Why Not Liberate Palestine?

Now that the neoconservatives in the White House are gloating about how successful the war in Iraq has been prosecuted, we need to ask a completely legitimate and pertinent question: will we liberate the Palestinians?

The Administration's argument that force was necessary to disarm Iraq has always been weak and disingenuous. Now that the United States has invaded and essentially taken over Iraq, the Potomac Waltz has already begun. Suddenly, it's not really about finding weapons of mass destruction but rather the liberation of the long suffering Iraqi people. Now we can all rest better that America launched a war based solely on moral grounds and not for the reasons everyone could have sworn was the case: disarmament, and most importantly, terrorism.

The absence thus far of weapons of mass destruction should be used as a battering ram by war opponents but not before asking the next logical question: if we went in to free the Iraqis from a horrible dictator, why will we not use our considerable power to liberate the Middle East's other oppressed people, the Palestinians?

For over thirty years, the Palestinians have lived their lives as wretched beggars: stateless within their own land and in perpetual conflict with their overlords, the Israelis. They have been forced to live in humiliation and degradation -- their lives made more miserable with check points, limited movement, and an economy totally dependent on Israel and subject to further disarray in times of renewed violence.

The leadership of the Palestinians -- set up with such fanfare and hope less than 10 years ago -- has also proven to be lacking. Corruption, vice and intimidation have not advanced the Palestinian national cause any more than acts of horrific violence carried out by militant groups. Yassir Arafat, whose name will be on any final agreement document with the Israelis no matter what the latter wants or claims, has proven a better political survivor than statesman. His virtual lock on everything has stalled the peace process as much as Israeli's continued occupation and degradation of Palestine. The recent appointment of a prime minister is a step in the right direction -- provided of course the new position can act without having to be blocked by an aging man who still thinks he should be firmly in control.

With much prodding by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, George W. Bush spoke in grandiose terms about the much vaunted "road map" for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, though he offered nothing concrete (and certainly nothing that the so-called Quartet hasn't seen before) and has promised that the war in Iraq would pave the way for peace in Palestine. But why not apply the same logic of the Iraqi Expedition to the situation in Palestine?

The Arab Middle East sees the Israeli-Palestinian issue as the number one issue in the region: not Saddam Hussein and his weapons of vaporware, not the mullahs in Iran or the ulemah in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. Arabs see the violence in Palestine and wonder why no one is doing anything to help the Palestinians. Arabs see Palestinians being killed on a daily basis, houses blown up and Israelis confiscating more and more land. For the Arabs in general, land grabs and increased settlements are illegal and obstacles to peace, making a viable Palestinian state less and less obvious. From their perspective, an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip represents only 30% of historic Palestine -- a raw deal made even worse with continued settlement expansion that chips away at the notion of territorial contiguity. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent indication that Israel has made "suggestions" about the terms of the road map only confirms that any agreement would not be based on mutuality, but rather on conditions that give Israel the edge.

The Arabs believe that the United States is the only country in the world that can leverage Israel fully. They also believe that the United States is uncritical and blindly supportive of the Jewish State which puts them on the horns of a dilemma that is not easy to resolve: they need us but don't want us, and they don't want to need us.

But there might be an opportunity to assert moral leverage on the Bush Administration, now that it is in the liberation business. If you are going to free the Iraqis, why not the Palestinians? Pro-Israel hawks will immediately insist the situations are totally different, but on the broad level, how? Both people have been suffering for decades and are decidedly powerless. If the Bush Administration insists that the Palestinians must renounce and stop all the violence, isn't the same as telling the Iraqis: "Get rid of your weapons of mass destruction and then we'll go in and liberate you?" Rousseau once stated that you sometimes have to force people to be free, so why not help the powerless Palestinians by giving them something more tangible than road maps to peace? Why not impose a Palestinian state from above, seeing as that it cannot grow from below?

If someone says that Israel is a sovereign country and the United States could not go in and create the independent state of Palestine by pure fiat, simply point out the Iraqi Expedition. Are not we going in and imposing a new government and form of societal structure by fiat? Are we not doing it in the name of the freedom of the Iraqi people? The last time anyone checked, the Iraqis did not invite us into their country, but we're there and in control. The corporate-owned media in the United States has sold the invasion to a gullible public under the rubric of freeing the Iraqis from a hated dictator, why not carry that moral mission to its logical next step and save the Palestinians from their hated occupiers?

If the United States would use its power to impose an agreement on the Israelis and the Palestinians, it would in one fell swoop ease the tension that the Arabs feel about the United States. They would mistrust the motives of the US but a concrete action that weighed the dignity and humanity of the Palestinians against those of the Israelis would be interpreted as the most significant step to managing the conflict. The United States cannot say it's an honest broker and expect everyone to take its word for it -- it must do something powerful and significant to prove its commitment to peace.

Unwittingly, the neoconservatives have given plenty of ammunition to make the moral case for liberating the Palestinians next. They have embarked us on a road of nation-building and should be held responsible for seeing it through consistently. It is only logical and imperative that we liberate the Palestinians next. Dumping Saddam Hussein will not diminish terror because the Middle East does not care about him, but they do care about the Palestinians and their suffering. A stateless, powerless people against a nation with one of the region's best- trained and most powerful army is begging for the United States to come in and save them.

Let's just see if we have the wherewithal to do it.