Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

9・11 and Palestine
HIRAYAMA Kentaro / Journalist

September 7, 2011
It was 7 October, 2001, 26 days after the 9・11 incident, when Al Jazeera, a Doha-based Arab TV station, broadcasted a video message that could have been Osama bin Laden's first "claim of responsibility" for the attack. Bin Laden was the suspected ringleader of the conspiracy. It was also the day when the United States started bombarding Afghanistan. Bin Laden, who made an appearance with the Afghan wilderness in the background, started out as saying, "What the United States tasted today is a very small thing compared to what we have tasted for tens of years." Then, after expressing various resentments, he spent much time condemning Israel for continuing the occupation of Palestine and accusing the United States of allowing Israel to do so. He referred to Jenin and other location names on the West Bank of the Jordan River where fierce gun battles took place during the second (Al Aqsa) intifada against the Israeli security forces. It is said that bin Laden was advised by Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian medical doctor known at the time as the No. 2 leader, to emphasize the Palestinian question to appeal to the Islamic world in general.

Ten years have since passed. The U.S. Special Forces succeeded in killing bin Laden in the suburbs of Islamabad in Pakistani territory. President Obama said in late August that the "war on terrorism" was coming to an end. While the Afghan and Iraqi wars brought about due changes in these countries, in spite of quite a few victims and a rise of anti-American feelings there, the Palestinian issue remains unsolved.

American initiatives like the first recognition by the Bush administration of a state of Palestine and a statement by President Obama this May that the boundaries of this state should based on those of the pre-1967 war when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, have not produced any fruit, although in appearance both were said to be epoch-making. There were only words and no progress has been made toward their realization. In conservatively inclined Israel, maybe because of the "sense of security" gained after the construction of the "separation wall" in the West Bank which has clearly reduced the number of suicide bomb attacks, an indifferent mood seems to be prevailing against peace that would inevitably require territorial concessions. On the Palestinian side also, internal conflicts lowered their competence in dealing with Israel, as is shown by Hamas'' take over of the Gaza strip. In addition, the stance of the United States, the mediator, and the framework of mediation itself are questionable. One of the problems is the American fixed idea that an "agreement should be reached through direct negotiations between the parties concerned." The United States has not been able to refute the Israeli claim that "the boundaries before the '67 war were merely cease-fire lines during the time when the Arabs did not recognize Israel as a state, and not the border between two states. The areas at issue beyond the boundaries, therefore, are not occupied territories." The Security Council resolution 242 which constitutes the basis of peace negotiations after the '67 war is one-sidedly favorable to Israel, because it demands that Israel withdraw from (unspecified) "territories" with the understanding of "co-existence within agreed upon boundaries." The text is decidedly favorable to the party which actually controls the disputed land. This is a problem, too. In the case of the Suez war in 1956, the Eisenhower administration asked Israel for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula and forced Israel to comply. The Security Council resolution that demanded Iraqi (Saddam's) forces leave Kuwait did the same.

The Palestinian (Abbas) side is making preparations for a resolution to be adopted during the United Nations General Assembly in late September, calling for the establishment of a state whose capital will be Jerusalem and boundaries will be those before the '67 war. Such action will be rather second best for them because the United States is expected to exercise its veto at the Security Council. The voting on this resolution must be a litmus test, or rather, a verdict to show the extent of isolation of the United States and Israel in the international world community as many countries, including those in the European Union, will vote for the resolution. Obama who wants to be re-elected as president next year must make a hard decision. It is sincerely hoped that he will clearly present his unique vision that will overcome the ambiguity about the occupied territories, including Jerusalem. Eradication of the sources of anti-American feelings may be difficult, but attenuation should be possible with effort. The new "citizens" who have brought about the "Arab spring," as well as we Japanese who aspire for a further "deepening" of the U.S.-Japan relations on the global scale, are closely watching President Obama, hoping that he will make a definite and courageous decision.

The writer is a former NHK executive commentator and professor at Hakuoh University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山健太郎  / ジャーナリスト

2011年 9月 7日




(筆者は元NHK解説主幹 元白鴎大学教授。)
一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟