Josh Ruebner, author of the new book on Obama’s failure to make peace, Shattered Hopes, fascinated a Columbus, Ohio, audience long concerned about Palestine and Israel with a clear solution to the crisis, one that many imagine but seldom hear. Peace comes from justice; justice depends on equal rights for all, enforced by international law. Ruebner’s moral clarity was exhilarating for listeners who are weary of hearing the standard lines of debate.
Speaking at Ohio State University two weeks ago, Ruebner, national advocacy director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, demolished the myth peddled by the “Peace-Process Industry” that the crisis in Palestine and Israel is too “complex” to solve. He pointed to twentieth-century successes: Algeria gained independence, Americans marched for civil rights, South Africa dismantled apartheid, and Northern Ireland achieved the Good Friday Agreement. These tyrannies looked indestructible, but years of work– including boycotts–exposed cruelty and promoted equality under the law. We can create such reforms in Israel and Palestine, Ruebner assured us, because, “when we boil the situation down to its essence, the answer is simple: Israel has built apartheid over all historic Palestine.”
The proof is stark: different laws for different ethnicities.
*78 percent of the land has a majority-Jewish population because of “vast ethnic cleansing.” Israel has violated the terms of its acceptance as a member state in the U.N. because it refuses to permit Palestinians’ lawful “Right of Return,” while substituting a bogus “Law of Return” to draw new Jewish citizens.
*The 20 percent of Israelis who are not Jewish are subject to severe discrimination like the Prawer Plan to confiscate the land of 40,000 Bedouin Israeli citizens and demolish their villages.
*In the Occupied West Bank, Palestinians have no rights at all. They are ruled by Israeli martial law, judged by military courts, and sentenced to military prison for six months—a term that can be arbitrarily extended for years, even decades. Israeli Jews, however, are tried in civilian courts—except when they attack Palestinians or their land: “Just yesterday, Israeli colonists demolished 600 olive trees, but they never face justice for crimes against Palestinians.”
The “Peace Process” is cover for a Jewish state that discriminates against Palestinians, whether they be Israeli citizens, people denied a state in the Occupied lands, or the diaspora. Some examples of the bad faith:
*The Oslo Accords have failed, because Israel has refused to enter “final status” negotiations as agreed. Instead, from 1993 to 2013, it has installed hundreds of thousands more colonists on stolen Palestinian land.
*In 2000, Yasser Arafat hesitated to attend the Camp David negotiations, rightly arguing that the “preliminary work” for a just solution “had not been done.” U.S. President Bill Clinton, however, promised that no one would be blamed if no agreement were reached. Ruebner asked, “Do you know how many maps Arafat was shown of Israeli P.M. Ehud Barak’s supposedly ‘generous offer?’” The ugly truth: “Zero.”
Worse, “Palestinians were told that they could have no part of the Jerusalem that under international law is rightfully theirs.”
Arafat responded, “If I sign this agreement, I’ll … be assassinated,” because, as Shattered Hopes concludes, Camp David merely “dictated terms of surrender justifiably rejected by the Palestinians” (p. 123).
Ruebner chillingly reminded us of the final treachery, “Clinton announced one hour later: I blame the Palestinians 100 percent.”
*The U.S. is not an “honest broker”: Dennis Ross, the lead “Peace-Process negotiator,” had as an “m.o. of taking Israeli demands and working them over to make them palatable to the Palestinians”—a “U.S. tag-team with the oppressor.” Ruebner quotes Aaron David Miller’s notorious confession, “We’ve acted as Israel’s lawyer,” catering to its every whim. Ruebner proclaimed, “If we’re to succeed, we must have one client: justice, for lasting peace.”
Ruebner recounted the excruciating steps by which Barack Obama—though he took office knowing more about Israel/Palestine than his predecessors and professing to care about equity—reneged on all support for Palestinian self-determination. Obama at first affirmed decades-old official U.S. policy: requiring that Israel stop expanding illegal colonies and abide by past agreements. But when Netanyahu refused–supported by AIPAC and the U.S. Congress—Obama collapsed rather than defend equality, international law, and U.N. resolutions to the American public.
Readers of this site remember the details, so I’ll touch only on what I see as the most ridiculous—and serious—incentives Obama offered Israel: material and diplomatic treasures of the American and Palestinian people. These were not his to squander, especially not just to cover for his own lack of rectitude. But in 2010 Obama attempted to exchange a mere three-month extension of the “sham settlement moratorium” from Netanyahu for a monstrous bribe of $15 billion for 75 F-35 fighter jets, plus permanent dominion over the Jordan Valley. Netanyahu only refused this unethical giveaway because he felt he could snatch the reward in future without even pretending to halt the land-grabs (page 101).
Meanwhile, “The NSA turns over raw intel on the phone records of US citizens to Israel,” Ruebner said. The State Department uses all our political capital to defend Israeli war crimes. And in a tragic about-face, the U.S. lobbied the U.N. as strenuously against Palestinian membership in 2011 as it had done for the partition of Palestine and Israel’s creation in 1947.
Obama descended, Ruebner confirmed, into the usual “US-dominated charade” of “double standards.” But, “this new round of negotiations is the worst,” for Israel insists on keeping every colony in the West Bank–building 18 high-speed rail lines (for Israelis only) to connect them–and military control of the Jordan Valley. The result of these “peace talks” will be Israel turning the West Bank into a “second version of Gaza, open-air prisons”—and checkpoints, razor wire, and Israeli soldiers licensed to kill.
In the face of such deceit, Ruebner declared, “We’d be mad to leave this to the politicians.” We need instead to persuade “Israel to remove its boot of oppression from Palestinian necks.”
He said that Boycott, Divest, and Sanction is the way of peace: “Just as BDS isolated Apartheid South Africa,” the growing refusal to be a party to Israel’s despotism in Palestine “will pull pieces out till apartheid collapses.
“South Africans thought they’d never see liberation, but it suddenly happened.”
The first audience question was from an Israel supporter, who complained, “Why talk about Israel, not other countries?”
But Ruebner welcomed the question. He answered:
*When the UN voted yesterday [10.29.13] to end the U.S. embargo of Cuba , only two countries voted against it: the U.S. and Israel.
*Israel is the top recipient of U.S. military aid, 60 percent (which adds up to 20 percent of Israel’s military budget); we pay the next-highest, Egypt, merely to comply with Israel’s demands
*Israel uses our money to injure and kill Palestinians, to bulldoze homes, sometimes killing those in wheelchairs who can’t escape with a few minutes’ notice.
*Israel attacked Gaza schools and homes with white phosphorus and DIME explosives—weapons which are illegal under international law because they injure so hideously.
*The U.S. billions are taken from the human needs of people in our own country.
*Despite our largesse, Israel has the second-worst wealth gap—after the U.S.–between rich and poor.
Ruebner’s book may be called Shattered Hopes, but it’s a valuable record of more than our government’s betrayals. It shows us the work we need to do, together. And Ruebner encourages us with successes: “Mainstream coverage has dramatically changed for the better in the last five years.”
When asked how he came to care about justice for Palestine, Josh Ruebner’s integrity sparkled: “Seeing how Israel treats the Palestinians. If you look with an open mind and open heart, it takes about five minutes to see it. This is about right against wrong.”