Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Civil war / Protest babes

It's always thrilling to have a chat with someone who at least sounds like he has his finger on the pulse. I was playing a game of pool tonight in Ramallah and one of the guys there turned out to be working for the Geneva Initiative - an unofficial peace plan that says Israel can keep two big West Bank settlement blocks in exchange for the equivalent land around the Gaza Strip.

The tips:

1) Wait two weeks and then it all goes boom! The Palestinian unity government is not working, Fatah and Hamas are not getting along and Fatah types have been pushing for new reactions. We are going to see clashes and internal strife that dwarf what has come before.

2) Israel will not go into Gaza, as mooted by many, including me. They are happy for the Pals to quibble lethally among themselves.

3) This is the stupidest Israeli government ever - but Olmert is not going just yet. Not sure here - Barak has just encouraged him to resign so his options are getting more limited.

4) The allegations against top Israeli-Arab / Palestinian-citizen-of-Israel Knesset member Azmi Bishara are baseless. Bishara is alleged to have received tens of thousands of dollars from Hezbollah in return for info on where Hezbollah should strike. I got into some trouble for even suggesting the Israelis could at least have a peg somewhere to hang this on. No way, said the guys.

Bishara is as subversive as you can get in Israel because he calls for a 'State of all its citizens' - i.e. a civil identity, a basic thing that existss in most Western countries such as France, the UK. This doesn't work in Israel because it is the 'Jewish state'. As such, true equality between Jews and non-Jews is theoretically impossible, and when pushed, modern Israeli intellectuals are beginning to admit as much.

The Israelis have been trying to nobble Bishara for ages - he has allegedly been arrested, investigated, roughed up etc. Here he is in his own words.

The problem with the guy is Israel can't even dismiss him as a rampant Islamist - he is a Christian from Nazareth. The only way Israel can get away with carrying on its subjugation of the Pals, militarily or otherwise, is if it becomes a religious conflict - i.e. if it becomes Muslims trying to push the Jews into the sea. As such, Israel is comfortable with Sheikh Raed Salah's Islamic Movement, because it can portray them as a load of Mohammedan nutcases. Ditto Hamas and the shadowy Islamist groups that spring up in the Gazan twilight zone beyond Hamas.

So Bishara had to go. He left the country a while ago, resigned from the Knesset at the Israeli embassy in Cairo and has no plans to return. The fact that he has been allowed to leave can be said to back up allegations of a conspiracy against him. If he was such a big traitor then why would Israel let him walk away? He could still do damage. On the other hand perhaps banging him up would have sparked a third intifada among the 1.2million Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Whatever - Bishara is a coward, said the pool guys. He should come back, get wrongly sent to prison as would inevitably happen and then become some kind of Mandela figure from behind bars. I think it's a big ask - but then I am an outsider to this conflict. Could Israel really make something so big up? Yes it bloody well could, came the emphatic reply.

5) If Israel and Syria make any kind of deal, the Palestinians are fucked. Syria's official negotiator gave a speech in the Knesset but it doesn;t appear to have registered much with most Israelis. Why - because Syria are a million miles away. Israelis don't really believe they are in the Middle East. Syria is a base for Hamas and Hezbollah. It might even sacrifice these two for peace with Israel and a deal with the US. It's a great deal - it would render the Pals unto Israel and Lebanon unto the US. If only they could see it...

*** I absolutely have to link to this page of Lebanese protest babes on Joshua Landis's SyriaComment blog - see above pictures, the first of which is so great I couldn't relegate it halfway down the post...

The Babe Theory of Political Movements is here. I can't disagree - I remember honestly thinking in Berlin that I would pretty much buy a flat in any area I saw a couple of pretty girls in...

Hamas has yet to catch on to this theory and probably never will. 'Hamas babes for honour killings!' - can't quite see it...

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