Monday, May 2, 2011

The Ghost of Peace

There is a ghost going round in Europe, the ghost of communism. 

It is May 1 2011 as I am writing these lines (and Osama bin Laden is probably still alive in his Abbottabad hideout) and the famous phrase from the Communist Manifesto written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848 has me thinking of the many ghosts that have since haunted Europe: the ghost of fascism, the ghost of war, hot or cold, the ghost of nuclear deterrence, the ghost of terrorism from Germany's Red Army Faction and - as a rather new ghost - the ghost of Islamophobia we are seeing today, even in societies that claim to have written "liberté, égalité, fraternité" on their flags.

Let's flash over to the Middle East, where on this Labor Day Palestine seems definitely destined to go into labor, with an estimated time of birth in September 2011 when the UN General Assembly convenes in New York. The Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad looks to me like the hardest working man in diplomatic business, incessantly active behind the curtains of political deal making to get Washington, London, Cairo and - yes! - Ankara to the point of no return, to get to Palestine. Fayyad is exactly doing what Mr. Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks want us to believe is no longer tolerable: a secret diplomacy aimed to achieve a political end before the good plan has been eaten in the press (or devoured on an Israeli cabinet session table for that matter).

More news coming out of Palestine last week: Hamas and Fatah, the brotherly arch-rivals, are destined to sign a reconciliation contract this week and to form a common interim government. The Egyptian military, interim themselves, at least so they say, announced that they will open the Rafah border crossing to Gaza in the coming days. And a new flotilla, the Freedom Flotilla II, will soon set sail towards Gaza to break the Israeli siege of the strip by the sea once and for all. 

The political landscape in the Middle East has truly changed in 2011. For the Palestinians, the new rulers in Cairo, acting more hands-free than Mubarak ever thought he could (or wanted) is a blessing brought upon them by the brave protesters of Tahrir Square. None of these developments make Israel happy. A Hamas - Fatah unity government? The Palestinians are crossing a red line here (drawn by whom?), so the "ach so schreckliche" Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Israel's army radio. Opening up the border gates in Rafah? That is like opening up the gates of hell, if one was to ask the Israeli government, and in a certain way they are right. If this is hell, they want to control it. A new flotilla coming the Israeli way? Netanyahu is travelling all over Europe to pressure European governments into actions to prevent the "all aboard!" of the maritime siege busters. 

crossing a red line: Avigdor Lieberman

All signs indicate to a more peaceful, a more democratic Middle East and yet, Israel is rotating in diplomatic overdrive. The true state of mind of this unhappy people comes to light. They need the war to live in peace. Only if others are at least as unhappy as they are, they shine. Their unhappiness is a negative happiness at the expense of their neighbors. Their security environment, established with the help of their big brothers in Washington, is a yoke of insecurity and oppression for their fellow Middle Eastern citizens. 

Don' get me wrong here. A Palestinian state is a first step towards a sustainable solution of some sorts, but I don't think a two-state solution will be viable in the long run. A Palestine will always be dependent on Israel - for work, for logistics, for security, for anything. By the end of this century we will see a one-state configuration between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea, everything else won't work. But in order to accomplish this, the recognition of Palestine as an independent state is an important precursor. Only if you recognize the other as such, you are able to interact in a meaningful way with him or her.  

And what about the Freedom Flotilla II? Should it be cancelled, now that Rafah is open? Of course, that is for the flotilla organizers to decide. Would you cancel the Olympics? Flotilla has become the activists' Olympics, for which you have to qualify and where only the fiercest and fittest can participate, going against the world's best and most ruthless anti activists' force, the Israeli navy. (I acknowledge though that their Olympic title in this rather dubious discipline is heavily challenged by the likes of the Libyan loyalists and the Syrian Mukhabarat.) So, I'd say let's go ahead with the flotilla, even if it is running in open doors. But for next year, they might look for another venue: Bahrain under Iranian siege, Zimbabwe after the Mugabe election fraud or Cuba and the Castro brothers rest home come to mind.

Peace in the Middle East is like a love - a woman, a man - you are craving for a long time to be with but when the possibility is nearing to present itself, when the plane ticket is booked, the bags are checked in, you suddenly feel the fear of an encounter creeping up inside yourself. You take a step back and would opt for the status quo, as unsatisfactory it might be, if someone asked you, because you are afraid of the consequences of love, of the daily life of living together, of making love work, of making peace work.

The new government in Cairo changing its policies towards Palestine and particularly Gaza? Bashar al-Assad sitting on a red hot seat in Damascus? Fatah and Hamas to unite, stopping to fight each other, at least for now, and instead "smarting" their way to NYC? Israel running against her own wall with her strategy of divide and rule, with "my security is your insecurity"?

There is a ghost going round in the Middle East, the Ghost of Peace.


  1. Good evening,

    After a second read, I realize I didn't get the full meaning of "making to get Washington [...] to the point of no return, to get to Palestine". Is it about getting the powerful countries involved via deals with Palestine, or to get them recognize the state of Palestine?

    In the Elysée, Sarkozy is trying to play it smarter than Obama. It seems like they're both competing to win, but winning what? I didn't get a proper answer yet. For now, Obama seems to have gain some distance from Sarkozy as he scored high with Osama Bin Ladin's murther. Anyway, we've heard too much about it already, and it seems to not be over yet, new developments coming for sure.

    Indeed, France could be the first country to recognize the state of Palestine, right after the unity deal between Hamas and Fatah, and of course, if that deal keeps following the UN lines, that is to say not start any kind of war against Israel and work on a westernized democracy version among their people so to eradicate Hamas' terrorism weeds.

    The Egyptian revolution, I followed day after day, sleepless nights accompagnied with worrisome, is a step I knew it would bring a radical change in the Middle East and, at least, for the Palestinians and Palestine. The departure of the ousted former president Mubarak shadowed the developments which followed right after in a tumultuous atmosphere. Egyptians are aware that the after Mubarak is going to be a long and more painful way to get their demands really fulfilled or, at least, shaped. Enthousiasm invaded the place on Twitter and in other social networks which led to make other countried hopeful and admirative. Then Lybia, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan... Now, that the political situation in Egypt isn't clearly identified - who is ruling? Who are those militairs? What are their aims? - the country is, on the contrary, taking a clear decision supporting Palestinians and the creation of a state of Palestine. Egypt got in this position massivly thanks to those same brave Egyptians who rushed in their streets on January, 25. But, I think there are hidden bundaries that also led interim Egyptian leaders to play a significative rôle, bringing Fatah and Hamas sitting around the same table, discussing – under a great incomprehensible secrecy.
    The first move of this Egypt-Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal is the opening of the Rafah border crossing. Most of the Palestinians were cheering up in the streets right after the spreading of the news, as if Palestine was already liberated. The others, still skeptical, wondering how much time Rafah will stay open, observing with attention the play taking place before them.

    While Israel sounds like a joke thanks to Netanyahy, running from a place to another one, almost begging; and seems to start growing white hair faster than an average oldie creepy man, the US started preparing themselves, I would say, the day they entered Iraq and Afghanistan in the 80'. Osama Bin Ladin wiped away for good, US can justify its military bases settlements in the region for an undetermined period, since their undetermined war against the evil was launched against non-identified ennemies, whom will soon be well-known I would say. Positionning themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan is obviously strategical. I keep containing imagination but I can't help imagining US troops flooding Syria from Afghanistan and other troops backing Israel from our lost Baghdad.

  2. At a quiet opposite position, I would say, « all signs indicate to » an upcoming destructive war in the Middle East, presenting the West against the Others, while I tend to whisper the West against Islam. Especially because it became visible in the streets of a supposed to be peaceful country, land of human rights and liberties...

    I support a one-state solution, the end of the occupation and the right of return for the refugees. A one-state solution could be Israel or Palestine, and if it was Palestine instead of Israel, I believe it wouldn't have been that much different.
    To finish with your love/woman metaphore, I'll give you one I read many times here and there in different forms but here is the latest I read:

    « I once met a strapping, muscle-bound, twenty-year-old Palestinian man in the Kalandia refugee camp by the name of Jameel. With his physique, he would have been an elite commando in any Palestinian army. But when I asked him whether he was trying to hurt Israelis when he trew a stone, he answered in a way that made me realize how much the stone was really meant for him – meant to liberate him from his own sens of impotence and humiliation?
    « A woman is being raped, » said Jameel, « and while she is being raped she uses her nails to scratch the body of the rapist. Is that violence? We have been raped for years, but instead of our brothers helping us, they stood around and watched. »
    And now that you have taken your destiny into your own hands?
    « The wounds of the rape are starting to heal, » he said. « The woman is combing her hair and looking in the mirror again. » »
    [p.383 of From Beirut to Jerusalem by T.Friedman – First Intifada context when Palestinians started to be aware of the fact they needed and had to detach themselves from the Israeli identity and act as a community not individually.]

    I would say, Palestine is that raped woman who, today, is offered the help of one of those brothers, finally awake and determined to bring her justice. I just wonder how it will end.


  3. PS: The comment's space is limited to 4098 characters. lol

    Hopefully this time, my comment is appearing, I also took precaution and saved it before posting.