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Now they tell us! Peace processors say enabling Israel settlements has been US policy for 4 decades

Media Analysis
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What do Paul Wolfowitz, Dan Kurtzer, Aaron Miller, and Prince Andrew have in common?

These four  privileged older white guys have all sought (and been granted) exposure in the corporate media recently. Paul Wolfowitz, one of the prime architects and advocates of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was given this fine platform on the NYT’s opinion page in order to criticize Pres. Trump’s recent decision to withdraw (or later, reduce/redeploy) the U.S. troop presence in Syria. Dan Kurtzer and Aaron Miller, two of the leading “peace processors” guiding U.S. policy on Palestine and other Middle Eastern issues for 24 years, 1992-2016, were given this platform on the Washington Post, to comment on Trump’s policy on Israel’s illegal settlement. As for Prince Andrew, you may have heard he gave this disastrous interview to the BBC, discussing his ties to the late Jeffrey Epstein.

What struck me, however, was not that these four guys got the media coverage they sought (though more of that, in re Wolfowitz, below.) Rather, it was what they all failed to say in these media appearances. That is, not one of them said a single word about the great suffering their past actions had inflicted on vulnerable subaltern groups, or expressed sympathy with those who experienced that suffering, or took any responsibility for having inflicted it in the first place.

No, for all four of these guys, what they wanted to express in their media appearances was all about themselves. A scintilla of human sympathy for the  victims of their own past acts? No, no, no.

I truly have nothing I want to say about Prince Andrew except to point out that his behavior is yet another fine argument for the ending of the very anachronistic institution known as a monarchy. The others deserve a bit more attention.

Paul Wolfowitz!

My first and biggest question is how he can dare to write about anything about the Mashreq– and even, as he does here, about the eruption and fight against ISIS within it– without saying a single word about the roots of ISIS in the destruction that his favored policy of invading Iraq had wrought throughout the whole of that country. This guy should be on trial for major war crimes, not featured on the pages of the New York Times. Indeed, in a dizzying feat of  historiographical legerdemain, his article skips right over the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq almost completely, jumping from the events of 1991 to “President Obama’s failure 20 years later to support the Syrian opposition.”

2003? Nah, nothing to see there…

Of course, if he had thought to mention the invasion of 2003 and the sequence of catastrophes that that act brought to the people of Iraq, including hundreds of thousands of deaths, the splitting up of the country, and the eruption of ISIS, then the argument he makes in the article that Syria’s president should also have been overthrown (and maybe, still should be?) would have been shown for what it is: a recipe for yet further disasters.

My bigger question about the Wolfowitz piece is why on earth the people at the NYT feel they need to raise even one finger to help rehabilitate this war criminal by opening their pages to him?

They took one earlier step in this direction back in January 2017, with this fairly anodyne op-ed piece. But the latest piece is much more substantive. I guess it fits right in with their own strongly anti-Asad agenda?

Which brings us to the slightly strange article published by Kurtzer and Miller last week (available at Carnegie website). At first glance, it seems like standard US MSM fare: a piece criticizing Trump for breaking with several decades of previous US policy on the legality of Israel’s settlements. But then, it seems to divulge a “startling” truth. The statement that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had recently made on the settlements, they write [emphasis mine]:

confirms, through legal acrobatics, the de facto approach of U.S. administrations over the course of four decades to acquiesce to, even enable, the Israeli settlement enterprise; to be silent on the issue of legality; and to fail to impose a penalty that could limit or discourage Israel’s settlement policies. We watched this happen, up close, during our more than 50 combined years of service in U.S. diplomacy under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Well, none of this is news to all those of us who have followed U.S. policymaking on Palestine throughout these past decades. It could be seen as mildly interesting that these two guys– who between them constitute 50% of the “Gang of Four”, very dedicated Zionists who dominated U.S. policymaking on matters Palestinian for so long– are now prepared to ‘fess up to the fact that this was what all the presidents they had worked for, for all those years, had done.

Although, you could also see it as a bit of swaggering/bragging – that “This is what we got away with, for all those years, 1992-2016, he-he-heh!” And that impression is strengthened by the fact that not once in their whole article do they ever mention the plight of the Palestinians whose lives have been very seriously blighted for many decades now (or even, in too many cases, actually ended) because of the policies they advocated for and implemented, which were endlessly forgiving of Israel, which did nothing to rein in Israel’s continuing colonial taking of Palestinian land and resources, and which have brought Palestinians and Israelis not one millimeter closer to the “peace” these two guys claim to have working for, for all those years.

Their lack of thoughtfulness and remorse is made even clearer by what they write here:

Perhaps the major reason the United States failed to impose costs on Israel for its settlement activity — at least once serious Arab-Israeli negotiations began in the 1990s — was the compelling view that the only solution to the settlements challenge lay at the bargaining table.

Note that word, “compelling,” presented there without any qualifications or caveats. So it seems they still consider “the view that the only solution to the settlements challenge lay at the bargaining table” to be compelling?

Well guess what, guys: It didn’t work, did it? This endless peace-process-y thing you and your colleagues in the gang of Four devoted so many years to working on did not bring any success “at the bargaining table.” It did not bring peace. It failed, it failed, it failed… But these two guys living their comfortable, privileged lives do nothing to acknowledge that.

They could have written something like,

Perhaps the major reason the United States failed to impose costs on Israel for its settlement activity… was the view –which we considered compelling at the time but have since come to reconsider— that the only solution to the settlements challenge lay at the bargaining table.

Because of course it is not the case that the only solution to the settlements challenge lay during those earlier decades, lies today, or has ever lain at a solely US-designed “bargaining table.” More appropriately, it would lie in Americans returning the lead role on the Question of Palestine to the United Nations, where it rightly belongs, and pressing for it be treated there in full compliance with the requirements of international law (including on the illegality of Israel’s settlements and many other Israeli acts, and on the need for full respect of Palestinian rights including their UN-affirmed Right of Return).

That would be a way to bring a real, sustainable, and rights-based peace to the area of Israel/Palestine.

But Kurtzer and Miller do not even entertain this thought. Indeed, they provide no prescription at all for a path forward. All they are able to do is hint at the superiority of the path they themselves followed 1992-2016, which was one essentially of allowing Israel to continue abusing Palestinian rights as much as it wants but covering those abuses with a chimera known as a “peace process.”

Which, as noted above, did not work. But they continue to occupy nicely-funded positions and to get called on regularly to opine on matters Palestinian and Israel… as if they had something of some value to say?

This post first appeared on Just World News site on Nov. 26. 

Helena Cobban

Helena Cobban is the President of Just World Educational (JWE), a non-profit organization, and the CEO of Just World Books. She has had a lengthy career as a journalist, writer, and researcher on international affairs, including 17 years as a columnist on global issues for The Christian Science Monitor. Of the seven books she’s published on international affairs, four have been on Middle Eastern topics. This new series of commentaries she’s writing, “Story/Backstory”, will have an expanded audio component published in JWE’s podcast series. They represent her own opinion and judgments, not those of any organization.

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15 Responses

  1. brent on December 3, 2019, 10:30 pm

    “Perhaps the major reason the United States failed to impose costs on Israel for its settlement activity — at least once serious Arab-Israeli negotiations began in the 1990s — was the compelling view that the only solution to the settlements challenge lay at the bargaining table.”

    This is similar to the call for a 2SS, a politically safe position. However it has become clear and unavoidable that neither a 2SS or the bargaining table are possibilities for resolving the problem?

    Political efforts, even by President’s, to bring settlements to a halt have been unsuccessful. Political power was greater on behalf of greater Israel than Presidents of the United States. This is understood by the power of public narratives.

    Proponents of Greater Israel, recognizing the inherent advantage in being seen as the victim, have consistently promoted books, movies and commentaries to achieve that goal. Many anti-semitism charges are advanced to reinforce victimhood. Victims don’t have to take responsibility for their behavior because they acted out of fear harm would have come had they done the right thing. One can avoid responsibility for questionable behaviors by claiming self-defence, against being victimized or by labelied the other as bad.

    Terrorism was introduced in Palestine to drive out the British but today, in the public mind, it’s more the Palestinians who are judged or labeled terrorists. Families can get wiped out but one Jewish child’s death gets more publicity. This is the media reality we are now living with and have been forever now. It’s inculcated in the public narrative which in turn heavily influences positions taken by politicians.

    Politicians formulate positions which secure their survival. The religion narrative is also very powerful as no politician wants to be confronted by some constituent standing up at a town hall meeting yelling, “YOU are going against GOD”.

    Based upon these perceptions, Palestinians and supporters, will be prudent to reinforce the campaign for a secular state, a return to the original PLO position. Challenging the victim narrative to one of equal rights can change things for the better.

    • James Canning on December 4, 2019, 11:18 am

      @brent The failure of the US to “impose costs” on Israel for its illegal colonization program in the occupied West Bank has been the result of pernicious power of the Israel lobby.

      • genesto on December 4, 2019, 2:21 pm

        Period! Full stop!!

      • brent on December 4, 2019, 9:50 pm

        @JC The first paragraph in my comment above was a quote from the article.

        Yes, the “pernicious power of the Israel lobby” has kept American from reining Israel in.

        It is relevant to get a grip how that power was achieved and is maintained. Of course the benjamins and religion are very important but even more influential are the perceptions in the minds of average Americans about who are the victims and who are the terrorists. This is slowly changing with time but still too many see the Israelis as good, Palestinians as bad.

        This is why it will be an advantage for Palestinians to coalesce on the secular state and shift focus to equality. To stand against tolerating , rewarding or celebrating violence while knowing that will increase violence against them in the short run. In addition that will open the door wider for a coalition with Jews who do not believe in supremacism and have the position and ability to check greater Israel.

        IMO, this is how to take away the power of “the lobby”. Acts that reinforce the notion Israelis are victims work against achieving a secular state. Perceived victimization is greater Israel’s “get out of jail free card” and “permission note” to do what they want when they want.

  2. HarryLaw on December 4, 2019, 11:05 am

    Israel is going to control the whole of Palestine, it already claims sovereignty over it [The Land of Israel] Palestinians who do not resist will live in Bantustans which will be paid for by the ‘west’, those who resist will be killed, driven out or imprisoned, Israel/US will say Israelis have a right to defend themselves. Reminds me of the early US Pioneers who moved west, native Indians [sorry “savages”] who got in the way were killed or put in reservations, who can doubt the Israelis plus ‘end timers’ like Pence and Pompeo have the same fate in mind for the Palestinians, its been done before not that long ago in US history. ‘Manifest destiny’ or ‘the will of God’ backed by military might. One problem… two can play at that game.

  3. James Canning on December 4, 2019, 11:13 am

    Bravo, for pointing out that the catastrophic civil war in Syria is an outgrowth of the idiotic and disastrous US invasion of Iraq in 2003 – – championed by Paul Wolfowitz.

    • Misterioso on December 4, 2019, 3:12 pm

      @James Canning, et al.

      The ongoing tragedy in Iraq further confirms that George Bush Sr. was correct when he chose not to occupy Baghdad and depose Sadaam Hussein in 1991. It also brings to mind the wise long since forgotten words of then Vice President Dick Cheney as quoted by the New York Times on 13 April 1991, when he was secretary of defense: “Once you’ve got Baghdad, it’s not clear what you will do with it. It’s not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that’s currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Ba’athists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists. How much credibility is that government going to have if it’s set up by the United States military when it’s there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for the government, and what happens to it once we leave?”

      I wonder what changed Cheney’s mind in 2003.

      • Citizen on December 5, 2019, 5:11 am

        Geez, I wonder if anyone ever asked Cheney that question?

      • eljay on December 5, 2019, 8:10 am

        || Misterioso: … I wonder what changed Cheney’s mind in 2003. ||

        Dick “Krusty” Cheney: They drove a dump truck full of money up to my house. I’m not made of stone!

  4. genesto on December 4, 2019, 2:27 pm

    Not only Wolfowitz and his cabal of Zionist Neocons belong in prison as war criminals. We should include the members of Congress, like Schumer, The Shomer, and HRC, that should have known better, and all of the journalists, like Judith Miller (who paid a price, though not enough of one) and Thomas Friedman (who hasn’t been held accountable at all!) as accomplices in selling the public on the Iraq War based on fabricated information.

    Put them all in jail – and throw away the key!

  5. Elizabeth Block on December 4, 2019, 4:33 pm

    “Well guess what, guys: It didn’t work, did it? This endless peace-process-y thing you and your colleagues in the gang of Four devoted so many years to working on did not bring any success “at the bargaining table.” It did not bring peace. It failed, it failed, it failed… ”

    Did it? It didn’t bring peace, let alone justice. But is that what the gang of Four actually wanted? It is certainly not what Israel wants. They are perfectly fine with the continuing low-level asymmetrical conflict, which allows them to nibble, or gobble, more of Palestine every day.

    I figure that to know what someone (including yourself!) actually wants, don’t listen to what they say. Watch what they do.

  6. pabelmont on December 4, 2019, 5:49 pm

    NYT et all have been part of a cover-up since 1967. How can they stop telling their lies now? Don’t allies of criminals generally honor “omerta” and keep with the cover-up? Same way top DEMs (Obama, Pelosi) have stuck with the Zionist program even if hey knew/felt different.

    The work of the “establishment” is never done, and cover-ups are part of their jobs.

    Notice the “establishment” denying climate crisis? Same mechanism at work.

  7. bcg on December 4, 2019, 7:00 pm

    Since we’re talking settlements, here’s Peace Now’s list of them along with a map:

    https://peacenow.org.il/en/settlements-watch/israeli-settlements-at-the-west-bank-the-list

    Anyone still think two states are possible, in any other sense of the word “possible” other than it wouldn’t violate the laws of physics?

    • Talkback on December 5, 2019, 8:16 am

      It depends how you interpret the word “state”. If we are talking about how everybody in the world except Zionists interpret this term, than no. If you use the Zionist interpretation which has always been “Israeli controlled bantustans”, than yes.

    • mondonut on December 5, 2019, 3:09 pm

      Sure.

      State 1 could be Israel, along with Judea and Samaria.
      State 2 could be Gaza.

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