Peace may now be possible if the international community grabs the olive branch tentatively offered by Abbas and Hamas.
“Peace at last, peace at last, thank God Almighty, there’s peace at last.”
Picture the scene immediately following Mahmoud Abbas’ speech before the Nobel Institute in Oslo this week as Israel’s most volatile racist and leader of the newly enfranchised Israel Beitenu Party, Avigdor Leiberman (Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz, 27/03/2006), rushed breathlessly to Ehud Olmert, Israel’s newly elected clone of Ariel Sharon, to tell him the unwanted news, Palestinians want peace (Arabic News.com, 4/26/2006). Quoting Abbas, Leiberman read: “I believe that to resolve the conflict, both sides should not be left alone with this imbalance of occupier and occupied. An international conference should be summoned immediately, in which direct negotiations take place, on the basis of international UN resolutions and signed agreements.” Such chutzpah! But it gets worse. Hamas revealed that it is reviewing the 2002 Saudi Peace Plan which calls for “the Jewish state to return to its pre-1967 borders in return for ‘normal relations’ with Arab nations,” an agreement that if accepted would have Hamas “cease all military activities,” according to a Reuters article, April 27, 2006. “We are studying and considering all kinds of proposals, including the Arab peace initiative,” Nayef al-Rajoub, minister of religious affairs noted. This is not news Olmert wanted to hear. After all he had run his campaign on the promise that he would disenfranchise Hamas and create Israel’s borders unilaterally because there would be no one to negotiate with in Palestine. Now both Hamas and the PLO have offered to talk peace and the world must jump at the offer. The alternative offers only the promise of chaos since it is in the hands of fanatics.
Civilizations live and die by metaphor: they envelop our deepest beliefs and give birth to our singular creations; conversely, misunderstood, they give license to might that in turn wreaks havoc on humankind. Today, that thought should give us pause to reflect on four recent events that mirror, should we will them to, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse: “And I saw, and behold a white horse … and he went forth conquering, and to conquer,” the symbol of the Anti-Christ of Revelation with the election of Hamas and the ultimate conquest of Israel; “And when he had opened the second seal … there went out another horse that was red and power was given to him that sat thereon to take ‘peace from the earth,” the symbol of war by the election of Sharon’s legacy in Kadima to forestall that inevitability; “And when he had opened the third seal … I beheld, and lo a black horse, and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand,” the symbol of famine and pestilence that follows the punishment of Hamas through the Palestine Anti-Terrorism Act that is designed to inflict starvation, sickness and disease; “And when he had opened the fourth seal, and I looked, and beheld a pale horse and his name that sat on him was Death,” the symbol that encompasses the consequences of the actions wrought by the first three of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, the devastation of the mid-east as imaged in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and the impending doom of our return to nuclear slaughter in Iran as “fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth … and a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea … and the third part of the sea became ‘blood’ … and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea … died …and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters … and a third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon … and the third part of the stars … so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not … and the night likewise … and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth.” (Revelation 6, 7, 8).
Having cast this metaphor into “Dominionist” terms, the inevitability of Armageddon must follow. All it takes is the exclusion of reason, history, and the advancement of knowledge, replaced by superstition, covenants with mythological figures, and fear of the unknown. Metaphors interpreted by fanatics drive us to our day of doom. Training the innocent to encircle their bodies with belts of death on behalf of Allah’s demand for death to infidels, ordering soldiers to hurl missiles into crowded streets where the innocent must die to secure stolen land, or to ravage Rafah or Fallujah with demolition by bulldozers and depleted uranium to punish collectively the innocent and the criminal are nothing but acts of terror fostered by fanatics bereft of reason and, indeed, of common sense. It behooves us to reflect on the morass in the mid-east that propels the world to a third encompassing conflict that will envelop all in a third world war.
Peace may now be possible if the international community grabs the olive branch tentatively offered by Abbas and Hamas. Peace rests in both cases on Israel’s borders as determined by the UN in sundry resolutions going back to 1967 and upon the right of return for Palestinian refugees, Resolutions 194 and 242 that have the force of International Law since they have the expressed vote of the United Nations behind them, including the United States. Peace also rests on a return to the United Nations as the arbiter of consequence since it is the resolutions of that body that carry legal authority that must be the guiding force to bring peace to Palestine. This turn of events recognizes the failure of the United States as a meaningful and objective arbiter since its allegiance has been and continues to be on the side of Israel. It also puts aside the unquestioned authority of the “Road Map” as the guiding document since it has been breached by both sides, by Palestine’s refusal to disarm and by Israel’s refusal to abandon the settlements that rest illegally on Palestinian land, to mention only one example for each. By going to an international conference, Abbas opens the way for an international consensus for peace based on already accepted resolutions that would force both parties to abide by international law, including recognition of the respective states, Israel and Palestine, on land already determined by borders previously drawn and accepted. Should Hamas put forward the 2002 Saudi Peace Plan, it would provide acceptance of Israel by all Arab states, including Hamas, as long as Israel returns to its pre-1967 borders; that is, return land that it acquired by war as international law stipulates.
Both operative political organizations in Palestine have co-opted Olmert’s dream of moving unilaterally to define the “red” borders of Israel as he termed them in his campaign. Now the world knows that Palestine is ready and willing to bring peace to that ravaged land and to do so in accordance with international law. Since the US and Israel have exerted incredible influence to force Iran before the United Nations Security Council regarding its nuclear intentions, to make it conform to UN resolutions, one would expect that both the US and Israel would welcome the chance to have UN resolutions adopted peacefully by both Israel and Palestine. Why then would Olmert reject the Palestinian initiative? What has he to fear? Why would Israel summon the Swedish Ambassador to its ministry when it found out that Sweden intends to allow members of Hamas to visit their country? (News from Sweden in English, 4/27/2006). Why would it threaten the Ambassador by asserting, “When you refuse to accept Israel as a partner in a peacekeeping exercise you can’t expect Israel to accept your involvement in the Middle East peace process.” (Ron Prosor, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director to Robert Rydberg of Sweden as reported by Mark Regev to AFP). Why should Israel be the determiner of what nation will participate in peace processes in Palestine when that is the clear prerogative of the UN? Will Israel make a similar demand of Turkey since its Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has met with Abbas and told him, “We deem (the) Palestinian cause our own cause…We are saying that the parties should accept a two-state Middle-East project and messages should be directed to not only the concerned parties but also the entire international community.” (People’s Daily Online, 4/26/2006).
Clearly it is in the interest of world peace and the diminishment of terrorism to bring peace to Palestine. And it must be a just peace based on international law that applies to both parties. For this to happen, the international community must engage itself in Palestine; it must visit the West Bank and Gaza, it must view whatever natural resources belong to those areas; it must resolve the complications inherent in the right of return; it must establish security within the areas to prevent further violence through the use of UN Peace Keeping Forces, and it must assume full responsibility for integrating the respective governments into the community of nations in the UN.
Should the UN take the Palestinian peace initiatives seriously, it will have the means to bring resolution to the issues brought forth by Israel and adopted by the US and the EU for not meeting with Hamas or the PLO. Palestine will recognize Israel as it is defined by the resolution that created it in 1947, 181 of the UNGA in its 55% (for Israel) 45% (for Palestine) or it will determine the borders based on resolution 242, in 1967, that provides for Palestine to retain the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem. Negotiations on right of return might encompass land exchanges so that fewer refugees return to Israeli controlled land, but right of return cannot be denied since it is constitutionally guaranteed by the UN General Assembly Partition Plan for Palestine, a document that gives validity to Israel just as it does to Palestine: “There is no question that under the stipulations of the said Plan all the 1948 Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants, by now some four million people defined under Israeli law as ‘absentees’, are constitutionally entitled without qualification to Israeli citizenship.” (see 1947 UN Partition Plan, C Declaration Chapter   as referenced in Apartheid Israel, Uri Davis, p.68f). “…denial of Israeli citizenship to this Palestinian constituency is an act of mass nullification of citizenship (denationalization), and a blatant violation of the UN Charter and international law, let alone Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.: 1) Everyone has a right to a nationality; 2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” (Uri Davis 68).
Needless to say, Olmert opted to immediately reject Mahmoud Abbas’ proposal; so much for Kadima Party’s desire for peace. “Our way or no way” serves as the motto of this child of Sharon. Ismail Haniyeh made these observations in the UK Guardian following the elections that brought Hamas to power in Palestine: “…Ehud Olmert’s Kadima Party, whose Likud forebears frustrated every effort by the PLO to negotiate a peace settlement, campaigned on a programme that defies UN security council resolutions. His unilateralism is a violation of international law … Olmert’s unilateralism is a recipe for conflict. … The problem is not with any particular Palestinian group but with the denial of our basic rights by Israel. We in Hamas are for peace and want to put an end to bloodshed.” (Guardian Unlimited, “A Just Peace or No Peace,” 3/31/2006).
Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas leadership have proffered to the international community an olive branch that embodies a desire for peace, an expression of hope, a rejection of injustice and despair. It represents a calm, deliberative response to justice, a justice for Israel as much as for the Palestinians. It makes no demands that have not been accepted by the world body and reiterated by that same institution year after year. Should the Saudi Peace Plan be adopted or the international community accept the UN resolutions, the existence of Israel is assured as is the right of Palestine to exist as a nation state. It rejects unilateral action by either side preferring instead mutual respect through international deliberation and determination. Both Hamas representing the Palestinian people and Kadima representing the Israeli people would have to renounce violence toward each other and accept the demands incorporated in the resolutions passed by the UN as they impose actions on the respective states. International law would become the basis for this peace not the fanaticism that drives self-interest groups.
The nations of the world must take command, wrest power from the United States and its delusional President, and from Israel that has under Sharon forced its will upon the world in full defiance of the united voice of the nations speaking through the General Assembly. The ineluctable drive of destiny to the calamitous clash of cultures moves forward like some laver flow enveloping the dunes and hills of Palestine, the towns and villages nestled in the valleys, and the cities that rise unnaturally from the barren earth. Yet in this desolate and God forsaken land the future of our world plays out as maniacs imbued with beliefs encrusted with the detritus of ages propel civilized humankind into acts more barbarous than those that gave birth to the Dark Ages.
We must confront the inevitable consequence of not acting, abandon justice due the Palestinians and that due the Jews in Israel and around the world who are appalled by the fanaticism that drives the Israeli government or witness the slow and agonizing genocide that is happening in Palestine to an imprisoned people abandoned by the world till now – justice or genocide. At this moment we sit patiently, awaiting the decision that will unleash nuclear weapons at installations in Iran as we watch in silence the completion of the Wall of Terror that Israel constructs around the hapless Palestinians, acts that could result in indiscriminate devastation and absolute chaos. The people of the world are left with an unstated ultimatum, act now to stop the forces that propel the world toward this unwanted Armageddon or accept the inevitable consequences that drive fanatics to inflict their will.
-William Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of Tracking Deception: Bush’s Mideast Policy He can be reached at: cookb@ULV.EDU