Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, December 2009
Barry Rubin and Leonard Asper rewrite history and current events in defense of the Israeli occupation
By Jim Miles
ccun.org, December 3, 2009
Canwest Global Communications Inc. is owned by the Asper family, with Leonard Asper its current CEO. The corporation is decidedly pro-Israel and frequently has news articles on television or in the daily newspapers that give strong support to Israel. A current article in the Vancouver Sun follows the tired and true formula of blaming the Palestinians for the problems that afflict the Palestinian people, the old victim as perpetrator rhetoric that is so prevalent with all occupying powers.
The author of the article is Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research In International Affairs and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs, both rather impressive sounding names, as all names of think tanks should sound. What was not mentioned is that Rubin is also professor at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. While checking this out on the internet, I discovered that the IDC had recently held a conference on victims of terror and how to help them: “…the first advanced academic conference focusing on the victims of terror and their families. The conference dealt with the impact of terror attacks on society and the individual and presented theoretical approaches and practical methods of helping the victims.”
Even though it is a side issue to what I initially set out discuss, it only emphasizes the pro-Israeli slant of Rubin’s connections as all the terror victims discussed in the precis were Israeli, soldiers, or U.S. victims of the Twin Towers. Absolutely no mention, as one might expect, of the terror suffered by the Palestinians. Although the Israeli press is often quite open about its operations within Palestine, the IDC is a private for profit institution and obviously considers the Palestinians to be the source of the terror and not the occupation of Palestine by the IDF.
My initial point was that the Vancouver Sun did not mention this association, perhaps through ignorance, but just as likely through not wanting to bias the readers interpretations of their own pro-Israeli slant. The appearance of neutrality is important even if that is not the case.
“Abbas isn’t going anywhere”
Arguing against Rubin is difficult mainly because he does not present logically sequenced rational arguments, but starts off establishing his own emotional mind-set of Palestinian culpability for their problems with Israel. Following that, to support his argument he essentially lies about the factual support to his argument while disingenuously stating that all his ideas are “clear in any accurate factual account of what has happened.”
The article itself is titled “Abbas isn’t going anywhere” with the subtitle, “There’s no peace deal in the Middle East because Palestinian leadership doesn’t want one.” He starts by saying that “Abbas never had any intention of resigning or calling elections…because the PA fears it would lose them and Hamas, which rules Gaza Strip, won’t let them be held there.” That could all be well and true, but until events actually unfold - or don’t unfold in this case, it is speculation.
Rubin argues emotionally that the “Palestinians are always presented as victims, passive observers, people who have nothing to do with their fate.” That of course is intended to play the ‘reverse sympathy card’ for Israel, but it is a statement that carries no truth. Most importantly in denying this is the obvious high degree of activism from civil disobedience, from civil protest, through quasi-legal formulations (think the Israeli created Palestinian Authority), to the much more aggressive and assertive militant insurgencies of the two intifada’s and the suicide attackers. There is absolutely nothing passive about that.
Somehow he twists that first illogical statement into a much broader one in which “…everything must always be the fault of Israel or America or the West” with Rubin’s “fact is” saying the problem is that of the Palestinians “…seeking Israeli’s destruction over a compromise peace that would mean the conflict’s end in a permanent two-state solution.”
Both statements are falsehoods. Most Palestinian sources that I am familiar with recognize that their history, their leadership has its own faults. There is also plenty of material indicating that the Palestinians are capable of compromise in their search for peace, to the point of recognizing Israel’s existence.
What is true is that, yes, the Palestinians are victims of military occupation, harassment, and torture, and yes they are victims of military rule that contravenes several international sources of law. What is also true is that they are not passive (a significantly incomprehensible statement for anyone following all the protests and violence in the region).
Rubin’s statements about the passivity of the Palestinians is a somewhat clever reversal of the Israeli’s inculcated doctrine that they are the innocent victims of Palestinian and Islamist terror, and are incapable of acting and reflecting on perhaps why the Palestinians are acting this way - or in his own words, Israelis “…are always presented as victims, passive observers, people who have nothing to do with their own fate.” When his words are reversed in intention, they carry a similar falsehood.
Israel plays the victim role, yet it is the occupier, the aggressor, the perpetrator who wished from the inception of the Eretz Israel dream to ethnically cleanse all of the area of Palestinians. Because the Palestinians did not just passively move out of the way, and with fluctuating levels of belligerence and insurrection, the Israelis play to the world’s sympathies as victims of their own culpability.
Rubin’s ‘factual’ support begins with Camp David. He says Arafat and the Palestinian leadership “were offered a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem and billions of dollars in start-up funding twice in the year 2000.…” This “offer” had nothing on paper, there is no record of anything written down so that outside observers could examine what was said or truly offered. Unless something is in writing, especially in political agreements, it is worthless.
What was offered was offered verbally (if at all, see below), and by best accounts was not a state but a truncated series of bantustan like cantons surrounded by areas of Israeli control, with the Jordan valley remaining under Israel Defence Forces military control. There was no sovereignty offered, no sovereign rule over a contiguous piece of sovereign territory. In reality there was not even an offer made, as Robert Malley, Clinton’s Special Assistant for Arab-Israeli Affairs and his advisor at Camp David. Malley indicated, “It is hard to state with confidence how far Barak was actually prepared to go….His strategy was predicated on the belief that Israel ought not reveal its final position - not even to the United States - until the endgame was in sight.”  That endgame of course is the continued settlement of the West Bank until Israeli control is absolute.
Rubin follows the generally accepted Israeli obfuscation concerning Jerusalem and reiterates it as fact. The verbal tricks around the description of a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem indicates that the capital in East Jerusalem should more correctly have been labelled as ‘east of’ Jerusalem in Abu-Dis, as “It is only through this deceptive use of definitions that Israel can claim that it proposes that the city be divided into the Jewish part “Jerusalem” and the Palestinian part, “Al-Quds.” 
The end result of all this is the Israeli statement about having no partner in peace, a cultural icon now prevalent within Israel and the U.S. but not supported elsewhere. It is the Israelis not wanting ‘peace’ as that would necessarily constrain there initial ambition to control all of Eretz Israel.
Partners in crime - the settlements
The article continues arguing about the settlement deal reached between the United States and Israel. The overwhelming obvious lack here (or at least it should be obvious) is that this agreement was between partners in crime and not with the Palestinians. As usual with these settlement agreements, the reality on the ground is that the settlements would continue to be built as the Israelis continued their verbal charade of complying with the agreement.
Rubin argues that the settlement deal was a “huge concession” even though it did not apply to Jerusalem. I would have to ask how a “huge concession” can be envisioned when it does not include the huge settlements that are being built in Jerusalem with the direct intent of eliminating the Palestinian population - but above all, how can it be a concession of any kind when settlements in occupied territories are illegal under international law? Of course, Israel, with the support of the U.S., has continually flaunted international law and disregards it completely.
Laughable solution (tragically)
Rubin’s rather laughable solution in a tragic-comic farcical sense is “If the Palestinian leadership wanted to end the “occupation” [why is that quoted as if it is not a fact?] and get rid of settlements [ahh, I get it - get rid of settlements, but not necessarily all of them!] on its territory [aha, so it is their territory after all! So it must be occupied…!] there’s a simple solution. It need merely negotiate peace with Israel as soon as possible.” Really? These negotiations, mostly between the U.S. and Israel, have been ongoing for decades and have only succeeded in extending Israeli domination over Palestinian territory. And there is no way that Israel will give up its settlements, a few “outposts” perhaps [there, I can use useless quotes too!] but nothing significant if at all elsewhere, and they certainly will not give up territory around Jerusalem nor would they allow full sovereign control to any territory deemed Palestinian by the partners in crime.
In his final statement, he indicates that the “PA’s rejections of peace” is in order to “keep the door open for total victory, to avoid compromising, to prevent internal conflict, it is willing….to use both real and fictional suffering as leverage in an attempt to get far more.” Hmm, the pot calling the kettle black? Not even that. It is a true irrational reversal of what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, delaying, stalling, causing suffering, and, especially within the U.S., using fiction to leverage everything to their advantage.
The Palestinians are not passive as witnessed by the many events occurring within the occupied territories, nor should they be represented that way, nor should it be argued that they are creating this view of passivity. These are Rubin’s constructs to present an illogical and false argument against the Palestinians. There has never been any “peace agreement” of any substance that has ever been presented to the Palestinians, only the ongoing charade between Israel and the United States, neither of whom truly cares about the Palestinians. The charade is for public consumption and the creation of a false mythology of leaderless terrorists attacking a passive Israel.
What happens with Abbas now remains as conjecture. Will he stay? Will he go? Is he truly refusing to negotiate with Israel? Or is he simply recognizing the real situation in that there is nothing to negotiate when Israel holds all the power, and is backed by the U.S.? Is he perhaps simply recognizing that negotiations under these conditions will simply be the ongoing charade of the U.S. championing Israeli rights, hoping and wishing that the Palestinians will acquiesce, roll over and play dead? To truly be passive?
Regardless, Rubin’s article  only adds to the Israeli obfuscation of the situation, attempting to make the Palestinians the guilty party in their own occupation.
 Baroud, Ramzy. The Second Palestinian Intifada - A Chronicle of a
People’s Struggle. Pluto Press, London, 2006. p.21.
Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent ccun.org.