Huge Damascus Demo Screams About Sharon and Warns Arab Summiteers
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Huge Damascus Demo Screams About Sharon and Warns Arab Summiteers

MID-EAST REALITIES - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 3/26/2002: History is repeating itself after 20 years, but everything is even worse today for the vast Arab world and its fast growing now over 200+ million.

It was back in 1982 that another then Saudi "Crown Prince", this one named Fahd, came forward with a "Saudi Plan". This one was highlighted by "8-points" and also very much-discussed at the time. A few years later, then King Fahd visited the United States, with then President Reagan his host making the obligatory uplifting public words and gestures even as he and his Administration were backing backing Israel to the hilt and in the progress up upgrading Israel to a "strategic relationship" with the U.S.

Everything has gotten much worse for the Palestinians in the years since, while the Arabs collectively are even more impotent and weak relative to Israel and the U.S. than before. The Israelis have more than doubled their settlements and settlers in the occupied territories; and even more importantly they have used the smokescreen of the "peace process" to bottle-up the Palestinian people onto controlled and separated Bantustans (let's from now on call them Palestans) complete with "bypass roads" and apartheid-style restrictions far more repressive and suffocating than was the case at the time of the "Fahd Saudi Plan."

Back then Yasser Arafat was under Arab control and in the Arab pay in Beirut. Today he is under Israeli control in a double-occupied Palestine infiltrated by the CIA with super-technology monitoring his every move.

And now comes today's "Crown Prince" Abdullah, playing the same game, saying the same things, co-opted by the same forces, similarly pretending to be doing something lest his flock more fully realize just how weak and pathetic the whole Arab State system really is -- rotten to the core -- which explains why the still vast but once proud Arab world gets pushed around and humbled so much all the time.

Meanwhile, the Israelis having essentially imprisoned and enchained Arafat, both politically and more recently physically; so the "Arab leaders" are now scrambling to make themselves look other than impotent and foolish (not an easy task). Mubarak often says foolish things in fact; so get this one as he tries at the last minute to make himself appear bold and outspoken: "The worst period for the Palestinian cause since the Middle East peace process was launched is the period of Sharon", says Mubarak. 'And I say it out loud' the Egyptian president declared." Imagine that!


By Robert Fisk, Middle East Correspondent

[The Independent, UK - 25 March 2002]: A hundred thousand protesters in the streets of Damascus. Half a million. A million. There was no end to the estimates. But there was one certainty. Nothing - but nothing - happens in Syria without government permission.

So yesterday's unprecedented demonstration against Israeli occupation and in support of the Palestinian insurrection in the West Bank and Gaza was President Bashar Assad's way of telling his fellow Arab leaders that there would be no pussyfooting at this week's summit in Beirut.

The crowds were given a rare opportunity to scream abuse at the United States and to threaten the Israeli Prime Minister - held "personally responsible" by an Israeli commission of inquiry for the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps - with death. "Butcher Sharon - your blood will be shed by Arabs," thousands of Syrians roared. Banners demanded a boycott of US goods, and an American flag - a tired, symbolic gesture at every anti-American demonstration - was burned.

It was a powerful expression of Syrian official anger at the collapse of American policy in the Middle East and Washington's failure to deal even-handedly with Palestinians and Israelis. The government closed down all offices and schools in Damascus so that civil servants and students could attend the massive rally, while thousands of Syrian riot police were deployed around Umayyad Square, beside the ancient souq and close to the finest mosque in the capital, to prevent the crowds repeating their attack of two years ago on the US ambassador's residence.

The message was clear. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's "peace plan" - an end to Israeli occupation in return for recognition and normalisation of relations - doesn't come close to Syria's own demands: there must be an Israeli withdrawal before any diplomatic recognition, a total end to the occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights and a "right of return" for up to 3.5 million Palestinian refugees.

The idea that the Israelis would ever agree to allow so many millions of Palestinians to return to land inside Israel itself is about as far-fetched as Mr Sharon's own fantasy proposal at the weekend; that he would travel to Beirut in Yasser Arafat's place to address the Arab summit.

Indeed, if they could get their hands on him, the Lebanese and Syrians would certainly charge Mr Sharon with war crimes - not least because the Israeli Prime Minister's own lawyers in Brussels, the scene of current attempts to indict him for the Sabra and Shatila massacre, have suggested any trial should take place in Beirut.

But while the Damascus demonstration was sponsored by the authorities, there can be little doubt it reflected what many millions of Arabs believe: that the Palestinians are fighting a guerrilla war against occupation and that the United States is as dangerous an enemy as Israel.

The intifada, according to one speaker, the former Syrian major-general Ahmed Abdul-Karim, represented "Arab honour and dignity", so the Sharon-Bush rhetoric about "terrorism" cut little ice.

Nor is it by chance that Palestinian groups in the huge refugee camp of Ein al-Helwe in southern Lebanon have been declaring themselves members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the militia responsible for many recent suicide bombings in Israel.

No one in Lebanon believes there is any serious contact between these refugees and the Palestinian suicide squads.

But the appearance of the young men in Ein al-Helwe with their rocket launchers and Kalashnikovs is another message from Syria: there will be no acceptance of Prince Abdullah's plan unless the Palestinian refugees are specifically included. This week's Arab summit, in other words, is going to be a rough ride.


BEIRUT (Reuters - 26 March ) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in an interview published Tuesday, advised Palestinian President Yasser Arafat not to go to Beirut for this week's Arab summit because Israel might not allow him back.

"We cannot predict what the Israeli government will do. If I were in his place and they told me I could go (to the summit), I would not go," Mubarak told Beirut's an-Nahar newspaper. "The Israelis might not allow him to return and they will use any incident as an excuse to destroy the remaining headquarters and the Palestinian Authority will be in exile," he added.

The United States wants Arafat to attend the two-day summit starting Wednesday to add momentum to a Saudi plan for Middle East peace which Mubarak said would get the summit's approval.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has kept Arafat penned up in the West Bank since early December, demands that the Palestinian leader earn his trip by first implementing a truce to end 18 months of bloodshed. He has said Arafat might not be allowed back if he uses the summit for "incitement."

"What will Arafat be doing at the summit? Will he be satisfied drinking tea? Of course he will talk about what is happening and they (the Israelis) will consider his statement as incitement," Mubarak declared. He suggested that Arafat use a live satellite link so that he could take part in the summit without attending in person.

Mubarak described the Saudi proposal as a "last chance" for peace as it was the most conciliatory possible Arab position. "This initiative is the most (the Arabs can propose) because it states full withdrawal and establishment of normal relations. This is the first initiative which offers security and stability for Israel as a state that exists in the region.

"After these limits, it is not possible to find another initiative," Mubarak said. Mubarak denied the Saudi plan had been watered down over the question of normalizing Arab ties with Israel. "The Israelis rejected (the plan) from the second day. They are now trying to find a excuse by saying 'We thought relations meant normalization, but you (Arabs) have decided to make it ordinary relations'.

I said, what is the difference between that or the other? "This initiative will lead to the establishment of normal relations with all the Arab states," he said. But Mubarak expressed pessimism about chances for any solution while Sharon was in power "because he does not respect his commitments at all."

"The worst period for the Palestinian cause since the Middle East peace process was launched is the period of Sharon and I say it out loud," the Egyptian president declared.

Comment on these article(s)

March 2002


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