by Rude Awakening
(tratto dal periodico israeliano Challenge www.hanitzotz.com/challenge/index.html curato da ebrei e arabi *)
To the ongoing American failure in Iraq one may add, in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, the collapse of the hudna (cease-fire) and with it the so-called Road Map. These enterprises have been interwoven from the start. In projecting the vision of a Palestinian state, the Bush Administration sought to conciliate the Arab world, following the humiliation of Iraq, and to promote a new culture of government in the Middle East. A democratic Iraq, led by the opposition to Saddam Hussein beneath the American aegis, was to have its counterpart in a democratic Palestine, led by Abu Mazen under an Israeli aegis. Bush’s vision had no place for dinosaurs like Saddam and Yasser Arafat, epitomes of the old Middle East.
By nefarious coincidence, as if to symbolize their connection, both bubbles burst on August 20, 2003. In Baghdad a bomb exploded at UN Headquarters, killing 20, and a few hours later in Jerusalem, a man blew up a bus, killing himself and 20.
Israel, on its side, was quick to respond, using helicopters to assassinate Ismail Abu Shanab, No. 4 in the Hamas political wing. Now it’s the turn of Hamas. Everything’s back in its bloody groove.
If Israel knows who its enemies are, or thinks it does, 500 miles to the east the Americans box with shadows. On August 29, a car bomb went off at the Mosque of Imam Ali in Najaf, killing more than a hundred. Among the dead was Supreme Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, the leader of Iraq’s largest Shiite group. Al-Hakim had allowed his party to join the American-sponsored interim government. He had resisted the anti-American stance of Iran and the Lebanese Hizballah.
The massacre occurred shortly after Richard Perle (an architect of Bush’s Iraq policy) told Le Figaro (August 28): “Our biggest mistake, in my opinion, was the failure to work closely with Iraqis before the war so that an Iraqi opposition could have been able to immediately take the matter in hand.” In this way Perle explained his country’s failure to bring order. He may blame whom he likes, but, as in the case of Israel, the root cause lies in the fact of conquest and occupation. There is no such animal as a successful occupation. If ever there was, it’s long been extinct.
After five months of failure in Iraq, the Americans have reached the embarrassing conclusion that they need Saddam’s secret agents, otherwise they won’t have sufficient intelligence to strangle the opposition. (Anthony Shadid and Daniel Williams, “U.S. Recruiting Hussein’s Spies,” Washington Post August 24.) This is a far cry from their pre-war insistence, voiced repeatedly in quest of public support, that Saddam’s regime must be eradicated – to be replaced by an enlightened democracy.
In the Territories, too, Israel’s efforts to replace Arafat have ended in nothing. Yet even the PA chief, with all the security forces at his beck, proved incapable of bringing Hamas under control, collecting its weapons or preventing attacks. How much less so, the team of Abu Mazen and Muhammad Dahlan. The weakness of all these contenders derives from the hands that send them: Israel and America. At present, Arafat is using the popular opposition to those hands in order to strengthen his standing. His intrigues would shame a Byzantine court – and he pulls them off from within his encircled Muqata’a. It is not the hunger in the Territories that troubles him, nor the rising unemployment, nor the gang wars deepening the hell in Palestinian cities, nor the new Israeli wall that devastates thousands of lives (see p. 4). A single obsession drives Arafat: the world’s potentates should acknowledge that Abu Mazen belongs to him, not he to Abu Mazen. Between the two lie no ideological differences. Their argument is purely personal.
Sharon and Abu Mazen are Bush’s men, and Arafat would like nothing better than to be. But Bush’s vision is basically flawed. It takes as its point of departure the superiority of the one side and the inferiority of the other. Leaders may gnaw at each other for years – no matter. As long as the Middle East is ruled by dictators and American lackeys, the fires will burn. n
What happened to the hudna?
The cease-fire or hudna, which provided a measure of quiet for two months, was an internal Palestinian agreement brokered by Abu Mazen. It was his way of getting around the Israeli demand that he dismantle the “terrorist infrastructure”. For its part, Israel never agreed to be part of the hudna. Accordingly, it did not stop its assassinations – although it slowed their pace. In justification, Israel claimed to be killing only “ticking bombs”. Its persistence in this policy spelled eventual doom for the hudna, hence for the Road Map, which is based on the absence of armed struggle.
One reason for Abu Mazen’s weakness is the fact that the campaign to marginalize Arafat fell short of its goal: the latter still controls most of the security forces. Lately he has been trying to take the Interior Ministry from Abu Mazen, thus weakening Muhammad Dahlan, who runs this ministry and commands much loyalty from the PA forces in the Gaza Strip. In the Territories, as often in the Arab states, the Interior Ministry is responsible for security. At the time of this writing, Arafat and Abu Mazen are still engaged in arm-wrestling. The outcome, in any case, will be of greater consequence to the annals of sport than to those of national liberation.
* CHALLENGE is a bi-monthly leftist magazine focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within a global context. Published in Jaffa by Arabs and Jews, it features political analysis, investigative reporting, interviews, eye-witness reports, arts, and more.
* CHALLENGE è un bimestrale di sinistra che si occupa del conflitto israelo-palestinese nel contesto internazionale. La rivista è edita a Jaffa da un gruppo di arabi e di ebrei e propone analisi politiche, inchieste, interviste, testimonianze, articoli di arte e altro.