October 19 2007
Palestine: Peace not Apartheid
NY: Simon & Schuster, 2007, 270 pp. pb
The television news coverage of this book was much more explosive than the actual book. That's probably good for the publisher, which probably chose the title to generate some controversy.
It used to be difficult to admit the parallels between settler I$rael and settler South Africa where a white minority ruled over a Black majority. That is why the Amerikkkan media exploded over Carter's book and Carter even apologized for the controversy.
The laws in South Africa before Blacks obtained the right to vote were officially racist and the system was called "apartheid." The similarities with I$rael: 1) white settlers; 2) restrictions on the colonized regarding where they live; 3) economic disparity based on nationality. I$rael still does not have a constitution defining its citizenship rules, but rules for Palestinians are different than for I$raelis, in essence because Zionists and Palestinians are at war.
Carter reviews the history of I$rael and follows up on the Camp David peace accords that he had I$rael and Egypt sign during his administration (1977-1981). The result is mostly neutral in a bourgeois encyclopedia sense.
Carter writes in a statesman-like manner, by which I mean he overlooks his political differences with various U.$. leaders and tries to find the good in all imperialists as if they were seeking peace for the Mideast. He also points to polls that showed Palestinians and I$raelis agreeing on the solutions.(pp. 167, 185) To this extent, we are not saying Carter said anything deliberately false, just that the oppressed have to watch out for the difference between occasionally correct words and incorrect action.
After his Camp David accords with the I$raelis and Egyptians, Carter says he realized that the Egyptian leaders were considered utmost U.$. lackeys. He investigated the politics of Syria and other actors in the Mideast with an eye toward solving the problems the peace treaty he brokered had. The result is fairly comprehensive and up-to-date, but of course watered down from our perspective.
Carter admits that the end result of his partial solution was the following:
"With the bilateral treaty, Israel removed Egypt's considerable strength from the military equation of the Middle East and thus it permitted itself renewed freedom to pursue the goals of a fervent and dedicated minority of its citizens to confiscate, settle, and fortify the occupied territories."(p. 52)MIM is not so sure the settler attitude is only a minority one: Carter makes a risky white nationalist assumption there. In fact, we find it crucial that part of engineering peace is engineering the existence of an economic interest group in I$rael to overcome the settler interest group.
Carter pushes consistently for the united $tates again to play the role he played, the "honest broker" (p. 16) supposed to force the two sides of the I$rael vs. Palestine conflict to the table. At the moment, Secretary of State Rice is resuming this role, so review of Carter's book is timely.
When we speak of a U.$.-brokered solution for the Mideast, we have to realize we are talking about a "two-state solution." It's not what MIM or Iran would do. If it were up to MIM, there would be a joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations over I$raeli imperialism. Some Arabs and Persians may believe that I$rael should be "driven to the sea."
If the Mideast solution were MIM's way, I$raelis would resent socialist dictatorship, not Palestinians. The I$raelis would find themselves under one proletarian boot also covering Arab princes and various oil parasites. The dynamics of ethnic conflict and class conflict would change. However, MIM is in no way deluded like many of the utopian labor aristocracy parties of the West. There is no Maoist revolutionary movement about to put the Mideast in order, so we have to consider whether the Palestinians have suffered especially and are worthy of neo-colonial co-optation in a bourgeois peace. Like most people in the world, MIM is nervous about the Middle East, the sense that religious conflicts over Jersualem, Mecca and Medina may trigger other problems that end the species. Jimmy Carter shares this concern.
Jimmy Carter also allows in the last pages of his book for the economic situation of Palestinians to come out a bit. When I$rael says that it "withdrew" from the Gaza Strip and peace did not result, we would do well not to put that through an Amerikan lense. We cannot think that it meant as if the British colonizers left from Yorktown in boat. Nor is it the kind of withdrawal that the Amerikans had at the end of the Vietnam War via helicopter. I$rael still patrols the sea off Gaza; the u.$. lackey Egypt controls another border with Gaza and I$rael is in a position to strangle the Gaza Strip economically, even when it has no troops inside Gaza borders, where 1.5 million people live.
Carter points out the conditions:
"There have been no moves by Israel to permit transportation by sea or by air. Fishermen are not permitted to leave the harbor, workers are prevented from going to outside jobs, the import or export of food and other goods is severely restricted and often cut off completely, and the police, teachers, nurses, and social workers are deprived of salaries. Per capita income has decreased by 40 percent during the last three years, and the poverty rate has reached 70 percent."(pp. 175-6)The Germans came forward earlier this week with an economic plan related to investment. MIM would say that in the short-run, looking to business investment to "wean Palestinians from development aid"(1) is the wrong way to go for two reasons. First, the media publicity is bad for Palestinians and reinforces incorrect I$raeli attitudes. Secondly, this way of looking at the problem mistakes the real dynamic going on. The correct way to state this problem is that welfare aid to Palestinians should be increased so that the West has an incentive to wean itself and I$rael away from war and repression.
By a bourgeois logic that perhaps the majority of bourgeois people will never admit, Palestinians are patronized by the I$raelis for reasons of class. Land-grabbing logic of war dictated that I$raelis keep the Palestinian economy weak. Even while President Clinton was negotiating peace with Arafat, Carter says that I$raeli settlers grew by 90% in occupied territories of Palestine.(p. 150) That political constituency has to be overwhelmed, if not by proletarian dictatorship, then by outside money.
The solution is to convince I$raelis that Palestinians are customers, the best ones. The way to do that is with reparations from the United $tates and Germany to Palestinians in the short run, so that I$raelis loosen up on checkpoints, borders and business generally. The growth of soft power under imperialism stems from a loose environment, a Liberal environment premised on contented people.
The EU is providing $1.1 billion in aid to the Palestinians. That is significant for being less than U.$. military aid to I$rael. For 4 million people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, MIM cannot see how less than $20 billion a year in welfare payments would be sufficient. Perhaps $50 billion is necessary for the "right of return" to be addressed. The EU sum of money makes a good charity handout, but does not alter the political situation, which is that through a deus ex machina, I$raelis need to become confident in Palestinians long enough to loosen up and do business with them. That's what a U.$.-brokered peace has to mean, a bourgeois peace. Through decades of history of war, there is no concrete possibility for that, because Palestinians do not have the economy.
Increasing welfare payments to Palestinians would accomplish the goals one would usually think of: 1) providing parity that the Arab and Muslim world is looking for, a sense that the united $tates is not so "biased" anymore; 2) ensuring the two-state solution that can address some Arab demands and serve the crux of a general solution.
Yet addressing Arab demands may not be the best reason for increasing welfare payments to Palestinians. Increasing Palestinian aid beyond aid to I$rael would help with a couple odd dynamics. 1) The Arab street believes in an all-powerful "Zionist lobby," but where would this flabby Arab bourgeois opinion be if some lobby succeeded in giving Palestinians more aid than I$raelis? 2) MIM would say even more importantly than any of the above, is that Amerikan aid to Palestinians would change I$raeli attitudes. Substantial welfare aid would create an I$raeli political constituency for business instead of repression and war.
Practically-speaking, a huge influx of U.$. aid would give the United $tates and European Union leverage over I$rael's tendency toward economic repression. A good welfare program should ensure that Palestinians have their choice of vendors. We would not want to hear about borders restricting Arab or even Italian vendors showing up to sell Palestinians goods. Also, with $20 billion going into Palestine each year, we can be sure the united $tates and European Union will have an ongoing reason to make sure that I$rael allows business investment into Palestine--and even facilitates it. The idea that business investment will magically increase while I$raelis are scared of their proletarian Palestinian neighbors is unrealistic. Even Palestinians may not realize this, but MIM knows the suburbanite petty-bourgeois mentality inside-out. If we tried to set up a Black republic next to Idaho, we would have to be sure that the Blacks had good economic position for Idaho people to respect them and seek their business. If we try to picture what would happen if we put the Gaza Strip in Texas, we can know instantly why I$raelis are not going to allow a peace plan succeed unless outsiders address the economic dynamic. Even imagining a Black republic is not a full statement of the problem, because Amerikkkans find Black teenagers the most scary, and half of Gaza's population is under age 15,(p. 175) so it is even younger on average than Amerikan Blacks. Gaza definitely has revolutionary demographics. Even most I$raelis may not admit that there is this class dynamic connected to ethnic struggle. The customer logic has to be bigger--deeper--than the land-grabbing and so-called security logic for peace to work.
Colin Powell told us the "Pottery Barn" rule, which is if you broke it you fix it. Sending the Palestinians to Pottery Barn is the bourgeois way of fixing the Mideast. It is not within MIM's logic, but substantially that is what a two-state solution peace has to look like. Otherwise, after the photo op is over, I$rael will go back to economic repression and then feign surprise when Palestinians do not seem too content. Whatever peace agreement there is will unravel.
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