After the Autumn of the Patriarch (was Re: New Economy, Mid East)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sun Oct 15 08:48:42 PDT 2000

>This is the peace process
>'The alternative to the peace process is no longer hypothetical. It is
>unfolding today before our eyes', said President Clinton. But the
>fighting in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank is not a departure from
>the Peace Process, it is its obvious conclusion. The Peace Process was
>made possible by the moral exhaustion of the PLO, having fought for
>thirty years to free Palestine. Without Soviet support, the PLO accepted
>America's offer of a negotiated solution that would recognize the
>sovereign claims of both Israel and the Palestinians.
>Far from ending the conflict, the peace process has only succeeded in
>institutionalizing it. Under the so-called peace process Palestinians
>suffered as much violence if not more than they did under the direct
>Israeli rule. To ensure their claim to land in the negotiations,
>Israelis increased the building of settlements and new buildings around
>Jerusalem. Israeli Defence Force attacks on Palestinian civilians
>increased during the Peace Process. The most recent round of violence
>was provoked by President Clinton's own intervention in opening the
>discussion on the status of Jerusalem, leading to Ariel Sharon's
>disruption at the Al Aqsa mosque. So far one hundred Palestinians have
>been slaughtered by in the IDF offensive, that culminated in a
>helicopter gun-ship attack on Yasser Arafat's office in Gaza.
>America's mistake is to imagine that it has negotiated a peace when the
>condition of that negotiation is a massive breach between the PLO and
>ordinary Palestinians. Clinton might have negotiated a peace with
>Arafat, but it is a deal that has offered nothing to Palestinians, who
>are unmoved by appeals for calm.
>President Clinton is stunned that the ungrateful Arabs have spat in his
>face. So far seventeen US marines have been killed in a suicide attack
>on a ship harbored in Yemen, two Israelis were killed when caught spying
>on a Palestinian funeral and a bomb devastated the British Embassy in
>Yemen. These Arab successes look spectacular but are actually a sign of
>desperation. Throughout the Middle East, the moral defeat of Arab
>nationalism has led to a dislocation between the elites and their own
>populations. On the Western media's scale of values, the crisis only
>becomes a crisis when non-Arabs get killed. But the reaction of
>Palestinians to repression was wholly predictable. It is not the end of
>the Peace Process. For Palestinians, violence is what the Peace Process
>always was.
>James Heartfield

Correctomundo! To anyone who has been paying attention to Palestine, it is glaringly obvious that "the condition of that negotiation [of the Peace Process] is a massive breach between the PLO and ordinary Palestinians." And to think that folks like Brad can imagine that Arafat can & should rein in desperate Palestinians & Arabs elsewhere!!!

***** The Nation

COMMENT | October 30, 2000

The End of Oslo


Misreported and flawed from the start, the Oslo peace process has entered its terminal phase of violent confrontation, disproportionately massive Israeli repression, widespread Palestinian rebellion and great loss of life, mainly Palestinian. Ariel Sharon's September 28 visit to Haram al Sharif could not have occurred without Ehud Barak's concurrence; how else could Sharon have appeared there with at least a thousand soldiers guarding him? Barak's approval rating rose from 20 to 50 percent after the visit, and the stage seems set for a national unity government ready to be still more violent and repressive.

The portents of this disarray, however, were there from the 1993 start, as I duly noted in The Nation (September 20, 1993). Labor and Likud leaders alike made no secret of the fact that Oslo was designed to segregate the Palestinians in noncontiguous, economically unviable enclaves, surrounded by Israeli-controlled borders, with settlements and settlement roads punctuating and essentially violating the territories' integrity. Expropriations and house demolitions proceeded inexorably through the Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu and Barak administrations, along with the expansion and multiplication of settlements (200,000 Israeli Jews added to Jerusalem, 200,000 more in Gaza and the West Bank), military occupation continuing and every tiny step taken toward Palestinian sovereignty--including agreements to withdraw in minuscule, agreed-upon phases--stymied, delayed, canceled at Israel's will.

This method was politically and strategically absurd. Occupied East Jerusalem was placed out of bounds by a bellicose Israeli campaign to decree the intractably divided city off-limits to West Bank and Gaza Palestinians and to claim it as Israel's "eternal, undivided capital." The 4 million Palestinian refugees--now the largest and longest existing such population anywhere--were told that they could forget about return or compensation. With his own corrupt and repressive regime supported by both Israel's Mossad and the CIA, Yasir Arafat continued to rely on US mediation, even though the US negotiating team was dominated by former Israeli lobby officials and a President whose ideas about the Middle East showed no understanding of the Arab-Islamic world. Compliant but isolated and unpopular Arab chiefs (especially Egypt's Hosni Mubarak) were humiliatingly compelled to toe the American line, thereby further diminishing their eroded credibility at home. Israel's priorities were always put first. No attempt was made to address the injustice done when the Palestinians were dispossessed in 1948.

Back of the peace process were two unchanging Israeli/American presuppositions, both of them derived from a startling incomprehension of reality. The first was that after enough punishment and beating, Palestinians would give up, accept the compromises Arafat did in fact accept and call the whole Palestinian cause off, thereafter excusing Israel for everything it has done. Thus, the "peace process" gave no considered attention to immense Palestinian losses of land and goods, or to the links between past dislocation and present statelessness, while as a nuclear power with a formidable military, Israel continued to claim the status of victim and demand restitution for genocidal anti-Semitism in Europe. There has still been no official acknowledgment of Israel's (by now amply documented) responsibility for the tragedy of 1948. But one can't force people to forget, especially when the daily reality is seen by all Arabs as reproducing the original injustice.

Second, after seven years of steadily worsening economic and social conditions for Palestinians everywhere, Israeli and US policy-makers persisted in trumpeting their successes, excluding the United Nations and other interested parties, bending the partisan media to their wills, distorting the actuality into ephemeral victories for "peace." With the entire Arab world up in arms over Israeli helicopter gunships and tanks demolishing Palestinian civilian buildings, with almost 100 fatalities and almost 2,000 wounded, including many children, and with Palestinian Israelis rising up against their treatment as third-class citizens, the misaligned and skewed status quo is falling apart. Isolated in the UN and unloved everywhere in the Arab world as Israel's unconditional champion, the United States and its lame-duck President have little to contribute.

Neither does the Arab and Israeli leadership, even though they are likely to cobble up another interim agreement. Extraordinary has been the virtual silence of the Zionist peace camp in the United States, Europe and Israel. The slaughter of Palestinian youths goes on while they back Israeli brutality or express disappointment at Palestinian ingratitude. Worst of all are the US media, cowed by the fearsome Israeli lobby, with commentators and anchors spinning distorted reports about "crossfire" and "Palestinian violence" that eliminate the fact that Israel is in military occupation and that Palestinians are fighting it, not "laying siege to Israel," as Madeleine Albright put it. While the United States celebrates the Serbian people's victory over Milosevic, Clinton and his aides refuse to see the Palestinian insurgency as the same kind of struggle against injustice.

My guess is that some of the new Palestinian intifada is directed at Arafat, who has led his people astray with phony promises and maintains a battery of corrupt officials holding down commercial monopolies even as they negotiate incompetently and weakly on his behalf. Sixty percent of the public budget is disbursed by Arafat to bureaucracy and security, only 2 percent to the infrastructure. Three years ago his own accountants admitted to an annual $400 million in disappeared funds. His international patrons accept this in the name of the "peace process," certainly the most hated phrase in the Palestinian lexicon today.

An alternative peace plan and leadership is slowly emerging among leading Israeli, West Bank, Gaza and diaspora Palestinians, a thousand of whom have signed a set of declarations that have great popular support: no return to the Oslo framework; no compromise on the original UN Resolutions (242, 338 and 194) on the basis of which the Madrid Conference was convened in 1991; removal of all settlements and military roads; evacuation of all the territories annexed or occupied in 1967; boycott of Israeli goods and services. A new sense may actually be dawning that only a mass movement against Israeli apartheid (similar to South Africa's) will work. Certainly it is wrong for Barak and Albright to hold Arafat responsible for what he no longer fully controls. Rather than dismiss the new framework being proposed, Israel's supporters would be wise to remember that the question of Palestine concerns an entire people, not an aging and discredited leader. Besides, peace in Palestine/Israel can be made only between equals once the military occupation has ended. No Palestinian, not even Arafat, can really accept anything less. *****

Edward Said, alas, can't see the connection between the ghastly Peace Process and the dreadful dissolution of Yugoslavia. As Heartfield notes, "Without Soviet support, the PLO accepted America's offer of a negotiated solution that would recognize the sovereign claims of both Israel and the Palestinians." And with the collapse of the USSR, the Evil Empire saw no reason to keep Yugoslavia as a non-aligned buffer between East and West. The end of the Soviet Union, the end of anti-imperial nationalism & progressive pan-Arabism (e.g., Palestinian struggles for statehood & against American-Israeli colonialism), the end of market socialism that depended upon the delicate balance of power between East and West (= socialist Yugoslavia), the end of social democracy, the end of corporatism & import substitution, the end of anti-communist dictatorship (e.g., Mobutu, Suharto, etc.), the end of the pacifist and/or anti-imperialist Left in the West (e.g., the German Greens).... This is what you call post-modern conditions. Post-Modern = Post-Soviet. And the post-Soviet conditions began _even_ before the formal end of the Soviet Union (= the overthrow of Ferdinando Marcos, the invasion of Panama, the Gulf War, etc. which saw the Evil Empire turning against its erstwhile allies Marcos, Noriega, & Hussein).

We are living in the midst of the unwritten sequel to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's _The Autumn of the Patriarch_: the Spring of the Vultures of Neoliberalism.


P.S. Long live Fidel -- the Last Patriarch! Take good care of yourself. So we can buy some time to recover & rebuild the socialist & anti-imperialist Left in the West (& the Rest, but especially in the West) on new foundations....

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