An immaculate conception?

Salam Fayyad predicts the birth of a state in 2011. (Mustafa Abu Dayeh/MaanImages)

The Palestinian Authority is pregnant! Indeed, it is the unelected and American-imposed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who is pregnant. He told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in a recent interview that “the time for this baby to be born will come … and we estimate it will come around 2011.” Unlike females of the human species but like female whales, the gestation period for male Palestinian collaborators with the Israeli occupation extends at least to two years. Fayyad, “the Palestinian Ben-Gurion,” as Israeli President Shimon Peres recently dubbed him, had declared his pregnancy in a document he issued on 25 August 2009 titled “Palestine: Ending the Occupation and Establishing the State,” and more recently to Haaretz: “the birth of a Palestinian state will be celebrated as a day of joy by the entire community of nations.”

We seem to already know the name, weight, ideological color and the physical make-up of this “baby;” nay we even know the political structure, and the foreign policy of the fruit of Fayyad’s womb: a tiny Palestinian “state” that recognizes Israel as a “biblical” Jewish state. The time of birth will be determined by Fayyad as both mother and midwife. While the last immaculate conception that took place in Palestine was in Nazareth, it remains unclear if what is unfolding in Ramallah is a second immaculate conception, as no paternity tests have been scheduled as of yet for this illegitimate baby.

Given the longstanding affairs that Fayyad has had with the Americans since his stint at the International Monetary Fund from 1995 to 2002, some heretics reject the theory of immaculate conception and claim to know the identity of the father and point to Fayyad’s words as evidence. According to Haaretz, Fayyad is planning to induce labor in August 2011 in order “for the state to be born during the first term of [US President] Barack Obama,” the most likely father according to the heretics. Non-Cuban cigars will be on hand for immediate distribution to the friends and family of the happy couple. It should be noted that while Fayyad’s declaration of his two-year pregnancy was made in August 2009, belated congratulations finally arrived from the European Union and the Quartet in December 2009. But as many previous pregnancies by other Palestinian male collaborators turned out, to the chagrin of many, to be hysterical pregnancies, or, in case they were real pregnancies were terminated prematurely, before Fayyad’s baby is born, several steps will have to be taken in order to ensure that this “real” pregnancy be carried full term:

Firstly, recognizing Israel as a Jewish “biblical country,” thus granting Israel legitimacy to be a racist colonial-settler state. Fayyad obliged: “Related to the Zionist ethos, fine, Israel is a biblical country, there are lots of hilltops, lots of vacant space, why don’t [the settlers] use that, and let us get on with it?” Secondly, committing to repress all forms of resistance to Israel, dubbed “incitement,” including freedom of speech and freedom of political action. Fayyad obliged: “Incitement can take the form of many things — things said, things done, provocations — but there are ways for dealing with this. We are dealing with this.” And thirdly, surrendering the Palestinian people’s right of return to their homes and lands from which they were expelled in 1948 by European Jewish colonists: “Of course, Palestinians would have the right to reside within the State of Palestine.”

But lest we think Fayyad only satisfies Israel’s demands, he assures us that he stands up to the Americans. In a recent interview with the Arabic Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyyah (the sister publication of the English-language Journal of Palestine Studies) he is careful to present himself as no pushover when it comes to the United States. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez should learn a lesson or two from the independent and non-aligned Fayyad of the “Third Way” — the name of the list under which he ran in the elections of 2006 and which was accused by Fatah of being financed by the CIA. The “Third Way” received a whopping 2.41 percent of the vote. Mind you, Fayyad is the only witness to his heroic stances with the Americans, which is why he relishes narrating them to his interviewers.

He tells us that he stood up to the Americans when he first became finance minister in 2002 and was asked to visit the US. He declined and told them he was too busy with his new job and will visit them when his schedule permits; Later, he apparently, though no one seems to know it yet, stood up to General Keith Dayton, chief American trainer of the Palestinian thuggish mafia, when Fayyad instructed him not to speak to the press and that he was a mere trainer of the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces and not a consultant to the PA. Dayton, we are told, readily apologized to him and promised not to do it again; and finally, and most importantly, when the US asked him not to participate in the National Unity government in 2007, he refused the Americans’ request and insisted on participating in the Hamas-led government which the European Union immediately boycotted. Of course, no mention is made that Fayyad was appointed prime minister of the PA in June 2007 at the behest of the Americans after the PA and Keith Dayton staged their failed coup in Gaza, something his interviewers failed to remind him of. At any rate, if it were not for these revelations, Fayyad’s anti-imperialist credentials would have remained unrecognized by the masses.

In his interview with Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyyah, Fayyad is so concerned about the ongoing Israeli colonial theft of Jerusalem that he soberly recommends full Arab normalization with Israel to put a stop to it: “The Arab identity of the city will be strengthened when the Arabs come to visit it not when they boycott it under the pretext that visiting it would be normalization with the occupier. I believe that it is the duty of Arabs to visit Jerusalem and I encourage this strongly, for in doing so, they would be supporting and strengthening the Arab dimension of Jerusalem’s identity.” It is curious that in the English version of the interview (which appeared in the latest issue of the Journal of Palestinian Studies), this part of the interview was dropped!

Fayyad has been a pioneer in normalization of course. Not only is he lavished with praise by his American and Israeli patrons for his statesmanship, he is also rewarded for it generously, so much so that he was invited, attended and delivered a speech at the annual Israeli conference at Herzliya last February, where Israeli politicians and academics discuss strategies of how to defuse the Palestinian “demographic bomb” and where Martin Kramer (an extremist in the American context but a mainstream strategist in Israel) made his infamous genocidal recommendations to restrict Palestinian births and get rid of “superfluous young [Palestinian] men.” Perhaps it was at Herzliya that Fayyad was inspired to recognize Israel’s “biblical” claims to Palestine.

Not only is Fayyad a democrat who is above partisan politics and the conflict between Fatah and Hamas, he insists that he applies the Dayton-trained thuggish security apparatus at his disposal to repress only those who violate the law from either side. In his interview in The Journal of Palestine Studies, he insists that he opposes violation of human rights, use of torture, or the arrest of people for their political opinion, despite the huge record amassed by local and international human rights groups about the ongoing abuses on all these fronts by his and Dayton’s security thugs which target especially anyone associated with Hamas.

Perhaps the recent small example of student elections at Birzeit University suffices. As Islah Jad, a professor at Birzeit and director of its Women Studies Institute, has argued in a recently-published article, the very democratic nature of the elections are now at stake in a university that always respected and promoted them. Since the PA came to power, and increasingly since the election of Hamas, Islamist candidates for local student elections are arrested by Dayton’s thugs soon after they declare their candidacy or after they win. In this atmosphere of terror, all Islamist groups did not run candidates for the recent Birzeit student elections for fear of reprisals. So while free elections are held, terrorizing and intimidating candidates ensures the final outcome, which is nonetheless declared “democratic.” That less than 50 percent of the Birzeit student electorate ended up participating in the elections testifies to the American-style democracy that Fayyad and Dayton’s thugs aim to institute in the Palestinian state at large after Fayyad gives birth to it.

Fayyad’s plan to establish a Palestinian state in August 2011 is in effect an acceptance of the Camp David proposals offered to and rejected by the late Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat in 2000. The Americans understand that if Palestinians, or at least American agents among them, propose such an arrangement and that such a proposal is presented as in defiance of Israeli and even American diktat, it will have a better chance of being accepted by gullible Palestinians than if the Americans and the Israelis were to impose it outright.

In 1999, the administration of US President Bill Clinton helped by its local allies, including the Jordanian government, did their utmost to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Israeli elections and succeeded in bringing Ehud Barak to power in order to carry out Clinton’s now infamous Camp David negotiations. As Arafat was given an offer that he had no choice but to refuse, as it would have fully delegitimized him in the eyes of his people, Obama has a new partner who is not concerned or interested at all in issues of popular legitimacy, as he has none.

After all, besides being the historic leader of the Palestinians since the mid-1960s, Arafat was elected with a majority vote in 1996 in a gerrymandered and manipulated elections. The previously unknown Fayyad, by contrast, who has had no role in the Palestinian national movement and who lacks an electoral mandate of any sort was imposed as the supreme leader of the PA. As the King of Jordan has joined the anti-Netanyahu chorus in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Obama seems to be coordinating efforts with the Israeli Labor Party which is part of Netanyahu’s coalition government to bring down Netanyahu after the latter’s refusal to abide by Obama’s orders. For this purpose, prominent members of the Labor Party have been meeting with some unofficial and official Palestinians in the United States and in the West Bank to coordinate efforts and join in with Obama’s plan for a new Camp David.

Obama’s baby can only be born if a new Palestinian leader accepts the terms of Camp David, now even further reduced than when Ehud Barak offered them to Arafat in 2000. With tens of thousands more settlers, more Palestinian lands taken by the apartheid wall, and more confiscations of land across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the 65 percent of the West Bank (marketed by US and Israeli propaganda as more than 95 percent of the West Bank) rejected by Arafat will be reduced further and re-offered to the Palestinian people by Fayyad himself. Indeed word has it in Washington, or at least in The Washington Post, that the peace plan being considered by Obama is based on Camp David except that “90 percent of the map would look the same” as the map offered by Ehud Barak in 2000, i.e. the Palestinians will now be offered 58 percent of the West Bank. This will be the size of Fayyad’s newborn.

After these preparations are finalized, Fayyad will give birth to his illegitimate American baby, christened “Palestine.” Unlike the Nazarene baby, Fayyad’s baby will be the harbinger not of salvation but of more misery for the Palestinian people. Gifts to mother and child should be sent care of Salam Fayyad’s office in Ramallah.

Joseph Massad teaches modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question (Routledge, 2006)