Norman Finkelstein’s Mideast in 15 Minutes (Part II): An original transcript from theExperiment

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

Buthelezi—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.

2004.02.28

[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

Gaza—in accordance with the principles of international law it’s inadmissible to acquire territory by war—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.


Beginning in the middle and early 1970s there is a partial modification of that formula—the Palestinians have now emerged as

an actor in the international scene—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 PLO—the representative organization of the Palestinians back then—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 conflict—ALL the resolutions—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 countries—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 Nauru—you know, this is the Coalition so we should be serious about

these places.

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 Buthelezi—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

Process.

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 reasons—I think the reasons are complicated—Arafat refused to sign the dotted line. And,

just as he was a terrorist up to 1993—when they started to groom him as a Bantustan leader he metamorphosed into a great

statesman—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 could—to use their expression—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 credentials—he was one of the founders of the PLO, along with Arafat, so he

could give at least some sort of a veneer—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 say—rightfully—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

URL: http://theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=2015