(en)Chomsky: Palestinian leadership in 'dream world'

buddha (buddha@tao.ca)
Thu, 3 Jul 1997 11:33:24 -0400 (EDT)

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Chomsky: Palestinian leadership in `dream world'

By Adam Hanieh

JERUSALEM -- Well-known political commentator Noam Chomsky spoke to a packed lecture theatre on June 7 at Bir Zeit University, near the Palestinian town of Ramallah.

Chomsky has been a consistent critic of US policy in the Middle East, in particular its support of Israel. More recently, Chomsky has spoken out against the Palestinian Authority, and this lecture concentrated on what he considers to be the weaknesses of the Palestinian leadership.

Chomsky singled out for criticism comments made by the chief of the PLO political department, Farouq Qaddoumi, following a recent meeting of the non-aligned movement. Qaddoumi claimed that the Oslo peace agreement was based on the idea of peace for land, and that Israel has given a commitment to withdraw from the occupied territories.

Chomsky pointed out that the Oslo agreement was based on UN resolution 242, which says nothing about Palestinian rights and only calls for a just solution to the refugee problem.

Chomsky said that, following Oslo, rather than withdraw from the occupied territories, the Israeli government had stepped up construction and development there. He described as completely false a claim by Qaddoumi that Oslo would give Palestinians control over water, telecommunications and transportation. Israel will keep control over almost all the water and has veto rights over what Palestinians do in most of the West Bank.

Chomsky used Qaddoumi's comments to illustrate what he called the dream world of the Palestinian leadership. He said, The world order is not governed by pretty words but relations of power, and that the PLO has neglected the task of building international solidarity despite the broad international consensus for a two-state solution.

The PLO leadership has not been alone in undermining international support by fostering illusions. The Egyptian embassy in the US has just made public an announcement very much like Qaddoumi's, and the message is that the Americans must support the Labour Party and the peace process that the US and Israel have designed and are implementing.

Chomsky compared the Palestinian struggle to the Vietnamese struggle for independence, pointing out, The US government could easily have smashed the resistance in Indo-China at very little cost to itself simply by declaring a World War II-style mobilisation ... The same was true of the US wars in Central America during the '80s and the US war against Cuba for 35 years ... all these wars could have been won easily if not for the internal impediments and barriers.

Chomsky argued that the Palestinian leadership has not sought to build such a movement, but taken the approach that politics is a matter of deals that are made in secret amongst the elite ... popular sentiment and action play very little role.

Chomsky concurred with comments made by members of the Palestinian National Council and a long-time leader of the Palestinian struggle, Haidar Abdul Shafi, in 1993 just as negotiations were entering their secret phase.

Then, Abdul Shafi warned that negotiations were taking place between a rich, powerful and well-organised state backed by the largest imperialist power and representatives of a society that had been scattered, oppressed and lacked internal cohesion, democratic institutions and a representative leadership.

He said that without a democratic discussion of strategy backed by popular mobilisation aimed at building solidarity within Israeli society and other imperialist centres, the negotiations were condemned from the outset.

One problem ... is the isolation of the leadership from a healthy democratic interchange that might have helped correct serious mistakes. The internal problem of democratisation involves the dismantling of authoritarian and repressive institutions, ranging from the family to larger society, said Chomsky.

After the lecture Chomsky met with representatives of the Palestinian National Authority.

This article was posted on the Green Left Weekly [Image] Home Page. For further details regarding subscriptions and correspondence please contact greenleft@peg.apc.org

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