An illegal Israeli settlement in the illegally occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP-Getty Images)

An illegal Israeli settlement in the illegally occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP-Getty Images)

This article was first published in the Palestine Chronicle on December 1, 2009. It has been republished here with permission from the author.

Canwest Global Communications Inc. is owned by the Asper family, with Leonard Asper its current CEO. The corporation is decidedly pro-Israel and frequently has news articles on television or in the daily newspapers that give strong support to Israel. A current article in the Vancouver Sun follows the tired and true formula of blaming the Palestinians for the problems that afflict the Palestinian people, the old victim as perpetrator rhetoric that is so prevalent with all occupying powers.

The author of the article is Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research In International Affairs and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs, both rather impressive sounding names, as all names of think tanks should sound. What was not mentioned is that Rubin is also professor at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. While checking this out on the internet, I discovered that the IDC had recently held a conference on victims of terror and how to help them: “…the first advanced academic conference focusing on the victims of terror and their families. The conference dealt with the impact of terror attacks on society and the individual and presented theoretical approaches and practical methods of helping the victims.”

Even though it is a side issue to what I initially set out discuss, it only emphasizes the pro-Israeli slant of Rubin’s connections as all the terror victims discussed in the precis were Israeli, soldiers, or U.S. victims of the Twin Towers. Absolutely no mention, as one might expect, of the terror suffered by the Palestinians. Although the Israeli press is often quite open about its operations within Palestine, the IDC is a private for profit institution and obviously considers the Palestinians to be the source of the terror and not the occupation of Palestine by the IDF.

My initial point was that the Vancouver Sun did not mention this association, perhaps through ignorance, but just as likely through not wanting to bias the readers interpretations of their own pro-Israeli slant. The appearance of neutrality is important even if that is not the case.

“Abbas isn’t going anywhere”

Arguing against Rubin is difficult mainly because he does not present logically sequenced rational arguments, but starts off establishing his own emotional mind-set of Palestinian culpability for their problems with Israel. Following that, to support his argument he essentially lies about the factual support to his argument while disingenuously stating that all his ideas are “clear in any accurate factual account of what has happened.”

The article itself is titled “Abbas isn’t going anywhere” with the subtitle, “There’s no peace deal in the Middle East because Palestinian leadership doesn’t want one.” He starts by saying that “Abbas never had any intention of resigning or calling elections…because the PA fears it would lose them and Hamas, which rules Gaza Strip, won’t let them be held there.” That could all be well and true, but until events actually unfold – or don’t unfold in this case, it is speculation.

Rubin argues emotionally that the “Palestinians are always presented as victims, passive observers, people who have nothing to do with their fate.” That of course is intended to play the ‘reverse sympathy card’ for Israel, but it is a statement that carries no truth. Most importantly in denying this is the obvious high degree of activism from civil disobedience, from civil protest, through quasi-legal formulations (think the Israeli created Palestinian Authority), to the much more aggressive and assertive militant insurgencies of the two intifada’s and the suicide attackers. There is absolutely nothing passive about that.

Somehow he twists that first illogical statement into a much broader one in which “…everything must always be the fault of Israel or America or the West” with Rubin’s “fact is” saying the problem is that of the Palestinians “…seeking Israeli’s destruction over a compromise peace that would mean the conflict’s end in a permanent two-state solution.”

Both statements are falsehoods. Most Palestinian sources that I am familiar with recognize that their history, their leadership has its own faults. There is also plenty of material indicating that the Palestinians are capable of compromise in their search for peace, to the point of recognizing Israel’s existence.

What is true is that, yes, the Palestinians are victims of military occupation, harassment, and torture, and yes they are victims of military rule that contravenes several international sources of law. What is also true is that they are not passive (a significantly incomprehensible statement for anyone following all the protests and violence in the region).

Rubin’s statements about the passivity of the Palestinians is a somewhat clever reversal of the Israeli’s inculcated doctrine that they are the innocent victims of Palestinian and Islamist terror, and are incapable of acting and reflecting on perhaps why the Palestinians are acting this way – or in his own words, Israelis “…are always presented as victims, passive observers, people who have nothing to do with their own fate.” When his words are reversed in intention, they carry a similar falsehood.

Israel plays the victim role, yet it is the occupier, the aggressor, the perpetrator who wished from the inception of the Eretz Israel dream to ethnically cleanse all of the area of Palestinians. Because the Palestinians did not just passively move out of the way, and with fluctuating levels of belligerence and insurrection, the Israelis play to the world’s sympathies as victims of their own culpability.

Camp David

Rubin’s ‘factual’ support begins with Camp David. He says Arafat and the Palestinian leadership “were offered a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem and billions of dollars in start-up funding twice in the year 2000.…” This “offer” had nothing on paper, there is no record of anything written down so that outside observers could examine what was said or truly offered. Unless something is in writing, especially in political agreements, it is worthless.

What was offered was offered verbally (if at all, see below), and by best accounts was not a state but a truncated series of bantustan like cantons surrounded by areas of Israeli control, with the Jordan valley remaining under Israel Defence Forces military control. There was no sovereignty offered, no sovereign rule over a contiguous piece of sovereign territory. In reality there was not even an offer made, as Robert Malley, Clinton’s Special Assistant for Arab-Israeli Affairs and his advisor at Camp David. Malley indicated, “It is hard to state with confidence how far Barak was actually prepared to go….His strategy was predicated on the belief that Israel ought not reveal its final position – not even to the United States – until the endgame was in sight.” [1] That endgame of course is the continued settlement of the West Bank until Israeli control is absolute.

Rubin follows the generally accepted Israeli obfuscation concerning Jerusalem and reiterates it as fact. The verbal tricks around the description of a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem indicates that the capital in East Jerusalem should more correctly have been labelled as ‘east of’ Jerusalem in Abu-Dis, as “It is only through this deceptive use of definitions that Israel can claim that it proposes that the city be divided into the Jewish part “Jerusalem” and the Palestinian part, “Al-Quds.” [2]