Mr. Arafat and his cronies
were desperate, and what the US and Israel thought was, “What we need is a Nelson Mandela to play the role of a Chief
Butheleziâ€”a Bantustan leader.” And that came to be called the Oslo Peace Process. When Arafat
refused to sign the dotted line, they replaced him with Abu-Mazen, who is just as corrupt and incompetent. But
there is a difference: Mr. Arafat was elected, Mr. Abu-Mazen was not. And the polls show that in a vote in Palestine he would
get about 3-5% of the vote. Which means, from the American-Israeli perspective, he’s the perfect democratic leader for
Palestine. That didn’t work. That was a very short-lived experiment. The main question now is whether this “Separation
Wall” is going to work.
[Norman Finkelstein, professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago, is the author of four books: Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, The Rise and Fall of Palestine, A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth, and The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. The following remarks are from his presentation at a benefit for the International Solidarity Movement at Udi Aloni’s gallery in New York City, on Saturday, 2003.10.04.]
So Israel is now determined to create an Apartheid-like arrangement in the West Bank and Gaza, and by the early 1970s it
starts receiving, for reasons which are important but we can’t discuss now, crucial support from the United States. That’s
Israel and the United States. And then there’s another trivial actor in this whole thing, it’s called the world. And the
world proposes a different kind of settlement to the conflict in 1967. First in July 1967 in the [United Nations] General
Assembly, and later in the Security Council. They debate the whole question of how to resolve, not yet the Israel/Palestine
conflict, but how to resolve the Israel/Arab conflict, because the Palestinians, as a political factor, have not yet emerged.
And basically they put forth what’s called UN Resolution 242, and UN Resolution 242 basically has two parts. Not so
complicated, we won’t get hung up on the semantics. The two parts are: Israel must fully withdraw from the West Bank and
Gazaâ€”in accordance with the principles of international law it’s inadmissible to acquire territory by warâ€”and the neighboring
Arab states have to recognize Israel as a state in the region. So basically the formula is full withdrawal by Israel, full
recognition by neighboring Arab States.
an actor in the international sceneâ€”and the formula now is: Israel has to fully withdraw, the neighboring Arab states have to
recognize Israel, and, once Israel withdraws, the Palestinians should have the right to exercise self-determination within a
state in the West Bank and Gaza. And that came to be called, as most of you probably know, the two-state settlement.
Now what’s interesting about the two-state settlement is how remarkably stable it’s been for the last 30 years now. By the
mid-1970s the PLOâ€”the representative organization of the Palestinians back thenâ€”had come on board supporting the two-state
settlement, as had all of the Arab states. You may recall, during the first US attack on Iraq, the famous expression by then
President Bush Senior, he used to say, “It’s not Saddam versus the United States, it’s Saddam versus the world.” In fact if
ever there were a case of ,an isolated country or two versus the world, it’s been on the international consensus supporting
the two-state settlement.
Let me just quickly give you a couple of examples, because they’re quite revealing. You go to, for example, December 1989,
just on the eve of the implosion of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Bloc, and so forth. You look at the General Assembly votes
on the Israel/Palestine conflict, the vote is 151 to 3. 151 countries supported a two-state settlement, 3 dissents: United
States, Israel, and the island state of Dominica. People used to say, “Why Dominica?” I used to say, “Because that’s all the
dollar could buy back then.”
And now we fast forward to the present. What’s interesting is, in the past 12 years there have been spectacular changes of
world-historic significance in the map. Back then there were 160 or so countries in the world. I think it’s 191 now, I’m not
sure. In any case, a dramatic increase in the number of countries, the implosion of the Soviet Union and the disappearance of
the Soviet Bloc, and so forth. Yet, if you look at the UN resolutions on the Israel/Palestine conflict for the last year,
2002, still on the two-state settlement the vote was 160 to 4. OK, four: the United States, Israel, and the two additional
“countries” (no offense) are the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Then, if you go down through all the resolutions on the Israel/Palestine conflictâ€”ALL the resolutionsâ€”you’ll note that the
largest number of dissents you get is six: the United States, Israel, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall
Islands, and then two countriesâ€”Nauru and Tuvalu. You know I teach Political Science, I’m supposed to know something about
geography, I’d never heard of Nauru or Tuvalu. All I know about Nauru is it’s about a block long and it’s main export is
phosphate, which it gets from bird droppings. So that’s Nauruâ€”you know, this is the Coalition so we should be serious about
The other member of the Coalition is Tuvalu. OK, Tuvalu is an interesting story, because Tuvalu is also an
island, and its main problem is it’s on the verge of disappearing, because the tide is rising and Tuvalu is going under. Now,
it’s an interesting story because the reason that Tuvalu’s tide is rising is because of global warming. And a reason for
global warming is because the United States won’t sign the Kyoto Protocol. So what you have, basically, is this: the United
States won’t sign the Kyoto Protocol, the tide is rising, and as the tide rises Tuvalu is disappearing. Now if Tuvalu
disappears, one of Israel’s main allies is missing. So it’s only a matter of time before Israel convinces the United States
to ban Anti-Semitism.
A Buthelezi for Palestine
Basically, the way the matter stood was, the international community has, from the mid-1970s to the present, struggled for
the two-state settlement; the United States and Israel have opposed it. Beginning after the first Gulf War, the hope was that
the Palestinians and the Arab world had been sufficiently devastated that the Palestinians would plague the Palestinian
leadership, and the leadership would be forced to play the role that we wanted. The PLO was disappearing, it was economically
and politically crippled after the war. Mr. Arafat and his cronies were desperate, and what the United States and Israel
thought was, “Well, what we need is a Nelson Mandela, somebody who had nationalist bona fides. A Nelson Mandela to play the
role of a Chief Butheleziâ€”a Bantustan leader.” And they thought that that’s what they could get from Mr. Arafat. Desperate as
he was, he had the nationalist credentials. He was no Nelson Mandela, but he had nationalist credentials. They thought that
now that he was desperate they could get him to play the role of a Buthelezi. And that came to be called the Oslo Peace
What they were doing is, they were testing Arafat, grooming him, to play that role. And then when the truth came, basically
the United States and Israel presented Arafat with an ultimatum: either you sign on the dotted line and accept a Bantustan,
or you’re finished. For whatever reasonsâ€”I think the reasons are complicatedâ€”Arafat refused to sign the dotted line. And,
just as he was a terrorist up to 1993â€”when they started to groom him as a Bantustan leader he metamorphosed into a great
statesmanâ€”then in July 2000, and later in January 2001, when he refused to sign on the dotted line, he became a terrorist
again. The United States and Israel realized he wouldn’t play the role they had assigned to him.
There were a number of intervening events, most crucially the Israeli invasion in April 2002. Without just simply applying
massive force, which hadn’t yet succeeded, the United States’ and Israel’s hope was that after the second destruction of
Iraq, they couldâ€”to use their expressionâ€”shock and awe the Palestinians into now playing the Oslo role that was assigned to
them. And Oslo was now renamed the Road Map. You have to look at the exact symmetry: first you had the destruction of Iraq in
1991, then immediately begins the Oslo process because they think they have softened up the Palestinians. After the second
destruction of Iraq, we now inaugurate the Road Map, hoping that now the Palestinians have been sufficiently softened.
And they have an Idea: “We’re getting rid of Arafat because he won’t do what we want him to do.” So they get rid of him and
they replace him with this guy named Abu-Mazen. And Abu-Mazen is just as corrupt as Mr. Arafat, he’s just as incompetent as
Mr. Arafat, but there is a difference: Mr. Arafat was elected, Mr. Abu-Mazen was not elected. And the polls show that if they
were to hold a vote in Palestine he would get about 3 to 5 percent of the vote. Which means, from the American-Israeli
perspective, he’s the perfect democratic leader for Palestine.
So they brought in Mr. Mazen and they brought in another fellow. Originally the two thugs they had were Mr. Arafat and this
guy named Mr. Barghouti, but now they brought in Mr. Mazen and Mr. Dahlan, security chief of Gaza. And they tried it again,
hoping that Mr. Mazen would be the one. Mr. Dahlan’s responsibility was to crush the Palestinians. And Mr. Mazen’s
responsibility, because he had the nationalist credentialsâ€”he was one of the founders of the PLO, along with Arafat, so he
could give at least some sort of a veneerâ€”was he was supposed to sign on the dotted line.
That didn’t work. That was a very short-lived experiment. And that’s basically where we are today.
The main question now is whether this wall is going to work. There is a very mixed
assessment of whether the wall will successfully solve the Israel/Palestine conflict. The Israeli point of view being that it
will provide a technical solution to the problem. I don’t know and we can’t say for certain, but I think that’s basically
where we are now today. Israel is still committed to that Bantustan settlement of the Israel/Palestine conflict. The world
community is still very consistent in supporting the two-state settlement.
The job is now in our hands and we have a challenge, there’s no doubt about that. Because we have a peculiar situation now
where, while I usually sayâ€”rightfullyâ€”that the main role is to be played by the Palestinians, I’m more and more convinced
that the main role now is going to be played here. If this thing is going to be undone, if their plans are going to be
foiled, it’s going to be because of us.
I’ve been speaking non-stop the last few months, and wherever I go there are quite a few Jews in the crowd and really
committed wonderful people everywhere. Two days ago I was in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and it was just terrific to see how many
people in a fairly small place, from all walks of life, all incomes, all ethnic backgrounds, are committed to the struggle. I
think if we keep up the pressure, keep struggling, I think we can win.
Author: Norman Finkelstein
News Service: theExperiment