Date: Fri, 12 Sep 97 11:47:03 CDT
From: MID-EAST REALITIES <mer@MiddleEast.Org>
Subject: Four Long Bloody Years Ago - by Mark Bruzonsky
MER: Four years ago on Saturday Mark Bruzonsky was a few blocks from the White House in the studios of Canadian National T.V. providing live commentary for the Rabin-Arafat ceremony. These are his reflections, four years after that historic day.
The power and political elite were gathering on the White House lawn
four years ago today practically giddy with excitement. The popular
media was filled with expressions of how startling was the
breakthrough, how wonderful and irreversible was the 'peace process',
New World Order and the
New Middle East were
finally dawning. I had attended previous White House gatherings back
in the days when I represented the World Jewish Congress and
behind-the-scenes arranged meetings between major Jewish personalities
and leading PLO figures, Arafat among them. Those were days when
Israeli law imprisoned its own citizens for attending such meetings.
And back in 1977 I had had a private meeting with Anwar Sadat in Cairo
at which I arranged for him to send the first public telegram from an
Arab leader to Israel. But my personal skepticism about the post-Camp
David and now post-Gulf War 'peace process' was already considerable.
I wasn't invited to the White House this time. I was instead sitting
in a TV studio a few blocks away invited by Canadian national
television to be their Washington commentator as the White House
extravaganza unfolded. During the lulls in the ceremony I expressed
my own view that this event really wasn't what it seemed. First of
all it had been long in the making and experts really weren't all that
surprised. Secondly I suggested the Americans must have known about
it every step of the way, contrary to what was being told to the
Pressand we now know this was in fact the case. And thirdly,
from what I could tell as someone who has visited the Middle East
region more than 150 times, the terms of the agreement were in fact
essentially a Palestinian surrender, regardless of all the hoopla.
It was very significant, I suggested, that the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, the very man who represented the Palestinians at the Madrid Conference, had refused to come to today's ceremony - Dr. Haider Abdul Shafi. I added that in my view Yasser Arafat had been cornered and outmaneuveredhis choices were either humiliating retirement in political and financial bankruptcy or accepting the money, arms and protection of the enemy to keep himself and friends in power.
Indeed, having accepted the surrender terms was the real reason Arafat, a man who had been excluded from the U.S. throughout the more than 20 years he headed the PLO, was now all of a sudden the honored guest at the White House. Later we were to learn that Arafat has suggested turning over his pistol to Clinton on the podium for all to seebut even the Americans didn't want the realities of the Palestinian and Arab defeat to be telegraphed so blatantly.
Before the ceremony drew to its closeArafat and Rabin so symbolically brought together by the outstetched arms of Bill ClintonI summed things up by saying:
It is an odd political marriage and we have all been asked to come and witness the marriage of the oddest of the odd couples. On the other hand the central issues of the conflict have been left unresolved; we don't know what is going to happen to Jerusalem, to settlements, to Palestinians refugees, to Palestinian statehood. It may well be a start, many people are saying it is a start to real mutual recognition and Palestinian statehood. So far what it is, is a defeated Palestinian leadership that was totally bankrupt, cornered, had no where to go, and instead of declaring defeat they decided to accept what they always said they would not accept which is very limited autonomy and declare it victory. And that is why Yasser Arafat is here; he conceded, he cried uncle, he did what he had always been told he must do, and what he always said he would not do. Having done it, he has come to sign the document.
A week earlier on the CANADA AM TV program, I had been asked if I thought we were witnessing a tremendous breakthrough to peace in the Middle East.
The Israelis are doing pretty much what they've said they would always do,I indicated.The talk of giving Gaza first, the talk of autonomy, the talk of giving back some of the territories for local rule, is something the Israelis have talked about for a long time. The change you are witnessing is that Yasser Arafat, pressured as he is, losing his grip as he has been, without financial resources, finding himself cornered and without anywhere to go, has agreed to things that heretofore the Palestinian movement has always said they would never agree to. Now there is no doubt there is a major shift in the road ahead; but whether it is going to lead to a stable and just peace, to be quite frank I am very skeptical.
My purpose in reflecting back these few years is not so much to
highlight that I was right; but rather to suggest that what we have
been witnessing since that historic day at the White House and the
famous handshake was all quite forseeable back then at that time. The
peace process was fatally and deceptively flawed right from the
start. It was in fact, regardless of which branch of the Israeli
establishment was in power, an attempt to legitimize a pecular form of
Apartheid upon the Palestinians, albeit with
considerable positive and deceptive terminology.
Indeed independent Arab and Jewish experts from Edward Said to Noam Chomskytwo of the most eloquent and accomplished intellectual figures of our agewere saying this then, as well as now. But the popular media in our country is so terribly subservient and manipulated when it comes to matters relating to Israel and U.S. Middle East policyand we all know the basic reasons why. Indeed, in my own case I was saying these things on Canadian national TV and doing interviews for the European and Middle Eastern pressthe American press wasn't calling people like me but was in fact almost exclusively relying on p.r. flaks and hired-gun commentators, nearly all of whom are owe their careers to one of the parties to the conflict.
Today, as the same political forces and operatives that brought us
peace process remain in charge, and with the
same talking-heads parroting today's political-correct slogans of the
day, there is a desperate attempt to resuscitate the already moribund
carcus of what never was a real or honest
peace process from
the start. Accordingly, I'm reminded of Edward Said's stinging
commentary from April, 1995 in a talk he gave at Tufts
With Oslo the 'peace process' entered a new and
much more destructive phase... Every leader involved with the Oslo
processPalestinian, Israeli, American or Europeanhas
acted, in my opinion, without principles and without anything remotely
resembling vision and truthfulness. Worse, large droves of
intellectuals, scholars and experts have in my opinion betrayed their
vocations, to say nothing of their expertise and knowledge, and this
betrayal has contributed to the amazingly compliant attitude of the
American media in particular, who have celebrated, extolled, saluted
and rejoiced, where there has been neighther occasion nor cause to
justify such excessive hand-clapping and jubilation.
A real peace process between Israel and the Palestinian people cannot be one Machiavellianly imposed by the powerful on the vanquished. Instead it must be based on basic recognition of historic wrongs and upon an undoing of the structures and concepts that perpetuate those wrongs, as we have been witnessing in South Africa.
Indeed, among the greatest ironies of our time in world affairs is that whereas the Apartheid of old in South Africa was finally forced to cumble through unprecedented international protests, a new form of Apartheid is being foisted on the peoples of the ancient Holy Land by many of the same groups and institutions.