Palestine is Still the Issue: Arab Revolutions and the Recognition of Israel

My fortnightly column published by Ceasefire.

By Asa Winstanley

Last week French so-called philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy was in the press again making extraordinary claims about Libya. He insisted that the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) led by Mustafa Abd al-Jalil was looking to recognise Israel. The TNC intends to “maintain normal relations with other democratic countries, including Israel” Levy said. He even claimed to have delivered a message from the TNC conveying as much to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu himself.

This was immediately denied by a TNC representative in Benghazi. Algerian paper Echorouk said the TNC vice-chairman had denounced Levy’s allegation as “baseless” and insisted they had never asked Levy to convey such a message “to the Zionist entity leaders”, as the paper put it.

He also said the TNC would never recognise Israel and that “such groundless assertions were being propagated by the despotic Gaddafi regime and its henchmen” to tarnish “the image of the national transition council in the eyes of the fervent supporters of the legitimate Palestinian cause in the Arab world and elsewhere.”

This tells us a lot about the nature of the Zionist state and its crimes. The TNC was established to take control of the popular Libyan uprising against the despotic and sadistic Gaddafi regime which broke out in February. Abd al-Jalil himself is a former Gaddafi loyalist and minister. Since the the Libyan intifada was taken over by such elements, the TNC has been doing its best to show deference to its new funders in the EU, the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

This week I even saw Abd al-Jalil on TV making excuses for Qatar’s deportation of Iman al-Obeidi. Obeidi is the woman who was allegedly gang-raped by Gaddafi troops and famously appeared on TV screens around the world when she was dragged away by Gaddafi thugs after approaching international journalists at breakfast in a Tripoli hotel.

She was later able to flee to Tunisia, and then onto Qatar. She is now reportedly headed to the US after being deported by the Qatari regime (Channel 4 News has more on on recent developments in her story, alleging the TNC have treated her badly by “using” her in media appearances she was uncomfortable with). After Qatar deported her, Abd al-Jalil bizarrely told al-Jazeera that he “understood” Qatar’s position.

So the TNC is starting to look like a US-Saudi puppet regime along the lines of Iraq (or indeed the previous Gaddafi regime of the last decade). Despite that, it is highly unlikely to recognise Israel. The Libyan people would not allow it, even if the TNC wanted to.

One of the most striking images in the wave of Arab revolutions since the start of the year has been the presence of Palestinian flags on demonstrations throughout. From Tunis to Cairo to Benghazi, expressions of solidarity with the Palestinians have been there all along, represented in such slogans as “the people, demand, the liberation of Palestine” – a play off the most common chant of the revolutionaries: “the people, demand, the fall of the regime”.

The comparison with the puppet regime in Iraq is apt. The Levy episode reminds me of the time in 2008 when members of the US Congress were dismayed to discover that Iraq offered no flights to Israel, because of its lack of relations with the Zionist state.

They had been in Israel for the 60th anniversary celebrations of the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from Palestine (al-Nakba, The Catastrophe, in Arabic – what Israelis sadistically call “Independence Day”). They decided to visit Iraq for a day but found they had to return to occupied Palestine via Amman. Outraged that billions of dollars in US taxpayer’s cash, was still not enough to buy normalization with Israel, they put forward a congressional resolution demanding Iraq recognise Israel or have its funding cut. But apparently, the resolution was non-binding. I imagine it was never heard from again.

If the US can’t even force puppet regimes like Iraq to recognise Israel, it has no chance should anything resembling democratic states begin to emerge in revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt. Israel relies on kings and other dictators to force through agreements with Arab states against the wishes of their people. And even then there is only Jordan and Egypt, with the latter agreement increasingly being challenged by Egyptians on the streets calling for cancelation or at least amendment of the unequal peace treaty with Israel.

Israel is a state founded on ethnic cleansing and war crimes. Its maintenance relies on a military regime in the West Bank, racial and sectarian segregation policy and law throughout historic Palestine, periodic festivals of massacres against Palestinians and Arabs such as in Gaza, and wars of aggression against country after country. Such a colonial entity implanted in the heart of the Arab world, will never be recognised as “legitimate” by the Arab masses.

It has been quite amusing all year to see Western supporters of Israel in total denial about the nature of the Arab revolutions. They tell themselves tall tales about how people in the region supposedly only resent Israel because of state propaganda that was used to distract attention away from regime crimes to external enemies.

But the reality now and through history has been the opposite: the Palestinian and Arab masses have always had to push Arab regimes into taking any action, however limited, against Israeli war crimes and occupation. It has been the people of the region themselves who have ensured that Palestine is still the moral issue of our time.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. He is the co-editor of “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” published by Pluto Press in October (with a foreword by Alice Walker).

His Palestine is Still the Issue column appears in Ceasefire every other Saturday. His website is www.winstanleys.org .

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