Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kosovo Independence means good news for Palestine

With Western opinion so gravitated towards the humility of Kosovar Albanians, we have one nation-state after another pushing each other over in whom is recognising the new state of Kosovo. They're lined up like children at an amusement park, itching to declare Kosovo the newest statelet under the aegis of Western civilisation.

"Hello Kosovo, make yourself at home. We're the EU, over there is NATO, (you remember them? They helped you slaughter those Serbs who were trying to inflict a genocide.) and here's someone you have to meet: Our emperor, Washington. Pssst, she calls the shots."

Or that's how the parody went. What is more interesting is the fact that Kosovo has NO legal basis on declaring independence but yet that has no bearing on the Western powers right about now. They feel the need to reward this little beacon of humanitarianism amongst the Serb animal that international law is not a prerequisite for such a maneuver.

Accompanying this little historic action were two very informative pieces on Counterpunch, one by George Szamuely and the other by Diane Johnstone. Both are stunning in its lucidy and very welcome in its rigidity, especially with the compliant media over the Kosovo encounter for almost a decade now. For years we've been satured with the adoration of Kosovar Albanians, while the demonisation of the Serbs, along with Milosevic had no quarter. Johnstone's piece focused on the "uniqueness" of Kosovo amongst other tiny territories that hope to gain independence but have not been given such the positive response as the Kosovar Albanians have. Here Johnstone quotes Roger Cohen who laments on what to do about the non-Albanians:

"But what about the Serbs who still live in the historic part of Serbia called Kosovo? Cohen takes care of that problem in a few words: "Some of the 120,000 Serbs in Kosovo may hit the road."

Ah. Truly a paradigm of humantarianism at its finest. Bomb them. Terrorise them. Ethnically cleanse the area. Then whoever is left can "hit the road".

Szamuely's article is even more stunning, which also features many parallels within Europe that hopes to gain independence. These secessionist movements have been suppressed, and no one has been recognising their efforts for statehood. Secondly, Szamuely accounts that Kosovo has far less legal options for independence than other territories such as South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria. In fact, the "uniqueness" of Kosovo is the glaringly obvious fact that it is backed by the US and the EU, along with a strategic military base in its centre. Thirdly, Serbia is the main hub for Kosovo, and since its declaration to secede, it definitely will face grippling shortcuts on its economy.

"A newly-independent Kosovo would have poor relations with Serbia and would be subjected to an economic blockade. Its electric grid is integrated within Serbia's electric grid. Its debt has been taken care of by Serbia."

So what if they are relying solely on aid: this is a new state, rejoice! It's amazing that only Vladimir Putin seems to be the only sane voice here amongst the public officials. The world is going mad and no one is stopping them.

Dangers ahead

But what does this mean for the rest of the world? Putin analysed correctly that "these double standards" are a terrible precedent that only shows bad faith for other separatists movements.

"Why do we promote separatism? For 400 years Great Britain has been fighting for its territorial integrity in respect of Northern Ireland. Why not? Why don't you support that?"

It's clear that the EU is forcing pressure on Russia, trying to limit its power across the former Yugoslavia. But what of other movements? What of the Chechens? The Cypriots? The South Ossetias? The Basques? Even the Quebecoix? Could they find parallels in the Kosovo model? Could they share in its "uniqueness"? Definitely it will send shockwaves throughout the world that little majorities could attempt to gain control in a hope to gain independence from the title nation that they believe is oppressing them. Territorial integrity? Hah. No way.

What about Palestine?

For too long now the Palestinians have been demanding their own independence. Too bad they do not share Kosovo's "uniqueness". Terrible, also, is the fact that Israel is the one who owns "uniqueness" in this part of the neighbourhood. What is too alluring is the lesson of the KLA, and the fact that now, almost nine years later, the actions of the KLA along with NATO helped created a favourable situation for Kosovar Albanians at the expense of the Serbs. Here's an excerpt from Szamuely's piece on Kosovo's treatment of Serbs:

'Kosovo's Serbs -- the few that remain -- live behind barbed wire and need armed escort whenever they step outside their enclaves. According to a recent European Commission report, "only 1 per cent of judges belong to a minority group and less than 0.5 per cent belong to the Serbian minority. Only six of the 88 prosecutors belong to minority groups." Overall, the report concluded, "little progress has been made in the promotion and enforcement of human rights."...

Kosovo Serbs fear that they will become a decoration to any central-level political institution with little ability to yield tangible results. The Kosovo Albanians have done little to dispel it."

Could this be a model for Palestinians to follow? Already Abbas is dismissing the notion. Why, didn't the PLO declare independence in '87?

"Abbas ruled out taking such a step unilaterally soon, saying he would pursue negotiations with the Israelis until an agreement is reached by the end of 2008, including a settlement on the status of occupied east Jerusalem."

He is really taking it too far now. Discussing East Jerusalem? Now that's a fat chance. Olmert already is procrastinating; and while he does that, more buildings are being constructed and more outposts are being erected in the West Bank. How inept can Abbas be that he plans to negotiate with the occupier, who dismisses him and his demands, and when he wakes up in Ramallah he finds more settlers in the West Bank.

"The Civil Administration has not taken any practical steps to prevent the new construction."

This is where he is placing his faith on to declare a viable Palestinian state? Not very likely, is it? What does he have to lose? I mean, declaring independence is surely a missive that would not even reach the negotiating table, but at least demand something more since Kosovo has done so much in such a little timespan. It's been forty years for the Palestinians under occupation. And it's not as if they haven't demanded freedom, have they? Kosovo has done, why not Palestine?

"For the US and the EU, Kosovar Albanians, having enjoyed almost nine years of UN administration and NATO protection, cannot be expected to wait any longer for their freedom, while the Palestinians, having endured over 40 years of Israeli occupation, can wait forever."

How truly cynical is that?

Yes. Kosovo and Palestine are not that similar; each has its own idiosyncrasies. But the only significant difference is the evident aid that goes to the Kosovars who are celebrating freedom against the Israeli war machine who are oppressing Palestinians. Kosovo is a Muslim majority, no? Why not show more of that steel and support another Muslim majority who wants freedom from a people who want to ethnically cleanse them? Isn't that parallel just? (Naturally, the Yugoslav government has been accused of such an action without any proof, while the Israelis do so overtly, even with international acclaim. I mean, look at Gaza.) Certainly if figures such as Richard Holbrooke and Roger Cohen testify to their sympathy for Muslim persecution at the hands of genocide whackos, they would do best to pinpoint Jerusalem, not Kosovo.

It's a perfect scenario: Kosovo Muslim majority declares independence followed by Palestine Muslim majority declares indepedence (in West Bank and Gaza). The US and EU all fight each other on who recognises them first. Idyllic. And it's not as if there aren't similarities between the both of them: Kosovo relies on aid and Serba; Palestine on aid and Israel; Kosovo is almost purely Muslim; Palestine's Arab population is almost purely Muslim (with the Christians dispersing); Kosovo was under threat of extinction" by Serbs; Palestine is under threat of pauperisation by Israelis. It's win-win.

But Kosovars are just mere pawns being played. They are duped, especially with the enlightening fact that their "democracy" is far from it. It's all under the mercy of Bosnia, the ICR, ESDP and the IMP, all under the tutelage of NATO. In fact, it's a "NATO Colony". Purely just theatre to fund support for Camp Bondsteel.

Terrorism Works

I must confess that I love the idea of precedence. If Iraq is bombed, what is stopping the US from doing the same to another country with fictitious weapons of mass destruction? If torture is legal in certain cases, why is it okay for the West to condemn other developing nations from praticising CIA taught strategies? If Kosovo declares independence, what's stopping the next separation movement from doing likewise? Despite what the counter-terrorists would want us to believe, Kosovo is the prime example of terrorism working. The KLA decimated the Serb minority, cowed them into their little areas, likened sometimes to "Bantustans" (sound familiar?), and now have pushed most of them out of Kosovo. These Serbs are so evil that they have no rights in the EU (also sound familiar?). Here we are, almost nine years later and they have their own state.

Jonathan Freedland wrote a rather naive piece about the Palestinian strategy. He advocates that for Palestinians to gain momentum, they have to undertake a non-violent approach. He was also echoing Mustafa Barghouti, who believes that a reactionary response to Israeli atrocities is not the way to gain the West's support. In light of Kosovo, it seems silly NOT to take a more harder stance against their occupier. After all, against a genocidal enemy, take matters into your own hands.

What is rather disappointing is in light of the numbers Barghouti stressed, that

"Palestinian freedom of movement is more restricted now than it was on the day of all those fine speeches. Now there are 561 checkpoints on the West Bank; in November there were 520. His figures showed an increase in Israeli attacks of 220% (largely, no doubt, in retaliation for those incoming Qassams). He counted 177 Palestinian deaths since Annapolis, the vast bulk in Gaza.

Yes, it was true that the confidence-building measure of prisoner releases happened: 788 Palestinians have been set free. But how much confidence could that build when 1,152 have been newly arrested since Annapolis?"

After citing those figures, he honestly feels that striking back is not an option? Now, I have to believe that Barghouti intends on "terrorism", ie Qassams being fired willy-nilly. But having highlighted the plight of the common Palestinian, he must feel empathy for the need to retaliate. If not then he is very silly at his request that Palestinians desist from resisting their occupier; isn't that the real evil here, the occupation, and not their victims?

We all want to stress how "balanced" we are by condemning arbitrary Qassam fire and suicide bombers: that really should not be stressed, or the need for it is certainly superfluous. Of course we dismiss such actions. But what about other actions that only really is a consequence of the occupier's policy that dehumanise the Palestinians? Freedland foolishly writes in parenthesis that Israel's attacks were "in retaliation". Apparently the Palestinians here are the aggressors. You could have fooled me but Freedland wants to contextualise that Israel is only "retaliating" from terrorist attacks. Aren't Palestinians allowed the same form of "retaliation"? Gideon Levy remarked that every Qassam fire was preceded by a Palestinian casualty in the Gaza Strip. Sounds like retaliation against the occupier, which they have every legal basis to do so, unlike Kosovo's declaration of independence.

"could compare their struggle to the Martin Luther King movement for civil rights, walking and marching for their freedom... the power of mass non-violence would be undeniable."

It's great that we can advocate such strong positions when they do not threaten his existence. It's safe for Freedland to map out what Palestinians should do without bearing the brunt of punishment at the hands of Israel. I know Freedland has the best of intentions but what is lacking is the fire that emphasises that Israel has no problem in trampling any form on non-violent protests. Think the first intifada; think of the revolts of past years; think of the second intifada and why it became so bloody; what about the protests at Bi'lin? What of Rachel Corrie? What of those prisoners whom Barghouti spoke of? Are they all prisoners became they were terrorists? Or did any of them advocate a non-violent struggle against their coloniser?

This debate reminds of Ray HaCohen's piece three years ago.

"There are thousands of Palestinian Gandhis out there, then: whole villages that demonstrate daily and peacefully against the robbery of their land and livelihood. Alas, their voices are unheard – because of the Israeli undercover soldiers who throw stones from within these peaceful demonstrations, and because of commentators and movie stars who then wonder, "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?"

There are plenty of non-violent demonstrations: you have just have to be vigilent and search for them. They do not report certain things about the conflict: Palestinian civil disobedience is not what the world wants to read or hear. And what happens when they do protest?

"We've now got a clear confirmation of what Palestinian and Israeli peace activists have been saying all along: the Israeli army would not tolerate a Gandhi-style resistance."

Apparently Freedland is unaware of these demonstrations. I guess it's hard to see the reality from where he sits and types on his laptop. True, the Palestinians are left with little to stem the tide that is happening against them. The situation is grim, but by no means is non-violence the only way to stop Israel. It seems the way Freedland thinks that people will support Palestinians is if they altogether just lay down and get bulldozed while the international community sits on their hands and applauds Kosovar Albanians for doing the unthinkable, all the while Abbas negotiates with Olmert as the East Jerusalem is getting further and further from the final status talks. Har Homa gets bigger, and more Palestinian land is stolen right from their noses. Brilliant strategy there.

With the Kosovo secession, the KLA displayed what has been a cold strategem: that violence and terror do work. Yes, you have to have the proper imperial backer on your side, and if you have that, then you have all the cards. There have been few examples that do not follow this pattern: South Africa being one of them, and Northern Ireland. There are plenty of others, but South Africa is the one that comes closer to mind.

Nelson Mandela, the first black South African president, was a murderer. What would have happened if he were liquidated? Would the African National Congress succeeded without him? He did spend time in jail and was branded a "terrorist". Would he be alive today to see the fall of apartheid if he advocated non-violence? Would the Afrikaaners not have destroyed him if he wasn't so militant? Other examples are the IRA, the FLN and the FARC. What would Northern Ireland, Algeria and Colombia be if it weren't for these organisations advocating a strong resistance that meant arms and weapons against their coloniser and oppressor? Would these movements cease to exist if they were crushed like the Israelis imprison Palestinians by advocating non-violence and being passive to every member casualty?

Let's face it, the Palestinians do need some sort of deterrant. Right now they are a punching bag for Israelis, two-fold considering their Lebanon failure and Iran being emboldened by Iraq's strife and Washington's depleted military resources. The spectre of Martin Luther King and Gandhi is a strong one, and their message is never lost: but we're not dealing with a segregated America nor a past imperial giant in Britain, with an Indian nation that had a bigger majority than the Palestinians have. Plus we're still on the cusp of a public relations battle that has Palestinians on the wrong end of the stick, ie they are not "unique". While it's great to have a plan for the Palestinians to endure their grief with non-violent protests, it's not a realistic approach considering Freedland does not even know that such a movement has been existing for many, many years. And considering that a fellow American, who embodied the ideal of non-violent resistance was bulldozed to her death, her status is still being denied of heroism and in some circles viewed as a "terrorist sympathiser". What kind of a lesson is that to advocate non-violent demonstration when a prime example of it is demonised?

No, I am certainly not advocating a resort to terrorism. The acts of the KLA are reprehensible, and most of this is purely satirical. But Freedland wants to dictate how Palestinian should react to gain legitimacy, when the actual fact is that they already have legitimate concerns to gain support for their own independence. It is merely a given that the practice of terrorism, the launching of Qassams, and the mass calls for boycott are all the consequences of the occupation.

There is no realism involved when he states that "the power of mass non-violence would be undeniable". It is undeniable, but so is Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. They imprison some 10, 000 of them, many subjected to torture. And they are meant to take it lying down in the vain hope that the West will awaken to their suffering. What's forty years of occupation, two generations? When is it going to change, any time this year? Is there any hope for a change? Do they even talk about Palestine in the primacy elections? Do the candidates differ on the Israel Factor?

All that's missing is the "uniqueness".

No comments: