"The New Middle East" and the Palestinian National Question"
By Eli Aminov
(publ. by News from Within, Dec. 1995, Alternative Information Center, Jerusalem)
An article by Christopher Dickey and Jeffrey Bartholet in the international edition of "Newsweek" from October 30, l995, describes a new plan for restructuring the Middle East presented by Israeli leaders and King Hussein: the establishment of a strategic bloc including Israel, Jordan and Iraq. This bloc would be designed as a federation and would isolate Syria, which is exhibiting stubbornness in the negotiations concerning its place in the new order, from the rest of the Arab world, even from Iran. The new agenda would change the outlines of the Arab East and the very structure of the imperialist regime. King Hussein, who seems to have passed his peak four years ago, is central to this plan. In an interview published with the above-mentioned article, the Jordanian king says: "A new Iraq - without Saddam Hussein - is a necessity. I do not wish to reign over the federation, but my deep-seated connection to the Iraqi people, which rests on a family tradition, causes me to put my talents at their disposal." The king only hopes that the Iraqi people will offer him some task equal to his talents.

On November 1, l995, David Makovsky published an article in the "Jerusalem Post" in which King Hussein informed a delegation of the AJC (a US Jewish organization) of his plan concerning Iraq. In his opinion, Iraq must be turned into a federation, divided into three parts, ostensibly along ethnic lines: Suni, Shi'ite and Kurdish. Robert Satloff, the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, explains that the king is fed up with Saddam Hussein and that turning Iraq into a federation is, in fact, the only way to protect its integrity. Clearly, this plan is not simply the wild vision of a small king who is, incidently, the most veteran ruler in the entire world, but is actually an imperialist plan for a regional order based on a new division of forces.

The Romance with European Imperialism

Nitzan Horowitz, the French correspondent for "Ha'aretz", reported (9-8-94) that "various European forces, political and economic, are working towards the opening of relations between Israel and Iraq, based on the assumption that a connection with Israel would help Saddam Hussein to rally international support against his isolation." French companies, such as Alph and Total, and French oil concerns, support the proposition as a means of contesting the supreme position of the United States in controlling the price of oil. The French effort to rescue Iraq from the embargo stems from the hope that Iraqi economic activity would help France in recovering the debts, to the sum of 30 billion franks, owed it by Iraq. Meanwhile, the regional debility of European imperialism brings it to try and cultivate in Israel (which is historically a US partner) an ally against Iraq; and to bolster other strongholds in the area by establishing different types of cultural and voluntary organizations and NGO's. These organizations, which are mainly funded by European imperialism, fulfil the same role today as that of cultural and economic associations and missionaries in the previous century.

In 1994 Israeli newspapers were suddenly filled with cries of support for renewing relations with Iraq. Shmuel Toledano, the "expert on Arab affairs," names Iraq the "coming side" in an article which called for a treaty with Saddam in order to strengthen Arafat and isolate Syria ("Ha'aretz", 5-8-95). In his words, only one element is lacking: the consent of the United States. Jack Neria, who was then Rabin's "advisor on terror," wrote ("Yediot Aharonot", 14-12-94): "The Arab world is opening up to Israel and a normalization of relations with Iraq is in the national interest of Israel." Those advocating an agreement with Iraq included Ministers Shahal and Ben Eliezer, tacitly backed by Shimon Peres, who dreams of an Israeli strategic zone between European and American imperialism, in which Israel will have room to maneuver.

The United States understood the game and replied harshly: in March, l994, the American Ambassador in Israel, Edward Gragerian turned to Rabin and demanded an explanation. Rabin denied any contacts with Iraq. The subject arose again in the Knesset on August 15, 1994 ("Davar", 11-10-94). "The Sunday Times", a reliable and established paper, reported that Ben Eliezer and Shahal held talks in August in Rabat with an Iraqi delegation headed by Taraq Aziz (17-9-94). The report was based on sources in the M.A.6 - the British Secret Service. In December, l994, the United States requested that Israel openly deny any contact with Iraq ("Ha'aretz", 21-12-94).

What, then, brought part of the upper echelons of the government to work towards an agreement with Iraq, even against the will of the United States? What brought Jack Neria, for example, an advisor to the prime minister, to come out with a public statement that "The adoption of a policy dictated from Washington is not necessarily the correct solution for serving the interests of Israel" ("Yediot Aharonot", 14-12-94)? Is it possible that there is some truth in the version of Anis Mansour, the reporter for "Al-Aharam" (24-7-93), that Israel is marketing Iraqi oil in the world? Hard to believe. There was no supporting evidence for this information from any other source. It is equally hard to imagine that Israel would try to play the oil market against the will of the United States.

The answer to these questions is found in the same plan which "Newsweek" describes: the new order will also include a solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees. The bait which Saddam offered the Israelis seems to have been a suggestion to solve the refugee problem by settling them in Iraq. Of course Joseph Alper, a Mossad figure quoted in the article, said that this was "nonsense," and "an old plan from l948." He refrained, however, from repeating the statement he had made when Israel planned to conquer Jordan and kick the Palestinians into its borders before the Gulf War ("Davar", 29-6-90). At that time Alper, who was Assistant Director of the Institute of Strategic Studies, claimed that the plan would be opposed by the United States and would therefore fail. Not only did the US reject the plan, it even prevented Israel from participating in the Gulf War; one reason being the task which the United States was reserving for King Hussein in the new order. But the main difference between all of the previous plans and the one currently at hand is that this marks the first time in history that such a plan has been concocted with the involvement of the Palestinian leadership. In "Foreign Report" (30-3-94) we learn that Israeli contacts with Iraq are being handled through Palestinian middle men. Thus, the PLO leadership is part of the imperialist agreement which today is liable to give concrete meaning to the ridiculous expression "willing transfer" (i.e., settlement of the 1948 Palestinians refugees in Iraq).

The Palestinians in the New Order

In order to understand the meaning of the Palestinian question for US imperialism, it is necessary to briefly review the structure of its rule. The partition and fragmentation of the Arab East, while serving the particular interests of each of the Arab comprador regimes, also creates a most convenient framework for the quiet extraction of oil by imperialism. However, the weakness and instability of the Arab ruling classes make it difficult for them to provide a secure base for imperialist control. Therefore, imperialism, with the help of Soviet bureaucracy which has since disappeared, created the Zionist state as an essential tool for continuing this control. The loyalty of this state stems from its complete dependence on imperialism, because it is a foreign element in the region. However, its strength comes principally from its internal stability, a large part of which is connected to the balance of forces between it and the Palestinians. Until the Intifada, Israel was entirely responsible for the oppression of the Palestinians and indeed joined in the supervision of the Arab comprador regimes. The Intifada revealed the inability of Israel to oppress the Palestinians and thereby protect its security and internal stability, thus endangering the stability of the whole Middle East. In the Gulf War Israel was punished for its failure to suppress the Intifada and was not allowed to defend even its own security. US imperialism then took upon itself the defense of Israel as part of its overall war strategy, and, afterwards, also the treatment of the Palestinian question. The American government is the designer of the Oslo Agreement, whose aim is to create stability in the Middle East, while stabilizing Israel within this framework. This new program encompasses a division of labor with the Palestinian feudal bourgeoisie for maintaining order within Palestine.

Cognizant of Israel's weakness, the United States seeks to prevent any unification of the Palestinian people, and wants to avoid a concentration of the refugees, even within the autonomous areas.

Today there are 3.5 million Palestinians within historic Palestine and 4.5 million Jews. The growth of the Palestinian population is likely to spark a struggle in the style of South Africa towards a similar solution. Therefore, the fragmentation and dispersal of the Palestinians is necessary to the maintenance of Israeli stability, just as the fragmentation of the Arab East is necessary for stabilizing control over the region. Today these two goals are links in the handcuffs that are the Oslo Agreement; it is their mutual realization that is the key to its success.

The concentration of the Palestinians in Jordan is not a suitable option. It would likely endanger regional stability, since it would require the US to strengthen Israel disproportionately in the new order. Given this new situation, Saddam Hussein's offer to help eliminate the refugee problem by diluting them within the population of Iraq, which numbers 22 million, is intended to renew Iraq's connections with imperialism (and to strengthen the Suni population in Iraq). The offer is not only an expression of repentance, but a declaration that imperialist interests and the needs of the Agreement will now be at the head of Saddam's concerns. For the time being, the Americans are rejecting the offer, not only because Saddam's primary value is as an example to any ruler who would dare defy imperialism too openly, but mainly because, under the present imperialist arrangement, this rejection improves the balance of forces between European, Japanese and US imperialism in favor of the US. This plan, with all its advantages to the United States, and despite Israeli eagerness to bring it quickly to force, must be delayed until the period after Saddam.

The New Order within Palestine

US imperialism is expanding its role within historic Palestine as well. The program of apartheid being established starting with the Madrid Conference, and then the Oslo Agreement and its legitimate descendants, the Cairo and Taba Agreements - is, in part, the imperialist program for stabilizing the State of Israel. The single-ethnicity Jewish State is not only a Zionist creation. It is the local application of the conclusions reached by the American rulers.

The importance of the stability of the Zionist state for American capital was illustrated at the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin: hundreds of government and economic officials, the whole leadership of the American government, including members of both houses of Congress, past presidents and secretaries of state and even the secretary of the United Nations were present. They came not only to pay their respects to the kingpin of the new order, but primarily to show their unfaltering support for his heir: in the name of stability, the program of apartheid must proceed.

The plan to push the Palestinians into Bantustans for the sake of ethnic purification actually deprives Israel of exclusive dominion over the political order in Palestine, turning Israel into the partner and catalyst of American capitalist plans. Kol Israel radio announced on 16.10.95 that President Clinton declared the autonomous areas a free trade zone. The next day, representatives of the United States, Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an exchange of letters which would allow the Palestinians to export tax-free goods directly to the United States.

The delegate of the American trade mission, Micky Kantor, and the Israeli Minister of Trade, Micha Harish, explained that the deal pertained mainly to industrial products. In the same report it was related that the American representative requested that his Israeli counterpart allow American farmers free access to the Israeli market (Kol Israel, 18.10.95).

It is unlikely that the United States would buy Palestinian agricultural produce and sell similar American products to Israel. It is also unlikely that the sale of tax-free American consumer goods to a small number of rich people in the autonomous areas would benefit the American balance of payments deficit. Why, then, did the Americans ask to purchase from the autonomous areas? More to the point, how does American capital hope to profit there, since the name of the game is surely profits and not justice?

The only plentiful resource in the autonomous areas is unemployed persons. These masses of workers, barred from the Israeli marketplace by the government of the Zionist Left under the slogan of "separation," together with the masses who were uprooted from their confiscated land, are waiting for the second stage of the Oslo Agreement: the establishment of "industrial parks." These parks will be built with American capital or the capital of multi-national corporations, and will use the Palestinian work force, Israeli consultants and Palestinian middle-men. Such an experimental industrial park is already operating successfully at the Erez checkpoint [along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip]. The parks will be built along the new border, the largest at Mishor Adumim. This plan bears a remarkable resemblance to NAFTA, the American plan for exploiting the Mexican work force. Palestinian workers will not only be exploited ruthlessly in these work camps, they will also have no access to their own products, which will be shipped directly to distant countries and will not be sold on the Palestinian market.

The Closure Policy

The first step in preparing the Palestinians for this plan is reducing their standard of living to a minimum, in order to turn them into a cheap work force, obedient and fearful. The workers will be forbidden to organize trade unions, except those which the Palestinian Authority will organize for them: they will hardly have any rights. This is the real reason why Arafat, the activator of this plan, is dismantling the free press and working to enact legislation forbidding the establishment of any organization which is completely independent of the Authority. The Palestinian work force will be supervised within the ghetto of the autonomy by numerous security forces and the Palestinian police, and from the outside, by the closure. The closure is thus the cornerstone of the apartheid regime. Together with the confiscation of lands and the forcing of Palestinians into Bantustans, the closure is the key to isolating the Palestinians in the territories from those inside Israel, as well as from any economic resources. The closure ensures the dismissal of the few Palestinian workers left in the Israeli marketplace; increases the economic importance of the PA vis-a-vis the masses, without jeopardizing Israel's domination of the PA; and completely destroys the mobility of the Palestinian work force.

The closure compels the Palestinian workers in Gaza to subjugate themselves to the Authority for the sake of a few days of work each month, which enable their children to be merely malnourished rather than starving.

But the closure was not intended only to control the price of vegetables in the Israeli market and to prepare the Palestinian workers to be super-exploited. It was also designed to increase the proletarianization of the Palestinian collective by causing damage and bankruptcy to the farmers whose produce is rotting at the roadblocks of the Bantustans. Guy Bichor, "the expert on Arab affairs," reports with scathing condescension ("Ha'aretz", 31-10-95) that "Nashishibi, the Palestinian economic minister, complained about the rotten guavas in trucks which Israel halted contrary to the agreements." He was referring to an arbitrary destruction of exports of 3,000 tons of guavas to Jordan, which is the only market for Palestinian guavas.

Another goal of the closure is to eliminate the historic role of the Palestinian city as a cultural, commercial and national center for a large number of surrounding villages and towns. There has been a gradual "Judaization" of Jerusalem over a period of time and, parallel to this, a dilution of the Palestinian population by isolating the city not only from the rest of the West Bank, but even from its immediate surroundings. The closure isolates such cities as Nablus, Hebron and Ramallah, which used to be regional centers, and causes social disintegration. This phenomenon is most obvious in Hebron where the heart of the city was handed over to the IDF and the settlers. The destruction of the Palestinian cities is intended to break the national spinal cord, to destroy modern social infrastructure and to retard Palestinian society as much as possible. As Tacitus wrote of the Pict commander contemplating Rome, "They create desolation everywhere and call it peace."

There are other means, in addition to the closure, for hastening the impoverishment of the Palestinians. One such policy was revealed in an interview given by a "senior IDF officer" to Nahum Barnea ("Yediot Aharonot", 14-4-95). The policy targets those assumed to be close to perpetrators of violent attacks: "We want to take economic rights away from them, we believe that it is possible to do this within the framework of the law," said the officer. Arbitrary destruction of houses in the vicinity of persons wanted by the security forces shows that, in the eyes of the military regime, every Palestinian is close to those responsible for violent activities. In the framework of Oslo II, Israel is confiscating 2,700 dunams in the Halhoul area for the sake of the apartheid road for settlers. The road is purposely planned to pass through the most fertile vineyard areas. In Turmus-'Aya, for example, next to the settlement of Shiloh, 2,500 dunams of olive trees were destroyed by chemical spray. The Palestinian Land Defense Committee has determined that since the Madrid Conference, 59,000 dunams have been confiscated from Palestinians in the West Bank and 41,000 trees have been uprooted, including many ancient olive trees ("Ha'aretz", 6-10- 95).

The process of pushing Palestinians into the autonomous areas is also speeding up. The Bedouin tribe of Jahalin, for example, who have lived near Ma'aleh Adumim settlement between Jerusalem and Jericho since its expulsion from the Negev in 1950, is now being forced into the autonomy zone (Ha'aretz, 25-10-95).

The goal is to remove as many Arabs as possible from Area C, which will remain under direct Israeli control according to the Oslo II Agreement. The operative assumption is that during the final negotiations, Israel will be able to annex this area after ethnic cleansing.

Faced with the treachery of their leaders, the Palestinian masses must now pay the price for the creation of the "new Middle East." The new order, called the "peace process" by the Israeli Left, and the "peace of the brave" by Arafat, creates a role for the Palestinian people as modern slaves. The plan reveals not only the cruelty of the organizers of the new order and their local servants, but also the hopelessness of their goal: the plan for the dismissal of the Palestinian question from the current agenda may turn out to be the beginning of something new. From now on, it will be absolutely clear that the struggle for the liberation of Palestine rests entirely on the shoulders of the proletariat. National and social liberation will only be obtained through a joint struggle of all the oppressed masses of the "new Middle East."

 Elias Davidsson - Oldugata 50 - 101 Reykjavik - Iceland Tel. (354)-552-6444
 Fax: (354)-552-6579
 Email: elias@rvik.ismennt.is
 WWW-URL: http://www.ismennt.is/hop_einst/elias/Welcome.html 

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