Written by Khalid Amayreh on 23. May 2008/a>
Bush at the Knesset revealed what most Arabs and Palestinians already knew: he is not an impartial broker, reports Khaled Amayreh from Ramallah
In his speech before the Israeli Knesset last week, President George W Bush proved once again that he is a Zionist par excellence. Indeed, the depth of his embrace of Zionism and the totality of his support for Israel surprised even his Israeli hosts. One Knesset member from a far right-wing party lamented that if only Israeli leaders showed similar commitment to Zionism, Israel would be in much better shape.
It is not certain if Bush, a person of conspicuously shallow intellect and of manifestly inadequate moral rectitude, knew what he was saying or if he was merely parroting whatever his speech writers had prepared for him. At any rate, no educated observer having seen the speech would bet that this man would be willing to pressure Israel to end its 40-year-old occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, or come to terms with the legality and morality of the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees uprooted from their ancestral homeland when Israel came into existence 60 years ago.
Bush's lavish praise of Israel and his deliberate, and contemptuous disregard for the Palestinian Nakba, which was being simultaneously commemorated, portrayed a man who is as fanatical about Zionism and Israel as he is ignorant of and mendacious about the objective facts surrounding the Arab- Israeli conflict.
Bush doted upon history, speaking of how the "Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust". He quoted Eli Wiesel, the oft-sanctimonious American Zionist leader who said on several occasions that he identified with Israeli crimes and that he couldn't possibly bring himself to criticise Israel. Bush also spoke of Israel's "thriving democracy", but ignored the fact that murdering innocent Palestinian civilians, demolishing Palestinian homes, stealing Palestinian land and detaining thousands of innocent Palestinian activists and intellectuals without charge or trial because of their opposition to military occupation and apartheid were starkly incompatible with true democracy.
Further, Bush denied that America's unconditional embrace of Israeli territorial expansionism and bellicosity had anything to do with instability and tension in the Middle East. "Some people suggest that if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of our enemies, and America rejects it utterly. Israel's population may be just over seven millions. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because America stands with you."
The American president lashed out at the UN, saying that, "we consider it a source of shame that the UN routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world." No mention was made of Israeli settlement expansion policies and routine and grave violations of Palestinian human and civil rights — the unlawful acts that prompt the UN to censure Israel.
At one point Bush seemed to be speaking of some other country when he spoke of Israel "forging a free and modern society based on a love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity". Anyone who has seen the Israeli occupation first hand would also be astonished when Bush praised successive Israeli governments for "working tirelessly for peace, while having to fight valiantly for freedom".
Palestinians at home and in the Diaspora who were commemorating the Nakba — the Palestinian holocaust — were not surprised by Bush's remarks to the Knesset, itself built on land seized illegally from its Palestinian proprietor.
"What do you expect from the president of a country that exterminated millions of Native Americans and then called the genocide manifest destiny?" asked one Palestinian intellectual from Hebron. "What do you expect from a president who invaded, occupied and destroyed two sovereign countries and killed or caused the death of more than a million people… because God told him to do so?"
Hamas, meanwhile, used Bush's speech as reason to castigate the Palestinian Authority (PA) for "blindly trusting the Zionist American administration despite its brazen alliance with Israel". The phrase "He is more Zionist than the Zionists" was on the tip of everyone's tongue throughout the occupied territories.
Even the usually circumspect Mahmoud Abbas, president of the US-backed PA, whom the Americans classify as "moderate", couldn't hide his anger and desperation. "To be frank, his speech angered us and we have many reservations and observations about it," Abbas said.
"And I told Mr Bush that he should display a modicum of balance, honesty and even- handedness. I said it [Bush's speech] was disappointing and a missed opportunity, because you [Bush] could have said that the Palestinian people should have their freedom and independence in order to achieve peace in the entire area."
To be sure, Bush sought to patch it up with Abbas when the two met at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh over the weekend. Bush told Abbas that his administration was still committed to the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the creation of a Palestinian state. Furthermore, Bush said he was "absolutely committed" to getting an Israeli-Palestinian accord by the end of the year.
"It breaks my heart to see the vast potential of the Palestinian people really wasted," said Bush, while lambasting Hamas, Iran and Hizbullah for all the ills of the Middle East, from the absence of democracy to the absence of peace.
Abbas who has found himself in the often awkward position of having to remain faithful to Palestinian national constants in order to maintain popularity at home and at the same time appease the Americans, whose political and financial backing is crucial for the survival of his regime, had to package his frustration in diplomatic niceties.
"We know very well that you, personally, as well as your administration are committed to reach peace before the end of 2008," said Abbas. He added that, "we are working very seriously and very intently with the hope that we will be able to achieve this objective."
On 18 May, following a meeting with former Meretz leader Yossi Beilen, Abbas reportedly warned that he would "quit" if a peace deal were not reached in six months. His spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, later denied that he was seriously contemplating resignation. According to former cabinet minister Ghassan Khatib, however, Abbas "has very few remaining choices, anyway."
"His term as president of the PA will expire by the end of this year, and it is doubtful that he would run for a new term in the absence of a genuine and acceptable peace agreement with Israel," Khatib said.
Khatib added the organisation of new elections would require two main prerequisites: inter-Palestinian reconciliation and a peace agreement with Israel. Needless to say, neither is immanent, a fact that leaves little if any cause for optimism.
About the author: Khalid Amayreh continues to work as a journalist. He lives with his family in the Occupied Palestinian town of Dura with his wife and family. He may be contacted at email@example.com
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