Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Relentlessly obsessive

Watched the documentary Relentless: The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East. Viewable here--like Obsession, in multiple segments.

This film is actually the first from the same team as Obsession (reviewed here). You'll see a lot of the same people interviewed, similar feel, etc.

Overall I liked this one better. It deals with what I think is the real issue--not the Islamo-fascism thing but the prime rhetoric ploy and possibly the prime reason for the break: Palestinian-Israeli issue.

The documentary focuses on the Oslo Peace Accords signed by Itzack Rabin and Yassir Arafat with Bill Clinton mediating.

The Oslo Peace Accords were not a formal treaty but rather a mutual friendliness pact, which created a platform/criteria for each side to undertake for five years. At the end of those five years, each side would, it was argued by having fulfilled their obligations come to a place from which to finally create a lasting peace.

Relentless covers the demands of each side for peace, the Oslo Agreement and goes point by point through on both sides arguing in the end that the Israelis upheld their side (overall) while the Palestinians did not and have never really let go of their prime agenda: the destruction of Israel the "liberation" of Palestine.

Getting away from the thesis of whether or not each side held up their side, etc. the film does have good background on what the Accords stated and what each side wanted. I'll start there.

The Palestinian Demands:
--Jerusalem as their capital
--right of return to Israel for all the refugees from 48 and 67 wars and their descendents
--Palestinian state in the West Bank/Gaza Strip
--Removal of all Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

The Israeli Obligations Under Oslo
--Recognition of the PLO from thenceforth known as the PA--Palestinian Authority (NOT THE RECOGNITION OF THE STATE OF PALESTINE)
--Transfer of Land to PA
--Educate for Peace (particularly with youth).
--PA Police Force to secure PA territory and supply them with training/arms

Palestinian Obligations Under Oslo
--End Terror in PA and Destroy Terror Groups
--Amend PLO Charter to include the existence of State of Israel
--Protect Jewish Holy Sites in PA territory
--Committs to negotation not armed violence as means of conflict resolution
--Educate for peace (again their youth)

Then the film goes on to see-saw between each side. It does recognize, although tries to bypass quickly as possible, that Israel continued expansion of settlements in Gaza/West Bank, but otherwise Israel did more or less keep those obligations. A stunning figure for the success of their education for peace is the broad acceptance within Israeli--still even after the 2nd Intifada--of the desire for Palestinian state among Israeli citizens. [Note: It is very hard for me to tell but I'm not sure whether the filmmakers reject Oslo and are supporters of say a Netanyahu-like Likud vision of no bargaining].

The PA did not fulfill its obligations. Arafat was isolated by Sharon and Bush in his last years, Fatah was weakened and Hamas elected in its steed. While the PLO has not officially to date changed its policy on the destructoin of the state of Israel, PA President Mahmoud Abbas practically leans in this direction and calls on Hamas to uphold treaty obligations signed by PLO/Fatah prior to Hamas joining the government.

Now what this film does not give us is some really important background. Why did the PA not stop terrorism--terrorist attacks have sharply increased since the Land for Peace Oslo Deal.

One answer is the involvement of Syria. Syria, unlike Egypt and Jordan has not recognized the State of Israel. Then Sec. of State Jim Baker III (guy's everywhere) pushed very hard on then President Hafez al Assad--his son Bashar al Assad is now in charge--to accept Israel prior to the Oslo negotiations.

What that would have done is moved the Arab powers to put pressure on the Palestinians not only to comply with Oslo but likely give up certain claims that are simply not feasible for a future two state existence: the right of return for refugees and the whole of Jerusalem and not just a portion (East Jerusalem) as site for capital as the primary sticking points.

But Syria rebuffed US/Israel.

The other key piece of background which was, in my mind, the key failure of Rabin and Clinton was the lack of knowledge as to the PLO's power on the ground. The PLO you may recall spent years in exile: first in Jordan until King Hussein in the Black September episode 1970 threw them out in a bloody affair. Then the PLO went to Lebanon--Israeli invasion, Lebanese Civil War, Hezbollah. As well as Tunisia.

Because of the PLO's party leader's absence over so many years they did not have the hold on power locally that Arafat claimed in the press and convined the West that he had. Arafat's Fatah was a secular pan-Arab nationalist group that in exile was not there to see the rise of the Islamist generation--the one know in power.

So the obligations that the PLO made at Oslo were not accepted by multiple groups: especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad (both supported by Iran). Arafat was corrupt in many ways but he also did not want a civil war within the Palestinian territories, which is what it would have come to if he had actually tried to demolish all terror groups. We still the specter of civil war within Palestine today--extreme tension within the government and sporadic violence between Hamas and Fatah supporters in the street.

The film makes it sound as if the only explanation is that Arafat lied and did not want to actually co-exist with Israel.

Now, the partial truth of that statement is that Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas both in Syria and PA do not want Israel. They have not accepted the 1947 UN Partition which they see as an colonialist illegitimate act. They see Israel as the Fifth Column for Western domination of the ME.

Israel through the period of peace or relative peace of Oslo years and its increased financial standing was able to lift the general wave of popular opinion to pro-Palestinian state. In integral terms, their increased right-hand economic-material prosperity created a middle class which then reached an orange-modernist negotation over violence, rule of law over gangsterism, etc.

The Oslo deal failed, from an integral viewpoint because it assumed an exterior-only model for the Palestinians. Get rid of bad structures: terror groups and only then educate for peace.

Only economically modern societies adopt classical rule of law (modernist) policies, society, etc. PA was not and is not an open-economy hence the politics, religion, and society will not be either.

It further failed because as I said it imposed the PLO on the PA from above. They never had a popular mandate in that sense. Arafat as a person was a hero but PLO itself was not as strongly connected. That is why Araft continued a cult of his person, paid off his closest alies, and keep things opaque. Did not want anybody to say the Emperor had no clothes on--either at home or abroad.

Because of that lack of will, he played both sides saying one thing to the Western media and another to Hamas, Terror groups, etc.

I don't know how that wound is healed, the wound from the Partition which lies festering amidst all this.

Both sides have mythic cards, if we want to call them that, to play.

The Israeli argument that Israel was the Jewish ancestral land (that is specifically mentioned in both films).

--The Hebrew Scriptures first of all are not a book on which necessarily to be basing historical and modern political claims. The Scriptures themselves are written, as we now know from scholarship, from the point of view of an idealized history of the Jewish people. It was not the day to day reality. They were always Canaanites (Palestinian ancestors?) in the land.

Also therein lies the emotionally-charged notion that the Palestinian people as such do not ex-ist, therefore no state. The Palestinians are a modern creation. They are actually, so goes this argument, Arab tribesman.

It is true that there were far more of these Arabs in Palestine during the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate after WWI than Jews--either non-Zionist (non-state seeking) or Zionst Jews.

So it is true that the Palestinians as such are not really separable in some neat categorical way from Jordanians for exaple. But so what. Welcome to the 20th and now 21st centuries. You can pick just about any state in sub-Saharan Africa as evidence of the mental creation of national identities that do not exist. Rwanda, Nigeria. Identities are Hutu, Tutsi, Igbo, Waluf, etc.

It was the unique circumstances of the European medieval, renaissance and modern period that brought this notion of national identity which was then through colonialism exported around the world.

So it's true the Palestinians are a partial invention for political ends. So was secular Zionism it coudl be easily argued.

Those colonial boundaries are failing in the post Cold War world as we see their fragmentation, civil strife, and sectarian neo-tribal violence. The PLO couldn't take and especially can not know the multiple sub-groupings becaues of the basic issue of security and counterinsurgency warfare issues in the world (global guerillas).

There are real questions about how to raise the economic standard for the PA such that a group could arise that would accept such a deal while at the same time holding enugh peace and security for Israel in the intervening period--where that opening has been and will continue to be exploited by insurgent terrorist organizations.

What must Israel do after the faliure of Oslo, the failure of the hardline Likud late 90s, and the failure of the Centrist Kadima Sharon-Olmert disengagement plan, particularly after the emotional over-response and military non-victory that was Lebanon?

What is going to happen in the PA? Is war between Fatah and Hamas inevitable? Has the Western-led embargo hurt or helped that situation?

A fixed two state solution would take away the primary recruiting tool for global jihad. As we learned with the failure of Syrian leverage in Oslo, the Iranians are now the real big brother for the Palestinians. Minus an Iranian deal (plus Syria I still think) this thing is not going to get figured out.


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