The political and media representatives of imperialism have an uncanny ability to divert attention from the issues and focus it on non-issues, in order to try and fool the general public into believing that these non-issues are, in fact, issues! Such was the case with the recent farcical furore over IRA decommissioning photo shoots (a fine example of straw-clutching by the unionists, in a desperate attempt to postpone the inevitable trend towards British withdrawal and Irish independence), and such is the case with the huge volumes of hot air that have been generated in recent years in relation to Palestinian democracy.
So ceaseless have been their criticisms of corruption and lack of democracy in the Palestinian Authority that these have acquired the force of popular prejudice, and are repeated with inordinate zeal by the social democrat, Trotskyite and liberal press alike, who all persistently portrayed the late President Arafat as a megalomaniacal autocrat with virtually no remaining support base amongst the Palestinian population – never mind that he had been elected to the presidency in free and fair elections in 1996 and that Fatah, the PLO and the PA are all rigorously democratic organisations (as opposed to, say, the government of Saudi Arabia (with whom Britain has very cordial relations), or, for that matter, Israel, especially insofar as the treatment of Arabs is concerned).
Imperialist ‘democracy’ vs popular democracy
Whenever the imperialist media talk about democracy, you can be sure that they’re not really talking about democracy. A little reading between the lines reveals that it’s not the lack of Palestinian democracy that Israel and its allies are worried about; it’s the fact that the Palestinian population are inclined to elect leaders who actually represent them and are not Israeli puppets. ‘Arafat and the Palestinian Authority are not democratic’ means ‘Arafat and the Palestinian Authority are not putty in our hands and are remaining steadfast to the cause of Palestinian national liberation’. The talk of ‘democracy’ is, in truth, just another stalling tactic, another tendentious precondition to getting on with the inevitable – ie, withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the dismantling of the fascistic settler outposts.
The democracy jargon is also intended by Israel and its allies to cause divisions in the Palestinian movement; to set the population against the leadership. It has long been Israel’s aim to divert the Palestinian national liberation struggle by generating inter-factional strife and causing Palestinian civil war. Their absurd demands that the Palestinian leadership ‘crack down’ on their own militants is designed with this purpose in mind, and the ‘international community’ of large-scale crooks and their despicable third-rate political representatives are very much hoping that their dreams of a ‘crack down’ will be realised by Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen.
Indications are that they will be sorely disappointed.
No change in the minimum programme
No doubt Abbas will be derided in the Trotskyite ‘ultra-left’ press as a moderate, a sell-out, etc. However, as a diplomatic leader of the Palestinian national liberation movement, his credentials are impeccable. He was a co-founder, with Arafat, of Fatah, and has lived in exile with the PLO in Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia. He was a central architect of the Oslo Agreements (which failed when Israel refused to fulfil their side of the bargain), and was named as Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) after Yasser Arafat died in November 2004.
Abbas has stated in no uncertain terms that he is not willing to budge on the three minimum conditions for peace that have long been agreed by the PLO:
* Israeli withdrawal from all the West Bank and Gaza Strip, equating to 22 percent of Palestine before the creation of Israel in 1948.
* East Jerusalem to be the capital of the new Palestinian state.
* A negotiated resolution for Palestinian refugees based on their right of return to homes in what is now Israel (Abbas himself is from Galilee, part of modern-day Israel, and has a strong history of pushing the refugee issue).
While Abbas may be ‘critical’ of attacks on Israel (although not, of course, of attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza), so, at least ostensibly, was Arafat. The fact is that to be ‘critical’ of such attacks is a very useful bargaining chip for someone negotiating a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians.
Furthermore, Abbas has stated that he will not use force against the Palestinian resistance, but that he wants to negotiate with the various factions to produce a united ceasefire proposal from the Palestinian national liberation movement. Hamas have said that they are amenable to a negotiated ceasefire, as have Islamic Jihad. The Guardian of 14 January reported a top Hamas official in the West Bank, Hassan Yousef, as saying that the group was ready to suspend attacks as part of a deal with Mr Abbas.
Commenting on Abbas’ election victory, Hassan Yousef said: “We would like to congratulate Abu Mazen. We respect the Palestinian people’s choice …
“We must reach agreement on the formulation of the future policies that will redress the Palestinian domestic state of affairs and from there we will proceed together united to confront the dangers that engulf us and target every Palestinian.” The fact is that the Palestinians are simply too experienced and canny to fall into the trap (of civil war) that Israel is trying to set for them.
Like a petulant child having a tantrum when it doesn’t get its way, Israel immediately expressed its dissatisfaction with Abbas in the only way it knows how – killing six Palestinians just as Abbas was making his inauguration speech. Clearly unhappy that Abbas had not made sufficient headway in the task that the Israelis would like him to perform (ie, igniting Palestinian civil war), Sharon ordered that all contacts between the Israeli state and the Palestinian leadership be cut off “as a way to make it clear to Mr Abbas that we will not tolerate more of the same”. (Zalman Shoval, adviser to Sharon, cited in ‘Abbas to hold Gaza militant talks’, BBC News Online January 2005)
Ultimately, the question of whether the Palestinian Intifada will continue lies with Israel. The Palestinian people have demonstrated time and time again that they are willing to make what is objectively a quite extraordinary compromise in order to gain freedom from occupation and a Palestinian state. The demand, which is almost universally accepted amongst the Palestinian population, is for complete Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories and for full Palestinian statehood based on the territories held before the 1967 war – ie, the whole of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, with the right for Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel/Palestine. This compromise, which seems to the observer to be hugely generous (you steal my whole country, and I allow you to keep 79 percent of it), has proven not to be enough for the Israelis, who understand only too well that an independent, secular Palestinian state next to their fascist little US puppet of a state would spell very tough times, having as it would the primary effect of bringing to the fore the intense class contradictions within Israeli society itself.
Furthermore, the creation of a Palestinian state under any circumstances would be seen across the world, and rightly so, as a resounding victory for a people who were chosen by imperialism to be historical victims of the quest for oil and domination in the Middle East, but who were able to regroup, gather their strength and wage a successful struggle against a vicious nuclear power on the US payroll. Such a David and Goliath struggle gives courage to the billions of oppressed worldwide, but makes the imperialists shake in their shoes.
However, despite all the above, the fact is that over 1,000 Israelis have now been killed since the beginning of the second Intifada, and this is prompting the Israeli people to be increasingly unwilling to accept the fascistic actions of their state. The solution is clear for all to see – withdraw from Palestinian territories and everyone lives in peace; continue the illegal, unjust, imperialist occupation and your war will find its way to your restaurants, your bars, your buses, your homes, your sons and your daughters.
Victory to the Intifada!