It Is Time to Bury the “Honest Broker” Deception

by James M. WallBrokers cover

In John Ford’s film, The Searchers, Ethan (John Wayne) is talking with his bother Aaron. Ethan has been away from the family for several years.

AARONHow’s California?

ETHAN: How should I know?

AARONBut Mose Harper said…

ETHANThat old goat still creakin’
around?…Whyn’t someone bury him?

It is time for President Barack Obama to be the leader who steps forward and finds a presidential way to “bury the old goat”.

The “Peace Process” is finished. The U.S. charade as an “honest broker” has been on its death bed for decades.

There has never been anything even closely resembling honesty in this U.S. charade.  The U.S. was never a broker; it has always been”Israel’s lawyer”, to recall the description originally coined by Henry Kissinger.

Of course, should you prefer the guidance of the Gospel of Matthew rather than that of the Gospel of John Ford, here is a biblical version of the same burial recommendation:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27.

In his book, Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. has undermined peace in the Middle East, Obama’s onetime University of Chicago colleague, Rashid Khalidi, has conveniently delivered the funeral oration for the Fordian “old goat”, and Matthew’s hypocrites. 

Khalidi describes the process of deceit that has enabled Israel to continue its steady settlement growth backed by increasingly right-wing Israeli governments.

In a review of Khalidi’s book, Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, writes:

Khalidi analyzes three distinct periods in the U.S.-led “peace process.” He acknowledges omitting some other important historical moments, but these three typify the betrayal by successive administrations of their responsibilities as the principal mediator in the conflict.

The first case is the Reagan Plan of 1982, a failed initiative to interpret, in a more balanced manner, the sections of the 1978 Camp David accords dealing with the Palestinians.

The second failure covers the two-year period following the 1991 peace conference in Madrid, in which the United States brokered talks between the Israeli government and Palestinian representatives.

The third is President Barack Obama’s failure to follow up on his initial calls for Israel to halt the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

President Obama now has slightly more than 32 months left in his second term. That is more than enough time for him to stand up to Benjamin Netanyahu and his robotic allies in the U.S. Congress, and take whatever executive action he can devise to expose the criminal occupation Israel enforces on the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank.

Enough already, as his Jewish friends in Chicago should have told him months ago, with this pussy-footing around with Israel’s pretense that it wants a “peace accord”. It doesn’t, and Obama knows it.

Israel wants to extend its Middle East colonial empire from the sea to the River Jordan. Only an American president can slow that process.

The president recently signed an order to give Israeli travelers special visa privileges for entry to the U.S.

Obama could exercise his executive authority to control American borders, by removing that privilege for Israeli travelers until Israel ceases its harassment of U.S./Palestinian citizens who travel to Israel.

The New York Times, which favors same-sex marriages almost as much as it favors Israel, gives Obama a template to follow in his next policy shift.

With the catchy title, “How the president got to I do on Same Sex marriage” the Times traces the evolution of Obama’s change of mind on marriage equality, from his cautious hints of support to the moment when he gave equality his full support:

In his Inaugural Address on Jan. 21, 2013, Obama drew a straight line from the civil rights fights based on race and gender to the current struggle for marriage equality.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” the president said, “for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

Equality should extend to all human kind, he is saying, and that extension should be easy for him to make that apply to the people of Palestine whom he has failed so miserably to rescue from their occupation tyranny.

Ramallah Holy FireAl Jazeera covered the Holy Fire ceremonies in Ramallah Easter week-end.

(The picture here is that of a young Palestinian Christian boy who is shown watching the ceremony. It was taken in Ramallah for Al Jazeera by Silvia Boarini.)

Al Jazeera’s story of the Holy Fire ceremonies described the tradition:

Palestinians lined the streets of Ramallah to watch scouts (kashaf in Arabic) march in the traditional Sabt al-Nour parade on Sunday, marking the arrival of the Holy Fire from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

According to Christian tradition, every year, on the day before Orthodox Easter, a flame lights itself at the site of Jesus’ burial. The fire is then transported from Jerusalem to Orthodox communities across Palestine, and around the world.

There are 50,000 Palestinian Christians living in the West Bank and Gaza. The festival serves as a celebration of Palestine’s rich history and national identity in the context of a protracted Israeli occupation and increased fragmentation of Palestinian land.

“The community is getting smaller and smaller,” Father George Awad of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jifna, told Al Jazeera. “Most families have a relative who emigrated to America or Australia. The situation is very difficult here. There are checkpoints and no jobs and it’s hard to care for your family.”

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) found that Palestinian Christians are increasingly unable to complete pilgrimage to Christian holy sites in Jerusalem during Easter or Christmas.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and unilaterally annexed it in 1980, declaring the city the undivided capital of the State of Israel. Palestinians’ entry to Jerusalem has since been regulated by a strict permit regime.

Israel reportedly issued 20,000 permits for Palestinian Christians to attend Easter festivities in Jerusalem this year. While Israel claims restrictions are implemented to guarantee public security and avoid overcrowding, it has been repeatedly criticised for not guaranteeing full Palestinian access to the city’s religious sites.

Does Obama want to be remembered as a president who allowed this tyranny to continue for eight years? Does he want to be remembered as the president that tolerated treatment of Palestinian children such as the boy above, who could not travel to Jerusalem to follow the movement of the Holy Fire?

Israel is the spoiled child of the American empire who has stolen the father’s keys and refuses to heed any advice to put the car back in the family garage.

No U.S. leader or mainstream commentator has the courage to tell him what he already knows but is unwilling to act upon.

The New Yorker adds its burial encouragement in a blog posting, What now for the Honest Broker?

From James Baker to Madeline Albright and now Kerry, senior U.S. diplomats have tried to present the United States as an “honest broker” between the two sides, interested only in the promotion of peaceful coexistence. About the only people who take this idea seriously are U.S. officials and commentators.

The United States isn’t, and can’t be, a neutral mediator in the Middle East. It has long acted as Israel’s closest ally, biggest benefactor, and ultimate guarantor of its security.

In an op-ed in the Times earlier this year, Avi Shlaim, the eminent Israeli historian who teaches at Oxford, pointed out some awkward realities:

The simple truth is that Israel wouldn’t be able to survive for very long without American support. Since 1949, America’s economic aid to Israel amounts to a staggering $118 billion and America continues to subsidize the Jewish state to the tune of $3 billion annually.

America is also Israel’s main arms supplier and the official guarantor of its “quantitative military edge” over all its Arab neighbors.…

In the diplomatic arena, Israel relies on America to shield it from the consequences of its habitual violations of international law.… America poses as an honest broker, but everywhere it is perceived as Israel’s lawyer.

The American-sponsored “peace process” since 1991 has been a charade: all process and no peace while providing Israel with just the cover it needs to pursue its illegal and aggressive colonial project on the West Bank.

In his book, Rashid Khalidi quotes William Quandt, “who dealt with this issue on the National Security Council staff during the 1970s.”

Quandt sums up the Palestinian dilemma in presidential decision-making: “the Palestinians had no domestic constituency”.

The religious communities in the U.S. are supposed to be the source of the nation’s conscience, the moral center that speaks for the voiceless.

Unfortunately, with some scattered exceptions, our religious communities are still trapped in their own self-imposed political prison, euphemistically referred to as “interfaith dialogue”.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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10 Responses to It Is Time to Bury the “Honest Broker” Deception

  1. Excellent post, Jim; truly a great, comprehensive read. Sadly, I have not one iota of confidence that Obama has the will or the way to break the “entangling alliance” that afflicts us and the Palestinians so sorely.

  2. Patricia Blair says:

    Indeed excellent! This American is totally disgusted with Obama and Congress on this issue!

  3. Janet Varner Gunn says:

    It’s a priviledge to grow old with James Wall ! I knew of him in my University of Chicago days when I shared Swift Hall with our wonderful friend and mentor Martin Marty, I was reviewed by his magazine, The Christian Century, when I published my memoir on my human rights stint in Palestine during the First Intifada, and I now find a faithful and informed voice during this endlessly refusal stance on the part of my government and community friends in a Lutheran parish here in Maine to turn on to the on-going “situation” in Palestine (and the U.S. Congress) that drives the both of us crazy.

    How are we able to slide over the Biblical injunctions that Sunday after Sunday call out about Israel’s apostacy and our own blindness to the ongoing injustice in our Holy Land? How long, O Lord?

    Thank you, Jim, for your sumud!

  4. wallwritings says:

    And thank you, Janet, for your kind words and for your fond memories from our common memory bank. Jim

  5. Roy Hayes says:

    Jim, I don’t want to give up on Obama and Kerry yet. They may be encouraged enough to make a difference when Pope Francis goes over next month calling for “unity”. Also there’s a new petition making the rounds on the Internet calling for Congress to support a shared Jerusalem where the rights of all are respected. It’ll be interesting to count the signatories: Peace, Roy

  6. Fred says:

    Sadly, Christians have long ago lost any influence they had of standing for justice in Palestine and against the US wars of empire. Christians in this country are often pro war, except at Christmas when we send out cards proclaiming the birth of the “prince of peace”.

    We have also been no match for challenging mainstream Jewish American organizations support for apartheid Israel, and the money and influence they have over Congress and the Whitehorse, regarding this issue and their wish for the US to attack Iran for Israel as well.

    America has no Adelson’s to support Palestinian rights and our Congress votes unanimously for Israel on almost every vote. Jews are in charge of this issue. Christians don’t seem to count, even when we stand up for justice and against Israeli apartheid. Even when Christians as well as Moslems are persecuted. We have no clout in our own government. The only way this would change, is to have billionaires on the Palestinian side, like Israel has for it. Does anyone see that happening? I don’t. and because of this, nothing will change in our great oligarch republic, where money rules. Let’s face it, this is how it is.


  7. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Jim, Thanks for a great review of Israel’s incomparable dominance of American foreign policy in the Middle East, to the severe detriment of American interests and moral values.
    From Congress to media, to Hollywood, to our own churches, the siege of America is complete. When church choirs chant for “Israel”, or “Zion”, how are they supposed to realize that the state of Israel has nothing to do with the Ancient Israelites. Rarely does one find a person who realizes that, since the Crucifixion, Israel’s definition has changed to signify “people who believe in God through Jesus Christ”.
    Jesus lived in a land called Palestine, and though born into a Jewish family, He brought about a new religion that His followers called, Christianity. And by virtue of being born on Palestinian soil, Jesus Christ was automatically a “Palestinian”, regardless of religion, or tribe, ethnicity, or Semitic dialect or language
    Palestinian Arab Christians are privileged to declare Jesus Christ to be our FIRT SUPREME MARTYR and He is the beloved Son of God and Savior of mankind. As Palestinians, we also embrace our Muslim, Jewish, and Druze brothers and sisters on our common Holy land of Palestine. .

  8. Eugene Fitzpatrick says:


    My chagrin over American “main-line” Protestant and Catholic betrayal of social justice re: Palestine is long standing. In this regards, any observations you might have, as an on the scene Chicagoan, about the support given to the Zionist plunder by Loyola U. recently and by De Paul U. several years ago, would be of much interest, particularly the heretofore well concealed details of ‘l’affaire Finkelstein’.

  9. Samia Khoury says:

    Once again, thank you Jim for your great contribution. I heard Dr. Khalidi’s presentation of his book in Jerusalem, and if I had any hope in the role of the US administration before the end of Mr. Obama’s term, it was all gone. I remember writing him a letter when he was first elected and I was in the US at the time. What a great disappointment he turned out to be, and he certainly did not deserve the peace prize that he won appriori. Hoping that he will do something before his term is over is just as dead as the peace process itself.

  10. Teri Nilson Baird says:

    Amen and AMEN. What is done in our name is unconscionable.

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