What's the Matter in the Middle East? Ruthless Criticism

What’s the Matter in the Middle East?
What is the Reason for the Slaughter and to Whom is it Useful?

[Translated from Gegenargumente radio broadcast in Vienna, May 11, 2002]

Israel has discovered in the US “war against terrorism” the chance to bring to an end its not yet finished war of conquest in Palestine. It explains the Palestinian resistance against the Zionist establishment of a state to be a component of “international terrorism” and since September 11 has escalated its occupation regime into a proper war against the Palestinians. Ex-General Sharon led his country into the decisive battle against the Palestinian Authority in order to finally settle any violent resistance against the Israeli occupation.

For the world public, all this is accompanied solely by questions such as: “has the Middle East peace process failed?”, “how and by whom can it be restored?”, “has Israel lost the propaganda war?” Instead of regretting what does not happen, instead of first taking partisanship with the Palestinian side as the victim of a hopelessly superior force or with the Israeli side because any criticism of Israel is immediately suspected of anti-Semitism, we want to direct attention to what leads the way politically in the Middle East and answer the following questions:

  1. What does Israel want?
  2. What does the PLO fight for?
  3. What do the Jewish and the Palestinian citizens get from the programs of their political leaders?
  4. Is it true that the USA has failed so far to obtain a peace?
  5. What does the major “economic” power Europe stand for?

1. What does Israel want?

At the beginning of April, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a speech to the nation explained the “total war” against PLO chief Yasser Arafat:

“The state of Israel is at war... We must fight against this terrorism, fight with no compromise, pull up these wild plants by the roots, smash their infrastructure, because there is no compromise with terrorism... This terrorism is activated, directed and initiated by one man – the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat.” (March 31, 2002)

Israel is not at war with a Palestinian state. It opposed its establishment for decades with all the means required to do it. It is also not in a civil war. The Arab inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are ultimately not citizens of Israel, not even second class citizens like the Arab inhabitants of Israel. The war that Israel leads is a war against the militantly voiced will of the Palestinians for their own state in the area occupied by Israel. Sharon explains this demand by the Palestinians, represented by PLO boss Yasser Arafat, as “terrorism against Israel” and thus as illegitimate force that needs to be “exterminated.” The final deprivation of power of the enemy proceeds in the name of smashing the “infrastructure of terrorism” in the Palestinian Autonomous Areas.

This project of exterminating the Palestinian will to establish a state also explains the uncompromisingness and brutality of the largest military action in the 34-year history of the Israeli occupation, pushed through under the characteristic name: “Operation Defensive Shield.”

All refugee camps and all Palestinian cities are occupied. Refugee camps are bombed, homes are flattened with bulldozers or are blown up without taking into consideration that the inhabitant still remain in the houses. Whole districts are flattened to the ground. For Israel, every Palestinian represents, merely by his presence, part of the claim to his own Palestinian state and thus is an enemy. Hundreds of Palestinians are killed and a few million humiliated by the devastation of the most elementary bases of life such as electricity and water, brought to an unbearable state of distress and, finally, the representatives of the Autonomous Authority are locked up.

This program for the extermination of the Palestinian will to establish a state is the opposite of a plan to protect Israeli citizens from future terrorist attacks. The Israeli government does not consider giving up a single one of the numerous Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank. On the contrary, at the end of April the Israeli government began “the largest settlement project in the West Bank” (Press, April 25, 2002) regardless of the fact that a still larger number of Israeli citizens may thereby quite surely be victims of terrorist attacks. The Israeli citizens in the middle of the Palestinian area are meant to represent with their whole person – like an Israeli flag – the unconditionality and irreconcilability of the Israeli claim to complete rule over Palestine. It is worthwhile for Israel to always expose its own citizens to increased danger.

This will to subject the Palestinian opponents of Israel unites Sharon with all the other political camps in Israel and is a consequence of the Israeli state doctrine. Already in the Israeli Declaration of Independence, the purpose of the Israeli state is explained:

The Nazi holocaust, which engulfed millions of Jews in Europe, proved anew the urgency of the re-establishment of the Jewish state, which would solve the problem of Jewish homelessness by opening the gates to all Jews and lifting the Jewish people to equality in the family of nations. (Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, 1948)

Hence, in order to escape from the fact that the European Jews were subordinated under government authorities which treated them as second-class subjects, as a non-people, and were therefore refused a life led in the regular way, they drew the nationalistic conclusion, with their project of national unification of the Jews into a common state, that they could only escape anti-Semitism in the long term by the establishment of a Jewish state of their own. Instead of recognizing how harmful it is when daily life and work are coupled with the question of people’s affiliation to the correct nationality, they interpreted their victimization – in a mirror image of their tormentors – as a consequence of their unique volkish identity. From this they derived the need and the right to collective submission under their own government authority and added to the world another, but this time securely Jewish, state authority.

The conquest by violence and war in the former British Mandate to establish an Israeli government authority acquired a volkish character from the beginning. It constituted itself and worked with the avowed intention of expanding itself necessarily at the expense of the prior Arab regional inhabitants in their area of rule in order to provide a political lebensraum for their Jewish state people. From the beginning, the resident Arab population stood in the way of such a state program and was therefore driven out, and where this was not possible, treated as citizens who because of their wrong nationality could not under any circumstance be granted the same rights as the Jewish citizens of Israel.

2. What does the PLO fight for?

Treated by Israel as well as by the Arab refuge countries as a foreign people, the Arab refugees also drew a wrong conclusion from their situation. Instead of rejecting the just as absurd as brutal volkish sorting out – which makes peoples' conditions dependent on affiliating to the correct people – and insisting on useful living conditions for themselves and the Jewish citizens, they understood their miserable situation – trained by their political leaders – as caused by the absence of their own state, one committed to Palestinian nationality, and therefore, similar to Israel, set as a goal the volkish organization of that area of the world for themselves – only with a reverse sign. The practical representatives of this conclusion, the PLO as a quasi-representative government of organized Palestinian politicians, since then pursued the project of establishing their own state of “Palestine” in the area claimed and occupied by the Israelis.

Such a program can only be asserted militarily against Israel. The bad luck of the PLO consists in the fact that their opponent is – owing to military and financial support of the USA – the hopelessly superior regional superpower, Israel.

Therefore, the PLO is not capable of more than self-destructive acts of terrorism against the Israeli civilian population. These are meant to force Israel and, above all, the USA allied with it, to calculate whether negotiating with their opponent would not be more worthwhile. These actions are not only directed at Israeli citizens, they go above all at the expense of their own citizens.

So for the Palestinian leadership, every dead suicide assassin is not only a reason for mourning, but also an occasion for pride, that proves nevertheless the selflessness with which the Palestinian fighters sacrifice their individual lives, as each private calculation for a better life is unconditionally and freely embodied in the will to its own state.

And if the fight for their own state calls into question the overarching terms of living for the Palestinian population, already ruined anyway, only one thing follows from it for Palestinian politicians in each case, i.e. just the necessity to stick more to the goal of their own state and to continue the battle, whatever its cost.

3. What do the Jewish and Palestinian citizens of the Middle East have to do with the program of their political leaders?

The Israeli state program should not be confused with a concern for the well-being of its Jewish citizens. Do they now have, more than fifty years after the establishment of the state of Israel, a secure livelihood, even for its preferred citizens? Do they have secure jobs that are worthwhile for them and which afford them a pleasant life? How does Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount help them in their search for a job? Can one really talk about attractive and secure housing conditions if one lives in one of the countless Israeli settlements somewhere in the Middle East no man's land, surrounded by hostile Palestinians, when incarnation as the Jewish will to establish a state may make one a target for Palestinian suicide bombers? How do they explain that the houses there, and just there, are particularly cheap? Is it true that their own quality of life really gets better if one at least does not have to live next door to Arabs? Is it true that Arabs in contrast to Jews are smelly or is this just a racist prejudice? Would it be there at all without the program of a state exclusively for Jews?

And what use is the intifada for the Palestinians? At least, if it is a matter of improving the living conditions of the Palestinian population. If it were, demonstrations of stone-throwing children and young people who put themselves in the way of armed Israeli soldiers could not be a more unsuitable means. Or is it rather a matter of setting the Israeli actions into injustice before the eyes of the world public? Is it really an advantage to be arrested and punished by one’s own police? Does the water supply of the Palestinian population become better through Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount? Would someone blow himself up into the air in order to improve his living conditions? Is to die a martyr’s death for the establishment of a state of one’s own an honor or a stupidity? Are not the Palestinian victims also the consequence of the absolute will to create one’s own state at any price - even if it costs parts of their own population their lives?

4. Is it true that the USA has so far failed to obtain peace?

The world public, just like many European politicians, deplores that no progress is made in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Anyone who maintains such a thing only shows that he does not want to know anything about the actual progress in the Middle East. For instance, the Vienna newspaper The Press on April 18, 2002 comments on the just terminated mission of US Secretary of State Collin Powell as follows:

“Colin Powell’s six-day Middle East mission has failed. The American Secretary of State left Jerusalem on Wednesday without being able to show a single concrete result. ‘We could have signed an armistice today, but what would that have meant? Armistice is not a relevant term at the moment,” said Powell.”

In a different way than the reporter states, one would not speak of a failure of the Powell mission, when he explains armistice as a term that is – at least for the moment – not relevant. If the absolutely superior world surveillance power explains that the USA does not insist on an end to the military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, this means that Israel receives explicit permission to continue with its military actions as the hopelessly superior party in the conflict. Thus “Operation Defensive Shield” sets Israel in the right and is granted a free hand, both concerning the duration of its operation and its choice of means.

Washington may have desired a faster retreat of the Israeli troops from the West Bank. If Israel, however, thinks it has not yet reached its war goal to a sufficient extent, then Powell does not want to make trouble under any circumstances.

On the other hand, Powell allows a “sharp criticism” of Arafat:

“In my meetings with Chairman Arafat, I made it clear that he and the Palestinian Authority can no longer equivocate. They must decide, as the rest of the world has decided, that terrorism must end.” (April 18, 2002)

There is no lack of refusals by Arafat to denounce what Israel, the USA and the international community miscall terror, also not – as again demanded – in the Arabic language. This does not benefit him at all. By his refusal, an armistice is absent if and however he consents – reciprocations of any kind are not promised – yet it proves one more time that he still did not make a sufficient “resolution against terrorism.” If Arafat does not unconditionally capitulate, then he makes himself an enemy of Israel, thus the USA. To let this insight sink in among the Palestinians, the continuation of the Israeli fighting is precisely the right means so that the next mission to the Middle East, which Powell already promises, becomes a success.

Today it is different than – at least on the face of it – little more than ten years ago at the time of the first Gulf War, the Oslo Accords and still in July 2000 at the time of the negotiations at Camp David; the USA no longer stands for the point of view of being an intermediary between the two, of bringing reason between their equal interests and therefore talking about a “peace process in the Middle East.” Since the USA resolved under the name of the war against terrorism to eliminate the last enemies of the USA in the world, every state must ask itself the simple question: “friend or foe?” Any distance from the USA is forbidden and fought as anti-Americanism.

Thus US president Bush again stresses, a few days after the Powell mission, the unswerving friendship between Israel and the USA – in the words of Powell – “it is unshakeable” (April 13, 2002). In full knowledge of the severity of the actions of the IDF, in particular also in full knowledge of the Israeli actions in Jenin and Nablus, these actions by Israel are explained and justified one more time as strictly a part of the USA’s war against terrorism.

“Sharon is ‘a man of peace’ who keeps to the scheduled retreat from the Palestinian areas. Bush expressed understanding for the fact that Israeli troops will remain for the time being in Ramallah and Bethlehem. ‘Arafat has condemned terrorism, now we take him at his word,’ stressed Bush.” (The Press, April 20, 2002)

While the pro-Americanism of Israel is not in question, the Palestinians and all the other Arab states are noticeable in contrast only by the fact that they are troublemakers because, instead of recognizing Israel as the power which maintains order for American interests in the region, they do not want to give up their demand for a balance of interests between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

The Arab states understood the message that an objection against Israel is not worth it, and in the meantime they can no longer agree on a common procedure against Israel.

5. What does the great “economic” power Europe suffer from?

Since the USA makes it clear that it unconditionally recognizes Sharon’s campaign as Israel’s “right to self-defense” – in the territories occupied by Israel, mind you – Europe in its sorry way, with its attitude of a basically reasonable imperialism not set only on force and in competition with the USA, is almost completely sidelined from the Middle East. Nevertheless, it defiantly sticks to its right – naturally stressing its friendship to the USA and blessings from the UN – to also have a say in the Middle East in competition with the USA:

“For a solution to the Middle East conflict, Federal Chancellor Schröder suggested a UN-approved military deployment. The conflicting parties obviously do not have the power to solve the problem alone. 'There must be reasonable pressure from the outside.'” (The Press, April 4, 2002)

Owing to American backing, every European suggestion to Israel is interpreted as an all too one-sided siding with the Palestinians and an unwelcome interference, not always rejected in only a friendly way.

European criticism of the actions of the Israeli army in the refugee camp in Jenin is compared by the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres with anti-Semitism and is treated as inadmissible in principle.

Europe must watch the destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure established with its economic aid, and thus a piece of its influence in the region, without considering serious sanctions against Israel, also in order not to endanger its good relationship to the USA and thus cause still larger damage to Europe.

The top level European politicians repeatedly emphasize the point that European imperialistic economic power urgently needs to be supplemented with an adequate military component in order for Europe to have more influence for its independent positions in its world-wide competition with the USA.

Only hardboiled friends of European power politics can be pleased by the fact that it wants to be diverted by nobody and nothing, that it finds the world particularly missing an original, European-manufactured peace whose establishment – this is also clear to the Green friends of peace – unfortunately, unfortunately cannot be managed without many more completely superior weapons.

6. Summary

Israel has won its war against the Palestinians. For thousands of Palestinians, their already rudimentary living conditions destroyed, flight is the only option; and for those remaining, their complete disarmament eliminates any possibility of armed resistance and they are to be held under surveillance in lockdown.

With the American classification of the Israeli war against the Palestinians into the “US war against terrorism,” it was made known – not only to Arafat, the PLO and the other Palestinian groups, but also to Europe and the Arab states – that they are to refrain from any criticism of Israel, the USA's friend in this anti-American region. For proof, the USA gives unreserved support for the state terrorism of Israel.

And if the USA – in contrast to Israel – holds Arafat to be the leader of the Palestinians only so that he can personally sign the surrender of the Palestinians at the regional conference in the Middle East projected for the beginning of the summer, then with this signature each attack on the sovereignty of Israel on the part of the Palestinians is defined as terrorism and the fight against it is the most important and foremost task of a form of Palestinian statehood certified by Israel.

So the rest of the world gets to hear more than once that since September 11 the USA knows only friends or enemies, and intends to treat them accordingly. If that is not a good condition for success in the next battle in the “war against the terrorism”!