To James Zogby, History's Repeating Itself in the Middle East





James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, in the Gulf News (Middle East) (Feb. 17, 2004):

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The dynamic in today's Israeli-Palestinian and US relationship is distur-bingly similar to the Zionist-Palestinian-British relationship of the 1920s.

Back then, the Zionists made no secret of their intent to take advantage of the mandate to prepare the foundation of their future state. And so they brought into Palestine tens of thousands of Jewish settlers, acquired Arab land, built colonies and created the infrastructure of a nascent state within the mandate.

The Arabs of Palestine, at the same time, had no coherent response to this growing threat. To be sure, they convened congresses and passed resolutions arguing that the mandate had no legitimacy and the Balfour Declaration was without legal foundation.

As pressure grew, from the impact of Zionist immigration and land acquisition, the Arabs demonstrated, rioted, and, faced with overwhelming force, were beaten. For their part, the British who created and allowed this dilemma to develop and fester, acted as arbiters to what they termed" competing cla-ims".

At times, they appeared beleaguered by their burden (never acknowledging that it had been largely of their own making). But by their actions and inactions they enabled the Zionist enterprise to succeed.

Today a similar set of dynamics is at work. The Israeli colonial enterprise in the West Bank has continued unabated since the late 1960s. During the 1990s – the years of Oslo – Israeli governments, both Labor and Likud, pursued what could only be described as a massive 'land grab'.

Settler population in the occupied Palestinian lands doubled and settler blocs along the Green Line, in strategic fingers cutting deep into the West Bank, and in a large section of land around occupied Jerus-alem, grew massively.

More ominously, while negotiators met, a network of Israeli highways was being built connecting these colonies to Israel proper, making clear a strategic plan to maintain control of these burgeoning Jewish-only communities. In the process, Palestinians lost control of more and more land and saw their dream of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza evaporate.

As Palestinians became corralled into several blocs, cut off by colonies and security roads, they demonstrated, rioted and ultimately resorted to horrific acts of violence.

In response, Israel acted to further consolidate its hold over these colonies by building a wall and barrier fence that has taken more Palestinian land and disposed more Palestinians of their livelihood and their hopes.

The official Palestinian response to all of this has been to issue appeals for justice. They've gone to the United Nations and passed resolutions and now they have gone to the World Court seeking a judgment.

The United States, self-declared inheritor of the British mantle, acts as beleaguered as its predecessor as it proclaims, in frustration, its weary attempt"to balance competing claims". But the United States, like the British before them, is more enabler than mediator.


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