Context Matters Except for the Palestinians

2 Aug

Context Matters Except for the Palestinians


Just imagine the Israeli reaction to a peace plan put forth by a future U.S. president elected to pursue the agenda of ‘the squad,’*[*]appointing Noam Chomsky, the head of CAIR, and Medea Benjamin on assuming office to lead its moves toward peace in the Middle East. Imagine further that prior to disclosing President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s revolutionary peace initiative, Washington’s new leadership took the following unilateral steps: tabling a Security Council Resolution calling for the dismantling of the Israeli separation wall in accord with the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the World Court, insisting on Israeli adherence to Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Conventions while calling for the prompt re-settlement of all Israeli settlers behind the 1967 Green Line, and informing Congress of its intention to discontinue further annual economic and military assistance to Israel. In addition to these ‘provocations,’ the U.S. energetically pursued a regional diplomacy with Arab neighbors designed to exert the greatest possible pressure on Israel to go along with whatever Washington proposes or suffer severe adverse consequences.


I know this would strike even most pro-Palestinians as an absurd way to seek sustainable and just peace arrangements, but this is precisely the road taken by the White House in its multiple acrobatic moves designed to build leverage for the Trump/Kushner ‘deal of the century.’ Even Obama’s feeble attempts to balance the scales ever so slightly brought fury to the lips of most Israelis, including its leaders. We can hardly imagine the Israeli response to a peace initiative launched by the squad along the above lines, which for all of its seeming radical character would actually be reasonable from the perspective of international law and morality even as it was causing collective apoplexy in Tel Aviv. The absurdity of this inverted ‘peace’ scenario should help us understand how extreme has been the pro-Israeli brand of extremism of the Trump White House. The fact that this has to be demonstrated rather than taken for granted underscores how victimized the Palestinian national struggle has become in the eyes of many of us in the West.


Equally worth observing is the discourse on the Trump diplomacy adopted by Zionist apologists, and even some anti-Trump liberals and Israeli peace activists such as Gershon Baskin. Their bad faith message to the Palestinians is along three parallel lines: “Don’t repeat past mistakes by simply rejecting Trump’s peace proposals,” “Under the circumstances, what Trump offers is the best Palestine can hope for given altered conditions on the ground and in the region,” and “Don’t reject in advance, participate, listen attentively, responding favorably to any positive elements, and project an image of constructive engagement.” Revealingly, this advice to the Palestinians is set forth without any consideration of the extreme anti-Palestinian contextcreated by a series of deliberate moves by Trump from the moment he was elected. Can you even imagine giving Israeli leadership this kind of advice if the political realities were ever to be reversed?


It hardly requires a vivid imagination to conjure up the expletives that would undoubtedly lend color to the most probable Israeli responses to being told what to do in comparable circumstances. The Palestinians, in contrast, are being chastised for not being receptive and refusing to come to the table with an open mind. True, the Palestinian Authority has not shown much finesse in handling the situation, relying on the sufficiency of its skeptical mumbling and an ambivalent public ‘NO.’ Better would have been an explanation along these lines, “Given the hostility toward Palestinian concerns that have been a trademark of the Trump presidency since its beginning, how can anyone in their right mind expect us to be so foolish as to pretend that there exists any basis for exploring the Trump/Kushner proposals as if they might offer a fair resolution of our long struggle for the most basic rights of the Palestinian people?” Sitting down in such a tilted diplomatic atmosphere would be the height of folly for the Palestinians, making them seem without dignity or understanding, mere puppets assembled so that their enemies could manipulate the strings.


Palestinians could and should have done better in setting forth their own vision of peace.  The extreme one-sidedness of the Trump approach handed Palestinians a golden opportunity to declare as convincingly as possible the urgent and immediate need for a new peace intermediary that was a facilitator, and not a partisan as past American presidents, or worse, an imposer as this one seems to be. The United States had long overplayed its hand as ‘honest broker,’ but now it had gone so far as to make any further Palestinian acceptance of the American role a source of humiliation, if not a sign of political senility.


It is worth noticing always, how the background of pro-Israeli objectionable behavior is treated by international commentary. When the context of justification is overlooked or repressed it usually signals an intention to persuade the audience by excluding complicating considerations, in this instance, the multiple signs that the United States has destroyed all reasonable expectations on the part of the Palestinians of fairness or objectivity in a proposed peace process. The Oslo framework as set forth in 1993 was deficient from these points of view but the deal of the century/peace from prosperity framework is so much worse, and yet it stands unrepudiated. When the context is put forward, it represents a genuine attempt to discover whether there are reasonable grounds for moving forward, and in this case there are none.


In the end, there is an underlying misinterpretation that has further distorted most commentary. What is being sought by Trump’s ‘peace diplomacy’ is not a political compromise that takes accounts of the basic rights of the two peoples, but a victory of one side over the other. It is an approach lightly theorized by Daniel Pipes and his confederates at the Middle East Forum, seeking to justify and advocate an increase of coercive U.S. and Israeli moves that will induce the Palestinians to acknowledge political defeat and submit to conditions at the behest of the Israeli victor. Thus, the success of the Trump/Netanyahu approach is not a matter of finding common ground between the two sides to form an agreement, but turning the screws of oppression so tight that the Palestinians will surrender. The approach has relied upon unilateral punitive actions supplemented by regional and global geopolitical leverage, but little direct violence beyond the endorsement of Israeli excessive force in dealing with the Great March of Return over the course of the last 68 Fridays.


Against this background, there exists an opportunity for responsible Palestinian leaders to do more than sit sullenly on their hands. In addition to explaining why Trump’s moves makes the traditional U.S. role unacceptable for purposes of negotiation, the Palestinians of all factions should do their utmost to set aside their disagreements, and achieve a unity of purpose, at least for the duration of their national struggle. Even more important might be, seizing the diplomatic initiative by making public a document that develops a comprehensive peace proposal that stakes out in general terms the contours of a political compromise on Jerusalem, settlements, statehood, borders, refugees, water, offshore resources, economic cooperation, security, and whatever else seems relevant. Even if only in the form of a declaration of principles, with explanatory commentary, it would manifest an intention to do more than refuse the paltry offerings that Kushner, Inc. is peddling throughout the region.  Such a positive initiative articulated by the Palestinian side is long overdue, would be of help to the Palestinians in the continuous ‘public relations war’ that may in the end be as relevant to the political struggle as the diplomatic tug of war or even resistance struggles. At this stage, nothing would give greater weight to Palestinian demands than its backing of an approach to peace that would seem so much reasonable and responsible than what is now being promoted by the Trump White House.


The basic point lingers. Context matters, and when it is eliminated, assessments of behavioral reasonableness are bound to be distorted and extremely misleading, especially if what is at stake is highly contested. This is particularly true for the Trump/Kushner unabashedly cruel approach to peace that can only be properly understood as placing a thin veil of deception over a concerted push to achieve an Israeli ‘victory’ while pretending to seek peace on the basis of political compromise. This emperor has no clothes! Those who care about justice must not let this happen!  



[*]‘The Squad’ is the name given to a group of four progressive Congress persons elected in 2016, and challenging the bipartisan precepts of American foreign policy. Their names are Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and best known, Alexandria Ortiz-Cortiz.

15 Responses to “Context Matters Except for the Palestinians”

  1. Carlos August 2, 2019 at 10:56 pm #

    I fully agree with you Richard. It is disappointing that the PA has not done more. Yet as UK politics show, the Zionist influence is worldwide. It is like a spreading cancer that distorted human aspirations for decades. Until humans reject the notion of a god, it will continue.

  2. Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka August 3, 2019 at 12:08 am #

    A superb and succinct piece by Richard. His opening move of imagining an intrinsically moderate peace initiative by an AOC Presidency being met with a reaction of collective hysteria by one side, and his subsequent suggestion of an alternative plan for peace through mutual compromise to be presented by a unified Palestinian side, work. The latter is roughly analogous to the efforts by the Vietnamese NLF at the Paris peace talks. Richard’s idea is the only exit ramp I have seen from this hellish impasse.

  3. roberthstiver August 3, 2019 at 1:16 am #

    Superb! Indisputably, Trump (with his dastardly chorus eagerly exploiting the opportunity), has no concept of context, or history, or justice, or a viable path forward. Indescribably hard days we are enduring, with the Palestinians suffering worse than Job ever suffered.

  4. Gene Schulman August 3, 2019 at 2:21 am #

    Peace in Palestine? For all of Richard’s wisdom, there will be no peace in Palestine until every last Palestinian is driven out. All you have to do is watch a few of the above videos to see how Israel wants peace. “Peace in our time”, on Israeli terms!

    • Richard Falk August 3, 2019 at 10:16 pm #

      Gene: I stand with those seeking a better future for the Palestinian people, agreeing that the PRESENT outlook is
      dismal, but knowing that history is capable of pleasant, as well as unpleasant surprises. As long as uncertainty about the future is part of the human condition, there is no good excuse for despair or turning away from those seeking a sustainable and just future for both peoples.

      • Gene Schulman August 4, 2019 at 12:03 am #

        I apologize for my cynicism, Richard. Of course you are right; one must never give up in the face of tyranny. I was just venting my my frustration, because I have never seen such intentional malice we are living with since I was growing up in the ’30s, and blatant fascism was abroad in the land. And, yes, we did overcome that!

    • roberthstiver August 3, 2019 at 11:15 pm #

      Thank you very much for this. Bless Btselem.

  5. ray032 August 3, 2019 at 7:39 am #

    Richard, I hope you still have some kind of channel with Palestinian Leaders and can convey your good advice and experience with International Law?

    As it becomes evident the sun is setting on the US Empire, it accuses Russia, Iran and China of attempting to undermine the Global Order (of US Hegemony.) The Truth and Reality is, in it’s blind hubris of US exceptionalism, the US already undermined the Global Order and International Law.

    Americans may be in denial, but the World knows, the US went to the United Nations Security Council, using FAKE evidence supplied by US Intelligence Agencies, asking for the Legal Authority only the UNSC can give, to invade Iraq and effect regime change in Iraq the US planned within weeks of 9/11, with it’s WAR PLANS to remake the Middle East in the image of Israel/US. The UNSC denied that Legal cover.

    With it’s delusional notions of exceptionalism, the US invaded Iraq anyway, in violation of International Law, undermining the Global Order as represented by the United Nations since WWII, ushering in the Law of the Jungle to the Middle East and this World. It paved the way for Iran to increase it’s influence in their own part of the World where the US is operating so far from their own part of the World.

    “the Palestinians of all factions should set aside their disagreements, and achieve a unity of purpose, at least for the duration of their national struggle.”

    History shows every time Hamas and the PLO announced the intention to work toward a National Unity Government, Israel did something to nip that in the bud.

    As Palestinians know from before the Days of Trump, the US is not an honest Broker. Maybe the Christian Zealots making up his base are advising Trump to do all the things that will make Armageddon come to be?

  6. Beau Oolayforos August 3, 2019 at 11:01 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    What is needed, then, is an impartial mediator. But who? One can imagine that the Swiss, the Genevans especially, get quite weary with entertaining the world’s problems.
    The Norwegians seem busy with Venezuela, and the signs even look a little hopeful. The UN would of course be ideal, though the procedural issues appear daunting at the moment. Improvement should come next fall, when we get regime change in the USA.

  7. lidia August 4, 2019 at 10:05 am #

    “I know this would strike even most pro-Palestinians as an absurd way to seek sustainable and just peace arrangements”
    NO, it would NOT! I would say it is just stupid PR.
    REAL way to just(!) peace in Palestine is to end Zionist apartheid colonization of Palestine. And to do this this colony must be under BDS without any(!) slack, like apartheid SA had been.

  8. Fred Skolnik August 6, 2019 at 11:09 am #

    Just to keep you up to date, Prof. Falk, about what your clients are up to and why there is a wall and why there are searches and arrests.

    (From the Times of Israel)

    Shin Bet busts Hamas cell planning Jerusalem bombing attack
    Bomb-maker kept materials in school next to his house, endangering civilians, agency says; 3-kilogram device had dozens of pieces of metal attached to it for maximum damage
    By JUDAH ARI GROSS Today, 5:47 pm

    A bomb studded with pieces of metal that was created by a Hamas agent in the West Bank city of Hebron for a planned terror attack in Jerusalem, which was found and destroyed by Israeli forces in June 2019. (Shin Bet)
    The Shin Bet security service on Tuesday said it thwarted plans by Hamas members from Hebron to conduct a bombing attack in Jerusalem earlier this summer, retrieving the three-kilogram (6.6 pounds) explosive device they intended to use.
    The Shin Bet said the cell, along with others arrested by Israeli forces in recent months, had been directed to carry out attacks against Israeli and Palestinian Authority targets by Hamas’s military wing in the Gaza Strip.
    “The operatives in the West Bank were instructed to form cells in order to carry out kidnappings, shootings and stabbings, purchase weaponry, and find and recruit additional operatives for terrorist activities,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
    The security service did not elaborate on the details of the planned Jerusalem bombing.

    A member of the cell planning the Jerusalem bombing, university student Tamer Rajah Rajbi, was arrested in Hebron in June, leading to additional arrests of other Hamas operatives, including other students, the security service said.
    Details of the case were censored until Tuesday, after Rajbi’s indictment the day before. Other members of the cell were indicted in recent weeks.
    According to the Shin Bet, Rajbi, 22, was recruited by Hamas to act as a bomb-maker for the organization and was trained in manufacturing explosive devices. To that end, he set up an improvised laboratory in his home and kept some of the materials in a school next to his house, putting the surrounding civilians at risk, the security service said.
    “During his arrest, Tamer handed over an explosive device weighing three kilograms (6.6 pounds), which had dozens of pieces of metal attached to it to maximize fragmentation and injury in the explosion. The device was meant to be used to carry out a bombing attack,” the Shin Bet said.

    The bomb that the Shin Bet said on August 6, 2019, that Hamas members intended to detonate in Jerusalem. (Shin Bet)
    A photograph of the device showed that it was covered in small pieces of metal, which would be hurled into bystanders by the power of the blast and cause additional damage. The bomb was destroyed in a controlled explosion by Israeli security forces.
    Rajbi studied at Hebron’s Palestine Polytechnic University and was an active member in the Hamas-affiliaited al-Kutla al-Islamiya student group, the Shin Bet said.
    “Tamer was trained by a network in the Gaza Strip, using the internet, receiving a detailed presentation on how to purchase the ingredients needed to create explosive and how to manufacture [bombs],” the Shin Bet said.
    The security service said in addition to the three-kilogram bomb, Rajbi had been tasked by Gaza-based Hamas operatives with creating more bombs for terror attacks in his makeshift lab.

    According to the Shin Bet, Rajbi enlisted the help of another Palestine Polytechnic University student, Yusef Atrash, 22, in this effort.
    “Yusef assisted Tamer in purchasing the components needed for manufacturing the bomb,” the security service said.
    The Shin Bet identified two Gaza-based Hamas members as responsible for directing Rajbi’s activities: Ramzi al-Ouk and Ahmed Katari.
    “The Hamas terror group is not queasy about the tools it uses and takes advantage of young people from the West Bank, harming them and their families, in order to advance terrorist activities,” the Shin Bet said.
    In May, the security service arrested a Hamas agent from the Gaza Strip accused of traveling to the West Bank and then Israel in order to set up an explosives lab, under the guise of needing medical treatment.
    Fadi Abu al-Sabah, 35, was recruited by Hamas in July of 2018 and trained by the terror group’s military wing for about a year. He was taught to create explosives and bombs with the aim of carrying out attacks against Israelis, the Shin Bet said last month.

    Fadi Abu al-Sabah, a Gaza resident who Shin Bet said entered Israel with a humanitarian permit while planning to set up an explosives lab in the West Bank (Shin Bet)
    Al-Sabah was arrested after he crossed into the Arab Israeli town of Taybeh.
    In recent months, the Shin Bet says it has thwarted several attempts by Hamas to establish infrastructure in the West Bank with the purpose of carrying out terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank.
    In March the Israeli military arrested a Hamas operative suspected of planning a suicide car bombing to coincide with Israel’s national elections in April.
    And in June, the Shin Bet said it arrested a Jordanian national acting on behalf of Iranian intelligence to establish a spy network in Israel and the West Bank.

    • Richard Falk August 6, 2019 at 9:51 pm #

      I wonder why you have shifted the conversation away from the issues raised in my post. Actually, I think I know why..

      And to reference my ‘clients’ as those you deem ‘terrorists’ tells
      a lot about your state of mind, and your view of those who dare criticize Israel.

      • mirash August 6, 2019 at 9:59 pm #

        And I wonder why you don’t condemn what I “deem” terrorists. Don’t you deem them terrorists too? Or are you again trying to rationalize murder through the back door.

        As for your “issues,” I have addressed them dozens of times in the past. And I have also pointed out what distinguishes hatred from criticism.

    • Gene Schulman August 6, 2019 at 11:08 pm #

      Times of Israel? Fake news!!!

      Fred Skolnik? State of mind? Troll!!!

  9. roberthstiver August 7, 2019 at 12:01 am #

    Yesterday, I received this report of a particularly egregious, surely psychosis-driven evil. It details just one example of the Zionist regime’s vindictive failure (more clearly, refusal) to comply with the imperatives of international law as related to (paraphrase) (i) caring for the humanitarian needs of an occupied population to include refraining from interrupting the daily rhythm of the people’s lives and land and (ii) the absolute prohibition of collective punishment of the occupied population. —

    I forwarded it to the US SECSTATE with specific demands for action.

    Crimes against humanity committed by a supposed member of the family of nations naturally engender resistance and retaliation by oppressed dissident groups and individuals pursuing their inalienable rights, aspirations, justice, freedom, and indeed their very existence.

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