Friday, July 13, 2007

Guide to the Perplexed for Friends in the International Peace Movement

Question: I see myself as a friend of the Palestinian cause. However, in the current situation I am asked to take sides in an internal struggle, a step which I have no inclination to take. It appears that I, and many like me, simply have no alternative but to switch our attention and our efforts to other important matters until the Palestinians sort themselves out – hopefully in the near future.

Answer: You may have observed, and this no accident, that there are fewer and fewer struggles for peace and democracy which exist outside the vortex of resistance to the policies of Bush and the US administration. The chief struggle today is, of course to condemn and resist the US war in Iraq. But Washington pursues its interests all over the globe and has a hand in almost every local conflict.

It is axiomatic that all serious battles for authentic national independence and for peace run up against the structures of US political, economic and military presence. The principle of opposition to US policy is also a tremendous tool for political orientation and there is no matter, however seemingly local and disconnected from the international scene, which is not subject to this methodological approach. The same thought could and should be articulated in a simpler and more direct rule. In any local struggle we should be aligned with the forces fighting US domination. If you find yourself, even momentarily lined up in support of US policy, start clarifying things to extricate yourself from the unworthy alliance you have entered and the sooner the better. It is my experience that most genuine liberals and democrats understand this common sense rule while there are too many instances where some “leftist” groups in the region remain aligned with local elements which slip, slide and fade into cooperation with the goals of US policy. Our advice is never, but never line up with Bush. When he is no longer holding sway in DC, we will review our current attitude on this.

Q: Are you supporting Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist formation?

A: It is an old trick to accuse advocates of peace and political realism of supporting regimes, which are held in low public esteem, when we try to explain that embargo, sanctions, economic isolation, etc. are the wrong way to go. The idea is to prove that we are incompetent and irresponsible politically because we refuse to join the chorus of condemnation against “the terrorist enemy.” But, this kind of character defamation will not discourage any real fighter for peace.

In any event, there are also many sincere friends of peace who ask us why we support Hamas. We do not support Hamas. We support accord and compromise between the two main factions of Palestinian society as the only path to prevent a major human tragedy whose scope cannot be envisaged. In truth, most secular democrats are appalled at Hamas’ values and justly so. Even so, we are against Bush’s style of demonization. We will engage in a comprehensive analysis of the strength of Islamic fundamentalism. And we will utilize every opportunity to draw Hamas into a constructive dialogue instead of doing everything to convert each and every Islamic fundamentalist group into just another arm of Al-Qaeda. It is important to stress that each fundamentalist tendency has its own history, traditions and political goals. Bush and his local partners can indeed push Hamas into more radical positions and alliances. If you are out to destroy someone, you might well take into account that he (or she) will take counsel and seek help according to one rule only – his or her interest in survival.

It is important to stress that many impartial observers argue that Hamas can be seen as one of the more pragmatic Islamic groups. It is known that Al-Qaeda attacked it for participating in elections. It never opposed the all- Arab peace initiative on peace with Israel. It has rigorously observed cease fire agreements. Its historical and regional connections are with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, known for its abstention from and rejection of terrorist activity. Between idealization of Hamas and demonization of Hamas there is tremendous space for work on finding constructive paths that will benefit all sides.

Q. I support the two-state solution and have been locked in debate with others in the peace movement who support a single state solution. How do current events impact on this important debate?

A. The current crisis is a result of Israel’s obstinate refusal to negotiate a fair settlement. The absence of a Palestinian partner for peace is an Israeli propaganda ploy to hide the fact that Israel is unwilling to make even the most minimal concessions required for a just peace. At present, Washington and Jerusalem are involved in smashing the representative government and the self determination of the Palestinian people and preparing Palestinian society for an imposed surrender to Israeli demands and needs.

As long as Washington and Israel are euphoric about breaking the moral unity of the Palestinian people, they are in no mood to negotiate about peace. Instead they will generate propaganda based on empty gestures, such as releasing 250 Fatah prisoners from among 10,500 prisoners in Israeli jails. In order to continue the battle for Israeli-Palestinian peace, it is necessary to reject the schemes against the national integrity of the Palestinian people and reject the U.S. – Israel – Fatah plans to split and pulverize Palestinian society.

There is no reason to declare that differences of opinion on serious questions affecting the peace movement such as the debate between the two state or single state solutions are a thing of the past. However, there is every reason that each and every group and organization supporting peace and independence (with no difference as to the nature of the solution suggested) should rally to the cause of Palestinian national unity without which no peaceful solution of the conflict will ever be conceivable.

Q: If I strongly support the two- state solution, shouldn’t I give my support to Abu Mazen and Fatah who have a firm commitment to this kind of solution?

A: Certain kinds of leadership can discredit a just cause and a just idea by converting a conception based on mutual recognition and just peace into a program for unilateral concessions, accommodation to Israeli interests, and worse of all, delivering their fate and their birthright to the manipulations of the US and Israeli governments. Fatah is not fighting for a genuine two state solution. It is trying to survive and to compensate for its low esteem among the Palestinians by playing at hyped-up, high level diplomacy. It is not accidental that Abu Mazen and George Bush are competing in a race to the bottom in their disapproval ratings. Abu Mazen’s Fatah has transformed a program for dignity and independence into a path to abject subservience and has lost any credibility as an independent actor in the political arena.

Q. What next, what can we expect?

A. Abu Mazen’ recent declarations, together with reliable information on the deteriorating situation in Gaza and Rice’s upcoming visit all indicate that the ‘triple coalition’ is preparing concerted efforts to break Hamas’s influence and control of Gaza. Today’s NYT report (July 10, 2007) by Steven Erlanger presents graphic evidence that Israel and the United States are pursuing a detailed program to demolish all of Gaza’s industrial and business activity. Gaza is being slowly suffocated by a finely calibrated technique to show that any semblance of normal life in Gaza is unsustainable. The hope is that there will be rioting and pandemonium. People will try to escape. Food will be scarce, medical attention unavailable. Anyone who supports or supported Hamas will be on the receiving end of an object lesson not to be forgotten for the rest of their life. Do not rebel against Bush. Bush is still strong, very strong.

Abu Mazen prepares the battle ideologically. He explains in a recent interview to an Italian TV station that Hamas is committing the ultimate sin. Believe it or not explains Abu Mazen, Hamas is introducing Al-Qaeda into Gaza and allowing it to develop and become strong. Now this is a clear indication of how quickly Abu Mazen has learnt from Washington and how urgent coalition action against Hamas has become (Bush found Al-Qaeda in Iraq and this encouraged him to move up the time table for the invasion). It is most logical, in the present context, that Abu Mazen announced in the same interview that he will never negotiate with Hamas. With Bush behind him and Olmert in his corner, why would he need to negotiate with Hamas, just because it got more votes than Fatah.

For good background historical material on the Israeli left (mainly in Hebrew) see: