Miko Peled
The San Diego Union-Tribune (Opinion)
January 14, 2010 - 1:00am

The Palestinian national struggle continues to be largely ignored by the Obama administration. Our new president has failed to bring a new approach. As has been the case for the last 40 years, Palestinian attempts to settle the conflict through diplomacy are ignored or downplayed. When violence erupts, Palestinians are blamed and labeled terrorists. The United States maintains the charade that peace in Israel/Palestine is a priority and every new administration promises to bring the much-promised peace to the region only to fall into the same pattern of inaction and excuse-making. Israel and the U.S. are pursuing a course seemingly calculated to reduce Palestinians to a state of hopelessness.

Gaza remains under siege even though it has no army, no air force, and no navy. It has no tanks, planes, or helicopters. Gaza has no anti-aircraft or anti-tank missiles, no warning systems, and no refuge in which its 1.5 million civilians (including 800,000 children) can hide when the attacks by Israel commence.

Recently, more than 1,000 activists from more than 40 countries converged in Cairo to commemorate the anniversary of Israel’s December 2008 assault on Gaza. Our intention was to travel through Sinai, enter Gaza through Rafah and participate in a solidarity march with the people of Gaza. But the Egyptian authorities would not allow it, and the majority of the delegates had to remain in Cairo. The Egyptians are adamant in keeping almost all out of Gaza.

This resulted in sit-ins, hunger strikes and civil disobedience of a sort Egypt is not accustomed to and to which it normally would respond with unrestrained violence. The Egyptian authorities refrained from shooting at international participants (though not Palestinians on the border), presumably because there would be repercussions if Americans, Europeans or South Africans were shot. But Egyptian forces did engage in beating and harassing marchers. In the realm of absolute dictatorships, even those receiving $2 billion per year in American aid, this is hardly surprising.

The willingness to confront the Egyptian authorities is noteworthy. Israeli culpability will, however, probably be front and center again in the near future. Israel, based on its track record, can be expected to treat international protesters as harshly as the Egyptians – and perhaps worse. Two young Americans who confronted the Israeli military during nonviolent protests have already paid dearly: in 2003, Rachel Corrie was run over and killed by an Israeli army bulldozer and, in March, Tristan Anderson was shot in the face with a tear-gas canister by an Israeli soldier. His fate, following a massive head injury, is unclear.

Following Egypt’s brutal suppression of peace activists and humanitarian workers during the last days of 2009 and first days of 2010, many people are now wondering why the Egyptians, fellow Arabs to the Palestinians, are acting as willing enforcers of a siege that was put in place by Israel and the United States.

Egypt is soon to face a major regime change. President Hosni Mubarak is almost 82 years old and has no agreed successor. He has, however, been grooming his son Gamal for the position. Egyptians do not wish to see a dynasty established in their country. Consequently, Mubarak needs support from the U.S. and from Israel to make this work. Keeping Gaza under lock and key is a small price to pay to ensure the safe passage of power from father to son.

Ever since President Jimmy Carter brokered the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, Israel has had no military rival in the region. Its military advantage has allowed it to act with impunity and is the main reason that no significant political progress has been made with the Palestinians or Syrians. For a peace agreement with either one, Israel would have to return to the pre-1967 borders. It is increasingly evident Israel has no interest in reverting to these lines because it believes it has the military might to dominate and not abide by international law.

Unless the U.S. and Israel begin to move in the direction of Palestinian independence, freedom and equal rights, one may expect more popular resistance. Since Egypt is only a servant in this issue, the protests are sure to engulf Israel, and soon. Meanwhile, popular sentiment for the Palestinians and for Gaza is growing. The emerging question is whether the U.S. will lead or be led.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017