Saturday, September 1, 2012

Why Arafat Went Berserk

Instead of getting solidly behind the implementation of UN resolutions on the Middle East conflict without fear or favour, Western politicians have allowed themselves to be led up the garden path by the US-initiated, so-called peace process, which climaxed during the presidency of Israel luvvie, Bill Clinton. Embraced in one form or another by every subsequent incumbent of the White House, it goes without saying that the only beneficiary of the PP charade has been Israel, which has essentially used it to divert a gullible West while ramping up its colonization of the occupied Palestinian territories.

I was moved to reflect thus on the whole sorry PP business while flicking through The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President (2009) by Taylor Branch. One passage in particular struck me. But let me first set the scene. The year is 2000. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat are shacked up with Clinton at Camp David and the matter of who gets what in Jerusalem is up for discussion:

"In hard negotiation, said Clinton, the Palestinians were willing to internationalize the walled Old City, but Barak baulked out of distrust of the United Nations. Israelis felt outnumbered and consistently mistreated in most world bodies, especially that one, and Barak floated his own proposal instead. Israel, while retaining formal sovereignty over the Old City, would concede a zone of Palestinian control through its Muslim quarter to the high stone plaza at the heart, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif ('Noble Sanctuary') and to Jews as the Temple Mount. In return Barak proposed a gesture to compensate religious Israelis. On specified occasions, Jews would be permitted to offer prayers on the Temple Mount for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, since Rome had destroyed Herod's Temple after a first-century Jewish rebellion. 'Arafat went berserk,' said the president, and his fellow Palestinians cried that Jews never before had dared such blasphemy. Even during the military occupation since 1967, Israeli police had prevented Jews from congregating to pray on the Temple Mount, where Muslims had managed continuous religious observance since the year 1187." (p 612)

Of course Arafat went berserk. He could see the thin end of a wedge making rapidly for his jugular. Anyhow, so Branch's story goes, Clinton decided to deploy what he thought would be a killer argument with the Palestinian president:

"To Arafat, alone, he pleaded for counterintuitive understanding of a vulnerability that coexisted with Israel's military dominance. Clinton and Arafat belonged to religious cultures fortunate to preserve many ancient shrines. Christians had the Vatican, Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, among others. Muslims revered the Kaaba in Mecca and the Tomb of the Prophet in Medina, plus the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque there on Jerusalem's Haram. Jews, lacking such treasures, centered their faith memories upon a fragment of the Western Wall beneath the destroyed temples of Solomon and Herod. Devout Israelis hoped one day to find their biblical Ark of the Covenant underneath by excavation. Such ruins and relics were all Jews had, but they meant no less than did two of the glorious places sacred to Muslims on that same central spot in the Old City. Surely, the negotiators could figure a way to honor differences born of the same yearning." (ibid p 613)

Now there's no mention in Branch's book of Arafat's response to Clinton. However, my guess is he went berserk - again. After all, he wasn't only hearing a reiteration of Barak's talking point, but as a Palestinian who'd heard it all before, was he perhaps also hearing an echo of one of Zionism's oldest and most enraging talking points. This is from 1946:

"Another line of argument that maddened the Palestine Arabs was what may be called the 'you have so much and I want so little' line. The Arabs had all the Arab world and the Jews only wanted Palestine, a small corner of that world. Was it so much to ask for? Could not the Arabs be generous and let them have it? Could not the Palestine Arabs find a home in Syria or Iraq? To understand how the Palestinian Arabs felt about this argument, it is only necessary to imagine how the people of Devon or Cornwall would greet a suggestion that they should surrender their part of England to the Jews and find a new home in Scotland." (An Arab Tells His Story: A Study in Loyalties, Edward Atiyah, p 202)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now there is an idea - how about the U.N. 'give' Devon or Cornwall to the Romany diaspora.

Look at how many English speaking states the refugees can move to.