Forwarded from Ralph Johansen

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Apr 9 17:43:16 MDT 2002


Long, but essential recounting of the long lead-up to the current
Israeli imprisoning of Arafat and occupation of the territories. Well
researched and documented.

Ralph

----- Original Message -----
From: "Khalil Barhoum (by way of Phil Gasper)" <khalil at stanford.edu
To: <professors_for_peace at yahoogroups.com
Sent: Tuesday, April 09, 2002 9:38 AM
Subject: Tanya Reinhart: FIELDS OF THORNS

FIELDS OF THORNS by Tanya Reinhardt

In mainstream political discourse, Israel's recent atrocities are
described as 'retaliatory acts' answering the previous wave of terror
attacks on Israeli civilians. But, in fact, this 'retaliation' had
been carefully prepared long before. In October 2000, at the outset
of the Palestinian uprising, military circles already had detailed
operative plans to topple Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. This
was before the Palestinian terror attacks started: the first attack
on Israeli civilians was on November 3, 2000, in a market in
Jerusalem. A document prepared by the security services, at the
request of then PM Barak, stated on October 15, 2000, that "Arafat,
the person, is a severe threat to the security of the state [of
Israel] and the damage which will result from his disappearance is
less than the damage caused by his existence". (Details of the
document were published in Ma'ariv on July 6, 2001.) The operative
plan, known as 'Fields of Thorns', had been prepared back in 1996,
and was then updated during the Intifada. (Amir Oren, Ha'aretz,
November 23, 2001). The plan includes everything that Israel has been
executing lately, and more. [1]

The political echelon (Barak's circles), for its part, worked on
preparing public opinion for the toppling of Arafat. On November 20,
2000, Nahman Shai, then the Barak Government's public-affairs
co-ordinator, met the press and released a 60-page document titled
"Palestinian Authority non-compliance... A record of bad faith and
misconduct". The document, informally referred to as the 'White
Book', was prepared by Barak's aid, Danny Yatom.[2] According to the
'White Book', Arafat's present crime - "orchestrating the Intifada",
is just the last in a long chain of proofs that he has never deserted
the "option of violence and 'struggle'": "As early as Arafat's own
speech on the White House lawn, on September 13, 1993, there were
indications that for him, the D.O.P. [declaration of principles] did
not necessarily signify an end to the conflict. He did not, at any
point, relinquish his uniform, symbolic of his status as a
revolutionary commander" (Section 2). This uniform, incidentally, is
the only 'indication' the report cites of Arafat's hidden intentions
on that occasion.

A large section of the document is devoted to establishing Arafat's
"ambivalence and compliance" regarding terror: "In March 1997 there
was once again more than a hint of a 'Green Light' from Arafat to the
Hamas, prior to the bombing in Tel Aviv... This is implicit in the
statement made by a Hamas-affiliated member of Arafat's Cabinet, Imad
Faluji, to an American paper (Miami Herald, April 5, 1997)." No
further hints are provided regarding how this links Arafat to that
bombing, but this is the "green light to terror" theme which the
Military Intelligence (Ama'n) has been promoting since 1997, when its
anti-Oslo line was consolidated. This theme has since been repeated
again and again by military circles, and eventually became the mantra
of Israeli propaganda: Arafat is still a terrorist and is personally
responsible for the acts of all groups, from Hamas and the Islamic
Jihad to Hizbollah.

The 'Foreign Report' (Jane's Information) of July 12, 2001, disclosed
that the Israeli army (under Sharon's government) has updated its
plans for an "all-out assault to smash the Palestinian authority,
force out leader Yasser Arafat and kill or detain its army". The
blueprint, entitled 'The Destruction of the Palestinian Authority and
Disarmament of All Armed Forces', was presented to the Israeli
government by chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, on July 8. The assault
would be launched, at the government's discretion, after a big
suicide bomb attack in Israel, causing widespread deaths and
injuries, citing the bloodshed as justification.

Many in Israel suspect that the assassination of the Hamas terrorist
Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, just when the Hamas had respected for two months
its agreement with Arafat not to attack inside Israel, was designed
to create the appropriate 'bloodshed justification', at the eve of
Sharon's visit to the US. (Alex Fishman, senior security
correspondent of Yediot, noted that "whoever decided upon the
liquidation of Abu Hanoud knew in advance that would be the price.
The subject was extensively discussed both by Israel's military
echelon and its political one, before it was decided to carry out the
liquidation" (Yediot Aharonot, November 25, 2001).

Israel's moves to destroy the PA, thus, cannot be viewed as a
spontaneous 'act of retaliation'. It is a calculated plan, long in
the making. The execution requires, first, weakening the resistance
of the Palestinians, which Israel has been doing systematically since
October 2000, through killing, bombarding of infrastructure,
imprisoning people in their hometowns, and bringing them close to
starvation. All this, while waiting for the international conditions
to 'ripen' for the more 'advanced' steps of the plan.

Now the conditions seem to have 'ripened'. In the power-drunk
political atmosphere in the US, anything goes. If, at first, it
seemed that the US would try to keep the Arab world on its side by
some tokens of persuasion, as it did during the Gulf war, it is now
clear that they couldn't care less. US policy is no longer based on
building coalitions or investing in persuasion, but on sheer force.
The smashing 'victory' in Afghanistan has sent a clear message to the
Third World that nothing can stop the US from targeting any nation
for annihilation. They seem to believe that the most sophisticated
weapons of the 21st century - combined with total absence of any
considerations of moral principles, international law or public
opinion - can sustain them as the sole rulers of the world forever.
>From now on, fear should be a sufficient condition for obedience.

The US hawks, who push to expand the war to Iraq and further, view
Israel as an asset. There are few regimes in the world like Israel,
so eager to risk the life of their citizens for some new regional
war. As Prof Alain Joxe, head of the French CIRPES (peace and
strategic studies) put it in Le Monde, "the American leadership is
presently shaped by dangerous right-wing Southern extremists, who
seek to use Israel as an offensive tool to destabilise the whole
Middle East area" (December 17, 2001). The same hawks are also
talking about expanding the future war zone to targets on Israel's
agenda, like Hizbollah and Syria.

Under these circumstances, Sharon got his green light in Washington.
As the Israeli media keeps raving, "Bush is fed up with this
character [Arafat]", "Powell said that Arafat must stop with his
lies" (Barnea and Schiffer, Yediot, December 7, 2001). As Arafat
hides in his bunker, Israeli F-16 bombers plough the sky, and
Israel's brutality is generating, every day, new desperate human
bombs, the US, accompanied for a while by the European Union, keeps
urging Arafat to "act".

* * *

But what is the rationale behind Israel's systematic drive to
eliminate the Palestinian Authority and undo the Oslo arrangements?
It certainly cannot be based on 'disappointment' with Arafat's
performance, as is commonly claimed. The fact of the matter is that
from the perspective of Israel's interests in maintaining the
occupation, Arafat has fulfilled Israel's expectations in all these
last years.

As far as Israeli security goes, there is nothing further from the
truth then the fake accusations in the 'White Book', or subsequent
Israeli propaganda. To take just one example, in 1997 - the year
mentioned in the 'White Book' as an instance of Arafat's "green light
to terror" - a 'security agreement' was signed between Israel and the
Palestinian Authority, under the auspices of the head of the Tel Aviv
station of the CIA, Stan Muskovitz. The agreement commits the PA to
take active care of the security of Israel - to fight "the
terrorists, the terrorist base, and the environmental conditions
leading to support of terror" in co-operation with Israel, including
"mutual exchange of information, ideas, and military co-operation"
(Clause 1). [Translated from the Hebrew text, Ha'aretz, December 12,
1997]. Arafat's security services carried out this job faithfully,
with assassinations of Hamas terrorists (disguised as 'accidents'),
and arrests of Hamas political leaders. [3]

Ample information was published in the Israeli media regarding these
activities, and 'security sources' were full of praises for Arafat's
achievements. Ami Ayalon, for instance, the then head of the Israeli
secret service (Shab'ak), announced, in the government meeting on
April 5, 1998, that "Arafat is doing his job - he is fighting terror
and puts all his weight against the Hamas" (Ha'aretz, April 6, 1998).
The rate of success of the Israeli security services in containing
terror was never higher than that of Arafat; in fact, much lower.

In left and critical circles, one can hardly find compassion for
Arafat's personal fate (as opposed to the tragedy of the Palestinian
people). As David Hirst writes in The Guardian, when Arafat returned
to the occupied territories, in 1994, "he came as collaborator as
much as liberator. For the Israelis, security - theirs, not the
Palestinians' - was the be-all and end-all of Oslo. His job was to
supply it on their behalf. But he could only sustain the
collaborator's role if he won the political quid pro quo which,
through a series of 'interim agreements' leading to 'final status',
was supposedly to come his way. He never could... [Along the road],
he acquiesced in accumulating concessions that only widened the gulf
between what he was actually achieving and what he assured his people
he would achieve, by this method, in the end. He was Mr Palestine
still, with a charisma and historical legitimacy all his own. But he
was proving to be grievously wanting in that other great and
complementary task, building his state-in-the-making. Economic
misery, corruption, abuse of human rights, the creation of a vast
apparatus of repression - all these flowed, wholly or in part, from
the Authority over which he presided." (Hirst, 'Arafat's last stand?'
(The Guardian, December 14, 2001).

But from the perspective of the Israeli occupation, all this means
that the Oslo plan was, essentially, successful. Arafat managed,
through the harsh means of oppression, to contain the frustration of
his people and guarantee the safety of the settlers, as Israel
continued undisturbed to build new settlements and appropriate more
Palestinian land. The oppressive machinery - the various security
forces of Arafat - were formed and trained in collaboration with
Israel. Much energy and resources were put into building this complex
Oslo apparatus. It is often admitted that the Israeli security forces
cannot manage to prevent terror any better than Arafat can. Why,
then, was the military and political echelon so determined to destroy
all this in October 2000, even before the terror waves started?
Answering this requires a look at history.

* * *

Right from the start of the 'Oslo process', in September 1993, two
conceptions were competing in the Israeli political and military
system. One, led by Yosi Beilin, was striving to implement some
version of the Alon plan, which the Labour party has been advocating
for years. The original plan consisted of annexing about 35% of the
territories to Israel, and either Jordanian-rule, or some form of
self-rule for the rest - the land on which the Palestinians actually
live. In the eyes of its proponents, this plan represented a
necessary compromise, compared to the alternatives of either giving
up the territories altogether, or eternal blood-shed (as we witness
today). It appeared that Rabin was willing to follow this line, at
least at the start, and that in return for Arafat's commitment to
controlling the frustration of his people and guaranteeing the
security of Israel, he would allow the PA to run the enclaves in
which the Palestinians still reside in some form of self-rule, which
could even have been called a Palestinian 'state'.

But the other pole objected even to that much. This was mostly
visible in military circles, whose most vocal spokesman in the early
years of Oslo was then Chief of Staff, Ehud Barak. Another centre of
opposition was, of course, Sharon and the extreme right wing, who
were against the Oslo process from the start. This affinity between
the military circles and Sharon is hardly surprising. Sharon - the
last of the leaders of the '1948 generation' - was a legendary figure
in the army, and many of the generals, like Barak, were his
disciples. As Amir Oren wrote, "Barak's deep and abiding admiration
for Ariel Sharon's military insights is another indication of his
views; Barak and Sharon both belong to a line of political generals
that started with Moshe Dayan" (Ha'aretz, January 8, 1999).

This breed of generals was raised on the myth of redemption of the
land. A glimpse into this worldview is offered in Sharon's interview
with Ari Shavit (Ha'aretz, weekend supplement, April 13, 2001).
Everything is entangled into one romantic framework: the fields, the
blossom of the orchards, the plough and the wars. The heart of this
ideology is the sanctity of the land. In a 1976 interview, Moshe
Dayan, who was the defence minister in 1967, explained what led,
then, to the decision to attack Syria. In the collective Israeli
consciousness of the period, Syria was conceived as a serious threat
to the security of Israel, and a constant initiator of aggression
towards the residents of northern Israel. But according to Dayan,
this is "bull-shit" - Syria was not a threat to Israel before '67:
"Just drop it... I know how at least 80% of all the incidents with
Syria started. We were sending a tractor to the demilitarised zone
and we knew that the Syrians would shoot." According to Dayan (who at
a time of the interview confessed some regrets), what led Israel to
provoke Syria this way was greediness for land - the idea that it is
possible "to grab a piece of land and keep it, until the enemy will
get tired and give it to us" (Yediot Aharonot, April 27, 1997)

At the eve of Oslo, the majority of Israeli society was tired of
wars. In their eyes, the fights over land and resources were over.
Most Israelis believe that the 1948 Independence War, with its
horrible consequences for the Palestinians, was necessary to
establish a state for the Jews, haunted by the memory of the
Holocaust. But now they had a state, they longed just to live
normally with whatever they had. However, the ideology of the
redemption of land has never died out in the army or in the circles
of the 'political generals', who switched from the army to the
government. In their eyes, Sharon's alternative of fighting the
Palestinians to the bitter end and imposing new regional orders - as
he tried in Lebanon in 1982 - may have failed because of the weakness
of the spoiled Israeli society. But given the new war-philosophy
established in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan, they believe that with
the massive superiority of the Israeli air force, it might still be
possible to win this battle in the future.

While Sharon's party was in the opposition at the time of Oslo,
Barak, as Chief of Staff, participated in the negotiations and played
a crucial role in shaping the agreements and Israel's attitude to the
Palestinian Authority.

I quote from an article I wrote in February 1994, because it reflects
what anybody who read carefully the Israeli media could see at the
time: "From the start, it has been possible to identify two
conceptions that underlie the Oslo process. One is that this will
enable to reduce the cost of the occupation, using a Palestinian
patronage regime, with Arafat as the senior cop responsible for the
security of Israel. The other is that the process should lead to the
collapse of Arafat and the PLO. The humiliation of Arafat, and the
amplification of his surrender, will gradually lead to loss of
popular support. Consequently, the PLO will collapse, or enter power
conflicts. Thus, the Palestinian society will lose its secular
leadership and institutions. In the power driven mind of those eager
to maintain the Israeli occupation, the collapse of the secular
leadership is interpreted as an achievement, because it would take a
long while for the Palestinian people to get organised again, and, in
any case, it is easier to justify even the worst acts of oppression,
when the enemy is a fanatic Muslim organisation. Most likely, the
conflict between the two competing conceptions is not settled yet,
but at the moment, the second seems more dominant: In order to carry
out the first, Arafat's status should have been strengthened, with at
least some achievements that could generate support of the
Palestinians, rather then Israel's policy of constant humiliation and
breach of promises." [4]

Nevertheless, the scenario of the collapse of the PA did not
materialise. Palestinian society resorted once more to their
marvellous strategy of zumud - sticking to the land and sustaining
the pressure. Right from the start, the Hamas political leadership,
and others, were warning that Israel was trying to push the
Palestinians into a civil war, in which the nation would slaughter
itself. All fragments of the society co-operated to prevent this
danger, and calm conflicts as soon as they were deteriorating to
arms. They also managed, despite the tyranny of Arafat's rule, to
build an impressive amount of institutions and infrastructure. The PA
does not consist only of the corrupt rulers and the various security
forces. The elected Palestinian Council, which operates under endless
restrictions, is still a representative political framework, some
basis for democratic institutions in the future. For those whose goal
is the destruction of the Palestinian identity and the eventual
redemption of their land, Oslo was a failure.

In 1999, the army got back to power through the 'political generals',
first Barak, and then Sharon. (They collaborated in the last
elections to guarantee that no other, civil, candidate would be
allowed to run.) The road opened to correct what they viewed as the
grave mistake of Oslo. In order to get there, it was first necessary
to convince the spoiled Israeli society that the Palestinians are not
willing to live in peace and were threatening our mere existence.
Sharon alone could not have possibly achieved that, but Barak did
succeed, with his 'generous offer' fraud. After a year of horrible
terror attacks, combined with massive propaganda and lies, Sharon and
the army feel that nothing can stop them from turning to full
execution.

Why is it so urgent for them to topple Arafat? Shabtai Shavit, former
head of the Security Service ('Mossad'), who is not bound by
restraints posed on official sources, explains this openly: "In the
thirty something years that he [Arafat] lead, he managed to reach
real achievements in the political and international sphere... He got
the Nobel peace prize, and in a single phone call, he can obtain a
meeting with every leader in the world. There is nobody in the
Palestinian gallery that can enter his shoes in this context of
international status. If they [the Palestinians] will lose this gain,
for us, this is a huge achievement. The Palestinian issue will get
off the international agenda." (interview in Yediot's Weekend
Supplement, December 7, 2001).

Their immediate goal is to get the Palestinians off the international
agenda, so slaughter, starvation, forced evacuation and 'migration'
can continue undisturbed, leading, possibly, to the final realisation
of Sharon's long-standing vision, embodied in the military plans. The
immediate goal of anybody concerned with the future of the world,
should be to halt this process of evil unleashed. As Alain Joxe
concluded his article in Le Monde, "It is time for the Western public
opinion to take over and to compel the governments to take a moral
and political stand facing the foreseen disaster, namely a situation
of permanent war against the Arab and Muslim people and states - the
realisation of the double fantasy of Bin Laden and Sharon" (December
17, 2001).

1 For the details of this operative plan, see Anthony Cordesman,
Peace and War: Israel versus the Palestinians A second Intifada?
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), December 2000,
and its summary in Shraga Eilam, Peace With Violence or Transfer,
'Between The Lines', December 2000.

2 The document can be found at:
www.gamla.org.il/english/feature/intro.htm

3 For a survey of some of the PA's assassinations of Hamas
terrorists, see my article 'The A-Sherif affair', Yediot Aharonot,
April 14, 1998, www.tau.ac.il/~reinhart/political/A_sharif.html

4 The article (in Hebrew only) can be found at:
www.tau.ac.il/~reinhart/political/01GovmntObstacleToPeace.doc


--
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 04/09/2002

Marxism list: http://www.marxmail.org



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