Fisk examines the messy Middle East (and knows who is in charge)

Robert Fisk’s latest essay is a long, poetic, sometimes confused, look at the Israel/Palestine conflict. It’s full of concise observations, depressing facts and insights. Very few other mainstream journalists are given the space to pontificate on any issue. Fisk knows the conflict well, remains convinced that a two-state solution is the only answer (though is unlikely to be ever achieved) and is clear-eyed about brutality committed by both Israel and Hamas:

Last week, in the dog-day resort of Herzliya, I attended much of the vast conference of Israel’s great and good – or at least the largely right-wing variety – to find out how they now saw the country that was founded amid such danger by Ben-Gurion 62 years ago. It was the same old story.

“The Palestinians are the ones who are today the naysayers” – this from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘security advisor’, Uzi Arad – and the Goldstone Report had now become part of an insidious campaign against Israel, an attempt to “delegitimise” (this is the newest cliché) the state. There were boycotts of Israeli goods. Bonfires were made of Israeli products. “I do not know anyone whose stomach does not turn” at such a sight, said Arad.

Michael Hoenlein, vice-chairman of the immensely powerful Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations, ann- ounced that Obama’s “engagement” with Syria and Iran had failed. Obama’s administration had been “supportive” over Goldstone (i.e. gutlessly supine in criticising a report which it had not even read). Obama now realised it had to work with Israel. There was unanimous consent in the US Senate over Iranian sanctions. No-one mentioned settlements or colonies. I was reminded of Hannah Arendt’s observation that the congress of World Zionist Organisation’s American section in October 1944 would “embrace the whole of Palestine, undivided and undiminished”. She went on: “This is a turning point in Zionist history… This time the Arabs were simply not mentioned in the resolution, which obviously leaves them the choice between voluntary emigration or second-class citizenship.”

For Arendt, the Atlantic City congress reflected “the tremendously increased importance of American Jewry and American Zionism…” The result was to forfeit any chance of Arab interlocutors, “leaving the door wide open for an outside power to take over”.

And it is worth quoting Arendt once more: “…the Zionists, if they continue to ignore the Mediterranean peoples and watch out only for the big faraway powers, will appear only as their tools, the agents of foreign and hostile interests. Jews who know their own history should be aware that such a state of affairs will inevitably lead to a new wave of Jew-hatred; the anti- semitism of tomorrow will assert that Jews not only profiteered from the presence of the foreign big powers in that region but had actually plotted it and hence are guilty of the consequences.”

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