The so called peace process is in fact a peace blockade. Israel has never offered the Palestinians a viable state during the period of bilateral negotiations – from Camp David through Taba to Annapolis, states Finkelstein. To the contrary Israel has made expressively clear that it wants to keep the settlement blocks in the West Bank including the most arable land and water resources. But this would divide the Palestinian land into cantons and finally bury the any Palestinian state. But Israel couldn’t block the two state solution without the support of the U.S. while European countries are standing by idle. But the Europeans at least would have the right mindset when it comes to solving the conflict – in contrast to the U.S. But even they have to be moved to “make their actions cohere or correspond with their words”.
Norman Finkelstein, political scientist from the U.S. and author of several books about the Israel-Palestine conflict. His latest book is: “Gaza. An Inquest into Its Martyrdom”.
David Goeßmann: I want to switch to the diplomatic process in the Israel Palestine conflict, especially after 1967. There is a two-state settlement on the table roughly since the mid-70s based on U.N. resolution 242 supported by virtually the whole world, including the Arab states, Iran, the PLO, actually also Hamas and even Hezbollah would accept it. The basic idea of the settlement is not very complicated. The Palestinian state inside the internationally recognized borders before the six day war of 1967. So why can’t the solution be implemented, knowing that this would surely mitigate the violence and tension in the region.
Norman Finkelstein: Well it’s not unusual. The United States has been able to block the implementation of many resolutions of conflicts and has been a major impediment to the resolution of conflicts. So it’s not surprising that in this case as well the United States is an impediment. There is a slight difference however. In most cases the U.S. has been an impediment, an obstacle because it conceived its national interests as being in opposition to a particular resolution of a conflict. Here it’s not the U.S. national interest, in my opinion it’s the Israel lobby that’s been able to exert sufficient pressure on the U.S. that the U.S. goes along with the Israeli rejectionism even though the U.S. has no real stake in opposing a Palestinian state.
David Goeßmann: Israel and the U.S. have long outright rejected the idea of a Palestinian state. Now they are publicly talking about it. But then we have a long history of vetoes in the U.N. Security Council by the U.S. Israel and the U.S. just voted no against the U.N. General Assembly Resolution that upgrades the Palestinian authority to a member state. So what is behind all this talk of the U.S. and Israel.
Norman Finkelstein: You have to specify what you mean by a Palestinian state. You can have a Palestinian state declared in this room. But is that a real state? What Israel has been talking about has been pretty clear over the years for those who cared to look at their actual record and not at the rhetoric. We go back as far as negotiations in January 2001 after the Camp David negotiations. There were the so-called Clinton parameters in December 2000. And then afterwards there was a resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians at the Egyptian resort called Taba. And if you look at the maps presented at Taba and you look at the maps presented during what were called the Annapolis negotiations in the George Bush presidency, it all is pretty much the same. Israel wants to keep what it calls the major settlement blocks, which will encompass approximately 9 percent of the West Bank. And they’re building the wall, as the International Court of Justice put it, the wall takes this sinuous route that goes all around the settlement blocks. And Israel has conceded that they’re building their new border. The wall is not a wall to fight terrorism, it’s a wall to create a new border for Israel. And they want to incorporate the settlement blocks. If they succeed in that, then there’s no Palestinian state. First of all, it takes a lot of the best agricultural land, the most arable Palestinian land is incorporated inside the wall. Second of all it takes the critical water resources which are located inside the wall, and third of all, it bisects and trisects the West Bank. Because the wall includes the settlement called Ariel Shomron in the North and the settlement called Maale Adumim in the center of the West Bank. Maale Adumim bisects the West Bank between the North and the South and Ariel/Shomron bisects the Northern part of the West Bank. So between the settlement blocks, if they’re annexed, there’s not going to be a Palestinian state. There’ll be – some people want to call it Cantons, some people want to call it Bantustans.
David Goeßmann: What are Bantustans?
Norman Finkelstein: Bantustans refers to the homelands, that the South African Apartheid regime allotted to the indigenous population of South Africa – the Black South Africans. There were ten of them. Of the ten Bantustans five or six were eventually granted statehood. There was Transkei, Ciskei, Bophuthatswana, Venda. Then these were makeshift “states” which incidentally got exactly zero recognition in the United Nations. Everybody understood, these are not serious states, these are residues that South Africa allotted to the indigenous population as it proceeded to consolidate its control over South Africa. And basically that’s what Israel will leave for the Palestinians. So this state they’re talking about is not a state.
David Goeßmann: But you talked about the summit in Taba in 2001. The came really close…
Norman Finkelstein: I don’t agree with that. That’s what they said, but I don’t really agree. A lot of people have repeated the claim that was made, that they came very close, because each side had a stake in claiming that. The Palestinian side makes that claim because it wants to validate the notion of negotiations, so it keeps saying we were so close. They said it in Annapolis: “We were so close.” They said it with Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2008. Because they want to validate what they’ve been doing the last 20 years, which is basically talking while Israel steals the West Bank. And the Israeli side has sent in negotiators like Shlomo Ben-Ami. He has an agenda, he also wants to show, that we were so close and it was only because of the fact that Sharon won the election in 2001, that’s why it didn’t happen. It’s not true. We have to be honest about these things because the most important thing is clarity. The map Israel was offering in Taba included Israel keeping all the settlement blocks. There was no change there. On the issue of refugees and so forth there was no progress made. That’s the facts.
David Goeßmann: What is the role of the United States and European countries in this conflict and in this diplomatic progress.
Norman Finkelstein: There’s a very big distinction between the European Countries and the United States. European Countries say the right thing but do the wrong thing – or do nothing. The United States says the wrong thing and does a lot in support of doing the wrong thing. So the battle is easier in the EU and in Europe generally because the battle in Europe is to force the governments to act in accordance with their words. The European countries have repeatedly in all the relevant forums upheld that a settlement in the June 1967 borders with the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as the Palestinian the state. They’ve been very clear about that. They’ve made clear that the settlements are illegal under international law. The problem with the Europeans is they don’t act on their words. You have to force them, put pressure on them to get them to make their actions cohere or correspond with their words. In the U.S. the battle is much more difficult because you still have to get them to even acknowledge what’s right. So you still have a battle for public opinion, you still have a huge battle with the government, where they don’t even accept in principle the basics of international law. So in the U.S. it’s still an uphill battle. In the case of Europe it is a battle but not nearly as difficult. Even people like Merkel who is certifiably insane on the question of Israel and the holocaust and everything. She still thinks that Hitler is in his Bunker and she’s on the commando raid to kill him. She’s a lunatic. But even she is losing patience with the Israelis. This guy Netanyahu is a liar, he’s a thief. And they’re losing patience. Even Israel’s most stalwart ally in Europe, namely Germany, they’re losing. Especially if you look at the public opinion polls, I mean d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r for Israel, complete disaster across Europe. I’m not including Eastern Europe because Eastern Europeans are slightly different. They’re all anti-Semites and they really do believe, that Israel controls the United States and Israel controls the world, and if you wanted to get into the good graces of the United States you have to be nice to Israel, they believe that. And Israelis cultivate it. Israelis tell them we have entrée to the White House. You do this for us and we’ll get this deal for you or that deal for you. You saw that just now with the whole claim by Bulgaria about Hezbollah blowing up a bus for which there’s exactly zero evidence. But they do it because the Bulgarians are threatened by Israel – if you don’t do this, we’re going to cause troubles for you in the United States. Of course the U.S. also wanted to nail the Hezbollah. The only exception in Eastern Europe is really the Czech Republic. And that’s because during the era when Czechoslovakia was under Soviet control, Arafat used to go to visit a lot Czechoslovakia and so the people now hate the Palestinians, because of that memory. So there is a lot of popular hatred of Palestinians in the Czech Republic which explains that particular lunacy that Czech are more pro-Israel than any country in the world except for Canada under the lunatic Harper. But with that exception, countries like Poland believe all the antisemitism, they do. They believe Jews control the world. If you want to be in the good graces of the United States, you have to kowtow to Israel. Western and Central Europeans are too enlightened for that. For them it’s just like the Palestinians are not important enough to do anything about. Who cares about them. But in principal, the European record is not bad. No question in my mind about that.
David Goeßmann: What could they do to exert pressure?
Norman Finkelstein: The basic thing the Europeans can do is to uphold international law. The law is pretty clear. As Amnesty International said, there should be a comprehensive arms boycott on Israel – they also say Hamas but Hamas has no weapons, so it’s a meaningless gesture. A comprehensive arms boycott. They should uphold the decision of the 2004 advisory opinion of the international court of justice. And impose sanctions until Israel dismantles the wall. That’s the law. They should impose sanctions on Israel until it not only stops building settlements, but until – as the last report of the Human Rights Council says – until the settlements are dismantled. In the lunacy that we have called the peace process, the only debate is whether or not Israel should be allowed to continue building settlements while it’s negotiating peace. Whereas the only sane question should be: Should Israel be allowed to negotiate before it has dismantled all the settlements? The settlements are illegal. So they should all be dismantled before negotiations begin. That’s the law. The law is, under the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, the settlements are a war crime. So the war crime has to be undone. So even if we don’t talk about being undone, they certainly have to be stopped. So there are all sorts of sanctions the EU can apply to enforce the law. (...)
There’s no opposition in Israel to the occupation – it doesn’t exist. Because the occupation doesn’t exist. This is the first cost-free occupation in the history of the world. The Palestinians do all the policing, torture, killing for the Israelis, that’s called the Palestinian authority. The Europeans and the Gulf countries pay all the bills. Israel blows up Gaza – the Netherlands, Belgium, they all move in to give money again – Israel blows it up again – the Europeans pay for it again. So the Europeans pay all the bills and the Americans do all the political blocking for Israel at the relevant legal and political forums in the world. So for the Israelis the occupation doesn’t exist. They have a very good life, the economy is thriving, doing much better than any of the European or American economies. There are significant divisions in income distribution etc., Israel is now the country with the second most unequal distribution of wealth after the United States – in the industrialized countries. But basically there is no occupation. Nobody thinks or talks about it. The most fundamental fact about the last election, about which so much has been said, is that the occupation never came up. It was fought over domestic issues. The occupation wasn’t a topic of the last election. Nobody cares about it.