"Unbiased" Levy Commission Only Serves to Reinforce Israel's Political Isolatio n By Ian Williams An Israeli soldier loads his

weapon during June 22 clashes with Palestinian prot esters in the West Ban village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. Residents were dem onstrating against the confiscation of their land to expand the Jewish settlemen t of Halamish, illegal under international law. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images) At the time of the Oslo accords, the mild-mannered Edward Said was intemperate i n his denunciation of Yasser Arafat and the PLO for accepting the deal. I could see there were problems, but thought he was a bit over the top in his rhetoric. Within a year or so, however, it was clear that Said was entirely correct. The g overnment of the Land of Mil and Honey maintained its reputation as the regime of fig leaves and phony diplomacy. Oslo was not about peace with the Palestinians: it was about brea ing Israeli is olation worldwide, and providing diplomatic camouflage for Israel and its suppor ters in Washington—which of course included the Clinton White House and Congress—to pretend that Israel was see ing peace. The doubling of the number of Jewish sett lers while tal ing about negotiations based on an agreement which pledged that n either side would ma e any unilateral changes is an example of prestidigitatory diplomacy of a prize-winning ind. Just as the conjuror's patter is designed to lull the audience's attention so they do not focus on what his hands are doing, Israeli diplomatic practice is to eep on nagging and hectoring so that the U.S. can pretend it does not see what is happening on the ground. But there are other aspects to Israel's continual chatter—above all its leadership 's continual attempts to persuade itself that its behavior, despite violating al most every tenet of international law and of Jewish ethics, is really moral and legal. That was epitomized with the recent commission which "found" that Israel's settl ement policy was entirely legal. The commission, chaired by former Judge Edmond Levy, has caused controversy worldwide by finding that Israel is not an "occupie r" in the West Ban and that all Jewish settlements are legal—including those even the Israeli government itself calls unauthorized. We can tell what a responsible and objective body the commission was: it include d former Israeli Ambassador to Canada Alan Ba er, who lived in a settlement hims elf and whose law firm had been contracted to prove that very point before he jo ined the entirely unbiased investigatory committee! The committee was, of course , commissioned by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose views on settlements are obvious since he has refused all President Barac Obama's appeals to stop bu ilding them! So the only purpose of the Levy commission is to reinforce Israel's incestuous p olitical isolation, which is analogous to the prisoner in the doc telling the j udge, jury and public that he nows the law better than they do. It will certain ly have no persuasive effect outside the country. However this is indeed what Israel has been saying in international fora for dec ades. Ba er correctly asserts that the Levy commission's finding is "no differen t from Israel's policy statements over the years, including speeches by all of I srael's leaders and ambassadors in the United Nations, as well as in official po licy documents issued by the Foreign Ministry." The former persecutor of Richard Goldstone also rounded on the many sane American Jewish critics of the commissi on for their temerity in what he laughably called helping the "delegitimization of Israel."















What concerns the critics is, of course, the report's shredding of the creative ambiguity that has characterized Israeli policy. If the territories are not occu pied and the Geneva Conventions therefore do not apply to them, Israel has to ex plain to the world—and to itself—why it has refused to allow civil liberties to the Palestinians living in them while extending full citizenship to Jewish settlers outside its legal boundaries. The critics are concerned that which is becoming increasingly een Line. It is of course what on is to ta e the land without this will pave the way for a one-state solution, attractive to many people on both sides of the Gr Li ud wants but dare not say so, because its visi the people.

Apart from wishing wistfully for divine intervention, a sort of rapture in which all the Palestinians just disappear, there is reasonable suspicion that someone somewhere has contingency plans to ma e that happen, perhaps under cover of a w ider war—say, with Iran—in which the U.S. and others would be indisposed to act. Oth erwise annexation ma es no sense, compared with the implied policy of establishi ng isolated quasi-autonomous Palestinian Bantustans that Li ud has hitherto been wor ing toward, effectively albeit unethically! Israeli Attorney Joins U.N. Counter-Terrorism Committee As usual, while scorning all U.N. resolutions on the Middle East except the one that established Israel and those against Iran and Iraq, Israel's love/hate rela tionship with the U.N. means that it always crows when it secures a position at the U.N., no matter how minor. The latest appointment, in interesting counterpoi nt to the plethora of reports condemning Israeli behavior in the occupied territ ories, was of David Scharia to be legal coordinator for the Security Council's C ounter-Terrorism Committee. Before coming to the U.N., Scharia previously had wo r ed for the Israeli attorney general as the lead lawyer for counterterrorism ca ses in the Israeli Supreme Court. Of course he is bound by the rules for U.N. civil servants, that they show no al legiance to their state of origin in their wor . What Can Be Done About Syria? As explosions roc ed Damascus, Russia and China vetoed yet another resolution on Syria. Of course, Moscow loo s at Libya or Syria and spells them Chechnya, whil e Beijing spells them Tibet and Taiwan—but it is difficult to see how these vetoes serve anyone's interests. They are, in fact, every bit as counterproductive as all the U.S. vetoes on behalf of its own dodgy client state in the region. Indee d they have the same effect: removing the incentive for an intransigent regime t o ma e the compromises it needs for a lasting settlement. To all but rabid conspiracy theorists, it is clear that the U.S. does not want t o intervene in Syria, even if it would loo indly on someone else ta ing action . It is not comforting for outsiders to see a country with chemical and conventi onal weaponry on the scale of Syria disintegrating into the patchwor of sectari an militias that Assad's intransigence seems to be driving it toward. Even so, "anti-imperialist war" groups in the West have been busily burnishing A ssad's revolutionary credentials, even though he had been happy to act as a tort ure franchisee for Western intelligence agencies, and failed one litmus test for the so-called anti-imperialist left by frequently stiffing the Palestinians. It is worth remembering the role played by the Syrian Ba'athists in colluding wi th Phalangist pogroms of Palestinians in Lebanon—Tel-El Zatar being a case in poin t. Indeed, it is entirely possible that over the years Damascus has been respons ible for more Palestinian deaths than the IDF has been.














And of course, li e Qaddafi, the Syrian regimes, so eager to condemn their dissi dents as "terrorists," were longtime safe havens for indisputably terrorist grou ps. But that does not stop the dictators cluc ing about foreigners coming in to fight, or weaponry coming from abroad. One suspects that many of those reflexively condemning any intervention in Syria or Libya have an icon of Che on their walls. Would they condemn the disastrous intervention of the Argentinean-born, Cuban-bac ed Che in Bolivia? It certainly showed most of the practical pitfalls of interventionism—but, as always, the princ iples are expediently flexible in application. Which begs the question: what at it should be done quic ly, regime has clearly persuaded nt where there is real danger regime. can be done about Syria? The only sure thing is th and that Moscow's continuing support for the Assad the latter to fight rather than settle, to the poi of a pogrom against the Alawites who dominate the

Moscow could have been part of the solution, and maintained its influence in the region. But this it is going to lose because of its shortsighted policies—and the Syrians will pay the price. It is difficult to see a favorable outcome from the present impasse—and, as the situation deteriorates, it is even more difficult to envisage volunteers for an effective U.N. peace eeping force venturing into such a Middle Eastern maelstrom. There is a clear case for intervention, but few if any credible candidates—except perhaps Tur ey, which has problems of its own.







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