Only four months after declaring victory in Iraq and unveiling the ‘Road Map’ for the Middle East, the best laid plans of U.S. imperialism for the region have gone awry. Facing increased instability in Iraq and almost daily attacks on U.S. troops, the Bush administration is desperate to hold together some semblance of a “peace plan” in the Middle East.
One of the key aims of the ‘Road Map’ from the onset was to obscure the facts on the ground, and to distract from the ongoing consolidation of the Zionist colonial-settler project. The facts have included six “targeted elimination” attacks against Palestinians in the last two weeks of August, killing 15, including an 11 year-old girl. The Israeli government’s cabinet has defended these attacks as part of “all-out war” against the Hamas militant group, which claimed responsibility for an August 19 suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed 21 people. This “all-out war” is one Israel is waging against militant factions of all stripes, and Sharon and Bush continue to pressure the Palestinian Authority to help them wage it, increasing factional tension within the Palestinian camp.
While the ‘Road Map’ has dominated international discourse and debate over the past months, the construction of a “security fence” across the West Bank has continued unabated. The fence, mind you, is electrified and up to 8 metres high in places, and is more accurately called the Apartheid wall. The wall amounts to a massive land grab by Israel, as it is being built on the Palestinian side of the ‘Green line’, the border established by Israel in 1949.
By the level of violence in recent weeks alone it would seem absurd to speak about a peace plan being implemented. The ‘Roadmap’, however, was never really intended as a “peace” plan, but rather as an imperialist plan to strengthen the strategic interests of the United States in the region and, most importantly, to end the Palestinian resistance –to quell the second Palestinian Intifada which began on September 28, 2000.
On April 30, 2003, still triumphant after the “fall of Baghdad”, the U.S. administration unveiled the ‘Road Map’, a plan endorsed by the quartet of the United States, the European Community, Russia, and the United Nations. The plan called for a “final and comprehensive settlement” to the conflict by 2005, and a Palestinian state that was to be “independent, democratic & viable”.
Much like the Oslo accords signed in 1993, the promise of statehood at some future date is being dangled, while the conditions necessary for an independent and viable state are systematically eroded. During the Oslo process, for instance, the number of illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza more than doubled. Similarly, in May of this year the Sharon government made a big show of tearing down a couple of scarcely populated outposts in the occupied territories, while construction continued on other fortified settlements and settler-only roads.
We should note also that this latest U.S. plan for the Middle East appeared to have broad, multi-lateral backing. During the build-up to the war on Iraq, some argued that the problem was the United States’ unilateral stance, its willingness to act alone (or with only Great Britain’s support) in implementing regime change. Having the United Nations or European Community sign-on, however, does not make an intervention progressive. Both these multi-lateral bodies are arenas in which imperial powers are dominant, and in which they fight it out for influence in global affairs. France and Russia refused to vote in the United Nations Security Council for the war on Iraq before it happened, but immediately afterwards they voted to sanction the U.S.-U.K. occupation and now propose a greater U.N.-role in occupying Iraq.
The multi-laterally endorsed Road Map for Palestine is designed to strengthen U.S. imperialism’s overall dominance in the entire region. An illustration of the imperial nature of the U.S. role in the Middle East is its presumption to determine, and one could even say invent, the Palestinian leadership. The creation of the position of Prime Minister in the Palestinian Authority’s cabinet, and the creation of Mahmoud Abbas as not only PM but as a “legitimate leader”, has been carried out for the benefit of the U.S. and Israeli governments. Abbas, or Abu Mazen as the former PLO ambassador to Moscow is also known, is to the U.S. rulers “someone they can deal with”. Abbas’ complete lack of support amongst the Palestinian people is not seen as relevant.
On September 2, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz declared that his government had failed to do enough to marginalise PLO leader Yasser Arafat, asserting that “I believe that he [Arafat] needs to disappear from the stage of history. The state of Israel made a historic mistake by not expelling him some two years ago”. Mofaz went on to speculate as to when would be the best time to expel Arafat from Palestine for good.
Expulsion of the indigenous population from Palestine has been a cornerstone of Zionist strategy in the region for the past 55 years, since the founding of Israel in 1948 and the expulsion of close to 800 000 Palestinians. For the more than 6 million Palestinian refugees worldwide, the ‘Roadmap’ contains little in regard to their plight, only mentioning the issue as one of a number of issues to be negotiated in the later phases of the plan. Israeli politicians, from Likud “hawks” to Labor “doves”, are united in their opposition to the right of Palestinian refugees to return, since that right challenges the exclusive and racist nature of the state of Israel.
The ruling group in the United States, despite their fundamentalist ideological convictions in U.S. imperialism, are growing increasing worried about the unstable situation in Iraq. The resistance they are continuing to face in Iraq, not to mention the renewed resistance in Afghanistan, has made snuffing out the Palestinian struggle an all the more urgent objective.
For those in solidarity with struggles for self-determination everywhere, it makes all the more urgent the task of exposing the reality behind the Road Map, and continuing to advocate for fundamental human rights such as the right of Palestinian refugees to return.
Derrick O’Keefe is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Group in Vancouver. Article published in the September edition of the Fire This Time newspaper (www.fire-this-time.org)