Thursday, June 03, 2010

Liberation of Palestine: Causes for its abortion

Arwa kindly translated my article from Al-Akhbar on the "Liberation of Palestine: Some Causes behind its Abortion":

"The Liberation of Palestine: Some Reasons Behind its Abortion
As`ad AbuKhalil

Year after year, the Palestinian people “commemorate” the Nakba’s[i] anniversary. Year after year, Palestinians in Diaspora hold gatherings heavy with sadness. You see the same pictures: republication of black and white pictures of the expulsion of the people of Palestine. Pictures of house keys and deeds of lands which were not left voluntarily. Memory has become obscenity under Salam Fayyadh (who is no different than Fouad Al-Seniurah; the two are very dear to the worst American president in the history of American-Israeli relations). Fayyadh wants the Palestinian resistance to be content with preparing giant plates of musakhan[ii], just as Fouad Al-Seniurah wanted to greet the enemy with hospitality and tea after the Al-Hariri resistance model. Suffering a chronic illness, an activist group in Lebanon prepared the largest kuffiyeh[iii] on a painful occasion. But memory has a different meaning.

Arab regimes no longer observe the Nakba’s memory today. In the past, they used to use the occasion to glorify the eternal, steadfast, vigilant, pioneering, malevolent leader. Regimes used to employ their worst speech writers and poets to commemorate the anniversary. They used to select Palestinian representatives who went along with the regimes in order to avoid embarrassment. This is no longer possible today. Saudi Arabia sold the Palestinian cause to Ronald Reagan – and Arab regimes followed – and sold it again under the rubric of Thomas Friedman’s initiative, which the Saudi king adopted and imposed on the all Arab regimes including Lebanon and Syria (the former relies on Elias Almurr’s planes to resist Israel, the latter repeats its plea for direct or indirect negotiations with Israel as it awaits “the return of the Golan Heights”). Arab regimes have decided, in collaboration with the Palestine Liberation Organization since 1991, when the official Arab regime published the national Palestinian movement for the Palestinian people’s opposition of the first American invasion of Iraq, to restrain the PLO and impose a humiliating peace with Israel to please Washington.

It won’t help to return to the Nakba’s events. They’re known by now. Walid Al-Khalidi and others have narrated the events of that period. Racist Israeli historian, Benny Morris, revealed secret Zionist plans to expel the Palestinian people from their land (but the ignorant in Lebanon, like Jubran Basille, still repeat that the lie that the Palestinians sold their own lands). Today we know that all Arab regimes without exception, especially the regime that lead joint Arab military opposition to Zionist forces, were sold out to Britain or to both Britain and Israel. This applies to Lebanon, which used to serve Israel during Arab Israeli wars by holding itself out as neutral. The Nakba, as Constantine Rizek wrote in his book “The Meaning of the Nakba,” which deserves re-reading, wasn’t the result of a miracle or luck (the Fatah movement issued a statement in 1970 following the death of Gamal Abdulnaser stating “you’re unfortunate, Palestine”). Rather, it was because the Arabs didn’t plan for victory. On the contrary, all Arab regimes were heading towards defeat because victory would have cost more than they could afford, especially in light of their selling out to the Zionist West.

However, it is useful to examine the factors underlying the abortion of the march towards Palestine’s liberation. I recall that the great late Shafiq Al-Hout once asked me that question at a closed conference in Beirut regarding American policy towards the Palestinian cause. I recall that observation and list here the many factors including:

First, delegating the responsibilities of simultaneously defending Palestine and leading joint military action to Jordan at a time when the regime was sold out to Britain and the Zionist movement simultaneously.

Second, Lebanon’s distancing itself from the Arab-Israeli conflict since before the usurping entity was established, which protected the northern part of occupied Palestine and made it easier for Israel to face the Syrian and Egyptian armies through subsequent wars. Some Lebanese groups’ dealings with Israel made it easier to plot against the Palestinian revolution, especially after it moved from Jordan to Lebanon in 1970. The Palestinian revolution’s rise in Lebanon coincided with the collaboration between Lebanese forces and the Israeli enemy. Joseph Abu Khalil’s narrative about the commencement of Phalange-Israeli collaboration during the civil war is incorrect. Hebrew sources suggest that the Phalange Party received Israeli monetary support since the fifties (strict Israeli censorship surely would not leak information about arming the Phalange in the fifties in order to protect its allies’ interests).

Third, the Zionist United States’ control of the Palestinian camps (in collaboration with the Lebanese and Jordanian regimes particularly) immediately after the Nakba to quell spontaneous revolts that the dispossessed Palestinian people desired to engage in following their violent expulsion from their homeland. UNRWA’s role wasn’t that different than American goals.

Fourth, the Palestinian people’s faith in Gamal Abdulnaser or the Ba’th to liberate Palestine, which led to lethal dependence that characterized Palestinian national action between 1948 and 1967. That is, the Palestinian people should have doubted the Arab regimes’ promises since Shukri Al-Qutali promised a Palestinian delegation before the Nakba to nuke Israel (as narrated by Mousa al-Alami).

Fifth, the trust that the Palestinian people gave the Soviet Union during the Cold War undermined the Palestinian revolution’s structure. One could say that the initial collaboration between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, for example, and China could have been more useful especially since China adopted better positions than the USSR in the sixties and early seventies. The USSR took advantage of its leverage among Palestinian groups to further goals unrelated to Palestine (the USSR was, and Russia continues to, support the liberation of no more than 24% of historic Palestine).

Sixth, the success of Zionist propaganda in exaggerating Zionist intelligence throughout the decades, which led to the spread of a culture of despair and disappointment among the Palestinian people and the Arab people in general. The policy of desperation and installing exhaustion and “we want to live” slogans are prevalent in all countries surrounding Israel. They’re in common between Israel and Arab regimes.

Seventh, Yasir Arafat’s rise and successful assertion of his vision in Fatah and the PLO, which gave Gulf regimes, especially Saudi Arabia, the opportunity to strike the Palestinian revolutionary movement and influence its political choices and help the right strike the left. Publicly available British and American documents reveal the extent of malignant pressure King Faisal exercised on Fatah’s leadership. Fatah’s direction could have been different had King Faisal, Khalid Al-Hasan and the right failed to control the movement (with money as some claim?) since the sixties.

Eighth, Arab regimes managed to infiltrate Palestinian organizations through intelligence operations to the extent that every intelligence system has Palestinian groups working separately from the Palestinian revolution. The Lebanese and Palestinians recall that the “Thunderbolt’s” leader was assassinated in Cannes, southern France. He’d never said before dying that the road to the liberation of Palestine passed through the L’azurde shore.

Ninth, the abundance of oil money, both reactionary and “progressive,” contributed to the corruption of all Palestinian organizations and weakened their revolutionary resolve. These organizations became subject to the financial source that led to the creation of partisan bureaucracies (on both the right and the left), which in turn distanced Palestinian activism from revolution. Money also created an incentive for the expansion of Palestinian organizations but it aborted secretive revolutionary work. The Palestinian movement’s poverty would have been a factor behind its success.

Tenth, Syria-Iraqi Ba’thist rivalry deprived the Palestinian revolution of the opportunity to receive strong support from two revolutionary regimes. The Ba’th had done much to prepare for Palestinian liberation but the conflict between the Syrian and Iraqi regimes led to the exploitation of the Palestinian scene for each regime’s respective interests. The conflict between the two imposed on the Palestinian agenda considerations irrelevant to the liberation of Palestine.

Eleventh, Yasir Arafat’s line and slogans of “the Palestinian decision’s independence” led to the Palestinian revolution’s isolation and separation from general Arab concern. This gave a golden opportunity for Arab regimes to wash their hands of the Palestinian people’s cause. The “Palestinian decision’s independence” slogan meant nothing more than replacement of Egyptian or Syrian political control with Saudi control.

Twelfth, the spread of the Palestinian cause in Amman and Lebanon (or Tunisia thereafter) weakened the PLO’s secrecy and allowed Israel’s many agents to infiltrate the Palestinian revolution’s ranks through many means. Hezbollah’s secrecy and its ability to foil all Israel’s attempts to infiltrate the movement are two factors behind its success. Throughout the years, Israel has succeeded in assassinating a vast number of the Palestinian revolution’s leaders. Israel succeeded in targeting some of the most qualified Palestinian activists, both undercover and public.

Thirteenth, the PLO established firm relations with states (many of which were totalitarian, especially those in the Soviet camp) and neglected establishing relations with peoples via civil society’s institutions. The late Edward Said had always encouraged the PLO to form relations with sympathetic leftist or liberal organizations in the United States instead of pursuing Washington’s Zionists’ amiability.

Fourteenth, early on the Zionist movement bet on the winning horse. In 1942 it transferred, by an order from Ben Gurion, its lobbying focus from Europe to the United States. The Zionist movement had held its first annual convention in the Biltmore Hotel in New York (Arabic sources usually conflate “Biltmore”, the hotel which was subsequently demolished, and “Baltimore” city in Maryland) in order to create an external base for the Zionist movement. The convention passed a clear resolution, unlike the Zionist movement’s usually vague statements, explicitly calling for the establishment of a state. The state’s name, the “Commonwealth,” appeared in the statement in addition to listing the state as part of the “free world.” At the time, the Arabs didn’t realize the importance of the Zionist movement’s relocation to the United States. Of course, the movement found fertile ground in the Jewish community’s embrace at a time when Arab immigrants were hiding behind American names to avoid their culture.

Fifteenth, Arab regimes didn’t strive to coordinate their efforts in the Palestine wars due to internal conflict and partisan tensions. How could one expect coordinated Arab work in 1967 when tensions between AbdulNaser and the Ba’th, or between the Ba’th and King Hussein, or between AbdulNaser and King Hussein, were most intense. They tried misleading their peoples into believing that the war they would wage against Israel in military coordination would be swift and last only a few days.

Sixteenth, modern Arab armies were built on the basis of protecting the regime, not the land or the homeland or Palestine. “Republican” brigades and “national” guards used to and continue to enjoy the latest weaponry and equipment while border troops receive leftover weapons. Arab armies weren’t organized to liberate Palestine (or protect the land). Furthermore, western countries that armed Arab armies were careful not to equip them to face Israel. Consequently, the United States bestows gifts and tanks to the Lebanese army and internal security forces in order to protect against internal rebellion and Palestinian camps only. But the United States and Britain would not have allowed for weaponry to confront Israel. The Soviet Union didn’t give the Arabs its best weaponry as the United States did for Israel.

Seventeenth, dissident Palestinian groups that could have formed a united front against the Arafat bloc and his compromising approach in the seventies, erred by surrendering their affairs to the Saddamist Iraqi regime. They lost all opportunities for independent work and flung the gates wide open for intelligence infiltration.

Eighteenth, no doubt Anwar Sadat presented a unique and successful twentieth century political phenomenon (from Israeli and American perspectives). We can say that Sadat, who lacked popular legitimacy and public Arab support, left a greater mark than Gamal AbdulNaser. Sadat eradicated Naserite heritage altogether. We still know only little about the rise of Sadat and the American (or Israeli) role that contributed to that rise. But Gamal AbdulNaser bears great responsibility for selecting him and leaving power in his hands after his death. We see the depth of the Sadat school of thought around the Arab world, which accepts servile conciliation with Israel and adopting hideous, open capitalist economies. Anwar Sadat succeeded in serving the Zionist movement more than any other Arab, even the Hashemites. Each provision of the servile Arab initiative carries the fingerprints of Anwar Sadat (in addition to those of Thomas Friedman, their author).

Nineteenth, Israel and its supporter the United States succeeded in neutralizing the Jordanian and Lebanese neighbors, which facilitated Israel’s assault on the Palestinian revolution inside and outside Palestine, in addition to confronting Egypt and Syria before AbdulNaser’s death. It is well known that Lebanon refused a Syrian request, prior to 1967, to send Syrian troops to Lebanese soil. This may have undermined the June 5 catastrophe.

Twentieth, Arabs decided to trust the promises of the United Nations and its arbitrators while Israel ignored them completely even during the Cold War, when the US represented a certain balance in international relations. Had the Arabs treated the United Nations harshly and refused partition since the beginning in 1947, coordinated Arab work (and it was never coordinated) would have been more effective (theoretically at least).

Twenty first, the establishment of the Oslo authority in Ramallah allowed Israel and the United States to form a Southern Lebanese Army force to serve the Israeli occupation, discard armed struggle and pursue those who “commit” it. The authority receives equipment and support from the United States to protect Israel as an agent. Yasir Arafat, in spite of all his mistakes – and they were grave mistakes – refused until the last minute to give up armed struggle unconditionally. But he showed willingness to give it up in return for certain conditions. Those who came after him rushed to give up armed struggle without conditions.

Twenty-second, the 1967 defeat was a watershed moment in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Had Arab governments not followed Gamal AdbulNaser’s leadership (their involvement resulted from heated confrontations between the Jordanian right and the Syrian left), or had the Egyptian regime not entrusted Abdulhakim Amer with the responsibilities of leading armed struggle, or had the Egyptian regime not been dragged into the Yemen war, which Saudi Arabia fought on behalf of the United States using Israeli weaponry, the imbalance of power between Arabs and Israel would not have been so drastic on the eve of war.

Twenty-third, Israel succeeded in disseminating insidious ideas within the framework of psychological warfare, assisted by Arab regimes – whether by collaboration or ignorance. In spite of the failure of Israeli intelligence at many points, years before the Al-Mabhouh assassination scandal in Dubai, Israeli intelligence achieved more success in public relations than in the intelligence field itself. Of course, Israel’s ability for random explosions didn’t mean it knew about the intricacies of the Palestinian leadership. Israel didn’t know the truth behind “Black September” until after Abu Dawud’s memoirs were published.

Twenty-fourth, through terrorism and racism, Israel exercised a police state grip over Palestinians of 48. It employed brutality because it knew that its ability to control and steal Palestinian land depended on a strict racist system inside occupied Palestine. The usurping entity wanted to steal the little that was left for Palestinians to send a message.

This is not an exhaustive survey for a bygone conflict. It’s not the announcement of the end of a war that has gone on for over a century and will continue. This is only a glance at the reasons behind the abortion of the Palestine liberation struggle. Names and goals have changed. But nothing has changed for the Palestinian people in camps and under occupation. The manipulation of Palestinian public opinion by Salam Fayyadh and Muhammad Dahlan has not yet reached its goal of stopping the Palestinian people’s revolution. Zionism’s dilemma is aggravated in spite of its nuclear, biological and chemical arsenal. It will share the fate of the apartheid regime in South Africa (a new book documenting the relationship between the Hebrew state and the apartheid regime in Africa just came out “The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa” by Sasha Polakow-Suransky). The apartheid regime used to possess the largest army in the African continent in addition to an advanced nuclear program. But all that meant nothing under the pressure of the Black majority. Like South Africa, Israel will become a footnote in our region’s history. However, preparing a giant plate of “musakhan” won’t do the job, just like a giant plate of hummus didn’t protect Lebanon from Israel.

[i] Translator’s note: Nakba refers to the violent expulsion of the indigenous Palestinian population by Zionist forces in 1948.

[ii] Translator’s note: Musakhan is a traditional Palestinian dish made with chicken, sumac and herbs.

[iii] Translator’s note: Kuffiyyeh is a traditional checkered Arabic headscarf, historically symbolized resistance to colonization.