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U.S., Israel, and Abbas Shamefully Subvert Palestinian Democracy For Their Own Ends

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When Condoleeza Rice visited and met with Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli government leaders recently, in the context of daily Israeli incursions into Gaza and regular in-fighting between Fatah and Hamas militants, she talked a lot about peace and helping the Palestinians, promising to "redouble" efforts to improve Palestinian living conditions. However, most Palestinians knew the real reason for her visit – to convey U.S. support to Abbas and Fatah.

She met with Abbas in Ramallah, where she expressed "great admiration" for his leadership and promised him the "strong commitment of the United States". Then, quite amazingly, it was announced that the U.S. would allocate $26 million to "expand" Abbas' Presidential guard from 3,500 to 6,000 men. At a time when the Palestinians seem to be moving ever closer to a civil war, it is obvious what this means.

Then, yesterday, the U.S. "quietly started a campaign" to bolster Hamas' political opponents in the event of an upcoming election, expected to cost up to $46 million (a lot of money in the Occupied Territories – more than three times the amount spent by the main parties and candidates in the January election.)  "'This project supports (the) objective to create democratic alternatives to authoritarian or radical Islamist political options,' one official U.S. document obtained by Reuters said."

U.S. Consul General Jacob Walles said, "We are not promoting any particular party. In fact, we will work with any party as long as it is not affiliated with a terrorist organisation".  Now, there are some problems with this. First, it's a flagrant lie. As I've already said, the U.S. has allocated $26 million specifically to expand President Abbas' Presidential Guards. Then there's the fact that Fatah is linked to a terrorist group, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades are Fatah's military wing. Since the U.S. and Israel consistently fail to distinguish between the political and military wings of Hamas, there is no way they can justify doing so for Fatah. So in other words the U.S. government is, in effect, funding a terrorist organisation and so, under Bush law, they should be disappeared to Guantanamo Bay.

Second, Hamas is a democratic party. It was elected in January in free and fair elections by the Palestinian people, and has a strong mandate to represent them. By funding Fatah and other Hamas opponents, the U.S. is working to subvert the democratic choice of the Palestinian people.

An incident happened late last week which illustrated perfectly the shifting alliances in the Occupied Territories. A U.S. volunteer was kidnapped by a previously unknown group and held for a day in Nablus. He was freed on Thursday unharmed by the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and brought to the mayor's office accompanied by 20 al-Aqsa militants. The U.S. and Fatah, and by extension the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, are now firm allies, out of common interest more than anything else. The U.S. and Israel need Hamas out of office because they know that Hamas will stand up and demand from them that Palestinian rights are upheld. Fatah, history has shown, will not. Hamas, incidentally, are fully aware of this paradigm shift — its operatives have been pushing their leadership to authorise attacks on U.S. targets throughout the Middle East.

A Hamas statement, furious at the latest U.S. intervention, said, "This is not the first time we discover that the U.S. has transferred funds to Fatah. In the general Palestinian parliament elections the (American) government financed Fatah parliament members [then as now, Fatah shamefully accepted U.S. funding], but the financial aid did not help them and they were defeated in the elections…Still, they are the ones continuing to incite against the government, wearing the new clothes of the president's advisors."

Abbas, for his part, is desperate to regain power after Hamas swept to a surprise victory in the January elections. That is why he has collaborated with U.S. and Israeli plans to topple Hamas, using the civil service strikes as political cover knowing full well that the reason they have not been paid has nothing to do with Hamas mis-management of the economy and everything to do with foreign intervention. It is why Abbas has collaborated with the 'quartet' in demanding Hamas recognise Israel, renounce violence, and abide by past agreements despite the fact that none of these 'preconditions' are applied to Israel, the aggressor and the occupier.

Israel, unlike Hamas which imposed and largely kept to a unilateral ceasefire for over a year, has never renounced violence. It refuses outright to abide by previous agreements (for example, its expansion of the settlements violates the both spirit of Oslo and the word of the 'roadmap', as well as international law). And while Hamas refuses to recognise the Israeli state in words, Israel refuses to recognise the Palestinian state in deed, which is far more meaningful. Israel has stood in the way of and deliberately prevented a two-state settlement for years now, and yet it is Hamas the international community, and to his shame Abbas, are making demands of. As Ramzy Baroud summarises, "Both Fatah and Hamas are allowing their desire for self-preservation and advancement to supplant the self-preservation of the Palestinian national unity, or whatever remains of it."

This latest U.S. intervention must be understood in terms of the constant U.S. and international meddling that has been going on since the Palestinians chose the wrong people to represent them in January. As soon as Hamas was elected to power, Israel and the U.S. recognised that they had to go. Israel started to withhold tax receipts it collected, as the occupying power, on behalf of the Palestinian government, now amounting to some $500 million. The international community, led by Israel and the U.S., largely stopped giving aid to the Palestinians. This is incredibly important, because thanks to the occupation many Palestinians are heavily reliant on foreign aid merely to survive. Donor aid to the Palestinians will drop by 30% to 50% this year compared to last, and `in the most severe scenario, which now seems the more likely, the Palestinian economy will shrink to levels not witnessed for a generation. From 2006 to 2008, losses in GDP could reach $5.4bn, and 84% of the jobs available last year will disappear.'

With more than 160,000 civil service workers striking over lack of pay, the Palestinian economy is in absolute ruins. It is undergoing a severe depression comparable to the Great Depression of the '30s, according to the World Bank, which predicted in March this year that the Palestinian economy would shrink by 27% in 2006, with unemployment nearly doubling to 39.6% and the percentage of those living below the poverty line increasing by half to 67%.

As John Dugard, U.N special rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Territories, explains, "The humanitarian situation in both the West Bank and Gaza is appalling. At least 4 out of 10 Palestinians live under the official poverty line of less than US$ 2.10 a day and unemployment stands at least 40 per cent…To aggravate matters, the public sector, which accounts for 23 per cent of total employment in the Palestinian territory, is employed but unpaid as a result of the withholding of funds owed to the Palestinian Authority by the Government of Israel, amounting to $50 to 60 million per month…In effect, the Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions – the first time an occupied people have been so treated."

Not only have Israel and the international community worked to overthrow Hamas by destroying the Palestinian economy further using international aid and tax receipts as tools to blackmail the Palestinian people; Israel has also increased the number of military roadblocks in the West Bank by 40% this year, meaning the West Bank is increasingly being carved up into small pieces. In the words of David Shearer, head of the U.N Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Jerusalem, "We are seeing a continuing closing down, locking down of Palestinian areas…The West Bank, for example, is effectively being chopped up into three big areas… and there are pockets within those areas where people also can't move."

These checkpoints help separate farmers from fields, husbands from wives, employees from jobs, and are one of the main reasons for the dire state of the Palestinian economy. But even after months of international and Israeli economic strangulation, Hamas remained in power and the Palestinians remained resolute. So, on June 25, the Israelis used the capture of a soldier as a pretext for launching a massive military campaign against Gaza, cynically named `Operation Summer Rains'. In the course of this operation, six transformers at a Gaza power station were bombed by six separate Israeli missiles, in what B'Tselem and everyone else with a moral conscience described as a war crime. That Gaza power station provided over 40% of Gaza with electricity needed for air conditioning, hospitals, the sewage system and for power, and Israel with a cold calculation destroyed it at the height of summer. The Hamas Interior Ministry was bombed by Israeli jets several times, and raids have continued, killing Hamas militants and Palestinian civilians daily. B'Tselem was wrong to describe the bombing of the Gaza power plant as an `act of vengeance' because, as Jonathan Cook notes, that relies on the assumption that Israel is acting in 'good faith'. In fact, it was just the latest act in the Israeli strategy to collectively punish the Palestinian people for electing Hamas.

The number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces this year has almost doubled compared to last year, after 13 year-old Suhaib Kadiah became the 92nd child to die this year when she was shot by Israeli troops in Gaza.

Incidentally, the U.S.' and Israel's strategy of collective punishment seems to be working, with opinion polls now roughly split half-and-half between Hamas and Fatah. Fatah, like everyone else in the region, recognises that this is solely due to the economic crisis imposed on the Palestinians from the outside, and has worked hard to capitalise on this. But, in reality, it is in neither the Palestinian nor the Israeli peoples' interests for Hamas to be toppled from power. It will teach them and other militant groups a lesson – that politics is for those who are willing to submit to U.S. and Israeli interests only. More than likely, the failure of Hamas will lead to an even more radical and extremist replacement, much as the failure of the PLO lead to the rise of Hamas. That would be good for no-one. The Israeli/US `experiment' has worked: the perpetuation of the occupation has been secured, but at the expense of international law, immeasurable human suffering and the security of the Palestinian and the Israeli people.

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  • Franco

    OK, so “bottom line”, what do you suggest!

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Yeah Jamie,

    You’ve spent sixteen paragraphs analysing what you believe the problem is. How would you get us from the “here” that you dislike to the “there” that you have not yet defined?

    More to the point, how would you redress the tremendous damage the Arabs have suffered from the fourteen years of the Olso Aslá (toilet) Plan so that they arrive at a viable, self sufficient, prosperous state of their own?

  • http://heathlander.wordpress.com Jamie Stern-Weiner

    Well, firstly, I don’t have to come up with an alternative in order to point out that what’s happening is wrong.

    But, as it happens, I agree with the majority of the world about what should happen. There should be a two-state settlement, based roughly on international law (that is, the Palestinians get E. Jerusalem and an independent state on 100% of Gaza and the West Bank apart from “mutual” and “minor” adjustments, the right of refugees to return is recognised by Israel, and as a gesture several hundred thousands of the 5-6 million should be allowed to return). Incidentally, through the Arab League proposal, this would also entail peace with the entire region.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    You know, Jamie, a monkey can drive a car forward. It takes some brains to drive it backwards. Similarly, any idiot can “point out what is wrong”, from whatever view he chooses. It takes imagination to figure out a really workable solution. That is what I work hard at.

    There should be a two-state settlement, based roughly on international law (that is, the Palestinians get E. Jerusalem and an independent state on 100% of Gaza and the West Bank apart from “mutual” and “minor” adjustments, the right of refugees to return is recognised by Israel, and as a gesture several hundred thousands of the 5-6 million should be allowed to return). Incidentally, through the Arab League proposal, this would also entail peace with the entire region.

    That’s all very nice. You make a pro forma attempt at a solution by parroting what the Saudis say to the west. But I repeat. How do you redress the tremendous damage the Arabs have suffered from the fourteen years of the Olso Aslá (toilet) Plan so that they arrive at a viable, self sufficient, prosperous state of their own?!

    The territory you are talking about that is supposed to be a “Palestinian” state is not much bigger than some of the smaller counties in England – roughly 2,000 square miles. How do you build an economy that is self sufficient? Do you unite this territory with Jordan to give it viability? Let’s see something practical out of the leftist Jewish finger-wagging intellectual from London. Arabs will want to dip their pita in something more substantial than your elevated sense of righteousness, you know.

  • http://heathlander.wordpress.com Jamie Stern-Weiner

    Really, a ‘monkey’,eh? Because in the past, you’ve been completely unable to ‘point out what is wrong’, finding it impossible to look past Palestinian terrorism and the security needs of Israel.
    But it’s good that you’ve got past that.

    “That’s all very nice. You make a pro forma attempt at a solution by parroting what the Saudis say to the west. But I repeat. How do you redress the tremendous damage the Arabs have suffered from the fourteen years of the Olso Aslá (toilet) Plan so that they arrive at a viable, self sufficient, prosperous state of their own?! “

    If you mean help beyond that, then of course Israel should pour money into developing the Palestinian economy, provide jobs and so forth. It’s difficult to redress for past injustices, except by saying sorry, but in terms of trade and investment Israel could be a lot of help to a new Palestinian state.

    But listen. The Palestinians want a state, and they are legally entitled to one. That’s why they should have one. Once all Palestinians legal rights, including to an ‘independent’ Palestinian state (i.e. no Jordan, no Israel, no anyone – an independent state, if that’s what they want, and they do), have been respected, there should be no problem. Certainly, the matter of providing help after the state is set up is a completely different problem, one that is unconnected, from the one we face today, i.e. to set up a state in the first place.

    Arabs don’t want to ‘dip their pita’ in anything. They’ve made clear what they want, and it’s as I’ve outlined above. I don’t know why you characterise it as ‘what the Saudis say to the west’ – no, its what international law and the majority of world public opinion demands, and wha must be respected. What you speak of comes after. (I think Israel should pay reparations for the damage its caused, for example).

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Jamie, I’d love to see the Palestinians get their own state but if you return to the pre-67 borders, you’ve got an Israel that, at its most narrow is about 15 miles across. You’ve got a bifurcated, corrupt, completely dispirted Arab population that’s supposed to make sense out of a hodgepodge of a country?

    And the right of return is simply the death knell of Israel and you know that. Israel is a Jewish state. When the Muslims outnumber the Jews, it will no longer be a Jewish state.

    Jordon was supposed to be the Palestinian’s homeland–they were (and may still be in the majority) but the Hashemites didn’t like the idea of giving up power, so they threw them out in a bloody war. Since the whole stupid area was carved up after WWI, why not just carve it up again. If the Arabs are so adamant about peace, they certainly wouldn’t mind giving up a piece of their terrority for the Palestinians, would they?

    And of course, the Palestinian National Covenant would have to be amended to stop calling for the destuction of Israel. And Hezbollah would have to be disarmed.

    You try so hard to simplify this issue. It’s complex beyond rational capacity for thought. I don’t know if I have an answer or not unless someone made me supreme rule of all the land there–but I know enough not to simplisticly blame Israel for all the problems there.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • http://heathlander.wordpress.com Jamie Stern-Weiner

    “but if you return to the pre-67 borders, you’ve got an Israel that, at its most narrow is about 15 miles across.”

    That’s true. But you’ve also got an Israel with the fourth raning military in the world, and a Palestinian state with a few homemade rockets. More importantly, while it is unrealistic to expect all the terror groups to vanish instantly, most Palestinians are in favour of a two-state settlement based on the law. Once this is achieved, they’ll have no reason to send their sons to kill themselves, and no reason to kill Israeli civilians and unnecessarily bring on themselves devastating retaliation. They will simply want to get on with their lives and making a successful Palestine. Groups like Islamic Jihad will become isolated in their communities, indeed, hated if they don’t stop, recruitment will dry up, and they will cease to be a problem.

    To quote the words of a former Israeli foreign minister: ‘Israel has as much to fear from a Palestinian state as the Soviet Union does from Luxembourg.’
    As Norman Finkelstein expanded on that, presumably those who feel Israel has a right to occupy based on ‘security fears’ also supported the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, because undoubtedly Aghanistan was more of a security threat to the Soviet Union than Luxembourg was.

    No, this isn’t about security. Security is just a cover used sometimes by Israel to justify the perpetuation of the occupation. Its a common trick; how many times has the U.S used it to justify an aggression? Grenada, Nicaragua, Iraq, etc. etc.

    “You’ve got a bifurcated, corrupt, completely dispirted Arab population that’s supposed to make sense out of a hodgepodge of a country?”

    ‘Dispirited’? Why would they be ‘dispirited’, after having achieved what they’ve been fighting for for 40 years?
    Of course, it is in everyone’s interests that Israel should invest heavily to develop the Palestinian state, as should (and would) the Arab states. Israel should also pay reparations.
    But, assuming the Palestinians get fair access to water and resources, they’ll be fine. In any event, how to run a successful Palestinian state is a separate question from ‘should we establish a Palestinian state?’, because the answer to the second one has to be a yes, because the law demands it.

    “If the Arabs are so adamant about peace, they certainly wouldn’t mind giving up a piece of their terrority for the Palestinians, would they?”

    Firstly, history has shown that they would – Arab governments have been more concerned about using the Palestinian cause to bolster their own popularity or to attack Israel than they have been with Palestinian welfare.
    But that’s completely beside the point. The Palestinians want a state on the West Bank and Gaza. They are legally entitled to a state on the West Bank and Gaza. Thus, they must have a state on the West Bank and Gaza. That’s it.
    (Incidentally – I don’t hear you arguing that the Europeans should be happy to make room for the Jews, and so the Jews should all leave Israel and move to Europe. That’s the exact same argument you used for the Palestinians, the occupied people, and its not serious.)

    “And of course, the Palestinian National Covenant would have to be amended to stop calling for the destuction of Israel. And Hezbollah would have to be disarmed.”

    Hizbullah is a Lebanese national movement, completely separate from the Palestinians, except that they,, like Arab governments, have tried to associate themselves with the Palestinian cause to increase credibility.
    As to the Covenant – well, that isn’t a precondition, but of course if in the negotiations for the final state the Palestinians saw that their legal rights were being upheld, there would be no reason to hold on to that pledge. In any event, even if it was kept for a while, nothing would be done about it – the Palestinian people would not tolerate any foolish action that would threaten to bring a return to the status quo ante.

    “You try so hard to simplify this issue. “

    The issue is complex, and I would never try to over-simplify it. What the law says is simple, and the law must be upheld.

    “but I know enough not to simplisticly blame Israel for all the problems there.”

    Of course Israel shouldn’t get the blame for everything. It isn’t good guy vs. bad guy. But currently, as the aggressor, the oppressor, the occupier and the willing roadblock to peace, Israel deserves most of the blame. It is surely not right to go after the occupied people, practically defenceless against this foreign military power which continues to expand its illegal occupation, arbitrarily launches ‘raids’ which kill militants and civilians daily and is in the process of strangling the Palestinian economy to death. Of course, we must criticise the Palestinians when they use terrorism, or when they miss an opportunity for progress, or whatever. But fundamentally, they are an occupied people resisting, and Israel is an occupier, fighting to perpetuate the occupation.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Jamie,

    You are an outstanding fiction writer. The world you describe is a wonderful one – of your own imagination. You still haven’t supplied a basic answer to the issue of making a viable Arab state in the region that would give a home with prosperity to them.

    When the goyim pay us for having made our lives meserable for 1,700 years – a good $1.5 trillion should do it – then we can talk about Israelis paying reparations – even though they are not owed. That is no solution.

    There is a world of difference between a two state solution and a viable two state solution. We have already seen what a “Palestinian” state in Judea and Samaria would look like – it would be a bigger version of a Gaza slum, firing missiles at Israel trying to get more land. It cannot be a viable state. Anyone with any money or initiative has alerady fled. Nobody likes living under the mob, Jamie, and the PLO was nothing more than an Israeli imposed mafia.

    Hamas is the branch office of the Moslem Brotherhood, but it was nurtured inot growth by the Shabak to weaken the PLO. When elections were held in January, the Arabs I spoke to were angry that this was their choice – an Israeli nurtured Shariastan or an Israeli imposed mafia. This is the shit you propose as supposedly acceptable – an unviable state governed either by the Hamas, shoving the burqa and slavery down women’s lives, or a mafia of thieves and rapists. Wow, let’s hear it for international law. Clap clap!!

    Given that 70% or more of the population of Jordan consists of South Syrian Arabs, the logical solution is either what I suggest above or what Dave suggests in comment #40. That is two states – one for Jews and one for Arabs – in the territory allotted by the League of Nations for the Palestine Mandate. Until the League disbanded, the Emirate of Transjordan was part of the Palestine Mandate – a fact that you, playing at being the great moralist, see fit to ignore. I guess all international law is not equal, eh? Some international laws are more equal than others, huh? Kind of like Napoleon the Pig in “Animal Farm”.

    This is why I generally do not waste my time on “international law.” My toilet paper is worth more.

  • http://heathlander.wordpress.com Jamie Stern-Weiner

    Well, you can see my answer on the other discussion. The first thing to note is that the question of how to make a Palestinian state viable is completely separate from whether or not to establish one at all, because the second ‘question’ has already been answered – by law, the Palestinians have a right to establish a state on the West Bank and Gaza.

    Secondly, an independent Palestinian state would not be like Gaza, for the simple reason that, unlike Gaza, it would be independent.