Translation of an article
to be published
in Ma'ariv on December 13, 1999
From Bantustan to Palitustan
TYRANNY AND CORRUPTION
by Uri Avnery
One has only to look at the manifesto signed by 20 Palestinian politicians
and academicians against the "tyranny and corruption" of Yassir Arafat, in
order understand what happened to the Palestinian people during the last
At the beginning of the 20th century, all Palestine belonged to the Arabs
(even if political control was in the hands of the Ottoman Turks). At the
end of the 20th
century, there is no Palestine on the map, half of the Palestinian people
are refugees and Israel is in full possession of all the country between the
Jordan river and the sea.
How could it happen that a whole people
lost its country - and almost its very existence - as a result of the
immigration of a few thousand Zionists at the beginning of the century?
(In his illuminating book, "Palestinian
Identity", Rashid Khalidi proves that right from the beginning some
Palestinian leaders and intellectuals recognized the full meaning of this
immigration for the Palestinian people.)
Many reasons can be cited: the
efficiency of the Zionist movement and the Hebrew community it created in
Palestine, the treason of the Arab states, imperialist intrigues etc. But
the bulk of the blame must be put squarely on the shoulders of the
Palestinian people itself: its lack of cohesion at critical moments, its
inability to unite around a strong leadership, the poisonous hatred and
jealousy between its component organizations, parties and families.
The media called this document "a
manifesto against the corruption", but it is very far from being so. Its
centerpiece is the monstrous allegation that in Oslo, Arafat and his
colleagues have sold the Palestinian homeland to the Israelis in return for
their personal enrichment. This is an attack on the Oslo agreement and the
PLO policy of seeking peace based on a compromise with Israel.
In Israel, the manifesto has caused
much Joy. Everyone understands that such an attack, commanding wold-wide
media attention, is weakening the position of the Palestinian leadership
just as the Barak government is preparing the annexation to Israel of wide
tracts of the West Bank and proposes to turn the rest into a kind of
under Israeli control. It destroys the support of international public opinion
for the Palestinian cause.
But the initiators of the manifesto are
not Israeli agents - even of no Israeli agent could have served it better.
The initiative is Syrian. Syria always opposed the creation of a really
independent State of Palestine, and at this point it tries strenuously to
prevent an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Some of the signatories are
well known as long-time supporters of the Syrian Ba'ath party, most of the
others are members of "refusal front" organizations located in Damascus. All
of them are opponents of the Oslo agreement.
The corruption theme appears in the
manifesto only as a pretext. Of course, there is a lot of corruption in the
Palestinian territories, and every Palestinian knows it. But it is not worse
than in any other Arab country. In Germany, ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl is
being accused of receiving immense bribes from abroad and distributing the
money among his cronies. The Israeli government, which is paying great sums
of money to the functionaries of the religious parties, in return for their
support of the coalition, has no reason to hold its nose high.
Arafat's secret bank accounts and his
objection to "transparency" are caused, at least partially, by the need to
finance actions connected to the present phase of the Palestinian struggle:
the upkeep of the Palestinian embassies around the world (forbidden to the
PA by the Oslo agreements), preparations for a possible violent
confrontation with Israel (yes, still possible!) and protection of the
Palestinian refugee camps in Arab countries.
One can understand the fury of Arafat
and his colleagues when Palestinian personalities are trying to undermine
their position at such a critical moment of the fight. (In a similar
pre-state situation, Ben Gurion delivered the underground Irgun fighters to
the tender mercies of the British police). However, the arrest of some of
the signatories is a serious mistake, by itself and also because it seems to
reinforce the allegations about the despotism of the Palestinian authority.
It is the duty of a decent person to
fight against corruption and for a democratic regime in every state,
especially in a new state. Such a fight was waged in the first years of the
State of Israel, when Finance Minister Levy Eshkol openly justified
corruption by quoting the biblical injunction "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox
when he treadeth out the corn." But the State of Palestine does not exist
yet. At this moment, the Palestinian people is going through a fateful -
perhaps the most fateful - stage of its struggle for national survival. If
it is successful, a free Palestinian state will come into being, and its
citizens will be able to make sure that it will be a democratic state, free
from corruption. If the Palestinian struggle fails, the Palestinians will
become a people of slaves under Israeli domination.
If even at such an hour the
Palestinians are not able to unite behind their leadership - and even the
greatest foes of Arafat do not put forward anyone else to lead this fight -
they will add yet another chapter to the tale of their misfortunes.
the unabridged version of an article to be published
in Ma'ariv on December 13, 1999.