[Documents menu] Documents menu

From meisenscher@igc.org Sun Oct 22 12:50:47 2000
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 22:52:59 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>
Subject: Socialist Party Cand. on the Mid-East Crisis
Organization: ?
Article: 107470
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
X-UIDL: m:R"!D+K!!6)*"!>ak!!

Socialist Party Candidate on the Mid-East Crisis

22 October 2000

Note: This release did not name the candidate

While the Socialist Party's National Committee will meet October 20-22, and will surely issue a statement, the deepening Middle east crisis requires an immediate response from the Socialist Party's Presidential candidate.

I do not claim to speak for the SP, only as its candidate for President.

First, a word on the attack on the off the coast of Yemen on the US destroyer Cole.

The loss of 17 lives of men and women on the Cole is tragic. They were not the creators of US policy, nor did they determine the destination of the Cole. However Americans need to realize that this act of terror was carried out against a military target, that other parts of the American military regime bomb Iraq almost daily, and deliberately bombed civilian targets in Serbia during the recent war. Nor should we forget how President Clinton sought to distract public attention from the Lewinsky matter by his orders to bomb Sudan and Afghanistan at a critical moment in that investigation.

I regret any loss of life in military actions, whether those who died the Cole, or those who died in Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Serbia from US air strikes. But the last emotion Americans should feel is surprise. It is long past time to curb our military and end military excursions abroad.

The deeper and more serious matter is the crisis in the Middle East, which seemed to blow up from almost nowhere, destroying the peace process, and creating a climate in which the attack on the Cole may prove only a small taste of tragedies to come.

If there was an immediate point from which this crisis can be dated, it was the visit of Ariel Sharon, guarded by hundreds of Israeli troops, to a disputed holy site in old Jerusalem. Sharon is a war criminal and his action was certain to inflame the Muslim world -- it seemed, however, to be a move on Sharon's part to regain control of the far right Likud party, since Netanyahu, Sharon's opposition in the Likud Party, had just been found innocent of criminal charges by an Israeli court and was about to resume active political life. I doubt that Sharon intended to set off what is now clearly "the second intifada" -- he only hoped to outmaneuver an opponent in the Byzantine Israeli political world.

However in the Middle east few things are easy to calculate, and within hours of Sharon's provocation Arab crowds had taken to the streets, a terrified Palestinian child was captured on camera, moments before he was shot and killed by Israeli troops, and the rioting began. Thus far over 100 people have been killed, the toll is rising daily, and the overwhelming majority of those killed have been Palestinians.

Both sides have behaved as if in a tribal battle. Palestinians lynched two Israeli soldiers who had made a wrong turn in Palestinian territory. Meanwhile fundamentalist Jewish settlers took to the streets as a lynch mob of their own.

The background for the spreading violence began much earlier than Sharon's provocation at the Temple Mount. It is now clear that the failure of Camp David in July to meet some of the key Palestinian demands had left the situation uneasy. Arafat, whose health is poor and whose control over the "streets" uncertain, was reluctant to make further concessions. The issue of Jerusalem was not settled. The checkboard pattern of the Palestian territory was broken up with Jewish settlements, still being constructed under Barak's Administration. If one looks at the compromises that had been made, Arafat had surely given up more than the Israelis, unless one believes the Israelis have a right to occupy the West Bank and Gaza. The deliberate and continuing Israeli policy of settlements in the West Bank was a time bomb.

At the moment many American commentators are blaming Arafat for the tragedy. Some have said that "Arafat doesn't know how to say yes", that the deal offered by Barak was the best he could have hoped for. Certainly when one reflects that only three weeks before this wave of killing broke out, Arafat and Barak dined together at Barak's home, there is terrible heartache at the current violence.

The "truth", if one can be found, is that both Barak and Arafat were trapped by their own people. Barak had indeed given significant ground, as had Arafat. Both men worried that their supporters would drift away. In the case of Barak, to Likud. In the case of Arafat, to more miliant Islamic groups. The two sides came close, but not close enough. (Barak now, as his career seems doomed to come to an end, has made the final fatal compromise of inviting Sharon into a "unity" cabinet - even the invitation is an admission of defeat and an end of the peace process).

Blame is not helpful, though some facts must be seen for what they are. The Israelis have unleashed tanks, helicopters, and live ammunition on Palestinians who, for the most part, are armed only with slingshots. If this is not a war, it will do until the real thing comes along. The casualties are overwhelmingly civilian and Palestinian.

This is one reason that Israel is isolated on the international stage, one reason why the Security Council voted almost unanimously (the US abstained) to condemn Israeli actions.

Pro-Israeli commentators in the US have said that what Israel needs is a friend, not an honest broker. In fact what the people of the Middle East need is a US policy which is not tilted toward either Israel nor the Palestinians, but toward the common future of the children in this region. If the violence continues two things are certain. One is that Israel, being far more heavily armed, and feeling increasingly justified in its violence, will inflict heavier casualties on the Palestinians. Second, far from silencing the Palestinians, it is inevitable that Israel will see a return to the terrorism which until recently had haunted its cities.

As others have said, the Israelis cannot destroy the Palestinians, though they can kill many of them. And the Palestinians - and even a united Arab world - cannot destroy Israel. In the end either the two sides return to the peace table, or they will spend another bloody quarter of a century, Israeli democracy further eroded, Palestinian hopes further postponed, children on both sides raised to hate and kill.

The US must not take the side of Israel. Military and economic aid to Israel must be suspended until an agreement is reached. Diplomatically the US should seek to involve as many of the Arab states as possible in seeking a solution, and seek the help and advice of European nations which have a long history of relations with the Middle East.

We are up against the limits not only of military power - the Israelis and Palestinians can fight but they cannot, either of them, win - but particularly the limits of American power in the Middle east. We may well see the Arab world turn to an oil embargo. We will certainly see an escalation of terrorism. This is a time of great sadness over emotions so primitive on both sides that it is frightening to watch and listen as the Arabs and the Jews join in revealing how murderous the human race can be.

One thing we do know - there are strong forces for peace and reconciliation within the Israeli Jewish community. And, less openly expressed, within the Arab world. To those forces let us send our greetings as they continue what seems an impossible task of building a bridge across a chasm of hatred and bloodshed.

[World History Archives]    [Gateway to World History]    [Images from World History]    [Hartford Web Publishing]