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Brokers of Deceit

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

Author: Rashid Khalidi

Winner of the 2014 Lionel Trilling Book Award

An examination of the failure of the United States as a broker in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, through three key historical moments

For more than seven decades the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people has raged on with no end in sight, and for much of that time, the United States has been involved as a mediator in the conflict. In this book, acclaimed historian Rashid Khalidi zeroes in on the United States’s role as the purported impartial broker in this failed peace process.

Khalidi closely analyzes three historical moments that illuminate how the United States’ involvement has, in fact, thwarted progress toward peace between Israel and Palestine. The first moment he investigates is the “Reagan Plan” of 1982, when Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin refused to accept the Reagan administration’s proposal to reframe the Camp David Accords more impartially. The second moment covers the period after the Madrid Peace Conference, from 1991 to 1993, during which negotiations between Israel and Palestine were brokered by the United States until the signing of the secretly negotiated Oslo accords. Finally, Khalidi takes on President Barack Obama’s retreat from plans to insist on halting the settlements in the West Bank.

Through in-depth research into and keen analysis of these three moments, as well as his own firsthand experience as an advisor to the Palestinian delegation at the 1991 pre-Oslo negotiations in Washington, DC, Khalidi reveals how the United States and Israel have actively colluded to prevent a Palestinian state and resolve the situation in Israel’s favor. Brokers of Deceit bares the truth about why peace in the Middle East has been impossible to achieve: for decades, US policymakers have masqueraded as unbiased agents working to bring the two sides together, when, in fact, they have been the agents of continuing injustice, effectively preventing the difficult but essential steps needed to achieve peace in the region.
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“What has happened to the Palestinian people since 1948 is one of the great crimes of modern history. Of course, Israel bears primary responsibility for this tragedy. However, as Rashid Khalidi shows in his smart new book, American presidents from Truman to Obama have sided with Israel at almost every turn and helped it inflict immense pain and humiliation on the Palestinians. At the same time, they have employed high-sounding but dishonest rhetoric to cover up Israel’s brutal behavior. As Brokers of Deceit makes clear, the United States richly deserves to be called ‘Israel’s lawyer.’“
—John J. Mearsheimer, coauthor of The Israel Lobby

Drawing on his own experience as a Palestinian negotiator and recently released documents, Rashid Khalidi mounts a frontal attack on the myths and misconceptions that have come to surround America’s role in the so-called ‘peace process,’ which is all process and no peace. The title is not too strong: the book demonstrates conclusively that far from serving as an honest broker, the United States continues to act as Israel’s lawyer—with dire consequences for its own interests, for the Palestinians, and for the entire region. Professor Khalidi deserves much credit for his superb exposition of the fatal gap between the rhetoric and reality of American diplomacy on this critically important issue.” —Avi Shlaim, Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford and author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World

“Khalidi has combined history, common sense, and his firsthand understanding of Arab-Israeli peace talks, as brokered by Washington, to make the case that American national security interests would be best served by a just peace in the Middle East. Instead, he writes with great sadness, Washington’s efforts to be an honest broker fall ‘somewhere between high irony and farce’—and put democratic America, with its avowed commitment to freedom for all, in the position of enabling the continued subjugation of the Palestinian people. This is an important book”
—Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

“For those of us who believe that a two-state solution is the path to justice and peace for Israel and Palestine, Rashid Khalidi’s trenchant analysis is powerful and disturbing. The United States has failed repeatedly to be an honest broker, accepting the status quo of Israeli occupation and settlements when a true peace agreement would be deeply in the interest of all parties, Israel, Palestine, and the US itself. Khalidi emphasizes that the deceptions of language and deed have serious long-term costs and that the United States might soon impose and incur still greater costs through ill-conceived policies vis-a-vis Syria, Iran, and other countries in the Middle East.” —Jeffrey D. Sachs, author of The End of Poverty

Praise for Rashid Khalidi

“Rashid Khalidi is arguably the foremost U.S. historian of the modern Middle East.” —Warren I. Cohen, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“In a refreshing contrast to the yammering bazaar of complaint and allegation that has dominated American public discussion of the Middle East since Sept. 11, 2001, The Iron Cage is a patient and eloquent work, ranging over the whole of modern Palestinian history from World War I to the death of Yasser Arafat. Reorienting the Palestinian narrative around the attitudes and tactics of the Palestinians themselves, Khalidi lends a remarkable illumination to a story so wearily familiar it is often hard to believe anything new can be found within.” —Jonathan Shainin, Salon

Unlike most so-called Middle East experts, Khalidi actually knows a great deal about that region.” —Professor John J. Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

“With a deep knowledge of the Middle East and a felicitous literary style, Khalidi . . . examines the history of U.S. involvement in the area against the backdrop of European colonialism.” —Ronald Steel, The Nation

“Rashid Khalidi’s extraordinary book [Resurrecting Empire] is enormously relevant for our times, especially in light of America’s growing involvement in the Middle East.” —Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize

“Khalidi’s role is as a historian, working to show how historical forces, largely ignored in the U.S., have shaped the modern Middle East. He takes particular delight in demolishing the various cliches used to describe the Middle East, bred out of what he terms ‘sAmerica’s historical amnesia.’“ —Chris Hedges, New York Times


Review: Kirkus Reviews - January 15, 2013
"Unpacking these episodes in sharp, take-no-prisoners prose, Khalidi maintains that the U.S. and Israel, 'by far the most powerful actors in the Middle East,' through successive administrations and a variety of key officials … have conspired to deny Palestinians any semblance of self-determination. A stinging indictment of one-sided policymaking destined, if undisturbed, to result in even greater violence."

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
Introduction: Dishonest Brokers
Chapter 1: The First Moment: Begin and Palestinian Autonomy in 1982
Chapter 2: The Second Movement: The Madrid-Washington Negotiations, 1991-93
Chapter 3: The Third Movement: Barack Obama and Palestine, 2009-12
Conclusion: Israel's Lawyer

View the bibliography.

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Brokers of Deceit

ISBN: 978-080704475-9
Publication Date: 3/12/2013
Pages: 208
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $25.95
Format: Cloth
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