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The Palestinian labyrinth



US: cockups are worse than conspiracies

THERE is a confused sense that the

sufferings of the Palestinians, the increasing solidarity that their

torment evokes in the Middle East, and Israel’s violent reactions in its own

defence, may plunge the world into the abyss. This confrontation between two nations,

Israeli and Palestinian, rightly or wrongly consumed by mutual fear, cannot last, for this

fear “justifi es” escalating repression on one side and recourse to violence by radical groups

on the other. Surveys confi rm that most people in both

camps want peace, yet at the same time there is mounting hatred and extremism. Both sides

now speak of “war to the death” and “complete annihilation”.

The failure of Israeli troops to defeat the Hizbullah militia this summer, and the fail

ure of United States troops to overcome the insurgents in Iraq, have given new hope to

Palestinian groups, who begin to believe in the possibility of a “long war of the people”.

They captured (and still hold) Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on 25 June and are increasing

their rocket attacks on Sderot and Ashkelon. Six people have been killed in these attacks

in six years, while in the same period 4,500 people died as a result of the repression in the

occupied territories. The threat of rocket attacks feeds the Israe

lis’ desire for revenge. The hard-liners in the government, encouraged by the apathy of the

international community, seem to have carte blanche to punish the Palestinian population.

Israeli troops have killed more than 400 people in the past fi ve months, half of them civil

ians. It seems nothing can stop the troops. They did not hesitate to shoot unarmed

women at Beit Hanoun on 3 November; fi ve days later Israeli shells killed 20 civilians

there, including several children. This crime, the result of a “technical error”

according to Israel, caused worldwide consternation. The United Nations General Assembly

adopted a resolution (by 156 votes to 7) calling for the cessation of Israeli operations in Gaza

and all acts of violence. This no doubt forced Israel to accept a ceasefi re and withdraw

its troops from Gaza without the release of Corporal Shalit.

But the situation remains tense. Despite the courageous stand by the Labour minister

of culture, Ophir Pines-Paz, who resigned in protest, Ehud Olmert recently invited Avigdor

Lieberman to join the government as deputy prime minister with special responsibility

for strategic threats (see Whatever happened


PETER KLASEN ‘High Tension’ (1990)

to Israeli society, page 6). Lieberman is the leader of the far right party Israel Beitenu

(Israel is our home), whose members are mostly immigrants from the former Soviet

Union, often accused of xenophobia. Lieberman’s inclusion in a cabinet that is confused

and inclined to use force without due refl ection is a danger to the whole region. First and

foremost to Israel and its people. This has not been suffi ciently emphasised by the European

media, usually so quick to denounce the inclusion of extremists in EU governments.

Israeli newspapers including Haaretz have seen the dangers more clearly: “To appoint the

most irresponsible and unrestrained leader to the post of minister for strategic threats is

itself a strategic threat. Lieberman’s lack of restraint and his ill-timed pronouncements

— comparable only to those of the president of Iran — threaten to bring disaster to the entire

region” (1). The Israeli political commentator and writer on European fascism, Zeev Stern

hell, is clear on this. In his view, Lieberman is perhaps “the most dangerous politician in the

history of Israel” because of his “cocktail of nationalism, authoritarianism and dictatorial

mentality” (2). The danger is heightened by the situation in

the region. The recent defeat of the Republican party (and by association President George

Bush) in the US midterm elections and the US military failure in Iraq may aff ect US pol

icy in the region. There seem to be potential plans for the US to contact Syria (despite its

suspected involvement in the assassination of Pierre Gemayel in Lebanon last month) and

even Iran, whose help may be essential to get the US out of the mess in Iraq.

These developments are not at all to the liking of some in Israel, notably Lieberman and

his friends, who still bet on confrontation and the use of force. An irresponsible move on

their part cannot be ruled out because they are aware that governments around the world are

beginning to understand that there will be no peace in the region until the Palestinians are

off ered a viable state. TRANSLATED BY BARBARA WILSON

(1) Haaretz , Tel Aviv, 24 October 2006. (2) The Scotsman , Edinburgh, 23 October 2006.

The left in the United States remains distracted by fantastic stories about conpiracies hatched by the Bush administration: in many of these, even the 9/11 attacks are believed to have been an inside job. Yet the chief, and most fearful, characteristic of the Bush administration has been its low level of practical management abroad and at home.


WHERE was the American left in the recent campaign that ended

in the recapture of both houses of Congress by the Democrats on

7 November? Was it in the streets fomenting opposition to the war in Iraq? No, the antiwar

movement has been inert for months. When I was asked to give the keynote speech at a rare

antiwar rally in my local town in October, three of my five fellow orators didn’t mention

the war at all. Instead they numbed the audience and

sharply diminished its size with interminable dissections of the 9/11 attacks on the World

Trade Centre towers and the Pentagon. Their aim was to argue that the attacks were an

inside job organised by President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, or (a frequent

variation on the theme) by darker powers for which Bush and Cheney are mere errand boys.

Five years after the attacks, 9/11 “conspiracism” has penetrated deep into the left in the

US. It is also widespread on the libertarian and populist right, which is scarcely surpris

ing since the United States populist right instinctively mistrusts government to a far

greater degree than the left, and matches conspiracies to its demon of preference, whether

the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United

Nations’ black helicopters (1) or the Jews.

These days a dwindling number of leftists learn their political economy from Marx. Into

the theoretical and strategic void has crept a diff use, peripatetic conspiracist view of the

world that tends to locate ruling class devilry not in the crises of capital accumulation, the

falling rate of profi t, or inter-imperial competition, but in locale — the Bohemian Grove,

Bilderberg, Ditchley, Davos (2) — or supposedly “rogue” agencies, with the CIA still at the

head of the list. The 9/11 “conspiracy” is the summa of all this foolishness.

You trip over a fundamental idiocy of the 9/11 conspiracists in the fi rst paragraph of a

book by one of their high priests, David Ray Griffi n: “In many respects,” Griffi n writes,

“the strongest evidence provided by critics of the offi cial account involves the events of 9/11

itself . . . In light of standard procedures for dealing with hijacked airplanes . . . not one of

these planes should have reached its target, let alone all three of them” (3).

The operative word here is “should”. A central characteristic of the conspiracists is that

they have a devout, preposterous belief in US effi ciency. Many of them start with the racist

premise, frequently voiced in as many words in their writings, that “Arabs in caves” weren’t

capable of the mission. They believe that mili

Continued on page 2


US: what the stock car race circuit

reveals about a political shift page 3

Iran: the poor get poorer after a

change of president page 4

Arab press: Al-Jazeera among the

tame Saudi pigeons page 5

Spain and the Basques: can the Eta

ceasefi re hold?

page 8

Ukraine: the unwelcome Tatars

still mean to stay page 10

Georgia: confl ict with Russia,

South Ossetia, Abkhazia page 11

Mexico: riot and rebellion in the

state and city of Oaxaca page 12

Africa: exporting health skills and

retaining sickness page 13

Behind the wardrobe: the secrets

of the Ikea company page 14

The functions of war: weakness

and witch-hunts page 16

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