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US to Palestinians: Vote, then starve; democracy as instrument of mass control

...Our warlords in Washington have joined Israel as an equal partner in its war against the Palestinians, delivering an economic knockout blow to supplement Israel’s overwhelming military force. We will starve women and children in order to overturn the results of a free and fair election, or, failing that, to force dramatic political concessions from an occupied people. For us, democracy has become little more than a bedtime story we read to hostage nations, just before we put them to sleep by dismemberment or starvation...


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US to Palestinians: Vote, then starve; democracy as instrument of mass control

James Brooks, Online Journal Contributing Writer

April 17, 2006

On March 15, former World Bank president and current Quartet Middle East envoy James Wolfensohn warned Congress that unless stepped up Western aid was delivered to the Palestinian people, cutting off funds to the Palestinian Authority would result in "chaos in the streets."

"I do not believe you can have a million starving Palestinians and have peace," Wolfensohn said with his gift for biting understatement. [1]

The following day, the Gaza Strip ran out of flour, due to months of Israeli border closures. [2] The day after that there was no bread in Gaza. Then sugar, rice and other staples began to disappear from the shelves. For an imprisoned population of 1.5 million people, two-thirds of whom make less than $2 a day, it was a disaster. [3]

The following week, the first cases of deadly H5N1 bird flu were confirmed in the Gaza Strip. The resulting mass cullings of poultry dealt another severe blow to the meager and dwindling Gazan diet. [4,5]

On March 31, an EU mission declared the food crisis "serious" and found that it was largely caused by Israel’s relentless border closures. [6] A group of United Nations relief organizations warned on April 4 that the Gaza Strip is "on the verge of a humanitarian disaster." [7]

Two days later, the US Congress addressed this looming catastrophe by voting to terminate the last remaining morsel of America’s financial aid to the Palestinian Authority.

To make sure not one red cent of US taxpayer money winds up in the hands of Hamas, Congress also stopped all indirect aid to the occupied Palestinian territories, cutting some $240 million in development and assistance projects. [8]

At the same time, US humanitarian assistance to Palestinians was increased 57 percent, to $287 million. [9] That works out to an extra $105 million, which, if actually delivered as direct aid, would amount to $23 for every Palestinian, enough to maintain their present poverty level for about 12 days.

Secretary of State Rice told a congressional budget hearing, "One thing we are reviewing is how we can even increase our humanitarian assistance because we don’t want to send a negative message to the Palestinian people about their humanitarian needs." [10]

In other words, the additional pittance is still on the drawing board, yet we are determined to cut off all other aid immediately. It is no more than what Ms. Rice implies; a presumably non-negative "message to the Palestinian people about their humanitarian needs." She needn’t have bothered. It’s fair to say the Palestinian people have already got the message.

The plan is all too clear. We will subject the Palestinians to an indefinite period of increasing impoverishment, hunger, chronic malnutrition, escalating unemployment, financial isolation, and social and political chaos, and at some point on the downward curve of this disaster our increased humanitarian assistance will make its way to Palestine, where it may help keep a few people alive.

That is our response to what most observers agree was the fairest, most transparent election ever conducted in the Arab Middle East. [11]

The EU, determined to maintain good relations with Israel and the US, moved in lockstep with Washington to end its own aid to the PA, which had been roughly twice the US amount. The Europeans’ promise to boost their humanitarian aid is a somewhat more credible prospect than the vapor on offer from the US, but it is still far short of what will be required to keep Palestine afloat. [12]

European diplomats were anxious to claim that their termination of assistance was not aimed at the Palestinian people. But Dutch foreign minister Ben Bot removed the sugar coating and told the truth: "The Palestinian people have opted for this government, so they will have to bear the consequences." [13]

Consequently the first fully democratic government of the Palestinian Authority is now living from hand to mouth, unable to make its next payroll despite an emergency grant of $80 million from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. [14] The financial collapse of the occupied territories is beginning and may, as some experts fear, snowball out of control. [15]

The World Bank and the UN have been warning for months that the financial collapse of the PA could unleash an unprecedented wave of internal chaos in the occupied Palestinian territories. There is concern that if the security forces go unpaid they may begin to dissolve into the various militant factions, taking their weapons (such as they are) with them. [16,17]

The World Health Organization, noting that 57 percent of all health workers are paid by the (now bankrupt) Palestinian Health Ministry, is warning that, as the Daily Star put it, "the public health system in the West Bank and Gaza Strip could enter a 'rapid decline’ toward 'possible collapse.’" [18]

Yet Israel has once again closed the vital Karni crossing into Gaza, in another violation of its agreement last November with the US and the Palestinians. Washington remains silent, perhaps because it also had no intention of honoring the pact. [19]

Instead, our government encourages Israel to tighten its stranglehold on a barely breathing economy. It seems likely that at least 200,000 people in Gaza are now going to bed hungry every night. More than half are under the age of 18.

This is the kind of diplomacy that is supposed to stop terrorism.

Here’s how Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon’s former chief of staff and closest advisor, described the policy to a conclave of top Israeli defense, intelligence and foreign ministry officials: "It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die." According to Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz, "the participants reportedly rolled with laughter." [20]

Yet Palestinians are dying, and will die in greater and greater numbers, from lack of medical care, lack of immunity due to chronic malnutrition, and lack of sanitation due to collapsing public services.

But that is not enough. Perhaps only photos of grossly emaciated children and hard evidence of death by starvation would be sufficiently sensational to make us question the morality of destroying the economy of an already malnourished land. Would we also ask whether our termination of aid to a destitute people for political purposes was a case of collective punishment, a war crime under the Geneva Conventions?

Apparently a critical piece of information was left out of our recent (inept) campaign to promote democracy in the Middle East. It was never mentioned that if Arabs used this wonderful system to elect the wrong people, they could face an externally imposed economic disaster.

The Palestinians’ latest catastrophe shamefully reveals one of the ulterior motives behind Washington’s "democratization" agenda: Democracy will make Arabs accountable for their politics.

Arabs in non-democratic states have always been fundamentally beyond the political control of the United States and Israel. For pro-Israel neoconservatives and their allies, this is an unacceptable situation.

Democracy is the answer. It sounds good and discourages objection. And in the corrupted, trap-door form these people have in mind, democracy will "liberalize" Arab economies, exposing them to foreign predation. It will shatter traditional political cultures and induce periods of chaos that they expect to manipulate to their own ends. And, as an instrument of diplomacy, democracy will saddle Arabs, as individuals and as groups, with whatever responsibilities the self-appointed 'masters of democracy’ care to assign to them.

Our "Arab democracy" turns out to be a kind of electoral Russian roulette (with two chambers loaded), in which voters leave the ballot booth wondering whether they have elected a successful government or consigned their nation to diplomatic isolation and economic siege.

Our warlords in Washington have joined Israel as an equal partner in its war against the Palestinians, delivering an economic knockout blow to supplement Israel’s overwhelming military force. We will starve women and children in order to overturn the results of a free and fair election, or, failing that, to force dramatic political concessions from an occupied people.

For us, democracy has become little more than a bedtime story we read to hostage nations, just before we put them to sleep by dismemberment or starvation.

1) Quartet envoy warns of chaos if PA not helped, YNet News, 3/15/2006

2) Gaza Strip out of Flour, Ma'an News, 3/16/2006

3) Gaza rations food as Israel cuts supplies, The Guardian, 3/22/2006

4) Bird flu discovered in Gaza Strip, BBC, 3/22/2006

5) Culling causes protein shortage in Gaza, Jerusalem Post, 4/5/2006

6) European Union mission visits Gaza Strip; says food crisis is 'serious' due to Israeli closures, International Middle East Media Center, 3/31/2006

7) UN: "Gaza on verge of a humanitarian disaster", International Middle East Media Center, 4/4/2006

8) US to cancel $240m aid over Hamas government, Times of London, 4/8/2006

9) ibid.

10) U.S. looking to increase Palestinian humanitarian aid, Ha'aretz, 4/5/2006

11) No American perplexity needed on Hamas, Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, 2/1/2006

12) EU suspends aid to Palestinian Authority, The Guardian, 4/11/2006

13) EU halts Palestinian aid, AlJazeera, 4/11/2006

14) Palestinian Authority confirms it cannot pay March salaries, Ha'aretz, 4/9/2006

15) Palestinians feel pinch, Christian Science Monitor, 4/12/2006

16) World Bank official: Palestinians on verge of bankruptcy, By Akiva Eldar, Ha'aretz, 1/10/2006

17) UN: Israel's tightened security exacting heavy humanitarian toll, Ha'aretz, 2/28/2006

18) WHO report sounds alarm for Palestinian healthcare system, The Daily Star, 4/7/2006

19) IOF Re-close Karni Commercial Crossing and Impose a Siege on the Palestinian Civilian Population in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 4/6/2006

20) As the Hamas team laughs, Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, 2/19/2006

James Brooks serves as webmaster for Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel. He can be reached at jamiedb@attglobal.net.

Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal

:: Article nr. 22661 sent on 18-apr-2006 03:52 ECT


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