Taking issue with Mustafa Barghouti
The Al Ahram weekly for 10-16 July, contains a long
article written by Mustafa Barghouti,
secretary-general of the Palestinian National
Initiative (PNI). It clarifies the position of PNI
and, in particular, where it stands in relation to the
"Road Map ".
The article contains a lot of paragraphs that are
true, with which a Palestinian can hardly differ. The
description of Israeli's intentions as deduced from
the history of the last fifty years is useful, clear
and correct. Sharon plans to transform the occupied
territories into an extension of Israel by increasing
its Jewish population. The Palestinians would then
live into disconnected small Islands surrounded by a
sea of Jewish territory.
Mustafa gives the Palestinians two advises. One is to
realise the unity of command. The other is to reject
any "interim agreement". The two advises are wise
though not very new. They have been voiced by many in
the past. One can find them in the writings of Dr.
Hanan Ashrawi, for instance, and in my own writings.
So far, so good.
So, once we reject interim agreements, and we realise
the unity of command, THEN WHAT? Mustafa is mute on
that. Moreover, to refuse an interim agreement,
implies to accept a definitive agreement. Mustafa says
nothing about its possibility or its impossibility.
Nothing indicates in his article that such a
definitive agreement, one which Palestinians could
accept, is not at all favoured by Sharon and his
likes. What then could force them to accept such a
Mustafa does not give a direct answer. He has some
a) Israeli public opinion is excessively sensitive to
the cost of occupation in terms of human life.
b) The collapse of the Israeli economy under the
pressures generated by the intefada, is clear for all
to see. Today, Israel is suffering the worst recession
in its history, accompanied by the highest levels of
unemployment and capital flight the country has ever
Mustafa states that this is why Israel sought so hard
to stop both the first and the second intefadas.
Here Mustafa is committing two kinds of mistakes. On
the one hand, he is not factual, on the other hand he
just requires that Palestinians unite, and remain
having faith in themselves and in the fact that Israel
cannot withstand the intefada much longer.
Let us go to the facts. Has the economy of Israel
collapsed? Mustafa says yes, but the facts do not
support him. Mustafa says that the average income of
the Israelis has been reduced by 12%. This does not
look much of a collapse. Many countries have periods
of recession when the average income decreases by more
than that. During the Great Depression, in the early
nineteen thirties, the rate of unemployment in the US
had officially exceeded 30%, and was estimated to have
exceeded 40%. The economy was in big trouble but had
not collapsed. Clearly, the economy in the occupied
territories is in much bigger trouble than that in
Israel. I would advise Mustafa to produce a definition
of a collapsed economy, and then to see if it applies
to Israel. In particular, the rate of the Shekel, the
unit of currency, has not collapsed.
Did Israel, as Mustafa states, because of the human
and economic cost, sought so hard to stop both the
first and second intefadas? If this was true, why did
Sharon provoke the occurrence of the second intefada?
Why does he target the assassination of Palestinian
"terrorists" every time there appears to be a
possibility of a peaceful approach?
The reality is that Sharon is making use of the
intefada in order to be able to daily destroy scores
of Palestinian houses. The process of dispossessing
the Palestinians of their homes and their land has
been accelerated during the second intefada. This
process cannot be described as aiming at stopping the
intefada. It is directed against the Palestinian
people and not against the Intefada. It is using the
As to the Israeli people being sensitive to the cost
of human life, this is a statement which is very
confusing. Are the Palestinians not sensitive to the
cost in human lives? It could be said that the
Palestinians have no choice, but to withstand that
cost, since it is not in their hands to stop the
But has Mustafa considered the possibility that the
Israelis, brainwashed by the Israeli establishment,
and mystified by Palestinian mistakes (see my
"stumbling blocks") are also thinking that hey have no
choice? Has he tried like I did in "stumbling blocks"
to wear the Israeli shoes, not in order to justify
their actions but in order to understand why they vote
Is it not clear that the popularity of Sharon among
the Israeli population has increased during the
intefada? It is now slightly decreasing because many
israelis think he is not tough enough. To expect that,
under the economic pressure and the cost of human
life, the Israeli establishment will cry "uncle", is a
dangerous and paralyzing wishful thinking.
The fact is that Mustafa is giving some good advise
but proposes no real strategy that shows indeed how to
go from here to there. It does not state the
impossibility of reaching a definitive agreement with
the likes of Sharon. And if this is impossible, then
it does not indicate how to get rid of Sharon except
to wait for the natural effect of the "collapse" of
the economy and an increase in the Israeli sensitivity
to the human costs.
Now I would like to address the question of "interim
agreement". Since it is the only kind we could reach
with Sharon, the conclusion should be "no agreement at
all with Sharon". But then, with whom could we make an
agreement? Replacing Sharon by any of his likes, would
not make much of a difference.
What is needed is the fall of the expansionist
establishment, and its replacement by people who
really want peace and friendly relations between
Palestinians and Israelis. What we must face and
understand, is that interim or not, nothing will work
with an expansionist Israeli establishment. But with a
friendly Israeli leadership, we could even accept an
interim agreement. Such a friendly Israeli leadership
would prove its mettle by unilaterally evacuating the
territories and taking measures for the dismantling of
the settlements. This will constitute a de facto
interim agreement. More would come with friendly
The central problem for the Palestinian is what they
can do to make the Israelis throw away their
expansionist establishment. There exist a whole
strategy (stumbling blocks) which demonstrates how it
can be done. This strategy can be found in parts in
MIFTAH's web site, and can be obtained from Clement
Leibovitz on demand.
By the way, for those who would not guess it, Clement
Leibovitz is a Jewish Palestinian with non-biblical
Palestinian ancestry (father and grandfather born in
Palestine under the Turks).