Taking issue with Mustafa Barghouti The Al Ahram weekly for 10-16 July, contains a long article written by Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI). It clarifies the position of PNI and, in particular, where it stands in relation to the "Road Map ". The article contains a lot of paragraphs that are true, with which a Palestinian can hardly differ. The description of Israeli's intentions as deduced from the history of the last fifty years is useful, clear and correct. Sharon plans to transform the occupied territories into an extension of Israel by increasing its Jewish population. The Palestinians would then live into disconnected small Islands surrounded by a sea of Jewish territory. Mustafa gives the Palestinians two advises. One is to realise the unity of command. The other is to reject any "interim agreement". The two advises are wise though not very new. They have been voiced by many in the past. One can find them in the writings of Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, for instance, and in my own writings. So far, so good. So, once we reject interim agreements, and we realise the unity of command, THEN WHAT? Mustafa is mute on that. Moreover, to refuse an interim agreement, implies to accept a definitive agreement. Mustafa says nothing about its possibility or its impossibility. Nothing indicates in his article that such a definitive agreement, one which Palestinians could accept, is not at all favoured by Sharon and his likes. What then could force them to accept such a definitive agreement? Mustafa does not give a direct answer. He has some hints: a) Israeli public opinion is excessively sensitive to the cost of occupation in terms of human life. b) The collapse of the Israeli economy under the pressures generated by the intefada, is clear for all to see. Today, Israel is suffering the worst recession in its history, accompanied by the highest levels of unemployment and capital flight the country has ever known. Mustafa states that this is why Israel sought so hard to stop both the first and the second intefadas. Here Mustafa is committing two kinds of mistakes. On the one hand, he is not factual, on the other hand he just requires that Palestinians unite, and remain having faith in themselves and in the fact that Israel cannot withstand the intefada much longer. Let us go to the facts. Has the economy of Israel collapsed? Mustafa says yes, but the facts do not support him. Mustafa says that the average income of the Israelis has been reduced by 12%. This does not look much of a collapse. Many countries have periods of recession when the average income decreases by more than that. During the Great Depression, in the early nineteen thirties, the rate of unemployment in the US had officially exceeded 30%, and was estimated to have exceeded 40%. The economy was in big trouble but had not collapsed. Clearly, the economy in the occupied territories is in much bigger trouble than that in Israel. I would advise Mustafa to produce a definition of a collapsed economy, and then to see if it applies to Israel. In particular, the rate of the Shekel, the unit of currency, has not collapsed. Did Israel, as Mustafa states, because of the human and economic cost, sought so hard to stop both the first and second intefadas? If this was true, why did Sharon provoke the occurrence of the second intefada? Why does he target the assassination of Palestinian "terrorists" every time there appears to be a possibility of a peaceful approach? The reality is that Sharon is making use of the intefada in order to be able to daily destroy scores of Palestinian houses. The process of dispossessing the Palestinians of their homes and their land has been accelerated during the second intefada. This process cannot be described as aiming at stopping the intefada. It is directed against the Palestinian people and not against the Intefada. It is using the intefada. As to the Israeli people being sensitive to the cost of human life, this is a statement which is very confusing. Are the Palestinians not sensitive to the cost in human lives? It could be said that the Palestinians have no choice, but to withstand that cost, since it is not in their hands to stop the Israeli persecution. But has Mustafa considered the possibility that the Israelis, brainwashed by the Israeli establishment, and mystified by Palestinian mistakes (see my "stumbling blocks") are also thinking that hey have no choice? Has he tried like I did in "stumbling blocks" to wear the Israeli shoes, not in order to justify their actions but in order to understand why they vote for Sharon? Is it not clear that the popularity of Sharon among the Israeli population has increased during the intefada? It is now slightly decreasing because many israelis think he is not tough enough. To expect that, under the economic pressure and the cost of human life, the Israeli establishment will cry "uncle", is a dangerous and paralyzing wishful thinking. The fact is that Mustafa is giving some good advise but proposes no real strategy that shows indeed how to go from here to there. It does not state the impossibility of reaching a definitive agreement with the likes of Sharon. And if this is impossible, then it does not indicate how to get rid of Sharon except to wait for the natural effect of the "collapse" of the economy and an increase in the Israeli sensitivity to the human costs. Now I would like to address the question of "interim agreement". Since it is the only kind we could reach with Sharon, the conclusion should be "no agreement at all with Sharon". But then, with whom could we make an agreement? Replacing Sharon by any of his likes, would not make much of a difference. What is needed is the fall of the expansionist establishment, and its replacement by people who really want peace and friendly relations between Palestinians and Israelis. What we must face and understand, is that interim or not, nothing will work with an expansionist Israeli establishment. But with a friendly Israeli leadership, we could even accept an interim agreement. Such a friendly Israeli leadership would prove its mettle by unilaterally evacuating the territories and taking measures for the dismantling of the settlements. This will constitute a de facto interim agreement. More would come with friendly negotiations. The central problem for the Palestinian is what they can do to make the Israelis throw away their expansionist establishment. There exist a whole strategy (stumbling blocks) which demonstrates how it can be done. This strategy can be found in parts in MIFTAH's web site, and can be obtained from Clement Leibovitz on demand. By the way, for those who would not guess it, Clement Leibovitz is a Jewish Palestinian with non-biblical Palestinian ancestry (father and grandfather born in Palestine under the Turks).
-- Clement Leibovitz #56, 3221-119 street Edmonton, Alberta Canada T6J 5K7 Phone: (780) 436 9883 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org websites: http://cleibovi.shawbiz.ca http://cleibovi.shawbiz.ca/appeasement http://cleibovi.shawbiz.ca/justpeace