The unique worldview that Joey Tartakovsky revealed in his latest column on the prospects for peace in Israel and Palestine certainly justifies comment. His piece begins with the claim, uniformly made by the reactionary Israeli right, that Palestinian suicide bombings are “the obstacle” – notice the singular – to peace.
Never mind that since the road map was released, the 36-year-old Israeli military occupation of Palestine has only increased in intensity, with new incursions into Gaza and the cornerstones of new settlements laid.
Never mind that since the road map was released, the Israeli government has continued the construction of its so-called “security fence,” a gigantic concrete wall, twice as high as the Berlin Wall, covered with barbed wire, surrounded by gun towers and built hundreds of meters into Palestinian land in many areas.
Never mind that Israel maintains the largest arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Gen. Lee Butler, head of U.S. Strategic Command in the early 1990s, has pointed out the obvious: that “it is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East, one nation [Israel] has armed itself, ostensibly, with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, perhaps numbering in the hundreds, and that inspires other nations to do so.”
And never mind that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon refused even to utter the words “road map” publicly, let alone support the reforms, for weeks. Finally, this weekend, the Israeli government’s meticulous image-crafters apparently decided that Sharon risked being seen by Americans as blatantly obstructing the “peace process.” Ergo, we here in the United States got headlines like “Bush wins Sharon’s OK of peace plan” (New York Times) while the substance of the meetings between Bush and Israeli officials – “an offer by Washington which will let Israel accept the U.S. road map for peace in the Middle East without intending to implement it fully,” according to the London Guardian – was treated in passing, not intended for bold print or blaring sound bytes on CNN.
Tartakovsky’s description of the three-week Israeli offensive, dubbed Operation Defensive Shield, reveals the same one-sidedness; his description is, in fact, a microcosm of the oppressor’s timeless narrative. The violence that “they” inflict on “us” is unprovoked and described with graphic and emotional imagery. The violence that “we” do to “them” is explained strictly in terms of military objectives and strategy (Tartakovsky’s “strike at the terrorist infrastructure” phrase is actually borrowed from official Israeli propaganda) and then praised and glorified, with no mention of pesky victims.
Respected Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem assessed the operation somewhat differently: “Almost two million innocent civilians were attacked by the most powerful army in the Middle East. Virtually no one stopped to ask exactly what the terrorist infrastructure was, how it should be fought and what constraints must be imposed on the army’s actions. … Dozens of Palestinians were killed, hundreds wounded, thousands detained and hundreds of thousands imprisoned in their homes without food and water.”
In this light, Tartakovsky’s understanding of the operation’s logic – “more troops” equals “less terror” – is accurate. Tartakovsky also lauds the “restraint” demonstrated by Sharon in his decision not to respond to the most recent terror attacks in Israel with more illegal atrocities like Defensive Shield. The grotesque implications of this comment are clear when one ponders the reaction if Palestinian bombers were praised for exercising “restraint” after an Israeli incursion.
In the heat of a bloody altercation, Jesus demanded of his disciple Simon Peter, “Put up thy sword. For those that live by the sword shall die by the sword.” Successive U.S. administrations have spent nearly four decades demanding it only of the Palestinians, while encouraging and even providing the means, with helicopters, tanks, bulldozers and diplomatic support in every relevant arena, for Israel to continue on its course.
It is this continuing legacy that will, most likely, make the road map another one of the region’s tragic lost opportunities.
Nico Pitney is a senior global studies major.