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Archivierte Meldungen aus den Jahren 1995 - 1999

Translation of an article to be published
in Ma'ariv on December 13, 1999

From Bantustan to Palitustan

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 hundred years.
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 Palestinian Bantustan 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.

Translation of the unabridged version of an article to be published
in Ma'ariv on December 13, 1999.

Die hier archivierten Artikel stammen aus den "Anfangsjahren" der breiten Nutzung des Internet. Damals waren die gestalterischen Möglichkeiten noch etwas ursprünglicher als heute. Wir haben die Artikel jedoch weiterhin archiviert, da die Informationen durchaus noch interessant sein können, u..a. auch zu Dokumentationszwecken.

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