Several contacts have been sending me an article that appeared in The New Yorker yesterday, titled “The Maps of Israeli Settlements That Shocked Barack Obama”, by Adam Entous.
The article features a map, here headlined “West Bank – What a One State Reality Looks Like”, where the archipelago of Palestinian controlled/partially controlled areas (A and B) are ‘bathed’ inside the surrounding and disconnecting Israeli Area C (about 60% of West Bank), where Area C has the same color as Israel (blue). Thus, one can clearly see the disconnect of Palestinian Bantustans (Gaza is also seen as a separate enclave).
Entous opens his ‘Tomb-raider’ like exposé:
One afternoon in the spring of 2015, a senior State Department official named Frank Lowenstein paged through a government briefing book and noticed a map that he had never seen before”. […] The new map in the briefing book was different. It showed large swaths of territory that were off limits to Palestinian development and filled in space between the settlements and the outposts. At that moment, Lowenstein told me, he saw “the forest for the trees”—not only were Palestinian population centers cut off from one another but there was virtually no way to squeeze a viable Palestinian state into the areas that remained.
This shocking discovery was thus something that had to be shown to President Obama:
Lowenstein showed the small map to Secretary of State John Kerry and said, “Look what’s really going on here.” Kerry brought the map to his next meeting with President Obama. The map was too small for everyone in the Situation Room to see, so Lowenstein had a series of larger maps made. The information was then verified by U.S. intelligence agencies. Obama’s Presidency was winding down, but Lowenstein figured that he could use the time left to raise awareness about what the Israelis were doing. “One day, everyone’s going to wake up and go, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve got to stop this to at least have the possibility of a two-state solution,’ ” Lowenstein said.
This shocking secret evidence, as it were, was the impetus to Obama’s final act of defiance against this threat – an abstention at the UN more than a year later, in December 2016, when Obama was a lame duck:
Alarmed by Israeli actions depicted in the maps, Obama decided to abstain on a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the settlements, clearing the way for its passage.
I was telling the first contact who sent me this, who really is a very informed person, that it’s a bit of an insult to the intelligence, because they could have seen all that from the Oslo Accords and thereafter. Indeed, if one looks at the ‘Oslo II’ map of the West Bank and its areas A, B and C, all that is evident. You don’t need the Israeli controlled Area C to be in the same color as Israel to see this. It’s quite straightforward.
My contact responded: “Nonetheless, I think it is interesting the New Yorker is bringing this material forward”.
It’s pretty ironic. Obama could have looked at one of the maps of ‘disappearing Palestine’ which are shared so often by Palestinian solidarity activists (see it in Tom Suarez’s article on Jaffa). The series of four maps shows how Zionist control of historical Palestine has expanded from 1946 to this day, where the last map is essentially what Obama was looking at. Shock horror! Palestinian solidarity activists had it right! Israel IS shrinking Palestine!
And PS all these maps were available to anyone before February 2011 when, mindful of his reelection campaign a year off, Obama vetoed a resolution against the settlements at the U.N.
But now this new “revelation” that suddenly made Obama see the light, brought him to do something amazing when it comes to Israel – he did nothing. I mean, literally – nothing. The US abstained at the UN Security Council vote on Resolution 2334 which condemned all of Israel’s settlements as a “flagrant violation” of international law. In the political reality of today, not standing by Israel when it commits war crimes is considered extremely ‘anti-Israel’. As Hillary Clinton said in her election campaign, “America can’t be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival” –and bear in mind, there she was correcting Trump for suggesting he would be the “neutral guy” on this issue. Even Israel’s left bemoaned the UNSC resolution, and left-leader Isaac Herzog (now off to his new job as head of Jewish Agency to fight the intermarriage “plague”) blamed Netanyahu for causing the disaster by alienating Obama.
Per Adam Entous, this would be “Obama’s final act of defiance against Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, before Donald Trump took office and put in place policies that were far more accepting of the settlers.”
Before that, Obama would make some critical noises, but increase Israel’s military aid check for the next decade from $31 billion (last decade) to $38 billion (next decade). And he would give a green light to some of Israel’s most atrocious massacres in recent history. As Norman Finkelstein says, “Obama’s record on Israel Palestine is awful. The worst massacres in the history of the conflict since 1982 and the invasion of Lebanon– the worst and most egregious massacres occurred under his watch” […] “Operation Protective Edge, 2014, couldn’t have happened if not for Obama. And throughout the operation, Obama keeps saying that Israel has the right to defend itself, Israel has the right to self-defense”.
So in December 2016 the US stood still and did not side with Israel against the hostile, ‘Israel-bashing’ world represented at the UN, as Trump’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley would put it, and then UN Ambassador Samantha Power let the condemning resolution pass. That’s called radical in our times, almost heroic- a “final act of defiance”.
But let’s get back to that map. Are we really supposed to believe that Obama didn’t know? That just because he hadn’t seen a map with those colors (or looked at a ‘disappearing Palestine’ map), that he never really understood the Bantustan-effect of the Oslo accords and the acts of the Israeli governments thereafter? Did the President not know that the Oslo accords were not meant to create a Palestinian state, but rather “less than a state” as even Israeli Prime Minister Rabin said just before he was assassinated?
Let’s take Lowenstein’s “not seeing the forest for trees” notion seriously. What is it saying? That there’s so much obfuscation surrounding Israel’s occupation and settlement policy, that it’s incredibly hard to see the full picture, the “forest”. Alright, it can be confusing, I’ll give it that much. In his book ‘Knowing Too Much’, Norman Finkelstein cites Dennis Ross, one of the architects of the Oslo agreements, relating to these areas A, B and C (P. 421). Brace yourselves:
[Ross’s] account focuses primarily on the minutiae of the negotiations […], which future historians will require a Rosetta stone to decipher. Consider this hieroglyphic from Ross’s text:
‘In our secure call the next day, Bibi [Netanyahu] raised my original bridging idea – not so much the notion of 11+2 as his being able to say he had done something less than 13, and Arafat and Clinton being able to say it was a 13 percent transfer of territory. But now Bibi said he did no know how to actually do this. There needed to be an area of special status that would make up the difference between what he was doing for the further redeployment and the total we were asking for. I saw an opening here and probed: Is the problem that roads or an economic zone can’t cover sufficient territory to reach the 13 percent given the size of the FRD [further redeployments] you can do? Yes, was the answer, and he could simply not increase the size of the B area – an area where Israelis retained the security responsibility but the Palestinians had the civil responsibility. Previously, I had raised the idea of creating what might be termed a “B-“ area – an area that gave the Palestinians more authority than in the C areas, but less than a full-fledged B area. Bibi had explored it, but also said it was not doable. I revisited this idea now but with a slightly different twist. What if we created an area that you could say was a “C” and they would be able to say was a “B”?’
I hope you’re still there and did not get lost in the ABC forest. And what does all this ABC really spell? It spells Apartheid, it spells Bantustans. That’s what it’s really about. And if anyone had any high hopes about it in the 1990’s, it’s about time to dispel them.
Let’s not just return to the ‘special map’ that was shown to Obama. Let’s return to that ‘disappearing Palestine’ map and be simple about it. Because what is it really showing? It is showing how Zionist machinations and conquests have been slicing up Palestine even before 1948. The 1947 UN ‘Partition Plan’ suggested 55% of historical Palestine be given to the Jewish polity, which made up one third of the population at the time and owned about 7% of the land. The major three enclaves of each respective polity were mostly contiguous through slim crossing points (Jaffa being an exception; and Jerusalem, let it be added, was suggested to be a Corpus Separatum, a separate area under international auspices). Come 1948, and Israel severed these areas from one another – shrunk Gaza, shrunk the West Bank and overtook the Galilee.
At this point, when looking at map 3 of the ‘Disappearing Palestine’ (1949-1967), we could already be saying that the prospect of a Palestinian state on the remains of historical Palestine is bleak – because Gaza is completely severed from the West Bank. Nonetheless, the Oslo Accords of the 1990’s did treat the two enclaves as part of one entity (with a road connecting them). The PLO had already accepted the possibility of a ‘Palestine’ on pre-1967 lines in 1988, long before the famous (or infamous) ‘peace process’. Nonetheless, Israel worked incessantly to sever Gaza from the West Bank, even before the peace-process began. Amira Hass mentions this effort frequently.
In other words, Israel is saying one thing, that it wants peace, but on the other hand taking actions which imply that this ‘peace’ is not about offering Palestinians statehood in any real way, but rather a limbo of limited ‘authority’ in disconnected enclaves which Israel controls. Let me spell the ABC out again: Bantustans.
So now we are told that Obama, at some point, saw the light, saw “the forest for trees”, because of the ingenious discovery of a State Department official who had seen it first – and realized that Israel was dissecting the West Bank, and that the anatomy of that dissection appeared to be in direct opposition to any notion of a “2-state’ solution, because anything that wasn’t ‘Israel’ was completely dissected and disconnected.
But was Obama really seeing the forest, or just a small section of it?
The ‘disappearing Palestine’ maps, in general, offer a wider view of the bigger historical forest, pointing to a pattern which corresponds logically with the settler-colonialist designs of the Zionist movement and its manifestation as Israel. It is about a gradual elimination of Palestine.
And what should be done about it? We are told that Obama made a drastic move – abstention. And then Trump effectively cancelled the reservations and sided wholly with Israel. But sanctioning Israel is apparently outside the scope of possibility. Thus Israel continues with its crimes, continues to shrink Palestine, and smart diplomats confuse us with their ‘ABC’, apparently so much so that even Presidents cant see the forest for trees. Or so they say.
So maybe it really is time for simple people, those who do view ‘disappearing Palestine’ maps, to take action where politicians fail to act and fail to see. Palestine is really disappearing. It’s a genocidal pattern, and you’re seeing it happen in real time.