[bounce from unsubbed] Socialist Party USA Presidential Candidate on the Middle East C risis

Les Schaffer godzilla at SPAMnetmeg.net
Tue Oct 17 11:30:13 MDT 2000

[bounced forward from "Pelz, Bill" <bpelz at mail.elgin.cc.il.us>
    McReynolds on Middle East

The deepening Middle east crisis requires an immediate response from the
Socialist Party's Presidential candidate.

I do not claim to speak for the SP, only as its candidate for President.

First, a word on the attack on the off the coast of Yemen on the US
destroyer Cole.

The loss of 17 lives of men and women on the Cole is tragic. They were
not the creators of US policy, nor did they determine the destination
of the Cole. However Americans need to realize that this act of terror
was carried out against a military target, that other parts of the
American military regime bomb Iraq almost daily, and deliberately
bombed civilian targets in Serbia during the recent war. Nor should we
forget how President Clinton sought to distract public attention from
the Lewinsky matter by his orders to bomb Sudan and Afghanistan at a
critical moment in that investigation.

 I regret any loss of life in military actions, whether those who died
 on the Cole, or those who died in Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and
 Serbia from US air strikes. But the last emotion Americans should
 feel is surprise. It is long past time to curb our military and end
 military excursions abroad.

The deeper and more serious matter is the crisis in the Middle East,
which seemed to blow up from almost nowhere, destroying the peace
process, and creating a climate in which the attack on the Cole may
prove only a small taste of tragedies to come. The news this morning
of a tentative cease fire is certainly welcome, but the situation is
so tense it is doubtful if the ceasefire can hold.

If there was an immediate point from which this crisis can be dated,
it was the visit of Ariel Sharon, guarded by hundreds of Israeli
troops, to a disputed holy site in old Jerusalem. Sharon is a war
criminal and his action was certain to inflame the Muslim world.  it
seemed to be a move on Sharon's part to regain control of the far
right Likud party, since Netanyahu, Sharon's opposition in the Likud
Party, had just been found innocent of criminal charges by an Israeli
court and was about to resume active political life. I doubt that
Sharon intended to set off what is now clearly "the second intifada"
-- he only hoped to outmaneuver an opponent in the Byzantine Israeli
political world.

However in the Middle East few things are easy to calculate, and
within hours of Sharon's provocation, Arab crowds had taken to the
streets, a terrified Palestinian child was captured on camera, moments
before he was shot and killed by Israeli troops, and the rioting
began. Thus far over 100 people have been killed, the toll is rising
daily, and the overwhelming majority of those killed have been

Both sides have behaved as if in a tribal battle. Palestinians lynched
two Israeli soldiers who had made a wrong turn in Palestinian
territory.  Meanwhile fundamentalist Jewish settlers took to the
streets as a lynch mob of their own.

The background for the spreading violence began much earlier than
Sharon's provocation at the Temple Mount.  It is now clear that the
failure of Camp David in July to meet some of the key Palestinian
demands had left the situation uneasy. Arafat, whose health is poor
and whose control over the "streets" uncertain, was reluctant to make
further concessions. The issue of

Jerusalem was not settled. The checkerboard pattern of the Palestian
territory was broken up with Jewish settlements, still being
constructed under Barak's Administration. If one looks at the
compromises that had been made, Arafat had surely given up more than
the Israelis, unless one believes the Israelis have a right to occupy
the West Bank and Gaza. The deliberate and continuing Israeli policy
of settlements in the West Bank was a time bomb.

At the moment many American commentators are blaming Arafat for the
tragedy.  Some have said that "Arafat doesn't know how to say yes",
that the deal offered by Barak was the best he could have hoped
for. Certainly when one reflects that only three weeks before this
wave of killing broke out, Arafat and Barak dined together at Barak's
home, there is terrible heartache at the current violence.

The "truth", if one can be found, is that both Barak and Arafat were
trapped by their own people. Barak had indeed given significant
ground, as had Arafat. Both men worried that their supporters would
drift away. In the case of Barak, to Likud. In the case of Arafat, to
more miliant Islamic groups.  The two sides came close, but not close
enough. (Barak now, as his career seems doomed to come to an end, has
made the final fatal compromise of inviting Sharon into a "unity"
cabinet - even the invitation is an admission of defeat and an end of
the peace process).

Blame is not helpful, though some facts must be seen for what they
are. The Israelis have unleashed tanks, helicopters, and live
ammunition on Palestinians who, for the most part, are armed only with
slingshots. If this is not a war, it will do until the real thing
comes along. The casualties are overwhelmingly civilian and
Palestinian. This is one reason that Israel is isolated on the
international stage, one reason why the Security Council voted almost
unanimously (the US abstained) to condemn Israeli actions.

Pro-Israeli commentators in the US have said that what Israel needs is
a friend, not an honest broker. In fact what the people of the Middle
East need is a US policy which is not tilted toward either Israel nor
the Palestinians, but toward the common future of the children in this
region.  If the violence continues two things are certain. One is that
Israel, being far more heavily armed, will inflict heavier casualties
on the Palestinians.  Second, far from silencing the Palestinians, it
is inevitable that Israel will see a return to the terrorism which
until recently had haunted its cities.

As others have said, the Israelis cannot destroy the Palestinians,
though they can kill many of them. And the Palestinians - and even a
united Arab world - cannot destroy Israel. In the end, either the two
sides return to the peace table, or they will spend another bloody
quarter of a century, Israeli democracy further eroded, Palestinian
hopes further postponed, children on both sides raised to hate and

The US must not take the side of Israel. Military and economic aid to
Israel must be suspended until an agreement is reached. Diplomatically
the US should seek to involve as many of the Arab states as possible
in seeking a solution, and seek the help and advice of European
nations which have a long history of relations with the Middle East.

We are up against the limits not only of military power - the Israelis
and Palestinians can fight but they cannot, either of them, win - but
particularly the limits of American power in the Middle east. We may
well see the Arab world turn to an oil embargo. We will certainly see
an escalation of terrorism. This is a time of great sadness over
emotions so primitive on both sides that it is frightening to watch
and listen as the Arabs and the Jews join in revealing how murderous
the human race can be.

One thing we do know - there are strong forces for peace and
reconciliation within the Israeli Jewish community. And, less openly
expressed, within the Arab world. To those forces let us send our
greetings as they continue what seems an impossible task of building a
bridge across a chasm of hatred and bloodshed.

David McReynolds

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