Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Before forgetting it, must mention very good World service programme on Islam - visiting different Islamic countries done, I think by a Muslim correspondent. Can't find it on internet yet, but will post details when found. He dealt with Malaysia in this weeks part,and will next go to North Africa. This is a must series.

Watching excellent t.v. BBC2 series, Israel and the Arabs. Part II is up to the destruction of Arafat's headquarters by the Israeli Army and the to-ing and fro-ing of U.S. politicians and generals.


Arafat has gone. I see clearly (did a long time ago) that he was using the Palestinians to fight his own personal battle. This was wrong. He was both candid and emotional and at the same time a brazen liar. You couldn't help respect him for his constancy in the fight. But there was a telling few minutes in part II of this programme, which involved Prince Faisal visiting the U.S. at the time, 2002, to warn the Americans to rein in the Israelis. I thought after watching it something along the lines of:

"He is actually demonstrating, exposing, in a micro-moment, a short film clip of a close up of his face, what I always believed: the Palestinian-Israel conflict is,was, a proxy war. The Arabs didn't want a Jewish state but they could not, were not couragous enough or well prepared enough, to snuff it out in 1948. The Jordanian Bedouin legions which were still commanded by Glubb Pasha as far as I can recall (or had he left by then?) acquitted themselves well in the Jerusalem theatre but everyone else was hopeless, and lacked the will to throw the Jews into the sea as they had determined to do.

Prince Faisal in America in 2002 represents the complex relationship the U.S. has with Saudi Arabia. A simple example, and what I was thinking as I saw him complaining about the injustice of the Israelis threating Arafat with deportation or even assassination, was that if they removed their investments America would go into a slump, since the U.S. runs on large amounts of borrowed money, some 1-5% coming from Saudi investment. And yet they couldn't do so because it would affect their economies and pockets. Without the investment there was no money to buy in cheap Chinese goods made by workers on virtual slave wages (or as actaul slaves in the remnants of the laogai) and sell them on, nails, hammers, saws, TVs, video cameras, computers for big margins.

The notion of proxy war is important. Part of the analysis must start with looking at Arafat and the Palestinians. Asking the question that Golder Maier asked: "What is a Palestinian?" is til import because it highlights that the history of this thing is not as straightforward, black.white hat, as many imagine.

The article I referred to way back from MEF (though pro-Israeli you can tease out some facts and reasonalble arguments) shows the demographic history of this dispute is distinctly iffy. Though Palestinians still alive still have documentry proof that they own propety and or land in what is now under Israeli control, much of the others were simply Arabs who drifted in from Greater Syria because the Jews in the original settlements were re-vitalising a stagnant agriculture with modern irrigation: a core of genuine Palestinians (oocupants of land there under Ottoman rule) with greater numbers of immigrants who became "Palestinian" through living there for two generations.

To deny this or argue it doesn't have any bearing on the matter, is to refuse to accept reality. But this does not mean that the Palestinians should not have a state: the programme shows clearly that it would be better to have order through a neo-colonisation than this deep-seated, murderous hatred which is now no long a neighbour dispute but a disease which will only be cured when so much blood had been spilt that, like in all wars, the weariness of conflict produces a different mind-set.

it is a shame that the Arab oil states - who were, even in the immediate post-second world war period, quite rich - did not provide the Arabs of the Palestine area the wherewithall to do the same. Instead they looked on with a mixture of indifference, cynicism and political guile, paying for the guerillas movements. In public, they support the Palesinians, behind closed doors they probably view them with the same distain as they do the masses of South Asians who service their countries, such as the thousands who work in Kuwait who we learnt about after the Gulf war of 1992.

The peculariar Byzantine intrigues, fantasies, deceits and delusional thinking well-know to all who either live there who know the area well, and seen in everyday politics in the region, much designed in the hope of letting the mess that ensues do the job of making the Israeli state impossible to run. This now complicated in the last twoenty year aby Iranian revolutionary fervour.

With massive western support (first French, then U.S.) Israel has survived. But Israel and the Arabs gives glimpes of the Israel guts and determination and brains, which you cannot deny despite the mess they too have made as well (settlements, bulldozers, assassinations, imports of western Jews who had homes in America, etc). We go back to the 1967 war when this small country (with plenty of modern equipment, including French Mirages) held half a dozen beligerent Arab countries at bay. Now, this heroism is forgotten with the shabbiness of the unnecessary settlements, the casual killing of innocent Arabs, and the talk of the creeping Nazification of a democratic state under impossible pressure.

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memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East

Location: United Kingdom

expatriot in Middle East as child, retired teacher.

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