Dangling the prospect of a Palestinian state sometime in the future, while imposing the deliberately impossible demand that the Palestinians change their leadership first, is a recipe for chaos.
In the speech there is no criticism by the US government of Sharon’s army trying to impose order on the chaos they have created. At the time of writing the Israeli army was reoccupying most of the West Bank and drawing up plans for a ‘massive’ operation in Gaza. What is not reported is that the right wing think-tanks advising Bush, and a key section of Sharon’s own cabinet, are talking up the prospect of ‘transfer’. This is the removal of the Palestinan population from the West Bank to Jordan–ethnic cleansing by another name. This is a policy which regularly surfaced as a possible Zionist option throughout the last century.
The problem they have is softening up public opinion. But chaos continues–killings on all sides seemingly spiralling out of control combine with the anti-Arab racism now sweeping Israel. Even a mainstream Israeli leader like former Labour prime minister Ehud Barak can denounce Arab culture as a ‘lying culture’, something ‘alien to the western Judeo-Christian tradition. This may be the perfect opportunity for the Israelis to carry out their forced removal of Palestinians.
George Bush had a message for the Palestinian people last month: you’re on your own. There will be no international condemnation of the brutal occupation and repression being carried out by Israeli troops. Ariel Sharon can commit his war crimes with impunity, safe in the knowledge that the US aid on which Israel depends will continue. Bush’s long awaited speech called for a ‘provisional’ Palestinian state conditional on the Palestinians electing a new leader to replace Yasser Arafat. Even the British government balked at this one.
The proposed removal of Arafat adds another name to the rather long list of those regimes which Bush’s government wants to change–forcibly if necessary. The Palestinian leader joins those of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, among others, as having displeased the US president by being allegedly too soft on terrorism. No wonder the most right wing Israeli parties are delighted with the speech–and no wonder the Palestinians are despondent. The response of the Palestinian Authority and the Arab rulers elsewhere in the Middle East has been feeble in the extreme, as their dream of influencing western opinion through diplomacy and gentle pressure disappears before their eyes.
Bush is not interested in peace in the Middle East, except insofar as continued war delays his plans for attacking Iraq. In the meantime he has publicly announced that CIA operatives will try to topple Saddam anyway. If peaceful regime change fails then he is banking on invasion. Some of the most influential in the White House believe that the solution to the Middle East lies in crushing Iraq and then enabling Israel to fully settle its scores with the Palestinians.
That way disaster lies. Bush enunciated in early June his doctrine of ‘pre-emptive intervention’–an open declaration of war against any part of the world suspected of ‘harbouring terrorists’. He regards it as his right to go round the world intervening at will. This will only add to the failures of the war against terrorism. Despite thousands dead in Afghanistan, there is no peace, no democratic government, and no sign that Al Qaida has disappeared. The Middle East and south Asia are now in turmoil, without a political solution or permanent resolution but just endless war.
But the US is meeting resistance–from the Palestinians themselves, from the masses in the Arab world, and from the solidarity and anti-war movements around the world. Those movements are making common cause with the growing movement against capitalism, as more and more people make the link between capitalism and war. The problems dogging the Bush administration in recent weeks are in part because it is meeting resistance around the world.
The struggle therefore is not simply for a Palestinian state. Events of recent weeks have shown that any such internationally agreed state would be a Bantustan, under the economic and military dominance of Israel. The fight should therefore be for a democratic, secular state, where Arabs, Jews and Christians could live together as they have done for most of history. Even more, it is a fight for a society which rejects the priorities of capital and war.
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