Sunday, January 6, 2008

Dependency politics

By Alastair Crooke

"......A friend understands well Bush’s frustration: working with Palestinian solidarity movements, she heard the same exasperation expressed by Europeans who wanted to “help” but were frustrated when Palestinians often wanted to speak for themselves in assertive polemics and seemed impervious to the help that westerners could offer in arranging their affairs. Compliance with this “help” was what European associates sought: questioning the direction that “help” took was similarly viewed as “confrontational”–a tension that imperilled the very financial and solidarity support on which those Palestinians depended.

Often this well-meaning western assistance proved to be deeply de-politicizing and conformed to a western template of helping “good” causes–solidarity T-shirts and fund-raising that entrenches dependency and victimhood–to the frustration of those Palestinians who wanted contentiously to demand rights and not accrete pity as victims.

The same pattern occurs at the macro-level: the $7.4 billion of assistance to the Palestinian “government” pledged by donors at Paris in December is another type of European dependency “help”. Ahmad Khalidi, an Oxford scholar by no means hostile to the West, described it as “help” that “does nothing to address basic [Palestinian] needs” and is “largely a punitive construct devised … to constrain Palestinian aspirations.”

In other words, it is intended to de-politicize the forceful Palestinian assertion of rights–including the right to resist–in favor of a de-politicized route to statehood dependent on western financial “help” with building “stable institutions that are properly run, particularly from the security point of view”......

Dividing the Palestinian polity in this way is not viewed by most Palestinians as other than weakening them in front of the Israelis; nor do they perceive defects in Palestinian institutions as the principal cause of their continued occupation. But financial intervention on this scale and the dependency that it imposes are intended to deter Palestinians from speaking-out for themselves.

In the same fashion, were President Assad to be more compliant and less confrontational by severing his relations with Iran, Hizballah and Hamas and by stepping-up to his “responsibilities” in Iraq, then he too, it is suggested, might benefit from a similar dependency: the EU would probably promise Syria a few new investments and maybe the prospect of talks with Israel in return.

The underlying assumption is that Syria is “pragmatic” and largely secular and therefore “not ideological”. It is therefore assumed to be open to being bribed into the camp of “moderate” Arab states opposed to Iran.......

As long as the West continues to project its dependency models on others and to treat questions about the future shape of the Lebanese model of governance as meaningless rather than as genuine expressions of sentiments, the longer the US de-politicizing construct of “Syrian dependency” will consume all debate and the underlying issues will be ignored or treated dismissively as mere subterfuge. And the longer a durable solution will prove frustratingly elusive."

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