A Green Light to Slaughter

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In the Sharm-al-Sheikh summit last week, Barak got from the US his green light to slaughter. To judge by the Israeli media, what we have seen so far is just the prelude. "The most important will come in the middle of next week, when… Israel will have to consider taking the initiative, rather than merely responding to events." (‘Haaretz’, Amos Harel, Oct 19.00) Bits and pieces of the "initiative" have been revealed: It includes entering PA areas "to confiscate weapons," and ‘inevitable’ air raids.

There is talk about the Palestinian Kosovo, with 2000-3000 Palestinians dead. As usual, the blame for this slaughter is put in advance on Arafat, who, the story goes, wants his people to be slaughtered, to gain international sympathy. Another aspect of what is being planned has started already, with very little coverage, under the calm title of ‘evacuation’. Palestinian residents of’ areas of conflict’ near Jewish settlements have been called to evacuate their homes "for their own protection." So far this happened in El-Bireh (7.10), Beit-Jallah (18.10) and the Askar refugee camp near Nablus (19.10). And this is just the beginning.

In more direct words – transfer under the pretext of war. The military preparations and training for the Israeli attack have started already in June, when Barak first informed the Israeli media that "there is a danger of a Palestinian unrest, following the model of Southern Lebanon." But to get there, it was first necessary to manifest Barak’s unprecedented eagerness for peace. The model was rehearsed on Syria earlier this year: Intensive "peace talks" at the end of which Barak declared that there is no partner for peace. The Camp David "peace round" was sufficient to convince the obedient Israeli media that the same is true of the Palestinians. All that was still needed was US approval. U.S. APPROVAL For three weeks now, Barak has been dragging full execution, waiting for US green light. As reported in early October, "Israeli Prim><imnister Ehud Barak is appealing to the United States for approval of a massive offensive against Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. So far, the United States has appealed to Barak for more time." (World Tribune, Oct 9) We may have been fooled to believe he won't get US approval this time.

There is so much opposition to Israel’s acts throughout the world. The Arab world is storming with demonstrations. US embassies had to close temporarily, and the Yemen explosion was some indication of the burning soil. The US was first cautious – not even the customary vetoing of the Security Council resolution.

CNN – the most direct seismograph of the White House – betrayed the hesitations. There was a week when sharp criticism of Israel was allowed in their news, along with the standard pro-Israeli propaganda, and even Edward Said got a full-length interview, probably for the first time in CNN’s history. But no more! – The three weeks of deliberations did end with a green light. Intensive diplomacy of threats and promises convinced the US that the Arab regimes could still be relied upon to stand their people’s pressure. They expect the Arab-league summit to end up as a harmless ceremony. They believe that when it ends, the tanks can start talking, undisturbed. For the US, this is a dangerous game.

But what’s at stake here is not just its automatic backing of Israel. The explosive Arab anger has been directed at the US no less than Israel. The rational move for the US would have been to cool things off for now, to stop Barak. But that has never been the US strategy. They can’t tolerate even the slight disobedience of loyal servants. They have to show who is the master. ARAFAT’S ROLE in the Sharm-al-Sheikh summit, Arafat complied again. We may have been fooled to believe that this time, under the pressure of his people, he is going to change.

But it is too late for him to change. The tragedy of the Palestinian people is that the person who in the past symbolized their struggle in the world’s eyes has turned into an executer of the Israeli occupation. The substantial issue which was worked out in the summit, behind the public show of "cease fire", was the security agreement, which guarantees Arafat’s continued commitment to do the security job for Israel, namely, prevent Palestinian retaliations inside Israel. As reported in ‘haaretz’, "its implementation will be overseen by CIA chief George Tenet and the CIA representative in Tel Aviv. This agreement will, for the first time, involve CIA observers in the field in addition to CIA participation in Israeli-Palestinian meetings." (‘Haaretz’, Aluf Ben, Oct 18.00) Indeed, just a day after the summit, Israeli undercover unit seized eight Palestinians who were in the crowd that lynched two Israeli soldiers a week before. "The operation was carried out with the connivance of some members of the Palestinian security forces, who apparently tipped off the Israelis where to find the men." (‘The Telegraph’ (U.K.), Alan Phillips in Jerusalem, 19 October 2000) The official propaganda in Israel is that Arafat is responsible for the uprising, and "he is not a real partner for peace." Not only does this provide the continuous justification for the planned slaughter, but it is also the biggest service Israel can offer in return for Arafat’s compliance. Israel’s constant ‘dissatisfaction’ with Arafat is his only claim for credibility. When Israel intensified its murder of unarmed demonstrators, on Friday the 20th (with 10 dead in one day) Arafat’s spokesman, Arikaat, was interviewed pleading no other then the US to investigate and to protect the Palestinians. This follows another concession of Arafat at Sharm- al-Sheikh- No more pleas to the international community. From now on, Little Red Riding hood can only call the wolf to protect her. If there is anything that could still prevent the bloodshed, it is international intervention. International inspectors, UN forces, or even just NGO volunteers present in the area could potentially slow down Israeli forces. It is therefore extremely important now to understand Arafat’s collaborating role, and to remember that it is Israel, rather than the Palestinian people, who view the US as the ‘neutral moderator’. 

 * Tanya Reinhart is a professor in Tel Aviv University