The Electronic Intifada / November 18, 2020
Some analogies are more palatable than others.
Compare Israel to apartheid South Africa and you run the risk of being branded an anti-Semite.
Suggest that the Middle East can learn some lessons from Ireland and you might just achieve transatlantic respectability.
The Dubliner John Lyndon and the organization he heads, the Alliance for Middle East Peace, know how to court the powerful.
Lyndon has convinced lawmakers in Washington and London to back an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (as it is officially known). The fund would apparently be modelled on aid given to the north of Ireland since the 1980s.
That aid, Lyndon has claimed, “helped to transform communities and create constituencies resilient to violence.”
Lyndon essentially presents the north of Ireland and Palestine as beset by “conflicts” where neighbours can overcome their differences if governments shower them with cash.
Imperialism, state brutality, systematic discrimination, mass surveillance and imprisonment without trial were all causes of or major contributory factors to both “conflicts.” Yet they do not appear to worry Lyndon much, if at all.
Admiration for settlers
Rather, he has internalized a great deal of Israeli propaganda.
Lyndon has written approvingly about the “pioneering dedication” displayed by Israel’s settler movement and blamed Hamas for Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
Earlier this month, the Alliance for Middle East Peace won a commitment from long-standing members of the US Senate that they will advance a bill supporting a fund for Palestine. Once the law comes into effect, the US would provide $250 million to the fund over five years.
Despite all the talk about Ireland serving as a model, the bill does not really take on board the lessons from Ireland’s peace process.
One key lesson was that the oppressed and their spokespeople should not be subjected to political vetting.
Efforts by both the London and Dublin governments to marginalize Sinn Féin on the grounds that it supported an armed struggle proved counterproductive. It was only when the marginalization stopped that tangible results were witnessed.
The bill outlining the conditions of US support for a Palestine fund states that no aid will be available to anyone “involved in or advocating terrorist activity.”
The fund is designed to boost cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian businesses. Tellingly, Israeli entrepreneurs taking part would be under no obligation to denounce state aggression.
Palestinians alone would be required to shun “terrorism.”
“Terrorism” is the catch-all term used by Israel and the US for resistance activities that Palestinians are allowed to carry out under international law.
The proposed fund for Palestine bears similarities to the “economic peace” concept promoted by Benjamin Netanyahu for more than a decade.
That form of “peace” has enabled a small Palestinian elite to become very rich as life gets worse for the majority. It is a “peace” measured by such indicators as how many luxury hotels and fancy restaurants open in Ramallah and nearby locations in the occupied West Bank.
Because Lyndon’s “peace fund” would not threaten Israel’s military occupation in any way, Israel’s supporters are happy with it. The bellicose AIPAC – perhaps the most influential lobby group in Washington – has endorsed the fund, as have more “liberal” pro-Israel outfits such as J Street.
I contacted Lyndon, asking why he wishes to curry favour with apologists for Israeli state violence. Lyndon replied that he felt “we have good answers” to that question and the others I put to him.
He then offered a flimsy excuse for not actually answering the questions. “Colleagues, in Palestine in particular, are concerned that we won’t get a fair hearing and there will be blowback against their work as a result,” he claimed.
Lyndon received some socially distant pats on the back from British politicians this week.
A recommendation that Britain support his fund was made in that country’s parliament on Tuesday.
The “friends of Israel” groups within Britain’s two largest parties appear to be fully behind the measure.
According to Labour Friends of Israel, the fund chimes with the “peaceful coexistence” goals it has been pursuing for many years.
The elected representatives who join Labour Friends of Israel may not grasp the irony here.
They use lofty terms like “peaceful coexistence,” while siding with Israel each time it commits massacres in Gaza.
By butchering Palestinians, stealing their land and demolishing their homes – as occurred on a large scale this month – Israel does not recognize their right to exist, never mind coexist.
Although he has praised the “pioneering” spirit of Israel’s settlers, Lyndon pretends to be offended when those settlers are impolite.
Lyndon urged unnamed Israeli leaders to “call out” what he called “unacceptable rhetoric” this week. The rhetoric came from settlers who interrupted a photo opportunity by European diplomats in East Jerusalem.
Evidently, it is not permitted to distract civil servants as they focus on looking concerned about how Israel is imperilling their two-state pipe dream.
Lyndon is unconvincing when he squirms. Far from being an independent and critical voice, he has ensconced himself in the pro-Israel lobbying network.
He has snuggled up closely to Israel’s elite – as a photograph of him gazing adoringly at the late war criminal Shimon Peres illustrates.
That raises enormous suspicions about what kind of “peace” Lyndon wants.
David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada; his books include Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel and Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation