The last of the veils
The last of the veils are slowly dissipating.
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
The extent of the Arab governments' conspiracies against their own people and sub-serviance to the US and Israeli governments was known to most people. But the documents released from Wikileaks simply confirm and extend this knowledge. For example, we now know how a Mr. Marwan Hamadeh, Lebanese official ran around to the US, France, Saudi, Jordanian and other officials to mobilize against Hizbollah's fiberoptic network in Lebanon. The first people he informed about this network were Hanna Seniora (now discredited who was then prime minister, Walid Jumblatt, and the Maronite Patriarch, clearly factional interests. And w learn that Elias El-Murr, Lebanon's "defense" minister informed US officials that the Lebanese army would not interfere if Israel invaded Lebanon as long as the Israeli army does not attack Christian villages.
We also learn of Egyptian foreign minister mirroring his boss Hosni Mubarak to refuse to talk about human rights and freeing of political prisoners and instead kept emphasizing dangers of Hamas and their possible connections to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and to Iran. The way the governments work revealed via these cables proves what Barbara Tuchman had to say
“Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts. It is epitomized in a historian's statement about Phillip II of Spain, the surpassing wooden-head of all sovereigns: No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence “ (The March of Folly. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984).
In short the released cables while theoretically showing a fear of Iran and Islamic spread in the Middle East will only discredit Arab leaders and encourage people to start to look for alternatives to what is now a clear axis of evil: the US government, Israel, and the reactionary dictatorial arab leaders serving those. To be blunt, we had better possibilities in the 1960s and early 1970s to standing up to hegemonic US/Israeli designs of subjugating and dividing the Arab world than we do today. Today we face(with few exceptions) a solid block across the board of collaborative Arab regimes (known before but now clearly exposed via wikileaks with more to come) and a mostly apathetic Arab public including many Palestinians. What are alternative organizing centers for the period to come of dissolution of dictatorships and empires and the bankruptcy of racist ideologies of chosenness? There are few possibilities:
1) Leftist secular traditional parties (PFLP, DFLP, PPP, Baathists, Nasserites etc). Each of these factions/parties is small on its own. They have lost much support after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Here I am not talking about financial or direct other support (it was relatively small and came to only few of these groups). I am talking about the general decline of the left around the world that ensued with the "perceived win" of the capitalist west. It was a strong PR campaign from many quarters that enhanced this perception (wrong as it is) that the decline of the soviet union meant that the unfettered free market system is the only game in town. I do not want here to enter into an analysis of this phenomenon. Others have done a far better job at it including candid and self-critical analysis by those belonging to those various (left) parties, factions, and liberation movement. But my point is that even with their reduced cadres due to this and other challenges (e.g. the dependence of some of them on financing through the Palestinian Authority dominated but emasculated PLO), they remain collectively a potent force for the future. When they did join forces (e.g. in selected local elections), this power can be manifested.
2) Islamic forces: Again I do not presume to try and analyze the power of these factions or their diversity let alone their potential to develop in positive directions that effect real change in their societies. But I think everyone agrees that such groups are indeed gaining adherents and carry a significant weight in the streets and that they will play a role in the future.
3) Decent individuals within Palestinian elites (governing bodies and business people) and even elites in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and other Arab countries. Of those I would give more possibilities for growth and providing decent alternatives to the status quo among Palestinians Lebanese (and perhaps Jordanians and Egyptians). Some may decide that even their own long term financial and societal positions are served better by challenging the status quo.
4) Independents: people with a conscience but who do not belong to political factions and are not associated with governments. Many of those are intellectuals who might finally move to activism as happened in the past (in Palestine and elsewhere).
These issues are increasingly being discussed by individuals within those sections of society. I believe it is possible to organize those (or most of them) into a coherent positive force that challenges the roads of wars, racism, colonization, and occupation. But my own humble opinion is:
A) Do not discount the likelihood of the dissolution of the Israeli/US empire on its own ala the Roman and Soviet empire out of their own arrogance, hubris, and disastrous policies (the signs are all around us from the $3 trillion dollar war on Iraq, to the attacks on the freedom flotilla, to the bitter arguments in Israeli society about the reliance of this 4th strongest state in the world on foreign aid to put out a few fires, literal and otherwise etc).
B) Do not discount people (Palestinians, other Arabs, internationals etc). History teaches us that when we discount what people are able to do, we are almost always wrong. Think of the perception of the French and after them the US government of what the Vietnamese peasants could do in the few years just before their liberation. Think of South Africa in the early 1980s. Algeria in the 1940s and 1950s. India in the 1920s and 30s. Think of the US South in the 1940s. Even here in Palestine, just think of the dismissal and opinions of pundits about the end of Palestine offered in 1928 (before the 1929 uprising), 1935 (before the 1936 uprising), 1955, 1970, 1981, 1986, and 1999.
That even the US administration has stood unable to effect even the minor change in Israeli colonial settler activities is just one indication that we are reaching a dead end in the old ways and the new ways and new actors must step forward. Things will change as power shifts to the people. Around the world, many are now realizing what is happening and few are leading the way of change.