Chapter 11. Political Context
"The tragedy in Palestine is not just a local one; it is a tragedy for the world, because it is an injustice that is a menace to the world's peace" Arnold J Toynbee 1968, quoted in the UN Report on Palestine 1990.
"A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld." George Washington's Farewell Address to the nation
Like the conflict in South Africa and other conflicts, the conflict in the Land of Canaan involves local, regional and international political dimensions. Understanding one of these dimensions without examining others can lead to mistaken conclusions about ways to resolve the conflict. War is indeed an extension of the politics of hegemony and control. Understanding the political players and their motivations is important, though not sufficient, to ending the conflict.
An Inevitable Clash on Zionism?
The picture that looms large in the Israeli Knesset and on Israeli money is that of Theodore Herzl. Although Herzl died long before Israel was established, his views still greatly influences a great many people. In his diaries, this Zionist pioneer’s plan for native Palestinians was as follows:
We shall have to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly (1).
Herzl's "spiriting" of the natives did not materialize like envisioned by Herzl and early Zionists. Instead, a violent and large-scale removal of the natives transpired first over a short period between October 1947 and early 1949 (as discussed in Chapter 4) and then slowly over the next 55 years with one upsurge of 300,000 removed in June 1967. Yet Herzl’s quote is instructive since it illustrates how Palestinian natives were viewed in a similar fashion to the way other colonialists viewed the native populations of the countries they invaded. The earliest Zionist pioneers had a vision of redeeming a land considered "abandoned" by its rightful owners for 2000 years. The Palestinians were considered at best squatters in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) who can be removed. It is like some one left their house for a while and returned to find it infested a few years later with pests or at best squatters. Cleansing and redeveloping the land was the main theme with the Palestinians viewed as either obstacles or even as non-existent. General Rafael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the IDF stated: "When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do will be to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle" (2). A colonial movement must view natives as "synonymous with everything degraded, fearsome, irrational, and brutal ... and ... stood outside, beyond Zionism” (3).
In the early 1900s, Palestinians were mostly farmers and peasants, with a few nomadic tribes and city dwellers. Under Ottoman rule, they were allowed to elect their parliamentary representatives. The Palestinian representatives had no real political power on the ground, which was held by Turkish military officers. These Turkish officers encouraged native Palestinians to develop feudal and patriarchal dependency while they simultaneously attempted to subvert any nationalistic feelings. This was the case not only in Palestine but also in most of the so-called "Third World" under Ottoman or other colonial rule. Unlike other nations facing colonial rule, Palestinians had the added and incredible weight of the Zionist program that was working towards creating settlements in the area in order to make it into a Jewish state. Yet, even as early as the first settlements in Palestine by the Zionist movement around the end of the 19th century, two classes of Palestinians developed and shared a distrust and antagonism to this movement. These were the intellectuals (including the representatives elected to the Ottoman Parliament) and the peasants (known as the fallahin, singular fallah in Arabic).
Some 418,100 dunums (Dunum= about 0.25 acre) of land were acquired by Jews in Palestine before 1914. 58% of this was purchased by Zionists from absentee land lords who were not Palestinians, 36% from Palestinian Absentee landlords, and the remainder 6% from local landlords and Palestinian peasants (fellahin) (4).
The fellahin farmed these lands for many generations and assumed de facto ownership. Thus the fellahin could not accept new Turkish or British laws that deprived them of their lands. The dispossessed fellahin had great resentment to the new de facto Zionist landlords as well as to the Arab elites who collaborated with the changing laws. In fact, the famed Martyr Shaykh Iz al-Din Al-Qassam had lived among displaced fellahin for years in the poor slums of Haifa where he acquired and understanding of their plight (5).
Khalidi cites an editorial in May 1914 published in the popular newspaper "Filastin" (Palestine) in which the editors of this fiercely nationalistic paper defend their position. The editors attacked the central Ottoman government for its attempts to shutdown this newspaper because the newspaper portrayed Zionism as a threat to the Palestinian nation (Al-Umma Al-Falastinia) (6). But these small pro-Palestinian stirrings were no match for great power plays that were to completely redraw the Middle East landscape.
Britain and France and the Zionist Program
The events leading up to the support of Britain and France for Zionist aspirations have received little historical discussion. In examining historical documents of powerful nations like France and Britain, we find these nations issuing declarations to support the Zionist aspirations. This came in France first with a letter sent from Jules Cambon, Secretary General of the French Foreign Ministry to Nahum Sokolow (at the time head of the political wing of the World Zionist Organization based in London) dated June 4, 1917:
You were kind enough to inform me of your project regarding the expansion of the Jewish colonization of Palestine. You expressed to me that, if the circumstances were allowing for that, and if on another hand, the independency of the holy sites was guaranteed, it would then be a work of justice and retribution for the allied forces to help the renaissance of the Jewish nationality on the land from which the Jewish people was exiled so many centuries ago. The French Government, which entered this present war to defend a people wrongly attacked, and which continues the struggle to assure victory of right over might, cannot but feel sympathy for your cause, the triumph of which is bound up with that of the Allies. I am happy to give you herewith such assurance (7).
Some five months later, on November 2, 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour conveyed to Lord Rothschild a similar declaration of sympathy with Zionist aspirations. It stated that:
His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
Palestinians and others in the Arab world were immediately alarmed. This declaration was issued when Britain had no jurisdiction over the area, and was done without consultation of the inhabitants of the land that was to become a "national home for the Jewish people." The declaration also wanted to protect "rights and political status" of Jews who choose not to immigrate to Palestine. However, the native Palestinians are simply referred to as non-Jews and their political rights are not mentioned but only their "civic and religious rights". Lord Balfour wrote in a private memorandum sent to Lord Curzon, his successor at the Foreign Office (Curzon initially opposed Zionism) on 11 August 1919:
For in Palestine we do not propose to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants ... The four great powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land (8)
The Jules and Balfour declarations are two documents that demonstrate the support made to the Zionist supranational entity that facilitated giving them control over a land that neither of the two governments had control of at the time Some British authors have provided explanations of this support based on a quid pro quo for Weizman's contribution to the British war efforts through such efforts as the development of better chemicals for explosives. Some argued that it was related to Britain's simple domestic situation with many Zionists both in the government and among the electorate. It could also be argued that Britain and France now had more reason had to benefit from a revival of their early 1840s desires to settle European Jews in Palestine as a way of a structural remodeling of Middle East geopolitics. Undermining the Ottoman Empire, which was now allied with Germany, provides only partial explanation and a poor one at best.
Jewish population in Palestine at the time was miniscule and most and was hardly in any position to engage in resistance against the Ottoman Empire. By contrast, nationalistic Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula were willing to oppose the Ottoman Empire and eager to liberate their native lands from the grip of the Turks. England in fact promised to support their independence as a result of their convergent interests as supported by documents such as the British correspondence with Sharif Hussain of Arabia and in the memoirs of T. E. Lawrence "of Arabia". As historians do, there is much argument about the factors and their relative importance that led to the decisions made by the governments in question. Much is now written about how the US entered the war and the possible role of influential corporate interests and US Zionists in bringing the US media and government to support the war efforts.
The British had also made a promise of independence to the Arabs if they aided them in opposing the Ottoman Empire. This was one of many "promises" but it was the one that was to over-ride all others as concrete actions were to reveal in just a short period of time. It important to note that these governments declared their public support for Zionism, even while simultaneously making private assurances to Arabs. The British and French public support was later joined by the Americans.
With acquiescence by the ailing President Wilson and an American administration slowly sinking into isolationism, the British had a free hand to implement their plans in Palestine. Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims, rioted against the British forces on February 27, 1920 in Jerusalem. The British command in Palestine recommended that the Balfour Declaration be revoked. However, the British leadership in London did not share the views of their soldiers and commanders in Palestine. As soon as Britain managed to secure the League of Nations mandate, it replaced its military governor there with a Zionist Jew: Sir Herbert Samuel as the first High Commissioner of Palestine (1920-25). It was Samuel who so effectively coached Weizmann during the Balfour negotiations. After Samuel became high commissioner, Jewish immigration greatly increased, and with it Palestinian resistance. Herbert Samuel and the Zionist leaning colonial offices in Palestine proceeded to set up the political, legal, and the economic underpinning for transforming the area to a Jewish country. Britain, with the acquiescence of other great powers, acquired the powers needed for its colonial venture. At the World Zionist Organization meeting held in London in July 1920, a new financial arm was established named the Keren Hayesod. The British-drafted Palestine mandate referred to this economic imperial structure:
An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognised as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration to assist and take part in the development of the country. The Zionist organization, so long as its organization and constitution are in the opinion of the Mandatory appropriate, shall be recognised as such agency. It shall take steps in consultation with His Britannic Majesty's Government to secure the co-operation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home. (9)
The fund was registered on March 23, 1921, as a British limited company. The executive of the Zionist Organization chose the chairman of the board and its members Funds that were collected helped finance the two largest projects to industrialize Palestine in the late 1920s; the Electric Company and the Palestine Potash Company (PPC) (10). Moshe Novemiesky, a leading Zionist, founded the PPC. In 1929, the British Colonial Office gave a concession to develop mineral resources in the Dead Sea to the PPC. The PPC was instrumental in generating large amounts of money funneled to the Zionist program. In 1952, after the state of Israel was established, the company became an Israeli State nationalized agency called the Dead Sea Works (11).
Arthur Rogers described the contribution of this British Concession to financing the Zionist movement after 1929 in his 1948 book (12). In the book there is a description of the report by the colonial office in 1925 on the fabulous wealth to be derived from the Dead Sea minerals. There is also a report of a Zionist Conference in Australia in 1929 in which Zionists were ecstatic about the fact that Britain gave this concession to a committed Zionist by the name of Novomiesky.
As early as October 25, 1919 Winston Churchill predicted that Zionism implied the clearing of the indigenous population, he wrote: "there are the Jews, whom we are pledged to introduce into Palestine, and who take it for granted the local population will be cleared out to suit their convenience" 13. In public, Churchill sought to assure the Arabs that Britain was pursuing a humane policy of limited Jewish immigration, that there is space without displacing native Arabs, and there is no need for Jewish State. But British private cabinet meeting minutes of October 1941 speak differently:
I may say at once that if Britain and the United States emerged victorious from the war, the creation of a great Jewish state in Palestine inhabited by millions of Jews will be one of the leading features of the peace conference discussions (14).
This of course was contrary to the conclusion reached two years earlier by the British commission of inquiry at the end of the Palestinian uprising of 1936-1939. This Paper stated:
The Royal Commission and previous commissions of Enquiry have drawn attention to the ambiguity of certain expressions in the Mandate, such as the expression `a national home for the Jewish people', and they have found in this ambiguity and the resulting uncertainty as to the objectives of policy a fundamental cause of unrest and hostility between Arabs and Jews.
... That Palestine was not to be converted into a Jewish State might be held to be implied in the passage from the Command Paper of 1922 which reads as follows "Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that `Palestine is to become as Jewish as England is English.' His Majesty's Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated ... The disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the (Balfour) Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded IN PALESTINE. (highlight in original)
But this statement has not removed doubts, and His Majesty's Government therefore now declares unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State. They would indeed regard it as contrary to their obligations to the Arabs under the Mandate, as well as to the assurances which have been given to the Arab people in the past, that the Arab population of Palestine should be made the subjects of a Jewish State against their will (15).
It is clear from this candid paper that the British undertook obligations under vague (I would argue intentionally vague) wordings likely to give them flexibility in implementation. The events between 1918 and 1938 had caused them up to reconsider their position. However, by this point forces were in motion that made a change virtually impossible The Yishuv were already strong and well armed in Palestine, Britain entered World War II, and Hitler's attacks on Jews made it less likely for the British to begin to enforce their curbs on Jewish immigration to Palestine proposed in the White Paper. One of the first acts of the nascent state of Israel in addition to instituting laws to prevent native Palestinians from returning to their homes and lands, was to repeal the White paper,
Britain Hands the Torch to the US
During the years between 1939 and 1948 a world was transformed. Britain lost its pre-eminence and the US became a superpower and adopted the Zionist cause, which was almost orphaned by the British as a result of the White Paper. The U.S. was not involved with Palestine or even generally in the Middle East in the early years of Zionism. US engagement in the conflict in Palestine first materialized after its entry in World War I. President Wilson articulated his vision January 8, 1918 in fourteen "peace" points. This included, "adjustment of colonial claims with concern for the wishes and interests of the inhabitants as well as for the titles of rival claimants" (15).
In the meantime, Britain was facing difficulties. A Palestinian movement against both British Colonial Rule and Zionist schemes built momentum to erupt in a mass uprising in 1936 (16). By 1939, the British put down this uprising in a most brutal way killing most of its leaders and cadres. Hundreds, and perhaps as many as 5000, of the best Palestinian fighters were killed and political leadership was decimated. This devastating blow had two simultaneous and interesting effects: weakening Palestinian political and civil institutions and causing the British to rethink their role in the Zionist program. This did not mean that the British would abandon the Zionist program. Instead, they would provide an international base for the program to mitigate problems created by their sole ownership of the program. Zionists also realized the shift in world political power structures and began to concentrate their work in the US.
During the late 1930s and early 1940s, there were two branches of Zionism: traditional and revisionist, which roughly corresponding to today divisions in Israel between Labor and Likud parties. Most discussion on the influence on American Policy focused on the Zionist labor movement. But, while less recognized, the revisionists actually had a longer-term effect on US policy. The Republican Party was especially vulnerable to their influence. Their ranks included people like Peter Bergson (who established the Bergson Zionist movement) and Benzion Netanyahu (father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu). They sent money and weapons to Palestine to support the underground terrorist movements (17).
While President Truman immediately recognized and supported the nascent Jewish state, he was also interested in Israel fulfilling its obligations vis-a-vis Palestinian refugees. On September 6, 1948, Truman gave his unconditional support to the proposals of the UN mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte who asked for repatriation of Palestinian refugees. His US Secretary of State, George Marshall, reiterated this in an address to the UN. Bernadotte was assassinated by the Irgun Jewish group whose leaders became Israeli prime ministers. After the assassination, Truman wrote Ben Gurion in a letter dated May 29, 1949 that the US was dismayed with the Israeli violation of international law and warned that his administration may review its relationship with the Jewish state. When Israel refused to be pressured, Truman backed down.
Israeli and Palestinian Political Discourse
Much has been written about the 1947-1949 period in history. These were the years of Al-Nakba (the Catastrophe) to the Palestinians as 80% of the natives were removed from the 78% of Palestine that had become the Jewish State. For Zionists, a new state of Israel was created through a "war of independence." Myths abound about this period. Contrary to published myths, even at the height of participation of Arab forces, Jewish forces held both a quantitative and qualitative advantage and much of the fighting was on lands not allocated to the Jewish state by the UN General Assembly recommendations (18). As noted in Chapter 4, the majority of the Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from the nascent Jewish State by Zionist forces well before the Arab countries sent their relatively smaller forces. Even the feeble attempts at resistance, consolidation, and counteroffensive were undermined by Arab leaders more interested in their own hegemony and powers than in the welfare of Palestinians. This was certainly true of Abdullah of Jordan who twice undermined efforts by Hajj Amin Al-Husaini to get the Arab league to support the establishment of a Palestinian government in exile (19).
The Palestinians, mostly leaderless since 1939 and now dispersed and their civil society destroyed by 1949 took years to regroup. A new Palestinian national leadership emerged in 1959 with the establishment of FATAH ('Harakat Tahrir Falastin has the acronym in reverse FT'H). Other groups also emerged around the same time and proliferated in the early 1960s. Many were motivated by the failed misrepresentation of Palestinian aspirations by some Arab countries. Palestinian political leanings covered the gamut including Baathist (supporting Iraqi and Syrian style Arab Nationalism), classic Arab nationalist (led by Egyptian President Jamal Abdul Nasser), secular mixed (e.g. Fatah), communist, and few Islamic. In 1964-1965, the Palestine Liberation Organization was established as an umbrella group to bring these factions together in representation at a Palestine National Congress, which was essentially a parliament in exile. It was truly a revolutionary movement in every sense of the word. There was never a movement like this in Arab history. The PLO's charter called for a secular state in Palestine where Jews, Christians and Muslims live together in equality. It was based on the classic revolutionary movements to liberate countries from colonization, occupation or puppet dictatorships. Israel's stunning blitzkrieg war of 1967 and its subsequent defeat of Egypt, Syrian, and Jordan propelled the PLO into prominence as an alternative to the failed policies of the Arab world. Israel's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan Heights started to galvanize not only Palestinians in exile but also those now under direct Israeli rule.
Initial Israeli government propaganda claimed that the 1967 war was not started by Israel to grab land but simply as defensive war after Egypt mobilized and other antagonistic factors. The following quotes tell a different story. Israeli General Matityahu Peled similarly stated: "The thesis that the danger of genocide was hanging over us in June 1967 and that Israel was fighting for its physical existence is only bluff, which was born and developed after the war" adding that "to pretend that the Egyptian forces massed on our frontiers were in a position to threaten the existence of Israel constitutes an insult not only to the intelligence of anyone capable of analyzing this sort of situation, but above all an insult to the Zahal (Israeli army)" (20). To prove Israel's intentions, Israeli governments wasted no time in starting to build settlements in the West Bank immediately after acquiring this territory by Force in June 1967. This has continued unabated regardless of the status of peace or war in the Middle East.
But the Palestinians also gained political power and international recognition throughout these years of Israeli occupation. In March 1968 an Israeli army invading Jordan met fierce resistance by Palestinian guerrillas aided by Jordanian army units in the area at the village of Karameh. The battle at Karameh catapulted the PLO to national and international stage with Arafat riding a wave of popularity. The Palestinians also developed institutions (education, health care, and welfare) and a strong system of government in exile represented by the Palestinian National Council. It was the first time that a group managed to have a positive effect on the lives of Palestinians both in exile and remaining in their lands under Israeli occupation. But there were also setbacks and blunders. In 1970-1971, the PLO was violently removed from Jordan. The Israeli air force was dispatched to threaten the Syrian forces not to intervene in King Hussain's war on the PLO. The presence of Palestinians with considerable power in Jordan was threatening to the regime of King Hussain. Similarly, Palestinians were also deemed a threat in Lebanon where they relocated the majority of their forces in 1971. This resulted in the Lebanon bout of fighting in 1975-1976 between segments of the Lebanese militias and the PLO and its Lebanese allies. In both cases, the rather astonishing result has been to increase the power of Palestinian nationalism. In 1974, the PLO was recognized by the Arab states as the "sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."
Following the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, a faction in FATAH led by Arafat succumbed to "moderate" Arab states and by agreeing to a two state solution and to make rapprochement with the US and its interests in the region. This entailed significant willingness to compromise. Alan Hart wrote in his book on Yassir Arafat: "Arafat and most of his senior colleagues in the leadership knew they needed time to sell it to the rank and file of the liberation movement. If, in 1974, Arafat and his colleagues had openly admitted the true extent of the compromise they were prepared to make, they would have been repudiated and rejected by an easy majority of the Palestinians" (21). Arafat perhaps naively thought that he could get the United States to pressure Israel to compromise. But essentially every American peace initiative was rebuffed by Israel since the Rogers plan and even those written by Israel and presented as American plans were later repudiated by new Israeli governments (22).
Egypt and Israel signed a peace accord on September 17, 1978. For simply returning an illegally occupied Sinai, Israel was able to obtain this peace agreement. They neutralized the largest Arab country, signed a full peace agreement, and demilitarized the Sinai Peninsula. Israel also got free movement both in the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba, billions in United States aid, guarantee of oil supply from the United States despite United States oil shortages, and many other benefits. Relevant to the Palestinian "problem", the agreements included brief statements:
1) Israel, Jordan and Egypt supervising elections in Gaza and the West Bank (in exchange of letters, Begin and Carter clarified this means "Judea and Samaria").
2) These representatives of the local Palestinians (in exchange of letters, Begin and Carter clarified this means "Palestinian Arabs") will then negotiate final status over a five year period.
On May 15 , 1989, an Israeli "peace initiative" based on the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt was formulated by Prime Minister Shamir (Likud) and Defense Minister Rabin (Labor) and "represents the consensus of Israel policy in the National unity government." It was initiated following considerable bloodshed in the territories occupied by Israel (the Palestinian Intifadah) in which Palestinian youth were being killed daily. Here are some of its elements:
The initiative is based on two stages:
a. Stage A - A transitional period for an interim agreement.
b. Stage B - Permanent Solution.
The interlock between the stages is a timetable on which the Plan is
built: the peace process delineated by the initiative is based on
Resolutions 242 and 338 upon which the Camp David accords are founded. (23)
Notice that, with the exception of dealing with the PLO, this is what was Israel wanted both in the 1978 Israel/Egypt accords and what it got also in the subsequent 1993 Oslo accords. In 1993, and following secret negotiations between Israel and the PLO leadership in the Norwegian capital Oslo, agreements were reached to set-up five years of interim self rule for Palestinians. The plan was predicated on staged pullback from the West Bank and Gaza and steps to negotiate final settlement issues later. These issues deferred included borders, Israeli settlements, and Palestinian refugees. Immediately after that famous ceremony in the White House lawn supervised meticulously by President Bill Clinton, three key things started to happen almost simultaneously with the very slow withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian population centers:
1) Israel embarked on its most ambitious settlement activity resulting in doubling the population of illegal settlers and increasing the areas they control by three folds.
2) The nascent Palestinian authority with help and prodding by the CIA and the Israeli Mossad embarked on building a police authority with such things as "security courts" (insisted on by the Americans) which were not only intended to suppress resistance to the occupation but also to insure "tranquility" (obedience) in the local Palestinian people.
3) The US increased its military assistance to the state of Israel with at least two dozen new deals. This included the April 11, 1994 sale of up to 25 F-151 fighter-bombers and spare parts worth 2.4 billion dollars (24).
Israel, according to the protocols, continued to be responsible for security, foreign affairs and all matters concerning Israeli citizens in "Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza district." That is also precisely what Israel insisted on earlier (1978) and was now accepted by Arafat in Oslo in 1993. The 1993 Declaration of Principles thus left the door open for Israel to increase its land confiscation and settlement activity, actually doubling them between 1993 and 2000.
These are things the Palestinian representatives from the West Bank and Gaza rejected at Madrid in 1991. The representatives presented very unpalatable conditions for Israel including, internationally recognized rights to self-determination, repatriation for refugees, and the freezing new Israeli settlement activity. Rabin and Peres concluded that opening a secret channel of communications at Oslo was likely to lead to capitulation. Arafat was discredited internationally yet highly respected locally and more important Arafat has been ready to deal since 1974. Giving him the recognition was something that Israel could use as a carrot to extract concessions on the key issues. That is indeed what happened.
The original Allon plan consisted of annexation of 35-40% of the territories to Israel, and self-rule or partnership in a confederation of the rest, the land on which the Palestinians actually live. This plan originated with those who thought that it is impossible to repeat the 1948 'solution' of mass expulsion, for moral as well as world public opinion considerations. The second view, whose primary spokesman was Sharon, assumed that it is possible to find more acceptable and sophisticated ways to achieve a 1948 style 'solution' - it is only necessary to find another country for the Palestinians, such as Jordan, and to make sure that as many as possible of them will move there. This was a part of Sharon's global worldview by which Israel can establish "new orders" in the region (see the Lebanon war). In Oslo, the Allon plan route triumphed (25). The Allon Plan was thus a cornerstone of Israeli policy and negotiations in the 1970s with Egypt, in Israel's "peace proposal of 1989, and in their approach to Madrid in 1991. The Israeli’s finally succeeded in getting it accepted with Arafat in the 1993 Declaration of Principles (DOP). Professor Edward Said described the DOP as a “document of surrender”. Ariel Sharon used the Allon guidelines to define these key Zionist red lines:
1. Greater Jerusalem, united and undivided, must be the eternal capital of Israel and under full Israeli sovereignty.
2. Israel will retain under its full control sufficiently wide security zones - in both the East and the West. The Jordan Valley, in its broadest sense, as defined by the Allon Plan, will be the eastern security zone of Israel. … The western security zone will include the line of hills commanding the coastal plain and controlling Israel's vital underground water sources. Strategic routes will be retained under Israel's control.
3. Jewish towns, villages and communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, as well as access roads leading to them, including sufficient security margins along them, will remain under full Israeli control.
4. The solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees from 1948-1967 will be based on their resettlement and rehabilitation in the places where they live today (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, etc.). Israel does not accept under any circumstances the Palestinian demand for the right of return. Israel bears no moral or economic responsibility for the refugees' predicament.
5. As a vital existential need, Israel must continue to control the underground fresh water aquifers in western Samaria Northern Part of the West Bank-MBQ, which provide a major portion of Israel's water. The Palestinians are obligated to prevent contamination of Israel's water resources.
6. Security arrangements: All the territories under control of the Palestinian Authority will be demilitarized. The Palestinians will not have an army; only a police force. Israel will maintain complete control of the whole air space over Judea, Samaria and Gaza (26).
In addition it was added that, "any government in Israel that will adopt and implement these principles will strengthen Israel's deterrence and could reach a better, more secure peace, one that will ensure Israel's long-term national strategic interests." These plans were well laid out and well understood even by the so-called "Doves" in Israeli politics. As Rabin put it once, Oslo was a method to achieve "traditional Israeli objectives." Minister of Internal Security, historian, and "peace advocate" Shlomo Ben-Ami stated that "in practice, the Oslo Agreements were founded on a neo-colonialist basis, on a life dependence of one on the other forever" (27). So how did Arafat and company end up in this predicament?
Reshaping of the Palestinian landscape and of Israel's attitude towards the PLO took place between 1988-1993 due to a number of new events. First, the Palestinian uprising of the 1980s made significant gains in shaping public opinion throughout the world (including Israel itself) about the limits to which occupied people can be expected to tolerate. Israel's brutal suppression of the uprising generated sympathy for Palestinians suffering under occupation. Despite massive propaganda efforts, Israel could not continue to sustain the myth of being an underdog fighting for its survival. Instead, it was seen more and more as analogous to South Africa under Apartheid. The uprising resulted in development of local strong political leadership in the West Bank and Gaza who were not necessarily pulling the Fatah/Arafat line but they did insist that the PLO (now headquartered in Tunis) is the legitimate Palestinian representative. A second factor was Jordan's relinquishing claim on the West Bank followed by the PLO's Declaration of Independence in 1988. This declaration made it clear that the Palestinian leadership was finally ready for statehood alongside the state of Israel (based on UN resolutions) and paved the way for talks between the United States and the PLO in December 1988. Here are relevant sections from the PLO’s Declaration of Independence:
Despite the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian Arab people resulting in their dispersion and depriving them of their right to self-determination, following upon UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947), which partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish, yet it is this resolution that still provides those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty. By stages, the occupation of Palestine and parts of other Arab territories by Israeli forces, the willed dispossession and expulsion from their ancestral homes of the majority of Palestine's civilian inhabitants was achieved by organized terror; those Palestinians who remained, as a vestige subjugated in its homeland, were persecuted and forced to endure the destruction of their national life.
Thus were principles of international legitimacy violated. Thus were the Charter of the United Nations and its resolutions disfigured, for they had recognized the Palestinian Arab people's national rights, including the right of Return, the right to independence, the right to sovereignty over territory and homeland. ...
Now by virtue of natural, historical and legal rights, and the sacrifices of successive generations who gave of themselves in defense of the freedom and independence of their homeland. In pursuance of Resolutions adopted by Arab Summit Conferences and relying on the authority bestowed by international legitimacy as embodied in the resolutions of the United Nations Organization since 1947; And in exercise by the Palestinian Arab people of its rights to self- determination, political independence, and sovereignty over its territory (28).
Accepting the patently unjust UN general assembly resolution 181 is a major concession by the PLO. The third factor leading to further PLO retrenchment from its original goals was the Gulf war (1990-1991). The strategic and political reverberations of this on the Israeli-Palestinian situation should not be underestimated. The consequences included the lowest standing ever for the PLO in western countries but also among its own people (29). The issue was not simply that Arafat stood in support of Iraq; many other Arab countries did so including our ally Jordan as did the average Palestinian and average Jordanian. Reasons for the decline in support for Arafat among the Palestinians included the weakening prestige and ability of the PLO to help its own people. The removal of over 350,000 Palestinians from Kuwait was devastating. These are people whose money was used to help other Palestinians through the PLO. Now they themselves needed help and the PLO was in no position to offer it. A depletion of sources of support for Palestinians living in refugee camps and elsewhere (in Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza) was also increased following depletion of most sources of funding for the PLO. The movement of these people back into already impoverished areas of Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza led to significant economic hardships and hardening of positions.
The support from Gulf states to mainstream Palestinian factions (like Fatah and Arafat) dropped significantly not merely due to Arafat's supposed support for Saddam Hussein, but more to do with geopolitical realignments that gave Israel's patron (the United States) more power. The extension of American power and prestige in the Middle East for the first time brought military bases inside countries like Saudi Arabia. The climate during this time was one of weakening links between the PLO in Tunisia and events in Palestine, strengthening Palestinian resistance on the ground, and the disillusionment of many Palestinians and other Arabs in the street of cities from Cairo to Amman. In addition, Palestinian anger increased at the United States, not only for its support of Israel but for causing massive deaths and suffering of civilians in Iraq. It is evident why Israel thought this was the best time to strike a deal with Arafat and bypass the tougher Palestinian negotiators who were negotiating in meetings at Madrid and Washington (Haidar Abdul-Shafi, Hanan Ashrawi etc). Arafat, without consulting these negotiators who were living under the occupation, authorized secret talks in Oslo between his representatives and the Israeli government.
It is not clear that Arafat foresaw the horrendous extent of the damage to both Palestinians and Israelis that was to be inflicted by agreeing to abandon international law and international auspices and enter into capitulation agreements with Israel with its backer the United States acting as a "guide". There are five agreements that Arafat signed that collectively make-up the legal framework for what became known as the Oslo peace process: Declaration of Principles (Oslo I, Sept. 1993), Protocols on Economic Relations (Paris Agreement, April 1994), Gaza Strip/Jericho agreement (Cairo Agreement, May, 1994), the "Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza" (Oslo II, 1995), and the Hebron accords (1997). None of these agreements addressed basic international law except selectively referring to UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 which both the US and Israel had by now interpreted as not requiring full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied areas.
Fundamentally, Israel and the US defied international law as the basis for peace negotiations when Madrid tracts switched to Oslo. Israel, a belligerent occupier, refused to acknowledge the application of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This disregard occurs despite repeated affirmation by the international community including the US beginning with UN Security Council Resolution 237 of June 14, 1967.
The agreements were entered into following resignation of countless Palestine National Congress members in protest at the unilateral decisions of Arafat to enter into capitulation agreements that will not protect human rights or be based on basic principles of International law. Legal experts from the Palestinian side were not consulted and many experts on geography, settlement activity, international law were excluded completely from the decision making process. None of the agreements were to be subjected to a referendum among the people it is to affect (the occupied Palestinians). Oslo II was even not published in Arabic lest the public sees the amount of capitulation it entails. The biggest hurdle for acceptance by the Palestinian people is that the Oslo agreements provided Israel with a legal basis to occupy parts of the West Bank. Here is the relevant section:
Article XVII. Section 4.
a. Israel, through its military government, has the authority over areas that are not under the territorial jurisdiction of the Council, powers and responsibilities not transferred to the Council and Israelis.
b. To this end, the Israeli military government shall retain the necessary legislative, judicial and executive powers and responsibilities, in accordance with international law. This provision shall not derogate from Israel's applicable legislation over Israelis…
The agreements never explicitly referred to the West Bank and Gaza as occupied territories, and it did not mention the 4th Geneva conventions. Israel is the only country that does not recognize the convention’s applicability to the occupied areas (see next chapter). The agreement had vague statement about not changing the character of the West Bank and Gaza and keeping their territorial integrity but these could later be argued as to not mean stopping settlement activities, land confiscation, and other blatant violations of international conventions.
The texts of Oslo were thus purposefully vague on Palestinian rights while precise on powers and authorities retained by Israel. As Shahak put it, “The deeper intention of the Oslo Accord is to create an apartheid regime in which the Autonomy Council in the Territories the Palestinian Authority will in effect relieve Israel from any duties towards the population.”(30). In the meantime, Rabin and Peres began implementing the plan first envisaged by Ariel Sharon in 1977 of developing bypass roads to the settlements, isolating Palestinian towns and villages from one another by a network of settlements, military areas, and bypass roads. This in effect develops “control from outside” and thus a cantonization or ghettoization of the Palestinian areas. As this plan was put in effect, the “peace” government of Rabin and Peres increased subsidy to settlers and implemented programs that enticed settler populations to grow in the occupied territories from 200,000 to 400,000 with the area that the settlements controlled to triple. Tanya Reinhardt stated that:
The meaning of the plan is that we will solve the problem of two million Palestinians in the territories by imprisoning them in ghettos, starving them, and turning them into beggars. But instead of calling it an occupation, we will present it as a step toward a Palestinian state. We will crush Palestinian throats with our boots while smiling at them nicely (31).
Allowing the Palestinians to have a legislative council but stating (Article 18) that "Legislation, including legislation which amends or abrogates existing laws or military orders, which exceeds the jurisdiction of the Council or which is otherwise inconsistent with the provisions of the DOP, this Agreement, or of any other agreement that may be reached between the two sides during the interim period, shall have no effect and shall be void ab initio." In other words no new legislation can challenge the occupation.
Oslo II ominously released Israel of any legal liability arising from its occupation. In article 20, it is stated that
a. Any financial claim made in this regard against Israel will be referred to the Palestinian Council...
e. In the event that an award is made against Israel by any court or tribunal in respect of such a claim, the Council shall immediately reimburse Israel the full amount of the award.
Oslo II even required the Palestinians to "respect the property and legal rights" of Israeli individuals and corporations in all areas of the West Bank and Gaza (Articles 16 and 22) in contravention to the 4th Geneva Convention. There was no parallel commitment by the "Israeli side" to respect the property and legal rights of Palestinians. The agreements demanded specific concessions from the Palestinians side on issues ranging from security to economic relations to travel permissions but left it to the will of the Israeli government to do what it wants in the occupied areas.
On April 21, 1996 the Palestine National Council (PNC) held its twenty-first session in Gaza City in Palestine for the first time since 1964 and decides by majority vote to "abrogate the provisions of the PLO Charter that are contrary to the exchanged letters between the PLO and the Government of Israel of 9 and 10 September 1993." The letter from Arafat in his capacity to Rabin recognizes Israel's right to exist in peace and security. De-facto, this ratified Oslo by the Palestinian National Council.
The Israel/PLO agreements separated the Palestinians into four groups:
1) Residents of Area A and Area B (less than 40% of the West Bank/Gaza area): Those in the West Bank and Gaza in the major population centers whom Israel wanted Arafat's authority to police.
2) Area C residents: Those in the areas of the West Bank (especially East Jerusalem and anywhere near the hundreds of Israeli settlements) who will be under direct Israeli brutality (including home demolitions etc) and Arafat was not to have anything to do with those. Israel intended to thin this population outpost also and intensify settlement drive on the Palestinian lands.
3) Refugees: Those will be "final status issues" but it was already clearly placed as a red line that their right of return even though Internationally recognized is a "red line" for Israel.
4) "Israeli Arabs": they were not to be dealt with and the racism and discrimination against them (one fourth internally displaced, over 100 unrecognized villages etc.) were to be considered internal Israeli issues.
This fractionation had a devastating psychological and material impact on Palestinians both under occupation and in diaspora. The Hebron accord for example made legal and normal the illegal Jewish settlements in and around Hebron. 400 Jews in Hebron were allowed to remain and basically run the area of Hebron populated by 40,000 Palestinians and designated by these accords as H2. "Israel will retail all powers and responsibilities for internal security and public order in Area H-2 and will continue to carry out the responsibility of overall security of Israelis" (Section 2b). During the recent Intifada, the 40,000 residents of the old city of Hebron were subjected to weeks, and sometimes months, of curfews while the 400 settlers were subject to no restrictions. This was all due to the agreement made by Arafat. While the Geneva conventions prohibit collective punishments, the Oslo II agreements made this easy for Israel.
In addition to these restrictions the Palestinian Authority was required to keep order and provide security to Israel. The more Israel intensified its settlement activity and occupation practices, the more Palestinians moved away from support for Arafat and the PA towards support of the opposition parties (mistakenly labeled "rejectionists"). Palestinians who benefited from the Oslo agreements included Arafat and the thousands of his associates and activists allowed to return to the occupied territories. They were given lucrative jobs and positions of authority causing further tension. Of course there were gains to be felt by other segments of the society: increased aid (especially from the European Union), upgrading infrastructure, pride and hope for a better future and an end to the conflict among people wearily of continued violence. Cosmetic changes were visible everywhere. On crossing from Jordan on Allenby Bridge into the West Bank, there was now Palestinian police. They would take your documents and then turn around and handed them to the Israeli soldiers behind a one-way mirror. It was later recognized as a charade that was obviously intended to give the illusion of autonomy and even independence when the reality was continued subjugation, control and Israeli management of Palestinian affairs. Under the economic agreements signed by Arafat, the authority cannot sign or engage in any independent economic activity with a third country. Israel retains control of exports and imports into the Palestinian areas. The agreements actually made it possible and even legal for Israel to split the territories into cantons/bantustans with limited movement only allowed at Israel's discretion. These units were to have each a separate and highly dependent economy primarily based on handouts coming from the west.
The so-called Palestinian authority had no power or authority on economic policy, foreign policy, natural resources, or even entry and exit in the disjointed territories it controlled. It was merely slated to administer a restless and disgruntled native population in these separate enclaves and prevent them from attacking the colonizers. But the shifting political landscape continued and new Palestinian leaderships started to emerge in competition for a post-Oslo leadership. Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti emerged as a leader of the uprising. His distant relative Dr. Mustapha Barghouti emerged as a leader of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience. The security chiefs Jabroul and Dahlan in the West Bank and Gaza respectively, were following in the footsteps of Arafat. Hamas and Islamic Jihad as political organizations were driven underground after being targeted as "terrorist organizations" but continued to gain support among the increasingly disenfranchised and oppressed Palestinians. The leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine retired and elections resulted in a smooth transition of leadership by democratic means. However, Israeli forces in Ramallah assassinated this leader and the PFLP elected a new leader who was then later arrested by Arafat's forces. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other groups continue their struggle.
After Oslo, the administration of Bill Clinton proceeded to drop its support of important and relevant United Nations resolutions and international law. This started with the pivotal UN resolution 194 of 1949, which was authored by the US and reaffirmed with US support every year. On December 8, 1993 in withholding its vote, the US administration "explained" that the September 1993 Israeli - PLO accords have made all previous resolutions 'obsolete and anachronistic.' Secretary of State Madeleine Albright summed up her government's position on the refugees in a letter to members of the General Assembly dated August 8, 1994; 'We believe that resolution language referring the 'final status' issues should be dropped, ...These include refugees.'
On March 7, 1997, the U.S. vetoed a Security Council draft resolution on Jerusalem, presented by the four European members of the Council. The resolution calls upon Israel to abandon its impending construction of a new settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim, to the south of East Jerusalem. On March 21, 1997, the U.S. again vetoed a Security Council resolution calling upon Isra el to halt the construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim. On April 24-25, the U.N. General Assembly, in reaction to the two U.S. vetoes, convenes for the first time in 15 years an Emergency Special Session (ESS) to consider “Illegal Israeli Actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the Rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. It overwhelmingly adopts resolution ES (Emergency Session) 10/2 condemning Israel’s construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim and demanding cessation of all illegal Israeli actions. Israel ignores the resolution with the support of the US.
Madeleine Albright, Clinton's secretary of State frequently called Israel war crimes simply as acts that are "unhelpful" or that "Palestinians find objectionable." In one of her many pronouncements she stated Israel is encouraged to refrain from doing "what Palestinians see as the provocative expansion of settlements, land confiscation, house demolitions and confiscation of IDs" 32. Palestinians do not see these acts as provocative. These are acts that are illegal per international law and any basic human rights laws and constitute war crimes. The US under Clinton/Albright thus abandoned international law, the 4th Geneva Convention and completely took Israeli side as an occupier and an aggressor. Thus, it was ironic that this most Zionist tilting administration in US history would present itself to the world as an "honest broker" for final peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians at Camp David. The pressure both Clinton and Barak exerted to bring Arafat to Camp David and force him into a deal that sells out self determination, international law, human rights (including the rights of refugees) is well documented despite the media sound bites of "Barak's generous offer." The protection and support of the Clinton administration allowed Israel to engage in its most ambitious settlement activity in the occupied areas (1993-2000).
Contrary to media reports and emboldened by US support, Barak did not propose anything new to what Israel proposed since the mid-1970's (centered on Israel's perceived self-interest to relieve Israeli forces from policing Palestinians while maintaining rule). Barak never agreed to relinquish settlement blocks, which, combined with the bypass roads between them, would leave only 60% of the area of the West Bank and Gaza (or about 13% of the total land mass of Palestine) to return to the Palestinians. These would also be in the form of Palestinian Bantustans (Palustans) cut off from each other with movement controlled by Israel. Barak was uncompromising on Jerusalem. West Jerusalem was illegally occupied by Israel in 1948 and Palestinians landowners were expelled, and East Jerusalem was illegally occupied in 1967. UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 242 reaffirmed the illegality of holding the occupied territory by force. An even better frame of reference is UNGAR 181, which provided for partition in Palestine, with Jerusalem to be held under international rule. Israel engaged and continues to engage in blatantly illegal acts including revoking residency rights, demolishing homes, preventing refugees from returning, barricading the city from surrounding Palestinian areas, and other acts described as "Judaicizing" the city. Finally, Barak, Beilin and other supporters of the Oslo approach to peace based on apartheid denied any Israeli responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem and will agree only to token "family reunification" with no time limits.
President Jimmy Carter wrote that "an underlying reason that years of U.S. diplomacy have failed and violence in the Middle East persists is that some Israeli leaders continue to "create facts" by building settlements in occupied territory" 33. What he failed to mention is that they can do this precisely because of our help and complicity cowed by influence of a special interest. Admiral Thomas Moorer of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in this regard: "I've never seen a president --I don't care who he is-- stand up to them the Israelis. It just boggles your mind. They always get what they want. The Israelis know what's going on all the time. I got to the point where I wasn't writing anything down. If the American people understood what grip those people have on our government, they would rise up in arms. Our citizens don't have any idea what goes on." See Washington Report 12/1999, p.124 quoting from Andrew Hurley's book, "One Nation Under Israel". In a similar vein, Senator William Fulbright wrote: "For many years I have felt that the situation in the Middle East was very nearly hopeless. The fundamental problem for us is that we have lost our freedom of action in the Middle East and are committed to policies that promote neither our own national interest nor the cause of peace. AIPAC (the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) and its allied organizations have effective working control of the electoral process. They can elect or defeat nearly any congressman or senator that they wish, with their money and coordinated organization" (34).
With the exception of several members voting their conscience US politicians seem to march to a different drum than the rest of the world. It would be a mistake to attribute all of this support to the Israeli lobby. The Israeli lobby is influential but US policy is also dictated by a small group of elites running oil and arms industries. Their interests is simply to manage the Middle East allowing status quo to prevail. This policy allows low-level conflicts to be tolerated and sometimes encouraged (as in the case of the Iran-Iraq war were these elite interests supported both to kill each other) or initiated (as in the recent invasion of Iraq). As usually happens though, management by imperial powers usually fails over the long term. Often times these super-powers overplay their hands resulting in much wider conflicts than anticipated and in direct impact on their own population. In the US, there is now a grassroots movement against these multinational corporate interests that is rapidly growing and slowly changing the dynamics of the power structure. Fallouts from recent events such as the Enron debacle, the September 11 attacks, the illegal attack on Iraq, among others, will be still forthcoming in the years ahead.
Might Makes Right?
Israel, whether under Labor or Likud leadership, continued the traditional Zionist program that thought only in terms of military power and a Zero sum strategy based on a notion that Israel must take land and keep it to stay a "winner". Settlements and land confiscation expanded unabated under both parties and peace was considered undesirable. Ben-Gurion recorded in his war diary that Abba Eban, Israel's ambassador to the UN, "sees no need to run after peace. The armistice is sufficient for us; if we run after peace, the Arabs will demand a price of us: borders that is, in terms of territory or refugees that is, repatriation or both. Let us wait a few years" (35).
According to Israeli leaders, including Ben-Gurion, peace would mean specifying borders for Israel and the return of Palestinian refugees to their stolen homes and lands. Restoring the usurped Palestinian rights would mean the end of the "Zionist dream". This was the reason behind the failure of all undertaken peace initiatives. The Zionists employed stalling tactics so that they would be able to expand their territorial boundaries, on the one hand, and avoid any return of the refugees, on the other. Thus, the native Palestinians whether refugees or "stragglers" were at best ignored and at worst considered a nuisance. "Managing" them was analogous to managing other challenges facing the building of a Jewish state (getting weapons, increasing Jewish immigration etc).
At times the amount of damage to the Palestinians was more under Labor than Likud leadership because of Labor's "diplomatic" and less confrontational approaches. Part of the reasons for this is that Israel's original Zionist agenda was based on force. Some Israelis are actually proud of being larger and stronger in their military than those of any European NATO power (36). Israeli forces are now stationed in Turkey and have already demonstrated their reach hundreds of miles outside of their bases. Combined with submarines and nuclear power, Israel is now truly a formidable world power. However that power is still susceptible to one basic threat, which are the demands of the native Palestinians based on natural and international law. Most Israeli leaders are military people and many Prime Ministers were Israeli generals. Their concept of peace is a peace made by "management" of the Palestinian problem. Occasional flexibility in policy was accepted as long as it did not affect the overall well articulated Zionist program and with the full understanding that only power and continued settlement and expansion can maintain Israel's elusive "security." Palestinian resistance in this context merely elicited stronger management tactics. The few voices within the Israeli government advocating peace based on were thus essentially ignored. The Israeli public was misled to believe that security could be achieved without justice or equality for the Palestinians.
The Palestinians had their best leadership decimated by the British quelling of the revolt of 1936-1939. Since then and until the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established, Arab countries (Jordan, Egypt, Syria) took on the task of leading the Palestinians. Until Oslo, Arafat and the PLO represented the aspirations of freedom and peace hopes of the Palestinian people as a whole. The PLO attempted with varying success to retain the independence and representation (through the Palestinian National Council). After Oslo, they were relegated to the role of subcontractors for the occupation to maintain Israeli security in the occupied areas. This was done very efficiently especially in the first three years (1993-1996). In those years, Palestinians saw a significant development of civilian infrastructure in the areas under Palestinian control, some decline in unemployment, and an elevation of the standard of living. But this only affected those not in the majority of the lands occupied in 1967. In those areas (primarily area C and in East Jerusalem which together made up 60% of the West Bank), settlement activity, home demolitions, occupation, dispossession, and other violations of the 4th Geneva Convention actually intensified. Further, for the first time since 1967, the territorial integrity of the West Bank was completely shattered. Israel used to have roadblocks where people could still manage to drive around them and get from one part of the West Bank to another and even to Jerusalem. This was not to be the case after Oslo. Israel immediately instituted policies of closure, encirclements, and bypass roads for Jewish settlers that surrounded Palestinian towns. Palestinian extremists fed-up with this situation did some commit terrorist acts inside Israel in 1996. Both Israel's and Arafat's security forces failed to deal with the violence while its root cause remain: the continued occupation and dispossession of the Palestinians. Arafat was reduced to managing one crisis after another. For example, mismanagement of money and resources by people around him resulted in a significant rebellion. Arafat continued to deal with this by various methods he was well known for ranging from minor shifts in strategy to co-opting people by offering them positions within his organization.
Since 1974, Arafat and a close circle around him believed that the only leverage against the overwhelming Israeli military power is international diplomatic support for the Palestinian cause. The International community had since 1970's developed a remarkable support for the Palestinian cause with one notable exception outside of Israel: the United States. Arafat's biggest failure was failing to understand how to effect change in US foreign policy, the main obstacle to peace in the Middle East. This failure was most profound at the Camp David negotiations of July 2000.
US President Clinton under Israeli influence called for the Camp David meetings of July 2000 in order to end the conflict once and for all. These were defining moments for Arafat. Here, he was slated to sign yet another agreement similar to others he had signed over seven years that consolidated and strengthened Apartheid and occupation. But in this instance adding the coveted "end of conflict" agreement that ended all future claims for Palestinian rights. This includes once and for all nullifying International law, the 4th Geneva convention, relevant clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and even Israel's own signed agreements. Akram Hanieh who was an advisor to Arafat at the Camp David talks wrote a report that explained what really happened. Arafat was reluctant to go because he felt the parties concerned, especially the Israelis, were not ready for final agreements. He was concerned of what failure might bring. Clinton insisted and promised that no blame would be laid out if the talks failed. Arafat attended and according to Hanieh it became quickly obvious that Clinton was only interested in advancing Israeli positions on all issues 37. The result was the failure of the summit and the increased belief in Israel that a military solution to the Palestinian problem is the only viable solution. General Ariel Sharon, a war criminal by all definitions, successfully ignited the Intifada and acquired the position of Prime Minister. His election promise of security and peace went unfulfilled. Arafat was willing to wait and try to hold on to his "Palestinian Authority" which was carefully being first limited and then entirely disbanded before his eyes. Here we saw a dramatic transformation of Arafat from a freedom fighter and revolutionary leader to a weak and subservient leader relying on the US and Israel. Peace under these conditions became more elusive than ever.
According to the Congressional Research Service's annual report on conventional arms sales, the U.S. delivered $26.4 billion in arms to the Middle East in the 1997-2000 period, or just over 62 percent of all U.S. deliveries to developing countries. Saudi Arabia ($16.2 billion), Israel ($3.9 billion), Egypt ($3.6 billion), and Kuwait ($1.5 billion) were the largest buyers. All these are repressive regimes with well-documented records of human rights violations. The US continues to adhere to its strategy of maintaining Israel's qualitative edge over any possible combined forces in the region. While countries like Saudi Arabia spend billions of their own money on American weapons, Israel is largely funded and subsidized by the US. The signals Washington sends with its support are also relevant. Three days after Mohammad Al-Durra was killed by Israeli forces near the illegal settlement of Netzarim, the US made arrangements to supply Israel with 50 advanced Apache helicopters. At the height of the Israeli assault on Palestinian areas on June 20, 2001 Israeli Minister of Defense Benyamin Ben-Eliezer struck a deal with Lockheed Martin to purchase more than 50 additional F-16I fighter jets, a deal valued at over $2 Billion. This comes as a follow up of Israel's initial order of 50 such jets in 1999, which cost approximately 2.5 billion US Dollars (USD). All such deals are financed through the almost 2 billion US dollars in annual American military aid to Israel. Deliveries of the new purchase of fighter jets will commence in 2006 and conclude in 2009.
More U.S. aid goes to Israel than any other country. In total, the US gives Israel more than 30% of its total worldwide foreign aid. In other words, Israel with 0.1% of the world population receives 30% of the aid. Each year we provide $2 billion in direct military aid, $840 million in direct economic aid, over $1 billion in indirect aid (contracts and free weapons shipments), and $1-2 billion in other tax-free support. The US does not provide this aid in installments as in the case of other countries but in lump sum at the beginning of each year. The US thus has to borrow this money it gives to Israel and pay interest on it. Interest losses are estimated at over $50 billion dollars. In total this aid cost taxpayers over $140 billion in the past three decades, which is equivalent to over $30,000 for every Israeli. This aid would be enough to provide clean drinking water to the 1.2 billion people who have no access to such safe water supply (38).
U.S. aid literally pays for the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem and is the key to Israel's continued belligerence and defiance of human rights and International law. U.S. law ostensibly prohibits the president from furnishing military aid to any country "which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights" (39). As the U.S. State Department determines annually, Israel has committed and continues to commit such acts. But violations of this law and other problems with this aid are rarely questioned in Washington DC. Aid was initiated immediately after Israel intentionally attacked the USS Liberty in International waters in 1967 killing 34 US servicemen. It is believed this attack was to prevent the US from finding out what Israel was doing in the Sinai (including executing prisoners of war as later admitted). All remaining servicemen have and continue to reject the subsequent cover-up by the navy. It is unprecedented that such an attack on a US Navy ship did not generate a congressional investigation 40. A report was aired on the History Channel on August 9, 2001, fully 35 years after the attack and after significant and unexplained "delays."
More recently, the US government pushed hard for a "road-map" for peace that calls on establishing a Palestinian state. In the 2221 words of this road map, a few key words are missing. Of these the most egregious omissions are words like "human rights" and "International law." Even then, the Israeli government got private assurances from Washington that 14 "reservations" it had about the road map will be taken into consideration in implementation. A document sent by these American Zionists to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996 was titled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" (41). The realm is the Israeli one in the Middle East. They called for regime change in Iraq led by the US followed by acts directed at Iran and Syria and they spoke of "alliances" with Turkey and India. Chaired by Richard Perle, chief architect of the most recent US war on Iraq, this group included James Colbert (from the "Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs"), Paul Wolfowitz (now Assistant Defense Secretary), David Wurmser, and William Kristol. Another project of these "neoconservatives" who are so powerful in Washington is the so-called "Project for a New American Century" (42). Common denominators characterize these and similar plans: all written by neoconservative ideologues who either worked for or still work on behalf of Israeli and/or corporate interests, all predate 11 September 2001, and all call for reshaping the Middle East to enhance Israel's security by claiming aligned US and Israeli interests.
At every turn, the US, under heavy influence of those with Israeli ties, tried to ignore public sentiments of the locals and cultivate and encourage dictatorial regimes. Yet, this has been an utter failure as is evident by the Gulf War, the attempt to protect Israel at every turn, and the massive hatred generated against the US in the Muslim and Arab worlds. The Arab countries that are run by dictators supported by the US similarly cannot last indefinitely. The Palestine-Israel conflict left unresolved is the Achilles heel of the US policy in the Middle East. The model of the toppling of the US supported Shah regime in Iran still provides a good lesson to both local peoples and to the United States. Finally, it is important to remember that after the grassroots economic pressures on Apartheid South Africa; the US government was one of the last to realize the bankruptcy of its support for the Apartheid regime. It is time for a similar revolution in thinking.
Notes to Chapter 11:
1. Theodore Herzl,, Complete Diaries, ed. Raphael Patai, translated by Harry Zohn, New York: Herzl Press and T. Yoseloff,, 1960), pp.88-89
2. Gad Becker, Yediot Ahronot 4/13/83, N.Y. Times 4/14/83
3. Edward Said, The Question of Palestine, Vintage Books, New York, 1979, pp. 88
4. Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of modern national consciousness. Columbia University Press, New York, 1997, p112-113 and references therein.
5. S. Abdullah Schleifer, The Life and Thought of ‘Izz-id-Din al-Qassam: Preacher and Mujahid” Islamic Quarterly 1979, 22(2): p. 70.
6. Khalidi, , Palestinian Identity, p. 155.
7. Jules Cambon June 4, 1917 letter is posted at the "Zionist Exposition" of the World Zionist Organization http://www.wzo.org.il/home/politic/balfour.htm. Translation kindly checked by Jean-Christian Rostagni
8. Quoted in Christopher Sykes, Crossroads to Israel 1917-1948, (reprinted Bloomingtron: Indiana University Press, 1973).
9. Palestine Mandate documents, Article 4, available at the Avalon Project at Yale University
10. See http://www.kh-uia.org.il/us/history.html
11. For details, see "The Building of the Israeli State Sector: Case Study: The Palestine Potash Ltd.," The Economic Quarterly, 1994, volume 41, No. 2, pp. 263-289 and Gavish, D. (1995) "Salt of the Earth: From the Palestine Potash To the Dead Sea Works," Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi, Jerusalem (Hebrew)
12. Arthur Rogers, The Palestine Mystery: Sidelights on a secret Policy, (London: The Sterling Press, 1948) 67 Pages
13. Nur Masalha, Expulsion Of the Palestinians: the Concept of 'Transfer' in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948, (Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992), p. 15.
14. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 167-168.
15. Available at Avalon Project, Yale University.
16. Ted Swedenburg, The role of the Palestinian peasantry in the Great Revolt (1936-9), in Ilan Pappe, ed., Israel/Palestine Question: Rewriting Histories (Routledge, 1999).
17. see Rafael Medoff, Militant Zionism in America: The Rise and Impact of the Jabotinsky Movement in the United States, 1926-1948, , University of Alabama Press, 2002, 304 pp.
18. Ilan Pappe, The Making of the Arab Israeli Conflict 1947-1951, New York: I. B. Tauris, 1992), p. 65 and references cited.
19. Ilan Pappe, The Making of the Arab Israeli Conflict , pp. 74-76.
20. General Matityahu Peled, Ha'aretz, 19 March 1972
21. Alan Hart, Arafat: Terrorist or Peacemaker, Sidgwick and Jackson, revised edition, p. 379.
22. Naseer Aruri, Dishonest Broker: The Role of the United States in Palestine and Israel (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2003).
23. The full proposal is posted at http://www.usembassy-israel.org.il/publish/peace/may89.htm
24. Federation of American Scientists, http://www.fas.org/asmp/profiles/israel_armstable.htm
25. Tanya Reinhart, Hebrew edition of Yediot Aharonot June 10, 2001.
26. Six Red-lines for Peace, Jerusalem Post , July 21, 2000.
27. cited in Noam Chomsky, p. 20, in "The New Intifadah: Resisting Israel's Apartheid", Verso Books, 2001
28. Palestinian Declaration of Independence, Algiers, 15 November 1988.
29. Lamis Andoni, The PLO at the crossroads, Journal of Palestine Studies, 21(1):54-65, 1991.
30. Israel Shahak, Open Secrets: Israeli nuclear and foreign policies, (London: Pluto Press, 1997), p. 164.
31. Tanya Reinhardt , Yediot Aharonot, May 1, 1995, Quoted by Shahak, p. 167-168
32. NYTimes, Oct. 15, 1997.
33. Jimmy Carter, For Israel, Land or Peace, Washington Post, 26 November 2000, page B6.
34. J. William Fulbright, The Price of Empire, (Pantheon Books, 1989), p.183.
35. Benny Morris, the Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947; 1949, p. 22, citing quotations in Shlaim, Collusion Across the Jordan, p. 465 and citing David Ben-Gurion, Yoman Hamilhama-Tashah the war diary 1948-9, ed. Gershon Rivlin and Elhannan Orren, Tel Aviv, 1982, iii, p. 993.
36. Yitzhak ben Israel, Ha'aretz, 4-16-02, in Hebrew.
37. Akram Hanieh, Journal of Palestine Studies, 30(2), 2001. See also Robert Malley and Hussein Agha, Camp David: A Tragedy of Errors, New York Review of Books, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/14380
38. WEHAB working Group, A Framework for Action on Water and Sanitation, World Summit on Sustainable Development – Johannesburg 2002, (United Nations, August 2002).
39. US Congressional Record 22 U.S.C. § 2304(a).
40. James M. Ennes, Jr. Assault on the Liberty: The True Story of the Israeli Attack on an American Intelligence Ship (Ivy Books; Reprint edition,1987). Also see http://www.ussliberty.com
41. The document can be found at http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm
42. See http://www.newamericancentury.org
Edward Said, The Question of Palestine, Vintage Books, New York, 1979, p. 167.
Nasser Aruri, Dishonest Broker: The Role of the United States in Palestine and Israel, (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2003)
Noam Chomsky, Middle East Illusions, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003)
Gary M. Burge, Whose Land? Whose Promise?: What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians, Pilgrim Press, 2003.