence officer and it wasn’t until 2012 that Dan Meridor, then Israeli Minister of Intelligence, conceded this quote was a common ploy put forth by the Israeli government for propaganda purposes. Ahmadinejad, in fact, expressed the opinion that the Zionist state was an “unnatural creation” and was, therefore, unlikely to survive. While not flattering, it by no means suggested that Israel should be wiped off the map.

According to Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to then Secretary of State Colin Powell, “Zionist influence spreads far beyond Israel’s area of domination and now influences, and oftentimes corrupts, many of the policy makers in the U.S., turning such entities into accomplices in Israel’s abusive policies. This makes it imperative that Israel’s criminality be signed out as a high-priority case for protest and boycott.”

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Lebanon is once again being subjected to threats of a new war by the Israeli government. Their claim, this time, is that Iran is about to build a precision missile factory in Lebanon and that such an action would cross Israel’s ‘red line.’ Israel is the most technically advanced military on earth. It is not only supplied militarily by the US, it has its own thriving weapons-producing industry which boasts its weapons as “battle-tested,” having proven their efficacy in Israel’s repeated assaults on Gaza.

If Israel can produce some of the most lethal weapons in the world without condemnation, why then doesn’t Hezbollah in Lebanon have the right to build up its own defense arsenal as a deterrent to renewed Israeli aggression, particularly since Lebanon has already been subjected to five major Israeli invasions?

Is it because Israel claims Hezbollah is a terrorist organization? “Terrorist” is a useful rhetorical bludgeon that the US has repeatedly wielded to outlaw or de-humanize radical or revolutionary groups. The PLO was labeled for years by the US and Israel as a terrorist group just as Hamas and Hezbollah are now. Nelson Mandela before them was, for decades, called a dangerous terrorist. Israel claims Hezbollah a terrorist group because it wants a reason to destroy them. As I explained in The Syrian, when George W. Bush declared in his war on terrorism-that you are either with us or against us- Israel joined in on the act and demanded the US declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization and insisted it give up its arms.

Is Hezbollah a terrorist organization? According to the conservative Wall Street Journal, Hezbollah is a home-grown resistance movement born out of an illegal twenty-two-year Israeli occupation of large swaths of South Lebanon. Hezbollah is often associated with the bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut in 1983 and the Marine barracks in October of the same year. Robert Baer, a former CIA agent with extensive experience in Lebanon, claims it was Iran who carried out these acts and it became a political issue in the US because the Israelis wanted the Americans to go after Hezbollah.

Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of the Lebanese government to ward off Israeli aggression? Normally, it would be, but the Lebanese army is not capable of defending the county against an Israeli attack. The US gives Israel over $3 billion annually in military aid. The US gives the Lebanese Army pittance in aid and that aid is not allowed to be used against Israel, another reason there’s popular support for a non-state resistance movement like Hezbollah, which is capable of facing off with Israel. And why most Lebanese argue that Hezbollah should never give up its arms because it is Lebanon’s only deterrent against another Israeli attack.

Why does Israel look for any excuse to attack Hezbollah? Because it threw Israel out of south Lebanon in 2000. No Arab force before has ever dealt Israel such a humiliating blow, but that’s just part of the equation. Geopolitically, there’s a much larger issue at play-the proxy war between the US and Iran. Using Israel to attack Hezbollah is an indirect attack on Iran, since they are the ones who back Hezbollah. But the real target is Syria. It is the conduit between Iran and Hezbollah. In order to weaken both Iran and Hezbollah, so the thinking goes, the US and Israel must destroy Syria. Complicating matters even more is the question of religion. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf nations, mostly Sunni, support the US and Israel’s attempt to destroy the three Shiite entities-Iran, Hezbollah and Syria. They fear a Shiite revival and want to maintain their Sunni dominance over the region.

Recently, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, Brig. Gen. Roan Manelis said that Hezbollah’s actions are turning Lebanon into a powder keg. According to him, one of every three homes in south Lebanon is a command post, position, weapons warehouse or hiding place for Hezbollah. We know these assets and will know how to attack them accurately if necessary. The future of the people of Lebanon is to be pawns in the hands of the dictator from Tehran.” This is the same nation (Iran) that has not attacked another country in over 500 years. And, Manelis’ IDF command, after the July 2006 war, had to admit that most of the rockets fired against Israel were launched from nature reserves and not from urban areas.

“Any upcoming battle depends on two parameters,” Manelis said. “Whether Lebanon and the international community will permit Iran and Hezbollah to exploit the naiveté of the Lebanese leaders and set up a precision missile plant, as they are currently trying to do; and whether Hezbollah, under the auspices of the new election system, will manage to elbow out the Sunni camp in the upcoming May 2018 elections and officially turn the country into an Iranian client state. The Israeli army is ready and prepared for any scenario and will be improving its military readiness.”

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