Sunday, July 29, 2001

Texts and Trends – The Joint Palestinian-Israeli Declaration

There are different ways to analyze any political message and event. You can apply a rigorous textual analyses and show how the text or the event reflects the text producers and their production – and if they have a shady past, you will not have any difficulty finding its traces in the text. This is what Yehudit Harel has done and almost everything she says about the document and its Israeli initiators is true. Another method is to look at the event – the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Declaration of Principles (IPJD) in its general and overall political context. Here, we have to ask if the movement is forward, backward, and in short, are we better off if the event had not occurred. I prefer the analysis via the political context.…

The Joint Declaration is a positive event that reflects the weaknesses and the hesitations of the Israeli Zionist doves as a political formation, but at the same time expresses a welcome tendency for that community to come out of a stage of total shock into which it sank after Camp David, the Intifada, the electoral defeat of their leader Ehud Barak. Ehud Barak [and Clinton] did fool them, but now a year after Camp David they are back to square one – returning, shamefacedly and a bit subdued – to the understanding that Israel does have a partner for peace. There are a lot of elements that went into this return to their senses and a lot could be said about how this formation has a tendency to dismiss and delegitimize the Palestinian people and their representatives whenever the going gets tough.

However, Beilin, for example, is an establishment politician who plays a progressive role in Israeli politics today in that he has resisted the right wing groundswell represented by Peres (national unity government under Sharon) and Ben Ami (Arafat is to blame). The IPJD is a product of Beilin’s leadership of the dove formation and the willingness of that formation to recognize its own contribution to the general disorientation after the Barak fiasco. As weak and pale as the IPJD, it signifies forward movement for the dove section of the Israeli establishment.

On the day-to-day political level, I do not want and am unwilling to attack the Palestinian leadership for its efforts to prove to the Israeli public and world opinion that they have not turned their back on peace. The slanders and the libel of the hegemonic Western media have made every effort to portray them in this role for their crime of saying no to Clinton – so as to prove that nobody gets off easy for that kind of transgression. If, as Yehudit Harel senses quite acutely, the Palestinian leadership has renewed a dialog with the moderate sections of the Israeli establishment in an effort to make war a bit more difficult for Shaorn – this is basically an ‘internal’ Palestinian matter of tactics. I do have a few questions of my own for the Palestinian leadership, but they will have to wait. Life is complicated and demands compromises. Peace Now, one of the favorite boogey men of the ultra-militants is holding a demonstration next Saturday in Tel Aviv, under the main slogan: No to an unnecessary war! In the given circumstances, the turn out might be far from what we could hope for. We can boycott the demo, we sure do have a ‘thick file’ on Peace Now. But any responsible activist on the Israeli scene knows that she or he should be there.