is this racist or informative?

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Jul. 7, 2003
    Europe is part of the problem,
    By Barry Rubin

    Fatah sources told The New York Times, according to an article published July 1, that the two factors that brought Palestinian acceptance of a three-month cease-fire were the US victory in Iraq and Fatah's decision to stop fighting.

    First, they explained that as a result of Saddam Hussein's defeat, "Hamas sponsors in Syria and Iran came under new American pressure and Arab governments, including Saudi Arabia's, moved to calm the region." There do seem to have been Saudi contacts urging Hamas to stop the violence.

    Second, they added the amazing statement that "with Fatah pursuing a truce, Hamas had little choice but to play along." Though the article did not say it in so many words, Yasser Arafat clearly had the choice to stop the fighting any time he wanted to by ordering his own men to stop their attacks.

    This "discovery" is a remarkable reversal in what has been claimed all along and echoed by Western media and governments. Yet now Arafat's control over the fighting and his ability to end it, even without arresting any of the militants, is being taken for granted.

    There are two more factors that go completely unmentioned and whose general omission makes it impossible to understand what has happened.

    One point, of tremendous importance, is that the Saudis didn't persuade the terrorists to stop for a while; the Israeli army did by hitting them so hard and so successfully. At this point, despite public bravado, many Hamas leaders are worried that if they do not end the fighting they themselves will come to an end. Hamas's infrastructure is in bad shape.

    Equally, the cost to the Palestinian infrastructure may finally have reached the point of near-collapse when its leaders, including Arafat, have to heed their people and pay some attention to the destruction they have caused. As a result of social disaster and economic bankruptcy, they decided that a short break, at least, from fighting a losing war might be useful.

    By the same token, though, accepting a cease-fire out of weakness is more likely a tactical measure, indicated by the three-month time limit put on the measure. Once Israel's military pressure ceases and its forces withdraw, the Palestinian groups can rebuild their forces and return to the attack sometime in the future. If Arafat wants this outcome, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is not going to stop anything.

    There has long been a tendency to view Arafat as an innocent bystander; but now even Hamas is being portrayed in this way. The Times article states: "Hamas leaders are gambling that the cease-fire will fail, and with it Mr. Abbas and the American-led peace plan, say Palestinian officials who have negotiated with them."

    Yet the most likely cause of the plan's failure would be Hamas's decision to renew attacks because it was to its political advantage to do so, and no real pressure by the Fatah leadership to keep the peace.

    On another matter, however, the article does well to point out that Arafat "like Hamas, may feel threatened by any rising support for Mr. Abbas."

    IN GENERAL it is surprising how seldom Arafat's name has come up with regard to the truce talks in general. I don't believe this is because Abu Mazen simply pushed Arafat aside. Rather, Arafat decided to let the truce happen but not associate himself personally with it.

    This is not a good thing. For if Arafat has not really endorsed a lasting truce it can only be because he does not intend to keep it. Whenever he wishes he will return to portraying himself as the "true fighter," denouncing Abu Mazen as a cowardly compromiser. This aspect deserves very close watching.

    Something should be added here about Arafat's main external supporters not the Arab world, notable for its lack of support for him, but Europe. The Europeans have two alternative ways of playing a role in the Middle East; and when one stops to think about the choice they have made, it is really quite astonishing.

    Option 1: As part of a proud, democratic West, Europe helps confront and deter radical regimes and terrorist groups in the Middle East. As a result of this pressure these regimes and groups are persuaded to stop their aggressive and violent behavior. This is the constructive role.

    Option 2: By portraying the more extreme Middle East dictatorships and Arafat as the injured parties whose demands must be fulfilled, European states lead the radicals to believe they can exploit Europe as a counter-force to the US. This absolves them of any need to make peace, offer compromise, and cease backing terrorism.

    No doubt many Europeans would be insulted by this explanation of the effects of their policy, viewing it as simplistic. But it isn't. The essential point is that Europe is making itself part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

    If you don't believe it, ask this question: Do Muammar Gaddafi, Arafat, Bashar Assad, Osama bin Laden, Hamas, Hizbullah and the leaders of Iran say to themselves, "Oh no! It's the European Union we'd better make peace and behave better, or they will do something to us!

    Or do they say, "Fortunately, we can depend on the Europeans, and so we can ignore the Americans with their demands to stop terrorism and make peace."

    Some years ago the European policy of ostpolitik (east policy) was designed to undermine the Soviet bloc and foster democracy in eastern and central Europe. But today's ostpolitik in the Middle East is designed to preserve the regional status quo and help the existing dictatorships survive.

    The greatest hope is that many Europeans, and a number of Europe's governments, have come to realize that this is a terrible mistake.

    The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, part of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC). His most recent book is The Tragedy of the Middle East .

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