The current situation in Palestine must be analyzed within the context of over thirty years of American policy in the region, and approximately seven years of what has been creatively defined as the Peace Process. The last seven years, we can say, have represented a refining of the American approach, the fruits of lessons learned elsewhere, such as Latin America or Southeast Asia. That is, it represents the refined idea that domination, particularly after the end of the Cold War, must be packaged in the framework of a peace effort.
Perhaps it may seem unusual to discuss the Palestinian dilemma as an expression of US policy, and not of Israeli policy. This idea contradicts the popular notion that Israel, and that Jews, control American foreign policy, nevertheless, we must recognize that the United States, as the single largest consumer of the world's energy resources, and being as it is home to all of the major oil companies except Dutch Shell, the United States has singularly important interest in controlling the region. It is not useful to argue, for instance that the US should change its policy towards Israel because it is detrimental to the United States. That simply isn't true. It is absolutely in the interests of the power elite in the US to control the Middle East by means of a highly militarized and aggressive client state which, by its very existence weakens the Muslim world and divides it. This, we must recognize, is the core of American policy in the Middle East and towards Israel specifically. Policy is not dictated by the Jews, nor is it based on a love of Jews or Zionism. No. US policy in the Middle East or anywhere is based exclusively on perceived national interests, period. Israel serves that purpose quite well.
So, for a little over thirty years, to be exact, just following the Israeli victory in 1967, when Israel proved itself to be not only sufficiently brutal but also militarily powerful, US policy has been to increase and maintain Israel's strength and to simultaneously seek to integrate it more into the region to lessen the likelihood of Arab or Muslim polarization, and thus unity, against Israel.
The Peace Process, ostensibly the effort to arrive at a solution to the Palestinian issue, whereby the official complaint of the Arab and Muslim world against Israel could be settled, began the advanced stages of permanently securing US domination. Of course, there was no need and never has been for the Oslo Peace Process, it has been, essentially the effort of the US to avoid the implementation of international law which would have be detrimental to US interests. The international consensus has always been that the land occupied in 1967 was obtained illegally, and Israel was ordered to withdraw.
What was called in the recent Camp David summit, the sticking point to a final settlement, was Jerusalem? From the point of view of international consensus, there is no issue here. The United Nations said thirty years ago, and has been saying off and on ever since, that Israel's claims on Jerusalem are "null and void." They don't have a right to be there, and they have been ordered to leave. The Peace Process has been the effort to get the Palestinians to accept the position of the US and Israel, in opposition to the rest of world
It is important to mention here something about the choice of Yasser Arafat as the exclusive representative of the Palestinian people, because the choice itself reveals a good deal about the intentions of the US and Israel in calling for the negotiations to begin with.
Arafat, of course, was in Tunisia, he was not living the realities of the occupation, he was not participating in the Intifada, he was removed from the emerging Islamic sentiment that was spreading in the Territories in the late 1980s and early '90's, and, of course, he was, and is, a secularist. The Intifada itself, though Arafat later would try for his own political legitimacy, to appropriate it, was in fact an expression that the leadership of the resistance was no longer the PLO, but rather the Islamic organizations inside Gaza and the West Bank who were carrying out attacks against Israeli soldiers and inciting the people.
This change of direction, among other factors, helped to facilitate the call for talks, and it came to Arafat as an offer for, really, a revival of his relevance to the Palestinian cause. He was in a position much more favorable to the Israelis, in terms of bargaining power, than, say the leaders of Hamas or the Islamic Jihad movement, who would not have agreed to talks in the first place.
By dealing with Arafat, the Israelis and the American knew that their policy goals could be more easily realized.
What goals are these? Well, we can see fairly plainly what the Peace Process has achieved. What it has achieved, that is, for Israel and the US. We cannot really talk about what has been achieved for the Palestinians, but must talk about what, for the Palestinians, have been the consequences of the Peace Process.
Immediately, for Israel of course, the Intifada ended. Israel was able to delegate security in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, and the peoples' resistance effectively ended, since resistance would have meant civil war. Direct conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was neutralized.
Israel signed agreements with Jordan and Egypt, and has been moving toward normalization with the Arab and Muslim world. Their economy, which during the occupation and Intifada was miserable, with an international credit rating lower than Bolivia's, has now improved to an almost European ranking. The high-tech sector has become one of the fastest growing in the world, expanding faster than even London or other Western capitals. This is because of a more secure investment environment, and the absence of any meaningful regional opposition.
Of course, house demolitions have continued since the Oslo Accords, possibly close to one thousand in the West Bank alone since 1993, land confiscation is continuous and settlemnt expansion has been almost daily. The settment population has doubled since the beginning of the Peace Process, and on average 8,630 dunams of land is confiscated every month for the purposes of settlements. So, we can say, that the Peace Process has been tremendously successful for Israel.
For the US, of course, the area is under control, there is no feasible danger of Arab or Muslim unity anywhere in the near future, the indigenous populations do not pose any great problem in the domination of Middle East resources by the US, and Israel has become an extremely useful client for America in other parts of the world, not to mention the only country in the region with free trade agreements with both Europe and the States facilitating more lucrative trading.
For the Palestinians the consequences have been deplorable. They do not have access to water from their own wells, but must buy drinking water from Israel. This situation worsen with every new expansion of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian Territories, as more water resources are siphoned off to meet the needs of Zionist settlers.There is, particularly in the West Bank, no freedom of movement and the Palestinian Authority and members of the Palestinian elite class have monopolized all significant industry, leaving the population destitute and captive to the political favoritism of the Authority.
As I said, these are the consequences, not the achievements of the Peace Process for the Palestinians, consequences that the US government is fully aware of, and is wholly indifferent to. It is not a unique pattern, and it is naïve for us to suppose that this situation has resulted from Jewish or Zionist control of the media and disproportionate influence to manipulate foreign policy. Just as it would be naïve to suppose that Indonesian secularists control the American media and manipulate foreign policy just because the US hasontinued to finance the brutal repression of the Islamic independence movement in Aceh with zero publicity in the American press; or to say that Central Asian former-communist secularists control the media and manipulate foreign policy because the US can fund Soviet-style tyranny against Muslim populations in the new independent states.
This is US policy wherever a client state is concerned, wherever there are perceived vital interests that have to be secured, and it is US policy in Israel. In fact, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that Israel is US policy in the Middle East.
So this is a brief background to the current crisis. It is important to realize, when we understand the actual meaning of the Peace Process, that the clashes, the Israeli massacres of unarmed Palestinian civilians, the destruction of infrastructure through bombing, and the current building of walls around Palestinian areas in the West Bank, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's plan to economically isolate the Palestinianterritories, that all of these do not in any way represent a breakdown of the Peace Process, as has been endlessly reported in the press, but in fact only constitute a speeding up through force of what was going to be accomplished anyway through the signing of accords.
A good deal has been said about the extraordinary generosity of Ehud Barak at Camp David. He has said that he was willing to go further than any other government, Labor or Likud, had ever gone before in concessions to the Palestinians. This, of course, must be emphasized in the press to manufacture Palestinian blame for the current clashes. The reality, as you might expect, is a bit different. What Barak offered Arafat, essentially, was a plan that has been a standard Israeli proposal since at least 1968, it is the plan of Ariel Sharon, and, with slight variations, the plan of every Israeli Prime Minister for the last thirty years.
Barak simply re-worded it to sound more palatable. His official proposal was to initiate a 90-10 percentage split of Occupied Territory, with Israel having the minority percentage. It sounds, indeed, like a remarkable concession. Of course, still short of actually complying with international law which requires Israeli withdrawal from 100% of the Occupied Territories, nevertheless it certainly sounded like more than anyone else had offered.
The 90-10 split, however, is misleading. It is actually broken up in a 40-50-10 split, with the current 42% of Palestinian Territory administered by the PA increased only by 8%, to create a 50% total of PA administered Palestinian Territory. Another 40% of Occupied land would be "up for debate" but would remain occupied, and the last 10% would be under non-negotiable Israeli control. So, in reality, it is an 8% concession, or more accurately, he was declaring that Israel would remain 92% in violation of International Law.
Now, the al-Aqsa Intifada, as the Intifada before it seven years ago, has aroused a great deal of concern and some degree of mobilization among Muslims around the world. In the United States, of course, we have seen I believe an unprecedented number of marches and demonstrations and rallies; there was a national rally on Saturday in Washington D.C. sponsored by about 15 different Islamic organizations, and some groups have called for massive letter-writing campaigns to members of congress and to the State Department calling for a more just US policy toward the Palestinians.
There can be no criticism for the energy and devotion of anyone who is willing to sacrifice their time and effort to take action on behalf of the brothers and sisters in Palestine. I think, however, that we should bear a few things in mind when approaching activism on this or any other topic. The first thing, of course, is to purify our intentions, to make sure that our effort is for the Sake of Allah and Allah Alone, and then we have to make sure that the action we take adheres to the Qur'an and Sunnah. On a practical level, we also have to make sure that we understand the situation we would like to change enough to determine a course of action that directly addresses the problem and is genuinely designed to get results.
There are a number of problems, as I see it, with what has been happening here in response to the current crisis. We are seeing Muslims rally, Muslims march, and each organization or group of organizers sponsoring the protest feels that the larger the number of people who attend, the more successful the rally or demonstration has been. This, I think, is missing what has historically been the point of rallies and protest marches and the like. That is, what are those people being mobilized to do? A rally, almost by definition, is supposed to be a coming together of people with a common cause in order to launch a campaign of activism. No one has ever held a rally and considered it, in and of itself, an achievement, this approach is something rather new in the history of activism in the United States. If you do not have a program, an action campaign, which you are trying to rally the people to support, then there is no real purpose served by having a rally at all.
The justification that a demonstration is an effort to get the Muslim voice heard, to get our message before the public, has a couple of problems. First, frankly speaking, the message is not getting out. Mainstream media coverage has, and will continue to insure that it cannot get out. It will be ignored or distorted or so totally marginalized by the preponderance of pro-Israeli coverage that it will end up discouraging the people from ever attending a rally again. Second, there is not anything terrifically useful about getting the message before the public, the general public has no more say over foreign policy than you or I, particularly where Israel is concerned. Thirty years of interchanging Republican and Democrat presidential administrations, and uninterrupted support for Israel should be enough to disprove the notion that elections significantly impact policymaking. It is also not very worthwhile or constructive to send a message to the public to increase awareness of a problem without any guidance as to how to resolve the problem.
But there is another deficiency in this approach, and that is that it affirms the power and authority of the Kuffar over the Muslims, and simultaneously and unavoidably, affirms our own weakness and incompetence. The United States is the chief offender in the Middle East, the situation in Palestine is the result of American pursuits of US interests in the region. It is not reasonable, it is not dignified, it is not just and it does not befit us as men that the only action we can think to take to defend the Holy Land of Palestine is to ask the United States to change its policy.
Foreign policy has only ever been changed, and can only ever be changed through one approach: The domestic cost of that policy must outweigh the profit, the consequences have to outweigh the benefit.
So, it is not for Muslims to write to their congressmen or senators or to the state department. The government is not pursuing its policy in Palestine because it was ignorant of our disapproval, there is no reason to suppose that the policy will change just because it is not popular among Muslims. What has to happen, and it is certainly more feasible, in my view, than supposing that 6 million Muslims can alter policy through voting (assuming that all 6 million Muslims in America are eligible to vote, which of course they are not), what has to happen is that Muslims have to mobilize to increase the domestic cost of US policy in the Middle East until the cost is greater than the profit. We have to actually make US policy in the Middle East detrimental to US interests. It is not realistic to try and make the US or any country adopt a policy that is contrary to its interests, so, we have to focus on the interests instead of the policy, if we want to change the policy.
We talk frequently about the billions of tax dollars that the US sends to Israel, but does anyone know that a huge portion of that money actually goes to American businesses in the form of government contracts, with the businesses then providing goods and services to Israel? The weapons they are using to kill children in Palestine were manufactured here, the helicopter gunships were manufactured here, the jeeps they are driving were manufactured here. Those companies have no ideology except expanding their profit margin, they don't care where their goods are going once the government pays for them.
But they are companies right here, close-by, some of us work for them, all of us buy from them. It is far more feasible for Muslims to apply pressure to businesses and persuade them to cut off ties with Israel than it is for Muslims to impact policy through participation in the political process.
Boycotts, picketing, strikes as well as more forceful means are readily available and accessible for the entire Muslim community in America to exercise against those companies who are supporting Israel and whose interests in the region define US national interests.
The solution can only be arrived at through our own empowerment as a community. And this can only come when we, as a community, take the responsibility to address our own dilemmas in our own way, without asking help from our enemies. If we believe Palestine is a Muslim land, if we believe that it is our land, then we could never ask someone else to give it to us, if you ask someone else, then what you are asking for belongs to the person you are asking. Palestine is ours, all of Palestine, if someone has taken it from us, we're not going to ask them to give it back, we have to take it back, by making it too difficult for them to hold onto it, by making it unsafe for them to hold onto it, by making it self-destructive for them to hold onto it. Then they'll let it go.
All the letters to Washington, and all the registered Muslim voters you can imagine will not change US policy, because letters to Washington and Muslim votes don't change the US interests, they don't decrease the profit of US policy, and this is what Muslims should be focusing on, and this is what, with the Help of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'Ala, is the key to formulating an effective strategy.