Brokers of Deceit

How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East

By Rashid Khalidi

Beacon Press

Copyright © 2013 Rashid Khalidi
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8070-4475-9


Introduction: Dishonest Brokers
Chapter 1: The First Moment: Begin and Palestinian Autonomy in 1982
Chapter 2: The Second Movement: The Madrid-Washington Negotiations,
Chapter 3: The Third Movement: Barack Obama and Palestine, 2009-12
Conclusion: Israel's Lawyer

The slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish
thoughts. . . . If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt
thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among
people who should and do know better.
—George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946
In politics and in diplomacy, as in much else, language matters greatly.
However debased political discourse may become, however disingenuous
diplomacy often is, the words employed by politicians and diplomats
defi ne situations and determine outcomes. In recent history, few
semantic battles over terminology have been as intensely fought out as
those concerning Palestine/Israel.
The importance of the precise use of language can be illustrated by
the powerful valence in the Middle East context of terms such as “terrorism,”
“security,” “self-determination,” “autonomy,” “honest broker,”
and “peace process.” Each of these terms has set conditions not only for
perceptions, but also for possibilities. Moreover, these terms have come
to take on a specifi c meaning, frequently one that is heavily loaded in
favor of one side, and is far removed from what logic or balance would
seem to dictate. Thus in the American/Israeli offi cial lexicon, “terrorism”
in the Middle East context has come to apply exclusively to the
actions of Arab militants, whether those of the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), Hamas, Hizballah, or others. Under these peculiar
terminological rules, the actions of the militaries of Israel and the
United States cannot be described as “terrorism,” irrespective of how
many Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqi, or Afghan civilians may have died
at their hands.
Similarly, in this lexicon, “security” is an absolute priority of Israel’s,
the need for which is invariably described as rooted in genuine, deepseated
existential fears. “Israeli security” therefore takes precedence
over virtually everything else, including international law and the human
rights of others. It is an endlessly expansive concept that includes
a remarkable multitude of things, such as whether pasta or generator
parts can be brought into the Gaza Strip, or whether miserably poor
Palestinian villagers can be allowed water cisterns.1 By contrast, in spite
of the precarious nature of their situation, Palestinians are presumed
not to have any signifi cant concerns about their security. This is the case
even though nearly half the Palestinian population have lived for more
than two generations under a grinding military occupation without the
most basic human, civil, or political rights, and the rest have for many
decades been dispersed from their ancestral homeland, many of them
living under harsh, authoritarian Arab governments.
This book is concerned primarily, however, not with the misuse of
language, important though that is, but with an American-brokered political
process that for more than thirty-fi ve years has reinforced the subjugation
of the Palestinian people, provided Israel and the United States
with a variety of advantages, and made considerably more unlikely the
prospects of a just and lasting settlement of the confl ict between Israel
and the Arabs. This is the true nature of this process. Were this glaring
reality apparent to all, there might have been pressure for change. But
the distortion of language has made a crucially important contribution
to these outcomes, by “corrupting thought,” and thereby cloaking their
real nature. As we shall see in the pages that follow, language employed
in the Middle East political context—terms like “terrorism” and “security”
and the others mentioned above—has often been distorted and
then successfully employed to conceal what was actually happening.
Where the Palestinians are concerned, time and again during their
modern history, corrupted phraseology has profoundly obscured reality.
The Zionist movement decisively established a discursive hegemony
early on in the confl ict with the Palestinians, thereby signifi cantly reinforcing
the existing power balance in its favor, and later in favor of the
state of Israel. This has placed the Palestinians at a lasting disadvantage,
as they have consistently been forced to compete within a fi eld whose
terms are largely defi ned by their opponents. Consider such potent canards
as “making the desert bloom”—implying that the six hundred
thousand industrious Palestinian peasants and townspeople who inhabited
their homeland in the centuries before the relatively recent arrival
of modern political Zionism were desert nomads and wastrels—and “a
land without a people for a people without a land,” which presumes the
nonexistence of an entire people.2 As the Palestinian literary and cultural
critic Edward Said aptly put it in 1988: “It is by no means an exaggeration
to say that the establishment of Israel as a state in 1948 occurred
partly because the Zionists acquired control of most of the territory of
Palestine, and partly because they had already won the political battle
for Palestine in the international world in which ideas, representation,
rhetoric and images were at issue.”3


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