Sunday, April 6, 2008

On the Futility of Palestinian Strategies: Zubeidi

Avi Issacharoff traveled up to Jenin to interview Zakariya Zubeidi (in Arabic, of course). Zubeidi is one of the few leaders of the Palestinian violence who has managed to survive the decade, along the way becoming a familiar figure to most Israelis. He was one of the commanders in Jenin, for a while the most violent of Palestinian towns, and back in 2002 the "capital of the suicide bombers".

A number of months ago the Israelis and the (West Bank) Palestinians agreed on a list of men who would be taken off Israel's active wanted list if they laid down their arms. Zubeidi is one of them. So while there are millions of Palestinians, and no single one of them is representative of them all, this one needs to be listened to, for his words (and silences) are instructive well beyond his private persona.
My aim was for us, by means of the 'resistance' [code for terror attacks], to get a message out to the world. Back in Abu Amar's day [the nom de guerre of Yasser Arafat], we had a plan, there was a strategy, and we would carry his orders."

In effect, are you saying what Amos Gilad and intelligence always said, that Arafat planned everything?

"Right. Everything that was done in the intifada was done according to Arafat's instructions, but he didn't need to tell us the things explicitly. We understood his message."
Need I contextualize? The 2nd Intifada started two months after the Palestinians rejected the Israeli offers made at Camp David in the Summer of 2000, at which according to all versions the Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Barak made some dramatic proposals. One was to disband all settlements in Gaza and many of those in the West Bank. This cut the ground out from under the chief Palestinian grievance during the Oslo Process, whereby the Israelis couldn't possibly intend to relinquish territories if they were still building on them. After Arafat rejected the proposals without making any counter proposals, the negotiations continued in mid-September, and the violence broke out at the end of September. Zubeidi now tells that the decision to turn to violence was calculated and taken clearly, and the direction came straight from Arafat. Nothing particularly new about this, except that it was the opposite of approximately 100% of the media reportage at the time.

The reason Arafat and his thousands of active followers felt they had to do this was "to get a message out to the world". This at a period where the number one time consumer on the schedule of the President of the United States was the Palestinians. After the Israelis retreated to what most of us regarded as too far in the face of Palestinian demands, in January 2001, and we threw out our government for doing so, the Palestinians escalated their violence dramatically, until eventually Israel violently put a stop to it in 2002-2004. As Zubeidi fully acknowledges:
We failed entirely in the intifada. We haven't seen any benefit or positive result from it. We achieved nothing. It's a crushing failure. We failed at the political level - we didn't succeed in translating the military actions into political achievements. The current leadership does not want armed actions, and since the death of Abu Amar, there's no one who is capable of using our actions to bring about such achievements. When Abu Amar died, the armed intifada died with him."
Context, again: They systematically waged violence against Israeli civilians, in order to achieve more than the Israelis were willing to offer. Since by then Israel had offered effectively 100% of the West Bank, full partition of Jerusalem, dismantling of most settlements and some sort of land swap for those that would remain, one must ask what additional goals they had in mind?

Finally, what Zubeidi dosn't say - or rather, what he doesn't do. He admits defeat. He acknowledges that Israel cannot be beaten militarily, thus the whole thing was futile. (Bloody, destructive, murderous - but futile). And so what does he do with all this? He Kvetches. He sleeps till noon. He sometimes goes to play at being an actor, or not, depending. He expects an internal war to tear apart the Palestinians, but the most he feels he must do is damn his own politicians.

The thought of taking his very significant destructive power and turning it into something constructive, seems never to cross his mind. He has a long proven track record of leading his men to death in Israeli towns, but he cannot conceive of harnessing his charisma towards building the best they can possibly achieve in the present situation; the thought that if they were to focus on building rather than destroying they might even find eager partners in the Israelis doesn't even exist in his universe.

Truly a depressing interview.


Anonymous said...

Yaacov: Whatever Zubeidi might really think--and let us assume, arguendo, that he secretly desires to build a world class school system--his life would be discounted to zero the moment he says so publicly.

Anytime a Palestinian "leader" says something, unless they're got some rationale for plausible deniability, i.e., taqiyya, to urge cooperation is to utter a short suicide note.

Let us agree that both Fatah and Hamas exercise a "chilling effect" on speech.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Just like anti-Semites use a particular Jew's denunciation of Israel to delegitimize the State, you're using a particular Palestinian's "admission of guilt" to fault the whole Palestinian people and exonerate Israel.

Of course this is a thoroughly unbalanced presentation of facts.

1) You confuse Camp David with Taba. You cite Arafat walking away from the negotiations, which is true for Camp David and false for Taba. You claim Barak made "dramatic proposals". According to Barak's own admission in The New York Times, he offered just 85% at Camp David. You fail to note that it was the Israelis (not the Palestinians) who walked away from Taba. Let's put this clear for our readers' benefit:

Negotiation site / What was offered / Who walked away
Camp David / 85% / Arafat
Taba / 97% / Israel

You also fail to note that Israel made a very conditional offer, in which the territories would have been returned in (at least) 10 years. You don't say a word of the Israeli-only roads that would have cris-crossed the purported Palestinian state, or of its lack of contiguity. You further fail to cite Sharon's provocation of the Palestinians in visiting the Mount Temple and reaffirming Israel's eternal sovereignty over it.

2) You believe this man when he says "Everything that was done in the intifada was done according to Arafat's instructions, but he didn't need to tell us the things explicitly. We understood his message"... Isn't it possible that he got the message wrong, or that he just wants to blame Arafat for a decision he himself made?

3) You fail to notice the encouraging points in Zubeidi's account:

When an occupation jeep comes into a refugee camp, the PA doesn't do anything, and if someone shoots at the jeep, they'll go and arrest him immediately.

This contrasts sharply with Israeli settlers who stone Palestinian girls, who are not arrested by Israel.

Yaacov said...

Ibrahim -

You are right, of course, that the story of one man doesn't and can't irrefutably prove anything about his entire people. That's obvious, and I didn't mean to say otherwise. My intention was to say: here, this fellow is reasonably important, let's listen to what he says, my isn't it interesting?

I'll bet he's more representative than Moledet (now defunct) ever was. (Liebermann you simply don't understand, probably because you don't know Hebrew: but I assure you, he doesn't say what you attribute to him).

As for the rest, we're working on a way to discuss, you and I, and I'm optimistic we'll craft something. However, you might want to note, before you get yourself into it, that when it comes to Israel I am very well informed. There is very little that you'll be able to tell me that I haven't already thought of (I mention this here because of your impression that I don't know the difference between Camp David and Taba: believe me, I know. In detail). Unless, of course, your "facts" are simply wrong. I don't profess to know all the falsehoods told about us. That would require an additional lifetime, or three.

Before we set up our dialog forum, you might want to glance at that book I wrote about the subject (see above on the right), to get a feeling for what I already know.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Liebermann you simply don't understand, probably because you don't know Hebrew

Let's put it this way: my Hebrew is as good to understand Lieberman as your Farsi is to understand Ahmadinejad.

However, you might want to note, before you get yourself into it, that when it comes to Israel I am very well informed.

I'm quite sure you're well informed, much better than I am. I don't mean to teach you anything. However, the fact that someone knows the truth doesn't necessarily mean that he'll tell it.

My purpose is not to make any shattering revelations to you, but to provide our readers with background and context information that is, in my view, lost in the bias.

Before we set up our dialog forum, you might want to glance at that book I wrote about the subject (see above on the right), to get a feeling for what I already know.

Again, the issue is not how much you know, but how much you let your readers know. For instance, I'm sure you're perfectly acquainted with the Geneva Agreements, yet you present them in a way that is, in my opinion, misleading.

That said, I'll gladly take that glance at your book, and I'll be looking forward to receiving your feedback as regards our dialog forum.

Yaacov said...

And indeed, I've never written anything about Iranian matters, because obviously my ability to do so is extremely limited.

Regarding their president, however, I don't need to know Farsi. It's enough to read thei English-language propaganda they themselves put out. Conferences to prove there was no Holocaust, or convened under the title "A World Without Zionism" aren't so subtle that one really needs to know Farsi to understand the general thrust, don't you think?

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

A World Without Zionism -- well, I agree with that one.

As for the Holocaust denial conference, the organizers claimed, both in Farsi and English, that it sought "neither to deny nor prove the Holocaust ... [but] to provide an appropriate scientific atmosphere for scholars to offer their opinions in freedom about a historical issue." Not that I believe them, but you, who think the Iranians mean every single idiotic word they say, will no doubt be convinced.

Further, last year Iran aired a TV series set in Nazi-occupied Paris which depicted the Jews' suffering under the Holocaust (and the efforts of an Iranian diplomat to save a group of them). Did that half-full glass escape your radar?

And Iranian English language sites clearly state that Iran does not pursue nuclear weapons -- do you believe that one, or do you take them at their word only selectively?

Yaacov said...

You forgot putting 13 Iranian Jews on trial for spying for Israel - they were, what,local merchants, and thus well placed to be able to supply Israel with secret strategic information? Or the 50,000 Jews or so who have felt the need to escape Iran since 1980. (yes, I've talked to some of them, and yes, they speak Farsi, and yes, their tales about Iran hardly bolster whatever case you're trying to make). I'm not even talking about the military aid Iran gives to all sorts of worst-types. I am, however, intrigued that you've forgotten two Iranian-supported attacks on civilians in your very own Argentina. None of these things require any knowledge of Farsi.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Let's put it this way: you have as much proof that Iran supported the attacks against civilians in Argentina as I have that Israel supported the massacres in Sabra and Shatila. Nay, I have more -- the Kahane commission's findings and the Forces Libanaises soldiers' testimony.

But again, Iran has denied involvement in both attacks on Argentina: why don't you believe them? It would seem to me very illogical that a country that boasts of its intention to eliminate the Zionist regime would not also boast of the elimination of a Zionist regime embassy.