July 20, 2007
Rivers of ink have flowed on the control of Gaza by Hamas and with them analysis to suit every taste, depending on each one's ideological viewpoint : from those who see the beginnings of an Islamic Caliphate to those who think, with much greater probability, that the Abbas government is the beginning of a Vichy Republic as in France under the Nazi occupation. However, few have noted what represents a challenge to pro-Western Arab regimes. As with an earthquake, right now the epicentre is in Gaza, but the copycat effects won't be long turning up in other parts of the Arab world and particularly in Egypt and Jordan. It is in that light one should interpret the decision taken on July 8th by the forever inoperative and ineffective Arab League to send two representatives to Tel Aviv, precisely from these two countries, who maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, in order to "work on the peace process" with the Palestinians in the framework of the 2002 plan.
During last summer's war in Lebanon and proportionately as it showed up the incapacity of the Israeli army to defeat Hizbollah faced with the resistance of that Lebanese political-military movement's fighters, the Arab street saw massive demonstrations where Islamists joined up without inhibitions with Marxists and where the posters of Hassan Nasrallah shared pride of place with those of Che Guevara. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood marched in unison with Kefaya; in Jordan, the Islamic Action Front rubbed shoulders with the Workers Communist Party. Similar demonstrations took place across the Arab world with a single slogan: "no peace without justice". And with one aspiration : the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian lands occupied since 1967.
Attempts by pro-Western Arab regimes to curry favour with their peoples by dusting off resolutions like that of 2002, recognising the State of Israel in exchange for withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, have now been left behind, likewise suggestions for a new international conference like the one in Madrid in 1991, after the first war against Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait, in which an attempt to solve all the problems of the Middle East might be tried one more time. Also left behind are the timid efforts made by these governments for the UN to work on this theme "given the level of resentment and anger against Israel and the US (in the Arab street)" arguing that if an agreement were not reached, "the alternative is chaos" (1).
The chaos referred to by the representatives of these regimes is not the same forseen by Condoleezza Rice when she speaks of "creative destruction" in the Middle East, of which the imperialists have dreamt since the neocolonial invasion of Iraq in 2003. Rather, it is the chaos referred to by Mao Zedong when he said " the more chaos spreads, the closer the solution becomes". A solution that peoples are taking into their own hands. That is becoming clear in Lebanon and in Palestine without looking further afield. In Iraq as well, with all its nuances, when one tries to address the situation there, which is not by any means as homogenous as people try to make one think.
In the Occupied Territories, Israel's nazi-style occupation has convinced the Palestinians they have no other option except resistance since all the concessions they have made to the Israelis since Oslo have come to nothing. When the mis-named international community, in other words, the US and its European acolytes along with a pathetic UN and an inactive Russia (the members of the Quartet), imposed a siege on the Palestinian people so as to overthrow the legitimate government of Hamas after it had won democratic elections, that ended the myth of any possibility of a better future for its people by accepting democratic rules of the game and above all, it ended any hope of a future independent State.
Any hope of an independent State not subject to imperialist designs. Any hope of an independent, clearly viable State, because currently the settlements continue to grow and Palestinians are more and more confined in bantustan type reserves and can barely move around in, never mind control, 55% of the West Bank. Does anyone remember now that three years have elapsed since the International Court of Justice in the Hague , the UN's judicial body, issued a judgement declaring Israel's construction of a wall on Palestinian land illegal, ordering the Isareli government to immediately stop the construction , demanding the demolition of the parts already built, restitution of properties confiscated from Palestinians and appropriate compensation for those affected?
No. Everyone ignored the verdict. Israel above all, but also the pathetic European Union, which has not had an autonomus foreign policy since the war against Yugoslavia in 1999, only offering hypocritical submission to the imperialist designs of US imperialism. Nobody has stopped Israel in its historic rejection of UN resolutions (194, 242, 338...), while everyone makes every demand of the Palestinians. Nobody stopped Israel from destroying, killing and laying siege to a people during the offensive against Gaza to try and free the soldier Shalit. But, was that really Israel's objective or just a new excuse for collective punishment against the Palestinians, breaking, as usual, each and every norm of international law?
Nobody stopped Palestinian President Abbas while he prevaricated on implementing the government of national unity agreed between Hamas and Fatah in Mecca, under Saudi patronage, officially an agreement but in practice a coup instigatedby foreigners (in this case, the Saudis), forcing the winner of the elections to share power with the loser.
Only one organization is applying the brakes now, in a hurry: the Arab League. But not to Israel, to the Palestinians. To Hamas. On June 16th during an urgent meeting of its Foreign Ministers, it said it was not going to get involved and would not favour either of the parties concerned, Hamas or Fatah. Now it is clearly doing so in favour of Fatah . The reactionary Arab regimes cannot let Hamas win. Mubarak's regime thinks that the permanent refusal of Hamas to recognise the State of Israel calls into question its own legitimacy as a leader of the Arab world and one must remember the close links between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, who control almost a fifth of the Egyptian parliament, despite being declared illegal, against whom repression is increasing, with dozens of its leaders and hundreds of its militants imprisoned. Egypt cannot accept a Hamas government on its border with the influence that might imply for the Muslim Brotherhood. That has been Israel's great victory.
We are going to see in the days ahead the reappearance on the table of the "Jordanian option" on the West Bank to give Abbas some stability and to revive the old agreement adopted by the Palestinian National Council in 1983 for a Jordan-Palestine confederation, on condition that the members of that confederation be independent States. Without ignoring the possibility that the Arab League may propose the placing of its own troops (that is to say from Egypt and Jordan) under command of the UN in Gaza. It was Abbas who made the proposal in his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on June 29th. A move that recalls very much what Karzai did in Afghanistan, Maliki in Iraq or Siniora in Lebanon.
Hamas obviously rejects both prospects. It will treat any troops as a force of occupation, with all that implies. Once more, other people doing Israel's dirty work. As in Lebanon. Hamas has the huge challenge ahead of feeding a million and a half people in Gaza. But the reactionary Arab regimes have ahead of them, the challenge of their own peoples who are not going to stand impassively by watching the degradation of Gaza and the famine of its inhabitants. For the moment a poll by the Palestine Information Centre on July 3rd shows clearly that if there were elections in the Territories, as Abbas has said he is prepared to carry out, 51.47% of the population would vote for Ismail Haneya and 38% for Abbas.
What has happened in Gaza is directly attributable to the pro-Western Arab regimes who have on their debit side a huge credibility gap with their peoples and downright failure every time they promote or revive any peace agreement, like the timid 2002 plan they felt obliged to get down from the attic after Hizbollah's victory in the war last summer (2).
And what happened in Gaza has a lot to do with the overall situation in the Middle East. Precisely now with the first anniversary of Israel's Last war in lebanon, the UN Security Council is going to discuss a report from the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon which accepts as valid Israeli claims on the supply of arms from Syria to Hizbollah. The despatch of "international experts" to "supervise" Lebanon's border with Syria is getting ever closer. International tutelage neo-colonial style in Lebanon. As in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the Palestine of Abbas.
(1) Al Ahram, "Vision for action", 24-30 de agosto de 2006.
(2) Alberto Cruz, "El grito de la calle ßrabe: sin justicia no hay paz" http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=36850
Alberto Cruz is a journalist, political analyst and writer.
translation copyleft, tortilla con sal