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Monday, June 18, 2007




GAZA: PART TWO (A Three-Part Series)

(CHICAGO)(June 19, 2007) As conditions in the Gaza Strip collapsed over the past month, Israeli leader Ehud Olmert was rubbing his hands with glee. When Gaza fell, Olmert began to ooze sugar and honey. He began referring to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as "my friend." What gives? Friendship?

As we Episcopalians say, "Be careful what you pray for; your prayers may be answered." Israelis have been praying for Gaza to fall into the hands of Hamas, to create the opportunity for separating Gaza from the West Bank. Now that their prayers have been answered, at least temporarily, things can only and will only get—worse. Olmert's plans for two Palestinian states were already prepared for President Bush before Gaza fell into the hands of Hamas. Implementation will be another matter entirely.

I begin with several critical historical reference points: when Israel invaded Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 the Israelis were greeted as liberators. The Egyptians and Jordanians had brutally suppressed Palestinian nationalism. Likewise, when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1980, Israelis were again greeted as liberators. In both instances, Palestinians soon turned from throwing rice to throwing brickbats, because the Israelis changed from liberators to arrogant occupiers within days.

The claim that the enmity between Palestinian and Israelis
is "historical" is thus belied by the facts. Palestinians have always been abused and neglected by Arab states; yet Israel has repeatedly fumbled "historical opportunities" to make peace with Palestinians and to trump the hollow rhetoric of the Arab states. To borrow Abba Eban's elegant phrase, "The Israelis have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity," even when the opportunities came on a silver platter. Israel could have made peace with Palestinians in 1967. Just ask Moshe Dyan (he's dead).

The Washington Post for February 18, 2006 carried the p. 1 headline: "Israelis poised for ascent of Hamas: Palestinians face cutoff of funds." So what has happened in June 2007 was preordained by a US/Israeli policy of "genocide light" directed against Gaza's civilian population right from Election Day 2006.

We gave the Palestinians "democracy" after Yasser Arafat died, and when they voted the "wrong way" we "elected" to destroy them for exercising their vote. Is it any wonder the US has become a laughingstock throughout the Middle East?

So, back to my question, why is Olmert smiling? Why the syrup flowing from the Israeli junta? Well, they have been dreaming of separating Palestine into two states since? Since time immemorial.

The Israelis have been trying relentlessly to separate Gaza from the West Bank. They actually think they will be able to create a "free fire" zone in Gaza, freely slaughter innocents, and constantly apologize for their "mistakes." They have done everything possible to set Palestinian against Palestinian. And it has worked. For the moment.

Now they plan on playing endless negotiating games with Mr. Abbas. Again.

When I see Ehud Olmert kissing Mahmoud Abbas I see only the kiss of Judas. I am prompted to ask if Abbas will accept Israel's thirty pieces of silver.

The Israelis, of course, think that they have succeeded in dividing Palestinians, and in hiving off the West Bank, where they may now begin a new round of endless posturing, constantly "negotiating," opening and then closing checkpoints, and generally delaying any hope for the future, all while using the grand language of expectancy to indicate an open door and a bright future.

But Israeli promises are all blather. With no hope for the people of the West Bank, and no improvement in their long-term living standards, the Gaza virus will soon spread to the West Bank. How soon? Soon.

Unfortunately for the Israelis, and Abbas, the same rope-a-dope that caused Gazans to abandon Abbas and Fatah in Gaza will soon infect the West Bank as well. In other words, Israel's celebrations today will soon turn into Israel's reprisals and repression tomorrow. Gaza/West Bank spring, 1967; Lebanon spring, 1980, all over again. The "West Bank spring, 2007," will be short-lived.

And so, once again, as Mr. Olmert sits in Washington ready to meet with President Bush on Tuesday, Israelis and the Bushies are poised, to fumble perceived opportunity, and to make a bad situation even worse.

If I were Mr. Abbas I would keep my distance from Israeli representatives, and keep Olmert at a very long arm's length.

Beware the Americans and Israelis bearing gifts.

The New York Times has been resplendent with "exclusive" interviews with Olmert, and anonymous comments from Israelis that "To give [the Palestinians' own tax money] to a Fatah government is an opportunity." An opportunity for what?

Ultimately, Olmert has no authority to "give" anything but hollow promises and empty gestures. His standing is probably even lower among Israelis than it is among Palestinians.

There will be a short period of harmony, a "honeymoon," one more honeymoon in a long list of honeymoons between Israel and Palestine that will lead—nowhere.

Is Israel going to stop occupation settlements? Doubtful. Will the US stop its embarrassing, meaningless hand wringing about conditions in the West Bank? Doubtful. Will the racist-highways-for-Israelis-only be dismantled and opened to all traffic on the West Bank? Are you kidding?

And so, Tuesday, Olmert and Bush will be "just kidding" again. They will hope that Palestinians are as stupid and desperate as the ethnofacists in Washington and Tel Aviv believe they are.

What is this battle really about? It is about the theft of fertile land owned by Palestinians, land that Israelis covet in the guise of proffering theological excuses for taking private property owned by Palestinians for generations. Over the past three years they took a good slice of the West Bank's prime farmland with a "security" fence. Blatant thievery, not "security," is more like it.

Many of us in America, and probably even more so in Illinois, have a false conception of occupied Palestine. We think of deserts, and dry areas, and maybe even camels strolling about. Yes, Jerusalem and the surrounding area are arid. But northern Palestine (i.e. the northern part of the West Bank) bears a startling resemblance to northern Illinois.

There are gently undulating fields, saturated with stalks of golden grain. In late summer the Northern West Bank looks strikingly like Northern Illinois.

And so the battle is not over what God gave the people of Israel; the battle is over what Israelis think they can get away with stealing from Palestinians. Golda Meir's racist claim that the creation of Israel reflected "a land without a people, for a people without a land," was a sheer fabrication. There were people on the land. They were peace-loving farmers.

Because land is as precious to an Illinois farmer as it is to a Palestinian family, neither people will surrender their soil easily to usurpers. If we would only think of Palestinians as being like ourselves, instead of accepting the stereotypes published by Israeli and American media, we would understand the endless conflict much better. Illinois farmers would be fighting anyone who took their land away and used theological mumbo jumbo to claim a right to dispossess them.

Will any of this land grabbing in the West Bank end in the days ahead? As Dilbert would say "Gahhhhh."

And so, as Olmert meets Bush, and delivers yet another kiss of Judas, Mr. Bush should feel very uncomfortable indeed. Israeli "experts" have "advised" America to the brink of multiple disasters in the Middle East. We have also bungled ourselves, without Israeli help, into empowering extremists when, for example, we called for free elections and then sought to undermine the outcome. Now we dream of extinguishing a "terrorist" enclave, Hamastan-on-the-Mediterranean.

Sadly, Hamas control of Gaza will last much longer than the remaining days of the Bush administration. Whoever inherits the wind and the White House in 2009 will find a festering crisis.

Mr. Abbas, be careful when Olmert comes close to kiss you and to offer his friendship and assistance. Olmert's open hands are disingenuous. Olmert's embrace is the kiss of Judas. And the money he brings with him, money stolen from Palestinians, is thirty pieces of silver.

Chicago-based Internet journalist, broadcaster and media critic Andy Martin is the Executive Editor and publisher of © Copyright by Andy Martin 2007. Martin covers national and world politics with forty years of personal experience. Martin, America's most respected independent foreign policy and intelligence analyst first went to the Middle East in 1970. He served as a Baghdad Bureau Chief in most of 2003. Columns also posted at;
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