An Occupation by Any Other Name

U.S. policy toward the most destabilizing factor in the Middle East – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – is to support Israel and to never offend the Israeli lobby.

US politicians use a number of rhetorical devices to disguise this policy, since it guarantees not only a continuation of the conflict, but a continuing supply of terrorists and an increasing hostility toward American foreign policy in the region. They use rhetoric to pretend to be interested in a solution.

For example, they do not call things by their correct names. East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are not "disputed territories," nor are they Judea and Samaria. They are occupied territories. They were occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. There is a long-standing United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to return those territories to the Palestinians.

The proper name for Jewish settlements in the occupied territory is "illegal" settlements. The Geneva Accords, to which Israel is a signatory, forbid the settlement of occupied territory, as well as the expulsion of the native population.

The proper name for Israeli tactics, such as the demolition of homes, the destruction of agricultural property, the confiscation of property, the imposition of curfews, the assassination of political opponents and the blocking of roads, is "collective punishment," which in most parts of the world is a considered a war crime. No civilized country punishes innocent people for the misdeeds of an individual. No civilized country condones murder.

Another rhetorical device American politicians – without a doubt the most cowardly in the world – hide behind is the proposition that the "parties involved must reach a settlement." This is the equivalent of a cop showing up at the door of a family whose 6-year-old daughter has been raped and saying, "Your daughter and her rapist will have to work this out between themselves."

There is such an enormous disparity in power – Israel has all of it, and the Palestinians have none – that to put the burden on Palestinians to negotiate with their oppressors is obscenely unrealistic. It is exactly the same as if President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill had said to Poland, after it was invaded and conquered by the Nazis, "You’ll have to negotiate a settlement with the Third Reich."

It is even more obscenely unrealistic to tell the Palestinians that they are responsible for the security of Israel. The Palestinians, of course, have no state, no army, no air force and no nothing, while Israel is ranked by many as being among the top 10 of military powers in the world.

It is Israel, under international law, as the occupier that has the responsibility to provide security for the Palestinians. That, of course, is a laugh. For 37 years Israel has ruled the Palestinians in the occupied territories as a conquered people with essentially no rights at all.

Finally, one of the things that most infuriates people in the Arab world is the habit of American politicians taking note of every Israeli death while ignoring the far more numerous deaths of Palestinians. The death of any human being is a cause for grief, but the American habit of ignoring Palestinian suffering leaves the impression that Americans consider Jewish lives far more valuable than Palestinian lives. And the truth is, many Americans do.

You will note that all of the Democratic candidates avoid talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or if they can’t avoid it, they make the ritualistic pledge of undying support for Israel.

This is no way for a great power to act. The effect of this enormous act of political cowardice on the American people is that we will have to live with the terrorism it has already spawned and will continue to spawn for generations and generations to come. The price of American political cowardice is the blood of innocent people.

Author: Charley Reese

Charley Reese is a journalist.