|Toronto: The global intellectual community is convinced beyond any further evidence of the paucity of intellect in George W. Bush. However, another constant in his cavalier presidency is his unabashed hostility to all Muslim causes in general, and to Arab causes in particular. This came out in crystal clarity in his June 24 ‘ Vision’ of Palestine speech.
That Bush’s ‘vision’ turned out to be nothing but myopia is not surprising at all, given his abject servitude to the Jewish lobbies in America. In the 18 months since he stole his way into the Oval Office, Bush has played host to Ariel Sharon 6 times. That is a record that even shames a die-hard and self-anointed Bush ambassador like Tony Blair. There is not a single policy initiative in regard to the Palestinians where the two soul-mates, Sharon and Bush, do not synchronise each and every one of their moves. Sharon was closeted with Bush in the Oval Office less than a week before his ‘vision’ on Palestine was unveiled. It carried the Sharon imprint beyond any shade of doubt.
Bush and company feel no threat of a violent blow-back from the Arab world to such blatant provocation, as reeking off his Palestine ‘vision’, is indicative of the contempt that Bush holds the Arab world in general, and the Arab leaders in particular. Eversince he declared ‘war on terror’ in the wake of September 11, Bush has been heaping disdain and scorn on the Arabs.
Bush’s unabashed ranting against Yasser Arafat and his hectoring demand of the Palestinians to opt for a Quisling in Arafat’s place was a vintage performance as far as the Jewish lobbies in America and Israel’s hawkish right wing were concerned. Bush spewed everything that Sharon had put in his mouth. All that he would concede to the Palestinians is a provisional, interim, state whose borders should be left to the whims of Sharon and his hawks. But he would still not commit himself to a date for the birth of his ‘provisional Palestinian state’ because Sharon is not ready to bind himself to any deadline. And a cardinal rule in the Bush White House is that what Sharon wants Sharon gets. So pathetically disgusting was Bush in kowtowing to Sharon that a comparatively moderate Shimon Peres was forced to describe it as a "fatal mistake."
However, the essence of Bush’s subservience to Jewish interests, personified in Sharon, was best articulated by Robert Fisk, the veteran British journalist of the daily ‘Independent’ who is known for his bold and forthright portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Fisk acidly commented after Bush’s sickening pandering to Sharon that the Israeli should be allowed to run the White House press office in order to " spare the American president the ignominy of parroting everything he is told by the Israelis."
Bush came up with a long list of demands from the Palestinians in his unapologetic travesty of the reality obtaining in the Occupied lands under Sharon’s brutal onslaught. He charged Yasser Arafat with corruption, with incitement to violence and terrorism—charges routinely levelled against the Palestinian Authority by the zionists to cover up their own bestiality and heinous crimes against the hapless Palestinians.
There was not a word of regret or concern in the Bush address against what his ‘buddy’ Sharon has been doing to trash and totally eradicate every remaining vestige of any organisation or system under the Palestinian Authority. All that he squeaked in protest over Sharon’s aggrandizing was to politely ask his friend to stop building any new settlements. That does not inconvenience Sharon one bit because in his book he has only been expanding the existing settlements, not building new ones. There is, therefore, zero possibility that Sharon would pay any heed to the Bush ‘request’ for a settlement building freeze.
It is the Israeli peace groups that have recently revealed the ferocity of expansionism in the settlements under Sharon and, before him, Ehud Barak who had the reputation of being a dove and a deal-maker. Statistics released by these groups vouch that the settler population in the Occupied Territories and Golan has ballooned to 400, 000 and not 200, 000 as previously believed. This number was only 85, 000 in 1993 when the Oslo Accord was signed on the lawns of the White House. This only betrays the ferocious determination of Sharon and like-minded expansionists to build on as much of Palestinian lands as possible because they claim a permanent, God-given, right to these lands.
Even under the most generous of schemes on offer to the Palestinians as reward for good behaviour—subject to the principal Bush diktat that they elect their own version of Hamid Karzai to do his bidding without a blush or demur—they will not get more than 40 percent of the lands currently under Israeli occupation. This is on top of the historical reality that the Palestinians are currently striving to attain statehood, or a semblance of it, over just 22 percent of the Mandated Palestine of 1920.
However, Bush and his team of ultra-hawks hogging each and every policy thrust in today’s United States are not in favour of historical truths checking or thwarting their ambitions. They know how valuable and priceless the Jewish support is for their plans to stay in power beyond 2004 when Bush’s current term of office would expire. They also know that their man did not win the election in 2000 and had to steal his way into the White House. He would, therefore, be at the mercy of the powerful Jewish lobbies to stand any chance of re-election.
In the immediate context, the upcoming Congressional elections in autumn would be a litmus test of how far Bush has been able to ingratiate himself with the Jewish groups. They are hoping that with the Jewish interest groups arrayed behind Bush—and they are believed to be elated at his total espousal of Sharon’s predatory agenda against the Palestinians—the Republicans would manage to capture at least half of the House of Representatives, if not more. Such is the chokehold that the Jewish interest groups have over American politics.
As such, for the Bush team it is full speed ahead to leave no doubt in the minds of their Jewish supporters and mentors that Bush is the greatest friend of Israel in the history of the Jewish state. All stops have been removed from the way to bash the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat to the content of Israeli hearts.
Appearing on the NBC ‘Meet the Press’ on the morning of July 1, Bush’s principal adviser and a budding Arafat-baiter, National security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, lashed out at Arafat in the strongest possible terms. She left none in doubt that the whole thrust of the Bush ‘vision’ is to unseat Arafat because that is what Sharon wants. She threatened to cut off the peanuts in economic aid U.S. doles out, in bits and pieces, to the Palestinians if they did not comply with the Bush ultimatum. Asked if an economic assistance freeze ( U.S. gives 4 billion dollars a year to Israel in mainly military and economic assistance) would also apply to the Israelis if they did not stop building more settlements, Rice did not blush at all in blandly saying that such a possibility was" not on the table."
That Bush and company feel no threat of a violent blow-back from the Arab world to such blatant provocation, as reeking off his Palestine ‘vision’, is indicative of the contempt that Bush holds the Arab world in general, and the Arab leaders in particular. Eversince he declared ‘war on terror’ in the wake of September 11, Bush has been heaping disdain and scorn on the Arabs. But the intensity of his tirade against the Arab interests has increased markedly in the weeks and months since his ‘pal’ Sharon let loose his butchery on the Palestinians under occupation with unprecedented brutality.
Why Bush fears no retribution from the Arabs is because of his smug confidence that no matter how contemptuous he is of Arab interests, the ‘moderate’ Arab leaders would still cling on to his band wagon for their own survival and longevity. Even when they protest against America’s unabashed Israeli patronage, their protests are mostly proforma and not much more than eyewash for their subjects.
The Arab rulers have been getting away with their own slavish pandering to America’s injustices against Arabs and Palestinians because they do not feel accountable to their people, nay their ‘subjects.’ The bane of Arab societies, from Morocco to Oman, is almost total denial of those freedoms taken for granted in democratic countries. The autocratic Arab rulers are guilty of depriving their people of basic freedoms of choice and options that are invaluable for raising the quality of life in an open society.
A recent UN report on human development in Arab countries, released at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on July 2, paints a dismal and gloomy picture of the poor standards of human indices available to the 280 million Arabs in 22 Arab countries.
Arab countries, according to this report compiled by 50 Arab scholars and intellectuals under the auspices of UNDP, are the least free in terms of political participation, civil liberties and independent news media.
More than half of Arab women are illiterate, suffer from economic, social and legal discriminations, and have very little political role. For instance, only 3.5 % of seats in Arab legislative bodies belong to women, compared with 11 % in sub-Saharan Africa.
In terms of knowledge and modern education, Arabs are at a distinct disadvantage in global terms because their education is ill-suited to equip them with knowledge to compete globally. Only 0.6 % of Arabs have access to Internet, compared with 54 % Americans.
The once fabled and much-trumpeted Arab economic prowess looks like a story from the Arabian Nights. To take just one economic indicator, the total GDP of the Arab world put together was $ 531 billion in 1999, which was lower than the $ 595 billion GDP of Spain.
It is obvious that Arab countries have been in decline, in both power and pelf, for a long long time. It is not only that their economies are in a free fall but their societies too remain horribly stunted and atrophied. The west knows this, and Bush knows it better than others, that Arab leaders they have to deal with are incapable to arrest the Arab slide. By the same token, these cowering Arab monarchs, dictators and ‘strongmen’ do not have the gumption, or even the will, to resist the onslaught now being mounted with vengeance against them under the personal directive of an American president nurturing a congenital hatred of Arabs. The price—and a horrible one at that—of their leaders’ follies and vagaries would, no doubt, be extracted from the hapless and largely dis-enfranchised Arab masses, many of whom seem to have given up all hope of salvation for them or their progeny. Arab frustration could not be higher than what it is today. This should be a smoke alarm to Bush. But is he capable of detecting it?