Today marks the tenth anniversary of the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington. And predictably, there has already been an excess of analysis in the mainstream media about the significance of the monstrous crimes committed a decade ago. Equally predictably, most of the analysis is repetitive and superficial.
Nonetheless, when I flicked through some newspapers, I came across a comment that came close to echoing my own thoughts. It was from a writer called Amy Waldman, whose debut novel The Submission was published recently. Waldman argues that the date of 11 September 2001 is now considered sacred in the United States. Indeed, the date has been imbued with so much sacredness that there is “no limit to the profanity justified to preserve it.”
In an insult to the innocent people killed 10 years ago, the US establishment has used their deaths as an excuse to launch all-out-attacks against the defenceless populations of Afghanistan and Iraq and to bomb Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Israel, meanwhile, was quick to jump on George Bush’s bandwagon and to claim that its ceaseless oppression of the Palestinian people made it an indispensable ally in the so-called war on terror.
Israel has chalked up a long list of profanities over the past decade. I will now zoom in on one of them: a 2002 offensive named Operation Defensive Shield.
That operation began at the end of March 2002 with the bombing of the compound where Yasser Arafat was based in Ramallah. Altogether it lasted four months, involved the Israeli military reinvading parts of the West Bank they were supposed to have vacated under the Oslo accords and killing almost 500 Palestinians, over 70 of whom were children. Perhaps its most infamous episode was the sustained shelling of Jenin refugee camp, where more than 4,000 people were left homeless because of the systematic demolition of buildings. Medical relief teams were blocked from entering the camp for 10 days during a two-week period, when 54 Palestinians in the camp were killed. Amnesty International and other human rights groups who investigated the events stated plainly that Israel had perpetrated war crimes.
Shock doctrine in Palestine
At a time when people in the West Bank were still traumatized by Israel’s latest acts of brutality, Palestine fell victim to what the Naomi Klein has subsequently called the shock doctrine. In June 2002, Salam Fayyad took over as finance minister of the Palestinian Authority after Yasser Arafat was strongarmed into appointing him by the United States and the European Union.
According to the official narrative, Fayyad was appointed to root out corruption in the PA. Undoubtedly, such corruption was a major problem, yet I do not believe that tackling it was a high priority for the West. Instead, there is ample evidence to indicate that Fayyad was imposed on the PA because he was regarded as somebody that would do more or less exactly what the US and Europe told him to do.
As he has become the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister since then, it is important to ask the question: who exactly is Salam Fayyad?
For almost 15 years before he joined the PA, Fayyad worked for the International Monetary Fund, which is largely controlled by the US Treasury. He was clearly inculcated with the neoliberal dogma laid down by that institution, judging by the economic blueprints that he has signed. These have placed the interests of a corporate elite ahead of those of ordinary Palestinians. He has recommended, for example, that more than one-fifth of all public sector jobs should be cut by the PA.
Fayyad has had his ego inflated enormously over the past few years. He has received lavish praise from that vile war criminal Tony Blair and from Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief. And his old pals in the IMF and the World Bank have fed his delusions of grandeur by stating that the PA is sufficiently prepared to assume the responsibilities of statehood. According to Fayyad, these assurances amount to the “birth certificate” of a Palestinian state.
Neoliberal birth cert
What kind of a “birth certificate”, then, is being drawn up for the state which Fayyad wants to have recognised at the UN later this month? This certificate will say, implicitly if not explicitly, that Palestine must pursue economic policies that have been shown time and time again to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. Institutions like the IMF are determined to keep the Palestinian economy on a tight leash, just as they have with many other economies around the world.
The Netherlands is one of several EU governments that has signalled it will oppose the vote on Palestinian statehood at the UN. This proves once again that Uri Rosenthal and Mark Rutte, the Dutch foreign minister and premier, will do almost anything that Israel requests them to do. But that doesn’t mean the PA’s statehood initiative should be supported, simply because some of the most reactionary political leaders in Europe are against it.
The truth is that even those European governments, like that of Spain, who have indicated they will back the statehood initiative cannot be considered real friends of the Palestinian people. And I emphasize that I mean the Palestinian people as a whole, not the quislings in the Palestinian Authority. For all 27 states in the EU and all of the major EU institutions have increased their cooperation with Israel so considerably in recent years that all of them must be considered complicit in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.
Europe sides with the aggressor
I will cite one example of EU-Israel cooperation, with which I have become slightly obsessed. This cooperation is in the field of scientific research. Israel is the most active non-European participant in the EU’s multi-annual research programme. That programme has been allocated €53 billion between 2007 and 2013, with Israel taking part in some 800 coordinated activities under it.
A few days ago, I checked Cordis, the EU’s online information service on scientific research, to see if there are many cases where Dutch universities or private firms are linked up with Israel in projects funded by the European taxpayer. The result of my search indicated that the number of such projects involving both the Netherlands and Israel could be as high as 200.
To give you a flavour of these projects, there is one called Maaximus, which is designed to make aeroplanes that are lighter and can be more quickly assembled than the ones you will find landing today at Schiphol. This 70 million euro project brings together several Dutch partners, including the University of Eindhoven and the National Aerospace Laboratory here in Amsterdam, with Israel Aerospace Industries. Israel Aerospace Industries is one of the main suppliers of the pilotless drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that were used to bomb civilians during Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2008 and 2009.
Towards the end of this year, the European Commission is scheduled to publish a formal blueprint for the future of EU scientific research policy. From all of the discussions I and others have had with EU officials about the surrounding themes, it appears that the Commission is determined to keep on subsidising Israeli weapons manufacturers and by extension providing support to Israeli war crimes.
The EU’s decision to embrace the Israeli arms industry more tightly than before is partly a result of lobbying by international weapons manufacturers. They have convinced policy-makers that it is necessary to allocate them more resources to ensure that Europe doesn’t have to deal with its own 11 September.
Well, I remain unconvinced that subsidising an industry that relies on war to generate profits makes us or future generations safer. And even if it did, I do not want even one cent of my tax euros to be given to Israeli arms companies. This support for companies who profit from oppressing Palestinians is the most grotesque aspect of the EU’s relationship with Israel. And that is why it must be stopped.
·This talk was delivered at an event hosted by the Netherlands Palestine Committee in Amsterdam this weekend.