The Middle East powder keg

There are several powder kegs around the world, among them the South China Sea where the Pentagon’s surface warships, surveillance submarines and electronic warfare aircraft try to provoke China to take action against their aggressive operations, to the Baltic and Black Seas in which U.S.-Nato armed forces confronting Russia have the same objective. But in the Middle East, the leaky powder keg that will soon attract an igniting flash is the State of Israel which indulges in equally provocative behaviour. In regard to Palestinians and the Iranian nation the government of Naftali Bennett has been every bit as inhumane, barbaric and confrontational as any of its predecessors.

The attitude of the western world to Israel’s excesses varies from the mildly critical to the entirely tolerant, and there is no question of any action being taken that might alter the Israeli government’s deep-seated determination to rid the country of the Palestinians to whom most of it belongs, and to destroy Iran, preferably by having the United States perform another Iraq-style blitzkrieg. In furtherance of its objectives, Israel continues to persecute Palestinians and carry out clandestine operations that will encourage U.S. action against Iran.

The voices of such as the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, are lost among the roar of bulldozers as they destroy Palestinian villages and olive tree plantations. His statement that “I am deeply concerned by continued Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. I reiterate that all settlements are illegal under international law, remain a substantial obstacle to peace, and must cease immediately” was a call to exert pressure on Tel Aviv to abide by what Mr Biden continually refers to as the “rules-based international order.”

But nobody took any action.

A recent example of Israel breaking international law with complete impunity was the announcement that 1,355 new Israeli houses are to be built in seven settlements in the West Bank area, adding to the 2,000 units announced in August. The housing minister, Zeev Elkin, declared that this vast amount of construction is necessary, because “strengthening Jewish presence is essential to the Zionist vision”.

The “Zionist vision” is alarming, and the Jewish Voice for Peace notes that it, as an organisation, is “guided by a vision of justice, equality and freedom for all people. We unequivocally oppose Zionism because it is counter to those ideals.” It continues that “Palestinian dispossession and occupation are by design. Zionism has meant profound trauma for generations, systematically separating Palestinians from their homes, land, and each other. Zionism, in practice, has resulted in massacres of Palestinian people, ancient villages and olive groves destroyed, families who live just a mile away from each other separated by checkpoints and walls…”

On October 29 the European Union voiced disapproval of Zionist settlement expansion, with foreign policy chief Josep Borrell declaring that “settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between the parties.” And Tel Aviv’s Zionist plans for yet more settlements continue as if he had never said a word.

Recently there have been two incidents that define the attitude of the western world to Israel and its policies. In the first, as reported by Euronews, “Israeli police kick Palestinians out of the al-Yusufiye cemetery near the Lion’s Gate entrance to the Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem as construction of the Jewish National Park continues. Many graves in the cemetery have been bulldozed, causing outrage. Palestinian mother Ola Nababteh whose son is buried in the cemetery says she ‘had to move bones around so that she could reach her son’s grave,’ a day after she was dragged away by Israeli police as she tried to cling to her son’s grave.” If there had been such disgusting behaviour by police in Cuba or Venezuela or China or Russia the headlines of the U.S. mainstream media would have been flashing with righteous indignation. Reports and comment pieces would have reached deluge point.

But a search for ‘Ola Nababteh’ in the New York Times or the Washington Post comes up with nothing at all. The dragging by Israeli police of a Palestinian mother from her son’s graveside is regarded as a non-event by western news-controllers.

On the other hand the media considered it important to place on record the fact that Israel’s energy minister was unable to attend some proceedings at the COP 26 gathering in Glasgow. As the New York Times reported, “Karine Elharrar, who has muscular dystrophy, arrived at one of the entrances to the event’s compound but her vehicle was not allowed to enter, and the remaining distance was too far for her to go in her wheelchair, she told Israeli media. She waited for two hours and was eventually offered a shuttle to the site, but the shuttle was not wheelchair accessible, she said.” Anyone who suffers from such a disability deserves our deepest sympathy, but this incident was a total charade, because “others in wheelchairs have successfully gained access to the conference facilities, which include elevators, ramps and accessible bathrooms, and Ms. Elharrar was in attendance on Tuesday.”

Ms Elharrar told the BBC that “we can talk about accessibility and the rights of people with disabilities, but in life we need to implement all the conventions and all the regulations and that was an experience that showed that we need to pay attention to all the details everywhere.” Quite so. It is indeed necessary to pay attention to details everywhere, including the sites of Palestinian graves that are being bulldozed to expand construction of the Jewish National Park.

The Glasgow photo-operation was widely covered and CNN reported the comment by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, that “it is impossible to safeguard our future and address the climate crisis, without first and foremost caring for people, including ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities.” But while the Israeli government and the western media expressed righteous sympathy for a disabled rich Israeli whose motorised wheelchair could not access some ramps and lifts in a conference centre, there was scant expression of “care for people” following the killing by Israeli soldiers on November 5 of a thirteen year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammad Daadas, who had joined a protest against what the UN declares to be Israel’s illegal construction of settlements in the West Bank.

The Times of Israel carried a statement by Israeli Forces that “during the disturbance, rioters threw stones at Israeli soldiers. The troops responded with riot dispersal means and live fire.” There has not been one word of criticism in the western media of the fact that an Israeli soldier who had a stone thrown at him by a thirteen-year-old considered it his duty to shoot him in the stomach—and will not stand the remotest chance of facing action for murder.

In this period of illegal construction by Israel of yet more settlements on Palestinian land, the expansion of the Jewish National Park by bulldozing Palestinian graves and hauling away the mother of a buried son, the shooting to death of a Palestinian 13-year-old by an Israeli soldier, and a much-publicised problem with wheelchair ramps at a conference in Glasgow, there came news on November 2 in the U.S. military publication Stars and Stripes that a three-week exercise involving U.S. and Israeli military forces had begun with the intention of demonstrating the “long-standing relationship with Israel that is so vital to stability and security in the region.”

The sparks are moving inexorably towards the Israeli powder keg, encouraged by Washington’s casual acceptance of atrocities and continuing endorsement of its “long-standing relationship” with the nation that emphasises its “Zionist vision”. What is being ignored by the U.S. and Israel is that the refusal by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to talk with Palestinians opens doors to fundamentalist loonies to take direct action in the Middle East and even elsewhere—like New York or Florida or San Francisco. The Middle East powder keg will affect us all when that final spark ignites it.

This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation online journal.

Brian Cloughley is a British and Australian armies’ veteran, former deputy head of the UN military mission in Kashmir and Australian defense attaché in Pakistan

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