In an interview with Muslim Press, Murray Dobbin, one of Canada’s most popular progressive political commentators and analysts, said “With the absolute support of the US, no matter what actions it takes Israel can indeed behave as if international law does not exist.”
Here’s the full transcript of the interview:
Muslim Press: In your opinion, what goal has Israel been pursuing by its latest assault on al-Aqsa Mosque?
Murray Dobbin: Israel’s action on the al-Aqsa Mosque are completely consistent with all of its actions regarding the occupied territories and its oppression of Palestinians. The actions are intended to accomplish two goals: increase Israeli control of all the occupied territories and in particular Jerusalem and humiliate Palestinians with the objective of discouraging Palestinian resistance. As always, the Israeli government will seize on any excuse to use its military and security forces and this time around – a one-off attack – was used to try to permanently deny Palestinians their unfettered right to access to the Mosque.
MP: What are the consequences of Israeli forces’ periodic aggression against Palestinians?
Murray Dobbin: The consequences are that genuine peace negotiations become virtually impossible. The unprovoked attacks – and their disproportionate use of brutal force – makes it extremely difficult for any Palestinian leadership to negotiate with Israel. To make genuine peace two parties have to accept each other as partners. That means a level of mutual respect and trust that facilitates genuine negotiations. When one party repeatedly demonstrates contempt for the other and exercises its massive power imbalance with impunity peace talks are deliberately sabotaged. This is the objective of Israeli aggression.
MP: Can we say the recent withdrawal of Israeli government from its security measures in al-Aqsa Mosque is a victory for Palestinians?
Murray Dobbin: The policy change by the Israeli government is an enormous victory for Palestinians in part because it was a spontaneous act of resistance not initiated by the Palestinian Authority. Israel can normally rely on the acquiescence or even co-operation of the PA. But with this situation the PA had no control over events so could not offer the Israeli government any form of co-operation or negotiation. So this was a victory for the Palestinian people, not the PA – an important distinction.
MP: What’s the significance of Netanyahu’s decision to back down?
Murray Dobbin: The significance of Netanyahu’s back-down is that it demonstrates for ordinary Palestinians that victories over the Israeli government are possible. When Palestinians act spontaneously they demonstrate real political power which genuinely frightens the Israeli government. Israel relies as much on the compromised government of Mahmoud Abbas for its control of Palestinians as it does on the Israeli military. The reason Netanyahu backed down was that he and his strategists realized that the longer they delayed the more powerful this independent movement would become. It was better to accept a defeat on this one issue than to risk the growth of a real, independent political movement.
The other significant aspect is that the spontaneous nature of the movement exposed the weakness and political corruption of the PA. The longer the movement existed and grew, the more irrelevant the PA was becoming. The power of the movement was obvious to everyone and it contrasted dramatically with the powerlessness of the PA. I am guessing that the PA behind the scenes made this clear to the Israeli government.
MP: What’s your take on Mahmoud Abbas’ policies in dealing with al-Aqsa Mosque clashes?
Murray Dobbin: Abbas had no choice but to show support for the resistance. His calling of a joint meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah Central Committee and his suspension of all contact with the Israeli government were efforts to look tough and get out in front of the movement. But these moves were obviously playing catch-up with events on the ground and really just demonstrated how ineffective these political bodies are. Abbas’s actions were desperate efforts to appear relevant.
MP: According to reports, more than 1,000 Palestinians have been injured and dozens killed since July 14. How could that be justified under international law?
Murray Dobbin: Of course none of Israel’s action regarding Palestine can be justified under international law. Israel is a rogue state which applies the principle of exceptionalism to its actions. In other words the Israeli government portrays itself and acts as if international laws do not apply to Israel at all. It has in effect franchised American exceptionalism. With the absolute support of the US, no matter what actions it takes Israel can indeed behave as if international law does not exist. Until the US uses its financial leverage with Israel this situation will not change.
Murray Dobbin, now living in Powell River, BC has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over forty years. He has been a columnist for the Financial Post and Winnipeg Free Press, contributes guest editorials to the Globe and Mail and other Canadian dailies and now writes a bi-weekly column for the on-line journals the Tyee and rabble.ca.