Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Is the US to blame for human rights failures in the Middle East?

Jeff Robbins argues that the US is unfairly blamed for the human rights problems of the Palestinians Arabs. :
It is increasingly de rigueur around the world and, for that matter, in certain segments of the Democratic Party, to place responsibility for all international crises on the U.S. government. Unsurprisingly, therefore, when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, it has attained the level of high fashion to ascribe the persistent absence of peace to a lack of adequate U.S. "engagement" in resolving it.
If the Bush administration were truly "engaged," the argument goes, the chances for Middle East peace would be greatly improved. Next week's meeting in Annapolis, Md., between Israel and at least certain of its Arab interlocutors has the look and feel of more of the same. Yesterday the State Department sent out "formal invitations" to the event, but it remains unclear who will attend besides Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. If history is any guide, the meeting will yield unsatisfactory results, Israel will be blamed for failing to make the requisite concessions, and the Bush administration will be widely and sharply criticized for its "failure to engage."

This analysis, simple and neat, and for so many so satisfying, would seem at odds with the historical record. The problem is that all too often, those who blame the U.S. for failing to deliver Mideast peace are some of the world's most culpable enablers of Mideast violence--and those who are themselves actually responsible for erecting the fundamental roadblocks to a resolution of the conflict.
This is so obvious as to almost go without saying--except that the penchant for placing the blame on the U.S. is so widespread and so addictive that it goes largely unsaid. It was, of course, the Arab bloc, including the Palestinian leadership, that decided to reject the U.N.'s 1947 partition of Palestine into two states, Arab and Jewish, living side by side. Instead it invaded the nascent Jewish state rather than coexist with it, spawning the conflict that has so burdened the world for the last 60 years.
This was not a decision made by the U.S.
We are also not responsible for the Arab world's choice not to create a Palestinian Arab state in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank from 1948 to 1967, when it easily could have done so--before there were any Jewish settlements there to serve as the public object of Arab grievance.
Worth reading. However, it is worth remembering, that all things considered, the United States is forced into a position where it must take some responsibility for the Middle East conflict, and moreover, it forced itself into that position because it was deemed to be in the best interests of the United States. The US is not responsible for the Arab world's decisions. But the US is responsible for its own decisions. Two divisions - 30,000 soldiers - of the US army in 1948, stationed on Israel's borders, would have been sufficient to stop an Arab invasion. No Arab government in 1948 woud have dared to cross a line guarded by the United States Army. Perhaps only the USSR would have dared to do so. As there was no disagreement between the US and USSR on this issue, it would have been an easy matter to station even 4 or 5 divisions in the Middle East. It would have even been an easy matter for the British to leave a token force on the Egyptian and Jordanian borders. Instead, the British actively encouraged, aided and even led the Transjordan Arab legion and helped them to subvert the UN partition plan. The United States did nothing whatever to stop the British.
The truth is apparently, that nobody considered the UN partition plan and the internationalization of Jerusalem to be realistic and workable solutions. The world decided on a "solution" as a political gesture, but did not have the responsibility to deal with the problem. Likewise, had the US lived up to its word and opened the straits of Tiran in 1967, there would have been no war then either. Had the US acted as an active guarantor of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, there would have been no violence in 2000, and the occupation of Palestinian territory would have ended by now. However, in each case, the United Nations and the United States chose to engage, mediate and negotiate with bandits and aggressors, instead of acting to implement justice and maintain order. Indeed, the US should have been engaged, but not in the sense meant by anti-Israel critics.
Ami Isseroff

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