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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

Rabin and Arafat at the White House

By Mark A. Bruzonsky, Mid-East Realities,
12 September 1993

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', how the 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 Press—and 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 outmaneuvered—his 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 see—but 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 close—Arafat and Rabin so symbolically brought together by the outstetched arms of Bill Clinton—I 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 Israeli Apartheid upon the Palestinians, albeit with considerable positive and deceptive terminology.

Indeed independent Arab and Jewish experts from Edward Said to Noam Chomsky—two of the most eloquent and accomplished intellectual figures of our age—were 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 policy—and 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 press—the 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 this misnomered 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 University.

With Oslo the 'peace process' entered a new and much more destructive phase... Every leader involved with the Oslo process—Palestinian, Israeli, American or European—has 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.