US peace brokers – “neutral” in favour of Israel

Ehud Olmert and Martin Indyk

By Uri Avnery

A former Israeli army chief of staff, a man of limited intelligence, was told that a certain individual was an atheist. “Yes,” he asked, “but a Jewish atheist or a Christian atheist?”

Lenin, in his Swiss exile, once inquired about the party affiliation of a newly elected member of the Duma. “Oh, he is just a fool!,” his assistant asserted. Lenin answered impatiently: “A fool in favour of whom?”

I am tempted to pose a similar question about people touted to be neutral in our conflict: “Neutral in favour of whom?”

The USA’s Jewish “peace brokers”

The question came to my mind when I saw an Israeli documentary about the US intermediaries who have tried over the last 40 years or so to broker peace between the Palestinians and us.

For some reason, most of them were Jews.

I am sure that all of them were loyal American citizens, who would have been sincerely offended by any suggestion that they served a foreign country, such as Israel. They honestly felt themselves to be neutral in our conflict.

They were brought up on the narrative of one side. From childhood on, they have internalized the history and the terminology of one side (ours). They couldn’t even imagine that the other side has a different narrative, with a different terminology.

But were they neutral? Are they? Can they be?

My answer is: No, they couldn’t.

Not because they were dishonest. Not because they consciously served one side. Certainly not. Perish the thought!

But for a much deeper reason. They were brought up on the narrative of one side. From childhood on, they have internalized the history and the terminology of one side (ours). They couldn’t even imagine that the other side has a different narrative, with a different terminology.

This does not prevent them from being neutral. Neutral for one side.

By the way, in this respect there is no great difference between American Jews and other Americans. They have generally been brought up on the same history and ideology, based on the Hebrew Bible.

Let us take the latest example. John Kerry is carrying with him a draft plan for the solution of the conflict.

It was prepared meticulously by a staff of experts. And what a staff! One hundred and sixty dedicated individuals!

I won’t ask how many of them are fellow Jews. The very question smacks of anti-Semitism. Jewish Americans are like any other Americans. Loyal to their country. Neutral in our conflict.

Neutral for whom?

Neutral in favour of Israel

Well, let’s look at the plan. Among many other provisions, it foresees the stationing of Israeli troops in the Palestinian Jordan valley. A temporary measure. Only for ten years. After that, Israel will decide whether its security needs have been met. If the answer is negative, the troops will remain for as long as necessary – by Israeli judgment.

For neutral Americans, this sounds quite reasonable. There will be a free and sovereign Palestinian state. The Jordan valley will be part of this state.

If the Palestinians achieve their long-longed-for independence, why should they care about such a bagatelle? If they are not considering military action against Israel, why would they mind?

Logical if you are an Israeli. Or an American. Not if you are a Palestinian.

Because for a Palestinian, the Jordan valley constitutes 20 per cent of their putative state, which altogether consists of 22 per cent of the territory they consider their historical homeland. And because they believe, based on experience, that there is very little chance that Israelis will ever willingly withdraw from a piece of land if they can help it. And because the continued military control of the valley would allow the Israelis to cut the State of Palestine off from any contact with the Arab world, indeed from the world at large.

And, well, there is such a thing as national pride and sovereignty.

Imagine Mexican – or even Canadian – troops stationed on 20% of the territory of the USA. Or French troops in control of 20 per cent of Germany. Or Russian troops in 20 per cent of Poland. Or Serbian troops in Kosovo?

Impossible, you say. So why do American experts take it for granted that Palestinians are different? That they wouldn’t mind?

Because they have a certain conception of Israelis and Palestinians…

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