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Joseph Massad: Subverting democracy

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    Pious words about promoting democracy in the Middle East are belied by the long history of US machinations. Subverting democracy Joseph Massad
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 3, 2007
      Pious words about promoting democracy in the Middle East are belied by
      the long history of US machinations.

      Subverting democracy
      Joseph Massad

      As the enemies of the Palestinian people have been attacking them on
      every front -- Israel with its inquisition against Azmi Bishara and
      with him Palestinian resistance to the racist basis of the Jewish
      state inside the green line, or Hariri Inc. and its 14 March allies
      intent on proving the might of the Lebanese army at the expense of
      Palestinian civilian lives in Nahr Al-Bared, and the continued siege
      by the Israeli military occupation and its US sponsor of the occupied
      territories -- the latest attack came from Palestinian collaborators
      with the enemy: the Fatah leadership abetted by the United States.
      Indeed the subversion of Middle East democracy has been the mainstay
      of US policy in the region since the CIA supported the 1949 Hosni
      Al-Zaim coup that overthrew democracy in Syria. The list after that is
      long, US support for the shah of Iran's coup in 1953 against the
      Mossadegh government, destroying the Jordanian liberal parliamentary
      experience by organising a Palace coup in 1957, supporting the
      Baathist coup in Iraq in 1963 against the popular Abdul-Karim Qassim,
      and so forth. American policy has not been limited to the overthrow of
      liberal and democratic governments in the region but of actively
      supporting if not planning and abetting dictatorial rule in its place
      and training and supplying those rulers who have instituted regimes of
      extreme repression and tyranny. Its current role in subverting
      Palestinian democracy and imposing a corrupt collaborator class on the
      Palestinian people is therefore anything but novel.

      In the midst of all this, Orientalist fantasies of the so- called
      exceptionalism of the Palestinian situation are being offered by
      Western pundits and their Palestinian and Arab "secular", read
      pro-American, counterparts. These experts seem to have forgotten the
      history of collaboration among the oppressed amidst tragedy and
      oppression, from the Judenrats and the Kapos, to Vietnam's Thieu,
      Angola's UNITA, South Africa's Buthelezi, Mozambique's RENAMO,
      Nicaragua's Contras, and Lebanon's South Lebanese Army under Saad
      Haddad and Antoine Lahd. The Palestinian situation is indeed the rule
      and not the exception. The only exception that the Middle East offers
      to world politics is the disproportionate imperial interest that its
      oil has attracted, and the unprecedented international support given
      to its Jewish settler colony, the two being intrinsically connected.
      It is not the Arab world that is exceptional but American strategy in
      the region and the anachronistic nature of its Jewish settler-colony.
      The resistance of Western pundits and their Arab servants to learn
      this is their resistance to any analysis that aims at resisting
      imperial rule.

      In the case of Palestine, the US support of the Palestinian Pinochet,
      in the tradition of US propaganda, is presented as support FOR
      democracy, while the Palestinian democratic government's defence of
      itself against this subversion and thuggery as a coup against
      democracy. Sigmund Freud explains the process he called "projection"
      as that by which one's unconscious attributes all one's feelings (and
      actions) about the other to the other about oneself. For Freud, this
      is an unconscious process. In the case of the Palestinian putschists
      (or Lahdists, as they are now known in the Arab world) and their US
      sponsor, however, their projection of all their crimes onto Hamas is a
      conscious strategy that is part and parcel of their overall strategy
      to destroy Palestinian democracy.

      Let us start with some historical precedents to the situation of
      today. The first time a legitimate Palestinian government was
      established in Gaza and prevented from extending its authority over
      other parts of Palestine was in September 1948. It was King Abdullah I
      of Jordan who at the time opposed the All-Palestine Government (APG) (
      Hukumat 'Umum Filastin ), which interfered with his plan to annex
      Central Palestine to his kingdom. Indeed, the APG was recognised by
      the Arab League (who was less shamelessly subservient to imperial
      agendas at the time than it is today) as the legitimate representative
      of the Palestinian people, and the legitimate heir to the Arab Higher
      Committee. Repressive measures were undertaken by Jordan's king to
      purge the West Bank of all supporters of the APG and many inducements
      were offered to those willing to support his bid for annexation,
      dubbed "unification". Once Abdullah annexed the territory "legally and
      administratively", the "international community", i.e. the United
      Kingdom and Israel, recognised his expanded kingdom (minus East
      Jerusalem) while the Arab League continued to oppose it, at the
      prodding of the APG. The APG would soon disappear from legal and
      popular memory, with Gaza subjected to complete and total Egyptian
      administration. Central Palestine was renamed the West Bank and
      declared as part of Jordan as a step on the way to Arab unity and in
      support of the Palestinians. Opposition to the annexation was
      portrayed by the king as opposition to Arab unity and Palestinian
      liberation. This is precisely what the Fatah putschists and their
      president are hoping to achieve in the West Bank today, except that
      the unity they are seeking is an ideological one between the Fatah
      putschists and their American and Israeli and Arab sponsors.

      The recent Fatah-executed putsch has been sometime in the making.
      Abbas, the Palestinian Pinochet, has been groomed for his new role for
      at least a year and a half -- longer, if you add the period when the
      US imposed him as a prime minister against Yasser Arafat, whose
      cooperation with US and Israeli plans was deemed insufficient. Ever
      since the democratic elections that dislodged the Fatah putschists out
      of power and brought in Hamas by popular majority vote, the plan to
      declare a state of emergency was set in motion at the strong
      recommendation of the Americans, whose opposition to democracy in the
      Arab world defines the bloody history and present they visited (and
      visit) upon the region. The problem was that the opportunity did not
      present itself for the plan to be executed. Not that Abbas and his
      putschist lieutenants did not try to create it. That they did with
      outright and open collaboration with the Israeli occupiers and their
      US sponsor. These included the economic siege and strangulation
      imposed by the US and the EU on the Palestinian people; Israeli
      re-invasion of the West Bank and Gaza and the kidnapping of scores of
      Hamas parliamentarians and ministers, and the burning of the prime
      minister's offices by Fatah thugs, who also attacked individual
      ministers and actively sabotaged the work of the ministries; and the
      active help of the Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence services who
      are the major consultants and advisors to Abbas at the behest of the
      Americans, and sometimes, the Israelis.

      On the ideological front, this effort was aided by the pronouncements
      of collaborationist Palestinian intellectuals dubbed "secular" for
      their support of Oslo or the post-Oslo NGO income Oslo generated for
      them. Their efforts have been supplemented by pro-Hariri Lebanese
      right-wing intellectuals who stage themselves as "leftist
      pro-Palestinian activists" because in the 1970s and 1980s they had
      joined the ranks of the Gulf-financed Fatah. In recent months, the
      collaboration of the Fatah putschists could not be contained. Open
      preparation for the putsch was in full swing with the soliciting of US
      military aid and training (which was received), Israeli help in
      facilitating these efforts (also generously offered), and the
      provision of an Arab diplomatic cover (always readily available). The
      plan, whose details I discussed in an article in Al-Ahram Weekly last
      November (see "Pinochet in Palestine" in the 9-15 November 2006 issue)
      is now finally being executed with all the fanfare fit for Augusto
      Pinochet himself.

      The Fatah putschists, in the tradition of all unelected Arab regimes
      who have also staged their own coups against democratic forces in
      their societies over the last six decades, have declared their
      democratically elected enemies as the "putschists" who are the ones
      leading the Palestinian people into a "dark" abyss! Pinochet was not
      kinder to Allende and saw himself and his fascist US-planned coup as
      nothing short of a corrective to set the Chilean nation back on the
      right path to serving and collaborating with empire. The Palestinian
      putschists understand that they will only remain in power and continue
      to accrue financial rewards if they continue to serve the Israeli
      occupation and its US sponsor. Indeed the Palestinian putschists have
      outdone Israel and the United States in their fabricated accusations
      against Hamas. Descriptions such as "forces of darkness", and "emirate
      of darkness", are not references to the Jewish racist state that has
      oppressed Palestinians by appealing to Jewish theology, racial
      supremacy, and massive indiscriminate bombings of civilians and theft
      of their property for the last six decades, but to the democratically
      elected Hamas who defended itself against the last stage of the coup
      that the major putschist Mohamed Dahlan was staging on behalf of Fatah
      and its Israeli and American sponsors in Gaza. Abbas's rhetoric, no
      doubt dictated to him by Condy Rice and Ehud Olmert, is matched by the
      rhetoric of Palestinian "intellectuals" on the payroll of Oslo and
      their Lebanese supporters (who are in turn on the payroll of Hariri
      Inc, and Al-Nahar newspaper). The major sin Hamas committed was its
      victory over the putschists after they pushed it into a corner in the
      hope of slaughtering all its leadership in Gaza. Hamas, which has been
      more than patient despite months of thuggish provocations (which
      include assassinations of its leaders, imprisonment and torture of its
      rank and file, to name the most salient acts) on the part of the
      putschists, could not but defend itself against their final onslaught.

      As punishment, the Palestinian people who elected Hamas will continue
      to be subjected to the horrors visited upon them by the Americans, the
      Israelis, and the EU. The anti-democracy Americans and Europeans are
      already sending financial and diplomatic rewards to the coup leaders
      in the West Bank, as are the Israelis, although the latter are more
      cautious. Israel's major help to the putschists in the last few days
      consisted mainly in the bombardment of Gaza and arranging for "peace"
      talks with the coup leader in Sharm El-Sheikh as a reward. Indeed
      Israel, the United States, and Europe are reversing all the measures
      they had taken to punish Palestinian democracy since the election of
      Hamas in order to reward the anti- democratic coup. In this regard,
      Israel has begun returning the tax money it had been stealing from the
      Palestinian people for the last year and a half (about one billion US
      dollars). As for the illegal coup government convened by Abbas with
      the technocratic Salam Fayyad as prime minister, it, like its Chilean
      predecessor, will receive all kinds of aid, economic, military,
      diplomatic, and ideological. Let us not forget that the "Chicago
      school" technocratic economists, disciples of Milton Friedman, were
      the ones given charge of the Chilean economy under Pinochet and almost
      brought it to a halt. It is the Chilean example which popularised the
      term "technocrats" in government, which would become commonplace after
      the 1980s and which the Palestinian people are promised now as their

      Since he led the coup against democracy, Abbas has suspended articles
      in the Palestinian basic law that require parliamentary approval of
      decisions he makes. He has also ordered the dissolution of all NGOs,
      which must now reapply for licences that will not be granted to
      Hamas-affiliated organisations, thus making them illegal. Whereas
      Hamas brought looting and disorder by some of its members under
      control within days, widespread destruction of Hamas-affiliated
      property, including social service centers, schools, and offices
      continues throughout the West Bank at the hands of Fatah thugs. In the
      meantime, Hamas members, including elected officials, have had to go
      into hiding in fear for their lives with hundreds being rounded up by
      Israel and Fatah. Reports of disappearances are rife. And all this is
      fully endorsed by the "international community" in the name of
      supporting "democracy." Indeed the very rhetoric used by Abbas and his
      Fatah junta is borrowed from US rhetoric in the "war on terror,"
      especially the linking of Hamas to Iran.

      In the meantime, acts that Fatah thugs organized, including throwing a
      Fatah activist (mistaken as a Hamas activist) from a tall building,
      and the like, are being blamed on Hamas by the secular chorus of
      Palestinian intellectuals (and the Saudi-owned satellite media) who
      are supporting the Fatah coup. Perhaps Mahmoud Darwish's recent poem
      in support of the coup published on the front page of the Saudi
      newspaper Al-Hayat, can be explained by the monthly checks he receives
      from the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority; and he is not alone.
      His condemnation of those secular intellectuals who support
      Palestinian democracy is a further attempt to polarize Palestinian
      society not along the lines of those who support or oppose Palestinian
      democracy, but along the lines of secularists versus Islamists. That
      the "secularists" are the ones collaborating with theocratic Israel to
      destroy democracy coded as "Islamism" is represented as a force of
      Western modernity and enlightenment. What is lost on Darwish and his
      ilk is that it is those "dark forces" of Islamism in Palestine that
      are the ones defending democracy.

      The pro-coup position adopted by many of the Oslo secular
      intellectuals towards Palestinian democracy is indeed transforming
      Palestinian secularists into the "darkest force" in Palestinian
      history in decades. What we are witnessing is nothing less than the
      overall collapse of Palestinian secular example of resistance to the
      Israeli occupation. The only antidote to these forces of true darkness
      is to continue to support and mobilise for Palestinian democracy and
      to expose the anti- democracy coup leaders and their apologist
      intellectuals for what they are: collaborators with the enemy.

      * The writer is an associate professor of modern Arab politics and
      intellectual history at Columbia University. His recent books include
      The Persistence of the Palestinian Question and Desiring Arabs.



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