By Dina Jadallah-Taschler
It really is time to be biased, and emphatically so. Biased against racism, injustice and oppression.
The assault on Gaza and its wake leave the Palestinians on uncertain ground. On the one hand, there is their legitimate right of resistance in order to achieve national liberation. On the other hand, are internal, regional, and international forces that seek to impose an externally imposed and pre-determined hegemonic solution.
War is consistently used by Israel as the prime means of statecraft. In the past, it has usually succeeded in achieving its goals, being the far more technologically advanced party. But as that gap shrinks, it is less useful against the asymmetric tactics of the weaker and oppressed Palestinians. With the second intifada, it became clear that war was no longer sufficient. It was still useful to terrorize, but not so productive in ensuring submission. Credit here is due to the Palestinians’ resilience and refusal to accept their unjust condition. A second tactic was then pursued (at length) in Oslo: co-opt the leadership who would then make the concessions that are dictated and also use the Palestinian’s own “security apparatus” to control the unruly and resilient population. Since then, war continues, either blatantly, or disguised as the interminable and completely concessionary peace process.
To terminate the endless recycling of Palestinian oppression it is time to strip the “process” away from “peace.”
To allow, accept and welcome resistance in the face of an oppressive occupier must start with truth-based and newspeak (1) – free re-education. For one, expose what “moderate” and “extremist” really means. Further, expose the truth behind every bomb dropped “smartly,” every “military maneuver” launched with a lofty name, programs of “democracy” and “human rights” and “cultural re-education” designed to “help” the Palestinians (with the caveat, if only they’d help themselves). Frequently the approach is that if Palestinians don’t like these results, then it is clearly their own fault and it only makes the violent Israeli response all the more urgent. Israel’s massacre in Gaza to “help” “free” the population from Hamas very generously freed thousands from their lives, limbs and livelihoods. News needs to truthfully report on the killed, maimed, and terrorized, the destroyed schools, the equipment-free and medicine-less hospitals, the broken sewers, the political prisoners in “detention,” the tortured, the displaced, etc. Just like the classical Orwellian formula that “war is peace,” Israel and her enablers use “ignorance” and apathy as their “strength.” It is time for American mainstream media to stop knowingly or unwittingly reinforce ignorance, thereby making the strong stronger in their oppression. Overwhelmingly, it has not done so. Why bother to explain Hamas and Gaza when you can label them “terrorist?” Why trouble with having Palestinians and Arabs speak for themselves when we could just question our own US-based reporters (and if pressed, they can always quote a “puppet” insider? Why bother to read their writers or learn their language when they can read (Israeli) Raphael Patai’s Arab Mind? The end result is that “informed” “free” Western observers of the Palestinian Question are now freely thinking and expressing worthless rhetoric, effectively enslaved in their ignorance. But only the truth will change policies in favor of justice and equality.
Internally, who may and may not speak for Palestinians is crucial. The aftermath of the attack on Gaza may have forced the need to decide who that will be. It highlighted the split between the “rejectionist” camp (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and socialist and nationalist other groups) and the “negotiating/peace-seeking/ moderate” camp (Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the PLO, both of which are dominated by Fatah — although some groups within Fatah supported the resistance in Gaza). The failure of Israel to eliminate Hamas and the other rejectionists has given life to the possibility of “resistance” being a right and a prime policy of the PLO, as well as to ending the PA’s domination over the PLO. For many years various Palestinian groups have been calling for restructuring the PLO and for not allowing the appointed (and externally selected) PA to speak and negotiate (meaning concede) dictatorially on their behalf. (2)
On a regional level, a recent press conference of Turkish PM Erdogan and Egyptian President Mubarak is revealing. All rhetoric in support of Gaza aside, Erdogan’s presence raises the issue of a NATO role in enforcing a “solution.” It is also potentially subtle confirmation of the Rice-Livni Accord that was signed in Washington before the end of the assault and which announced that the US and NATO will be providing guarantees to Israel. For his part, Mubarak urged a “New Middle East.” But he also insisted on retaining the “historical” PLO as representative of the Palestinians. (3) Being the “moderate” mediator between the Israelis and the Palestinians tells us a lot about whose interests will be represented. The announced talks that Egypt will be hosting will unsurprisingly not focus on the central issues of resistance and liberation and national rights. Instead, talks will deal only with the manifestations of the original injustice and not the cause: ceasefire, negotiations over opening borders, lifting the blockade, and resolving internal Palestinian divisions.
It is quite interesting what is left unsaid and what is discarded completely within these talks. For instance, Mubarak used “historical” ambiguously and did not elaborate on what that would really mean. To start, insistence on the “historical” PLO is code for the unelected and term-expired Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud ‘Abbas who graciously (!) re-elected himself president. This could and should be interpreted as external reinforcement for the PA, which was criticized for its stance during the last assault on Gaza and for its continued domination of the PLO in its post-Oslo reincarnation as an unrepresentative and weak rubber stamp structure. Egypt and those whose interests it represents demand that the PA be the voice to speak for and negotiate on behalf of Palestinians. Ironically, this same PA has eliminated the integral reason for the very creation of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization). It is no longer concerned with any form of resistance, and is, in fact, actively opposed to it. Especially since the Oslo Accords, it now prefers the role of other regional “moderates” whose role is to provide “security” for Israel. “Moderates’” other roles also entail following neo-liberal, neo-conservative and anti-human agendas. Mubarak’s call must therefore be viewed from within that framework. Seen this way, lifting the blockade actually means stopping the arms flow into Hamas-controlled Gaza, i.e. stopping a legitimate right of resisting occupation. And resolving internal divisions will entail manipulating and forcing a role for the present leadership of the PA. The resilience of resistance in Gaza has put Fatah on the defensive and so it recently announced that it will hold a conference in Jordan on March 21, 2009 to restructure. (4) Not so ironically, it will be held near the Dead Sea!
Moreover, Mubarak’s use of the phrase “New Middle East” is instructive. Despite a supposedly new approach to foreign policy under the Obama administration, it seems that Bush policies continue.
The term “New Middle East” was first introduced by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Tel Aviv with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in June 2006 during the height of the Israeli assault on Lebanon. It replaced the older “Greater Middle East” and was intended to signal to the world the American and Israeli intentions to radically transform the region by relying mainly on the widespread “creative destruction,” (5) otherwise spun by Rice as “the birth pangs of democracy.” Essentially, its main component was (and is) the preference for military interventionism and chaos to effect change in favor of achieving US and Israeli hegemonic goals. It attempts to redraw maps to facilitate resource extraction, globalization, the spread of neo-liberalism, control over oil flows, and so forth. It does this by creating “security dilemmas” that force people to identify with smaller groupings and factions to ensure their protection against the disintegrating or violent state. It thus enhances and tries to consecrate societal, religious, and political divisions so as to fracture states into smaller and more easily controlled entities. (6) Examples of this include the invasion and attempted federalization of Iraq into Sunni, Shi’i and Kurdish states, the war and internal agitation in Lebanon against Hezbollah, as well as the effective split in the Occupied Territories between Gaza and the West Bank. The newspeak justification used continues to be Trojan horses like “liberation,” “democracy,” “human rights,” “women’s rights,” as well as (racist) arguments of civilizational advancement and overcoming “cultural stagnation.” This takes the guise of “fighting terrorism.” Furthermore, assistance for this “New Middle East” project is obsequiously and enthusiastically provided by “moderate” forces like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority as well as others in the region.
One must view Mubarak’s insistence on maintaining the “historical” PLO within this international and regional attempts to perpetuate Palestinian oppression. Resistance is nowhere to be seen. It has degenerated into talk about opening checkpoints and who is to be in charge of reconstructing Gaza. Moreover, the proposed framework for negotiations between the PA and Hamas is circumscribed as well to conform with the Israeli agenda, setting up four groups to deal with government, security forces, elections, and resolution of internal divisions. (7) Notice again the ignoring of the vastly more important question of achieving national rights and liberation for the Palestinians – a demand that historically Egypt insisted upon. International complicity in the Palestinians’ oppression was evident as well, with the EU announcing the donation of $216.2 million in “aid” to the PA (and implicitly, its security forces). (8) The same was intended with the previously mentioned Rice-Livni Accord.
Those who really care about the restoration of Palestinian legitimate and historic rights would like to see a fully inclusive and completely elected organization that truly reflects popular wishes and that can faithfully represent their interests and aspirations. This includes resistance and liberation. What name it is given is of much less significance. And achieving national aspirations is the vastly more important goal.
On the Israeli side, the elections have exposed, yet again, the increasing radicalization of the Israeli populace. The Labor Party, which founded the state, has slipped to fourth place in the number of seats won in the Knesset. They are now behind Kadima, Likud, and the even more racist and fascist Ysrael Beiteinu. Moreover, when one includes the seats of the far-right Shas party as well, it is quite obvious that the segment seeking “peace,” however deformed a version, has dwindled to insignificance.
Rhetoric aside, the Israeli version of “peace” has historically been merely a dragged out process during which they establish “facts on the ground” which effectively torpedo any such thing. More often than not, it has actively pursued war as a means of establishing the state, then expanding it, then suppressing any and all resistance to its oppression. The only new development is that in the present global neo-liberal and neo-conservatively aggressive environment, Israel sees no need to embellish its true nature. This makes it possible for political persons and parties in Israel to now defend and promote blatantly the racist and ethnically cleansing ethos of the state.
Proof of this is easy to find if one looks at the party platforms and political statements — not to mention concrete actions like war, settlement expansion, road blocks, etc. The elected majority of Likud, overwhelmingly former Likud (Kadima), Ysrael Beiteinu, and Shas use overt or covert language that rejects a fully independent, contiguous and fully sovereign Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories – a promise made in the Oslo Accords.
If one was unaware of the truth, and only knew newspeak, then the results might seem surprising. For instance, Neve Gordon, in an interview with Democracy Now, said that Lieberman’s Ysrael Beiteinu party did exceptionally well even though they do not have a strong economic or social program. Likewise, Likud also surged in the elections despite having done nothing since Netanyahu was forced out of office in a scandal in 2006. (9) One reason, the main reason in my opinion, is that they can all agree on hatred of Palestinians. Lieberman’s demand of a loyalty oath was often reported as if he were exceptional. But that is disingenuous. According to Hanin Zoubi, the first Palestinian woman to stand for election in Israel, it is nothing new. The only innovation he introduced is stripping “disloyal Arabs” of their Israeli citizenship. (10) But this must have been anticipated. Legally, Palestinians are recognized only as “Arabs” and are theoretically equal, “except in civic duty.” But de jure, they are second class citizens who aren’t even identified using their own identity – as Palestinians. (11) Historically, Israel has consistently prevented the formation of Palestinian nationalist political parties. MAPAI (early Labor) Israeli governments always hand-picked Palestinian politicians from among (cooperative) notables. A strategy they pursue today using the PA.
Palestinian representative Mustafa Barghouti says that Israel has completed the shift to racism, an apartheid state and political system, with the complicity of the army and the international community. Commenting on the Rice-Livni agreement, he said: “That agreement was that the United States and NATO will be providing guarantees to Israel and … prevent[ing] the resistance of the Palestinian people who are under occupation. So this is the first time in human history where … the people under occupation in the West Bank are supposed, through this huge security apparatus, which is consuming 34% of our budget, depriving us from healthcare and education – the Palestinian Authority is supposed to provide protection to its occupiers, and the world community has to provide protection to the occupying force of Gaza, in this case the Israeli occupying force.” (12)
Even the “moderate” Labor’s Party platform states: “The Labour Party recognizes the Palestinian’s right to self-determination, and does not rule out in this connection the establishment of a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty.” Note that it does not rule it in either. And while Kadima professes a willingness to give up parts of “Greater Israel,” its former leader Olmert proclaimed “our nation’s eternal and historic rights to this entire land” (2006 speech to US Congress). (13) Similarly, the so called peace-leaning leftist party, Meretz, initially supported the war on Gaza, and retreated from that position three days later only when the massacre didn’t achieve its goals on schedule. (14) Therefore, there are vast practical similarities between the parties despite the perceived spin/newspeak “differences” in their relations with the Palestinians.
Suffice to say that Palestinian oppression continues apace. But resistance only grows, as it must. And the vicious circle of resistance and oppression must and will be broken only when there is truth and justice.
– Dina Jadallah-Taschler is an Arab-American of Palestinian and Egyptian descent, a political science graduate and also an artist. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) “Newspeak” is the concept from George Orwell’s 1984. It was the method by which vocabulary was constructed so as to give only “acceptable,” meaning government approved, meaning to events. This is done by stripping words of their original meanings, by reducing their associations, by eliminating anything considered unorthodox or heretical. In effect, Newspeak and its limited, officially sanctioned, and created vocabulary limited independent thought by effectively eliminating entire concepts, for example intellectual freedom. Thus it is possible for ignorance to be strength, for slavery to be freedom and for war to be peace.
(2) In Cairo 2005, Hamas and Fatah agreed to restructure and re-vivify the PLO, with no implementation since. Calls are still ongoing to restructure the PLO into a more representative and active structure. The Palestine National Council of the PLO has not met officially since 1998, when it met to rubber stamp and reaffirm “Israel’s right to exist”. And its activist role on behalf of Palestinians has been essentially hijacked and subverted by the PA in Oslo 2003. The authority of the PA’s right to do this is derived of course, not from any legal basis, but from those with whom they are negotiating! Effectively, the PA has silenced the voices of Palestinians outside the Occupied Territories, among other things.
(3) Aljazeera.net (Arabic)
(4) Khaled Mismar, member of the Palestinian National Council (interestingly, it was formerly called the Fateh Revolutionary Council), made the announcement.
(5) The term was first used by the neo-conservative Bush advisor Michael Ledeen.
(6) L.C. Ralph Peters, “Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Will Look,” Armed Forces Journal, June 2006. It is not official Pentagon Doctrine but has been used in NATO training.
(7) Aljazeera.net (Arabic)
(8) Aljazeera.net (Arabic)
(9) Democracy Now with Mustafa Barghouti.
(11) The Israeli Declaration of Independence states the establishment of a “Jewish” state. Even earlier, in 1914, when Chaim Weizman said that Palestine was “a country without people,” he did not claim that it was empty, only that its people had no right to self-determination. Moreover, their naming as “Arab” is similar to the imperialist and hegemon’s naming of its subjects, for example the imposition of invented names on Native American tribes.
(12) Democracy Now with Mustafa Barghouti.
(14) Uri Avnery, “The Israeli Elections Dirty Socks,” Counterpunch, 2/10/2009.