|Ramifications of a Palestinian State
Since I still work for the Congress, I hope, at least, I have to read a disclaimer that what I am going to say is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent opinion of the House of Representatives or any other branch of the US government.
Ok. I’ll try – anyway. When I was asked by Dmitry to speak about the threat of a Palestinian state, I was told about the other panelists, I decided that no way am I going to compete about the knowledge of how they going to do things over here. So what I want to do is therefore give it a far wider brush attitude, to look at the threat… I wouldn’t even call it a Palestinian state, rather an armed entity west of the Jordan River in the general context. Not just the specifics of what it can or cannot do to Israel. Yes, it is extremely important in Jerusalem that (inaudible). Yes, when you sit in Jerusalem, every individual that goes and blows himself up in a bus is a national event and nobody here is doubting that. However the threat of a Palestinian state goes way above and beyond its being a source of X number of would-be suicide bombers. Because there is a profound change in the nature of the Palestinian state or Palestinian entity, and I think the word entity is far more important here than a state, because the PA already functions as one, than just dealing with the activities that they – namely, activities of Arafat, the current intifada or the Arafat antics and the rest of the activities that happen day to day. The Palestinian entity plays a tremendous role that is changing right now, profoundly changing in the context of the greater dynamics of the Arab world and the Muslim worlds as a whole, and that, rather than whatever agreement, initiatives and political activities that happen here, or for that matter in Washington in suggesting road maps and other wonderful ideas, are the activities, the belligerency, the militancy, the level of terrorist activities of the entity.
The reason is because of the impact of the war in Iraq on the Muslim world. And don’t get me wrong – I think that if one need to criticize President Bush on anything vis-à-vis Iraq, it is the time that it took between the consolidation of intelligence data that it is imperative to go and remove Saddam Hussein before he blows up the region and the time that it takes for the first American forces to cross the Kuwaiti border. It had to be done, and had to be done, I think, a few months earlier than it did. Anyway, but until the war in Iraq, Arab governments insisted that the Palestinian conflict was the core of the Islamic-inspired political instability in the region. The claim was that it is because of the liberation of the sights and sounds and feeling and the threats to Al-Aksa and the misery of the Palestinians that the population in the region would be (inaudible) and threatening their stability, and as a result of it, these governments have been putting tremendous amount of pressure on Washington to solve the Palestinian problem before they - the regime, the oil-providing countries of the Middle East - are toppled by the Ben Ladens of the world.
It was wrong in the sense that most of these governments are being challenged by the Islamists because of the corruption and un-Islamic ways rather than the plight of the Palestinians. If we look at the documentation - the transcript of the consultation with Abdul Rachman - that led to the assassination of Sadat in 1981, for example, he was assassinated because of his modernizing way, because he became a westernized leader and changed the internal situation in Egypt - not because he made peace with Israel. So that’s one point of extreme, and the same thing applies to other Arab leaders as well. However, it was extremely easy for both Washington and the Arab countries to avoid dealing with a plight of the oil regime, the stability organization of the oil regimes, their relationship with their own people, the absence of legitimacy, etc, etc, and just come – oh, just have the Jews withdraw from that chunk of real estate, and everything will be wonderful. That can no longer be done today because the Arab world is reacting to the changes in the entire region - profoundly to the challenge of the US presence and changes that are ongoing in Iraq today.
Although Arab governments still come and complain, Saudis do it repeatedly, that it is the Palestinian problem is the number one problem that affects stability in the region. One follows the day-to-day activities in the Arab world, the sermons, etcetera -- they are far more preoccupied with the situation in Iraq than with the Palestinian problem, and therefore to a great extent, sensitive to the issue that I want to elaborate on – Palestinian problem becomes a component of the bigger problem than Iraqis on the forefront rather than an issue in its own right, much to the (inaudible) of Israel.
For the Islamists, if the United States war in Iraq is very simple – Saddam Hussein, dictator, whatever - but he has been a megalomaniac dictator, had regional aspiration, accumulated weapons of mass destruction, supported terrorists in order to be able to realize his manifest destiny and the time was ripe to cut him down, and so it was done. In the Arab world, we look, we found a completely different war. It is the replay of the invasion of Baghdad by Hoolago, the grandson of Genghiz Khan. Back in 1258, Hoolago’s armies were closing in on Baghdad, when one of the generals of the caliphate betrayed the city to the invading forces. They came in, they ransacked the city, they committed one of the greatest massacre bloodsheds in the history of Baghdad and continued westward in the direction of what is today would be Syria and Palestine, or Israel. Two years later, Egyptian armies climbed up into Israel, into the village of (inaudible), not far from Nazareth today, and were soundly defeated by the Mongol armies, the forces of which were predominantly Turkic forces – a very important distinction. It took protracted guerilla warfare by Arabs from Syria, part of Israel and from Iraq to defeat the Mongols. At that point, something profound happened. The vast majority of the Turkic forces converted to Islam and started the mass defection. That brought the collapse of the Mongol forces. It was the first new strategic defeat of the Mongol’s army since they led to conquest and started on the way westward.
From that there began the greatest geographic and population spread of Islam in history. Islam spread to Turkey, and then to Central Asia, all the way to the East through Indonesia and the Philippines. The greatest accusation of manpower, human-being conversion into Islam started from the catharsis, that crisis that happened in 1260. Furthermore, several preachers rose up over the next century or so to concentrate, to stress, to highlight this victory of Jihad as the source of salvation of tribes of Islam. Most important of this is a guy named Iben Taimia, who grew up in Damascus and ended up in jail; the important thing is that one guy, Osama Bin Laden, considers himself the reincarnation of Iben Taimia today. And he has been doing that since the early 1990’s, continues to do so, bringing a continuity to the preoccupation with that period.
If one reads the summons, the religious written description about the war in Baghdad or the war in Iraq, throughout the Muslim world, from preaches of Abu Sayaf in the Philippines all the way to the three border areas in Argentina or to the preacher in San Diego and the preacher in Los Angeles for that matter, last week. They are talking about one Hoolago Bush who has invaded Baghdad. For them it is the repeat of the same crisis. Yes, they’ve only undergone the first phase. Baghdad has been betrayed with something that Saddam Hussein is complaining about and the CIA is bragging about, but this is the first phase. There has been a curse on Baghdad, just like in 1258. Now is the time to mobilize the Jihadist forces and fight the next war and start the next spread of Islam, the next explosion of Islam. The PA is positioning itself as the bastion from which the forces that would spring, the new armies are going to come. And this is the profound change that is happening in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This is no longer a fight over Israel vs. Palestine, a Muslim state from the sea to the river or whatever it is. Now it is the bastion from which the historic victory of Islam, they believe, is going to be delivered again. This is the catalyst from which the apocalyptic event from which Islam will be able to surge again and attain its long overdue global glory as preached by Ben-Laden and all others.
Arafat, being an old Muslim brother, is adamant of having a central role in this game. And he would not - no negotiations in Geneva, Washington, Jerusalem, or wherever it is – he is not going to deprive him from his chance to be a central part of this global historical drama that is unfolding in front of his eyes. And this is what we need to understand when we look at the Intifada on a day-to-day basis. Now there is a direct connection.
In other words, the Palestinian Jihad of the Intifada is no longer only for destruction of Israel and the liberation of Al-Quds. Don’t get me wrong, they haven’t given up on that objective but it is now the precursor of the new struggle.
The role of Arafat’s state or the Palestinian entity now is the catalyst for global explosion that will steal the thunder from Osama Ben-Laden. The Palestinians will deliver the goods, something that Osama Ben Laden had not been able to do. Arafat believes that he can do it. Well, actually to be precise, the guy sitting next to him is convinced that he can do it, and there is a profound difference in the attitude to destabilizing the Arab world. Ben-Laden is reaching out to the grassroots, and he’s reaching out to the grassroots with tremendous amount of effectiveness and quality and Ben-Laden is by far the most popular, articulate, eloquent spokesman for the plight of the average Muslim today. And if you want the proof of that, the French, who are sometimes do the most wonderful research about the most outrageously irrelevant subjects, did a study on names given to children in the Muslim world, and a few years ago, before September 11, number one – Mohammad, number two, very close – Osama.
So Ben-Laden’s doctrine is to have the massive overthrow or pressure the regime into participating in the global Jihad, etcetera. Arafat is going to subvert the governments and provoke them into joining the Jihad and in the process he will gain popularity and acceptability of the Muslims. Governments can move much faster than a cool overthrow of the government and then the reemergence of a Muslim regime. Therefore while he is in the same big scheme of things, he is moving much faster than Osama Ben-Laden, and that gets him tremendous booty over here, because the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aksa Brigade and the like cannot challenge him. He is doing the Jihad, the global Jihad.
The other thing that is emerging that is extremely important is that just as it was the case in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, there is a blurring of the ideological organizational distinction of those who either pull the trigger or blow themselves up. We’re now seeing definitely in Iraq, we’re seeing it in contemporary Afghanistan, not this Afghanistan of 1980. We see it again in the three border areas in Argentina, in Philippines, etcetera, the merging of groups, people maybe belong on a day-to-day basis to this organization, that organization, follow this preacher, that preacher, when it comes to operational thing, they working together. That phenomena is reaching out to the territories, and therefore you have a blurring out in the emergence of localized groups that are far more difficult to identify because they don’t maintain lines of communication with central committee, they do listen to the bosses, they do depend on supplies, training, etcetera, etcetera, from the other side.
The other thing that is extremely important to understand is the rise of the sponsoring state. Both Iran and Syria see themselves in mortal threat by the emergence of the US-dominated Iraq. If you look at the map, Iraq fills the encirclement by pro-Western and forces of Iran and the encirclement by pro-Western forces or countries of Syria. Most regimes know that they will be stifled to death if the US is capable of sustaining a pro-Western democratic incline, whatever it is, and a pro-Western Iraq with US military presence in Iraq. Therefore they are adamant on escalating the guerilla warfare, sponsoring and supporting the guerilla warfare against the United States in Iraq because it is their survival. For the same reason they are adamant on escalating the Islamic struggle against Israel, because it polarizes, spreads the conflict beyond one front. And because of that, because of the struggle for the dear life that they escalate today directly and via the Hizbollah and the like, the sponsorship of terrorism inside Israel, again – Arafat is eager and ready to support that because at the end of the day it escalates his Jihad against Israel and one had to expect an escalation because of that, and I’ll stop here.