Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Give cover to the moderates

This is a draft op-ed by Davis and as such represents his personal opinions, not an NCF position.  I apologise for the problems with formatting.

Though always wary of its sometimes strange and belligerent diplomatic behaviour, I was in favour of, even excited by the prospect of an American invitation to the Syrians to join the Annapolis summit.  Unusually, this was reflected in my taking a clear line on behalf of the Foundation in my MEPPcirculations indicating this preference.  Alas, against expectations, Condoleezza Rice issued said invitation.  The Syrian response was to intimate demands about the issues the conference would have to address before she would join in.  Even this was indulged by some of our members, who readily accepted
that Syria would only be able to attend if the Golan was up for
discussion.  Fine.  

Yet, today Syria offers one of the starkest reminders of its intransigent part in the MEPP.  Once again, she is claiming the Palestinian mantle at the expense of the very Palestinians she pretends to be defending.  Syria is hosting the 'Damascus Conference', which is meant as a counterweight to the Annapolis summit.  The working paper accompanying that meeting states that the fall conference is an attempt to eliminate Palestinian national rights, "which requires wide-scale national and popular movement through historical mechanisms and tasks, led by escalating resistance against Zionist occupation, calling on Arab countries to shoulder their responsibilities, and rejecting normalization with the enemy,". The paper rejects all of the agreements that have been signed with Israel, considering them "invalid and non-binding."  
As an outstanding and widely distributed op-ed on the two conferences by Raghida Dergham for Al-Hayat argues, if the Syrians insist on 'resistance', the address for it is well known, running along Syria's own border as it does and, according to Dergham, could be manned by Syrian Arabs and willing Persians, who would even bring 'untainted' money with them.  No doubt someone, perhaps from Hamas in Gaza or Damascus, will shortly say that 'everyone knows Dergham is a Jew', as one Islamist was recently quoted about Pakistan's Musharaf.  Of course, even if that was the case the point remains salient. 
As for the Palestinians, why not finally let them have a better life?  I have no doubt Hamas is delighted with the Damascus working paper.  But Hamas is readily willing to train 5 year olds to hate.  Those who wish to see the
Palestinians' plight eased as soon as possible should be mortified.  As
Mahmoud Abbas is (a man admittedly on his last legs).  Where have we come
to in the MEPP when Abbas is on the record as having sent senior envoys to Damascus to stop this 'help'? 

But the Syrians are not alone.  Far from it.  The coalition of 'diaspora Palestinian (or 'sympathiser') movements', made up mostly of hard-left activists living in comfort, be it the ISM,PACBI (the Boycott Campaign), and to a large extend the Palestinian Solidarity Movement, has a lot to answer for.  Though I am still trying to get to the bottom of the story regarding the cancellation of the OneVoice concerts for Peace in relation to officialdom, and the sudden withdrawal of Security from Abbas' office, one thing is clear:
This cancellation marks a watershed of the gravest importance.  For the first
time these mostly absolutist movements, on behalf of but with little regard for the Palestinians actually suffering, and incubated mostly in UK and a few US universities, have used the tools of globalisation to successfully scupper the moderate voice on the ground.  All the evidence I have seen points towards the malicious rumours about OneVoice being seeded by PACBI and the ISM and their associates from the UK and US.  They have denied the Palestinians the opportunity - an opportunity that had sold 36000 tickets in Jericho - to let their
leadership know that they want a dignified settlement now.  I will not
detail the slanderous campaign and the realities.  Much of the
information is on OneVoice's founder's blog
  (and the excellent Engage
has a telling summary
regarding PACBI's lies). Suffice to say that those
seeking to empower moderates must redouble their efforts in light of this
setback.  They are waiting and need more cover. 

I deem it fair to say that the vast majority of our membership is against an academic boycott and further considered the NUJ's boycott decision
contemptible.  At our recent Media Council Conference, we could not find
anyone in the room, never mind on the panel, who saw any use or merit in the
decision.  The arguments are tired and the behaviour of the UK academics
spearheading this campaign - in particular during a visit of Israeli academics
aimed at countering their campaign - again spoke volumes about how constructive and relevant to a betterment of Palestinian life their grinding axe really is.  As such I wholeheartedly welcome the British delegation seeking to identify projects for cooperation with Israeli and Palestinian universities. 

But there is a broader point here.  Again, I think I can claim to accurately discern a majority among our members' opinions, this time that many are very
much uneasy about Tony Blair, in particular regarding his role in the MEPP and
hence even more so his new job.  I never make any secrets about my own
views, and I greatly admire Mr Blair and his,
 in my view accurate, necessary and lonely understanding of current geo-political realities (including his recent speech on Iran).  But we do not have to agree about that in the least.
What I would ask you to consider is the thesis that he first raised whilst formulating his Government's response to 9/11 and the onset of the War on Terror.  I refer in particular to his historic speech to the World Affairs Council and the articlein Foreign Affairs that set out his view about the dynamic we are
witnessing at play in geo-politics today.  The speech invoked an 'arc of moderation', neccessary to counter the 'arc of extremism'.  Do not confuse this with George Bush's Axis of Evil, something senior sources describe as a 'rhetorical bump in the road'.  The arc of extremism exists.  I need not mention regimes, countries, or movements - you all know them and will say so, some openly, some quietly.

Today, the extremists are doing far too well.  And I would add, meeting too much 'understanding'.   The two items above illustrate the dynamic Mr Blair identifies exactly.  And none of us, least of all the Palestinians, can afford to bequeath a world run by extremists to the generations that come after us.  Let us expose them
for what they are.    Only if we can sideline the formidable arc of extremism will the State of Palestine be a reality.  The Syrians and absolutist Palestinian
'supporters' may offer psychologically appealing options, feeding into a well rehearsed historical narrative of pain and grievance or the religious narrative
favoured lately.  But the Syrians and absolutist 'supporters' can wait.  For Palestinians themselves every minute counts.  And Condoleezza Rice is correct in playing up exactly that dynamic, this chance to boost the moderates, in her unrelenting efforts to put together the Annapolis summit.  I dare those 'helping' the Palestinians by taking an absolutist stance - or even those making disparaging comments about the planned US summit - to tell me about a better plan, process, solution.  There are none. It's bad, and nobody will get what they want.  As the legendary Afif Safieh said at one of NCF's conferences in the House of Lords: 'we need a mutually unacceptable solution'.  And then everybody can go swimming in the Mediterranean...

1 comment:

William said...

Interesting Davis,

Yes the Syrians are being akward - even with us - We have long believed that we need a peace process between Syria and Palestine. The two nations have an ongoing feud and the Syrians need to bury the hatchett somewhere other than in Abu Mazin's head.