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I recently wrote a piece wherein I expressed my distaste for the political/military strategies of Yassir Arafat. My distaste centers primarily on what I perceive to be his reactionary (as opposed to revolutionary) nationalism. Having said this, however, I am appalled and angered by his treatment at the hands of the Israeli government. Indeed, I am still digesting what I just read on the news ticker that runs underneath whatever program I am currently working in on my computer here at work. Israel’s security Cabinet decides in principle to expel Yasser Arafat, but puts off taking immediate action,is the text of the message.
What kind of principle is that, I wonder, that demands the expulsion (or death) of a man who, despite his faults (real and imagined), represents the anti-colonial struggle of the Palestinian people? The most obvious answer to this rhetorical question would be: It’s the principle that says might makes right. After all, it is this principle that seems to be what guides Israel’s financial backer–the United States–in its endeavors around the world. So why shouldn’t it be good enough for the homicide bomber Ariel Sharon and his enablers?
In addition to the big time dollars it provides, the United States also lends the Tel Aviv government “moral”support. Of course, the morality of that support is based on the principle mentioned abovea principle based not on justice or peace, but on overwhelming strength and its accompanying brutal force. This brutal force, when used, provokes its hoped-for response: a murderous attack by a Palestinian guerrilla group somewhere often perpetrated on non-military women and children. Which, in turn, legitimizes the following attack by the Israeli military&ad infinitum.
Meanwhile, people die and the powers that currently run the world tighten their hold. Although Mr. Arafat has been isolated, besieged, exiled, and bombarded, he is still alive and still the nominal leader of the PLO, which is the organization founded over thirty years ago to organize the struggle of the Palestinians in their fight for a land of their own. If the Israelis succeed in expelling or killing him, they probably believe that they will have taken a major step forward in their realization of their dream of a greater Israel. Unfortunately, the likely result will be the opposite. The most recent Israel/US-approved candidate for prime minister will have a shorter term than the recently departed Mr. Abbas and the suicide bombers will become even more murderous.
Despite Arafat’s fluctuating support among the Palestinians as a leader, he does seem to represent their hopes. After all, he has been fighting for the cause for a long time. Although his time may have passed in terms of his ability to keep the various factions of the liberation movement under his control, his expulsion and/or death by the Israelis would surely be met with a wave of angry violence as yet unseen by the people in Israel and the Occupied Territories. In addition, it is unlikely that the violence would restrain itself solely to that region of the Middle East or the world.
Recently, Democrat Howard Dean said that the United States should not take sidesin the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if it wants to be perceived as a fair-minded broker. This is not a radical view, especially when you consider the source. However, this common-sense remark had barely been made before Joe Lieberman–a politician whose bloodlust at least equals that of Donald Rumsfeld, attacked it. Like Rummy, Lieberman acts as if there is no conflict between the haves and the have-nots in the world that can’t be solved by the force of American arms. His rabid support of Israel in its fight against the Palestinians, the Colombian military in its fight against much of Colombia’s poor, and the oil axisbattle for Iraq are all notches in the bloodstained belt that he wears so proudly. Like Rummy, he also likes to take that belt off every once in a while and use it on his opponents.
Lieberman was joined soon thereafter by a variety of Israel-right or wrongchorus members who said, to a man/woman, that the US can not compromise our support for Israel. Despite the deadly intransigence of this position, politicians from both parties line up behind it. Despite the fact that people like Dean are as pro-Israel as Lieberman and his supporters, the little crack that Deans statement of common sense might make in the policy that insists on the US government backing every mission made by the Israeli military into Gaza and the West Bank has brought down the wrath of those policymakers whose intolerance of the Palestinians borders on pathology. Indeed, by the end of last week, Mr. Dean was convinced that his moment of common sense has no place in a presidential campaign and he retracted his comment.
It is up to the Palestinians to decide when Mr. Arafat should leave his post. The United States and Israel have no legitimate say in the matter. Of course, this is why his exile, if it occurs, will be at the point of a gun and it’s effect will involve more carnage than any suicide bomber’s belt.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org