Israel's Walls and Wars Strategy Starts to Fail

BEIRUT -- The visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States received the lion’s share of publicity about Israel’s position in the Middle East and the world last week, but the real story about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rests elsewhere. The great tale that goes largely unrecognized reflects that combination of bubbling forces around the world -- grassroots, professional, political -- that achieve two important things: to assert that the world will not forever acquiesce in the systematic denial of the national rights of the Palestinian people, and to apply new forms of pressure on Israel to end its systematic oppression of Palestinians that more and more is routinely compared to Apartheid South Africa.
Two simultaneous developments brought this to mind last week -- one in Beirut and the other in many countries. In Beirut, I was struck by the force of a two-day conference on health conditions of Palestinians in and outside Palestine, co-organized by the American University of Beirut Faculty of Health Science, Birzeit University and The Lancet, the London-based leading international journal on public health. The gathering of 75 or so health researchers from around the world was impressive, especially the opening remarks of Lancet editor Richard Horton.
In his analysis of research as a tool for social justice, equity and addressing power and inequity, in Palestine, refugee camps around the region, and throughout the world, he said that research and universities can play an active role in promoting justice, citizenship, voice and accountability. They can generate knowledge in the service of “defending universal principles of human rights and human dignity.”
Specifically addressing The Lancet’s interest in disseminating research about health conditions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, he said that university research is a form of peaceful resistance and non-violent protest that oppose forces that use health or medicines as an instrument of war. Researchers have an obligation to analyze and expose such inhuman practices, and, where possible, to oppose them. Researchers who do this, he said, should aim to report on and help bring an end to an “epidemiology of terror.”
The only thing more powerful than a piece of knowledge, I thought, is a committed human being who uses that knowledge in the service of justice.
At the same time, scattered developments around the world reinforced my sense that we might see new momentum soon for resolving the Palestine issue equitably, and working for a just Arab-Israeli peace. More specifically, these developments suggest that the political balance of power of the past four decades that saw Zionism subdue and dominate Arabism in this region and abroad may be entering a historic stage of greater equilibrium between the two. Here are some intriguing developments that make me think this way:
• A new poll among citizens across 12 Arab countries, conducted by the Qatar-based Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies (reported by Marwan Bishara on al-Jazeera’s website, in advance of the poll’s full release), shows that three out of four people see Israel and the United States as the two most threatening countries; 84 per cent believe the Palestinian question is the cause of all Arabs and not the Palestinians only, and reject the notion of their state's recognition of Israel; only 21 per cent support, to a certain degree, the peace agreement signed between Egypt, Jordan and the PLO with Israel. Less than a third agree with their government's foreign policy.
• Recent conferences at several American and Canadian universities on the boycott, sanctions and divestment strategy against Israel, and for a “one-state” solution, giving Israelis and Palestinians equal rights in a single country, faced stiff opposition from pro-Israeli zealots, but in all cases the conferences went ahead.
• In Washington, US President Barack Obama openly challenged the Israeli desire for war on Iran now, and was widely supported by many in American society, despite the intense efforts of the maniacs in the pro-Israel lobbies there. The power of those lobbies is slowly being confined to members of Congress and journalists who remain deeply vulnerable to the intimidation tools of the lobby groups, while others in American society have learned that they can push back and survive.
• Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is increasingly seen as a thug whose heavy-handedness in the United States and repeated references to the Holocaust as a reminder of what he sees as threats to Israelis and Jews today have even bothered some fellow Israelis and Jews. His combination of insincerity, lies, exaggeration and arrogance has brought Israel to the point where its foreign policy sadly is essentially based on building walls and threatening wars.
• Palestinians and fellow activists are working hard to make the March 29 Global March to Jerusalem the new face of nonviolent resistance to Israeli colonial expansion and Apartheid-like Zionist ethnic privileges.
The combination of these and other developments may well comprise a historic transformation in the Arab-Israeli conflict. We will find out in the coming months. Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon. Copyright © 2012 Rami G. Khouri -- distributed by Agence Global