Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Geraldine Doogue Meets the Palestinian Ben-Gurion

It'd be fascinating to know the circumstances surrounding the interview of the Palestinian Authority's puppet prime minister Salam Fayyad by ABC Radio National's presenter Geraldine Doogue on Saturday Extra on 12/9/09. After all, as someone now being promoted by Israeli president Shimon Peres as a "Palestinian Ben-Gurion*," that must open quite a few doors. Just listen to Doogue's introduction:

"I'd like to introduce you to a man you may not have heard too much about but he's really coming into his political prime and earning himself considerable international respect because his basic day job is super tough. Dr Salam Fayyad's official title is Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority. He's an independent member of the Palestinian parliament, ie he's neither ffrom the Fatah or Hamas party and he comes to this post via an unusual route and an unusual suite of skills. He has a Doctorate in Economics from the University of Texas; he's worked for the World Bank and as a private banker and some argue that even the Israelis are enchanted by him and he certainly seems to be presiding over some much wanted economic successes. Now he's started to throw down some googlies though, as he tries to change the whole strategic discussion in this arena. He's started talking about a 2 year program of change after which he'll expect an independent state to be created in Palestine and he wants to persuade the international community that if he runs a proper state, well he can demand that Israel treat it as such. So how does the prime minister plan to do all this?" A strutter on the world stage? Respected by all the right people? A winner of Israeli hearts? A magician who has to do no more than expect an independent Palestinian state for it to materialise (provided, of course, that he can show Bushama and the Israelis that he's the very model of a modern Palestinian Quisling). Wowee! [*EU sources: Terms set for renewal of Israel-PA talks, Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, 13/9/09]

Before proceeding further, it should be pointed out that Fayyad is merely a pawn of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime-ministership is actually illegal under Palestinian law: when the democratically-elected Hamas government of Palestine managed to pre-empt a coup conceived in Washington and led by Fatah security forces chief Muhammad Dahlan in June 2007* [See my 6/3/08 post Mainsewer Media Clueless in Gaza], Abbas violated the interim Palestinian constitution (the Basic Law) when he declared a state of emergency, dismissed the Hamas-led Palestinian unity government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, and appointed a new government under Fayyad without parliamentary approval. Article 113 of the constitution stipulates that the legislature cannot be "dissolved or suspended during the emergency situation." The Haniya government, therefore, should have been retained as a caretaker government pending parliamentary approval for a new government. [See Abbas challenged over new cabinet,, 8/7/07]

To understand why alleged prime minister Fayyad isn't all he's cracked up to be, one needs to take a long hard look at Washington's main man in Ramallah: "Abbas... long ago placed all of his eggs in the Israeli-American basket. Acting as if his chickens had already hatched, his inability to deliver any tangible achievement has instead meant they came home to roost with a vengeance. Key to this is Abbas' relationship to his people: simply put, it never existed. Arafat saw the Palestinians as the ace in the deck to be played when all else failed, and understood that his leverage with outside actors derived from their conviction that he represented the Palestinian people. If he consistently failed or refused to properly mobilise this primary resource, he at least always held it in reserve. Abbas has by contrast been an inveterate elitist, who seems to have regarded the Palestinian population as an obstacle to be overcome so that the game of nations could proceed - there are after all only so many seats at the table where great statesmen like Abbas, George Bush and Ehud Olmert together create the contours of a new Middle East. For Abbas, legitimacy meant the leverage you have with your voters by convincing them you represent others. Cursed with exceptional self-regard, Abbas has always shown disinterest in the opinions of others. From the moment he convinced himself of the sincerity of Bush's visions, which put the onus on the Palestinians to prove they qualify for membership in the human race and are worthy of being spoken to by Tsipi Livni and Condoleezza Rice, there was no turning back. Henceforth the Palestinian security forces would point their weapons exclusively at their own people, and only Saeb Erakat would be aimed at Israel. At the United Nations, once a primary arena for the Palestinian struggle, Abbas's emissary Riad Mansour was too busy drafting a resolution declaring Hamas a terrorist entity to deal with more trivial Palestinian concerns. It was simply simpossible to steer Abbas towards a change of course, let alone a national dialogue that could produce a genuine strategy. By the expiration of his presidency on January 9, his constitutional status had become the least of his problems. Each and every one of his policies had failed. In the West Bank, settlement expansion was proceeding at an inprecedented pace while the Wall neared final completion, rendering talk of a two-state solution all but moot. After Hamas triumphed in the 2006 parliamentary elections, Abbas's ceaseless scheming to remove the Islamists from office and overturn the election's results - characteristically in active partnership with outside forces rather than the Palestinian electorate - was a vertiable carnival of folly and incompetence. When Hamas acted first in 2007, it took the Islamists only several days to dispose of those few forces still prepared to fight for Mohammed Dahlan. While many are arguing that Abbas is now paying the price for his passivity while Israel slaughtered Palestinians in Gaza, this is only one part of the story. At least as important is the manner in which he conducted himself since December 27 - comprehensively out of touch with his own people, as if deliberately so, and dealing with the Gaza Strip as if it is a foreign country he has never heard of. In his initial response Abbas laid responsibility for the conflict at Hamas's doorstep, in one stroke reducing his role to that of a factional leader opportunistically siding with his cousin against his brother. More to the point, he unleashed the full power of his security forces against his own people. Not to prevent a Hamas coup in West Bank, or even attacks against Israel, but to suppress pro-Palestinian demonstrations of the kind permitted even within Israel. He responded to Israel's launching of a land offensive on January 3 by announcing that he was delaying for one day his vist to the UN Security Council. Not to lead his people, but rather to meet Nicholas Sarkozy. Since then he has barely visited Palestine; on his last sojourn he stayed only long enough to inform the Qataris that he could not attend their emergency meeting to discuss the war." (Out of the rubble, Mouin Rabbani,, 23/1/09)

But I digress - it wasn't really this Palestinian Ben-Gurion who made me sit up and listen. It was Doogue's farcical, and profoundly colonial, questions and interjections: "Now you are known as someone who can get on very well with many in the Israeli political establishment. What do you think it is that makes the Israelis comfortable around you?" Fayyad, of course, did not reply, Well, Geraldine, maybe it's got to do with the fact that I don't bring my bomb-belt and Kalashnikov to our meetings, but could have. For Doogue, it's all about the natives making their Zionist sahibs comfortable. Fayyad's utterly forgettable response was followed by this prattle: "What I've read is that they feel that they can trust you and you're a man of your word and that you're interested in efficiency which is, you know (laughs), the Israelis don't say that very often about the people from the Palestinian territory." Fayyad, of course, whose response was utterly foregettable, did not respond, No they don't, Geraldine, as befits people who have been wiping Palestine (and Palestinians) off the map for the past 60 years, they haven't actually paid us any compliments whatsoever.

Then it was vintage Doogue, whose all-consuming interest, from the snatches of Saturday Extra that have filtered through to me while taking a shower, seems to be $$$: "Are you getting Israeli money? Who is financing your development - because you've got 70% growth rate in the 12 months past; wages are up 24%. There's all sorts of new developments. There's a Palestinian city that could rise in the West Bank... Who's financing this?" Are you getting Israeli money? for Pete's sake! Again, Fayyad did not explain (but could have) that, while the Palestinians were getting heaps of goodies from the Israelis, like bullets in the brain, walls, checkpoints, uprooted olive trees, Israeli colonies (West Bank), and the privilege of being on the receiving end of state-of-the-art Israeli/US ordnance etc, etc (Gaza), they weren't getting anything remotely resembling the proverbial brass razoo.

Doogue was clearly intrigued by Fayyad. He was so wonderfully unPalestinian: "What I think is interesting about you is that you speak in this very pragmatic way. In fact, you haven't really mentioned, you're not held up [sic] on the fact of the occupation... How have you flipped your mind around to a different approach?"

Palestinian Che Guevaras hung up on the occupation are sooo boring, right, Geraldine?

No comments: