02 August 2016

In politics of grievance, peace is just a dirty word

From The Australian, August 2, 2016, by Nick Cater:

With hindsight the organisers of the soccer peace tournament between Jewish and Arabic children should have heeded George Orwell’s warning: football is merely war without the shooting.

The kids at least behaved. “I love it when we play together like this,” Qusai, an 11-year-old Palestinian, told journalists. “I hope that one day there will be peace between Arabs and Jews and that there will be no more wars and death.”

Qusai’s dream of a normal life is not shared by local sports administrators, who shudder at the very thought of normality.

Palestinian Olympic Committee chairman Jibril Rajoub demanded “that all individuals and institutions distance themselves from such activities”. Their recurrence would arouse “disgust and aversion” since “any activity of normalisation in sports with the Zionist enemy is a crime against humanity”.

The anti-normalisation movement is the latest pernicious force in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Co-operation between Israelis and Palestinians, no matter how peaceful or helpful, is denounced as a sellout.

The strides towards Palestinian independence that began with the 1993 Oslo Accord have stopped. Today the Palestinian elite and their friends on the international Left forbid even baby steps.

Israeli peace activists attending a grassroots peace conference in Ramallah, on the West Bank, two years ago were confronted by a large poster reading “Normalisation is an act of treason”. They had to be escorted to Israel in police vans when their hotel was stoned. Last year, Arab women taking part in the annual Jerusalem Hug rally were attacked outside the Damascus Gate by Arab youths who ordered them to leave the “normalisation event”.

The international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement instructs academics to shun their Israeli counterparts, presses for boycotts of businesses with tenuous Israeli connections and tries to embarrass rock stars such as Carlos Santana into cancelling Israeli concerts. All in opposition to “normalisation … the colonisation of the mind, whereby the oppressed subject comes to believe that the oppressor’s reality is the only ‘normal’ ”.

“It is vital to counter normalisation activities,” BDS founder Omar Barghouti says. “They constitute a key weapon that Israel has used against the Palestinian struggle for rights in general.”

The disputed Palestinian territories should serve as an object lesson to Western victim-mongers; the politics of grievance achieves little apart from increasing stocks of righteous indignation. The suffering of those they pretend to protect is prolonged; oppression, real or imagined, becomes a lifetime sentence handed down at birth.

Four million Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza are condemned to a grotesque Groundhog Day. If Israel tries to help them, for example by supplying water, electricity or medical assistance, the move is condemned as a Zionist plot. To the anti-normalisation movement any improvement in the lives of the “oppressed subjects” is anathema. Why? Because it would destroy the argument that everything bad is the fault of the “occupation”. The huge gap in income ­ gross domestic product per capita is $36,000 in Israel compared with $1600 in the Palestinian territories ­ is evidence of what they call apartheid and they want to keep it that way.

Palestinians receive the highest per capita development assistance in the world but there is little to show for it. One would think, therefore, that Palestinian sympathisers would welcome an ambitious, privately funded project to build Rawabi, a hi-tech city on the West Bank. There is room for scepticism about the commercial viability of the project, which includes the Middle East’s largest amphitheatre, a 3-D cinema complex and a bungee jump, but that is surely the concern of Bashar Masri, the charismatic Palestinian entrepreneur behind the project and his Qatari backers. The 8000 well-paid construction jobs, a third for women, and the benefits that flow from investing $1.3 billion into the West Bank economy are real enough.

Yet Rawabi has been denounced by the Palestinian BDS National Committee. Masri was rebuked for “a shameless act of normalisation of the worst type that trivialises the sacrifice of those Palestinians that on a daily basis struggle to defend their rights and dignity”.

Masri stands accused of “open relations of cordiality” with “numerous Israeli businessmen”. A separate project allowing Palestinian farmers to learn Israeli desert farming techniques also was censured. “These initiatives could be seen as teaching Palestinians to adapt to Israeli occupation instead of challenging these illegal measures,” the committee says.

Palestine’s acceptance into the Olympic Movement 20 years ago offered a chance to break this deadlock. The Olympic Charter seeks “to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace”. There is no chance for peace, however, so long as obdurate haters such as
Rajoub are in charge of the Palestine Olympic Committee. Less than a year ago Rajoub congratulated the organisers of a table tennis tournament for naming it after terrorist Muhannad Halabi, who murdered a rabbi and a father in Jerusalem last October and stabbed the man’s wife and their two-year-old son before being shot by police.

In January, Rajoub told Palestinian television such terrorists were martyrs and heroes. “We bless you and strengthen your families, and say to you: You are a crown on our heads.”

Australian fellow travellers cannot plead ignorance of the motives of appalling men such as Rajoub, a member of the Fatah Central Committee. True, Palestinian leaders seldom make such statements in English. Yet the glorification of terrorists and the anti-Semitism that feature daily in official Palestinian media is readily available in English, online, thanks to the diligence of Palestinian Media Watch.
Last week the IOC rejected a call for Rajoub to be removed from all Olympic activities. IOC ethics and compliance officer Paquerette Girard Zappelli said the POC was working to “improve relations between the two countries through sport”. Is that the same committee that wants Israel expelled from FIFA and threatens to strip any Palestinian who takes part in a peace match of their Palestinian Football Federation accreditation?

“This state (Israel) is a state of bullies,” Rajoub fumed in Arabic on Palestinian television.

“Fascists can learn a lesson from this state. We’ll suspend their membership and this way we’ll screw them … I won’t allow and won’t agree to any joint game between Arabs and Israel.”