It Can Be Done: Negotiate an End to the Siege of Gaza

Today, the gutless American political class has abdicated its responsibility for the actions of the Israel Defense Forces. Few people living in the Middle East or anywhere else make the distinction between the United States and Israel, nor should they with all those weapons stamped: “Made in the USA.” It’s supremely foolish to conclude that Israel can never negotiate with Hamas on lifting the siege of Gaza.

The American rhetoric of spreading “freedom” has been a legitimizing argument dating back to the 1898 Spanish-American War when we were “liberating” the Cubans and Filipinos from the yoke of Spanish colonialism. Today in Gaza what the IDF is doing with “Operation Protective Edge” has no such legitimizing symbolic component. Unlike prototypical American interventions this one really has no redeeming or legitimizing rhetorical flourishes about “helping” the people they’re bombing.

When the US Senate votes 100 to 0 to support whatever the IDF does in Gaza our political “leaders” might not realize it but they’re undermining the ideological architecture that has allowed them to drive this country into every other war.

United States military interventions have always been accompanied by justifications that emphasize the goal of social uplift for the country under attack. The US might bomb women and children but we’re there to “help” our allies build schools and clinics or bring “freedom” and “women’s rights” to the dispossessed. The violence is targeted (we are told) at those opponents who would sabotage the good progress the US is trying to make in Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq.

With the break up of Iraq and Syria, the rise of ISIS and other newly-minted anti-Western groups, and the realization that the United States is not going re-invade Iraq nor bomb Iran, the neo-conservative juggernaut, as far as US policy goes (for now) is effectively finished (with or without another 9-11).

The discourse around the Israel-Palestine struggle has an antiquated settler state accent to it more akin to the America of the 19th Century when white people were “defending” themselves against the onslaught of Native Americans (whose lands were being annexed). In the 20th Century, especially since the Second World War, the portrayal of US military action is always sold as being altruistic in nature. The US engages in wars only reluctantly and for the highest ideals. There’s a big disconnect here between the US and Israeli systems of legitimation.

The historical context for the Israel-Palestine fight today has changed markedly from what it has been over the past half century. This is not 1967, or 1973, or 1982 (when the IDF invaded Lebanon), or the mid-’90s (with the Oslo agreement), or the time of the two Intifadas, or even 2002 when the IDF corralled Yasser Arafat and put him under house arrest in Ramallah. Today in Iraq Sunni fanatics dominate large swathes of the country and have already ethnically cleansed the Christians from Mosul after a pretty good run of 1,900 years.

With the break up of Iraq and Syria, the rise of ISIS and other newly-minted anti-Western groups, and the realization that the United States is not going re-invade Iraq nor bomb Iran, the neo-conservative juggernaut, as far as US policy goes (for now) is effectively finished (with or without another 9-11).

Bibi Netanyahu’s stubborn conviction that Israel can never talk to Hamas fails to take into account the shifting regional and global dynamics. His viewpoint is just a fearful, right-wing reaction that fails to recognize the shifting contours of history.

Pro-war voices always say that negotiations are impossible. The white minority rulers of South Africa said it – but Apartheid collapsed. The East German regime said it – but the Berlin Wall came down. The Protestants in Northern Ireland said it too.

Times change. And the United States is no longer the superpower it once was. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have depleted our resources and have created a broad based domestic anti-war backlash. In addition, the nation suffers from historic levels of income and wealth inequality, chronic trade imbalances, mass incarceration, a huge national debt, and a Congress with precious little connection to the will of the people. In short, the US is in no position to allow its surrogates to dictate terms.

joseph palermoDuring the Vietnam War, New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy tried to explain to his pro-war detractors why he was calling for talks when they claimed the US was “winning.” “I thought we were at a critical time,” he said. “And before we take the final plunge to even greater escalation, I think we should try negotiation. If we can’t find the answer to it we can always go back to the war.”

In November 1967, Kennedy questioned the moral appeals that had been made from the earliest days of the US intervention. He told a panel of Washington journalists on Face the Nation that the US’s “moral position” in the conflict had “changed tremendously.” “[W]e’re killing South Vietnamese; we’re killing children; we’re killing women; we’re killing innocent people.” Kennedy had not yet announced his presidential run but his speeches and other public remarks on Vietnam challenged the narrative that had enabled the war in the first place. Wittingly or not, RFK had shredded the pro-war moral appeals.

Kennedy was also a strong supporter of Israel. Days before he was murdered at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, he had appeared at an event in that city wearing a yarmulke and calling for advanced fighter jets to be sent to Israel. A 24-year-old Palestinian who apparently had been enraged by RFK’s views fired his $30 Iver-Johnson pistol at the Senator shortly after Kennedy won the California Democratic primary. The Canadian historian, Gil Troy, (an uncritical booster of Israel) has referred to RFK’s assassination as the first act of “Arab terrorism” on US soil. So, RFK, who might have become President of the United States, was murdered at the age of 42 ostensibly as an indirect byproduct of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Enough is enough.

Joseph Palermo

Joseph Palermo

History cannot be frozen in place. Things have a way of moving along. Just consider how social media has countered the dominant narrative of the current IDF attack on Gaza and one can see that we now reside in a new world.

There are so many stakeholders, not only in the Middle East but also in Europe and beyond, that would like to see an end to this madness in Gaza. The vital thing confronting us today is for the United States to put pressure on Israel to lift the siege of Gaza and seek a viable and realistic political solution.

And if negotiations fail, as RFK said about Vietnam in 1967, “we can always go back to the war.” The vital thing is to try.

Joe Palermo

Reposted with permission from Joseph Palermo’s Blog.


  1. matinah says

    since the antimissle device is working, we are told by israel, why the need to attack the civilians in gaza? they are the ones dying in record numbers. this is truly becoming more & more senseless, bizarre, insane.

    • Ryder says

      Are you kidding? The iron dome is “functioning”. It would be highly inappropriate to say that it is offering perfect protection, OR, that the weapons that it defends against are the only ones being used against Israel.

      This being the case, it’s obvious why Israel maintains an offensive…. Not to mention that the best defense is a good offense.

      And it is further dishonest to say they are attacking civilians. They are attacking military targets.

      Their attackers have chosen to use innocent people, including children, as human shields for their weapons.

      Raise your hand, if you think children should be used as shields in war.

      If you’re not raising your hand… then why are you not denouncing it?

      Silence = support in this case.

  2. hwood007 says

    I would like very much to read your theory of the war in Ukraine. I see it as a country that was once the third largest holder of nuclear weapons and made a treaty with two super powers (Russia and America) to come to it’s aid if attacked from another country, if it were to give away all nuclear weapons, it gave them to Russia.
    Now Ukraine has one of the signers invading it and the other signer not defending it. What say you of this??

    Guess which singer received the nuclear weapons, not the US. I do not think you have military skills nor do not think you play chess at a high level, which is sorely needed to play any real games of war.

  3. Carlene Brown says

    I agree wholeheartedly with you, Gene! Glad to see that you and I share the same views as this writer on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

  4. Gene Rothman says

    Your past few articles have been outstanding. I will continue to look for your upcoming ones with anticipation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *