by George Gregoriou
The US is the global firefighter, chasing one fire after another, like a dog chasing its tail. Many of these «political» fires are Washington’s creation. In the Cyprus and the Palestinian problems Washington has been part of the problem, and the solution Greek Cypriots and Palestinians think so, and they want pressure to bear on Ankara and Tel Aviv to undo the facts on the ground. The Kofi Annan proposals for Cyprus are American in origin, to legitimize a two-state solution. So is the «Road Map» to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Washington supplied Israel and Turkey billions of dollars and guns to bully their neighbors, which is in line with Washington’s policy to control the M.E. for its oil. In turn, Washington reciprocates by openly supporting their expansionist policies, or look the other way. Turkey occupies northern Cyprus since 1974. Israel occupies East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza since the 1967 and 1973 wars. Both Ankara and Tel Aviv carried out policies of ethnic cleansing and colonization. Turkish military forces expelled 200,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes and villages. Their homes were given to 120,000 settlers from Turkey and Turkish Cypriot refugees.
200,000 Jewish settlers have taken over the land of Palestinians in the suburbs of East Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Settlements are supported by security zones throughout occupied Palestinian land.
Israel is a colonial/settler state, mostly of European Jews escaping persecution and the Nazi holocaust. There were less than 25,000 Jews in Palestine in the 1800s. The Zionist movement recruited Jews to return to Palestine in the late 1900s, financed by wealthy Jews. The progressive wing in the Zionist movement favored a Palestinian state for Jews and Arabs.
The right-wing favored a homeland for Jews only. Terrorism marginalized the progressives. In 1917, London offered the Balfour Declaration, for a Jewish homeland. Still, there were less than 100,000 Jews in Palestine in 1919. The ratio of Arabs to Jews was 4 to 1, respectively.
The collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the discovery of oil, the struggle for spheres of influence by the European powers, and the rise of Arab nationalism threatened British interests. The British already had Cyprus and the Suez Canal. In the 1920s they curved out Kuwait for its oil.
London also forced the League of Nations to place Palestine under British mandate. But, troubles increased in the M.E. and in Europe, with the economic collapse (1929) and the rise of Nazism to power (1933). Organized Jewish militants seized Arab land or bought it. This led to the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, which gave birth to Jewish defense leagues. Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Gang, the most notorious,. led the attacks on Palestinians and British. The British had second thoughts on a Jewish homeland and restricted immigration to Palestine, though it continued clandestinely. To lure the Arabs into a front against Nazism, London offered to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. It was rejected by the Arabs in 1939.
Anti-Semitism and the holocaust in Europe accelerate Jewish immigration to Palestine. Washington did not want Jews immigrating to the U.S. Many of these refugees headed to Palestine, many were stranded in Cyprus, for months. Jews numbered 600,000 at the end of WWII. The Arabs number 1 million in 1940. U.S. pressures forced the UN to partition Palestine in 1948. The state of Israel was created in 1948, with 55% of the land. The Palestinian state was 45%. The Palestinians, being the majority, rejected the UN partition. A Jewish-Palestinian war was raging. When an armistice was secured in 1949, Jews controlled 78% of the Palestinian land. The West Bank was part of Jordan. In the 1967 and 1973 wars Israel took control of the remaining 22% of Palestine.
The Israeli strategy has been to create new facts on the ground, to seize more territory. 200,000 settlers were transplanted in the suburbs of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Many settlers are from Brooklyn and Jackson Heights, and Eastern Europe. Their policy is to create a “Greater Israel”. Hence, peace with the Palestinians is not possible. Occupation breeds violent reaction. All the Israeli plans for peace (including the best, Barak’s!) were to create “Bandustans” (Palestinian homelands), surrounded by Israeli settlements and security zones. Ariel Sharon is not interested in peace, only in pieces of land. He went along with Bush’s road map. Bush needs all the public relations he can get, to appear presidential, for his reelection in 2004.
The strategies for peace in Cyprus and Palestine will “succeed” if the Greek Cypriots and Palestinians accept what is offered to them. This is their sense of realism. The victims have no other choice but to negotiate on the basis of the new (latest) “facts on the ground” created by war, occupation, ethnic cleansing, and threats of worse things to come.
Washington is part of these problems, not the solution. There is no alternative to a just and viable solution in Cyprus and Palestine. Undoing the “facts on the ground” is a step in the right direction.
Professor, Department of Political Science
The William Paterson University, New Jersey