The Great Reformer
When the inhabitant of Bethlehem
came out of their homes, after the long weeks during which Israeli
soldiers shot at everything in town that moved, they discovered that the
landscape had changed. While they were imprisoned in their homes, the
army had been working day and night to separate them from the world by a
trench two meters deep and a murderous wire fence, sharp as a razor,
that could cause anyone entangled in it to bleed to death. The town and
its suburbs (Bet-Jala, the Aida and other refugee camps) had become a
This week, members of the
Palestinian parliament tried to get to the session that dealt with
"reform". The trip to Ramallah, half an hour in ordinary times, took
them four hours, including a series of humiliations at the many army
Bethlehem is a suburb if Jerusalem.
Hundreds of threads tie it to the city. All these threads are cut now.
Jerusalem is further from Bethlehem than the dark side of the moon.
This kind of fence is being erected
now in many places around the country, cutting the Palestinian enclaves off
not only from Israel, but from each other, too. The slogan is "separation",
and that sounds good to Israeli ears. "We are here and they are there," as
the lamentable Ehud Barak used to declare. The real situation is quite
different: "We are here and we are there." Because the separation is not
only unilateral, but also unidirectional. Palestinians are forbidden to
cross into Israel, but the settlers and soldiers cross into Palestine.
Sharon's war against the
Palestinian people is continuing at full speed. The erection of the fences
is only one of its operations. The second one is the settlement activity
that has not stopped for a moment. Old settlements expand, new ones spring
up and all over the occupied territories the building of bypass roads goes
on, expropriating Palestinian lands and strangling Palestinian villages.
The third operation of the war
bears the glorious title of "reform".
When Sharon declares that the reform
of the Palestinian Authority is a condition for the resumption of the
peace process, it is another device to prevent any negotiations. It also
allows Sharon to climb on the bandwagon of Bush, who is demanding a
democratic reform of the Authority (without, of course, demanding the
same from countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and
The slogan of reform also serves
another of Sharon's purposes: it attracts public attention, causes the Jenin
events to be forgotten and the daily incursions and killings of the IDF in
the Palestinian territories to be ignored.
But as the Great Reformer of
Palestine, Sharon is following a much more important agenda. As a general in the
army, he was famous as a commander who "reads the battlefield", meaning that he
had the ability to grasp instinctively where the crucial spot in the enemy front
is located. For example: long before the October 1973 war, Sharon had decided
exactly were he would break through the Egyptian front and cross the Suez canal
when the time arrived.
Sharon decided long ago that the
crucial point in the Palestinian front is the leadership of Yasser
Arafat. Many believe that Sharon's efforts to eliminate the Palestinian
leader spring from a personal vendetta, after Arafat slipped out of his
hands in Beirut. But the matter is far more serious.
Sharon knows that if he succeeded in
breaking Arafat, we would be breaking the backbone of the Palestinian
people for many years to come - years in which he could finish the job
of filling the territories with settlements and annexing them to Israel.
Arafat is a strong and authoritative leader, who holds all the strands
of the Palestinian people together, preventing a civil war between them
and is the only one who can take courageous, historic decisions.
Many different parties are now
speaking about reforming the Palestinian Authority, and each one of them has
a different agenda. For Sharon, reform means doing away with Arafat and
installing a group of Quislings (as he tried 20 years ago with the creation
of the "village leagues".) For Bush, "reform" means appointing a Palestinian
leadership that will follow his (and, indirectly, Israel's) orders, in
return for the creation of a Palestinian client-state like Puerto Rica or
Andorra (as Netanyahu once said).
Among the Palestinians
themselves, some see reform simply as a means to push their rivals out and take
their place. I suspect that some of the reform-toting Palestinians work for the
Mossad and/or the CIA. Hamas hopes that the reform will bring about the collapse
of the Palestinian Authority and clear the way for its own takeover. Other
Palestinians are striving honestly for the immediate establishment of practices
appropriate for an ordered state, quite ignoring the fact that the Palestinian
people is still in the middle of a fight for its very existence, faced with the
real danger of finally being driven out of its country.
Many Palestinians want a
different reform: one that will cut out the parasitical elements, which have
attached themselves to the Palestinian authority, and prepare the Palestinian
people for the next, decisive stage of its struggle for liberation. Not reform
instead of the struggle, but reform for the struggle. None of them intends to
fulfill the dream of Sharon and Bush to liquidate Arafat or turn him into a
Palestinian facsimile of Moshe Katzav, the figurehead President of Israel.
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haGalil onLine 19-05-2002