By GERRY FOLEY
The unilateral ceasefire decreed by Yasser Arafat Sept. 18 and the subsequent order by the Zionist government to withdraw Israeli troops from the areas ceded to the Palestinian Authority reflect the political pressures fostered by the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Since Arafat apparently got no promises of any new real concessions in return, his unilateral ceasefire was a retreat. At the same time, he announced his intention to join the “Alliance Against Terrorism” sponsored by the United States.
But the Zionists also had to pull back from the offensive they had launched in the wake of the slaughter in New York. The ruthlessness of their onslaught was highlighted in the remarks of the Israeli minister of defense, Binjamin Ben Eliezer, who boasted to the Hebrew daily Yedioth Aharonoth on Sept. 14: “It is a fact that we have killed 14 Palestinians in Jenin, Kabatyeh, and Tammun, with the world remaining absolutely silent. It’s a disaster for Arafat.”
On Sept. 16, the Israeli army invaded the center of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, shooting up PA security posts as well as private homes, killing one Palestinian and wounding five.
Despite Arafat’s attempt to pull back, the more intransigent organizations of the Palestinian movement, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, refused to accept Arafat’s ceasefire, and the prospects for any renewal of negotiations seemed precarious indeed.
The U.S. rulers have had some success in exploiting the revulsion against the ruthless assaults on American civilians to inflict a political setback on the national liberation movements in the Middle East. But they are not yet in a position to launch a major military assault on these movements, despite their blood-thirsty rhetoric.
Therefore, U.S. imperialism still has to maneuver, negotiate, and offer some concessions, to the apparent disappointment of the right-wing Zionist government, which had taken advantage of the shock created by the slaughter in New York and Washington to step up its attacks on the Palestinian people.
A precarious game of alliances
The Israeli premier, Ariel Sharon, had gone so far as to equate Arafat with the Islamic zealot Osama Bin Laden, named by the U.S. administration as the author of the murderous attacks on civilians in the United States. But well-informed and critical news media, like the British Guardian, reported that the U.S. authorities considered Sharon’s denunciation of Arafat as unpolitic and sought instead to drag the Palestinian leader into their “antiterrorist alliance.”
For the moment, the American rulers seem to have achieved this objective. But they have not overcome their fundamental dilemma:
Disillusion with the fruits of the the Oslo Peace accords forced Arafat to go along with the Palestinian uprising against Israel for fear of being swept aside. Critical Palestinian observers have pointed out that he is not in control of the uprising and has not even tried to lead it. For the lack of an alternative leadership with an effective program, they have warned, the movement is in danger of anarchy and exhaustion.
In order to win the support of the Palestinian masses, Arafat has to show some significant fruits of “negotiations.” But he cannot do that so long as the Zionist rulers of Israel refuse to give up their historic ambitions of maintaining a state for Jews alone. That is shown by the actual results of the Oslo Peace Accords. The Zionists really gave up nothing and in fact inflicted more suffering on the Palestinians.
U.S. imperialism has always played and continues to play a precarious game of combining an alliance with the Zionists along with collaboration with reactionary and opportunist forces in the Arab and Muslim world in order to hold back national liberation movements in the area. The “Alliance Against Terrorism” is the latest gambit in this game.
The Gulf War alliance against Saddam Hussein was a major gain for imperialism. It enabled the United States for the first time to establish U.S. bases on the Arabian peninsula.
Washington is now clearly anxious to maintain and deepen its achievement. It hopes to do that by managing to include the Zionist state openly in the “Alliance.” At the time of the Gulf War, it had to keep Israel in the closet in order to get the collaboration of the reactionary Arab regimes.
Both the suicide bombings aimed by Islamic fundamentalists against Israeli civilians, as well as the attacks by Islamic zealots in the United States, have politically strengthened Washington’s hand for the moment. However, they have not changed the basic terms of the game. It is already clear that if the U.S. can include Israel in the “Alliance,” they are going to have, at least, to subject the Zionists to some arm twisting and keep them in the background.
U.S. military strikes against real or alleged enemies in the Middle East risk blowing its cards off the table and provoking a challenge to imperialist control of this part of the world far greater than anything it has faced up until now.
Palestinian officials condemn WTC bombing
As for the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab peoples, they have recognized that the slaughter in the United States was no victory for them but in fact a blow to their political objectives. Their negative reaction was so sharp that according the Indonesian Muslim daily Republika some of the Arab politicians in the area are even arguing that the attacks were a provocation staged by the CIA and Mossad.
In view of the suffering that they endured at the hands of Zionists, who have been sustained by U.S. military and economic power, it was inevitable that some Palestinians would express satisfaction that Americans had suffered at the hands of Muslims. But far more Palestinians understood very quickly they had a common interest with the American people in deploring such senseless killing of innocents and solidarizing with the victims.
The Palestinian Authority reportedly has tried to suppress any celebrations of the attacks, whereas it has not dared to suppress protests against the Zionists.
Palestinian spokespersons have condemned the attempts of the imperialist media to play up emotional reactions among Palestinians that would appear to support the attacks. But even the U.S. media and politicians that have been trying to whip up a war spirit have not been able to link these attacks to the Palestinian movement.
In an article posted on the Arabic Media Internet Network, Daud Kutab wrote:
“The name of Osama Bin Laden was foreign to most Palestinians.He certainly is not seen as any kind of folk hero or a savior that people have any faith in.
“His photos have never been lifted in demonstrations and he has never been mentioned in statements of the various Palestinian organizations, including the radical Islamic ones like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”
Bin Laden has no history of supporting the Palestinians. They were no less oppressed by Zionism when he collaborated with the CIA in Afghanistan. The origins of his antagonism to the U.S. were religious without expressing opposition to imperialism or even Zionism as such.
In fact, in its Sept. 19 issue, L’Orient Le Jour, a French-language newspaper published in Lebanon, reported a protest by the Algerian government that the United States had ignored Islamic fundamentalist terrorism in its country that cost the lives of over 100,000 people and still refused to extradite a terrorist reponsible for a car-bomb that killed 44 people.
So much for the “Alliance Against Terrorism.” Needless to say, the Algerian statement was not reported in the big press in the imperialist countries.
An editorial in the same issue of L’Orient Le Jour pointed to the fact that the United States’s new allies against “terrorism” are really a basket of crabs that cannot long be held together and can even bite the hands of their imperialist sponsor, as Bin Laden has.
That is obvious. It is also evident that the U.S. government is playing a game that it cannot control forever. If at the moment it is emboldened, that only means that the dangers for the American people, as well as for the peoples and mass movements of the Middle East, have increased.
In Palestine itself, the frontline of the struggle against imperialism in the region, the best political answer to the imperialists’ attempts to pit one religious-political group against another is to renew the fight for a democratic, secular state-in which all citizens would have equal rights, regardless of their religious identification.