Saturday, February 17, 2018

Al-Barghuthi Says ‘Thousands’ Trained for Possible Clash

… Al-Barghuthi believes that procedures to establish a Palestinian state have actually begun with the establishment of the first Palestinian Authority in our history. Since the establishment of that authority, he aid, the building of the state has been going on despite some failures and we should not close our eyes to the many successes we have made. We should prepare ourselves to confront any danger, such as a possible Israeli decision to reoccupy the areas of the Palestinian National Authority or destroy the Palestinian Authority itself. We have to prepare ourselves to confront that option on the ground, planned for by the Israeli rulers.

Al-Barghuthi said that the Palestinian people are ready to do what they can to protect their territories and that some preparations are under way to confront such a possibility. We have been able, he said, to train thousands of youths and hold various military training courses for that purpose.

I believe, he said, the whole Arab nation will be put to test toward the Palestinian people’s cause next year, wondering if the Arabs can protect the Palestinian state.

He also said that the Palestinians should move at the international level to secure an international support from the EU and the United Nations because such a state, if established under Resolution No. 181, will rely on the international legitimacy; that there is no opportunity for reaching any accord with the Israelis ensuring the minimum rights of the Palestinian people; and that what is going on in this regard is sheer illusion.

He also said I believe that the peace process will further deteriorate if the current Israeli Government does not take a new position. The situation is moving toward explosion, and the Palestinian people will not sit back with folded arms before the Israeli settlement building process and the terrorism of confiscating lands. Rather, they will resist the Israelis in every available way, and any future violence should be blamed on the Israeli Government alone.

Al-Ahram: Scott Ritter, Jews, Summer Market, Islam

The ‘Mischief Maker'[Scott Ritter] Bows Out
by Special Correspondent

Full Text

It was clear that the Iraqi officials waiting on the tarmac last December were nervous. A 15-man UN weapons inspection team was about to land at the Habanniya military base, some 65 kilometres west of Baghdad, and Scott Ritter, the “mischief maker, ” as he was called by the Iraqis, would be at the head of one of the teams.

True to form, instead of heading with the team to the UN’s Baghdad headquarters, Ritter steered his convoy, inspectors and their Iraqi minders, to a nearby tourist village where he asked for immediate access to the site. For the Iraqis, the request was not only bizarre but dubious. Habanniya Lake is a tourist site but is also part of President Saddam Hussein’s official family resort. The inspectors got in, conducted their cloak-and-dagger search, all the while ignoring Iraqi protests. They found nothing illegal.

The incident explains Iraq’s tense relationship with Ritter, who announced this week he was quitting the inspection teams. A former US marine intelligence officer, Ritter charged that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Security Council and the Clinton administration had stymied the inspectors on “the doorstep of uncovering Iraq’s weapons programme.”

In scathing criticism of Annan, Ritter accused the UN secretary-general of allowing his office to become a “sounding board for Iraqi grievances, real or imagined.” He also singled out the United States for failing to fight for the inspectors’ unrestricted access to suspected weapons sites. As for the Security Council, Ritter said it was not maintaining pressure on Iraq.

Iraqi newspapers rejoiced in Ritter’s bombshell announcement. They trumpeted his resignation as a triumph and the culmination of efforts to redefine the work of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), which Baghdad has repeatedly said is dictated by the US. Baghdad had accused Ritter of being a spy for the CIA and an agent for the Israeli intelligence, Mossad. It claimed he was serving American and Israeli interests and was seeking to prolong the economic sanctions against Iraq, which were imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

In the wake of Ritter’s exit, Iraqi dailies reiterated the spy accusations but this time, they had something to back up their claims: reports in the American media that Ritter’s resignation was prompted by an FBI investigation that he had supplied information about UNSCOM to a foreign county, presumably Israel. They said his letter of resignation was “a noisy attempt” to blackmail the United Nations and the Security Council and cover up his Israeli links.

Long before his resignation, Ritter had become persona non grata in Iraq. In September 1997, he was turned away when he tried to inspect a presidential complex on the western bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad. The incident, which gave rise to the term “intrusive inspection, ” was repeated in March only a few weeks after Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Tarek Aziz and Annan signed an agreement to establish new rules for the inspections. Under the 11th-hour accord, which averted probable US military action, Saddam’s palaces and homes were to become accessible to UN inspections.

But it was in June, when Ritter tried to launch one of his inspections at a sensitive site in Baghdad, that the tables suddenly turned. Now it was Washington’s turn to object. President Bill Clinton’s administration had decided that it would no longer support such inspections and would adopt a new, less antagonistic policy towards Iraq. On 4 August, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reportedly cautioned chief weapons inspector Richard Butler against mounting any surprise visits in Iraq. Indeed, the Washington Post reported that on at least six occasions Albright persuaded Butler to rescind orders for surprise searches in an effort to avoid a confrontation with Baghdad. That left Ritter singing out of tune.

Ritter labelled the policy shift a farce. In his resignation letter he wrote: “What is being propagated by the Security Council today in relation to the work of the Special Commission is such an illusion, one which, in all good faith I cannot and will not be a party to.”

Ritter later told an international news agency: “If we continue down this path, there will be a compromise solution. The Special Commission will be compelled to close files prematurely and the result will be that Iraq will be allowed to maintain weapons of mass destruction which they were called upon to get rid of by the Security Council.”

Ritter’s criticism has thrown the administration on the defensive. “What might the consequences be, in Iraq and around the world, of such appeasement, ” wrote the Washington Post in an editorial. “In this century we learnt through hard experience that the only answer to aggression and illegal behaviour is firmness, determination and when necessary action, ” it added. Similar articles appeared in other major American newspapers warning the administration against “letting Saddam get away with vitiating” the weapons inspections.

It has been a month since Saddam ordered a suspension of cooperation with UN inspectors. The world is now watching to see what will be America’s next move. In the wake of Ritter’s blitz, which prompted attacks, especially by hawkish congressmen, on the administration’s policy on Iraq, Albright wrote in the New York Times that the United States will stand firm on Iraq “no matter what.” What that means remains to be seen. For now, the Iraqi media will continue to delight in Ritter’s resignation and savour the moment.

Book Review
by Mahmoud El-Wardani

Full Text

Hekayit Al-Yahoud (The Story of the Jews), Zakaria El-Heggawi. Cairo: The Cultural Palaces Organisation, 1998

Heggawi dedicated his life to the study and collection of folkloric literature from oral or written sources. This book, which first appeared in 1967 and has recently been republished, was intended to be the first volume of an ambitious encyclopedia of Egyptian folklore, one which would document its motifs, recurring themes and so on. But Heggawi died before the project could ever materialise. This book, the putative first volume of an encyclopedia, concerns itself with the representation of the Jew in folk epics and popular sayings from Pharaonic to modern times, stopping at 1948 when, with the establishment of the state of Israel, the popular Egyptian image of the Jew changed radically.

A Sweet and Sour Summer
by Fatemah Farag

“The heat has not been kind to the colourful summer fruit. Fatemah Farag reports on the poor state of the fruit and vendors’ dispaior at the wholesale market.”

“All the heavy-duty carriers are women.”


Fruit, fruit and more fruit is what you will find in stall after stall of a large section of the Al-Obour wholesale market on the eastern outskirts of Cairo. The mundane bananas and oranges of the winter season have been replaced by exotic summer produce, including such delicacies as mangoes and figs.

“The four summer months are our peak season, ” said Adel, who has been in the business for the past 30 years. This year, however, everyone complains that one heat wave after another has taken a heavy toll on the luscious fruits and the profits they bring in.

At the unseemly hour of 4.30 am, Al-Obour is well lit and there is tension in the air.

The auction is the climax of the pre-dawn activity. “Every morning, seven days a week, we auction off the fruits of the day. Much of the summer produce, like figs, have to be brought in from farms on a daily basis, and sold immediately to retail dealers and consumers because they cannot be kept in storage, ” Adel explains.

Like many of the stall-owners, Adel sells the produce of farmers in return for a commission; hence his name komisyongi. (middle-man). Others sell their own produce, such as Faysal Moftah, who sells 75 different types of mangoes produced on his farms in Ismailia.

Buyers crowding around the crates include street vendors, fruit shop owners and agents for hotels and restaurants. For those who cannot afford the relatively high prices of the merchandise, crates of nearly rotten produce are piled out front. “These are bought by vendors who sell in [poor] neighbourhoods…, explains Adel.

But the category of those incapable of buying seems to be expanding. “We do not understand, ” complained Moftah. “According to the rules of economics, when supply is low, prices should go up. But this has not been the case at the market this year. Although the mango supply reaching the market is down by 70 per cent, the prices are a third of what they should be.”

According to Nasrallah Afifi, who brings figs from Al-Arish to the market, “It seems that people are unable to buy, which means that the wholesale dealer will not get his money back, and so we have to sell for less. If my produce remains, it goes bad and that is a disaster.”

Economics is not the only thing which seems to defy conventional orthodoxy at the market. “All the heavy-duty carriers are women, ” points out Moftah. Old or young, a woman can balance up to five heavy fruit crates on her head and walk a distance of about one kilometre to the car park many times a day. Aren’t men supposed to be stronger and better at such jobs? “Not here, ” is the enthusiastic answer. “Here, they [the women] are stronger and faster.” He forgot to add that they are probably much cheaper as well.

Nurturing Difference
Reviewed by David Blanks

Islam, Gender and Social Change
edited by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and John L. Esposito,
New York and Oxford,
Oxford University Press 1998

The editors are members of the Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.


Throughout the post-colonial Muslim world gender has emerged as a central concern because the family is on the frontier.

It is the frontier… but the battle lines have been drawn between public and private space. Gender has been politicised precisely because women represent cultural autonomy. They are, for many, the standard bearers of tradition, the heralds of an indigenous Islamic legitimacy. This holds true across the region and across the political spectrum. Even relatively progressive, nominally secular states, which have adopted large parts of western legal codes, frequently leave family, marriage, and inheritance laws to the authority of Islamic jurisprudence. Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen have ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, but some, Egypt included, have stipulated reservations about article 16 concerning the equality of men and women in matters relating to marriage and the family. According to Nadia Hijab “the fact that family law has developed within an Islamic framework means that Arab women can be equal outside the home but not within it.”

Several authors note that the subordination of women serves the patriarchal agenda of secularist and Islamist alike. In an engaging chapter on modern Egypt, Mervat Hatem argues that the secular and Islamist discourses share certain assumptions about gender roles. The secularists, who advocate civil society and civil government, feel that religion should be restricted to the spiritual realm — but in practice this means the domestic sphere. Although secularists fear that the creation of an Islamic state would put an end to the modern non-religious, non-gendered bases of citizenship; nonetheless, they have abrogated their responsibility for passing and enforcing adequate personal status laws.

Secularists and Islamists likewise share the belief that a woman’s place is in the home — albeit with a crucial difference in their underlying assumptions. Conservatives do not see gender as a final frontier between East and West, tradition and modernity; on the contrary, they would like to see the Islamic framework that is embodied in their understanding of gender extended to the public sphere as well. This does not mean, as Hatem contends, that Islamists are “anti-modern, ” as some critics have charged. In fact, she suggests, conservatives share with their ideological opponents some of the most important aspects of the modernist vision. In terms of women and the family, this translates into an insistence on education, science and professional knowledge as the basis of an Islamic upbringing.

Some {chapters} are aimed rather too much at a non-specialist, western audience. Thus for anyone living in or familiar with the Muslim world, Carol J. Riphenburg’s chapter on Oman will be disappointing. Culled mostly from secondary analyses and overly dependent upon an uncritical reading of religious texts, the essay comes off as somewhat naive.

{T}he author loses credibility when she asserts that “women in the Gulf area, unlike most parts of the Muslim East, have always received their assured shares of inheritance as designated in the Quran.” Similarly, she wrongly remarks that “throughout the Arab world, equal pay for equal work has been a long-standing tradition.”

Nadia Hijab, senior human development officer at the United Nations’ Development Programme… is cautiously optimistic. She is concerned that women are “in the unenviable position of having to choose between rights and respect” but is encouraged that “at last the debate on women’s roles is catching up with the reality of women’s lives.”

Translations by
Dr. Joseph Lerner,
Co-Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645

A New Exodus . . . of Traditional Orthodox Jews from Jerusalem? Am I Reading Correctly?

As I write this article, I have preferred not to use the term “haredi” to describe traditional Orthodox Jews, since the term “haredi” conveys a pejorative meaning that connotes fanaticism and a lack of tolerance. I would not use “haredi” to describe Orthodox Jews any more than I would use the word “cofrim” to describe the general population of Israel, a term that would connote a heretical attitude to Judaism and to Jewish religious observance.

The city of Jerusalem witnesses the exodus of about 16,000 Jews every year, and the immigration to Jerusalem of about the same number. Over the past few years, a slew of politicians have made it a point to warn that a traditional Orthodox Jewish population is replacing a less observant Jewish population that is leaving the city. Among the politicians who have been quoted on this matter of late have been Mayoral candidates Shimon Shitrit, Naomi Chazan and Arnon Yekutiali, along with former Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek. It has become almost an axiom in Israeli politics that traditional Orthodox Jews are entering Jerusalem in droves while less observant Jews are leaving.

Well, this axiom may has little basis in reality. Perhaps the greatest social crisis faced by traditional Orthodox Jews today in Jerusalem remains THEIR emigration from Jerusalem. That emigration from Jerusalem now stands at about 5, 000 a year, and it will grow by leaps and bounds in the near future, as more young Orthodox Jerusalemites get married and begin new families. Why the sudden mass exodus of traditional Orthodox Jews from Jerusalem? Has the term “Next Year in Jerusalem” that will be proclaimed in synagogues after the shofar blows to complete Yom Kippur become antiquated? Has Jerusalem lost its holiness to a population that devoutly prays for Jerusalem’s restoration three times a day? Or are there other reasons?

When you visit Orthodox communities in the most traditional of venues, both in Jerusalem and outside of Jerusalem, you find out. In all cases, I have fictionalized the names of the people whom I refer to, out of respect for wishes of confidentiality. After all, what observant Jew would want to go on the record to express his disdain for living in Jerusalem?

Moshe and Chanah live in two adjacent apartments in a crowded building of about forty apartments near Meah Shearim, where they have raised eleven children since they came to live in Israel twenty eight years ago. Seven of their children are now married, and only one is staying on in Jerusalem. The rest of their married children have moved out of Jerusalem to six different cities in Israel. Moshe, who works as a scribe, mentions matter of factly that with limited resources, they could only afford to help one of their children to buy an apartment in Jerusalem, near the family, and that for purely economic reasons that his children were now living and raising their families in diverse places such as Ramat Zvi (near Zichron Yaakov) Beit Shemesh, Tzfat, Kiryat Sefer, Chatzor and Betar. Moshe went on to predict that his other four children, all soon to be of an age to marry, would also probably not live in Jerusalem. And this was the case for the young couples throughout their building. Moshe jokes that the subject most spoken about after every wedding, where the song of “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem” is where the young couple will find an apartment outside of the city – again, for what Moshe and Chanah describe as purely economic reasons. They estimate that among the one hundred or so soon to be married young couples whom they know in their circle in Meah Shearim that maybe ten will remain in Jerusalem. That means a ninety percent emigration from their community in Jerusalem.

In Beit Shemesh, Avraham and Yocheved, a traditional Orthodox couple who have moved there with their three children, note that the transition has not been easy for them. Like Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh is a mixed city that has both observant and non observant Jews living side by side. Even though the neighborhood where Avraham and Yocheved live is exclusively traditionally Orthodox, the three neighborhoods on each side of them are not, and they are getting used to that “with some pain”, as Yocheved put it. They had lived in Matesdorf, an isolated neighborhood in Jerusalem, and they had simply not been exposed to many neighbors who did not keep the Sabbath the way that they do.

Yet Yaakov and Esther, residents of Kiryat Sefer, are traditional Orthodox Jews who regret that they left their respective families in Jerusalem and who say that they could no longer enjoy Shabbat walks through the city because of all the shops, coffee houses, cinema and traffic that no frequent the center of Jerusalem. Esther mentions that this is not the way it was when she grew up in the capital twenty five years ago, when there was little traffic and hardly any store open on Shabbat. Yaakov chimes in that a walk through Jerusalem today on the Shabbat is like a carefully navigated horse drawn buggy with horse blinders, so they he and his children would not have to see all the “chilul Shabbat”, the breaking of the Sabbath, that now dominates the center of Jerusalem. Who remembers now that it was not until 1988 that cinemas showed movies on Shabbat in Jerusalem, or that only two coffee shops were open in the center of town in the early 1980’s. Today, almost all movie theaters operate on Shabbat and more that twenty coffee shops flourish, not to mention discotechues. Yaakov and Esther say with some sarcasm that if the intention of this commerce was to drive them from Jerusalem, it worked. In Kiryat Sefer, where they have lived for five years, Yaakov perks up and mentions that his children have yet to see anyone ever breaking the Sabbath, except, of course, when Yocheved’s water broke on Yom Kippur and was rushed in an ambulance to give birth on Mount Scopus last year.

Another isolated traditional Orthodox community which has attracted tens of young couples from Jerusalem is Ramat Tzvi, a self sufficient area that lies about three kilometers north of Zichron Yaakov. Miriam, recently widowed with four children, remarks that she might not have gotten the same “chesed” in one of the larger Orthodox communities in Jerusalem, where she and her late husband had been living. Neither she nor he had come from traditional Orthodox backgrounds, and they had trouble “fitting in” to any particular group in Har Nof, where they had been living. Moving to a community where almost every family was also new to Orthodoxy had its advantages. The town council immediately provided baby-sitting help for Miriam during her husband’s illness, and the community has become her children’s extended family. “Frankly”, says Miriam, “I do not know if a big city would have been so accomodating – especially since we were not part of any traditional Orthodox community before we became observant”.

Shaul and Rivka have moved their large family of ten to the Jewish quarter of Tzfat, where they have taken an old home and renovated enough rooms for the children. Shaul mentions that he never minded the mix and the ambiance of Jerusalem, but he says that he had a problem with a three room apartment with the option of putting his children to sleep on the porch, the roof, or in the downstairs shelter. “Tzfat is built on the ruins of Jerusalem” goes the expression, and, while Jerusalem is not quite in ruins, Shaul is pleased to note that new apartments are springing up throughout Tzfat and that they are at least affordable for his kids, if they should find either a Kollel or work in Tzfat in the future. Shaul comes often to Jerusalem, explaining that Jerusalem is close to Tzfat, even if Tzfat is not so close to Jerusalem. Shaul says that “It is a common thing to casually suggest to someone in the streets of Tzfat that they go to dovon Mincha, the afternoon prayers, at the western wall”. What’s a three and a half hour trip to the Holy City. Yet Shaul says that he never remembers anyone ever coming up to him on the street in Jerusalem and saying, “hey, how about a dip in the Ari’s Mikveh in Tzfat this afternoon”. Traditional Jews from Tzfat simply frequent Jerusalem more than their traditional counterparts from Jerusalem visit Tzfat.

Only last year, Yizthak and Leah moved from Bayit Vegan to Emmanual, while their children moved to Beit El and to Shilo, all in the Shomron. For what they sold their apartment in Bayit Vegan, they were able to make down payments on three places north of Jerusalem. Leah says that trading the view that they had of Sheerai Tzedek hospital and Mount Herzl for the views that each of their families now have of the hills of Samaria is “quite a change”. Another change for them is that while Emanuel is of a traditional Orthodox nature, with no TV’s and little education for Zionism per se, Beit El and Shilo represent the epitome of modern Orthodoxy and nationalist Zionism. Leah’s children, Pinchas and Devorah, now living in Beit El and Shilo, respond philosophically, saying that they had lived their whole lives side by side with secular neighbors and that now, for the first time, they are meeting a “different kind of Orthodox Jew”. Both Pinchas and Leah seem confident that their kids will adjust to the change.

Shlomo and his wife Rivka are both teachers in Talmud Torahs in Jerusalem. They had been living in Makor Baruch with their five children. They now live in Nechalim, and commute every day to Jerusalem. Again, the price of the apartment brought them to leave Jerusalem. Even more interesting, though, is the story of Shlomo’s brother Shmuel, who has moved to Bnai Brak to a more expensive flat than the one he had in Geula. Why the move to Bnai Brak? For a Rabbi? No – for business. Shmuel describes a burgeoning high tech world that has expanded into Bnai Brak, with tens of firms that seek out young men with Yeshiva backgrounds and young women with Beis Yaakov backgrounds. The firms set up a system where young men are employed by a business in the neighborhood while the business offers to install a computer in the home and train the wife with computer skills. The firms interact with other high tech companies in near by Tel Aviv. Shmuel remarks that “they have even attached a bassinet and all the necessary arrangements for my wife to breast-feed our newborn at the computer” This Orthodox exodus from Jerusalem also seems to be spilling over to Brooklyn. London and to Antwerp, as parents describe the opportunities that their children are getting from abroad. The sheer amount of travel agents in Meah Shearim that make a business of connecting families between outside of Israel and Jerusalem speaks for itself.

The issue of Orthodox emigration from Jerusalem is very real indeed. My impression is that it is not confined only to Ashkenazic Orthodox Jews of European or American background. The leaders of the burgeoning Shas communities of traditional Sephardic Jews are delivering weekly sermons in which they encourage teachers and Rabbis to move to the periphery of Israel, to places like Chatzor, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat, Yerucham and Dimona. As one Sephardic rabbi put it recently, “we must bring the light of Jerusalem to ignite the whole country with the spirit of Torah”. What that means in practical terms is that some of the best and the brightest of Shas also plan to leave Jerusalem in the years to come.

Many Orthodox Jews might as well say “Next Year not in Jerusalem”.

Lebovitch Family Harassment Continues in the Jewish Community of Hebron

Police waiting with sledge hammers for orders to break into Lebovitch home in Hevron

Last week Hebron police attempted to forcibly enter the Lebovitch home in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, seeking out, among others, 14 year old Akiva Lebovitch. On Friday the Lebovitch family struck a deal with the police, agreeing that Akiva would be interrogated by a ‘child investigator’ at the offices of the Kiryat Arba Social Welfare Department at 8:00 this morning. At 8:00 Akiva and his mother arrived at the office, but when the police had still not arrived by 8:30, Mrs. Hannah Shvill, director of the department called them to ask the reason for their delay. The police response: “We have decided not to kowtow to you – why should we do what you want – we have orders from above.”

A short time later the police arrived at the office and attempted to arrest the 14 year old, before any questioning began. Akiva’s mother, pushed aside by one of the police, pulled her son into an office, closed the door, and refused to surrender him to the 15 armed police, trying to arrest him. A Kiryat Arba municipal councilman, Rabbi Shimon ben Tzion arrived, and attempted to propose a compromise, but was shouted at by the police, telling him not to bother them.

Akiva & his mother wait for the police

Finally, when Akiva’s father arrived, the two sides agreed that the child would be questioned at the Kiryat Arba police station. The police held Akiva for four hours, questioning him about incidents that occurred six months ago, and about which, in his words, “I knew nothing about.” After discussing whether of not to arrest him, the police released Akiva Lebovitch.

Last week police arrested Akiva’s sister, 19 year old Bat Tzion. In spite of their attempts to arrest her for five days, and then to have her exiled from her home for 2 weeks, a judge ordered her unconditionally released.

Police waiting to arrest Akiva

During a conversation between a police officer and a Hebron resident this morning, the officer, in response to a question: “why do you arrest us for throwing tomatoes, but refuse to arrest Arabs who throw rocks and firebombs,” the officer said, “but you get all the publicity, not them.” This reporter asked him, “is this justice, or equality before the law?” His answer: “No.”

Refusal to Recognize Israel Widespread on Palestinian TV

A report documenting hundreds of cases in which the Palestinian media broadcast messages indicating an unwillingness to recognize the state of Israel, even within the 1948 borders, was distributed yesterday by the Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli organization devoted to paying attention to the Palestinian media.

According to the introduction to the report, these messages were not part of criticism of Israeli policies, but rather represented more general reservations about the existence of the state. The report said that three elements were prominent in these messages: a total rejection of the creation of the state, a rejection of the Israeli government even within the 1948 borders, and an expectation that the state of Israel would eventually disappear.

Israeli cities within the Green Line pre-1967 border are refered to as “colonies” and “settlements” (Hadera, Yokne’am and Sde Boker, among others), or as “cities of occupied Palestine” (Tiberias, Safed, Kfar Saba et alia).

The state of Israel is called by names that indicate an unwillingness to recognize it, such as “the Zionist entity,” “the Zionist enemy,” the Tel Aviv government,” “the occupation,” and “Israel” in quotation marks.

Palestinian Authority officials are quoted as frequently making statements on Palestinian television such as: “And we remind (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and the entire world that Jaffa and Haifa our ours.”

“Many statements point to the expectation and sure belief in the removal of the state of Israel. The Israelis are often compared with the Crusaders who were eventually conquered and driven out despite their long rule. There are also freqent mentions of Salah al-Din, who drove out the Crusaders, as a symbol of a future military leader who will drive out Israel.

PLC Rep Zughayar: Arafat Won’t Declare State Next May

IMRA interviewed Fatah Jerusalem Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Ahmad Hashim Zughayar, Chairman of the PLC Jerusalem Committee, on 6th September, 1998. The English translation is via his son, Hiham Zughayar.

IMRA: Do you expect President Arafat to declare a Palestinian state next May even if the negotiations fail?

Zughayar: He says it might be. He says it is not for sure. It is possible.

IMRA: Does he think he would do it even if he thought it would mean losing a chance to have Jerusalem.

Zughayar: He says that there is no solution without taking Jerusalem over. Because, he says, Jerusalem is the most important thing in the subject.

IMRA: That’s why I was asking. Because if Arafat declares a state and he does not have control of Jerusalem at that time – then that’s it – he’s never going to see it.

Zughayar: That’s true [then translates into Arabic to his father]. He says that from now until the date he is talking about, May 1999, there still is a lot of time. During this time they are going to make a very good study of what they are going to do. What they are going to decide.

He said that they are going to do a big international study and also all over the Middle East.

IMRA: But he accepts the logic of what I am suggesting. That if you declare a state without having control of Jerusalem then you will never have Jerusalem.

Zughayar: He says that he is going to say something clearly. Anything without Jerusalem is no solution. So the main thing is Jerusalem. That’s what he said.

And he is laughing. He says that there is no way to negotiate about a body without a head.

IMRA: Again, that’s why it is a puzzle to me.

Zughayar: That’s why he is sure that nothing is going to happen. He doesn’t say it but I see it in his face. He is laughing.

IMRA: So there won’t be a declaration.

Zughayar: I don’t think so. The way he is talking to me – I don’t want to say there is no way – but he is sure that it is not going to happen.

He said that any step that the Palestinian side is going to take is going to take a very deep study of what is going to happen in the future.

Dr. Aaron Lerner,
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645

PA Minister of Justice – Also Execute Land Dealers

IMRA interviewed Palestinian Authority Minister of Justice, Freih Abu Meddien, in English, on 31st August:

IMRA: Do you see yesterdays’ executions as setting a precedent for future cases or was it an exception?

Meddien: Any crime committed by murderers as what happened last week will be dealt with by the same standard.

We gave ourselves four years to take the right decision regarding capital punishment. President Arafat always refused to certify these kinds of punishment but finally we reached a red line when a lot of people – particularly those involving people from the military or police, security elements, when they are involved either via their arms or by themselves, to kill people. In this case we have to deal with this subject very accurately, very honestly, with our people. Otherwise we are going to have people taking revenge. We are going to face civil wear between the people themselves, because we are a conservative society. If we don’t do this then the people will think seriously about revenge and then this will make for bloody crimes also. So in this case we have to move and accept the judgment of the military court.

Public opinion made a great impression on this case. There were more than 22 cases up to the present time that President Arafat stopped execution of the people but now he is facing the truth.

IMRA: Do you see this applied to people involved selling land to Zionists?

Meddien: You are talking about collaborators? The main problem we are facing is criminal cases. As for collaborators we have 100 – 200 cases and up until now we don’t have any judgment against them. When we reach this stage we will think.

IMRA: What about people who are selling land to Israelis?

Meddien: According to the judgment of the law or the courts. And when the judgment is capital punishment – why not?

We should take the green light from the law. Otherwise we couldn’t give any decision for capital punishment.

IMRA: Do you see this as an opening also for people picked up by the PA who were involved in attacks against Jews?

Meddien: Actually, we are not thinking of these cases. We are thinking about internal business. Things which could lead to civil war. What I mean is that in a conservative society where there are big clans, big tribes, then when something happens this can be very dangerous for us.

IMRA: One last question. There is talk of an American proposal that the people on the Israeli list for extradition be held by the PA in a location. Is there a legal framework for doing such a thing inside the PA?

Meddien: Actually, according to the agreement, extradition should take place when Israel has fulfilled and honored everything in the Oslo and Cairo agreements. Otherwise, who could accept this part of the agreement?

Absolutely all the people on the list which Israel has sent to us are now serving in prison – either life imprisonment or twenty years or fifteen years. When they finish their sentences in our jails we are ready to transfer them to Israel.

IMRA: What about those who are now serving in the PA’s security forces who are on the list?

Meddien: We are also going to take a hard line in those cases as well.

IMRA: So those people who are on the list who are now serving in Palestinian security forces will…

Meddien: Actually we are focusing now on our own internal problems which are far away from political and security matters.

Dr. Aaron Lerner,
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645

Al-Ahram: Hamas/PA Relations, Bin Laden

Dead or Alive?
by Tareq Hassan

“Some PA officials were quoted as saying…. [Hamas] was much weaker than originally thought; “as scary as a cat”, some said.”


Palestinian police lifted tight restrictions imposed earlier this week on the West Bank town of Jericho where Emad Awadallah, a key figure in the Hamas military wing, escaped from jail. Immediately after his reported escape, Palestinian police launched a massive manhunt, conducting house-to-house searches and imposing a curfew on Jericho. It was the first time that Palestinian police had taken such measures in a town controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) since the arrival of President Yasser Arafat in self-rule areas in 1994….

Awadallah, 29, is a leading figure in… the military wing of Hamas. He was arrested by Palestinian police in April and accused of killing one of Israel’s most wanted men, Hamas bomb-maker Mohieddine Al-Sharif.

While Hamas held Israel responsible for Al-Sharif’s car bomb assassination in front of his home in Gaza, the PA claimed that he was killed by Awadallah as part of an internal dispute in the militant organisation. Hamas denied the charge and claimed that elements within the PA had collaborated with Israel.

Awadallah escaped from a prison controlled by one of Arafat’s several security bodies, the Preventive Security, headed by former Intifada activist Jibril Al-Rajoub. According to PA sources, Awadallah allegedly received assistance from a prison officer with the rank of captain who was sympathetic to the militant group and its military struggle against Israel.

Hamas spokesman in Gaza Mahmoud Al-Zahhar told the Weekly that the group was considering the possibilities that Awadallah might have escaped from prison or that he might have been killed, “in which case we will hold Israel and its agents present everywhere responsible for his death.” Al-Zahhar added that killing Awadallah would help hide any evidence uncovered in the investigation of Al-Sharif’s assassination, and the possible role of Israeli agents within the PA. Awadallah was reportedly with Al-Sharif in the same house when he was killed and is considered a key witness in the investigation, Al-Zahhar said.

But the Hamas spokesman said that it was also possible that Awadallah received assistance from a PA officer in order to escape. “There are some individuals within the PA bodies who sympathise with Awadallah and who are certain that he was not involved in Al-Sharif’s killing.” He also reiterated claims by Hamas that Awadallah was tortured while in PA custody, prompting him to escape. Zahhar warned that if Awadallah’s disappearance has been the result of a conspiracy, “it would seriously endanger internal Palestinian unity.”

Some PA officials were quoted as saying that, before arriving in self-rule areas, they thought of Hamas as a monster, but later changed their mind after realising that the group was much weaker than originally thought; “as scary as a cat”, some said. Still, there are fears that the moderate elements within Hamas cannot continue to keep the hard-liners at bay, particularly if it is proven that Awadallah was killed.

If this is true, some observers believe the PA is trying to improve relations with Hamas and nullify its charges that Al-Sharif was killed by Awadallah. The PA, they say, will allow Awadallah to live in hiding as long as the militant group pledges not to carry out any suicide attacks against Israel. But until Awadallah is found, dead or alive, the many questions surrounding his mysterious escape will remain unanswered.

American Connection
by Khaled Dawoud


Unlike many Saudi Arabians whose support for the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was purely financial, Osama Bin Laden, the son of a construction magnate, personally joined the fight, gaining a reputation for bravery. As a result he was crowned uncontested leader of the Arab-Afghans, thousands of young men from all over the Arab and Islamic world who travelled to Afghanistan to take part in the war against the Soviets. They received generous assistance from the US, Pakistan, oil-rich Arab Gulf countries and the late President Anwar El-Sadat.

His reputation for bravery has turned Bin Laden, now in his 40s, into a saint-like figure for thousands of followers. And in the few interviews he has granted Bin Laden is fond of recounting how the strength of his belief in God and the cause he was fighting for helped him survive many dangerous situations.

[A]n Egyptian veteran of the Afghan war recounted to Al-Ahram Weekly:
… “I saw this with my own two eyes. A Russian plane was flying over us, dropping bombs. Then, one of our brothers lifted a handful of sand and threw it in the direction of the plane. It fell down in flames. Angels were fighting on our side.”

“As Muslims, we believe that when we die, we go to heaven. Before a battle, God sends us saqina, tranquillity,” Bin Laden said in his interview with the Independent.

Bin Laden used his millions to buy bulldozers to blast massive tunnels in the Zazi Mountains of Bakhtiar province and build guerrilla hospitals and military warehouses. He also used the money to bring in, by his count, thousands of Egyptians, Algerians, Palestinians, Yemenis, Jordanians and Lebanese to join their Afghan Muslim “brothers” in the struggle to end Soviet occupation.

Ironically, the camp of Khost where Bin Laden is believed to be based and which was targeted by US missiles… was built with the help of the CIA, according to US intelligence sources.

… The late President Anwar El-Sadat also encouraged growing fundamentalist groups, nurtured to quell the leftist opposition in Egypt, to send fighters to Afghanistan. The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which controlled several professional syndicates, was particularly active in this connection. Doctors, such as Jihad leader Ayman El-Zawahri, engineers, lawyers and teachers were among the Egyptians who left for Afghanistan. There, they not only fought against the Russians but also developed the ideology of an international Islamist movement whose warriors are keen to fight for any cause they deem “Islamic,” regardless of their different nationalities and backgrounds.

As a result, after the war against the Soviets ended and the Afghan warlords turned their arms against each other in a bitter power struggle, the Arab-Afghans headed to Bosnia to fight against the Serbs in 1992 and 1993. They also took part in the fighting in Chechnya and Tajikistan against Russia and are now reportedly taking part in the ongoing battles in Kosovo between Serbs and the Muslim Albanian minority. They also fought in Somalia against US troops and are reportedly assisting fundamentalist groups on the rise in a number of African countries, particularly those neighbouring Sudan.

According to experts, the network of Arab-Afghans headed by Bin Laden has a presence in nearly all Arab countries and has extended as far as the Philippines, where they are assisting a Muslim minority fighting for self-determination.

After the Afghan war was over in 1992, Bin Laden returned home, but the Saudi government, fearing his extremist ideology, stripped him of Saudi citizenship in April 1994 for “irresponsible behaviour”.

But Bin Laden was already in Sudan, where he was given shelter by Khartoum’s fundamentalist government.

With Western pressure mounting on Khartoum, and after escaping an assassination attempt at a mosque in the capital, he was forced to leave in 1995, reportedly with 100 followers. He returned to Afghanistan where he has been living as a “guest” of the fundamentalist Taliban militia.

Since then, he has declared that the US is the Muslim world’s foremost enemy. Bin Laden believes that US troops protecting the oil-fields of his homeland since the 1991 second Gulf War are desecrating Muslim holy sites by their very presence. He also believes that American power has emasculated Arab countries, turning them into client states.

[W]hen Bin Laden announced the formation of the “International Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders” from his hideout in Afghanistan last February, the announcement did not cause much concern in Washington which was, in any case, more concerned at the time with Saddam Hussein’s failure to cooperate with UN weapons’ inspectors.

The US, which had earlier suggested that Iran might have been behind 1995 and 1996 Al-Khobar and Riyadh bombings in Saudi Arabia, now blames Bin Laden for the two bombings in which 23 American soldiers were killed and the Saudi dissident, through his spokesman, has accepted responsibility for “what happened in Saudi Arabia.”

Now, the US is discovering the bitter harvest of the seeds it sowed when it adopted a policy of fighting the Russians by proxy. And the “Arab-Afghans” have inevitably turned their weapons against their former sponsor.

Hostage to Expansion
by Yehya Ghanem


An informed Afghani source living in Islamabad told Al-Ahram Weekly that Asian republics surrounding Afghanistan, which had constituted part of the Soviet Union in the past, are fearful for a number of reasons. For one thing, the sweeping victory of the Taliban over the opposition alliance in the north has consolidated Taliban rule over vast areas stretching as far as the borders with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, each of which is concerned to deter the advance of the fundamentalist Islamist movement across its borders. The republics are terrified of the infiltration of extremist Afghani elements into their respective territories, and rumours are already rife about contacts between the extremist elements and the opposition militia in those republics.

“There was implicit approval by the US to allow the Taliban to expand their military operations, and to tighten their control over all parts of Afghanistan, which is specifically what the warring factions in Afghanistan had failed to do in 1992,” the source noted. “The aim was to secure the safety of the oil pipeline from the production fields in Turkmenistan, travelling from the northern to the southern borders of Afghanistan and across Pakistan to the port of Karachi.” However, US efforts to mediate between the Taliban and opposition factions, which took place last June, came to a deadlock, mainly due to the hard-line political position adopted by the Taliban, emboldened by military conquests that have brought 90 per cent of Afghani territory under their control.”

The limits of Taliban expansion Washington was willing to sanction have not, though, been respected by the movement. Russia reacted by sending messages on its own behalf to the Asian republics and to the US, insisting it was not going to tolerate an Islamic fundamentalist threat to its soft belly in the Central Asian Islamic republics.

It is against this backdrop that the US extended its offer to the Taliban, two weeks before the embassy bombings took place, offering official recognition in return for the extradition of Bin Laden to the US. Fearing that he may be sacrificed as part of a deal with the US, Bin Laden might possibly have breached his agreement with the Taliban, which allowed him to issue threats from time to time but at the same time to refrain from staging any operations on the ground.

It appears logical that extraditing Bin Laden to the US is only a first step in a process that would result in the liquidation of Arab-Afghan leaders in Afghanistan.

… Despite being a long time ally and a companion in arms of the Taliban, the financier behind several Taliban arms deals and the sponsor of development schemes in various areas under Taliban rule, the current regime seems anxious to be relieved of the burden Bin Laden represents. The Taliban may well be willing to deliver Bin Laden to the US, though in return they would expect tacit US approval for Taliban military expansion to the outskirts of the Asian republics.

Eyewitness to the Oslo “Reunion”

On August 24, I flew to the Holmenkollin Park Hotel in Oslo, Norway, to cover a hastily organized “fifth anniversary” conference that was held exactly five years to exact day and the very place where the “Oslo accords” had been agreed to by the bonafide representatives of the government of Israel and the PLO.

While the governments of Israel and Norway have indeed changed, you could walk into the lobby of the Holmenkollin Park Hotel in Oslo and see many of the people who brought you the original Oslo process still at work, even if they were no longer in government.

In the hotel lobbies that were spread over two spacious floors, you could noticeably see Shimon Peres and Uri Savir, five years ago with the top brass of the Israel Foreign Ministry and now the heads of the Peres Center for Peace in the Middle East, hob-nobbing with Arafat’s top advisor, Abu Allah, as they loudly discussed the nostalgia for the good times of five years ago.

And in another corner of the lobby, you could see the Palestine Authority chief negotiator Hanan Asfour who was quietly ensconced with Likud majority leader Meir Shitrit, a man who was sent by the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, to attend the conference on behalf of the Israeli head of state. Shitrit emerged from his coffee table summit with Asfour to tell the press, quite matter of factly, that the differences between Israel and the Palestine Authority were not too significant, and that another deal was in the works.

And in another corner of the lobby sat Peres’s trusted protege, MK Dr. Yossi Beillin, who was meeting with Dr. Uzi Arad, the special national security advisor to Netanyahu. Arad had just stated a few days earlier that Dr. Beillin’s idea for a delayed recognition of Palestinian Arab independence was “worthy of consideration”.

And in the downstairs auditorium at the Holmenkollin Park Hotel was a reminder of the more difficult side of the Oslo process: It was there that Norwegian statesman, Kare Kristansen, conducted a full fledged news conference for the Norwegian media, where Kristiansen showed a recent comprehensive video clip from the official PA Palestine Broadcasting Corporation, complied by the Jerusalem- based “Peace for Generations” group, whose representative, Daniel Yosef, had come from Jerusalem to join Kristansen and present a video which showed that the official programs of the Palestine Authority were airing daily television programs that egged on Arab children to a life of “Jihad” holy war to liberate all of Palestine.

Upstairs, again in the lobby, one of the chief US negotiators, Aron Miller, declared that the greatest disappointment in the Oslo process was that the Palestinians had simply not changed their “tone” in Arabic.

Kristiansen, it will be remembered, was the one member of the Nobel Peace Prize committee to resign from the committee rather than to sanction the nomination of Arafat as a Nobel Peace prize laureate.

Kristensan declared that it was strange to celebrate this anniversary, since that day commemorated Arafat’s as-yet unfulfilled commitment to cancel the covenant and constitution of the PLO whose 33 articles calls for continued war and the eventual liquidation of the state of Israel.

Kristensan went on to describe Arafat’s record: The fact that Arafat has never issued a denunciation of the murder of Jews in Arabic, the fact that Arafat has continued to give speeches that preach Jihad and the liberation of all of Palestine, along with an analysis of Arafat’s human rights policies, which have included the arrest and execution of human rights workers, independent TV producers, and a host of Palestinian dissidents

The unkindest cut of all, in the words of Kare Kristensan, was that the “decision” of August 25, 1993 to cancel the covenant was never ratified, to this day, a factor which should have nullified any reason for the commemoration of that date.

Well, there may have been another reason for the hastily called conference.

That reason may have something to do with Arafat’s personal condition.

From the first day of the Oslo process, every major and minor decision rests on Arafat.

Like him or not as a “democrat”, Arafat has been a strong leader who makes his presence felt in the Palestine Authority.

Arafat has demonstrated, time and again, that he can turn the spigot of violence and terror “on and off”, according to his will.

On the economic front, not only do all decisions go through Arafat – all moneys flow through accounts in Israel and the Palestine Authority that actually require Arafat’s personal signature. That is written quite clearly in the Oslo accords.

The Oslo process dependence on Arafat was made most clear when Kjell Magne Bondevick, the Prime Minister of Norway confided in the press on the morning of the commemorative event that the success of the process is dependent on strong and personal support for Yassir Arafat. Only a few months ago, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl summoned Netanyahu to Bonn with precisely the same message.

After a festive meal at the Holmenkollin Park Hotel, a crowd of diplomats and dignitaries gathered at Norway’s famous “Nobel Institute”, where the Nobel Prize is bequeathed each year, and where Arafat, Peres and Rabin had received their award four years ago – an event that I had also come to Oslo to cover.

This was an unusual occasion – to honor Nobel laureates for a second time

After the crowd had gathered, Arafat walked in the room, holding on to Shimon Peres. Arafat was asked to speak first. Since I have covered and chronicled Arafat’s speeches over the past five years, I was expecting another dose of Arafat’s accomplished oratory, however reconciliatory it would be in light of the venue. Yet Arafat spoke in a hushed tone, in Arabic, reading from a prepared text and asking his aide, Saeb Erakat, to translate every few minutes.

Arafat simply stressed Palestinian nationalism and added a few thoughts about “education for peace”.

Peres followed suit with a call to peace, as did Meir Shitrit and US diplomat Dennis Ross, after which the conference adjourned for the panelists to meet just with the press.

During the informal break in events, as Arafat walked by me, I approached him with my microcassette and proverbial reporter’s pad, asking Arafat if he would make a statement in Arabic about the recent murder of Rabbi Shlomo Raanan in Hebron, since no statement had yet been issued from any official PA source on this matter.

Arafat placed a very jittery hand on my elbow. His lips were stammering. His legs were not steady. His eyes were bloodshot. His face was gaunt. Only eighteen months ago, when I had accompanied a delegation of Judea residents to meet him – he now seemed two thirds the weight he used to be. He could not hear me, even though I was speaking to him from point-blank range. He squinted, barely able to see me. Arafat stopped in his tracks, trying to focus on my question. Then his security man pushed Arafat ahead towards the toilet.

I had seen Arafat at a public presentation in Ramallah only a few months ago. He did not look or act like this. Perhaps Arafat had suffered some kind of stroke.

When Arafat returned to the hall, he sat at a press conference table next to Erakat, together with Ross, Peres and Shitrit, opposite about twenty. Arafat could not hear the questions from only a few feet away. Erekat communicated them to him. I, for one, asked about the Palestine Broadcasting Authority children’s programs that are televised each day on the official PA TV station, operating from Arafat’s own studio. I asked if these programs that promoted violence were the “education for peace” that he advocated.

Arafat responded by saying that there were 840,000 Palestinian children going to school in the Palestine Authority, and that the Jordanian and Egyptian curriculum would soon be changed.

I again asked Arafat whether the children’s TV programs on PA TV represented the kind of programs that would become the Palestinian educational curriculum. Eraket then whispered in Arafat’s ear. Arafat then said that he has issued orders for an investigation of the PBC TV children’s club program. Erakat then said that he was hearing about this program from many of his Jewish friends and that he had “told Arafat” to ask for an investigation of the matter.

What shocked the press in Oslo was that Arafat was no longer functioning.

Having been trained in medical social work and having watched my own father suffer through a series of mini-strokes for three years before his death, I do not have to be a medical expert to know that the Palestinian national movement that has been oriented around Yassir Arafat for a generation must now foster a new modus operandus.

What the press witnessed in Arafat’s behavior in Oslo is what European, American, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have also seen. The cat is out of the bag. Arafat is on the way out. Even if he continues to live, he is no longer a functional leader.

Writing in the summer 1998 issue of Foreign Affairs, a leading Palestinian researcher writes that Arafat’s deterioration of health may bring about a Hamas take-over of the Palestine Authority.

And what feeds Moslem fundamentalism more than any other factor remains the allegation of corruption. From the Jewish-Moslem dialogue group that I attend, I have learned from Moslem colleagues that when a public entity is accused of stealing funds, it is like stealing from Allah (God)

Yet at a time when the US and some circles in the west face a new battle with Moslem fundamentalism, from Kenya to Afghanistan, the last thing that the US and the EU want to see now is a Hamas-led Palestinian entity.

It would be fair to say that the reason for a hastily convened summit in Oslo this week was to prepare for a post-Arafat period in the peace process, while giving Arafat an honorable send-off at the Nobel Insitute in Oslo.

It would seem that the relationships that were again fostered in Oslo will again form the basis of the next step in the middle east peace process.

The Incidental Fruit of Oslo


The Oslo Accords dealt a crippling blow to the foundations of the global consensus which defined the prerequisites for a just and durable peace during the 1970s and 80s{IMREA comment: A fantastic fabrication!}– that peace was predicated on the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent state alongside Israel. That peace was to occur after Israel completed its withdrawal from the Occupied Territories in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242, and after the Palestinians recognised Israel’s existence and sovereignty in the largest part of their own national patrimony.

Negotiations between Israel and the PA are like encounters between the elephant and the fly. The current stalemate will continue to be fueled by divisions inside Israel, which now centre not on whether Oslo will end the occupation and restore a measure of normality to Israelis and Palestinians, but on the most efficient and least disruptive approach to preserving the status-quo under a more benign label. The method of repackaging the occupation is what really divided Rabin from Netanyahu, a fact that has not been lost on a sizable sector of the Palestinian community, inside and outside Palestine. While some comprehend it well, others feel it instinctively, irrespective of Arafat’s constant expressions of nostalgia for and repeated devotion to Rabin’s legacy.

Arafat has placed himself in the untenable position of being unable to deliver to either Israel and the US or to his own constituents, who were ready to scale down their aspirations but not surrender their rights. His denunciations of terror and vows to eradicate violence, repeatedly urged by the US and Israel, are seen in the Palestinian street as an ominous attack on civil liberties. Moreover, his assumption of responsibility for Israel’s security is becoming increasingly incontrovertible when that security keeps on assuming dimensions which negate Palestinian rights — water security, settlements security and demographic security, which negates the rights of refugees.

All of these factors confirm and prolong the stalemate. Oslo was not designed as a normal traditional agreement. It has now become a guarantor of disagreement and the legitimiser of the status quo. The Palestinians have no other choice but to struggle for equal rights and equal dignity. Not only had Oslo foreclosed on their option of a separate and sovereign existence; it has also denied them the right to struggle for that existence, inasmuch as most variants of the struggle are bound to be classified as either terrorism, lack of reciprocity, failure to abide by commitments or acting against peace.

The process which began in Oslo will reach nowhere because the nature of the Israeli state precludes genuine coexistence with the Palestinian people on equal basis. As long as the Zionist ideology of acquiring the land without the people prevails, a negotiated settlement based on the right of the two people to dignity and self-determination will continue to be elusive. Binyamin Netanyahu did not repudiate Rabin’s strategy; he only rejected his tactics.

Any forward movement beyond the present no peace/no war situation would require a debate of Zionist ideology and history, in which difficult questions, suppressed since the establishment of Israel, would surface. At the heart of the debate would be the main Zionist narrative and its negative portrayal of Arabs, distortion of history and the requirements of peace. Already, we are told, a post-Zionist debate is taking place inside Israel. The question is how extensively has it been followed by the general public. Political Scientist Ilan Pappe has written a series of studies on this post-Zionist critique and its manifestations in various Israeli cultural products, including films, plays, music, novels and short stories as well as in scholarly discourse. Pappe’s writings reveal how intertwined the lives of Israelis and Palestinians have become. There is an implication in his work that Israel cannot prosper as an isolated Western outpost in the region:

A democratic pluralist Israel as a part of the Mediterranean is also an Israel with many historical narratives. Such an Israel has a chance of a common future. The question of whether Zionism is a movement of national plundering or a movement of a persecuted people acting according to a human ethic, seeking compromise and peace is being increasingly raised by Israeli intellectuals. The historian Benny Morris framed the question in terms of the accuracy of the “Zionist ethos claims that we came to this land not to exploit the natives and expel them, and not to occupy them by force.”

Only when this kind of critique is broadened to include the mainstream and penetrate the consciousness of the average Israeli will the so-called peace process begin to assume some hopefuldimensions. Only when the Palestinians decide to rediscover their democratic secular state framework and begin to adapt it to the present realities will hopes for real peace be rekindled. Call it a bi-national solution, a federal system or a cantonal system on the Swiss model, the common denominators will have to be equal rights, equal citizenship, plurality, coexistence and common humanity. That requires a de-Zionised Israel and a normal polity which exists for its own citizens, devoid of any privileges based on religion, ethnicity, race or gender.

The writer is member of the Palestine National Council and Chancellor Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.