Friday, September 19, 2003

Baruch Kimmerling has written what purports to be a review of a biography of Ehud Barak, but what is really an outstanding summary of the truth behind Barak's 'generous offer' and Sharon's manipulation of the 'roadmap'. It is an outstanding essay, and so I quote more than I normally would:

  1. On Barak's 'generous offer':

    "It should be recalled that the Palestinians, from their perspective, had already made the ultimate concession, and thus were without bargaining chips. In the Oslo agreements, they had recognized Israel’s right to exist in 78 per cent of historical Palestine in the hope that, following the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan - and on the basis of the Arab interpretation of UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967 - they might recover the remainder, with minor border adjustments. Yet - although later there was a certain slackening of Israeli demands - talk continued concerning annexation of another 12 per cent or so of the West Bank in order to create three settlement blocs, thus dividing the Palestinian state into separate cantons, with the connexions between them very problematic. The Palestinians called the portions allotted to them bantustans; but the original enclaves created by the Afrikaners for South African blacks were far better endowed than those of Barak's 'generous' proposal."


    "During the course of the talks Barak did indeed agree to be 'flexible' about the Israeli proposals on the various issues, and was close to a territorial concession of over 92 per cent. But each proposal, and each issue, was discussed individually; and it was stressed that, until everything had been agreed upon, nothing was agreed. Thus the Palestinians were made discrete offers in many different areas, mainly out of the certainty that all would be rejected outright regardless, while the Palestinians - or so it was reported at the time - did not make any counter-proposals. Afterward, Barak could group together all the separate instances and claim that he had made an incomparably generous offer to the Palestinians."


    "There were further so-called 'non-talks' and 'non-papers' in Taba where, according to some sources, the parties came closer to agreement than ever before. As far as Barak and Arafat were concerned, however, the game at Camp David was over. From that episode to armed conflict was just a question of time."

  2. On the Palestinian response:

    "After seven years of futile talks that had failed to make any significant advance in the Palestinian cause - accompanied by the intensification of the Jewish colonization process in the Occupied Palestinian Territories - the question was not whether but when the anger and violence would erupt, and in what form. The Palestinians were not entirely unaware of the asymmetry in the power relations with Israel, but they changed the paradigm. From an attempt to end the occupation and achieve independence that relied upon diplomatic efforts and depended on the kindness of the Jews and Americans, they moved on to a 'war for independence', fuelled in part by religious emotions; the type of struggle in which the people are prepared to pay a high personal and collective price in order to achieve what they see as a paramount objective."

  3. On Sharon's real goal, politicide:

    "Under Sharon, Israel has become a state oriented towards one major goal: the politicide of the Palestinian people. Politicide is a process whose ultimate aim is to destroy a certain people’s prospects - indeed, their very will - for legitimate self-determination and sovereignty over land they consider their homeland. It is, in fact, a reversal of the process suggested by Woodrow Wilson at the end of the First World War and since then accepted as a standard international principle. Politicide includes a mixture of martial, political, social and psychological measures. The most commonly used techniques in this process are expropriation of lands and their colonization; restrictions on spatial mobility (curfews, closures, roadblocks); murder; localized massacres; mass detentions; division, or elimination, of leaders and elite groups; hindrance of regular education and schooling; physical destruction of public institutions and infrastructure, private homes and property; starvation; social and political isolation; re-education; and partial or, if feasible, complete ethnic cleansing, although this may not occur as a single dramatic action. The aim of most of these practices is to make life so unbearable that the greatest possible majority of the rival population, especially its elite and middle classes, will leave the area 'voluntarily'. Typically, all such actions are taken in the name of law and order; a key aim is to achieve the power to define one's own side as the law enforcers, and the other as criminals and terrorists. An alternative goal may be the establishment of a puppet regime - like those of the bantustans - that is completely obedient but provides an illusion of self-determination to the oppressed ethnic or racial community."


    "The hard facts are, however, that a Palestinian people exists, and the possibility of its politicide - or its being ethnically cleansed from the country - without fatal consequences for Israel, is nil. On the other hand, Israel is not only an established presence in the region but also, in local terms, a military, economic and technological superpower. Like many other immigrant-settler societies it was born in sin, on the ruins of another culture that had suffered politicide and partial ethnic cleansing - although the Zionist state did not succeed in annihilating the rival indigenous culture, as many other immigrant-settler societies have done. In 1948 it lacked the power to do so, and the strength of post-colonial sentiment at the time made such actions less internationally acceptable. Unlike the outcome in Algeria, Zambia or South Africa, however, the Palestinians were unable to overthrow their colonizers."

  4. On Sharon's use of the 'roadmap':

    "Similarly, it was in the run-up to its invasion of Iraq that the Bush Administration issued its new 'Road Map'. Its goal is to close down all armed resistance to Israel in exchange for the establishment, within temporary borders, of an entity described as a 'Palestinian state' by the end of 2003. This is to be followed by the withdrawal of Israeli forces from pa territories and elections for a new Palestinian Council, leading to negotiations with Israel on a permanent agreement, to be reached by 2005. The so-called 'Quartet' of the US, EU, UN and Russia is supposed to supervise implementation of the plan, which leaves all the matters in dispute - borders, refugees, status of Jerusalem, among others - open. This strategy fits well with Sharon's tactic of buying time to continue his politicide policy - a tactic that rests on the assumption that Palestinian terrorist attacks will continue, drawing forth a correspondingly savage Israeli military response."

    and, most importantly:

    "Being an able map-reader, Sharon has found the new Bush plan very convenient. Speaking in November 2002, he outlined a clear vision of how the conflict should be managed: with the implementation of the Road Map, Israel would be able to create a contiguous area of territory in the West Bank which, through a combination of tunnels and bridges, would allow Palestinians to travel from Jenin to Hebron without passing through any Israeli roadblocks or checkpoints. Israel would undertake measures such as 'creating territorial continuity between Palestinian population centres' - that is, withdrawing from cities such as Jenin, Nablus and Hebron - as long as the Palestinians remain engaged in making a 'sincere and real effort to stop terror'. Then, after the required reforms in the Palestinian Authority had been completed, the next phase of the Bush plan would come into effect: the establishment of a Palestinian state, within 'provisional' borders.

    The intention is obvious. The 'Palestinian state' will be formed by three enclaves around the cities of Jenin, Nablus, and Hebron, lacking territorial contiguity. The plan to connect the enclaves with tunnels and bridges means that a strong Israeli presence will exist in most other areas of the West Bank. To drive the point home, Sharon added:

    This Palestinian state will be completely demilitarized. It will be allowed to maintain lightly armed police and internal forces to ensure civil order. Israel will continue to control all movement in and out of the Palestinian state, will command its airspace, and not allow it to form alliances with Israel's enemies.

    Sharon knows very well that it would be virtually impossible for a Palestinian leader to end the conflict in exchange for such limited sovereignty and territory. However, the very mention of the code words 'Palestinian state' - taboo in the right-wing lexicon - endows him with an image of moderation abroad and positions him at the centre of the domestic political spectrum. Such gestures also win him an almost unlimited amount of time to continue his programme of politicide . . . ."

  5. On the backasswards Israeli position based on a faulty presumption, namely:

    ". . . the presumption that the root of the violence lies in 'Palestinian terrorism', rather than in Israel's generation-long occupation and illegal colonization of Palestinian lands and its exploitation and harassment of the entire people. Thus the initial Israeli 'condition' states that: 'In the first phase of the plan and as a condition for progress to the second phase, the Palestinians will complete the dismantling of terrorist organizations . . . and their infrastructure, collect all illegal weapons and transfer them to a third party'. Were the document's framers to adopt a more accurate perspective on the historical and political causalities, they would propose the prompt termination of occupation, and withdrawal of Israeli military forces to the pre-1967 borders as the first - and not the last - phase of the process. Under such conditions, it would then make sense to demand that the sovereign Palestinian state cease its resistance against a non-existent occupation and act, gradually but forcefully, against terrorist organizations that might endanger its own authority or stability."

  6. On a way to start the solution:

    "A minimal requirement of a realistic peace plan is to give the Palestinians some possibility of achieving one of their major aims: a sovereign state over 22 per cent of historic Palestine. An explicit statement of this goal could create a greater symmetry among the parties and provide incentives for settling all the additional issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, the division of water resources and so on."

I don't think I've ever read anything as sensible on the whole problem and the way it continues due to the crazy logic of the Israeli position. One of the great mysteries of the problem is how the Israelis have managed to convince the Americans that it makes sense to set up the negotiations as a series of insurmountable hurdles for the Palestinians. Only after they get over the hurdles are the Palestinians promised some fraction of a state. The Palestinians see the absurdity of this, react violently, and this violence is used to errect further hurdles. Somehow doing more and more of the same idiocy, which constantly leads to disaster, is supposed to lead closer to peace. The real root-cause problem is that the Israelis are violently occupying the homeland of the Palestinians, and this problem creates the symptom of Palestinian violence. Therefore, the only possible start to a peaceful solution is for the Israeli occupation to stop (i. e., evacuate all the settlements, and get the IDF out of the Occupied Territories). The reason this obvious solution hasn't been tried seems to rest in a combination of the continued American funding for Israel, which allows Israel the luxury of delaying the decision, and a certain bad faith in Israeli society, where the idea still exists that the Palestinians can be conquered, and their land stolen. Until the Americans stop enabling the evil and the Israelis make up their minds to give up 'wishful thinking' and do the only right and possible thing, there will be no peace (failure to do the right thing may lead to some rather unexpected consequences). We now see Bush, immediately after the Americans veto a UN resolution criticizing Israel for threatening to 'remove' Arafat, blaming (or here) the whole Mid-East problem on Arafat without once mentioning the threat by Israel to Arafat or the fact that the hudna was intentionally ended by Sharon with his constant series of useless targeted assassinations. The relentless focusing on Arafat, a tired old man caged in a falling-down compound with no real power to either cause terrorism or stop terrorism, is symptomatic of the utter failure by the Americans and the Israelis to acknowledge where the real problem lies. The Palestinians can do nothing to lead to peace; only the Israelis can.