[News] Palestine - Subverting Democracy

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 5 13:23:47 EDT 2007

Subverting democracy

Joseph Massad, The Electronic Intifada, 4 July 2007

On a trip to France to hold talks with newly elected French 
president, Nicolas Sarkozy, Mahmoud Abbas takes part in a press 
conference where he appeals for an international force in Gaza so the 
PA can hold new elections and take other steps to isolate the Hamas 
government, 29 June 2007. (Omar 

As the enemies of the Palestinian people have been attacking them on 
every front -- Israel with its inquisition against Azmi Bishara and 
with him Palestinian resistance to the racist basis of the Jewish 
state inside the green line, or Hariri Inc. and its 14 March allies 
intent on proving the might of the Lebanese army at the expense of 
Palestinian civilian lives in Nahr al-Bared, and the continued siege 
by the Israeli military occupation and its US sponsor of the occupied 
territories -- the latest attack came from Palestinian collaborators 
with the enemy: the Fatah leadership abetted by the United States. 
Indeed the subversion of Middle East democracy has been the mainstay 
of US policy in the region since the CIA supported the 1949 Hosni 
al-Zaim coup that overthrew democracy in Syria. The list after that 
is long, US support for the shah of Iran's coup in 1953 against the 
Mossadegh government, destroying the Jordanian liberal parliamentary 
experience by organising a Palace coup in 1957, supporting the 
Baathist coup in Iraq in 1963 against the popular Abdul-Karim Qassim, 
and so forth. American policy has not been limited to the overthrow 
of liberal and democratic governments in the region but of actively 
supporting if not planning and abetting dictatorial rule in its place 
and training and supplying those rulers who have instituted regimes 
of extreme repression and tyranny. Its current role in subverting 
Palestinian democracy and imposing a corrupt collaborator class on 
the Palestinian people is therefore anything but novel.

In the midst of all this, Orientalist fantasies of the so-called 
exceptionalism of the Palestinian situation are being offered by 
Western pundits and their Palestinian and Arab "secular," read 
pro-American, counterparts. These experts seem to have forgotten the 
history of collaboration among the oppressed amidst tragedy and 
oppression, from the Judenrats and the Kapos, to Vietnam's Thieu, 
Angola's UNITA, South Africa's Buthelezi, Mozambique's RENAMO, 
Nicaragua's Contras, and Lebanon's South Lebanese Army under Saad 
Haddad and Antoine Lahd. The Palestinian situation is indeed the rule 
and not the exception. The only exception that the Middle East offers 
to world politics is the disproportionate imperial interest that its 
oil has attracted, and the unprecedented international support given 
to its Jewish settler colony, the two being intrinsically connected. 
It is not the Arab world that is exceptional but American strategy in 
the region and the anachronistic nature of its Jewish settler-colony. 
The resistance of Western pundits and their Arab servants to learn 
this is their resistance to any analysis that aims at resisting imperial rule.

In the case of Palestine, the US support of the Palestinian Pinochet, 
in the tradition of US propaganda, is presented as support for 
democracy, while the Palestinian democratic government's defense of 
itself against this subversion and thuggery as a coup against 
democracy. Sigmund Freud explains the process he called "projection" 
as that by which one's unconscious attributes all one's feelings (and 
actions) about the other to the other about oneself. For Freud, this 
is an unconscious process. In the case of the Palestinian putschists 
(or Lahdists, as they are now known in the Arab world) and their US 
sponsor, however, their projection of all their crimes onto Hamas is 
a conscious strategy that is part and parcel of their overall 
strategy to destroy Palestinian democracy.

Let us start with some historical precedents to the situation of 
today. The first time a legitimate Palestinian government was 
established in Gaza and prevented from extending its authority over 
other parts of Palestine was in September 1948. It was King Abdullah 
I of Jordan who at the time opposed the All-Palestine Government 
(APG) (Hukumat 'Umum Filastin), which interfered with his plan to 
annex Central Palestine to his kingdom. Indeed, the APG was 
recognised by the Arab League (who was less shamelessly subservient 
to imperial agendas at the time than it is today) as the legitimate 
representative of the Palestinian people, and the legitimate heir to 
the Arab Higher Committee. Repressive measures were undertaken by 
Jordan's king to purge the West Bank of all supporters of the APG and 
many inducements were offered to those willing to support his bid for 
annexation, dubbed "unification." Once Abdullah annexed the territory 
"legally and administratively," the "international community," i.e. 
the United Kingdom and Israel, recognized his expanded kingdom (minus 
East Jerusalem) while the Arab League continued to oppose it, at the 
prodding of the APG. The APG would soon disappear from legal and 
popular memory, with Gaza subjected to complete and total Egyptian 
administration. Central Palestine was renamed the West Bank and 
declared as part of Jordan as a step on the way to Arab unity and in 
support of the Palestinians. Opposition to the annexation was 
portrayed by the king as opposition to Arab unity and Palestinian 
liberation. This is precisely what the Fatah putschists and their 
president are hoping to achieve in the West Bank today, except that 
the unity they are seeking is an ideological one between the Fatah 
putschists and their American and Israeli and Arab sponsors.

The recent Fatah-executed putsch has been sometime in the making. 
Abbas, the Palestinian Pinochet, has been groomed for his new role 
for at least a year and a half -- longer, if you add the period when 
the US imposed him as a prime minister against Yasser Arafat, whose 
cooperation with US and Israeli plans was deemed insufficient. Ever 
since the democratic elections that dislodged the Fatah putschists 
out of power and brought in Hamas by popular majority vote, the plan 
to declare a state of emergency was set in motion at the strong 
recommendation of the Americans, whose opposition to democracy in the 
Arab world defines the bloody history and present they visited (and 
visit) upon the region. The problem was that the opportunity did not 
present itself for the plan to be executed. Not that Abbas and his 
putschist lieutenants did not try to create it. That they did with 
outright and open collaboration with the Israeli occupiers and their 
US sponsor. These included the economic siege and strangulation 
imposed by the US and the EU on the Palestinian people; Israeli 
re-invasion of the West Bank and Gaza and the kidnapping of scores of 
Hamas parliamentarians and ministers, and the burning of the prime 
minister's offices by Fatah thugs, who also attacked individual 
ministers and actively sabotaged the work of the ministries; and the 
active help of the Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence services who 
are the major consultants and advisors to Abbas at the behest of the 
Americans, and sometimes, the Israelis.

On the ideological front, this effort was aided by the pronouncements 
of collaborationist Palestinian intellectuals dubbed "secular" for 
their support of Oslo or the post-Oslo NGO income Oslo generated for 
them. Their efforts have been supplemented by pro-Hariri Lebanese 
right-wing intellectuals who stage themselves as "leftist 
pro-Palestinian activists" because in the 1970s and 1980s they had 
joined the ranks of the Gulf-financed Fatah. In recent months, the 
collaboration of the Fatah putschists could not be contained. Open 
preparation for the putsch was in full swing with the soliciting of 
US military aid and training (which was received), Israeli help in 
facilitating these efforts (also generously offered), and the 
provision of an Arab diplomatic cover (always readily available). The 
plan, whose details I discussed in an article last November (see 
"<http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6018.shtml>Pinochet in 
Palestine") is now finally being executed with all the fanfare fit 
for Augusto Pinochet himself.

The Fatah putschists, in the tradition of all unelected Arab regimes 
who have also staged their own coups against democratic forces in 
their societies over the last six decades, have declared their 
democratically elected enemies as the "putschists" who are the ones 
leading the Palestinian people into a "dark" abyss! Pinochet was not 
kinder to Allende and saw himself and his fascist US-planned coup as 
nothing short of a corrective to set the Chilean nation back on the 
right path to serving and collaborating with empire. The Palestinian 
putschists understand that they will only remain in power and 
continue to accrue financial rewards if they continue to serve the 
Israeli occupation and its US sponsor. Indeed, the Palestinian 
putschists have outdone Israel and the United States in their 
fabricated accusations against Hamas. Descriptions such as "forces of 
darkness," and "emirate of darkness," are not references to the 
Jewish racist state that has oppressed Palestinians by appealing to 
Jewish theology, racial supremacy, and massive indiscriminate 
bombings of civilians and theft of their property for the last six 
decades, but to the democratically elected Hamas who defended itself 
against the last stage of the coup that the major putschist Mohammad 
Dahlan was staging on behalf of Fatah and its Israeli and American 
sponsors in Gaza. Abbas's rhetoric, no doubt dictated to him by Condi 
Rice and Ehud Olmert, is matched by the rhetoric of Palestinian 
"intellectuals" on the payroll of Oslo and their Lebanese supporters 
(who are in turn on the payroll of Hariri Inc, and Al-Nahar 
newspaper). The major sin Hamas committed was its victory over the 
putschists after they pushed it into a corner in the hope of 
slaughtering all its leadership in Gaza. Hamas, which has been more 
than patient despite months of thuggish provocations (which include 
assassinations of its leaders, imprisonment and torture of its rank 
and file, to name the most salient acts) on the part of the 
putschists, could not but defend itself against their final onslaught.

As punishment, the Palestinian people who elected Hamas will continue 
to be subjected to the horrors visited upon them by the Americans, 
the Israelis, and the EU. The anti-democracy Americans and Europeans 
are already sending financial and diplomatic rewards to the coup 
leaders in the West Bank, as are the Israelis, although the latter 
are more cautious. Israel's major help to the putschists in the last 
few days consisted mainly in the bombardment of Gaza and arranging 
for "peace" talks with the coup leader in Sharm al-Sheikh as a 
reward. Indeed Israel, the United States, and Europe are reversing 
all the measures they had taken to punish Palestinian democracy since 
the election of Hamas in order to reward the anti-democratic coup. In 
this regard, Israel has begun returning the tax money it had been 
stealing from the Palestinian people for the last year and a half 
(about one billion US dollars). As for the illegal coup government 
convened by Abbas with the technocratic Salam Fayyad as prime 
minister, it, like its Chilean predecessor, will receive all kinds of 
aid, economic, military, diplomatic, and ideological. Let us not 
forget that the "Chicago school" technocratic economists, disciples 
of Milton Friedman, were the ones given charge of the Chilean economy 
under Pinochet and almost brought it to a halt. It is the Chilean 
example which popularised the term "technocrats" in government, which 
would become commonplace after the 1980s and which the Palestinian 
people are promised now as their salvation.

Since he led the coup against democracy, Abbas has suspended articles 
in the Palestinian basic law that require parliamentary approval of 
decisions he makes. He has also ordered the dissolution of all NGOs, 
which must now reapply for licences that will not be granted to 
Hamas-affiliated organisations, thus making them illegal. Whereas 
Hamas brought looting and disorder by some of its members under 
control within days, widespread destruction of Hamas-affiliated 
property, including social service centers, schools, and offices 
continues throughout the West Bank at the hands of Fatah thugs. In 
the meantime, Hamas members, including elected officials, have had to 
go into hiding in fear for their lives with hundreds being rounded up 
by Israel and Fatah. Reports of disappearances are rife. And all this 
is fully endorsed by the "international community" in the name of 
supporting "democracy." Indeed the very rhetoric used by Abbas and 
his Fatah junta is borrowed from US rhetoric in the "war on terror," 
especially the linking of Hamas to Iran.

In the meantime, acts that Fatah thugs organized, including throwing 
a Fatah activist (mistaken as a Hamas activist) from a tall building, 
and the like, are being blamed on Hamas by the secular chorus of 
Palestinian intellectuals (and the Saudi-owned satellite media) who 
are supporting the Fatah coup. Perhaps Mahmoud Darwish's recent poem 
in support of the coup published on the front page of the Saudi 
newspaper Al-Hayat, can be explained by the monthly checks he 
receives from the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority; and he is 
not alone. His condemnation of those secular intellectuals who 
support Palestinian democracy is a further attempt to polarize 
Palestinian society not along the lines of those who support or 
oppose Palestinian democracy, but along the lines of secularists 
versus Islamists. That the "secularists" are the ones collaborating 
with theocratic Israel to destroy democracy coded as "Islamism" is 
represented as a force of Western modernity and enlightenment. What 
is lost on Darwish and his ilk is that it is those "dark forces" of 
Islamism in Palestine that are the ones defending democracy.

The pro-coup position adopted by many of the Oslo secular 
intellectuals towards Palestinian democracy is indeed transforming 
Palestinian secularists into the "darkest force" in Palestinian 
history in decades. What we are witnessing is nothing less than the 
overall collapse of Palestinian secular example of resistance to the 
Israeli occupation. The only antidote to these forces of true 
darkness is to continue to support and mobilise for Palestinian 
democracy and to expose the anti-democracy coup leaders and their 
apologist intellectuals for what they are: collaborators with the enemy.

The writer is an associate professor of modern Arab politics and 
intellectual history at Columbia University. His recent books include 
The Persistence of the Palestinian Question and Desiring Arabs. This 
article was originally published by 
<http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/index.htm>Al-Ahram Weekly and is 
republished with the author's permission.

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