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Palestine and Iraq from Washington - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Having ordered the military to raid Ram Allah, Ehud Olmert left to Washington to address the Congress and Senate House. During his trip, the Israeli soldiers, as usual, got loose in the occupied territories killing and arresting Palestinians. Four Palestinian civilians were killed, sixty injured, and Muhammad al-Shobaki and his friends were arrested to join thousands of other Palestinian prisoners, who Olmert calls “terrorists.”

Olmert’s speech at the Congress warned of gloomy future in the region. Tow days later, Tony Blair and George Bush echoed the same premonitions in their press conference at the White House. It is quite revealing for the Arabic reader to scrutinize what the three leaders said, digging a little deeper under the benign wrap of peace and democracy rhetoric.

Olmert spoke to the Congress and Senate as if he were the only authority on Palestinian history and demography. He presented the Palestinian people to his audience as people who “prefer death to life, brought up in a culture of hatred and oppression,” while, Israel, the “oasis of democracy” in the Middle East, is straining to spread “peace, democracy and prosperity in the region.” This is regardless of the fact that it is a “Jewish state,” where only Jews are welcome.

Olmert complimented the Israeli settlers who, like the American settlers earlier, have achieved the impossible “building towns in place of swamps” and giving life to the desert. God has promised the Jews the land of Palestine, and whoever thinks otherwise is “anti-Semitic” and a “terrorist.” Hamas, of course, was the classic example, even if it was democratically elected, and even if nine of its elected members are in prison. In a nutshell, all Palestinians are terrorists, and all Palestinian resistance is terrorism.

Olmert expressed the Israeli willingness to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority. This however is if the Authority “renounces terrorism,” (i.e. resistance), dismantles its terrorist infrastructure, (i.e. exterminate all Palestinians until no one is left to resist the Israeli occupation), accept all previously made agreements and deals, and recognizing the right of Israel to exist. Olmert concluded: “let’s be clear; peace without security will neither achieve peace nor security.”

Olmert, of course, mentioned neither UN resolutions nor international legitimacy, and only spoke of the historic right of Jews to the land. He accused all Arabs of a culture of hatred wondering “how could a child brought up in a culture of hatred dream of peace?” Though he called on all Arabs to replace their “culture of hatred” with a “culture of hope,” Olmert did not think that he could wait for ever for the Palestinians to transform into peace partners. Therefore, he asked the United States to be his partner to achieve peace in the Middle East: “To achieve peace in the Middle East, success is only possible if the United States is an active partner leading the support of friends in Europe and the world.”

Both Blair and Bush had a similar vision of the region, and their suggested solutions were in line with Olmert’s. They welcomed Israel’s decision to give back minimal strips of land in Gaza and the West Bank and devour Jerusalem, Palestinian water and trees, ignoring all international resolutions warning against one-sided solutions.

Like Olmert who considered Palestine a land without people, Blair considered Iraqi history as the history of Saddam alone. And like Olmert, he considered himself the curator of the Iraqi future, and that of the region: “Our responsibility is to take this country (Iraq) and transform it into a stable and prosperous democracy, as a symbol of hope for its people and the Middle East.”

Bush, on his part, viewed the Middle East as infested with vengeance, hatred and bitterness. Iraq, he said, “will present a model for life in a free society and, at the same time, we should work on eliminating the sources of chronic bitterness and struggle in the Middle East.” Both leaders pictured Iraq, Iraqis and Saddam as one mass identity, just like Olmert pictured all Palestinians as “terrorists.” All three men summed up the countries of the Middle East in two words: “Hatred and bitterness.”

Issues of occupation, prisoners, persecution, Jerusalem, the right of return, and the Golan Heights were cast aside as matters for “negotiation.” Again with the caveat that there were no Arab or Palestinian partners to negotiate with. Of course, no one mentioned Amnesty International’s report of 2006 talking about the horrendous violations of human rights committed against civilians in Palestine and Iraq under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

What kind of ominous vision of the region is being presented by three leaders of the so-called “free world” in Washington? We, Arabs, Muslims and Christians alike, should fight this vision with words and deeds, instead of staying prisoners to minor disputes that can only help that vision become a reality.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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