An American Thumbs down for Palestinian Freedom


It is abundantly evident that the Bush Administration does not wish to get “entangled” in the Palestinian struggle for independence. One of the architects of this policy is Colin Powell, who eight years ago, as National Security adviser, recommended that Clinton ignore the rumblings in the Balkans. Milosovic was reckoned to be a man worthy of our business. All America bothered to do was ask for an end to the “ethnic cleansing”, in carefully measured diplomatic tones. Powell’s attitude was “we don’t like it, but its not our business”. This geo-political accountant explained that, given the absence of Balkan oil equivalents, America had no national interest in even sending a stern warning to the Serb Army romping through Croatia with their daggers out for the Bosnians. A few million ruined lives later, there are tens of thousands in Balkan cemetery plots to testify to Colin’s callous advice. The Powell doctrine, as it became known, was tested in multiple laboratories in Rwanda, in Chechnya and in Kosovo. Powell didn’t notice the results because he was off making his millions in the media industry.

Here we go again. Following in the steps of his mentor, Al Haig, Powell has given Sharon a green light to pursue a military solution to his Palestinian problems. Not a single word of remorse for the 400 Palestinian dead and the thousands of injured has emerged from the lips of a Bush Administration official. They feel the quality of ‘life under occupation’ needs some improvement, but nothing disturbs them about the conduct of Ariel Sharon’s goons.

Apparently, the human rights officials at the State Department have been told to watch their language and make sure it rhymes harmonically with the verbiage being used by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. To prove fealty to the cause of repressing the Palestinians, the Bush Administration has gone so far as to rebuff all approaches from NATO allies. It has also set out to punish Colombia for daring to cast a UN Security Council vote in favor of protecting the Palestinians. This is the diplomatic equivalent of censuring New Zealand for advocating East Timorese independence. The Americans want it to be known that they have no opinions on Palestinian aspirations for independence and, more over, they don’t want anyone else to voice an opinion.

Taking full advantage of the backdrop of the American spy plane spat with China, the administration put on earplugs and refused to discuss the Palestinian uprising when President Mubarak and King Abdallah visited. Powell and Bush only had so much time for a gripe session before they changed the subject to “ending the violence” and “improving trade”. In what has to be a first, The State Department also demanded that Mubarak increase the censorship of the Egyptian press. They initiated this radical policy on the grounds that a few Egyptian cartoonist had offended Abe Foxman of the ADL, a man desperately grasping for an issue to cover up his involvement in the Mark Rich affair. It is worth noting that the Washington Post Company, the owner of NewsWeek, was deeply involved in the campaign to pressure Mubarak into censoring Egyptian journalists. In the view of this ‘national’ newspaper, freedom of the press is not something Egyptians should be allowed to dabble in.

In a coordinated move, a number of Congressmen on the AIPAC payroll also decided to join the Mubarak ambush and threatened Egypt with a cut-off of aid. All this for daring to voice dissent against Israeli repression. Bush wants the Palestinians to “behave” in accordance with their status as an oppressed people. And he wants the Egyptians to stop complaining about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. He made it known that he wants the feeble Arafat to stop the Palestinians from resisting Israeli military rule. The hapless Arafat, an expert at deferring the dreams of his people, was being asked to sign on the dotted line as an official Quisling. Mubarak and Abdallah, who was in Washington as a representative of the Arab League, were basically told to send their complaints to somebody who cares. If they were looking for a fair hearing, they have not been listening. George Bush and Colin Powell are completely indifferent to anything the Israelis do. By Republican estimations, this is no percentage in challenging the Israeli lobby in Washington. Mid-term elections are already being launched, and George Bush cannot afford to lose a single Senate vote to the cause of Palestinian freedom.

Under Powell’s guidance, America is choosing to ignore the vocal Palestinian rebellion against belligerent foreign rule and will treat it with a “crisis management” attitude. This new policy, a reincarnation of the Powell doctrine, has certain assumptions. The most serious flaw is that it is predicated on Sharon’s ability to inflict enough harm against the Palestinians to keep them “in their place”. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict will be dealt with only when politically expedient, strategically unavoidable and cost-free.

The new conventional wisdom in the administration is to accept Sharon’s ruse of not negotiating until the ‘violence’ ends. Sharon was left with the option of avoiding pesky negotiations by simply intensifying the daily violence inflicted by the Israeli occupation army. This formula allows the Israeli army a free hand in tormenting the Palestinians until they cave in, abandon their dreams of freedom and accept Israeli military rule as the law of the land. All the while, the administration will continue to finance Israel’s real-estate fantasies.

Now, people of common decency can complain about the obvious racism inherent in these American policies. And make no mistake, a vile racist dogma is certainly a part of the recipe used to manufacture and sustain these policies. After all, this is the very same crew that resisted sanctions against Apartheid South Africa. They come to office with a well-documented history of tolerating racist and repressive regimes from Chile to South Africa to Israel. A reluctant African-American, the Secretary of State will, no doubt, respond to this charge with a perfunctory: “who me a racist?” Well, Colin, what exactly was your position on sanctions against South Africa when you served in the Reagan Administration?

The last few months have revealed the intentions of this Administration to give full backing to Israeli policy, regardless of Israeli conduct. It is fruitless to appeal to the decency of Colin Powell or other American policy makers. Their reservoirs of decency have long been depleted. There is no magic number of Palestinian casualties that will make them “see the light”. These guys are not duped media consumers who buy into the New York Times campaign to sanitize Sharon. They know Sharon and they know the risks involved in encouraging this serial mass murderer. They are willing enablers who calculate the value of Palestinian lives with the same dispassionate attitude they count the flow of contributions to the campaigns of mid-term candidates.

Powell will wait and see if he needs to do anything more than hand over the American veto to the Israeli ambassador at the United Nations. He will modify his position only if the Israeli lobby has a change of heart about the wisdom of backing Sharon. Likewise, George Bush is not one to be moved by the struggle for basic liberties. He is content to let the Israeli lobby have its way with Middle East policy, so long as he gets some backing for his prized domestic policy.

Once again, Powell is offering us another failed policy designed to humiliate Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular. Israel’s Air strikes against Lebanon are just the latest chapter of the predictable escalation that comes with handing a demented war criminal like Sharon this much rope. It is a policy that is destined to result in thousands of new casualties and confirm the already strong belief among Arabs that America’s official posture towards the people of the Middle East are a product of religious and ethnic bigotry. Increasing the animosity between Americans and the Arabs is something Sharon will never complain about. In his political dictionary, that is just one additional bonus.

Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)

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