“None of his actions favoring Israel, from recognizing annexation of the Golan Heights or levying draconian sanctions on Iran and secondary sanctions on any country that violates those sanctions, heavily lobbied for by Israel’s agents in the U.S., have any legitimacy,” Jeffrey Blankfort told the Balkans Post in an interview.
The following is the transcript of the interview:
Balkans Post: U.S. President Donald Trump has announced the general provisions of his Middle East scheme, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side. What’s your take on the legitimacy of the move?
Jeffrey Blankfort: First, I would point out that since 1945, the U.S. government has acted as if it is the ultimate arbiter of international law with its allies and the majority of the world’s nations obliged to support its decisions and actions, from waging wars to levying sanctions, the degree of pressure applied depending on who was presiding in the White House, regardless of party. Donald Trump differs from his predecessors only in that the mask of civility maintained by the others has been removed.
None of his actions favoring Israel, from recognizing annexation of the Golan Heights or levying draconian sanctions on Iran and secondary sanctions on any country that violates those sanctions, heavily lobbied for by Israel’s agents in the U.S., have any legitimacy. That the U.S. media and both parties in the U.S. Congress treat them as if they do is simply evidence of the power that the Zionist establishment wields over the Washington Beltway and beyond. A further proof of that power is that anyone who raises that issue is quickly labeled as “anti-Semitic” and politically and socially marginalized.
BP: Under the plan, the majority Arab population of historic Palestine is crammed into 15% of the land. How does this impact the lives of Palestinians?
Jeffrey Blankfort: From the time of Israel’s seizure of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 to the present, Israel has been a de facto apartheid state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. The Israelis have continued to expand Jewish “settlements,” some of which are small towns, at the expense of Palestinian villages and their supply of water, as well as increasing the number of Jews in those settlements, regardless of which party was in power and this has continued, virtually without interruption, post-Oslo.
That the international community considers them illegal has not stood in the way of the Treasury Dept. allowing tax exempt American Jewish organizations from continuing to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into the settlements with no requirements that the money be accounted for. Under the circumstances, life for most Palestinians has steadily worsened over the years and this will, no doubt, continue whatever decision Netanyahu or his successors make.
BP: What could you say about the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s stance after the announcement of Trump’s plan?
Jeffrey Blankfort: I have been a longtime critic of the PA, as I was of Oslo which, arguably, was another Nakba, but one in which the Palestinian leadership under Yasser Arafat and his second in command, Mahmoud Abbas, were complicit.
Giving legitimacy to Israel’s occupation of 60% of the West Bank (Area C) and agreeing, in writing, that the PA would work with Israeli security in suppressing further Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation which Abbas has faithfully observed, even claiming to Israeli journalists that it is “sacred,” has been nothing less than a betrayal of the Palestine liberation struggle with which I have been deeply involved since spending more than four months in 1970 photographing the refugee camps of Lebanon and Jordan.
As even the New York Times pointed out, that “after watching Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Abbas, in his own televised address, made no threats of substantive action, such as cutting off security cooperation with Israel, which is the cornerstone of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship and the key to Mr. Abbas’s hold on power in the West Bank.”
That he subsequently went to a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo and declared he was cutting all ties with the Israelis is as inconsequential as similar promises he has made and failed to keep in the past.
Abbas clearly has no shame nor, apparently, do those in the PA leadership who have been in a position to say or do something about him and who have remained silent and done nothing.
BP: Some observers say Arab states have completely forsaken Palestine and are embracing Israel. What’s your view?
Jeffrey Blankfort: I suspect that if the Palestinians of this generation had leaders and a liberation movement worthy of the name, as was once the case, we would have seen very different responses to Trump’s announcement in every Arab country, at the government level as well as among the general public. Nor would there have been any room for the farce of a “peace plan” such as that proposed by Trump in the first place.
While the open collaboration of the PA with Israel may not register with most Americans who have little interest in or knowledge of the subject, it is obviously known and deplored across the Arab world.
BP: What’s your take on the comparisons made between apartheid South Africa and Israel, especially after the announcement of Trump’s plan?
Jeffrey Blankfort: Although the post-apartheid South African government has made some major missteps and compromises with the World Bank and IMF since the end of white Afrikaner rule and the death of Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress and its sister resistance organizations, never would have considered betraying their struggle as has been the case in Palestine.
Moreover, while there were worldwide, as well as U.S. sanctions against the Afrikaner government that eventually brought it to its knees, 28 U.S. states have already passed laws prohibiting businesses that have or hope to have contracts with each and every one of those states from refusing to do business with Israel or Israeli companies.
There is an old joke that asks why Israel does not wish to become the 51st U.S. state. The answer, of course, is that should Israel become a state it would only have two U.S. senators whereas now, and for some years, it has 100.
Jeffrey Blankfort is a journalist and radio programmer. His articles have appeared in CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Mondoweiss, Pulse Media, Left Curve, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and the Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. He was a founding member of the November 29th Committee on Palestine, a co-founder of the Labor Committee on the Middle East and editor of its publication, The Middle East Labor Bulletin (1988-1995).