Big News Network.com
Sunday 20th February, 2011
Until now the U.S. has been but a sideshow in the in the upheavel sweeping across the Middle East.
A major risk for the U.S. has been whether the anger and frustration that has inspired the protests that have been unleashed in several Mideast and North African nations would spill over to the U.S. So far that has not been the case.
Then on Friday the U.S. went to the United Nations after spending a week trying to get the Palestinian Authority to back down on a resolution it was promoting which described Israel’s settlement activity as illegal. The U.S. government, through its Congress, which many around the world perceive to be controlled by Israel, reportedly even threatened to end funding to the Palestinians if they did not back down on the vote. Other countries were approached by the U.S. to vote against the resolution, or at the very least to abstain. None agreed. All fourteen states voted for the resolution, leaving the U.S. as a lone voice, wondering how it has become so out of touch with the rest of the world, in having to use its power of veto to stifle the international community.
"It did so at a time when winds of change are blowing in the Middle East. A promise of change was heard from America, but instead, it continued with its automatic responses and its blind support of Israel's settlement building," wrote Israeli journalist Gideon Levy in the Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz. "This is not an America that will be able to change its standing among the peoples of the region. And Israel, an international pariah, once again found itself supported only by America," Levy wrote.
The veto has received little mainstream press but is a major talking point in Arab countries.
Largely sponsored by Arab nations the veto has caused outrage. Governments under pressure from uprisings in neighbouring countries are however not responding to the anger of their populations against the U.S.
Media in Gulf countries such as the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman in fact have largely ignored the story of the veto. The same states are providing few details of the uprising in neighbouring state Bahrain, probably fearing the unrest there could become contagious.
The Palestinians themselves however are calling for a “Day of Rage” for next Friday to protest the U.S. veto. Heading the call is Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas, which governs Gaza, has joined with Abbas’s Fatah in denouncing the U.S. veto.
An Arab parliamentarian in Israel’s Knesset (Parliament) Ibrahim Sarsour on Saturday accused U.S. President Barack Obama of betraying the Palestinians and the Arab would, and said “he should go to Hell.”. In a letter to Abbas, Sarsour said Obama had surrenderd to Israel to which he is “blind biased,” and accused Obama of putting undue pressure and making threats to the Palestinian leadership. “After the exposure of lies from the US, we must say frankly to Obama: You no longer scare us and you can go to hell,” Sarsour wrote.
“Obama cannot be trusted. We knew his promises were lies. The time has come to spit in the face of the Americans,” he said.
Sarsour condemned Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt, and Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who he described as “American agents in the Middle East.”
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night, Sarsour said all Israelis should be upset with how Obama has handled the Middle East conflict. He said the UN decision was bad for Israel in the long run, because it would mislead Israelis into thinking that there was not a consensus that the settlements violate international law and are an obstacle to peace.
“We had hope in Obama but his unwavering defense of Israel has left him in an unexplainable coma when it comes to the peace process,” he said. “He gave into threats from Jews in Congress and stopped seeking true peace, so we have no choice but to tell him that he is no longer wanted in the Middle East and that he can go to hell.”
Jewish members of the Knesset however were happy about the veto “I welcome his veto and I hope that it will be the start of a new, pro-Israel Obama for the first time since he took office, though I have my doubts,” Likud MK Danny Danon was quoted by The Jerusalem Post as saying.
Scores of protesters meantime demonstrated outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. They carried banners saying “Veto settlements, vote justice,” “Stop US-supported occupaction,” and “UN,US, its time for B.D.S. (boycott, divestment, sanctions against Israel). One of the demonstrators Ronnie Barkan told The Jerusalem Post the protest is part of “a new campaign pointing a finger at the US complicity in Israeli crimes.”
Barkan called the veto “just a continuation of the same policies of the US, which are going against the consensus of world opinion and civil society protests against Israeli actions. The veto clearly shows how utterly complicit the US is in funding and supporting Israeli crimes and shows again that Israeli apartheid is an American-Israeli project.”
Israel meantime has been concerned for some weeks uprisings elsewhere in the region could occur in the West Bank. Israel has not bee a source of the anger inspiring protesters in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya or Bahrain, although to a minor degree some focus has been on U.S. support for regimes in these countries (tacit-support in the case of Libya).
The Israeli military in fact has been building rapid-response forces and idetifying vantage points in the Palestinian territories “that could be used to contain such protests.”
“The IDF’s Central Command assesses that the Palestinians could resort to so-called non-violent resistance, on a scale previously unknown to Israel, in the absence of peace negotiations,” a report published this week in The Jerusalem Post said.
“While there is deemed to be some possibility that such demonstrations will take place in the near future in the spirit of Egypt, Tunisia and Iran, a senior officer said it was more likely that the Palestinian Authority would prevent this from happening until after elections in September.”
“One senior officer said commanders were discussing ways to counter and contain large demonstrations launched simultaneously in different parts of the West Bank,” The Jerusalem Post article said.
“We are preparing different responses for different scenarios to think about what we will do if there are, for example, thirty marches of several thousand people each,” the officer said. “This is something we have yet to encounter.”
The Israeli military, possibly in the light of the attack by Naval commandos on the Turkish-flottila heading to Gaza last year, admits it does not know how it would respond to multiple protests across the territories “and contain the protests which could lead to a high number of casualties.” As a result of this the military says it is mentally preparing its soldiers on how they should respond.
Israel says it has been “keeping a close eye,” on the Palestinians in recent weeks since the events in Egypt “to ensure the violence does not spread to the West Bank.”
The Jerusalem Post report said the IDF was concerned “the PA could allow and even possibly encourage citizens to launch so-called non-violent resistance."
It will be a far cry for the U.S. if it is called to respond to peaceful protests in the Palestinian territories being crushed by the Israeli army, when it has described (albeit belatedly) the manner in which protesters “braved” the Egyptian regime, and how their victory was a triumph for the Egyptian people and the world.