Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The US Response to Nakba Killings

Washington continues to flounder in its response to recent events throughout the Middle East. Five months after popular demonstrations started in Tunisia before spreading to Egypt and beyond, the Obama Administration is still promoting a position that is often counter to the spirit of democracy, equality and moral accountability. One day after Israel killed at least 14 and injured hundreds of Palestinian refugees who were demonstrating in the Occupied Golan Heights, the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon, a State Department spokesperson refused to condemn the killing of unarmed civilians and explained that "Israel, like any other country, has the right to secure its borders." Of course he did not mention the fact that at least ten of those killed were outside of Israel's borders on foreign territory which can actually be interpreted by Lebanon as an act of war. Instead, according to the Agence France Presse, Lebanon is protesting to the United Nations and accusing Israel of using "excessive force" against unarmed civilians who were already being controlled by the Lebanese Army.

The State Department spokesperson goes on to claim that Syria is cynically using the Palestinian cause to encourage violence along its border and blames Syria and Iran for destabilizing the region. The latter accusation has also been voiced by Israeli officials in relation to the Nakba protests and was the subject of a Washington Times editorial today. So let us deconstruct the scenario to examine the argument's merits. The Occupied Golan Heights was only one site of peaceful demonstrations that were met with crushing violence. Unarmed demonstrators in the West Bank and Gaza were also shot at, as well as in Lebanon. The most important thing to note is that none of the demonstrators were truly violent, only violently suppressed. Is Syria to blame for the demonstrations in Palestine and Lebanon too? Oh of course we also have Iran and here people seem to forget that Hamas is a Palestinian Resistance movement and Hizbullah is a Lebanese Resistance movement, not an Iranian one. Also they are both resisting against the colonizing tendency of Israel, so they are not born under circumstances created by Iran. One may argue that without the complicity of the Syrian army and Hizbullah the Palestinian demonstrations near the borders would not have been able to take place. But that would also be true of the Lebanese Army. As well as the Tunisian military and Egyptian military which allowed the demonstrations to occur in their respective countries. And yet nobody is attributing the successful revolutions in either of these countries as being militarily inspired. This, of course, would be ignoring the agency of the millions of people who peacefully demonstrated. And they are not being ignored. It took some time but the demonstrators in Tunisia and Egypt are now celebrated by Washington for demanding rights and freedoms. So why is it that the State Department refuses to celebrate the Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon who are also demanding similar rights and freedoms? Hopefully this too will only be a matter of time, although I have my doubts.

Looking at the regional situation, where the formation of one country created the refugee crisis to begin with, and where that country even today refuses to allow these refugees back while continuing to illegally occupy territory and regularly responding to words with bullets, it is pretty clear to me that the destabilizing force in the region is Israel. Only a peace process that includes the voices of the six million Palestinian refugees as well as all of Israel's neighbors will ever be meaningful.

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