ODVV interview: The US has not served as a...
On April 28, Israelis marked “Yom Ha'atzmaut,” commemorating the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. Google dedicated a special “doodle” to the celebration and the Persian Twitter account of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a message of greeting on the anniversary of Israel being recognized by the United Nations as a sovereign state.
For the Palestinian people, however, the day resonates with such tragic lived experiences as occupation, dispossession, disenfranchisement and forced migrations to countries across the region. As one of the most intractable conflicts of the modern times, the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma remains unsettled more than seven decades after it came into being. Numerous efforts by different governments and international organizations to get to the bottom of the prime cause of instability in the Middle East over these past years have got nowhere, and predicting how the future will look like in this crisis zone is an uphill battle.
Earlier in January, in a press conference with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted by the East Room at the White House, the US President Donald Trump released the specifics of a peace plan he says has the potential to make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians: the “Deal of the Century” will grant the Israelis the security guarantees they aspire to, and will offer the Palestinians financial resources they need to thrive as an independent nation.
However, things are not that easy. All Palestinian factions have rejected the plan, and Middle East experts and scholars have described it exceedingly biased, obviously in favor of Israel, with little chances for success. Some say Trump’s plan is founded upon the idea of giving Netanyahu an electoral impetus and keeping him out of jail. The prominent Israeli author and columnist Akiva Eldar wrote in an op-ed that the map that President Trump has envisaged for the prospective Palestinian territories, surrounded by Israeli settlements, “shows what looks like a slice of Swiss cheese rather than of a sovereign Palestinian state.” He termed the “Deal of the Century” the “bluff of the millennium.”
David Yaghoubian is a Professor of History at California State University, San Bernardino. Dr. Yaghoubian teaches courses on the history of the Middle East, Iran, and Islam, and serves as Associate Director of the CSUSB Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. He is the author of the 2014 book “Ethnicity, Identity, and the Development of Nationalism in Iran.” Organization for Defending Victims of Violence has done an interview with Dr. David Yaghoubian on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, President Trump’s Deal of the Century, the role of international organizations and the United Nations in remedying the longstanding dispute and the momentum of the BDS movement.
Q: On January 28, President Donald Trump revealed the details of his “Deal of the Century” aimed at bringing an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Observers have rejected the plan as being overly one-sided and biased in favor of Israel. Considering that Palestinians were unanimous in rebuffing the plan, do you think there is any chance for it to move forward and be implemented successfully?
A: As I have stated in my previous interviews, the so-called “Deal of the Century” put forward by the Trump administration is simply a non-starter, which is why all Palestinian factions are boycotting it. Even under an American presidential administration that had not demonstrated itself to be by far the most Zionist-influenced administration in US history – which renders the idea of the US being a neutral broker even more absurd – the parameters of this suggested plan would be flatly turned down. Therefore, coming from the Trump administration in particular, the plan has understandably led to a global chorus forcefully rejecting it out of hand.
Q: The map thas has been released as the geographical representation of President Trump’s “Vision for Peace” portrays large swathes of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley as Israel’s territory. Do you think the peace plan is a green light for Israel to go ahead with its annexation of the West Bank or that Israel, notwithstanding what the map has specified, will continue occupying more Palestinian lands?
A: The geographical representation of what could be called President Trump’s “Vision for Peace” accurately illustrates the “Zionist-Apartheid Vision for Peace” that Israeli and most American political elites dream of: a bifurcated, non-contiguous, and encircled grouping of Palestinian bantustans on less than 78% of historic Palestine with no viable path to independent statehood or any true sovereignty to speak of. Indeed, President Trump and his rabid Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have given their partner in crime Bibi Netanyahu a green light to eventually annex the West Bank as well as the Syrian Golan, partly to bolster Netanyahu’s chances of staying in power and not going to prison, but more importantly to satisfy their domestic base, in which the Israel lobby and Evangelical Christians loom large.
Q: What’s your take on the economic incentives offered to Palestinians by the United States in the “Vision for Peace”? Should the Palestinians view the promise of a $50 billion investment, 1 million new jobs and a tripled GDP optimistically and embrace Trump’s deal hoping that their livelihoods will change for better?
A: I don’t live in Gaza or Ramallah so of course I can’t speak for the people living in such continually dire circumstances regarding whether or not they feel that these economic incentives would better their lives considering the ultimate cost to their nation and society. Yet in light of the fact that over one-half century of Zionist oppression and atrocities have not stopped Palestinians from seeking justice and their rightful homeland, I accordingly do not believe that this plan has any chance to move forward or to be implemented successfully.
Q: Will the introduction of the Deal of the Century have the effect of uniting different Palestinian parties that have been combatting each other aggressively for years?
A: The absurd “Deal of the Century” is such an affront to Palestinian national identity and the Palestinian national struggle – not to mention international law and outstanding UN Security Council resolutions – that it has the capacity to instantaneously elicit agreement by all Palestinian parties in terms of complete, resounding rejection. With that said, unfortunately I don’t think that this unity in opposition to the deal itself is sufficient to motivate efforts at political reconciliation without addressing the core issues that cause various rifts between Palestinian parties and political elites, although it could be a catalyst for dialogue and establishing common ground, which is certainly important in the broader struggle against continued Zionist oppression.
Q: Some critics say the special relationship between the United States and Israel has stripped the United States of the impartiality it needs in order to function as an honest and reliable broker between the Israelis and Palestinians. What’s your view on that? Who should assume the role of mediator in this conflict? Is the United Nations, for example, effectual enough to fulfill the role?
A: The United States has arguably never served as a neutral, honest or reliable broker in the Palestinian-Israeli and broader Arab-Israeli conflicts, but in the wake of the bogus, offensive, and illegal charade of Donald Trump giving Israel Jerusalem al-Quds as a capital and the Golan Heights as a prize for brigandage and intransigence, the utter fealty of the Trump regime to Israel and the neoconservatives has become abundantly clear to the world. Hence, the only institution with enough remaining legitimacy on the issue to be successfully considered neutral and reliable would be the United Nations, which would optimally assume the role of mediator in the conflict and work towards the implementation of existing Security Council resolution, for example resolutions 242, 446 and 2334. And yet, as of late the intransigence of the United States in conjunction with what seems to be a total lack of will to act among member states regarding honoring of basic commitments and the UN Charter itself raises important questions regarding the efficacy of the institution as it is currently structured going forward.
Q: The majority of Muslim and Arab nations, including the member states of Organization for Islamic Cooperation, responded to the Vision for Peace skeptically. To what extent is the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the enforcement of the “Deal of the Century” dependent on the willingness of Muslim nations to engage and work with the United States on this proposal?
A: The willingness of some Muslim nations to work with the United States on proposals for a final status accord – from “roadmaps” of the past to this latest “vision for peace” – has thus far never produced a viable agreement that is acceptable to a majority of Palestinians. Ultimately Palestinian people will decide if an agreement with Israel can be reached, and I don’t believe that any level of pressure, bribery, or cajoling from generally self-serving political and business elites of these Muslim and Arab nations will be determinant in this decision. Moreover, it is open to question whether the Trump administration’s open demonstration of near total US fealty to Israel and continued scofflaw, rogue behavior on the international stage will ever enable the United States to be perceived as a reliable or effective broker for peace by Palestinians.
Q: Since 1948, nearly 800 resolutions have been passed by the UN General Assembly and the Security Council on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The confrontation between the two sides, however, continues unabated without any resolution in sight. Do you think the United Nations has lost its effectiveness in the case of Israel and Palestine? What is the reason the UN resolutions on such issues as the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, Israeli settlements and the state of Jerusalem are not upheld?
A: The above-mentioned facts regarding hundreds of outstanding UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on the Israeli-Palestine conflict relative to the lack of any progress in implementing them illustrate my point earlier regarding questions about the efficacy of the institution of the United Nations as it is currently structured. Due to the configuration and power of the Security Council – a relic of World War II that arguably has no legitimate purpose for existing in the 21st century – UN resolutions become essentially public suggestions to be combatted through media PR campaigns, with no “teeth” for actual enforcement. The Security Council either needs to be abolished altogether, or reformed to eliminate the P5 and enable a rotation of members. Perhaps then existing resolutions can be enforced, and the United Nations can finally serve as an effective vehicle for peace in Palestine.
Q: Does the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement have the potential to pressure Israel into moderating its policies against the Palestinians and respecting their sovereign rights?
A: Regarding potential means to pressure Israel into moderating its policies against the Palestinians and respecting their sovereign rights and liberties, at the current juncture the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is the only game in town. Based on the vociferous response of Zionists to the BDS movement, including the passing of unconstitutional anti-BDS, anti-free speech laws here in the United States, it is abundantly clear that this movement has the potential to actually change the situation on the ground in the occupied territories by putting real economic pressure on Israel to change its policies of collective punishment, ethnic cleansing, and land theft. The brilliance of the BDS movement is that it is non-violent and effective, eliminating the ability of Zionists to wield the worn “terrorist” label in their propaganda to stifle conversation and action. Clearly Israel and its supporters in the United States are trying to conflate BDS with anti-Semitism, but I believe this unfounded slander is already in the process of backfiring, thankfully.
By: Kourosh Ziabari