Monday, January 31, 2011

The road to Jerusalem runs through Tunis and Cairo-Philip Weiss

The neoconservatives told us that the road to Jerusalem lay through 
Baghdad. They meant that invading Iraq and installing a democracy 
there would lead to peace in Israel and Palestine. The way they 
imagined that peace was a neocolonial landgrab: a greater Israel with 
portions of the West Bank amalgamated by Jordan. Still, that is what 
they believed-- that creating democracy in Iraq would lead to a peace 
in Palestine.

These ideas are in smithereens today. The Palestine Papers have 
revealed that the peace process was a Trojan horse for Israeli 
expansionism and that even the American client in the West Bank could 
not accept a future state without Ariel and Ma'ale Adunim, the long 
fingers of Jewish territory.

And the lessons of Iraq and Tunisia and Egypt are that you don't 
install democracy anywhere; no, democracy must arise from the people 
themselves, you damage the processes of establishing popular will by 
seeking to impose such a system. The western democratic revolutions 
also arose from within.

The lesson of Tunisia and Egypt for American foreign policy is that 
the United States is the most conservative force in the world, in this
region. It didn't see democracy coming because it didn't want to see 
it coming to the Arab world and to the palaces we supported. And when 
democracy did come, the U.S. creditably reversed field in Tunisia, but 
has stuck by its dictator in Egypt.

Barack Obama's failure to honor the Egyptian protesters in his State 
of the Union speech Tuesday night, and Joe Biden's cold negativity 
toward them last night (they're not up against a dictator, we can't 
encourage them, this is not the awakening of eastern Europe) reveal 
the unwavering influence of the Israel lobby in our public life, and 
how conservative that influence is. The administration's statements 
reveal that it prefers stability in Egypt, no matter the cost to civil 
rights and human rights there, to freedom for Arab people. And why? 
Because Egyptian stability preserves the Israeli status quo, in which 
Israel gets to imprison West Bank protesters without a peep from the 
U.S. government and gets to destroy civilians in Gaza again without a 
peep from the alleged change-agent in the White House.

Thankfully, P.J. Crowley was forced to reveal the policy yesterday by 
Shihab Rattansi of Al Jazeera, when he admitted that the difference 
between the administration's response to Tunisia and Egypt stems from 
the fact that Egypt has a peace deal with Israel and has come to terms 
with Israel's existence, a model to the region. And this line is 
echoed all over the American news, when they say that Egypt is helping 
the "peace process," a process that has produced only suffering and 
dispossession for Palestinians.

The hole in the bottom of the world here is the fear that Arabs have 
not accepted Israel's existence. They didn't accept it in 1947 in New 
York, and they didn't accept it in 1967 in Khartoum. They always 
warned that its presence would create instability in the region, and 
the State Department said it would radicalize Israel's neighbors, and 
60 years on this is more true than ever. The Arab Peace initiative of 
2002 was a great gesture of realism: the Arab states did accept 
Israel's existence, on the '67 lines. But nothing has come of this 
incredible shift, and Brian Baird tells us that leading American 
congressmen, tucked in at night by the Israel lobby, didn't even know 
about the Arab Peace Initiative, and Israel scoffed at the offer 
because it had American power behind it.

Now in Tunisia and Egypt, the Arab street has taken the neocons at 
their word and said, Yes we want democracy, and we will get it. And 
Arab youth has taken facebook and twitter and done more with these 
tools than Americans have done, and said we want free speech and 
social freedom.

And when they get it-- if not this year then within ten years, the 
internet is too dynamic a force, along with Assange and Al Jazeera-- 
when they get it, they will expose the power of the Israel lobby so 
that even Chris Matthews will have to address the contradictions. For 
we will be seen to have only one policy, the preservation of a Jewish 
state, even if that means Jim Crow and apartheid and stamping out 
democratic movements everywhere and tolerating a prison for 1.5 
million innocent people in Gaza. I waffle about the two state-solution 
more than anyone, I actually imagined that partition might preserve 
tranquility, but when democracy comes to Cairo the pressure on 
Jerusalem to allow equal rights for all citizens will be massive. And 
the claim that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East will 
have completely dissolved.

You see the pressure on Jerusalem beginning in earnest now, from new 
quarters. You see it in Admiral Mullen's awareness that Americans will 
come home in wheelchairs until Palestinians have freedom, in Senator 
Rand Paul's call for cuts in military aid to Israel.

That pressure must come to bear soon on the Democratic Party. It is 
the natural home for the recognition of minority rights and the self-
determination of formerly-oppressed people. How sad that even Russ 
Feingold can scarcely talk about Obama's war when he speaks out to a 
progressive audience, and can't even talk about Palestine. Pathetic.

What we see in Cairo is the destruction of American racist attitudes. 
A year or so back a Jewish friend said to me that if Jews could take 
on the Israel lobby and reform American foreign policy, it would be a 
model for human rights leadership across the world. And I agreed; and 
we are working at it.

But that was an elitist conceit. The moral leadership in the region is 
coming not from any American movement in our imperfect democracy, no, 
we are the most conservative country in the world right now; it is 
coming from the streets in Tunisia and Egypt.

Philip Weiss is the co-editor of " The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of 
the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict ."

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