Monday, June 21, 2004


This column by Charles Krauthammer is so rife with historical mumbo-pocus, it's hard to even know where to begin. How about here:

Yasser Arafat started the intifada in September 2000, just weeks after he had rejected, at Camp David, Israel's offer of withdrawal, settlement evacuation, sharing of Jerusalem and establishment of a Palestinian state. Arafat wanted all that, of course, but without having to make peace and recognize a Jewish state. Hence the terror campaign -- to force Israel to give it all up unilaterally.

Israel's "generous offer" at Camp David is one of the more persistent myths in the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. First, the idea that Israel would offer "withdrawal [from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip], settlement evacuation, sharing of Jerusalem and establishment of a Palestinian state," after having spent the previous thirty years trying to make those exact things impossible, is obviously ridiculous on its face. Second, accounts from people who were actually there at the Camp David negotiations reveal Krauthammer's version of events to be false.

Even more important, [the Palestinians] have lost their place at the table. Israel is now defining a new equilibrium that will reign for years to come -- the separation fence is unilaterally drawing the line that separates Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians were offered the chance to negotiate that frontier at Camp David and chose war instead. Now they are paying the price.

Who does Krauthammer think he's kidding here? It has always been the intention of Israel to use the settlements as a means of expropriating Palestinian land. This is not something they just cooked up. Admittedly, Palestinian terrorism has given Israel a perfect pretext for this land grab, but it's very clear that this has been in the works for along time. If security, and not expansion, were the true goal of the "fence," Israel would be building it on the Green Line.

It stands to reason. It is the height of absurdity to launch a terrorist war against Israel, then demand the right to determine the nature and route of the barrier built to prevent that very terrorism.

Actually, the height of absurdity is demanding, as Israel has, that an occupied people must police terrorism in their midst while being subjected to the same daily brutalities and humiliations which incited that terrorism in the first place. But, you know, angels, heads of pins...

These new strategic realities are not just creating a new equilibrium, they are creating the first hope for peace since Arafat officially tore up the Oslo accords four years ago.

This is probably the most egregious falsehood in a column full of of egregious falsehoods. Arafat tore up the Oslo accords? The Israeli government was violating the Oslo accords literally before the ink was even dry. Settlement building went into overdrive at the very moment the papers were being signed. The number of settlers in Palestinian territories doubled from the beginning of the Oslo period to the end, in complete contravention to the spirit and letter of the accords. Benjamin Netanyahu became Israeli Prime Minister in the mid-nineties with the stated goal of frustrating implementation of Oslo, and in this he was very successful. Blaming Arafat for the breakdown of the accords indicates a total detachment from reality.

Now, for fun, compare Krauthammer's view of the Israel-Palestine conflict with that of al Jazeera. It is a mirror image. Just as al Jazeera refuses to locate any blame in the Palestinian leadership or Arab governments, in Krauthammer's imagination Israel is a peaceful democracy that only wants to live in harmony with its neighbors, only ever reacting to violence from Palestinians, never acting first. Nowhere in Charles' little victory dance does he mention the 36 years of Israeli occupation of Palestine, or that that occupation now exists primarily, if not solely, to maintain and protect Jewish settlements, which in turn exist to solidify Israel's hold on some of the most arable land in Palestine, to create "facts on the ground" which will strengthen Israel's bargaining position in final status talks.

Obviously Israel has the right and duty to protect its citizens from terrorism, but any honest analysis of the situation must recognize that, through the occupation, Israel has essentially been making daily war on the Palestinian people, and Israel will never know peace or security until the Palestinian people know justice. There are many Israelis who understand this. There are too few Americans who do.

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