After Arafat, new massacres on the horizon
Arafat, a ferocious enemy of the proletariatArafat has been presented as a great man, a hero of the Arab world for fifty years. For the proletariat he was a ferocious enemy, a great supplier of cannon fodder for imperialist war.
By selling the mythology of a future Palestinian state, Arafat has sent generations of proletarians to their slaughter for a bourgeois cause par excellence: nationalism. He was a pioneer of recruiting street children and adolescents to the ranks of the ‘Fedayeen’ of Fatah and to the squads of suicide bombers. He encouraged even younger children to join in the Intifada. The defence of the Palestinian cause to which he devoted his life won Arafat the support of important factions of the bourgeoisie. This was symbolised by the official admission of the PLO to the UN in 1974, where he was greeted with rapturous applause even though at the time he was being supported by the USSR. In 1994 he was honoured again, this time under the patronage of the American bourgeoisie when he and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their part in the Oslo Accords of September 1993. He has won the admiring support of politicians of right and left, and above all the extreme left for being a tireless champion of the mystification of the ‘struggle for national liberation’.
Arafat arose as a gang leader, and made his name as the commander of blind and particularly bloody terrorist attacks on the ‘Israeli enemy’. He pushed himself forward as a war chief and then as leader of the PLO through bribes, blackmail and the settling of scores, through the pitiless and often bloody liquidation of his main rivals. Despotic, consumed by ambition, drunk with power, swimming in a milieu of total corruption, surrounded by flunkeys who could at any moment become traitors or rivals, his mafia-like behaviour was the product of the decadent capitalist system which gave birth to him. Taking upon himself the functions of political leader and commander of the armed forces and the forces of repression run by the Palestinian Authority (PA), he never hesitated to imprison, kill, or open fire on the very ‘Palestinian people’ he claimed to defend. This is why he never stopped sharpening all the tools for the oppression and exploitation of the Palestinian masses. His essential role was to take charge of any attempted rebellion or protest by a desperate, muzzled, half-starved population whose misery is worsened every day by Israeli bombs and shells, by the heavy tribute demanded by the Intifada. And to a large extent he maintained ‘order’ hand in hand with the Israeli army.
Towards a worsening of military chaos
The death of Arafat also represents a real earthquake for the bourgeoisie, not only with regard to the situation in the Middle East, but on a wider international level.
Thus, under the pretext of defending the Palestinian cause and strengthening its ties of friendship with the Arab world, France pushed itself to the forefront of the drama of Arafat’s last days. On the diplomatic level it was a great coup to have brought Arafat to a military hospital in the Paris region, where he died. Chirac also drew in a whole queue of PLO and PA leaders, running all kinds of bargaining sessions with them and with other Arab leaders. France also supplied a plane to take Arafat’s body back to Cairo and then Ramallah, according him the full military honours due to a head of state. In Palestine, at the time of the funeral, the world could see French flags flying alongside Palestinian flags, while the crowds carried portraits of Chirac as well as Arafat. Acting in the name of peace, France is simply throwing oil on the fire by attempting to obstruct the interests of the USA in the region.
At the same time, these events will bring definite advantages to the Sharon regime in Israel, whose main stated aim in recent months had been to eliminate the Palestinian leader, even physically. It is hardly surprising that rumours about Arafat being poisoned by the Israeli secret services have been circulating among Palestinian leaders and are shared by 80% of Palestinian public opinion. The elimination of Arafat will divide and weaken the Palestinian camp and this can only bring comfort to Sharon and his plan to accelerate the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza strip the better to encircle the West Bank and isolate it through the construction of the ‘anti-terrorist’ wall. The Israeli bourgeoisie knows that it will be in a better position to enforce its diktats. All this is an encouragement to Sharon’s aggressively militarist policies, which is aimed at the complete crushing of the Palestinians by the Israeli state.
Arafat’s death also suits the American bourgeoisie because in recent months the Israelis have been calling for his departure from the scene as a precondition for resuming negotiations. Arafat thus symbolised the blockage of the situation in the Middle East. The White House is hoping that the disarray and divisions in the Palestinian camp will help it to regain control of the situation.
However, all the optimistic declarations about the ‘unblocking’ of negotiations being issued by the Israelis, the USA and a good part of the European press should not give rise to any illusions. The perspective opened up by Arafat’s death is not at one of peace but a new accentuation of imperialist tensions. There is no doubt that Israel and the US will now pile the pressure on the disoriented Palestinians.
This is a serious weakening of the Palestinian camp. With Arafat’s burial goes the definitive burial of the Oslo Accords of 1993. It’s the end of hope in the constitution of a Palestinian state as envisaged in these accords.
The procession of Palestinian leaders to Arafat’s bedside in Paris during his lingering death has not resolved the ticklish problem of his succession. It’s clear that despite the divisions and rivalries within the Palestinian camp, despite all the weight of corruption and repression under his rule, he was a historic ‘chief’ who held all the keys to the power of this mini-state (PA, PLO, the armed wing of the movement). He was a symbol of unity. His demise will open a Pandora’s box and a bitter struggle between the different Palestinian factions. But none of these clans is strong enough to outweigh the rest. Even if the ‘old guard’ has momentarily papered over its divisions to nominate a provisional directorate and to decide on elections for a new president in January, none of these bureaucrats have any real charisma and will be unable to control either the population as a whole or the military organisations, which are totally divided and splintered, and could only have a semblance of cohesion under the authority of Arafat. As for the numerous petty warlords, their authority rarely goes further than a neighbourhood or a village. Three examples suffice to show how unmanageable the situation is: less than 48 hours after Arafat died and Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazan) was nominated as the new leader of the PLO, Abbas tried to carry out an assassination which resulted in two people dying at a ceremony of condolence held by Palestinian leaders in Gaza. Another example: the first speech given by the acting president of the PA, Rawhi Fattouh, was inaudible due to his lack of experience, and most of the commentaries were along the lines of ‘who is he and where does he come from?’. Finally, and above all, two of the most influential military formations, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, immediately announced that they would boycott elections for the PA presidential elections in January. These military gangs are totally at odds with each other, as can be seen from the frequent clashes and latent imperialist rivalries between Hamas, Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (now renamed the Yasser Arafat Brigades), Fatah, etc, as well as the rivalries between the political leaders - Abbas, the Authority’s current prime minister Ahmed Qorei who controls the security forces, the most popular Fatah leader, currently in an Israeli jail, Marwan Baghouti, the Fatah boss Farouk Kaddoumi or the former Interior Minister Mohammed Dahlan.
Not only is the situation ripe with bloody score-settling for Arafat’s succession; it will also give a new impetus to further murderous suicide bombings, with ‘martyrs’ supplied by an increasingly desperate Palestinian population only too vulnerable to fanatical hatred and nationalist hysteria. This increasingly uncontrollable spiral of violence is threatening to cover more and more of the Middle East region. Wm, 5/12/04.