[News] Yet another historic day

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 11 11:02:01 EST 2005

Yet another historic day
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 9 January 2005


Once again, the media and the international peace process industry have 
declared that it is an "historic day" for the Palestinian people. The 
occasion this time is the election of Mahmoud Abbas as head of the 
Palestinian Authority in the occupied territories. Yet 
<http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3339.shtml>most of these 
Palestinian people, for whom this day has been declared historic, do not 
live in the occupied territories; the majority of Palestinians live in 
diaspora or as refugees outside their homeland, a direct result of the 
ethnic cleansing which created Israel in 1947-48, and of the occupation of 
the remainder of Palestine in 1967.

For Palestinians in the diaspora, such historic days feel like everyone is 
having a party that is supposed to be in your honor, except that no one 
invited you, or perhaps it is like watching a television movie of your life 
that bears little resemblance to reality. The feeling I have now is exactly 
what I felt on that other big historic day, September 13, 1993, when the 
Oslo Accords were signed in Washington by a beaming Yasir Arafat and the 
recalcitrant Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, under the beatific gaze 
of President Bill Clinton. I feel a mixture of exasperation, hopelessness 
and determination.

For days now, I have done hours of talk radio about the elections, trying 
to explain as best as I can why replacing Yasser Arafat with Mahmoud Abbas 
will not lead to peace, why Palestinians aren't ecstatic, how the Israeli 
occupation makes democracy impossible. But for the most part, the script 
has been written and Palestinians are only called upon to read their lines. 
So the TV and newspapers are full of happy Palestinian voters who debate 
only whether Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) or Mustafa Barghouti is right for 
them. Herds of international observers are on hand to certify that a few 
irregularities notwithstanding, this was a model election of which 
Palestinians can be proud.

U.S. Senator John Sununu, who was part of the US observer delegation read 
from the official script: "It's a democratic election in the Arab world, 
and that in itself is somewhat historic," the New York Times quoted him as 
saying. Sununu added that the Palestinian leadership will now have "a new 
level of credibility to talk to the Israelis and impose reform and 
reorganization of the security forces, so there's a reason to be optimistic."

The reports I heard directly from associates on the ground only add to the 
disconnect between what Palestinians are experiencing and how the story is 
being told. EI's Arjan El-Fassed, an accredited election monitor posted in 
Gaza reported shortly before polls were scheduled to close that in the 
Shaaf area of Gaza City, a little more than 1,000 of 20,000 registered 
voters had voted -- a turnout of about seven percent. 
<http://electronicIntifada.net/v2/article3496.shtml>Chaos had broken out, 
he said, after Palestinian election officials had changed the rules at the 
last minute to allow voters to vote at any polling station in a desperate 
bid to raise the turnout and perhaps to open the possibility of a person 
casting multiple votes. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights immediately 
<http://electronicIntifada.net/v2/article3500.shtml>announced it was 
appealing what it called an illegal decision.

EI's Maureen Murphy, monitoring the elections in the Hebron area with the 
Al-Haq human rights organization reported that many people who turned out 
to vote did so despite feeling resigned to the fact that whoever wins will 
have no power to improve their lives or change the reality Israel has 
imposed on them.

In the ghost-written screenplay that the Palestinians are being forced to 
act out, the election is "good news." This means that any information that 
interferes with this agreed narrative ­ that we are at the cusp of a new 
era of peace, democracy and reform ­ has to be carefully filtered out.

As I sift through the deluge of election news, I find I am still unable to 
stop thinking about <http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3501.shtml>the 
murder by the Israeli army of seven Palestinian children in Gaza, literally 
blown to pieces by a tank shell on 4 January. This was barely reported in 
the US media. National Public Radio, supposedly the paragon of in-depth and 
nuanced reporting, 
<http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3476.shtml>actually covered up the 
story, reporting only that Mahmoud Abbas had called Israel the "Zionist 
Enemy" without mentioning the killing of the children at all, even though 
Abbas had made his statement in direct response to the atrocity.

A few days earlier, I had emailed a New York Times reporter to ask why in a 
lengthy article about the election campaign, the news that the Israeli army 
had killed nine Palestinians in a single day, including two children and a 
man living with Down's Syndrome, had been mentioned only in the final 
paragraph. I pointed out that whenever the victims are Israelis, his 
newspaper gives their deaths great prominence, and asked whether we should 
therefore understand that Palestinian lives are viewed as less valuable. 
The reporter wrote back: "Your point is very well taken ... the problem is 
more with the nature of daily stories than with differential humanity, but 
I will bear your good letter in mind. No life is worth less than any 
other." At first I felt satisfied by this answer, but the more I thought 
about it, the angrier I became.

Actually differential humanity is precisely the issue. The entire "peace 
process" and the discourse about Palestine today is structured around the 
absolutely inverted claim that Israelis are the principal victims of 
violence and Palestinians the principal perpetrators and aggressors.

So it would appear that in the mind of this reporter, and many others, the 
daily killing of Palestinians is not newsworthy because it is routine. 
Whereas in any period where the killing of Israelis was routine, it was 
that very fact which made the story newsworthy. It is the claim that the 
killing of Israelis is routine or threatens to become routine which is used 
to justify and provide context for all of Israel's actions, from 
assasinations to the mass demolition of homes in Gaza's Jabaliya and Rafah 
refugee camps to the construction of the apartheid wall inside the occupied 
West Bank.

In order to maintain this fiction, other crucial facts must be routinely 
screened from public view. While the peace process scriptwriters insist 
that Mahmoud Abbas can bring peace where Arafat failed, the Israelis at 
least know better.

The day before the election, Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper published a 
lengthy report by Aluf Benn headlined "Quietly carrying on building," about 
how Israel's settler colonies are growing apace across the West Bank. 
Israel is drawing up construction plans in over 120 settlements across the 
occupied West Bank with the full approval and knowledge of incoming US 
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Benn says. According to an Israeli 
government source quoted in the article, "If the U.S. recognizes your claim 
that the [settlement] blocs will remain yours forever, why should it make a 
fuss when you build on your own property?" Ha'aretz added that according to 
Peace Now, an Israeli group that meticulously documents settlement 
activity, "the main building effort in the Jewish settlements in the West 
Bank is now focused on the area between the Green Line [1967 border] and 
the separation fence [apartheid wall], and it is aimed at turning the fence 
into Israel's permanent border."

So in the long-running Palestine soap opera, Abbas, the understudy who has 
been hired to replace the deceased lead actor Arafat, is being offered the 
choice of two roles by the Israeli-American scriptwriters. He can play the 
obedient native administrator of a defeated people who gets to wear a suit 
and call himself president of a fictional state, or he can don Arafat's 
kaffiyeh and assume the role of the Palestinians' unreformed "terrorist" 
leader. If he chooses the former role, he may get the political equivalent 
of an Oscar -- the Nobel Peace Prize.

But like in all soap operas, repetiveness and increasingly absurd plot 
twists eventually wear out even the most faithful audience. And when this 
episode is over, the Palestinian people will still be there, steadfastly, 
patiently, determined to regain their usurped rights and see justice done, 
come what may.

Related Links
<http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/306.shtml>BY TOPIC: Palestinian 

Ali Abunimah is a founder of The Electronic Intifada.

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