October 23, 2014

How the Palestinians Have Trapped Themselves and Dragged the West Along


photo: Zachary Baumgartner

photo: Zachary Baumgartner

“Everything reactionary is the same; if you don’t hit it, it won’t fall. This is also like sweeping the floor; as a rule, where the broom does not reach, the dust will not vanish of itself.” –Mao Zedong, The Little Red Book

It is amazing how many massive revelations pass people by completely. Consider this new gleaning from the British Archives from early 1948, which sheds much light on current events.  British officials in the Palestine Mandate were reporting as follows:

”The [Palestine] Arabs have suffered a series of overwhelming defeats….”Jewish victories … have reduced Arab morale to zero and, following the cowardly example of their inept leaders, they are fleeing from the mixed areas in their thousands. It is now obvious that the only hope of regaining their position lies in the regular armies of the Arab states.”

This is confirmation from hostile British official sources of what Israel and its supporters have been saying for 60 years: that the origin of the Palestinian Arab refugee problem was due to the actions of the Palestinian Arabs themselves: first, their leaders decision to reject the partition into Arab and Jewish states, then their decision to go to war, and then their disorganization and poor leadership. The British Foreign Office even uses the word, “cowardice.”

Some things have changed since then; many have not. Today, as in 1948, the Zionist side is more eager for the existences of an independent Palestinian state living in peace inside permanent borders than is the Palestinian Arab leadership.

That statement might strike misinformed people as ludicrous, but it is nonetheless true, as they should have known since Yasir Arafat’s destruction of the Camp David summit meeting and rejection of the Clinton peace initiative of 2000. And that only followed on the earlier Palestinian rejectionism of the original Camp David summit in 1977, which offered a pathway to statehood, or various other initiatives.

And this pattern of behavior is being reinforced daily. Consider a recent incident. On April 30, an Israeli civilian father of five was stabbed to death by a Palestinian at the Tapuach Junction on the West Bank. The killer was a prisoner who had just completed his sentence and been released by Israel, as Secretary of State John Kerry wants Israel to release hundreds of other prisoners before their sentences are done.

The killer is a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Note the following details:

–For many years Fatah, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority (PA), denied the link with the brigade. Legal cases were held in the United States over the murder of Americans by the al-Aqsa Brigade in which PA lawyers strenuously denied any connection. But in 2009, the Fatah Congress, that organization’s highest authority, admitted that the al-Aqsa Brigades were part of Fatah, a fact one might have known earlier since that’s what it said on the Brigades’ web-site.

Fatah proudly took responsibility for earlier terrorist attacks by the group.

In the case of the April 30 murder, the official Al-Aqsa Brigades statement was very interesting, saying it had “received a green light to carry out military actions against Israeli targets in response to the deaths of prisoners Arafat Jaradat and Maysara Abu Hamdia in an Israeli prison.”

A green light from whom? Since the Brigades did not receive a green light from itself, this is an open admission that they were ordered to murder military civilians by the Fatah leadership, in other words by those ruling the PA, a Western-financed and supported entity.

–The two prisoners had been examined at autopsies conducted in the presence of PA officials. Thus, the PA knew that these two men died of natural causes. It was thus lying to its own people to incite them into supporting murders of Israeli civilians that the PA was ordering.

–In this case, however, a junior member of the Fatah Central Committee named Jamal Muheisen, while defending the attack, tried to distance his organization from responsibility:

“The Za’atra action was a natural response to attacks by the occupation and settlers [on Palestinians], but it does not express the general policy of the Palestinian Authority and of Fatah, who have espoused [the option of] popular resistance to the occupation.”

But it was Muheisen and not the killer or the al-Aqsa Brigades that was criticized universally by Fatah. Nobody came to Muheisen’s defense. On the contrary, the killer was praised as a hero who restored Fatah’s pride. No doubt, a street, a square, or something else will be named in his honor in future.

One Fatah member put it this way:

“[The killer] is a hero of the Fatah movement, a revolutionary and a fighter who restores Fatah’s pride and former glory; he exposes the dark [face of] interested parties and unmasks the mercenaries.”

–But why use the phrase about restoring Fatah’s pride? Because the organization’s pride is counted by the number of Israelis it kills. That’s how score is kept in Palestinian politics, even in 2013. When Fatah isn’t killing Israelis it is ashamed (restores…former glory), while any Palestinian—like Muheisen—who doesn’t support it is one of the “mercenaries,” presumably of the Zionists and Americans. If Fatah doesn’t keep up the killings, it believes that means it loses ground to Hamas.

And if that’s not enough refutation, Abbas Zaki, a Fatah Central Committee member far more powerful than Muheisen–he was Arafat’s specialist on Arab regional politics--just claimed that Israel carried out the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Today, though, the most important fact about the PA is that it is in a box of its own making. It cannot win militarily against Israel, nor will it engage in serious diplomacy with Israel. During a recent meeting in Washington, supposedly to show Arab state support for a two-state solution, the PA’s representatives glowered in making clear they weren’t interested in serious negotiations with Israel.

Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the Fatah chiefs finally rid themselves of relatively moderate Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who was too honest for their purposes. Fayyad blasted the PA’s corruption and incompetence in a New York Times interview and then denied he had said these things, hoping for political survival.  It isn’t clear whether he might return but clearly the credibility of the PA regime’s front-man, who was effective at collecting international donation, should be undermined.

So what can the PA do? Collect billions of dollars in Western aid, stage occasional terrorist attacks, try to use the UN General Assembly’s designation of Palestine as a “non-member state” to try to get into international groups and someday sue Israel in the World Court. It is precisely because it lacks any active alternative that the PA and its allies are engaged in an unprecedented public relations’ campaign complete with strenuous attempts to subvert support for Israel in Jewish communities, boycotts, and disinvestment drives. This echoes the old PLO strategy although in this case it is not Arab state armies but armies of activists that will weaken Israel to the point that it must make huge concessions and subsequently collapse. Of course, this strategy won’t work as it did not work in the 1960s and 1970s.

Meanwhile, the PA leadership benefits from the status quo, they live well, pocket the aid money, posture as revolutionaries, and avoid being “traitors” by refusing to make peace.

A Western reader of this article might well think that such a situation is possible. It certainly isn’t what he’s seeing in the Western mass media. Yet the above description is nonetheless true.

The same person might conclude, with more justification, that such a situation cannot be sustained. He would look for a “solution,” assuming that the Palestinian leadership wanted such a solution. You know, we all know the broad outlines of a potential comprehensive agreement and we can play at drawing borders and have fun imagining the status of Jerusalem.

Yet the deadlock nonetheless prevails and it will prevail.

There is, of course, one way out: A Hamas takeover. Indeed, Hamas is becoming gradually more popular on the West Bank. Yet Western donations would dry up, Israel will keep the PA in power as the better of two bad alternatives.

Is it because Israel builds more apartments in settlements? That should be an argument for making the Palestinians more eager, not more negative, about making a deal to get rid of all settlements on Palestine’s territory.

While many in Israel, especially on the political right, wanted to keep the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1970s and 1980s, there is a broad Israeli consensus today that the goal is to get rid of involvement with these territories as long as it can be done in a way that reduces the likelihood of war and enhances security. The problem is that there has been no way found to do so. The left’s solution is to walk away from any present there; the problem with that idea is what has happened in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip where that strategy has been tried, plus the growing radical Islamist wave in the region to which a new state of Palestine would probably fall prey.

No, it’s because of the same thinking and strategy on the Arab side that has prevailed for more than 60 years. It is that thinking that views the murder of Israeli civilians as a source of glory and negotiations with Israel or moderation as a sign of treason.

Why, a colleague asks, is there such a growing gap between the lynch mobs hating Israel being trained on many college campuses and other public or media institutions, and the far different Western policies toward Israel on the government level?

The answer is this: the policymakers know the truth but conceal it from their publics sometimes because it benefits their perceived state interests (make Arabs and Muslims generally happy) and political interests (plays up to the left-wing activists). That’s too bad but reality remains unchanged.

 

 

 

About Barry Rubin

Prof. Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan)