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 "The Palestinian State coming into being is more in
 the image of the former enemy than resembling the
 minimal aspirations and long-recognized rights of
 the Palestinian people."

MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 7/24/00:
   The Israelis are salivating these days even while their own internal fractures are showing; and they are nevertheless getting ready to cash in.  Ehud Barak and the Israeli power establishment are desperately eager to get Arafat center stage before the world at what would be the mother of allr White House signing extravaganzas.
   The Israelis have defeated the Arabs repeatedly and now possess military and economic power far superior many times over to that of the entire Arab world of 22 States and some 200 million people combined.
   The Israelis have had secret and covert relations with key Arab client regimes including the Saudis for many years now, the goal being to kept them in power while at the same time U.S./Israeli domination of the region continues.  Their powerful lobby dominates Washington when it comes to affairs Middle Eastern as no other. And when it comes to political negotiations and intelligence gathering, the Israelis are as superior in these domains as they are when it comes to military and economic affairs.
   Consequently, except for the Islamic nationalists whose sense of history and godliness defies that familiar to the rest of us, there is an air of resignation to the inevitability of an even more expanded Pax Americana arrangement in the Middle East, a further consolidation of the new world order if you will, that is largely on Israeli and U.S. terms, regardless of how it is falsely packaged as a "compromise".
   Even Professor Edward Said, the highly articulate Palestinian American critic of the Israelis as well as the Arafat regime, seems to share this sense of defeat and despair in the following interesting and insightful article.
   One wonders though about Said's concluding thoughts in this article -- for it's as if he too has forgotten much of recent history when he contemplates the idea of a "democratic" Palestinian plebesite.  Now what are the chances of that really takikng place?  Could it be that Said is dreaming such impossible thoughts as a way of maintaining his own sanity at a time of such powerlessness and hopelessness?
   Said is a brilliant writer and political analysis, an academic of immense accomplishment who has made tremendous individual contributions.  But even so, his analysis here is incomplete at best, especially lacking in failing to even mention key elements that have greatly contributed to the result that the Palestinian State coming into being is more in the image of the former enemy than resembling the minimal aspirations and long-recognized rights of the Palestinian people.
   For Said too it seems has been caught up in the vortex in which the Arab client regimes control the very newspapers in which his column is published, resulting in a kind of self-censorship which leaves them always off the hooks on which they deserve to be hung.  And when it comes to some of the well-known Arab Americans groups, they too have long manipulated Said preventing essential self-criticism of their own considerable failings and inadequacies that have also resulted in today's miserable situation.
   A truly democratic Palestinian plebescite?  Arafat and his "Authority" redeeming themselves?  Now what's going on here, who is being toyed with here?  Next we'll be hearing that the Israelis might soon agree to, or the Arabs might have the power to bring about, a "democratic secular state" in all of historic Palestine; though what is happening at Camp David at this very moment is the ultimate fulfillment of Zionist dreams with historic documents to be signed by leader Arafat specifically designed to legalize "separation" and prevent such a more modern and more just result forever.


              By Professor Edward Said

 "Why then is Israel miraculously exempt of
 restitution for all its past malfeasance?"

 "Torn from its context of struggle and dispossession,
 its long trail of suffering, exile, displacement and
 massive loss, this real Palestinian past will be
 declared null and void in return for which the
 Palestinian people will be said to have achieved statehood."

 "The danger of Camp David is that it will nullify...
 History is to be rewritten not according to the best
 efforts historians have made to try to determine what
 occurred, but according to what the greatest powers
 (the US and Israel) say is allowable as history."

 "There are truth, and dignity, and justice to be fairly
 considered, without which no arrangement can be fully
 concluded, no matter how politically expedient or clever."

The media has been bursting with all sorts of rumours, speculation, and some news about the Camp David summit, its progress, outcome, and meaning. Whatever happens as an immediate result of the negotiations, one thing seems quite clear: that despite any arrangements that will be made with regard to territory, borders, the status of Jerusalem, refugees, water and sovereignty, the underlying issue is whether or not the Palestinians will agree to terminate the conflict with Israel, and to declare the past to be null and void so far as the present and future are concerned.  This declaration is, I think, the big prize that Yasser Arafat -- remember that even with his army of assistants in Camp David, only he has final authority -- has it in his power to bestow on Israel, and it is precisely this that Israel wants more than
anything else.

Therefore, even Jerusalem and the refugees' right of return are less significant by
comparison with some kind of declaration, voluntarily given by the Palestinians, that they foresee an end to all their claims against Israel, plus an end to any further struggle against the state that effectively stripped them collectively and individually of their historical patrimony, land, houses, property, well-being, and all.  What has concerned me all along with Arafat's tactic (or is it a strategy?) of threatening to declare a state is the danger that his state might quickly be recognised as in effect the equivalent of granting the Palestinians the fulfillment of their self-determination, perhaps only on paper, but granting it nevertheless.

No country like Israel is likely to tolerate the existence, much less assisting at the birth, of another country in whose structure might lie an unfulfilled or incomplete past. In return for accepting a state of Palestine then, Israel is quite within reason to demand also that the new state must forego any claims about the past, which this new state by definition is, I believe, going to be seen as having fulfilled.

In other words, the existence of a demilitarised and necessarily truncated Palestinian state, no matter how disadvantaged territorially, economically, or politically, is going to be designed, constituted, founded, and built out of a
negation of the past.  In Israel's view the past in question is entirely and exclusively a Palestinian past (and not a Palestinian-Israeli one), since in Israel's case no one forecasts the end or termination of Jewish claims against persecutors of Jews in the past.  Torn from its context of struggle and dispossession, its long trail of suffering, exile, displacement and massive loss, this real Palestinian past will be declared null and void in return for which the Palestinian people will be said to have achieved statehood.

This will not be a merely formal matter but something that is designed to get at the very roots of Palestinian identity.  Already Oslo has taken a toll out of Palestinian history as taught to young children through Palestinian Authority textbooks. In the new order of things Palestinians are represented as people who happen now to be in Nablus, Ramallah and Jericho; how they got there, how some of them came to these places as a result of 1948 and 1967, and how Tiberias and Safad were once preponderantly Arab, all these inconvenient bits of information have simply dropped
out of the textbooks. In a grade six history book Arafat is referred to only as President of the Palestine Authority; his history as PLO Chairman, to say nothing of the Amman, Beirut and Tunis days has just been effaced. In another book, Palestine is presented to Palestinian children as a blank rectangle: they are asked to fill in the spaces which, once the peace deal is concluded, will be studded only with the names of places that are considered Palestinian according to Camp David.

Now there is a great difference between disliking or being annoyed by the past on the one hand, and, on the other, refusing to recognise it as the past, even the past that some people believe in. The reason so many official Palestinian representatives have been so anxious to refer to UN Resolution 194 (Right of Return) or even 242 territory returned) is that scant and telegraphic though they may be, these resolutions represent distillations of Palestinian history that seem to be acknowledged by the world community.  As such then, they have a validity independent of any one party's
whim.  The danger of Camp David is that it will nullify, explicitly or implicitly, this very quality.  History is to be rewritten not according to the best efforts historians have made to try to determine what occurred, but according to what the greatest powers (the US and Israel) say is allowable as history.

The same brushing away of the past, and its claims on the future, will surely apply to the Israeli occupation which began in 1967.  We now have a full record of what damages to the economy occurred and, I am sure, a full record of what deliberate destruction occurred in agriculture, municipal affairs, and private property. Deaths, woundings, and the like are also recorded.  I am certainly not arguing for holding a permanent grudge against the perpetrators, but I am for remembering that three decades of occupation should not simply be blown away like so many specks of dust on a gleaming surface. Iraq is still paying Kuwait for the few months of its occupation in 1990 and 1991, and that restitution is as it should be. Why then is Israel miraculously exempt of restitution for all its past malfeasance? How can southern Lebanese citizens be expected to forgive and forget the 22-year-old occupation of their territory, and not least the horrors of Khiam prison, with its torture, dreadful solitary confinements, and inhuman conditions, all of it supervised and maintained by Israeli experts and their Lebanese mercenaries?

These matters, I believe, require much deliberation, reflection and considered evaluation. In due course perhaps even a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission might be convened. But I do not believe so awesomely weighty and dense a matter as the Palestinian history of injustice at Israeli hands, and even the whole question of Israeli responsibility itself, can be settled in the form of a backroom deal done relatively quickly, bazaar-style. There are truth, and dignity, and justice to be fairly considered, without which no arrangement can be fully concluded, no
matter how politically expedient or clever.

As a minimum guarantee that some such consideration be given peace of the kind aimed for at Camp David, a Palestinian plebiscite or referendum is therefore essential, if it is democratically fair.  For once, in this whole shabbily unsatisfactory Oslo process, Mr Arafat and his supporters have a chance to save a small part of what has been left us as a people -- in no small part because of years of misrule, dishonesty, and indignity.  Can they go at least some of the way toward partially redeeming themselves?    (Al-Ahram and Al-Hayat).

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