Ray Hanania’s Column
It’s easy for the Arab World and Palestinians to mistakenly believe that Ariel Sharon is the cause of all their suffering or that his political downfall will change their fate.
But despite the Nazi-like tactics of Ariel Sharon’s extremist government, the real threat to the future of Palestine and peace in the Middle East is the inexperienced and right wing American President, George W. Bush.
It is terribly ironic that Bush was elected president on the backs of an organized Muslim American voter drive motivated by the mistaken belief that Bush was the lesser of two evils. Instead of evaluating Bush politically, the groups based their support on emotional antagonism to his Democratic challenger, Vice President Al Gore.
It was a blunder and it marks the beginning of the current crisis, far more important even than Sharon’s provocative military excursion to the Haram al Ash-Sharif and the plaza of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Bush may be a diligent son determined to avenge the embarrassment of his father’s political defeat to Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, but he is an inexperienced world leader serving at a time when the world needs wisdom, experience and vision.
President Bush lacks all of that.
Almost as a direct result of Bush’s election, the Middle East tumbled into a fiery grave. Bush failed to fully appreciate or grasp the true foundation of the achievements of the predecessor he despises so, President Bill Clinton.
Although his heavy-handed push toward peace fell short Clinton almost single-handedly made the issue of Palestinian rights and the need for a Palestinian State the focus. Clinton opened the doors to Arab American presence, set the stage for the land-for-peace negotiations and gave the rights of the Palestinian a legitimacy they never previously received.
Israeli politics caused events to spiral out of control, but the problem was still manageable. Even with Sharon’s provocative trip to the Aqsa Mosque plaza in September 2000, Middle East events might have remained more stable. But with Bush’s election, the new president sent signals to Israel that they could do what they wanted with respect the deteriorating situation in the occupied territories.
Worse, in the wake of September 11th, Bush allowed Sharon to plagiarize his own parochial approach to terrorism. The gun-slinging image of a wild John Wayne cowboy vowing, “You’re either with us or agin’ us” was exactly what the tenuous Middle East situation needed.
Instead of restraining Sharon and thereby preserving what little progress had been earned through very difficult and hard work, and the status quo, Bush turned his back on the Middle East.
That he did it out of a naéve lack of understanding of the Middle East conflict is more than reason to weep. It need not have turned this bad. Instead of keeping the world focused on the real War on Terrorism, Bush allowed Sharon to open up his own selfishly motivated “War of Terrorism,” a transparent, greedy drive to push the Palestinians into the Sea of desperation.
Despite all of Gore’s failings, he was dedicated to bringing the Middle East to a peaceful rather than the road to violent resolution that is Sharon’s choice.
No American president has been anti-Israeli, and to judge presidential candidates based on who appeared “less” pro-Israel was a naéve and parochial decision that exposed the inexperience of the American Muslim organizations.
While Muslim Americans rallied behind Bush, the Arab community remained paralyzed by selfish internal bickering. Rightwing, leftwing and religious fanatics continue to fight for domination even among the wreckage of Palestinian despair.
Only one solution remains. And that is to face the reality of the devastation that the Bush administration will bring to Arab and Palestinian causes.
Until he is ousted as president in the elections of 2004, the continued tragedy of the Palestinians will only worsen.
Impotent Middle East monarchs and dictators have found themselves beholden to American foreign aid.
Arab Americans remained paralyzed by failed leadership and a lack of even the essential skills to mount even a childish public relations campaign to counter Israel’s.
And, the Muslim American community continues to sow divisions among the Arabs by wrongly focusing on a religious-based political solutions to a secular and non-religious conflict in Palestine.
Palestine National Authority President Yasir Arafat and his leadership would be wise to plan their safe escape, and re-launch a revolution and guerrilla war against Israel, one that puts pressure on the Arab World to take a more pro-active stand against Israel.
(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American writer based in Chicago and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN). His columns are archived on the web at www.hanania.com)