The following article is based heavily on a section of a new book recently published by Counterpunch contributors Kathleen and Bill Christison. Their book, entitled Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation, is published by Pluto Press. The book is a comprehensive description of all aspects of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. It brings personal and pictorial perspectives to the Israeli occupation, describing the ways in which Israel dominates and constricts the lives of Palestinians, and also going beyond to discuss Israel’s long-term intentions. Illustrated with more than 50 photographs, the book argues that the occupation is part and parcel of Israel’s ultimate intention to retain control over the entirety of Palestine and to so fragment the occupied territories that any sustainable presence in the land by Palestinians as a nation will be negated.
We have visited Palestine multiple times, most particularly eight times since 2003, and have been able to witness close up the vast changes that Zionism is constantly bringing to the land and to the people, none for the better. Palestinians are undergoing ever increasing levels of persecution and mistreatment from a rightwing Israeli regime that is being enabled and emboldened by the Obama administration’s abject failure to exert any real pressure. (See Jonathan Cook, “How Israel Buried the UN’s War Crime Probe,” CounterPunch, October 6, 2009.)
You cannot possibly come away from even a single trip around the West Bank without realizing that Zionism is no mere abstract political philosophy but is an aggressive, exclusivist movement of Jewish redemption intended from the beginning to sweep everything non-Jewish from its path. On each trip we have made since 2003, things have grown worse for Palestinians. You can actually see this Jewish implantation across the land — the whole land of Palestine — in concrete form, actually see that Zionism has no room in its thinking, and Israeli leaders have no room in their policies, to accommodate any non-Jews at all, any Palestinians, living in Palestine in freedom and equality.
Shortly after Israel unilaterally halted Operation Cast Lead, its brutal early 2009 assault on Gaza, Obama was inaugurated promising substantial change in U.S. foreign policies and in the sensibility and tone of U.S. relations with the world and particularly the Muslim world. Obama’s policy decisions so far on Palestine-Israel, however, appear to demonstrate clearly that on this issue there will be little if any change.
The conjunction of the Gaza slaughter and the election of an extremely rightwing government in Israel with the beginning of Obama’s presidency has essentially placed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at a standstill. Obama’s half-hearted call for a halt to further Israeli settlement expansion and his failure to press Israel on this issue simply confirm the impasse. These developments have clearly shown, for any who could not already see the trend or who had hoped to resist it, that Israel has no intention of relinquishing its control over all of Palestine and, moreover, that it is actually bent on destroying Palestine as a nation through killing or expelling its people, appropriating its land, and strangling its economy. Obama shows no real inclination to confront or try to alter this reality and has already faced nearly insurmountable obstacles even for trying. Israeli leaders have been working closely with the pro-Israel lobby and the military-industrial complex in the United States to envelop the U.S. in a tight partnership with Israel and to ensure that U.S. political leaders, including Obama and Congress, cannot see Israel’s occupation as an intolerable violation of Palestinian human and political rights.
The events of 2009 to date have also placed tight psychological strictures on any progress toward resolving the conflict. After Gaza, large numbers of Israelis are increasingly explicit in expressing their absolute hatred of Arabs and Palestinians, a reaction reflected in the rightward tilt in the election. As for the Palestinians, despite years of clinging to a commitment to living peacefully in a small independent state alongside Israel, large numbers are now deeply disillusioned and have moved away from desiring any reconciliation with their occupiers. And in the United States, many sectors of public discourse, influenced by the Israel lobby and by a disturbing increase in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment, have become more stridently supportive of Israel and blind to any concern for or even awareness of the human and the national consequences for the Palestinians of Israel’s ever-strengthening occupation and the relentless devastation wrought by assaults such as the one on Gaza.
The critical question for the future concerns whether Obama will confront the roadblock placed before him by the Gaza operation and Israel’s move to the right, or will simply back down in the face of these obstacles to progress. An absence of any pressure on Israel to move toward a resolution will lead inevitably to continued Israeli consolidation of the occupation — more settlements, more impediments to Palestinian growth, and more dismal realities of all sorts for Palestinians. This does not mean that Israel will ultimately “win” — whatever “winning” means in this context. It is just as likely that the U.S. and Israel will be forced, ultimately, to change their own policies. In the meantime, more — and more senseless — warfare and deaths will continue indefinitely into the future. And both the responsibility of the United States for these developments, and global understanding of where responsibility lies, will grow apace.
Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA.
Kathleen Christison is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession