Palestine between dreams and reality: are we closer or further away?

Dr. George Habash
General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

Reality must be read both as it now is and in its becoming. By observing the contradictions in reality and the directions in which it is moving, we can grasp the present moment and its future possibilities. A long, multifaceted narrative like the story of the Palestinian cause is broader than the pages of an article can encompass. This fact forces us to give selective answers to the big question: "Palestine between dreams and reality -- are we closer to it or further away?" Such answers will shed light on some issues and points, while having to omit others.

We now know that the religious oppression suffered by Jews in European kingdoms during the feudal Middle Ages was reversed before the middle of the nineteenth century, specifically around the 1830s, with the French political project calling for the establishment of a Jewish base that would be a spearhead for France in the Arab region. This came after Napoleon Bonaparte had lost his bet on an alliance with Egyptian middle elements around the beginning of the century, and at a time when Egypt was experiencing a trend towards Arab unity during he reigns of Muhammad Ali and his son Ibrahim.

With the transformation of European national capitalism into imperialism in following decades, the need for the old project grew at the same time as the Zionist movement's foundations were actually being laid. After the establishment of the first Jewish settlements in the 1880s, and after the publication of Theodore Herzl's aspirations and claims in his book Der Judenstaat, the Basle Conference of 1897 in effect designated the Zionist movement to be one of the detachments of European capitalism and a guard dog for its increasing colonial aspirations. A Zionist state would serve colonial interests by acting as a wall dividing the Arab East on the Asian continent from the Arab West in Africa, and as a police station securing the passage to India, the pearl in the British crown.

The Balfour Declaration of November 1917 came in recognition of the achievements scored by the Zionist movement on the ground. It marked the start of the process of the judaization of more and more Palestinian land and the Zionist monopolization of the beginnings of industrial production in Palestine, ultimately drawing in a growing number of Jewish immigrants.

With the rise of the United States the center of the Zionist alliance shifted from Europe to America. This reality was embodied in the order by President Franklin Roosevelt to facilitate the immigration of half a million Jews to Palestine in 1945. Since then Jewish influence and activity have grown stronger in American institutions, reaching their climax in the Clinton Administration in which Jews occupy five seats in the cabinet and forty posts in Middle East related affairs.

Zionist leaders are past masters of reading the world situation and at organically linking themselves to the imperialist centers. The Israeli government today behaves as a link in the chain of monopoly capitalist globalism led by America. America strives to increase its psychological, informational, political and economic hegemony enabling it to intensify its plunder of the farthest corners of the earth, breaking up patriotic independence movements and pouncing upon their achievements, shattering the ties binding human society together, while setting down new rules that accord with imperialist plans and ambitions. Naturally this means that the U.S. must enjoy superiority over Western Europe and attain the status of the ruler of a unipolar world. To this end it uses a variety of important means -- the agreement on free trade, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and political programs that take on warlike forms at times and at other times consist of negotiations, while on still other occasions they take the form of managing rather than solving crises. All of America's operations are covered by planned out propaganda campaigns that, by their strength and coherence, nearly dominate human thought. Indeed one of the aims of globalism is for propaganda to take the place of culture and the truth.

Globalism looks upon the Arab nation as a field for experimentation. In fact it was the first experimental field for globalism which not only seeks the submission of political regimes and leaderships, but the attraction of social and institutional forces whose activities penetrate to the popular bedrock in order to link up with them in their daily bread and in the laws of the market that tyrannize them. The aim is for them to completely forget greater concerns and causes -- freedom, dependency, the homeland, social ethics -- in order to turn the individual person into a commodity, competing with others just to improve his market price, lusting stupidly after his own egotism.

The Middle East settlement process begun at the Madrid Conference in 1991 is like a bulldozer that globalism uses to sweep away all obstacles as it sets about normalizing Arab relations with the Zionists and remaking Arab society, economy, politics, and culture to conform with American calculations and Israeli expansionism.

It is on this basis that we may see both the New Middle East program that is to end Arab-Israeli hostility and install Israel as a regional leader (see Shimon Peres's book The New Middle East), and the similar (though less ugly) Mediterranean program as simply two chapters in globalism's file. The first is more in accord with American-Zionist visions, the second more in keeping with European capitalist visions. We should note that the first program is more dominant and actual. We also need to be aware of the structural connection between the different wings of world capital that no longer has any citizenship or nationality.

Capitalist globalism is the first enemy of the peoples and toilers without exception. On the basis of this confrontation are distinguished the progressive from the reactionary, development from dependence, the one who strives for humanity from the one who seeks to enslave it. At times globalism expresses itself militarily (as happened in Iraq and Serbia), at times politically (as is the case with the program for a Middle East settlement), or economically (as with the destruction of the Indonesian Asian tiger in the blink of an eye). Globalism is also seen in the information media (where control of 85 percent of world information is in the hands of four news agencies), and in the activity of security forces (as with the tracking down and capture of militants like Abdullah Ocalan).

Israel has prepared itself well for the international changes by its development of technology and a productive economy of nearly US$87 billion annually -- a figure exceeding the output of the neighboring Arab countries -- in addition to a modern army that has managed to enter the nuclear club and to establish an alliance with Turkish fascism under American protection in order to subjugate the entire region. We should particularly note that the "bomb" of struggle over water resources is hastening towards an explosion in a region where water is unevenly divided between one country and another. The theft of 80 percent of the water basins of the West Bank only provides for 40 percent of the water needs of the Zionist entity, while its studies are ready for use in redirecting the Litani River, in building a canal between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, and in other projects.

The convening of the Congress in al-Doha to discuss the establishment of joint Arab-Israeli economic projects, the increasing Israeli breakthroughs into Egypt and Jordan as Israelis set up farms and factories and buy shares in companies, the gradual eating up of the land of Palestine which carries on regardless whether the Likud or Labour Party is in power, the activities of the multilateral committees, and the secret Israeli meetings with Arab chambers of commerce -- all these things demonstrate the Zionist tendency toward economic and geographical expansionism after the so-called peace is established.

The Israeli plan is continuous, escalating and on the offensive. Every time the Arabs make another concession, the Israeli plan grows harsher and its arrogance and demands increase. Their eyes are on Arab oil and Arab water resources and the Arab markets that are equally thirsty for technological and consumer goods. Meanwhile certain parasitic class formations in the Arab capitals fail to see any harm in Israel's growing ambition. They reason that everything Europe has to offer is also available in Israel, only the distance to Tel Aviv is less.

A segment of the intelligentsia is also orientated on normalization of relations with Israel. Their voices have grown hoarse from singing the praises of western liberal capitalism without ever breathing a word about the historical social-economic precondition for it. They spare no effort to spread the notion of depending upon the Israeli peace camp and the benefits of a settlement, while they pay no attention at all to the "map" of Israeli society which is united in its opposition to the external contradiction. Israeli social unity is strengthened by Israeli successes in economic development, social welfare, and liberal democracy for the Jews. Besides this there is the factor of fear over their shared destiny (their preoccupation with Masada and the Holocaust) in addition to the mass of colonialist aims imbued with the culture of the Torah.

Nevertheless, the Zionist entity, like all societies, is rent with diverse contradictions that are held in check by the Zionist enterprise, despite the success of a few voices to be heard in favor of the radical view that finds in the democratic secular state a solution to the conflict, and the narrow circles that recognize the catastrophe inflicted upon the Palestinians in 1948 and accept their right to return to their homes. There is also a current that is larger, yet still in the margins of Israeli society, that at least condemns the occupation and the expansion of settlements on the West Bank and in Gaza.

Common denominators can be established with these kinds of people; for not every Jew is a Zionist.

My generation lived through the disaster of 1948. Along with the rest of our people,
it tasted the degradation of being evicted from house and home, and it wandered
about along with hundreds of thousands of others, in open country, in caves, and in tents
in the course of a bloody ethnic cleansing operation whose effects have endured
and grown much worse until now. Today some four million refugees live out the
bitterness of exile.

The refugees whose ancestors struck root in the Arab land of Canaan thousands of years ago are still denied their right to return home. Their property has been confiscated, their homeland has been usurped, its name has been changed, and Ben Gurion's 1949 promise that 100,000 Palestinians would be allowed to return has never seen the light.

"Palestine is a land without a people; the Jews are a people without a land."

The Zionist vision embodied in this slogan is based on driving off the Other, banishing the native of the country as inspired by the European colonial practice in America and Australia where the natives were uprooted and the land colonized by settlers.

Nevertheless, Palestinian demography is a thorn in the gullet, something hard to swallow for the Zionists. Palestinians were transformed from rude tribes in the 1930s into an unsettling element in the 1960s, then into a people who resisted and launched an uprising in the 1980s as the Jewish historian Baruch Kimmerling has written.

The Oslo Agreement of 1993 aimed at corralling and taming the Palestinian upsurge, breaking the back of its patriotic enterprise, and splitting the people apart. The people had to taste despair and feel vanquished. Defeatism and individual egotism spread.

The maximum results that can be expected from Oslo have become totally clear. It is an ethnic segregation of the Palestinians, confining them to narrow enclaves, cut off from the outside, with starvation avoided only by reliance on foreign aid and work in Jewish projects. This arrangement is calculated to facilitate the continued gobbling up of Palestinian land as agreed by the two big political parties, the Likud and Labour. They have been the executors of the colonization program in the West Bank and Gaza since Yigal Allon, through Yitshak Rabin, and up to Ehud Barak, which has swallowed more than 75 percent of the land, according to the writings of the Israeli researcher Benvenisti. All this comes after East Jerusalem was annexed "legally" by order of the Knesset in 1981, and annexed practically by giving predominance to the Jewish population over the Palestinians in the city where nearly 170,000 Jews now live as compared with the 160,000 Palestinians, who are distributed on islands surrounded by settlement enclosures.

"Oslo prepared the way for the Wadi Arabah Agreement," as Peres declared, (referring to Israel's 1994 peace treaty with Jordan signed at Wadi Arabah). The Israelis aspire to use the Palestinian compradors as a bridge to Arab markets.

In the framework of the emerging Middle Eastern Order, the opportunities multiply of using those compradors. The casino built in Jericho is an example, one center to be followed by others.

Our people did not understand the purposes of the first wave of Jewish pioneers to our country. But when the Jews set about buying up the land, our people perceived the danger and began to resist the sale of land. They ignited a series of struggles, beginning with pickets and demonstrations, through the Buraq Uprising (the 1929 confrontation over Jewish attempts to seize control of part of Jerusalem adjacent to the so-called Wailing Wall), down to the strike and Revolt of 1936.

They almost defeated Britain, since London was at the time busy with Hitler's victory in the 1933 elections and his moves into neighboring countries. But the traditional Palestinian leadership trusted in the promises of "friendly Britain calling on the masses to be calm" even though they knew that Britain had from the very beginning embraced the Zionist movement and represented the secret life line of the Zionist enterprise.

How much today resembles yesterday! America has been Israel's supporter in all fields and gatherings. It and has lead the settlement process from Camp David until today. It considers the West Bank and Gaza as "disputed lands" rather than occupied territory. Yet the Palestinian negotiators take pleasure in relying on the US, betting on it and continuing to call on it to intervene even more. Then the pressure comes down right on their heads. They find themselves obliged to renegotiate about what they had already negotiated and to sign new agreements that are worse than those that preceded them and that reduce the Palestinians to a still lower level, in the shadow of a balance of forces outrageously tipped in favor of the Israeli enemy. Even putting a stop to the march of Jewish settlement is something the Israeli side has never agreed to! Nevertheless, for its part the Palestine Authority has agreed to combat anti-Israeli "incitement" and "terrorism."

This raises the question: why did the Palestine Authority's leadership get entangled in the Madrid - Oslo processes in the first place? Was it to liberate the homeland or was it to secure its narrow elitist and cliquish interests by frittering away the homeland? If not, what is the meaning of the recognition of Israel, that is, of the Zionist program, on 78 percent of the whole of Palestine? For the first time the Palestinian leadership since al-Hajj Amin al-Husayni has committed such a shameful act. What is the meaning of their signature on the Oslo Accords with no declaration that the occupied lands are Palestinian lands and that the settlers will be evicted from them? What is the meaning of the fact that Oslo made no mention of the well waters that Israel appropriates to the tune of $400 million annually? Is it not noteworthy that they signed a political agreement without referring to the 1948 disaster that drove out the Palestinians, about the theft of their homeland, about the right of the refugees to return to their homes, and such like issues?

Many questions and black blotches can be traced to the state of defeat that afflicts the Palestinian forces. defeat and the agedness of its apparatus. We are not speaking here about a defeat of the patriotic enterprise, for that goes on and will be carried on by coming generations and by the justice of our cause.

No matter how hard the official propagandists may try to convince us of the contrary, they cannot make one believe that people are pleased with the political solution and with the continuation of the occupation, the institutionalization of corruption, the militarization of the society, etc. On the contrary, criticisms are mounting day after day.

These criticisms could be transformed at an opportune time into revolutionary practice according to the principle "a single spark can start a prairie fire" or a popular explosion attended by the question of change.

Indeed the reasons and drives that lead to the outbreak of the revolution several decades ago are still there: a people + a stolen homeland + displaced refugees + growing consciousness, knowledge, and skills + a hot, furious passion. Besides, there is a cancerous, colonialist, tyrannical occupation that is driving out the Palestinians and has nearly destroyed everything living and beautiful.

The country's leadership might be caked in rust, but the spirit of the masses is fine. It is in full readiness and it is just awaiting the appropriate moment to act. The uprising over the tunnels around the Haram al Sharif in Jerusalem, and the marches commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the 1948 disaster were just an indication of this active spirit that lay beyond the little peephole view of the leadership -- whether they deserted, or hid, or were overcome with hesitation and held back. This spirit can be seen in the active forces and it also envelops the masses. Within the 1948 borders, more than a million Palestinians refuse be integrated into the Jewish state because of their different identities and because of the racism of their enemy. The march of half a century has shown that it is impossible to eliminate the racist nature of the Zionist entity's state or to achieve equality of its residents. Calls for such things amount to daydreams. The national identity of more than a million Palestinians has risen to the level of a national political demand and is not merely a question of individual civil rights. The declining number of Palestinians who vote for Zionist
parties and who participate in the elections to the Knesset is only an indication
of that fact.

When the Syrian Arab Shaykh `Izz al-Din al-Qassam was sowing the seeds of the 1936 Revolt, those Arab leaders who were tied to Britain plotted against him. In 1948 when all the Arab capitals resounded with popular initiatives rejecting the partition plan that gave the Jewish invaders 56 percent of Palestine, the Arab regimes sent in their bankrupt defensive forces that usurped control of the popular holy war, and thereby brought down the dreadful Catastrophe on the people of Palestine. As a people, they were parceled out and their land was also parceled out among Israel, Jordan, and the Egyptian administration.

From the 1950s until the 1967 defeat the Palestinian vanguards were absorbed into the Arab political parties. After 1967 their Palestinian guerrilla identity settled in and enjoyed broad Arab popular sympathy -- only to face the massacres of September 1970 (in Jordan) and other massacres in Lebanon at the hands of the regimes and fascist forces.

The relations of the Palestinian resistance with the regimes and the Arab popular movement have ebbed and flowed and many mistakes have been committed in this regard. But they pale before the fact that the greed of Israeli expansionism extends beyond Palestine to include the occupation of other Arab lands, and Israel speaks openly of its hostility to any Arab projects aimed at unity or development.

The outbreak of the June War of 1967, and after it of the October War of 1973, and after that the 1982 War the invasion of Lebanon), and the NATO aggression against Iraq demonstrate with absolute clarity that the Palestinian and Arab struggle is one interwoven struggle in confrontation with the Imperialist-Zionist alliance.

The official Arab regimes have been tireless in scaring the masses and emptying their rejection (of settlement with the Zionists) of any content. At the same time the regimes roll out the red carpet for foreign companies, foreign capital, and the western cultural assault, in order to prevent the rise of resistance and national revival. Only rarely will a regime find itself in the same trench as the masses. Yet the tune that the regimes sing over and over again to justify their denial of freedoms, their obstruction of the winds of democracy, their hunting down of alternative ideas and their torture of alternative thinkers is always that the state of war with Israel demands this.

So the Arab defeats repeat themselves again and again while Israel wins one victory after another.

Plans laid out purely on the level of individual Arab states have lost their progressive character and have failed to attain any major achievement in more than two decades. Not one modern Arab state has been formed that enjoys technological and economic development providing the people job opportunities and a reasonable living standard without massive unemployment, deep indebtedness, and unlimited dependency. Not one Arab state has enjoyed an active civil society, genuine legislative authorities, a competent, independent judicial structure, and a peaceful transfer of authority from one leader to the next. The worst thing is the failure to attain true independence and true sovereignty.

The Palestine Liberation Organization burst forth as a critique and negation of these regimes, but it wasn't long before it became a carbon copy of them. After leaving Beirut (in 1982) the factors of destruction, corruption and special privileges increased in spite of the fact that the PLO lacked its own territory and its own market. Despite the serious defects in the political system of the PLO, its rampant bureaucracy, and its swollen army of idle employees, the establishment of the Palestine Authority has constituted a step backwards from that, because of the political claims that drove it, because of the careerist attraction of becoming an employee of the Authority, because of the rampant anarchy and administrative and financial corruption and the increasing number of security agencies. In fact, there are now nine security agencies and they account for half of the employees of the government sector. This all led to the gutting and destruction of the organizing body that unites the Palestinian people and claims the leadership of their historic practice (the National Charter, the Framework, the Program, and the militant line). As a result, the enemy's plan has had some success in breaking up the unity of the people, a people who lack the protection of one economic market, or a consensual political project, or a cultural project, etc. Instead every day the frustrations of their lives increase.

What has befallen us compels us to say that the Arabs will have no future, nor any liberation, nor emancipation, nor development without a revivalist, pan-Arab project that imposes steps towards unity and activities aimed at unity that transcend their structural dissimilarities and local state structures, regardless whether they are bourgeois or popular in character. Indeed it is no longer a secret that the Arab League has been seized by impotence and bankruptcy, and that Arab solidarity has been broken up. In addition we have seen the break up of the Congress of the Arab People and the weakness of the forms that took its place. All this allows the regimes to perfect their role in blunting the spearhead of wide sections of the intelligentsia who are usually the standard bearers of revolutionary and emancipatory political projects.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp, the Arab left demonstrated that it has not yet been weaned, and it dwindled and fell apart. On the other hand, the fall of the Shah and the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran signaled a stormy upsurge in the power of both the militant and traditional branches of the Islamic movement.

Arab society is gravely ill. The dominant forces, relations, and ideas have grown old, while the alternative forces of revolution have failed to be born. This is a stage of impotence and defeat. But to the extent that the society is sick, its political, economic, social, and cultural contradictions sharpen and the demands of the social savior that is drawing the way out grow more insistent. This is especially true since the great intellectual currents (the national bourgeois, the leftist, and the Islamic) as well as the broad popular current that seeks its honor and the honor of its homeland, have become more receptive to the idea of reaching common denominators. Indeed there are cultural, social, and national denominators that will bring the currents together for the coming decades in this stage of the New World Order, globalism, and Israeli expansion, while each current continues to accept the other, competing over issues on which they differ without ruining the opportunities for them to meet and cooperate.

The decline that the Arab Nation is living through is preparing the way for a sweeping popular revival. A thing gives rise to its opposite. What globalism is planning for -- a center that produces and a consuming periphery, an America that thinks and a world that repeats -- whether it is called the "Americanization of the world" as Alexander Haig saw it, or the "globalism of the world under American leadership" as Zbigniew Brzezinski called it, or "American capitalism as the last stage in history" as Francis Fukuyama wrote, or the "struggle between cultures that impels the west to destroy the east and its legacy and to deny its right to specificity" as Samuel Huntington suggested -- all of this is but the prologue to a great enterprise.

The only ones that globalism can bribe and corrupt are a minority of those executives in political authority and in institutions who derive benefits from and chase after lucrative positions. This is true even though the capitalist west accords special importance to breaking through to the Arab intellectuals now that its has assured itself that the cosmopolitan parasitic strata are in a stable orbit around it. It seeks to impose "normalization" on the Arab mentality so that Arabs see America as their master and see Israeli expansionism as a good neighbor. The capitalist west has an extensive array of non-governmental organizations at its disposal, most of them dependent on official funding, and it also uses the public relations, academic and cultural mouthpieces that are fed on the crumbs of globalism to facilitate its domination over the centers of civil society in the third world.

Yet the culture that surrenders the weapon of criticism and the intellectuals who renounce critical thought lose their identity. At a time when the political-military balance of power is highly unfavorable, when our countries are characterized by the backwardness of the economic-technological base and the traditionalism of the social structure and the system of thought, the importance of culture and the cultural front takes on enormous proportions. It is culture that rouses the intellect and rational thought, and that struggles against alien thinking. Culture defends our identity, formulates our goals, and fills our popular forces with invincibility. It gives them the necessary promise, hope, and faith in tomorrow. Culture prepares the ground and fertilizes it with the prerequisites for political work and revolutionary political practice.

On this basis I have great respect for the role of the intellectuals who are committed to the masses' causes of liberation, progress, justice, democracy, and Arab unity. They take it upon themselves to bear the cross and walk the path of pain in confrontation with globalism and the Zionist project, with all its serious dangers and grandiose designs.

Politics and culture merge together and intermingle. They are like two sides of a coin. If the relationship between them is spoiled, practical activity will be spoiled. The cultural figure dreams of historical Palestine, of Jaffa oranges and the walls of Akka. He smells the fragrance of the memories of generations past. He dreams of Arab unity, of the age of Arab revival in the time of Umar and al-Mu`tasim. He calls up the radicalism of Ali and Abu Dharr, the integrity of Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, the rebelliousness of John the Baptist, and the visions of Muhammad Ali and Abd al-Nasir. He dreams of the end of all acts of plunder.

The political person goes wild over these dreams. If he abandons them he falls into the hell of the last judgment.

Our Arab-Palestinian reality needs no long description: division, dependence, backwardness, the collapse of most forms of the official regime, the increasing gravity of the issue of livelihood, the regression of culture. For all that, however, there are points of light.

One very important one is the popular feeling, the popular consciousness that reviles normalization with Israel and reviles those among the political-economic elites and, to a lesser extent, among the cultural elite who advocate normalization.

Another important point of light is the healthy activity of Hizb Allah in south Lebanon.

Another is the accumulation of education, the original accumulation related to capital accumulation.

The percentage of discontented people is increasing -- people who call for free thought, expression, and elections.

The growth of urbanization, whereby now 40 million Arabs live in cities, a figure tens of times more than at the beginning of the century, despite the eastern and rural character of these cities. If the rage of these tremendous human blocs ever explodes and they rise up, they will pulverize anyone who blocks the way to the attainment of their freedom and hopes.

A partial exposure of the towering arrogance of the upper classes and a partial removal of the veil that they use to cover up their exploitation and their theft has also occurred.

All of this makes for a mixed and uncertain picture. But the dynamics of its rising contradictions are pushing towards one thing: change.

The traditional forces of the past that lead the society for centuries have had long enough. So have the right-wing bourgeois forces that lead the society for decades. Nothing remains except the popular forces that have not yet lead, have not yet taken the wheel. Today the popular forces are obstructed and divided, but they are the answer to the question of change. They are the subject and means for change.

Anyone who reviews the experience of Japan in the second half of the last century and the capitalist development it attained, and the Chinese experience of the first half of the present century and the development it brought with it in the interests of the popular forces, sees good grounds for hope and can wipe away any tinge of pessimism.

The current Arab situation is extremely bad; but it contains tremendous potentials. The popular forces need only seize political command with their mass, democratic, patriotic options for vast gates to open up before the prospect of development and revival.

The settlement arrangements aimed at extending Camp David in all directions are in the final analysis incapable of uprooting the elements that drive the conflict.

Egypt the Great Example

The Egyptian regime signed the Camp David peace agreement in 1978. That regime has remained even though the head of the regime departed. But peace with the people, with the civil society, with the popular organizations, with the culture figures, has not advanced. What is the volume of trade with Israel? Where is the peace that was supposed to bring every Egyptian family a house and a garden? Has the Israeli plan to isolate Egypt from its Arab surroundings come to an end?

The ones who signed the peace and normalized relations were only limited circles of the comprador bourgeoisie and the parasitic bureaucracy -- a Trojan horse, you might say -- but they were not strong enough to tear up the roots of the conflict. In fact they clearly exposed the connection between the social issue and the national issue.

Those who caved in and surrendered, who fulfilled America's desires are the ones who grow wealthy by consuming the people's food.

Israel complains about the "cold peace" and the dearth of Egyptian tourists. The Egyptian regime complains about Israel's regional ambitions, its monopoly on nuclear arms, and its slowness in implementing its agreements with the Palestinian Authority. Yet both sides are spending more and more on armaments.

Will such a settlement last if the level of Egyptian popular pressure rises? Here we are dealing with Camp David and the return of Sinai. What do you think the situation will be like as regards the Palestinian front where the occupation forces have redeployed on 6 percent to 7 percent of the area of the West Bank and Gaza, that is the equivalent of 2 percent of the whole of Mandate Palestine? Even if it became 10 percent and 100,000 more Palestinians returned home, would the minimum level of Palestinian demands -- land, the right of return, development, repair of injured honor -- be met? No way.

Even though the international will has combined to support the settlement and the Palestine Authority has pledged to fulfill its obligations, including its security obligations, even if the cities and densely populated areas were all covered by the settlement, the problem of the refugees inside and outside Palestine (who account for more than half of the Palestinian people) would remain without a solution. Yet it was they who drew their guns after the defeat of June 1967. Then there is the time bomb of one million Palestinians inside the borders of 1948 who remain also without a solution. There is the still unassuaged ache of the people in rural areas to be rid of the settlers and to regain their land. There is the people's desire for independence and sovereignty, a desire that reflects their level of development, whether in terms of social or political crystallization, or the requirements of their economic life. Finally there is the people's legal need to assure the basic prerequisites for organizing, protecting, and choosing their path of development.

What is happening is not peace but a settlement. In fact it is not a settlement, but crisis management Therefore renewal of the conflict is inevitable as the dream of Palestine intersects with the dream of Arab unity, the Palestinian patriotic struggle with the Arab national struggle, the goals of national liberation with the goals of social change and democracy.

We cannot but acknowledge the victory won at this stage by the American and Israeli alliance with the signing of the Camp David - Oslo - Wadi Arabah series of agreements that actually signify more than their literal texts. This victory could not have occurred were it not for the condition of the Arab-Palestinian subjective factor, and more specifically of the individualist class nature of the political leaderships and regimes that negotiated and submitted, in contrast to the situation that obtained when the Vietnamese laid down their conditions, for example. Instead, and over a period of decades, the mouths of our peoples have been gagged, and their activity crippled as though the homeland were the private property of rulers who lacked any social connection with their subjects.

The power of the opposing imperialist-Zionist camp and its submissive and reactionary Arab henchmen follows from that factor automatically. In addition, of course, the Zionist enterprise has proven its skill in forging a permanent and organic alliance with the imperialist centers, beginning with the stage of Jewish immigration and settlements, through the stage of building an industrial base, an army and an administrative structure, through the proclamation of the state and its concentration on agriculture for a time and on industry at another time, up to the period of the information and technological revolution and with it the broadening of the service sector, and at all times building up the strength and aggressive strategic doctrine of the army (in contrast to its name the "Israeli Defense Force").

The collapse of the former Soviet Union, a friend of the Arabs, encouraged Jewish immigration to Israel to the tune of 800,000 people, a third of whom had university degrees. It also gave America the opportunity to go it alone as the only pole in the world with its noxious, aggressive policy against the Palestinians and the other Arabs.

Such a view must not obscure the other side of the picture. There have been outstanding bright points in the Arab struggle: the 1936 Revolution, the nationalization of the Suez Canal and the battle of Port Sa`id, the launch of the Palestinian guerrilla operations, the heroism of the Arab soldiers in the October 1973 war who debunked the legend of the invincible Israeli army, the steadfastness of Beirut in 1982, the popular intifada in Palestine, the heroic resistance in south Lebanon, the people's refusal to surrender, and the refusal of some Arab official circles to submit and join the American settlement.

Nevertheless, we must note that the Zionist enterprise has not carried out all its phases and has not yet eliminated all the obstacles from its path. Its dreams of economic expansion and seizure of water resources, the slogan of Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates, as depicted on the Israeli flag, the in-gathering of more of the world's Jews -- these are issues at the top of Israel's agenda.

On the other hand, the Zionist enterprise has not been able to overcome Palestinian demography nor to stamp out the fire of resistance. All the plans to resettle and compensate the refugees have failed to drive out their longing and historic memory of home. To say nothing of the Syrian insistence upon the return of the Golan Heights and Lebanon's insistence upon the return of its occupied south.

The train of future events is booby-trapped. The plans of globalism will lead to the ruin and destruction of the Arabs if they do not rise up and unite. That fact, in turn, means an inevitable collision with the existence and plans of Israel, and clears the way for the continuation of the historic battle.

Israel is an entity that refuses to assimilate. It is chauvinist and racist; it excludes the other and yet it does not even solve the Jewish question, for it has driven the Jews into four wars already. The very map of Israel completely betrays its alien nature, foreign to the fabric and history of the region. Its supremacy kindles aggressive and arrogant tendencies within itself. Confronting Israel requires:

A. Deep study and exploitation of its contradictions. The most important conclusion here is that the national contradiction, not the class contradiction, is the decisive factor in the struggle, despite the internal class differences and the overtones of low-intensity class contradictions. The same can be said of other contradictions too which are also secondary -- such as that between Eastern and Western Jews, or that between fundamentalists and secularists.

B. The need of our Arab nation for vanguards who bring together local patriotism with Arab nationalism, national liberation with social liberation, political affairs with cultural affairs, theoretical matters with intellectual and scientific pursuits, the elite with the masses, without being limited to one aspect of the struggle at the expense of the others. And in any case there must be a leadership that is up to the historical level.

C. A solid connection between tactics and strategy, for opportunism and negligence stem from giving precedence to the tactical, immediate good over the strategic and programmatic.

D. Forging the struggles of the Palestinian groups into one popular current with general aims and specific aims so that our people can forge one struggle and one fist with general and specific aims.

A democratic state in historic Palestine without national, ethnic, religious, or sexual discrimination in a broader Arab framework -- this is the greatest common aim for our people and the radical solution to both the Palestine question and the Jewish question, and therefore for eliminating the factors of hate and war.

The steps on the ladder to our attainment of that goal begin with the withdrawal of the occupation from the territories occupied in 1967, the establishment of undiminished Palestinian sovereignty, the return of nearly four million refugees, the consecration of the Palestinian identity inside the 1948 borders in a form chosen by the will of the people, and resistance to Zionist racism. All of this demands that we separate ourselves from the current settlement, and resume the protracted march of liberation.

And finally we come to the question: Have we got closer to or further away from Palestine?

My answer is that the struggle is open-ended and that politics is not measured in years but in changes. Israel's military victories reached their peak with the invasion of Beirut. But that was only a signal for its retreat and withdrawal to the border zone in south Lebanon. This is a palpable fact, not ideological rhetoric.

When we look at the achievements of other nations, there is no doubt that the Arabs' situation at the end of the century is worse than it was in 1948, in spite of the factors of modernization and modernism they have built up. Yet this is the dark that gets blackest just before daybreak.

It is hard to imagine that the Arab social forces will not put up resistance to the mounting hostile attacks. Indeed the question of the future consists in how to gain mastery over the ways to power, resistance, and revival. By their revival the Arabs will be applying all their pressure on the imperialist center to finish off Israeli expansionism, just as the resistance movement has done in Lebanon. For Israel's power lies, first of all, in our weakness.

"Al-Hadaf" magazine, No. 1302, January 2000.