Back to the Future: Bush Administration Proposed Settling Displaced Palestinians in South America

Back to the Future: Bush Administration Proposed Settling Displaced Palestinians in South America

Back to the Future: Bush Administration Proposed Settling Displaced Palestinians in South America

Condoleezza Rice thought that Chile, or perhaps Argentina, could be a solution to Israel’s right-of-return problem.


 Editor’s Note: With this post we welcome Greg Grandin, a frequent contributor to The Nation, to two weeks of guest-blogging on The Notion. Greg will be covering the Americas broadly, looking at Latino organizing, economic policies, and the conservative movement, and how US policy influences the region and vice versa.
The Guardian reports that Condoleezza Rice and the Bush Administration proposed, in a June 2008 Berlin meeting between Israelis and Palestinians, giving displaced Palestinians land in either Argentina or Chile. This apparently would serve as a solution to the “right-of-return” issue, that is, the demand by the millions of displaced Palestinians to return to their homes. The proposal was found among the recently leaked "Palestine Papers."

It is unclear if Rice ran the idea by Chileans or Argentines, but the idea invokes nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century schemes to solve conflicts caused by slavery, colonialism or nationalism by settling “problem” peoples on supposedly “vacant” lands. Liberia, for instance, was founded by the US in 1822 as a homeland for freed slaves. And then there’s Israel itself. It wasn’t specified what part of Chile Rice wanted to give to the Palestinians, though the country’s southern “frontier” has historically served as the second home of European migrants and refugees. But southern Chile is also the historic first home of the Mapuche people, who are currently waging a multi-year struggle to recover stolen land and political rights—not unlike Palestinians. And like the Palestinians, they suffer greatly at the hands of a state that invokes anti-terrorism laws (many of them dating back the Pinochet years, retrofitted for the “Global War on Terror”) to justify harsh prison terms and torture.   

At least Rice’s proposal was better than the one offered by Bush’s Pentagon undersecretary and neocon ultra, Douglas Feith, who immediately after 9/11 suggested, according to a memo cited by the 9/11 commission report, that the United States hold off invading Afghanistan and instead bomb the tri-border region joining Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay—home to a large community of migrants from Syria and Lebanon—just to "surprise" Al Qaeda and throw it off guard.  Liberia’s capital is called Monrovia, after the US president who founded it, James Monroe. Bushrovia anyone?  

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