You cannot derail a train no one is on

A spokesperson from Israel’s foreign ministry warned the United Nations that if the Goldstone Report on war crimes in the Gaza War of early this year is endorsed by the UN Security Council, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will be in jeopardy. Surely, this is a joke.

The peace process has yielded no results since the second Intifada. The Palestinians herded into Gaza elected Hamas, which has no interest in peace, and the screws have tightened on Palestinians everywhere. The Oslo Accords, the closest things to an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord ever signed, are a distant memory. “Natural growth” of settlements continues. Israelis retain all the power in negotiation. Would Israeli government movement away from peace be a sudden turn, or would it be on course? It is not much of a threat to say you will derail a train no one is on.

Israel’s courts will try soldiers that are accused, by Israeli fact-finding commissions, of war crimes. Israel has never been a country that desperately sought approval from others, and is unlikely to start now. It will not give into blackmail. Any anger that outsiders’ actions generate within Israel will make it easier to go to war again the next time.

The goals of the war, Operation Cast Lead, were long term ones. An article in Haaretz says that Israelis hoped its success would mean Egypt and Israel’s working together to produce results in Gaza, such as inter-Palestinian reconciliation, which in turn could lead to negotiations with them. It implies that, all because of forces outside of Israel’s control, such as the shrinking stature of Mahmoud Abbas and the growing one of Iran, ferment in Jerusalem and fighting in Gaza, the long term results the war aimed to achieve will never materialise. Things just never seem to go right when you are the victim.

Sarcasm aside, it is hard not to agree with Israeli claims that the report is biased. The annoying words “anti-Semitic”, the words that imply that the only racism that matters is that against Jews, words used so often one might be forgiven for thinking that everyone outside Israel is an anti-Semite, may in fact be a fair accusation in this case. As I have said before, the UN Human Rights Council is hopelessly biased against Israel, and the UN has not been much better. The Human Rights Council is full of human rights-violating Arab states that hate Israel. The Council’s existence throws the UN’s legitimacy into question.

The Council’s anti-Semitism is so blatant that it has made no attempt at a reference to Palestinian (presumably mostly Hamas) crimes during or before the war in its resolutions condemning Israel. Amnesty International’s report was not similarly biased, and its authors called for all crimes to be punished. We can clearly see which organisation is truly interested in human rights.

Because of the lack of legitimacy of the body that commissioned the Goldstone Report, the report’s veracity is too difficult to ascertain. Because there was little trace of a peace process to start with, things could easily degenerate into violence. And because Israel is used to this sort of bullying, nothing is likely to change between Israelis and Palestinians.

A third Intifada may be brewing

According to a piece in Foreign Policy, a news magazine known for integrity and depth of analysis rather than sensationalism, a third Intifada could be ready to break out. Rioting has increased in Jerusalem and so has detention. Fighting among Palestinians contributes to instability. Though the Barack administration is taking small steps toward reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, my guess is that many Palestinians do not trust their leaders to look out for their best interests. And Jewish radicals are still visiting the Temple Mount, which sparked the second Intifada. As a result, the rocks are flying.

(Also find analysis of the viability of a third Intifada at the Global Arab Network and a rather incomplete analysis at Haaretz.)

My perceptions may be flawed, given that I am not in Israel and never have been, but it seems from the large amount I have read that the way to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict is to change the perceptions of Israelis. Israel holds the cards in this relationship. The Israeli authorities make the decisions that govern Palestinians’ lives, not the other way round. Israelis’ perceptions, however, are skewed by the strong collectivist bias of the culture. The Jews are God’s chosen people, after all. But more so than that, people in Israel have been offered half-truth, fabrication, propaganda and occasionally the truth, and it is very hard to distinguish among them. People have so much choice in what to believe that, like everywhere else, they tend to believe the stories that make themselves sound most righteous. Would seeing how their support for so-called apartheid policies is affecting common people in the Occupied Territories head off a third Intifada? If not, would anything?