" one hears this phrase increasingly often in
conversations with Palestinians, and also with Israelis and foreigners.
were alive, what's happening now in Gaza wouldn't be happening
- "If Arafat were alive, we would have somebody to talk with
- "If Arafat were alive, Islamic fundamentalism would not have
won among the Palestinians and would have lost some force in the
In the meantime,
the unanswered questions come up again: How did Yasser Arafat
die? Was he murdered? If so, who murdered him?
On the way
back from Arafat's funeral in 2004, I ran into Jamal Zahalka,
a member of the Knesset. I asked him if he believed that Arafat
was murdered. Zahalka, a doctor of pharmacology, answered "Yes!"
without hesitation. That was my feeling, too. But a hunch is not
proof. It is only a product of intuition, common sense and experience.
we got a kind of confirmation. Just before he died, Uri Dan, who
had been Ariel Sharon's loyal mouthpiece for almost 50 years,
published a book in France. It includes a report of a conversation
Sharon told him about, with President (George W.) Bush. Sharon
asked for permission to kill Arafat and Bush gave it to him, with
the proviso that it must be done undetectably. When Dan asked
Sharon whether it had been carried out, Sharon answered: "It's
better not to talk about that." Dan took this as confirmation.
services of many countries have poisons that are all but undetectable.
The Mossad tried to kill Khaled Mashal, the Hamas leader, in broad
daylight on a main Amman thoroughfare. He was saved only when
the Israeli government was compelled to provide the antidote to
the poison it had used. Viktor Yushchenko, the president of the
Ukraine, was poisoned and saved only when the specific suspicious
symptoms were identified by experts in time. Recently, a former
Russian spy, Aleksander Litvinenko, was murdered by lethal polonium-210.
And how many cases have gone undetected?
proof that Arafat was murdered by Israeli or other agents? No,
there is none. This week I again ran into MK Zahalka, and both
of us concluded that the suspicion is growing stronger, together
with the conviction that Arafat's absence is felt now more than
were alive, there would be a clear address for negotiations with
the Palestinian people.
absence of such an address serves the Israeli government as the
official pretext for its refusal to start peace negotiations.
Every time Condoleezza Rice or another of Bush's parrots talks
about the need to "restart the dialog" (don't mention "negotiations")
for "the final status" or "the permanent settlement" (don't mention
"peace"), that is the response of Tsipi Livni, Ehud Olmert &
whom? No use to talk with Mahmoud Abbas, because he is unable
to impose his will on the Palestinian people. He is no second
Arafat. He has no power. And we couldn't possibly talk with the
Hamas government, because it belongs to Bush's "axis of evil".
So what do you want, Condi dear?
Condi's new buddy, goes further: at the convocation of the billionaires'
cabal in Davos she warned Abbas publicly not to strike a "compromise
with terrorists". A timely warning. Desperate to create a credible
Palestinian address, Abbas had just flown to Damascus to meet
Mashal. Thus, by the way, he has admitted publicly that nothing
can be done without the Hamas leader, who has become a kind of
the danger at once and rushed to torpedo the mission. No dialog
with a Palestinian unity government, much as there is no dialog
with Abbas or Hamas. That OK, Condi honey?
If one wants
to see real joy, one has only to look at the faces of Israeli
correspondents who appear every evening on television to report
on events in Lebanon.
The "Christians and Sunnis" attack Shiite students at the Arab
University in Beirut and kill them! Any moment, a new civil war
may break out! Look, a female Sunni student interviewed on television
says that "Nasrallah is worse than Olmert!" Look at her again!
And again! And again!
quarrel, the third laughs," as the proverb goes. When an Arab
hits an Arab - whether in Baghdad, Gaza or Beirut - the government
of Israel and its commentators in the media are glowing. That
has been a dominant theme in Israeli thought since the founding
of the state, and even before: when Arabs are fighting each other,
that is good for us.
In war, that
makes sense. A split between your enemies is a gift to you. In
World War I, the German general staff sent Lenin back to Russia
in the famous sealed wagon, hoping to create a split between Russia
and her British and French allies. In the 1948 war, we were saved
because the armies of Egypt and Jordan were more interested in
competing with each other than in fighting us. In the '80s, the
Israeli army sent officers to North Iraq in order to help Mustafa
Barzani to tear the Kurdish region away from Saddam's country.
That is a
good strategy in war, which states have followed since the beginning
of history. In this respect, Israel is no exception. The question
is: is this also a good strategy when one wants to achieve peace?
IF - "IF"
in capital letters - the government of Israel desired peace, it
would adopt the opposite strategy.
In the '50s,
when David Ben-Gurion did his utmost to promote splits between
Egypt, Syria and Iraq, Nahum Goldman, the senior Zionist diplomat,
opposed this. He argued that the many conflicts between Arab leaders
were a danger to Israel, because every Arab leader tries to outdo
his rivals in his hostility to Israel.
that is more evident than ever. Bush and his henchmen and henchwomen
are trying to set up a pro-American bloc consisting of Israel,
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Abbas and Siniora. On the opposite
side there is the "axis of evil" consisting of Iran, Syria, Hizbullah
of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are paying lip service to the
Palestinian cause, but are quite ready to sell it out in return
for suitably lavish American aid. The Israeli government is honored
to find itself in the company of the three eminent democrats -
President Husni Mubarak and the two Kings Abdallah.
But is this
good for Israel? It is good for the continuation of the war against
the Palestinians, for annexation and the building of settlements.
It is not good for the termination of the historic conflict with
the Palestinians, the ending of the occupation and the laying
down of arms.
no chance of making peace with Mahmoud Abbas, nor would it have
any value, without the full support of Hamas. But even a Fatah-Hamas
partnership would not be broad enough to ensure a peaceful future
for Israel. It would need the support of the whole Arab world.
the immense importance of the "Arab Peace Initiative", the Arab
League proposal that was adopted by the 2002 Beirut summit conference.
Only a united Palestinian leadership, which enjoys the backing
of the entire Arab world, can carry out such a revolutionary historic
undertaking. Not only should we not object to it, but we should
in fact demand it.
of the Arab initiative are the same as those already set out by
Yasser Arafat in the '70s: a Palestinian state side by side with
Israel, whose border is the Green Line and whose capital is East
Jerusalem; the dismantling of the settlements; an "agreed upon"
solution of the refugee problem. Unofficially Arafat agreed to
swaps of territory that would enable some of the settlements located
near the Green Line to remain in place. There is practically no
Palestinian, and indeed no Arab, who would agree to less. It would
leave the Palestinians a mere 22 per cent of historic Palestine.
be achieved, provided the Palestinian people are united and the
Arab world is united. That means the agreement of Syria, Hizbullah,
Hamas and also Iran, which is of course not Arab.
if one wants peace, one will not rejoice in face of the bloodshed
in Gaza and the Lebanon. We have nothing to laugh about when Arab
hits Arab. Woe to such laughter.
And, of course,
if Arafat were alive, everything would be much, much easier.
The above article is published by Gush
by Uri Avnery:
Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom.
He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices
of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's
hot new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Those who want
to help out Gush Shalom can email [email protected]
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