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A HERETICAL THOUGHT FOR PEACE

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck

The International Herald Tribune's publication today of Daniel Levy's
article "America: So Pro-Israeli that it hurts", which I have just
circulated, has inspired me to send you as well an article of mine which
was rather widely published in 2003 (including by the International
Herald Tribune). Like my article "'Master-Blaster" -- A Case for
Liberation", which I recirculated on March 25, it supports the
Mearsheimer/Walt thesis.


PUBLICATIONS OF THIS ARTICLE:

June 12, 2003 -- Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo)
June 12 -- Al-Quds (Jerusalem)
June 13 -- Jerusalem Times
June 14 -- Arab News (Jeddah)
June 16 -- Daily Star (Beirut)
June 16 -- Jordan Times (Amman)
June 21 -- Asharq Al-Awsat (London)
June 22 -- Sunday Mail (Nicosia)
July/Aug. 2003 -- Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
October 1 -- International Herald Tribune (Paris)
October 4 -- Al-Mustaqbal (Beirut)
October 5 -- Gulf Times (Doha)
October 26 -- Al-Eqtisadiah (Jeddah)


A HERETICAL THOUGHT FOR PEACE

By John V. Whitbeck

In early June, the respected Pew Research Center in the United States
released the latest of its global opinion surveys, which polled more
than 15,000 people in 21 countries in the wake of the invasion and
conquest of Iraq. The results attracted considerable attention in the
American press.

A primary focus of press reports was the surge of anti-American
sentiment in the Muslim world. In traditionally pro-American Jordan, 97%
of those polled opposed America's "war on terror", while, in NATO-member
Turkey, 83% expressed an unfavorable opinion of the United States. The
selection of Osama bin Laden by the publics of five of the eight Muslim
countries surveyed (Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Palestine)
as one of the three political leaders they would most trust to "do the
right thing" in world affairs did not go unnoticed.

Less noticed, but no less significant, were the responses to another
question. Those polled were asked whether the United States is too
supportive of Israel. In 20 of the 21 countries surveyed (notably
INCLUDING Israel), most of those polled said "yes". There is no prize
for guessing the one country where most said "no".

Israeli support for this proposition should not come as a complete
surprise. Israelis have to live in Israel/Palestine. While their lives
since Ariel Sharon provoked the current intifada in September 2000 have
not been the living hell experienced by Palestinians, they have still
become unpleasant, insecure and stressful. Increasingly, the essential
realization that occupation and security are mutually exclusive has been
sinking in.

No American national interest is served by Israel's continuing
occupation of the Arab lands which it conquered in 1967. American
supporters of the occupation tend to be Christian fundamentalists
concerned about being personally raptured up to heaven after the
much-to-be-hoped-for Battle of Armageddon, Jews who feel personally
guilty to be living prosperously and comfortably in America rather than
having emigrated to Israel/Palestine or politicians interested only in
preserving or furthering their personal careers by not offending the
other two groups.

Americans in these three groups, which are critical to the formulation
of American Middle East policy, do not have to suffer the consequences
of the occupation or the resistance to it, and their support for the
occupation rarely reflects any genuine concern for the best interests of
Israelis (let alone Palestininians). Their militant "pro-Israel"
activism is purely self-centered and selfish in its motivation. It is
also the primary obstacle to peace.

Those Israelis who feel that America is too supportive of Israel
presumably can see that America's involvement since 1967 has not
advanced the cause of peace but, rather, has blocked it, with America's
periodic pretenses of peacemaking simply providing an "only game in
town" cover behind which the occupation could be perpetuated, deepened
and made more nearly irreversible. They presumably wish, for their own
sakes, that America would "reform".

Now -- a heretical thought. Virtually all governments and commentators
agree, at least in their public pronouncements, that deeper engagement
by the United States is essential if Israeli-Palestinian peace is ever
to be achieved. Wrong. The best hope for peace would be total American
disengagement -- and the sooner the better.

Imagine that the US Government were to announce that it was washing its
hands of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that it would no longer give
any military, economic or diplomatic aid or support to either side and
that it would not use its veto to block any UN Security Council
resolution with respect to Israel/Palestine, even one imposing sanctions
on either or both of the parties to the conflict. Having never been an
"honest broker", the United States would at least become an honest
bystander.

Israeli politicians and American Christian fundamentalists would be
appalled. However, if the Pew poll is to be believed, many Israelis
would be relieved -- and finally see light at the end of the tunnel.
With the the US out of the picture, the occupation would become, and be
recognized to be, unsustainable. The great boulder blocking the road to
peace would have rolled itself out of the way, and the road to peace
(not to be confused with the "road map") could finally be open for travel.

As a hugely beneficial side-effect, American disengagement would, with
immediate effect, vastly diminish anti-American rage throughout the
Muslim world and the consequent threat of further "terrorist" attacks on
Americans and American interests. There would no longer be any need to
continue the series of wars against Israel's (hence America's) enemies.
American civil liberties could be restored, and hundreds of billions of
dollars could be redirected in constructive ways that would actually
enhance the quality of life of Americans. The United States might even
become respected out of admiration, as it once was, rather than simply
out of fear, as it now is.

A dream? Of course. Just a dream. America will continue to block the
road to peace, and America -- and the world -- will continue to pay a
massive price for this.

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who writes frequently on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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