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25 Nov, 2007

Another Photo-Op for the “Doctors” Seeking to “Cure” the Middle Eastern Cancer

Originally Published: 25 Nov 2007

Next week, yet another one of the interminable conferences will be convened in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It will be the usual gathering of doctors quibbling over the best treatment for a festering cancer even as the patient dies a slow and painful death.

The peoples of the Middle East have begun to treat these “conferences” as just another perfunctory ritual that every American president needs to perform before leaving office in order to be seen to have “done something” to promote an illusion of peace.

Amongst the Palestinians, the so called peace process is known to be more process than peace. And like all the previous processes, it will end with yet another photo opportunity and a declaration of some kind that will soon be overtaken by events.

A new US president will come in and rewrite the rules, and the “peace process” will start all over again, after Israel has expanded its settlements to include a few more thousand square metres of occupied territory.

The Arabs will try and squeeze something out of the negotiations in order to make it look like they have made some progress. Having hitched his wagon firmly to the US horse, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be looking for something more substantive than smiles and handshakes.

He is unlikely to get anything more than words. The Arabs have an insatiable appetite for being humiliated, insulted, occupied, attacked, kicked and pummeled. Probably no other peoples in the world would allow themselves to be brutalised thus and still continue to do business as usual with their tormentors.

For the last 40+ years, the Arab and Islamic leaders have tried every possible strategy – a feeble boycott, interminable negotiations and meaningless resolutions – all failures now derisively dismissed by the angry and frustrated Palestinians.

They continue to fall victim to every divide-and-rule strategy even as the occupation of Palestine expands to the military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and the economic occupation of the Gulf countries.

In spite of facing reversing sanctions for being alleged financiers of terrorism, Arab businesses continue to pump investment funds into companies and banking institutions well known to be major financiers of Israel, a country which has no agricultural, natural or mineral resources of any significance as well as a gargantuan defence budget but still enjoys a booming economy.

The Israelis may toss a few scraps at the Arabs and position it as being “painful concessions” so that the majority of Sunni-dominated Islamic countries may look the other way while the Israelis attack Shia-dominated Iran.

Indeed, these “peace process” conferences are invariably preceded by a long list of Israeli “wants” that seek to provide protection and security for a people with deep-rooted psychological and geographical insecurities.

For once, just for once, it might be useful to hear what the Israelis, indisputably the occupying power, are willing to give rather than what they want.

It might be useful to hear some kind of acknowledgement of the fact that no peoples like to live under foreign occupation and it is this occupation which fuels the terrorism the Israelis seek to stop.

The only hope lies in the fact that global public opinion is slowly awakening to the other side of the coin.

In the US, there is greater scrutiny of the Israeli lobby and its inner machinations and financial connections, especially with big business and the political machinery.

This is likely to become more obvious as US presidential electoral battle sees the politicians scrambling to curry favour with the Jewish and Christian fundamentalist groups, in pursuit of their formidable financial resources and voting-bloc power, the two primary pillars of “freedom and democracy.”

The Arabs are plucking up some courage to demand that the entire Middle East be declared a nuclear-free zone, meaning that Israel’s nuclear weapons be subjected to the same demands for transparency and accountability as is being demanded of Iran.

Most importantly, the very public statements by the Israeli leaders highlight their very obvious role in pushing for an attack on Iran, thus leaving no room for any doubt about who should be held firmly and unequivocally responsible for the mayhem that will follow.

In Bangkok, too, the screening of the documentary, The Iron Wall, at the FCCT tomorrow night (Nov 26) will provide another perspective on the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The Burmese “saffron revolution” movement should see the documentary in order to compare the suffering of their own people to that of the Palestinians.

The US media, too, seems to be making a small effort to present the other side. Last Tuesday, CNN finally reported on the harassment of Palestinians at the hundreds of Israeli checkpoints, an issue this column has regularly highlighted. Another CNN report discussed the stereotyping of Arab American actors who are tiring of playing terrorists and now trying to rewrite the script in their favour.

Now, if CNN would only start televising pictures of US troops coming home blinded, maimed and disfigured beyond belief from the lie-based war in Iraq, as the US media bravely did during the Vietnam war, global public opinion will take care of the rest.

However, there is little cause for any immediate optimism, and very often it is the little signs that provide an indication.

Earlier this month, Karen Hughes, the US spin doctor-in-chief, bearing the official title of Under Secretary of State, resigned after two years of trying to give the image of the US government a positive makeover, especially in the Muslim world.

Resignations by communications specialists are always a danger sign because they indicate that the product can no longer be fixed and the policy can no longer be camouflaged by conventional spin doctor strategies.

Is Hughes, an ex-journalist for the Washington Post, aware of any upcoming developments that will worsen the situation and making an exit before the proverbial crap hits the fan?

Time will tell. But there is little doubt that 2008, the last year of the failed Bush presidency, is going to be a pivotal year in more ways than one.