FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Emergine Alternatives in Palestine

Since it began 15 months ago the Palestinian Intifada has had little to show for itself politically, despite the remarkable fortitude of a militarily occupied, unarmed, poorly led, and still dispossessed people that has defied the pitiless ravages of Israel’s war machine. In the United States, the government and, with a handful of exceptions, the “independent” media have echoed each other in harping on Palestinian violence and terror, with no attention at all paid to the 35-year Israeli military occupation, the longest in modern history: as a result, American official condemnations of Yasser Arafat’s Authority after 11 September as harbouring and even sponsoring terrorism have coldly reinforced the Sharon government’s preposterous claim that Israel is the victim, the Palestinians the aggressors in the four-decade war that the Israeli army has waged against civilians, property and institutions without mercy or discrimination.

The result today is that the Palestinians are locked up in 220 ghettos controlled by the army; American-supplied Apache helicopters, Merkava tanks, and F-16s mow down people, houses, olive groves and fields on a daily basis; schools and universities as well as businesses and civil institutions are totally disrupted; hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed and tens of thousands injured; Israel’s assassinations of Palestinian leaders continue; unemployment and poverty stand at about 50 per cent — and all this while General Anthony Zinni drones on about Palestinian “violence” to the wretched Arafat, who can’t even leave hi s office in Ramallah because he is imprisoned there by Israeli tanks, while his several tattered security forces scamper about trying to survive the destruction of their offices and barracks.

To make matters worse, the Palestinian Islamists have played into Israel’s relentless propaganda mills and its ever-ready military by occasional bursts of wantonly barbaric suicide bombings that finally forced Arafat in mid-December to turn his crippled security forces against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, arresting militants, closing offices, occasionally firing at and killing demonstrators. Every demand that Sharon makes, Arafat hastens to fulfil, even as Sharon makes still another one, provokes an incident, or simply says — with US backing — that he is unsatisfied, and that Arafat remains an “irrelevant” terrorist (whom he sadistically forbade from attending Christmas services in Bethlehem) whose main purpose in life is to kill Jews.

To this logic-defying congeries of brutal assaults on the Palestinians, on the man who for better or worse is their leader, and on their already humiliated national existence, Arafat’s baffling response has been to keep asking for a return to negotiations, as if Sharon’s transparent campaign against even the possibility of negotiations wasn’t actually happening, and as if the whole idea of the Oslo peace process hadn’t already evaporated. What surprises me is that, except for a small number of Israelis (most recently David Grossman), no one comes out and says openly that Palestinians are being persecuted by Israel as its natives.

A closer look at the Palestinian reality tells a somewhat more encouraging story. Recent polls have shown that between them, Arafat and his Islamist opponents (who refer to themselves unjustly as “the resistance”) get somewhere between 40 and 45 per cent popular approval. This means that a silent majority of Palestinians is neither for the Authority’s misplaced trust in Oslo (or for its lawless regime of corruption and repression) nor for Hamas’s violence. Ever the resourceful tactician, Arafat has countered by delegating Dr Sari Nusseibeh, a Jerusalem notable, president of Al-Quds University, and Fatah stalwart, to make trial balloon speeches suggesting that if Israel were to be just a little nicer, the Palestinians might give up their right of return. In addition, a slew of Palestinian personalities close to the Authority (or, more accurately, whose activities have never been independent of the Authority) have signed statements and gone on tour with Israeli peace activists who are either out of power or otherwise seem ineffective as well as discredited. These dispiriting exercises are supposed to show the world that Palestinians are willing to make peace at any price, even to accommodate the military occupation. Arafat is still undefeated so far as his relentless eagerness to stay in power is concerned.

Yet at some distance from all this, a new secular nationalist current is slowly emerging. It’s too soon to call this a party or a bloc, but it is now a visible group with true independence and popular status. It counts Dr Haidar Abdel-Shafi and Dr Mustafa Barghouthi (not to be confused with his distant relative, Tanzim activist Marwan Barghouthi) among its ranks, along with Ibrahim Dakkak, Ziad Abu Amr, Ahmad Harb, Ali Jarbawi, Fouad Moghrabi, Legislative Council members Rawiya Al-Shawa and Kamal Shirafi, writers Hassan Khadr and Mahmoud Darwish, Raja Shehadeh, Rima Tarazi, Ghassan Al-Khatib, Nassir Aruri, Eliya Zureik and myself. In mid-December, a collective statement was issued that was well-covered in the Arab and European media (it went unmentioned in the US) calling for Palestinian unity and resistance and the unconditional end of Israeli military occupation, while keeping deliberately silent about returning to Oslo. We believe that negotiating an improvement in the occupation is tantamount to prolonging it. Peace can only come after the occupation ends. The declaration’s boldest sections focus on the need to improve the internal Palestinian situation, above all to strengthen democracy; “rectify” the decision-making process (which is totally controlled by Arafat and his men); assert the need to restore the law’s sovereignty and an independent judiciary; prevent the further misuse of public funds; and consolidate the functions of public institutions so as to give every citizen confidence in those that are expressly designed for public service. The final and most decisive demand calls for new parliamentary elections.

However else this declaration may have been read, the fact that so many prominent independents with, for the most part, functioning health, educational, professional and labour organisations as their base have said these things was lost neither on other Palestinians (who saw it as the most trenchant critique yet of the Arafat regime) nor on the Israeli military. In addition, just as the Authority jumped to obey Sharon and Bush by rounding up the usual Islamist suspects, a non- violent International Solidarity Movement was launched by Dr Barghouthi that comprised about 550 European observers (several of them European parliament members) who flew in at their own expense. With them was a well-disciplined band of young Palestinians who, while disrupting Israeli troop and settler movement along with the Europeans, prevented rock-throwing or firing from the Palestinian side. This effectively froze out the Authority and the Islamists, and set the agenda for making Israel’s occupation itself the focus of attention. All this occurred while the US was vetoing a Security Council resolution mandating an international group of unarmed observers to interpose themselves between the Israeli army and defenceless Palestinian civilians.

The first result of this was that on 3 January, after Barghouthi held a press conference with about 20 Europeans in East Jerusalem, the Israelis arrested, detained and interrogated him twice, breaking his knee with rifle butts and injuring his head, on the pretext that he was disturbing the peace and had illegally entered Jerusalem (even though he was born in it and has a medical permit to enter it). None of this of course has deterred him or his supporters from continuing the non-violent struggle, which, I think, is certain to take control of the already too militarised Intifada, centre it nationally on ending occupation and settlements, and steer Palestinians toward statehood and peace. Israel has more to fear from someone like Barghouthi, who is a self-possessed, rational and respected Palestinian, than from the bearded Islamic radicals that Sharon loves to misrepresent as Israel’s quintessential terrorist threat. All they do is to arrest him, which is typical of Sharon’s bankrupt policy.

So where is the Israeli and American left that is quick to condemn “violence” while saying not a word about the disgraceful and criminal occupation itself? I would seriously suggest that they should join brave activists like Jeff Halper and Louisa Morgantini at the barricades (literal and figurative), stand side by side with this major new secular Palestinian initiative, and start protesting the Israeli military methods that are directly subsidised by tax-payers and their dearly bought silence. Having for a year wrung their collective hands and complained about the absence of a Palestinian peace movement (since when does a militarily occupied people have responsibility for a peace movement?), the alleged peaceniks who can actually influence Israel’s military have a clear political duty to organise against the occupation right now, unconditionally and without unseemly demands on the already laden Palestinians.

Some of them have. Several hundred Israeli reservists have refused military duty in the occupied territories, and a whole spectrum of journalists, activists, academics and writers (including Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, David Grossman, Ilan Pappe, Dani Rabinowitz, and Uri Avnery) have kept up a steady attack on the criminal futility of Sharon’s campaign against the Palestinian people. Ideally, there should be a similar chorus in the United States where, except for a tiny number of Jewish voices making public their outrage at Israel’s military occupation, there is far too much complicity and drum-beating. The Israeli lobby has been temporarily successful in identifying the war against Bin Laden with Sharon’s single-minded, collective assault on Arafat and his people. Unfortunately, the Arab American community is both too small and beleaguered as it tries to fend off the ever-expanding Ashcroft dragnet, racial profiling and curtailment of civil liberties here.

Most urgently needed, therefore, is coordination between the various secular groups who support Palestinians, a people against whose mere presence, geographical dispersion (even more than Israeli depredations) is the major obstacle. To end the occupation and all that has gone with it is a clear enough imperative. Now let us do it. And Arab intellectuals needn’t feel shy about actually joining in.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
December 09, 2019
Jefferson Morley
Trump’s Hand-Picked Prosecutor John Durham Cleared the CIA Once, Will He Again?
Kirkpatrick Sale
Political Collapse: The Center Cannot Hold
Ishmael Reed
Bloomberg Condoned Sexual Assault by NYPD 
W. T. Whitney
Hitting at Cuban Doctors and at Human Solidarity
Louisa Willcox
The Grizzly Cost of Coexistence
Thomas Knapp
Meet Virgil Griffith: America’s Newest Political Prisoner
John Feffer
How the New Right Went Global — and How to Stop It
Ralph Nader
Why Not Also Go With “The Kitchen Table” Impeachable Offenses for Removal?
M. K. Bhadrakumar
Sri Lanka Continues Its Delicate Dance With India
Robert Fisk
Meet the Controversial Actor and Businessman Standing Up Against Egypt’s el-Sisi
Dahr Jamail
Savoring What Remains: Dealing With Climate PTSD
George Wuerthner
Bison Slaughter in Yellowstone…Again
Scott Tucker
Premature Democratic Socialists: Reasons for Hope and Change
Julian Rose
Polish Minister of Health Proposes Carcinogenic 5G Emission Levels as National Norm
Dean Baker
Coal and the Regions Left Behind
Robert Koehler
Envisioning a United World
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
Paul Street
The Dismal Dollar Dems and the Subversion of Democracy
Dave Lindorff
Conviction and Removal Aren’t the Issue; It’s Impeachment of Trump That is Essential
Ron Jacobs
Law Seminar in the Hearing Room: Impeachment Day Six
Linda Pentz Gunter
Why Do We Punish the Peacemakers?
Louis Proyect
Michael Bloomberg and Me
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold
Joseph Natoli
What We Must Do
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Global Poison Spring
Robert Fantina
Is Kashmir India’s Palestine?
Charles McKelvey
A Theory of Truth From the South
Walden Bello
How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True
Evan Jones
BNP Before a French Court
Norman Solomon
Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War
Torsten Bewernitz – Gabriel Kuhn
Syndicalism for the Twenty-First Century: From Unionism to Class-Struggle Militancy
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: From Banja Luka to Sarajevo
Thomas Knapp
NATO is a Brain Dead, Obsolete, Rabid Dog. Euthanize It.
Forrest Hylton
Bolivia’s Coup Government: a Far-Right Horror Show
M. G. Piety
A Lesson From the Danes on Immigration
Ellen Isaacs
The Audacity of Hypocrisy
Monika Zgustova
Chernobyl, Lies and Messianism in Russia
Manuel García, Jr.
From Caesar’s Last Breath to Ours
Binoy Kampmark
Going to the ICJ: Myanmar, Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Gamble
Jill Richardson
Marijuana and the Myth of the “Gateway Drug”
Muzamil Bhat
Srinagar’s Shikaras: Still Waters Run Deep Losses
Gaither Stewart
War and Betrayal: Change and Transformation
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail