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Sharon’s Bloody War Beat

There is something terribly wrong in this picture!

A new game in town has become the latest craze. Almost everyone seems to accept its rules, and enjoy playing it accordingly.

The Palestinian Authority considered it a triumph. The wimpy Russian and European governments welcomed it as a belated adoption of their vision. And the ever so servile Kofi Annan hailed it as an embodiment of new diplomatic thinking from Washington, finally substituting a multilateral process for an entrenched, decades-old unilateral approach to “resolving”–or managing–the Arab-Israeli conflict. The extremist right-wing government of Israel could not hide its glee, despite its public grumbles about it.

The subject of all this frenzy is a new creature called the Quartet. It comprises the United States (playing the drum, and acting-maestro), the European Union (playing the violin), Russia (trying to play the flute) and, yes, the United Nations (playing the maestro’s baton), in their respective order of relevance, and it aims at tackling the conundrum, otherwise called Middle East peace.

Seriously, now, the mere fact that the UN should be relegated to the status of a junior partner with two states–one and a half, really–and a collection of states is a telling sign of the newest world order, where the international organization–by definition, an umbrella that should be above the three others–instead of leading the efforts to resolve the age-old conflict in the region, according to the precepts of international law, is being herded by a rope, a tight one at that, and is forbidden from even barking when scolded for stepping out of line.

A non skeptic might protest: what matters is what the Quartet actually does, not its composition, or who leads whom. Let us for the sake of argument grant the validity of this pragmatic attitude. In other words, let’s accept–for now–that the recently throned American Empire is entitled to command even the union of nations of which it is ostensibly a mere member, and focus on that “team’s” actions instead.

Well, the Quartet’s first sonata was to draft a so-called roadmap aimed at bringing peace to the Middle East, by showing both parties how to get “there” from here. Of course, no one agrees on quite where “there” might be, but who cares? We were told about this draft in the media, but hardly anyone really saw it. Since then, everyone has been literally begging the US president–who?–to publish that document in order to launch the negotiation process. “Why the US president?”, a semi-intelligent observer might ask? “Shouldn’t Kofi do the honours? He is, after all, the most senior of all four players.” He is, theoretically speaking. But why get bogged down in such superficial detail? Let’s focus on the big picture, we are urged. Ok. Let’s.

Regardless who ought to decide on the date and manner of publication of this miraculous map–it is sounding more like a faintly legible map to some treasure in the Twilight Zone–why has it been delayed to this extent. Isn’t the situation between the Palestinians and Israelis pressing enough to grant a prompt international involvement? Depends whom you ask.

First, Sharon lobbied to delay the publication until after the Israeli elections. Bush et al immediately accepted that wise suggestion. When election day was behind us, though, Sharon asked for another delay until after the new Israeli government has been formed. Of course, that makes sense. For how can the venerable Quartet sell its stuff without having a stable party representing Israel on the other side of the table. And after the most fanatical right-wing government to ever lead Israel was sworn in, the whole circus was preempted–sorry, no better term to use here–by the War on Terror: The Sequel. With everyone busy planning, executing or protesting that, no one really had the energy or resources to engage in deciphering thorny roadmaps.

Have some faith, please! Eventually, we shall be blessed with the disclosure of this jewel.

Whenever the US president feels perfectly focused–as if that were at all possible–and ready, he will announce its contents. And each of the other members of the orchestra will play along in impeccable harmony. Except, the thundering thumps of the US drum will humble the rest of the pitiful orchestra. And if we listen acutely enough we may well hear echoes of a drum-beat that we’ve heard before. A relentlessly abrasive, repressive, dominating beat that we grew sick of hearing. Only then shall we recognize that we’ve been duped. It is Sharon’s bloody war-beat, fixed, mixed, carefully filtered, equalized, recycled, and marketed to us as a genuine Vivaldi.

OMAR BARGHOUTI is a Palestinian political analyst. His article “9.11 Putting the Moment on Human Terms” was chosen among the “Best of 2002” by the Guardian.

He can be reached at jenna@palnet.com.