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[Nettime-bold] Or even speaking from Amsterdam (long)
Carl Guderian on Fri, 19 Apr 2002 14:01:01 +0200 (CEST)


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[Nettime-bold] Or even speaking from Amsterdam (long)


I briefly attended a pro-Palestinian protest last Saturday, but left
before it became unruly. According to the papers, some demonstrators,
apparently kids of Moroccan extraction, threw rocks at the Hotel
Krasnapolsky on the Dam and even attacked a gay nightclub called iT, far
from the parade route. What was *that* all about? There were a few
banners equating the Israelis with Nazis, but most just expressed
outrage at the Israeli invasions in particular and policy in general.

I can understand Ms. Fallaci's worry about anti-Israeli sentiment
degenerating into anti-semitism. It's an old
habit, and not just of the Left, of being to easy on one's allies. But
does my disgust at Sharon's murderous opportunism translate into
admiration for Arafat or the suicide bombers? Of course not. That's a
strawman argument, like equating the global protest movement with the
Black Bloc. And Berlusconi's always been soft on fascism and his media
propeties reflected that long before this crisis. She does have a point
in that the protest movement should have something to say about the
swastikas, cemeteries and attacks. And we could certainly spare a few
harsh words for Arafat and the people encouraging the suicide bombers
(but we're kidding ourselves if we think the bombings will stop if the
leaders are captured).

So here are few:

Even before the routine suicide bombings, Arafat and his Palestinian
Authority reminded me of former Washington D.C. Mayor (early to late
1990s) Marion Barry and his crony-ridden administration. Both leaders
had glorious pasts--Arafat as PLO terrorist, Barry as civil rights
activist--but later became puppet emperors of their
neither-fish-nor-fowl domains. The Palestinian territories are
bantustans without control over basic infrastructure like electricity
and water, and always under the Israeli guns. DC is a city with the many
of the obligations of a state but none of the powers associated with one
and no votes in the House or the Senate. It's subject to a Senate
committee that's been dominated by Republicans at least since 1992 and
DC is policed not only by DC cops, but also the FBI, Secret Service, US
Park Police, US Marshals and others. It even had a referendum (medical
marijuana) annulled, by a Senate budgetary trick.

The PA provided some law and order and the space necessary for life to
carry on, but was also used to process bribes, settle grudges and carry
out reprisals against "collaborators" who sold their businesses and land
allotments to Israelis. I suspect Arafat only pretended to have control
over Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, to give him face and
bargaining leverage in exchange for political cover and lack of close
scrutiny. Then they realized they didn't need him anymore. But how can
*anyone* control a loose organization of angry people in a land where
guns and bombs are as common as cobblestones? In the less deadly Barry
regime, cops were shaking down gays for money while a city limousine
carried Barry around on his whoring rounds, and his wife Cora Masters
carried on like Lady MacBeth. Parking meters were beheaded, the schools
declined and property values plummeted. Barry dispensed jobs to his
cronies, but had little actual power, thanks to Senate Republicans. I
liked living there (1996-1998) though, but wondered if we'd ever be rid
of him.

The dynamic in both cases was unequal opponents playing political
chicken, with the citizens staked out on the highway between them. In DC
the deadlock was finally broken when Barry was bought off with a
professorship and North Carolina Sen. Lauch Faircloth lost his election
(actually Faircloth was good for DC but he really hated Barry). Former
City Controller Anthony Williams won the election and DC began to
recover immediately. Until then, Barry won majority votes on the
strength of popular hatred for the Senate committe. Likewise with
Arafat. He's a local hero for standing up to the Israelis. Absent the
crisis, he'd have been deservedly pushed out long ago. And I know there
are a lot of Israelis who'd like to kick Sharon's ass from Haifa to
Hebron for feeding, if not actually precipitating, the crisis.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict of course won't be solved so easily,
but before anything else, pack Arafat off to Paris to his sweet young
wife and enough stolen money to finish his life in idle luxury (it's the
cheapest option, trust me) and force Sharon to resign. Now. The
Arafat-Sharon dynamic is a familiar one and it's a downward spiral.

No more bulldozing. Shut down settlements, starting with the most recent
ones. Maybe leave some really old ones, but make them pay rent to the
Palestinians. Consolidate the Palestinian territories into a contiguous
region. Give up some of the Gaza strip but keep the Golan Heights
because it's militarily stupid to give away the high ground. Since
Israel needs the security, keep the checkpoints but bring in UN
observers, to stop the petty humiliations. Have Israel ship their
prisoners to the Hague to be tried there. The US has the $2.7 billion,
but if they won't use that leverage, the EU can boycott Israeli software
and lettuce and whatever else and throw Israeli spies in jail when we
catch them. (Recently the Dutch learned that an Israeli company that
sold it spying equipment was spying on the Dutch government.) Go around
the US. If Chavez can beat the CIA, Europe and the Middle East can do so
in Israel. Bush and Powell can either get serous or piss off.

No anti-semitism in the foregoing, I hope. Not really anti-Israeli
sentiment either.

If I were Fallacci, I'd steer clear of any Israel hotel named after King
David. Menachem Begin may be dead, but maybe some old Irgun Zvi Leumi
member might have a flashback and think the place is full of Brits and
it's 1946 again. Last time they warned the hotel first, but next time,
who knows? Just a tip.

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