Friday, May 14, 2010

'We want to live'

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Salam Fayyad's plans for Palestine and the Palestinians are nought but a contrived folk festival where the occupied bow to their oppressors

By Azmi Bishara
Al-Ahram Weekly

NOTE:

I posted the Arabic version of this excellent article on May 4. Highly recommended reading.

"Congratulating Israel on its "independence", or creation, if you will, is equivalent to congratulating it on the success of its armed robbery of Palestine and systematic expulsion of the Palestinian people. So we might say when the congratulations are extended by the US president, France or the Ivory Coast. But when an Arab head of state congratulates the Israeli head of state "on the day of its founding" silence is the only policy. Not a contemplative silence, I hasten to add.....

Not that this is the first time such congratulations have been offered and it probably will not be the last, as much as one might hope. Nor should the phenomenon surprise us. In fact, what would be surprising is to be surprised. Still, things have really gone overboard this year. The majority of the inhabitants of Gaza are among the refugees who were driven out of their homes in 1948, which means that congratulations have been extended to their evictor turned jailor of the world's largest prison. There is something very close and stifling about the phenomenon this time, making the suffocating Gaza tunnels through which people crawl for a gasp of life seem more spacious than the tunnels of Arab politics.

One of these dark political tunnels led to an interview granted by the appointed president of the appointed Palestinian government in Haaretz on 2 April 2010. In it he uttered statements of the sort: "I don't have a problem with people who believe that Israel is the land of the Bible... But there's a lot of uninhabited hills and spaces in it. Why don't you build there and give us a chance to get on with our lives?" He also said, "The chief dispute in the region is not between us, but between moderates and extremists," and "We are building to receive the refugees in the Palestinian state." This is the language of the Israelis. Some phrases even echo the lexicon of the settlers who claim that they are building "on uninhabited hills".....

With consummate ease, the former World Bank official and current employee of the "international community" has reduced the concept of statehood to "inhabited areas" that need to be equipped with the wherewithal to survive. How seamlessly this jives with the Israeli notion of a Palestinian state in the densely populated patches of the Palestinian territories. All he had to do next was to add the whispered aside that this was necessary in order to forestall the growth of terrorist elements and to give it to be understood that the Palestinian right of return only meant that Palestinian refugees would have the right to return to that patchwork Palestinian state.

An elaborate Western-financed optical illusion is in the works. It is intended to pass off life in overcrowded Palestinian enclaves as ordinary, to make the artificial look normal, to impose calm while the Palestinian Authority (PA) builds government buildings with elegant façades, to organise a giant game of make-believe under occupation.....

The man who uttered those ideas that were so remote from the Palestinian national discourse was appointed head of the PA in the aftermath of a coup against an elected government. In those elections, he won one per cent of the popular vote. Not long before that he was the minister of finance imposed by Washington on Yasser Arafat when Arafat was under siege in Ramallah. The Israeli press has dubbed him the "Palestinian Ben- Gurion". Can you imagine? Recently he was ranked tenth on Time magazine's list of the 100 most important persons in the world. Whatever for? One of the perks of imperialism is its power to peg us in its categories (such as moderate or extremist), to rank us according to its grades and hierarchies, and to bestow upon us awards and honours.....from my brief survey I found that in virtually all the interviews the officials used Israeli terms and concepts to describe the Palestinian people and their situation, and offered gratuitous concessions to Israeli public opinion. It was as though they were all driven by a desire to ingratiate themselves or, at best, to court their audience's admiration by means of a mischievous drollery. Nearly all the officials issued denials of some of the statements they made the day after their interview -- in Arabic and without demanding a retraction or a correction on the part of the Hebrew language newspaper in which their interview had appeared. Politicians with inferiority complexes who grow intoxicated on impressing the occupiers one day wake up the next suddenly gripped with fear of how the occupied people will react.....

The day following the announcement of this "initiative" he decided to hasten the Israelis, and perhaps us as well, by holding a television interview on Israel's Channel 2 in order to inter the last remnants of his government's Palestinian national discourse. "There is no crisis of confidence with Netanyahu," he proclaimed. On the right of return, he said, "We're speaking of a just and agreed upon solution. You can't get more flexible than that," and, "We'll agree on the solution and bring it before the Palestinian people." Otherwise put, the Palestinian president handed the occupation power the right to accept or refuse the principle of the right of return and what he will put before the Palestinian people is none other than the Israeli formula for an acceptable solution.....

The Palestinian economy in the West Bank is a camouflage for security arrangements and measures. It is a rentier economy that lives on aid in exchange for security and political services, an economy built entirely on foreign subsidies in exchange for certain political positions and driven by the desire to promote those who accept Israeli conditions and prioritise the protection of Israel's security. The man who promotes this economy is involved in politics up to his ears, but it is the politics of the West and the Quartet. His economy is built on serving these politics, and from the aid money it yields he pays out wages and builds the façades of economic institutions....

The job of political leaders is to help people answer such questions as "How can we live?" "How should we live?" "Will the occupation power let us live once we lay down our arms?" "Who will fund all these economic institutions after the donor countries lose interest in them?" "Who will finance 200,000 jobs that support more than a million people who are living on the hope that the so-called international community will support an unjust settlement?" "What will become of us without the rest of our people?" "What about our obligations towards the refugees and Jerusalem?" "What kind of life is left for a people that gives up their sovereignty for crumbs?" Their job is not to sell apathy packaged as "We want to live". It is a cheap product anyway and like all cheap products it has a short lifespan."

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