Thursday, September 28, 2006

Undermining the moderates

There is an interesting debate right now over on MediaLens between John Hilley, Jonathan Cook and Jeremy Bowen. This concerns the activities of Israeli secret services in disrupting possible peace agreements. Bowen argues that this was just part of a wider plan to disrupt the Hamas government that Israel considers to be terrorist. Jonathon Cook is scathing in his dismissal of a ridiculous circular argument.

Bowen accepts as a matter of simple fact that the israeli government really does believe hamas is a terrorist organisation. how does he know they believe this? because they say they believe it. that's why they had to stop the meeting between hamas and the israeli peace activists, and why they had to arrest the MPs. the israeli government's actions might be unfair (bowen, of course, offers no opinion), but they are entirely logical given israel's view of hamas. no possibility of deception, subterfuge or underhand motives on israel's part. that's why, of course, he's top of the food chain in the BBC's mideast section..... we can see something similar going on with the withdrawal of visas from palestinians with foreign passports, many of them american. this policy seems to make no sense unless we factor in israel's bad faith. these palestinians are among the richest; many, it seems, are christian palestinians; they have a huge investment in the success of the palestinian economy; and as a result they are usually moderate, mostly secular and may even be co-optable. why on earth would israel not want them in the OPTs? makes no sense at all. unless of course we think the unthinkable: that israel actually wants the palestinian economy to fail, it wants the moderates deprived of a role, and it wants to encourage extremism and islamism. now you won't hear that from the BBC!
Putting aside generalisations, let's consider what happens to moderates who have committed to a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. What happens to people who dismiss the extremists of Hamas AND the corruption of secular Fatah? Let's consider what happened to Mustafa Bargouti. This is from Wikipedia:

Barghouti has consistenly criticized the PLO and Palestinian Authority for corruption. He supports non-violent resistance as the most effective means of overcoming Israeli occupation. According to a Reuters report, Bargouti "supports peace with Israel based on two states with a Palestinian state in all territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, a capital in Arab East Jerusalem and rights for refugees."[1] It is not clear whether the remedies Barghouti supports for the refugee problem extends to a full-fledged right of return. He has indicated that recognition of a right to return is a must, but that this could likely be implemented in a way mutually acceptable to both sides.

In a 1996 incident, Barghouti was shot by soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces while serving as a medic. On January 3, 2003, he was arrested following an international press conference in East Jerusalem, on charges of disturbing the peace and entering the city illegally. During his detention, Barghouti was interrogated and suffered a broken knee, which, according to his account, was inflicted by blows from a rifle butt; he also reported that he received head injuries. He was released several days later.

Barghouti was a candidate in the election for Palestinian Authority president, to fill the vacancy created by the death of Yasser Arafat. In the announcement, Barghouti declared, "I will demand total and complete reform, fight any form of corruption, mismanagement, and consolidate the rule of law." [2]. He was arrested by Israeli forces during the election campaign and subsequently expelled from East Jerusalem when he was going to hold an election speech there. He was also prevented from entering Nablus and Gaza. Barghouti came second in the elections, receiving 19.8% of the vote.In December 2005, the Independent Palestine list, a coalition of independents and NGO members in the legislative elections scheduled for January 2006, announced Mustafa Barghouti as its top candidate. The list promised to fight corruption and nepotism, demand the dismantlement of what it termed the "apartheid wall", and to provide a truly democratic and independent "third way" for the large majority of silent and unrepresented Palestinian voters, who favour neither the autocracy and corruption of the governing Fatah party, nor the fundamentalism of Hamas.[2] ................

Barghouti was detained on Tuesday 3 January 2006 while campaigning in the Arab quarter of East Jerusalem and was taken for questioning to a local police station. A statement on his behalf read: "Dr Barghuthi was meeting with ordinary Jerusalemites near Damascus Gate, discussing their needs and the situation of Palestinians in east Jerusalem, when he was approached by six undercover Israeli security agents, arrested, and taken to the Russian Compound jail where he remains under detention."[3]

This is further evidence that democracy activists committed to non-violent resistance have fared no better than those committed to violent resistance. The moderates are followed even more closely than the 'extremists' by Israeli agents so that they cannot succeed in bringing together parties that may propose any kind of settlement or peace deal. This supports Cook's analysis of Israeli policy. What more proof does Jeremy Bowen need? I don't think anything will persuade him against accepting official Israeli pronouncments as fact, after all that is BBC policy.


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