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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

speaking plainly « Previous | |Next »
June 20, 2003

This article by Edward Said about the US Road Map for the Middle East takes us beyond the good (Israel) versus the bad (Palestine) duality in the media. The words in this discourse are freighted with meaning that needed to be decoded for outsiders and a lot of political action is about sending messages that things will not change much

Said's text makes for sobering reading and it dashes any sense of easy optimism. For instance, I knew about the security wall being built by Israel, but Said's description whams home a reality that is rarely mentioned in the media.

"Another chilling omission from the road map is the gigantic 'separation wall' now being built in the West Bank by Israel: 347 kilometres of concrete running north to south, of which 120 have already been erected. It is eight metres high and two metres thick; its cost is put at $1.6 million per kilometre. The wall does not simply divide Israel from a putative Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders: it actually takes in new tracts of Palestinian land, sometimes five or six kilometres at a stretch. It is surrounded by trenches, electric wire and moats; there are watchtowers at regular intervals.

Almost a decade after the end of South African apartheid, this ghastly racist wall is going up with scarcely a peep from the majority of Israelis, or from their American allies who, whether they like it or not, are going to pay for most of it. The 40,000 Palestinian inhabitants of the town of Qalqilya live on one side of the wall, the land they farm and actually live off is on the other. It is estimated that when the wall is finished - presumably as the US, Israel and the Palestinians argue about procedure for months on end - almost 300,000 Palestinians will be separated from their land. The road map is silent about this, as it is about Sharon's recent approval of a wall on the eastern side of the West Bank, which will, if built, reduce the amount of Palestinian territory available for Bush's dream state to roughly 40 per cent of the area. That's what Sharon has had in mind all along."

Said argues that the Road Map is a plan of pacification ratheer than a plan of peace of two states living side by side. Here is the argument.

"The road map, in fact, is not a plan for peace so much as a plan for pacification: it is about putting an end to Palestine as a problem. Hence the repetition of the term 'performance' in the document's wooden prose - in other words, the way Palestinians are expected to behave. No violence, no protest, more democracy, better leaders and institutions - all this based on the notion that the underlying problem has been the ferocity of Palestinian resistance, rather than the occupation that has given rise to it.

Nothing comparable is expected of Israel except that the small settlements I spoke of earlier, known as 'illegal outposts' (an entirely new classification which suggests that some Israeli implantations on Palestinian land are legal), must be given up and, yes, the major settlements 'frozen', but certainly not removed or dismantled. Not a word is said about what, since 1948, and then again since 1967, Palestinians have endured at the hands of Israel and the US. Nothing about the de-development of the Palestinian economy. The house demolitions, the uprooting of trees, the prisoners (at least 5000 of them), the policy of targeted assassinations, the closures since 1993, the wholesale ruin of the infrastructure, the incredible number of deaths and maimings - all that and more passes without a word."

If any conservatives have this far and are muttering about lefty bias, then here is a treat: a debunking of Edward Said.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:01 PM | | Comments (0)