28 April 2003

running off America
From the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs

The new Saudi terms of reference, by demanding a territorial withdrawal beyond the requirements of 242, would thus erode Israel's right to defensible borders that was enshrined in UN Resolution 242. Saudi Arabia's ambassador to London, Ghazi al-Qussaibi, has verified that this, in fact, is Riyadh's intent ( Al-Sharq al-Awsat, February 19, 2002; MEMRI, March 1, 2002). The Saudi formula, additionally, creates an equivalence between an irreversible concession on Israel's defense lines in exchange for a reversible concession on normalization (ambassadors can be withdrawn, trade frozen). Were Saudi Arabia more serious about ending its hostility to the State of Israel, it could make discreet direct contact with Israel, as other Arab states have done. Real negotiations are based on mutual compromise, and not on a take-it-or-leave-it offer in an op-ed article of a foreign newspaper.

It's worth the recalling the text of 242 (boldface mine):

The Security Council,

Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East, Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security, Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter, 1/ Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

(i) Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

2/ Affirms further the necessity

(a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

(b) For achieving a just settlement for the refugee problem;

(c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

3/ Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

4/ Requests the Secretary General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.

Adopted unanimously by the Security Council at the 1382nd meeting.

22 November 1967

I think it's stark that the JCPA article alters 242 from a demand for withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and makes it a guarantee of Israel's pre-1967 borders without any further action on Israel's part. israel has been in breach of 242 since 1967 but has not attracted the Iraq treatment. The US is about to launch yet another campaign of public diplomacy to try and lift it's image in the Arab world. I suggest the image problem runs much wider than the Arab world and much deeper than just the Israel/Palestine question.

Al-Ahram reports:

The campaign appears to emanate from an egocentric world view which makes the American way of life the substance of its message despite the fact that, as most US observers who follow the Middle East acknowledge, this is not what the Arab or Muslim populations of the region take issue with. At the same time, the primary cause for the antagonism harboured in Arab and Islamic countries towards the US -- which is America's position on the Palestinian- Israeli conflict -- is deliberately skirted and ignored.

The campaign, moreover, chooses to address its audience as a nebulous and homogenised Muslim mass instead of specific peoples living within certain political contexts, be they Iraqis, Palestinians or Egyptians. As such, it does not formulate solutions or devise policies to redress any current grievances that they might entertain. The pattern makes sense when one views the current US media campaign for what it is: a form of "information warfare" that the Bush administration is working to incorporate as an integral part of its foreign policy. As such, it obscures issues and underscores others in a manner which is consistent with the administration's agenda.

In a 21 January interview broadcast on the PBS television programme "NewsHour, with Jim Lehrer", Charlotte Beers, the US State Department's undersecretary of public diplomacy and public affairs, who is in charge of the media campaign to win over the Muslim world, said: "I completely disagree with people that the number one issue is the Israeli-Palestinian issue although it is crucial." Beers instead spoke at length about the importance of containing "anti-American" sentiment within the Muslim world by means of sustained messages on how America embraces Muslims and how, contrary to "Muslims' beliefs", America does not embrace decadent lifestyles.

Finally, in another part of the world, as Jon Jeter writes in today's Washington Post:

At the heart of the election is an economic crisis that rivals the Great Depression era in the United States. Once Latin America's wealthiest economy, Argentina is in the midst of a five-year recession that hit bottom 16 months ago, when the government that succeeded Menem's ended his policy of linking the value of the Argentine peso to the U.S. dollar.

That policy had curbed hyperinflation, but many economists say it also destroyed local industries and jobs, which could not compete with the influx of foreign goods made suddenly competitive by the strong peso. Menem also accumulated unprecedented levels of foreign debt and privatized virtually all state-owned industries, efforts that don't sit well with many Argentines who have seen unemployment, poverty and crime soar to unprecedented levels.

Opinion polls show eight in 10 Argentines opposed the U.S. war against Iraq. During the Persian Gulf War 12 years ago, when Menem was president, Argentina and Honduras sent troops to fight alongside American forces -- the only Latin American countries to do so.

"There is this creeping anti-Americanism at play here," said Graciela Coatz-Romer Gil, a pollster and political consultant. "Our research shows that it's everywhere in Latin America but it's particularly strong here in Argentina. It's not only because of the war in Iraq but there is also this disappointment that the policies promoted by the United States since the end of the Cold War -- privatization, an open economy -- didn't produce here, and in fact, for the middle class . . . had disastrous consequences. They're the ones who lost their jobs."

Similar feelings hold among the European public, the Korean public, the Japanese public...

Perhaps the marketing geniuses in the State Department might consider that if a campaign is crashing in all markets it may be the product, not the advertising, that is at fault. They would probably be horrified to be accused of being the most postmodern White House on record but their insistence that message is all and reality is nothing is pomo gone mad.

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