Things that should but can’t be said

Never discussed are the root problems with the Israeli occupation.

Four months into Israel’s genocid­al assault on Gaza, it appears that discussions remain trapped in the same tiresome, delusional framing that existed before the current fight­ing began. Policymakers and commentators tie themselves in knots struggling to explain what’s happening and what’s to be done,refusing to step outside the constraints im­posed by conventional wisdom of the political discourse. Things that should be said are not.

For example, despite the ruling of the International Court of Justice that Is­rael’s behaviors establish a plausible case for genocide, that word is verbo­ten. When presented with the numbers of those killed, those facing starvation, and clear evidence of mass destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure, policymakers and commentators shift the discussion to the crimes committed by Hamas on October 7th or blame the civilian deaths on Hamas’ use of “human shields.”

They seek to absolve the US from any responsibility for the deaths insisting that the President and his administra­tion continue to urge the Israelis to take measures to avoid civilian casualties. They ignore that Israel pays no atten­tion to our “urging,” while resupplying Israel’s deadly munitions and blocking international ceasefire efforts.

Equally frustrating is the US insistence that it wants morehumanitarian assis­tance to the desperate Palestinian pop­ulation in Gaza, while refusing to hold Israel responsible for its duplicative in­spection regime and continued bomb­ing that impedes delivery of supplies to those in need. The recent US decision to withhold funds for UNWRA—the only agency with the capacity to deliver aid—for the alleged crimes of a dozen of its thousands of staff, makes a mockery of our commitment to providing human­itarian assistance. As obvious as these linkages may be, they may not be said.

After ignoring the reality that daily Is­raeli raids into West Bank Palestinian cities and towns have resulted in the murders of over 400 Palestinians and that 500 settler attacks on Palestinians in their homes, cars or fields have re­sulted in eight deaths and the destruc­tion of thousands of olive trees, the US decided sanction four settlers. Herald­ed by the pundits as “unprecedented” and “dramatic,” the hollow gesture was scoffed at by the settlers.

Never discussed are the root prob­lems with the Israeli occupation (a term never allowed in the Democrats’ plat­form), the ever-expanding settlement enterprise, the apartheid system that creates impunity for both settlers and the Israeli military. This self-censorship of terms that can be used is infuriating.

Equally troubling are the “day af­ter” discussions gaining momentum in US media and policy circles. What is the “day after” for 2.2 million in Gaza? Should they forget the tens of thou­sands who’ve died and entire neighbor­hoods reduced to rubble? What about the trauma to hundreds of thousands of children physically and psychologically maimed? And tens of thousands expect­ed to die in coming months from dis­ease or starvation?

These questions beyond the accept­ed discourse aren’t asked by pundits or policymakers.

Official Washington hasn’t yet pre­sented its plan but hasprovided hints of their thinking in speeches and dis­cussions with journalists. Their ideas amount to “much ado about nothing.”

The cornerstone of “the day after” construct is nothing more than “a path­way to an eventual Palestinian state.” The burden is on the Palestinians to cre­ate a credible, viable, democratic, func­tioning state that will pose no threat to Israel. Palestinians must do this while the occupation continues with no re­straints on the occupiers’ control over land, resources, borders, and economy. It’s the same bizarre plan proposed by then President Bush in 2002. The un­learned lesson is that as long asPales­tinians cannot grow their economy and protect their land and people from the acquisitiveness and repression of the Israelis, no credible state can emerge. It’s a mirage designed by the US to place the burden on the weakest par­ty, while absolving the Israelis and our­selves from responsibility.

Any blame on Israel is focused sole­ly on Benjamin Netanyahu and his ex­tremist partners, but any close exami­nation of the Israeli electorate’s views finds no conceivable coalition tore­place Netanyahu’s that would end the occupation and withdraw from territo­ries and settlements to allow a viable independent Palestinian state. A recent Israeli poll shows a majority would re­ject the creation of a Palestinian state even if accompanied by recognition by Saudi Arabia and security guarantees. Yet pundits are silent out of their con­cern for Israeli public opinion.

Israel’s genocidal assault continues as does the detached-from-reality US political discussion. Change won’t oc­cur until we free ourselves from the shackles of acceptable discourse that has led us into this dead end.

Dr. James J. Zogby
The writer is the President of Arab American Institute.

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