A Terrorist Swims in the People He Claims to Fight for Like a Shark in Water

Nathan Thrall has a piece on the novel by Matt Beynon Rees, The Collaborator of Bethlehem. The protagonist is a self-critical Palestinian, Omar Yussef. He represents, according to Rees, a silent majority. How do we encourage them to speak? (Hat tip: SH)

A loss of trust

Nathan Thrall, The Jerusalem Post, May. 24, 2007

Omar Yussef, a balding 56-year-old grandfather, non-practicing Muslim and teacher of history at the UN-run Girls School in Dehaishe refugee camp, was squabbling over a dinner bill with his friend and former pupil, George Saba, when gunshots rang out nearby. The two friends were seated in an empty restaurant not far from George’s home in the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Jala. They hadn’t seen each other in some time, for George, like many of Bethlehem’s Christians, had left and moved to Chile, home to the largest Palestinian community outside the Arab world. Unlike most Palestinian migrants, George had recently returned. But the Bethlehem he came back to was one in which he was now even less welcome, one in which dinners between old Muslim and Christian friends had become rare.

Moments before the gunshots, George and Yussef had been sipping tea and sharing baklava. George had told his old teacher how his home had been the target of Israeli fire when local men from the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade had used his rooftop to shoot across the valley at the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo. George had vowed that he would not let them do it again. Now, as the bursts of gunfire continued, George and Yussef went to the restaurant’s door.

“Jesus,” George said, “I think they might be on my roof again.” Before Yussef could stop him, George was off. The next time they saw each other, some days later, it was in a damp, rank jail cell. Yussef was visiting and George was incarcerated, arrested for collaborating with Israel and accused of facilitating the recent murder of a Martyrs Brigade fighter. George was facing imminent execution. Yussef was determined to spend the next days and nights doing all in his power to exonerate his friend. He would confront Bethlehem’s corrupt authorities and all-powerful gunmen. He would search for the identity of the real collaborator.

A TOP-STORY apartment in a tall building in the Givat Oranim neighborhood of Jerusalem, just a short drive from Dehaishe, is where Yussef’s creator lives. British-born and Oxford educated, a journalist for over 15 years (most recently the Jerusalem bureau chief for Time magazine), Matt Beynon Rees is the proud father of a first novel, The Collaborator of Bethlehem, the first in a series of Omar Yussef mysteries. In an airy study overlooking Rehov Shai Agnon, Rees sits on a beanbag across from a framed cover of his first book, Cain’s Field: Faith, Fratricide, and Fear in the Middle East, and paraphrases the words written in his novel’s prologue: “All the crimes in this book are based on real events in Bethlehem. Though identities and some circumstances have been changed, the killers really killed this way, and those who died are dead just the same.”

One of those real events in Bethlehem, Rees says, “was a man who was dragged into the street and shot as a collaborator. Sometime later, I went to the head of Fatah in Dehaishe and he said, ‘No, he wasn’t a collaborator. He just was a powerless guy.’ There was a collaborator who had been involved in an assassination. The government didn’t know who the collaborator was, and they wanted to kill someone to put off other collaborators. So they killed this guy.”

Though Rees’s criticisms are harsh, he can hardly contain his love of Palestinian society. Blue-eyed and fair skinned, he speaks unabashedly of feeling “incredibly alive” when he first stepped foot in the West Bank, “like a 19th-century Victorian who came to the source of the Nile.”

The idea for the novel came to Rees when he was in Irtas, just south of Bethlehem, in 2003. He was covering the murder of a man from Fatah who had been shot in a cabbage patch while sneaking home for Iftar, the evening meal with which Muslims break their Ramadan fast.

“I was standing in the cabbage patch with the guy’s wife and mother and they were talking to me in a very emotional, very eloquent, very forthright way,” recalls Rees, who once worked at The Jerusalem Post. “And I remember standing there thinking, ‘this is great. I’m really learning something about Palestinians and how they respond to an extreme situation. What’s not so great is that I know it’s going to be one paragraph of color at the top of my story in Time. Then I’ll have to have a paragraph that says that the Palestinians say this, to be sure the Israelis say that, and the State Department says let’s be nice. And it’s worth more than a paragraph, what I’ve learned here.’”

The event provided the basis for the first murder in the novel.

Rees says he wrote the mystery because he wanted to get at the interior life of the Palestinians.

“Journalism is limited by its formulas, it’s limited by its pretense to objectivity,” he says. “And what it doesn’t get at is what happens inside a Palestinian’s head. That emotional core, that core of the Palestinians’ thinking, is missing.”

I’m not sure this is the case. Maybe Time Magazine has no time for close-up looks, but I’d argue that a serious look at what the Palestinians really think is important news. The problem is that it’s so often done from the perspective of “cognitive egocentrism.”

It is for that reason Rees believes many readers are not interested in the journalism that’s written about the Palestinians. “I think it’s fair to say that most foreign correspondents are political scientists manqué. That’s what their focus is. My focus I would say is anthropological or sociological. And what that means essentially is that I’m interested not so much in systems but in people.”

Nevertheless, Rees’s novel contains valuable political insights: How the vacuum created by an inept and corrupt government has been filled by rival militias; how the resistance against Israel is used to justify extortion and thuggery by local gangs; how clan loyalties often supersede political ones; how the existence of collaborators is exploited to settle personal scores; how redemption of lost honor can motivate suicide bombers; how religious groups like Hamas are often perceived as less corrupt than secular ones like Fatah; how the militants in the younger generation look upon their elders with contempt; how minorities are the first to be persecuted; how clan-size is of paramount importance to one’s survival. But above all, the book is a lament for the loss of brotherhood and of trust, not just between Muslims and Christians, but among all Palestinians.

Obviously the question here is, is this “lost trust and brotherhood” a figment of the writer’s romantic imagination? The Palestinian refugees were betrayed by their fellow Arabs, and within the groups of Arabs living in the land between the river and the sea, there were plenty of betrayals long before Israel was even a state. The 1936 “Nationalist Revolt” had Arabs killing Arabs as a major feature of the “resistance.” As any anthropologist could tell Rees, Arab culture is shot through with distrust. It’s now pathological, but distrusting even your own family is proverbial in Arab culture: “My brother and I against my cousin, My cousin and I against a stranger.”

In Bethlehem, the distrust is palpable. “When I go to Bethlehem, I know a lot of different people,” Rees explains. “But they don’t all know who else I know. So, for example, if I ask Mr. X ‘What do you think of Mr. Y,’ who also actually happens to be a friend of mine, he’ll probably say, ‘I think he’s a collaborator.’ Or, ‘He’s too close to the Authority.’ Or, ‘He’s Hamas. He’s not to be trusted.’ And if ask Mr. Y about Mr. X, he’ll say exactly the same thing. So the murky situation in which they live has led to a real breakdown in trust between people, which is for me one of the saddest things about the effects of the intifada. And one of the effects of the Israeli system of collaborators as well, which is that if you have 10 collaborators in a village, the people in the village will probably think there’s a hundred.”

This is, of course, the sign of a further breakdown of trust, similar to the impact of the Inquisition on a medieval village in the 13th or 14th century in France.

Rees believes another major cause of the loss of trust is the cynical exploitation by local militia leaders of the fight against Israel. “Some of those people who are now running groups of gunmen began as nationalists,” he says. Certainly many of them were prepared to sacrifice their lives, and did. And continue to do so. But essentially when things broke down, the gunmen were the people who were in a position to take control. And they were receiving money from [former Palestinian Authority president Yasser] Arafat, not on the basis that they would just be loyal to him but on the basis that they would maintain control, by whatever rough means necessary, over their refugee camp, or over their town. One way to gain credibility is to occasionally kill an Israeli. If you kill an Israeli and then you extort a businessman, the businessman can’t say you’re a criminal, because you turn around and say ‘I killed an Israeli last week. I’m the resistance. You don’t support the resistance? You’re a collaborator.’ And therefore the fight against Israel became bound up with criminal extortion.”

REES’S FOCUS, from the moment he arrived here as a journalist, has been the internal conflicts within Israeli and Palestinian societies, and not what he calls the “diplomatic nonsense” between them. His approach garnered widespread attention when he wrote a 1997 Newsweek cover story entitled “Mafia State,” a pioneering expos of the Palestinian Authority’s corruption.

Arafat’s government, Rees says, was set up to fail, “because the leaders who came from Tunis, with Arafat, got all the top jobs. They got all the ministries, they got all the heads of security services, they even got all the director-generals in the ministries. And the leaders inside who had led the first intifada got nothing,” he says.

“Marwan Barghouti said to me in 1997 – I was outside the Parliament building in Ramallah, and he said, ‘If we [the inside leaders, from the first intifada] don’t get some of the power, maybe we’ll have another intifada.’ And I remember writing it down in my notebook and saying to myself, ‘Well, this is hot air. This is just an attempt to put pressure on Arafat.’

“But what happened in 2000, when those inside leaders were at the end of their tether, the intifada started, and these guys took it by the scruff of its neck – Marwan Barghouti was the leader among them – leading people to the barricades, to the checkpoints, going to the funerals, getting people stirred up and sending them off to the checkpoints again, because he knew that if they destroyed the whole Oslo edifice, those outside leaders [from Tunis] would have no power anymore and Arafat would have to turn to him and the inside leadership.”

Now I have difficulty understanding the logic here (although it doesn’t surprise me, despite how much awareness of the problem Rees demonstrates). If Marwan and his buddies are fed up with Arafat, why not attack Arafat? Why go after the Israelis? As a way to bring down Arafat in a flood of violence? Is this is not yet another demonstration of the way that one “gains credibility” in Palestinian circles by killing Israelis… And anyway, Marwan did a lot more than stirring people up to go to the checkpoints and barricades. What we still haven’t seen in this interview is any sense of the impact of the teaching of hatred and its religious and cultural (honor-shame) dimensions.

That inside leadership, Rees says, “then became local gang leaders. And while they were getting money from Arafat, they also wanted to get money from parts of society that couldn’t resist them. In Bethlehem, that’s the Christians. But it’s different groups in other places. Whomever you can exploit.”

A virtue of the novel is that unlike much journalism, blame for injustice and corruption is not placed almost entirely on the uppermost echelons of society.

Journalism need not be so stupid as to blame everything on the uppermost echelons of society. And in any case, it tends to blame it on the Israelis, not on the Palestinians.

“That’s because the experience of a Palestinian, an ordinary Palestinian like Omar Yussef, is not to turn on the news and see what Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] says and think, ‘Hmm, what does that mean for me?’ It’s to walk through the old souk of Bethlehem in safety or not. Or to go into his insurance office and not worry about gunmen coming in and shooting him in the leg unless he gives them money. Reality for Palestinians has become, to use the parlance of mystery fiction, very noir-ish.

According to the lore, Genghis Khan’s created an empire where a naked virgin could walk from one end to the other, carrying a purse of gold, and go unmolested. That’s a good description of civil society’s ideal. How one achieves that — what combination of fear of retribution from the state, voluntary commitment to playing by those rules — offers the details of civic history.

In the novel, Omar Yussef expresses similar cynicism about the Palestinian government, about the nobility of the resistance, about the motives of the local militias. Parents complain that in the classroom he criticizes the government, lambastes the Martyrs Brigade as gangsters, and condemns suicide bombings. The day after a demonstration, he tells his students that instead of throwing stones at soldiers, they should throw stones at their parents and their government for making a mess of their lives. Rees says that his protagonist’s perspective is “fairly common” among Palestinians. But what would Rees say to one of his readers who wonders whether the gunmen could prosper if thinking like Yussef’s was truly common?

“I’d say, ‘You live in a democracy where the police enforce the law,’” Rees says. “‘And if the police stopped enforcing the law in New York or Chicago and you didn’t have a way of voting out the politicians who are supposed to oversee the law enforcement, then Chicago and New York would pretty soon become Bethlehem and Nablus. And you have to ask yourself, would you then rush out to the streets and tell it like it is? Or would you try to get along and keep your head down?’ And I think that’s the situation for Palestinians, which is that they live in a very unpredictable, murky environment where there’s no trust. An ordinary Palestinian can trust almost no one, and that shapes the way they behave.

Excellent answer, if a bit heavy on the cognitive egocentrism. Granted you might respond in this way, but you also might begin to organize a group that’s both willing to fight, and committed to the rules of civil society. The description that Rees gives of lawlessness as the default when there’s no police, illustrates only how important police (fear of punishment) are to the sustenance of civil society. When the rules systematically favor the elites, or the police are corrupt, civil society fails. The miracle is that civil society exists at all.

COMMENT

For the Palestinians, there’s a double problem, one internal, one external. The internal one derives from the long history of authoritarianism that dominates their political culture, and its powerful links to the alpha male dominance of their social order. So to get a civil society here, despite the clear example of one next door, poses enormous (if not insurmountable) obstacles.

The external one constitutes the wild card. Without the impact of the West, there is no reason to anticipate any significant transformation in the workings of Arab/Muslim prime divider society anywhere in the Arab world, much less in the backwater of Palestine. Until the Palestinians show an interest in learning from the West, these clans, these honor-killings, these mafioso uses of power, have a permanent inertia. This is not to say that Islam — a monotheistic religion and therefore at its core an egalitarian religion — does not have the resources to mobilize such a tremendous reorientation. But to overcome the political strangle-hold of the mafia-elites calls for something profound, and the current direction of Islamic zeal runs roughshod over such delicate sentiments.

And here is where we come to a group which can contribute enormously to this process of building a civil society, but instead have contributed to its profound deterioration, as chronicled in this novel. The key players right now are the Westerners on the ground — all the progressive NGOs who claim to work for “civil society,” indeed constitute civil society according to many academics. They are there to “help” the Palestinians. People like Rachel Corrie.

These people have multiplied in the occupied territories since 2000 in particular, and they have systematically contributed to making the lives of the Palestinians significantly more miserable. And this they do because they embrace the PCP2 world view in which Israel serves the same scape-goating function that it does for the Arab/Islamic world view.

What lies behind that moral insanity? Anti-semitism? Anti-westernism? Unresolved Oedipal conflicts they insist on playing out in public? Perhaps some of their penitents can explain what goes on in their minds. (JeffB gives some clues as to what they tell themselves for public consumption.) In any case, these people have a global agenda in which the Palestinians play a key role in their resentment of Western culture. As a result, they come to the “occupied territories,” determined to affirm their “Post-colonial” world-view. So their way of interacting with the forces Rees describes as destroying Palestinian society — the thugs who use Israel as a means to extort — reinforces their grip over the people whose suffering moves the whole world.

They are the ones who see this up close; they know the workings of the clans, the mafias, the honor-killings, the hate factories, the zealous addiction to violence. And yet, despite their moral commitments, they affirm the scapegoating narrative in which Israel is the source of all our misfortunes. So anyone like Omar Yussef, who calls it like it is, will not find a sympathetic ear with these radicals. On the contrary, they prefer the Marwan Barghoutis, who can spin their heads with his rhetoric of liberation, even as he plunges his people into still greater depths of suffering and betrayal.

And they are the ones who come back to eager crowds of progressives in the West with glowing reports of a vibrant Palestinian civil society… if only it weren’t for the Israeli “occupation.”

If they changed their tune… if they explained how mad, self-destructive, and dishonest (okay, let’s not go too far too fast), it was to scapegoat Israel, that on the contrary, the way out of this lies in building ties of trust with Israelis who, it turns out, are far more reliable friends than the Arab elites they are now forced to live with… if they came to Sederot as human shields, and explained to the Palestinians that the Israelis are fellow human beings… if they gave strength to the Omar Yussefs of the Palestinian world of genuine civic dissent… then maybe Palestinians who really do want a civil society, would start to pick up their heads and to walk, as do Arabs in Israel despite all the reasons for mistrust, kommemiyut — upright, erect, with dignity.

Unfortunately, behind these zealous fools, lies a whole world of academia and journalism that reinforces both the scapegoating discourse on the one hand, and the ban on any potentially Islamophobic discussion of how profoundly destructive and self-destructive Arab and Muslim culture on the other.

12 Responses to A Terrorist Swims in the People He Claims to Fight for Like a Shark in Water

  1. Eliyahu says:

    RL, this was getting pretty close to reality. I’m amazed that someone who once worked for Time was capable of approaching reality. On the other hand, why is this hatred, this insidious misrepresentation of Israel so strong, so pervasive, precisely in Britain?? I think there is a deep institutional hatred of Jews and Israel in Britain, especially among what they call the Establishment, for various reasons. This explains why all this activity for boycotting Israel centers in Britain and why the boycott movement is so much stronger there than in other EU lands, albeit Israel and Jews are hated there too.

    I come to these thoughts –which you alluded to in your mention of Western academics wallowing in the “palestinian” narrative as filtered by NGOs speaking against “occupation”– after reading a tract by one Helena Cobban. Ms Cobban’s father was, I believe, Alfred Cobban, the author of a reliable work on the 3rd French Republic. She is on a more plebeian level, writing policy analyses about Syrian-Israeli relations, and the like. I have no doubt that she is well connected institutionally in the UK, probably with the Royal Inst of Int’l Affairs, inter alia.
    Her short tract was on her own blog which I stumbled into. Here she lies, and I can’t believe that she writes from ignorance –like JeffB– about the economic situation of the Arabs in Judea-Samaria-Gaza under Israeli rule up till the start of the first so-called “intifada.” She also lies about how that hate movement [or "resistance" movement] began. Here is someone, Cobban, who puts herself up as knowledgeable in that snotty British way, who has access to many sources of info, yet portrays the onset of the first “intifada” in the hysterical, simplistic, manichean, rabbble-rousing manner of any “human rights activist” or journalist for the Guardian or second secretary in the Foreign Office.
    To back up Rees’ relatively realistic view of Arab society and concomitantly to refute Cobban, I would point out that about a month or less before the Hamas in the Gaza Strip started the first “intifada” [December 1987], Arab elders in the Dahaysheh refugee next to Bethlehem, had a meeting with the Israeli military commander in that district and asked him to put a stop to the Islamist agitation being intensely carried out in Dahaysheh at that time. They warned that such agitation could lead to violence against Israel and against other Arabs, which they did not want. In other words, the policy of Rabin-Peres in that period was to allow the Hamas to agitate, to export Islamist agitation from Gaza to Judea-Samaria. In this way, Rabin-Peres helped bring on the first “intifada.” It was not a spontaneous uprising of angry Arabs who were eager to shake off the shackles of the Zionist occupier, blah blah, as Cobban would have it. The meeting of Arab elders with the Israeli commander was reported in Yedi`ot in November 1987 in an article by Yits’haq Rabihiya [if I recall his name correctly]. I haven’t heard anything about him in years. I also overheard certain things in the same vein from discussions/reorientation sessions among officers while I was doing my army reserve service in Judea-Samaria. In short, many Arabs were not eager to go war with Israel. Cobban misrepresents the whole situtation in her slick British way.

  2. Eliyahu says:

    Correction:
    Dahaysheh refugee CAMP [which is just south of Bethlehem]

  3. Eliyahu says:

    Arab society in Israel was divided for centuries into factions called Qays and Yaman, named after Arabian tribes and regions. This division was much like that of Blues and Greens in the Byzantine empire. Many of their encounters were bloody and murderous. As I understand it, different clans belonged to one faction or the other. Much of the violence in Gaza today is along clan lines. It is believed that the Daghmush clan kidnapped Johnston of the bbc.
    Of course, the Arabs before 1920 did not usually view the country as a separate country, rather it was part of bilad ash-Sham, for them. Nor were they generally aware of the name “palestine” [or Filastin]. The notion of Filastin [roughly equivalent territorially to the Roman sub-province of Palaestina Prima] was known among the tiny minority of literate scholars among the Muslims.

  4. fp says:

    in a an exchange on totten’s blog when somebody claimed that arab religion and culture are yielding serious societal failure one reaction was “this is racism”.

    I pointed out that it would be racism to say that that arabs as a race cannot succeed. that is precisely what was NOT being claimed. egocentric indeed.

    the failure to resolve the conflict is mainly due to arab religion and societal culture. it’s because this is not recognized that there is so much blamed on israel.

    comment rl: this accusation of racism is both incorrect — the issue is culture not race — and ultimately dishonest. it’s the left version of the right’s “commie pinko.” as for saying that the arabs as a race cannot succeed, that’s imbedded in the left’s urgent desire to shield them from any serious criticism and insistence on treating them as if they’d already graduated from civil society college, when so far they’re failing first grade.

    that is, incidentally just what Mitterand and the french school system did with their failing immigrant students in the schools. passed them through with flying colors, no demands, and help creat the “lost territories.”

  5. fp says:

    just came across this example of how religion “does not” have an effect:

    Medical Terrorism Comes to America

    contrast this with israel accepting wounded fatah and hamas for treatment. do you know of any jew treated in a palestinian or arab hospital?

  6. fp says:

    just came across this example of how religion “does not” have an effect:

    Medical Terrorism Comes to America
    http://www.debbieschlussel.com/archives/2007/05/when_your_docto.html

    contrast this with israel accepting wounded fatah and hamas for treatment. do you know of any jew treated in a palestinian or arab hospital?

  7. Sophia says:

    I am beginning to think the term “moral insanity” is appropriate.

    Being a good Democrat and upset with Dubya, I began looking on the liberal/left blogs in 2004.

    What did I find? Judenhass – conspiracy theories relating to 9/11; discussions of “neocons” and their plans for World Domination; vicious attacks on Lieberman and other “dual loyalty” memes; scapegoating of Israel and American Jewish groups for Iraq, not to mention the death of Hariri, the London tube bombings, the bombings in Amman, bombings in Tel Aviv – and of course the Israelis were demonized for the woes of the Middle East as though they truly have evil intent and the Palestinians are completely innocent victims, as though terror doesn’t exist, nor the many Arab wars against Israel, nor Israel’s tiny size, population and of course, her history.

    The latest of course is the “fact” that the “Israel Lobby” suppresses debate – which I’d find utterly hilarious if it wasn’t so nauseating. And here, with the espousal of far right wing or “realist” philosophy, rejecting reformers from the Muslim world, attempts to paint Israel as a “burden” and an alliance with the Palestinians as a preferable goal, and in the intersection of the “zionism is racism” crowd with the David Dukettes, you see the crossover between the far right and far left.

    And, we see as well another form of racism: when reformers who fight for human rights are called bigots – like Wafa Sultan or Hirsi Ali – what does that say about their critics?

    Finally, I think there may be an apparently deliberate attempt to polarize Jews and Muslims here in the West. One article I read recently, in the Arab American News, I think, deplored Islamophobia – but then compared Muslims in the West as similar to Jews in 1930′s Nazi Germany, or to Arabs in modern Israel!

    Western or youthful ignorance is partly to blame for some of this, I’m sure.

    One one “progressive” site, the moderator of the “Israel/Palestine” forum was completely unaware either of the impact of WWII, the Holocaust or Nazi philosophy on the Middle East nor did he understand why people who’ve read some history get so angry at the British.

    Beyond that I don’t know what has happened out there but it’s bad and it represents a hijacking of everything we stand for in the West, be we on one side of the political aisle or the other.

    Finally I came upon an article linked by Michael Totten called “The Berkeley Intifada”, about what’s happening on some of our campuses. It is truly frightening: in the name of the Palestinian cause and the “peace movement”, strident antisemitism is preached and “the resistance” or “ending the occupation” has clearly become a movement to destroy Israel, with all that implies for the Jewish people.

    My own students report things they’re told – often by Arab American or visiting Palestinian students: Israel is “exterminating” the Palestinians, etc.

    How are 18, 19, 20 year olds supposed to know otherwise?

    But there really is NO excuse for the older people on the Left, here or in Europe, who goosestep down the street with Hezbollah flags and try to boycott Israeli artists, doctors, architects and scholars.

  8. fp says:

    orwell would be proud. doublespeak is here.

  9. [...] ulled from British and French friends and acquaintances suggests that it is. But like the “silent majority&#8221 [...]

  10. Eliyahu says:

    Joanne, if you want a glimpse of Leftist insanity with Marxist theoretical pretensions, you might check out a recent review in the “Marxist” Monthly Review of a book by Prof James Petras [Martin Kramer provides the link]. It is a case of the more deluded against the less deluded. Petras claims that Zionism & Israel control the United States through AIPAC, etc. This implies that the Jewish Lobby or pro-Israel lobby is more powerful than the oil lobby and/or the pro-Arab lobby. Petras comes close to –or joins– the neo-Nazi claim of a “ZOG” [Zionist Occupied Government], that is, the “Zionists” control the USGovt. Allan Ruff, the MR’s reviewer for this book, properly debunks Petras’ mad claims. Then Ruff claims that, on the contrary, Zionism and Israel are tools of US imperialism. At least this is a refreshing change from Petras’ madness. However, Ruff himself goes on to exaggerate AIPAC’s influence and also to feel sorry for poor jimmy carter [isn't jimmy a stalwart of US imperialism by MR's definition??] and professors Mearsheimer and Walt. This is because AIPAC and/or the Jewish community/pro-Israel community in the USA supposedly successfully shut them up. By the way, whereas jimmy is a former US president who sent US forces to Iran to rescue the hostages and who gave funding and military aid to Muslim forces fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, Walt has been head of the very Establishment Kennedy School of Govt at Harvard. But Ruff feels sorry for them, although what they said is much like what Petras said: that Israel/Zionism control US policy or at least US policy in the Middle East. Yet these are very much Establishment figures. James baker and Lee Hamilton and Professor William R Polk are Establishment figures too. How do Ruff or Petras explain their hostility to Israel??

    Then, the Monthly Review, when I used to read it years ago, emphasized the economic aspect of things, like good Marxist-Leninist-Stalinists. Well, today Arab states, Saudi Arabia and all the Persian Gulf emirates, hold huge amounts of capital, they may hold much more capital per capita than the United States or Britain. Aren’t they imperialist, at least by Lenin’s definition of imperialism as, more or less, finance capital? [see Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism]. Further, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, the Saudi princes, etc., have huge amounts invested abroad, including the United States. They also have American politicians and former diplomats and intelligence officers working on retainer [like James Baker's law firm, Baker Botts] or coming to the Persian Gulf to collect huge speaking fees, a form of bribery after all. Prez Bush Junior wanted to give a Dubai-owned company control of US ports. These superrich Arabs also send money to Hamas. Their media [like al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya] broadcast anti-Israel, pro-Arab terrorist propaganda.

    The US too deals with the Arab terrorists of Fatah [the "moderates"], while European states like Britain and Norway have helped build up Hamas. EU states and the US and Arab states give huge sums to the palestinian authority and Fatah and Hamas, etc. Condi Rice wants Israel to remove checkposts in Judea-Samaria [West Bank] which are necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. Thus Condi is trying to endanger the civilian population in Israel, whether she realizes that or not. The State Dept counsels Israel to use restraint in fighting terrorists, restraint that the US does not use when it is inconvenient. So how do either Petras or Ruff explain these facts, if 1) according to Petras, Zionists/Israel control US Middle Easter policy, or perhaps all US policy; or if 2) according to Ruff, US imperialism uses Israel and has been doing so since the dawn of history???

    How do Petras or Ruff explain or justify their claims about Israel, whereas in both cases their claims contradict Lenin’s theory of imperialism and are contradicted by the facts of the pro-Arab policy of the State Dept and CIA and British Foreign Office since before Israeli independence???

  11. Eliyahu says:

    Sophia, I wanted to address my previous comment above to you rather than to Joanne.

    You mention Rafiq Hariri. We know that Hariri was a billionaire. He also gave large sums of money to Jacques Chirac, President of an imperialist state, n’est-ce pas? By means of these gifts, Hariri seems to have been able to purchase Chirac’s friendship. Otherwise, France would not have cared about the Hariri murder in Lebanon. Nor would the State Dept have cared about it if France had not cared about it.

    Hariri’s career and influence in the West and the Arab world go as further proof against the mad claims of Petras and Ruff.

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