JSalloum on 16 Nov 2000 04:20:20 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] The "Peace Process" and the CIA

Came across this interesting posting. Israel Shahak is one of the most 
respected human rights activists within Israel, I met him at his W. Jerusalem 
office in early '98 just after the start of the 'first' Intifada. He is the 
founder of the Israeli League for Human Rights. This is an older posting but 
is very relevant to background on what is happening now.

The "Peace Process" and the CIA

An Interview with Israel Shahak
by Harry Clark


A CONTROVERSIAL FEATURE of the torturously negotiated and implemented "Wye 
Plantation Agreement" is the direct, overt role assigned to the U.S. 
Central Intelligence Agency in monitoring Palestinian Authority (PA) 
implementation of the "security provisions."  In fact, as this discussion 
with Professor Israel Shahak makes clear, the CIA's central involvement has 
been an accomplished fact ever since the 1993 Oslo Accord, and has been no 
secret to readers of the Hebrew press in Israel.  Although conducted June 
6-7, 1998, nearly half a year before "Wye", this interview, we think, still 
sheds important light on the real dynamics of the "peace process."

The interview was conducted in Jerusalem by Harry Clark, a solidarity 
activist from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and has been abridged for publication 

Israel Shahak deserves far broader attention than he has received in the 
United States.  A native of Poland and survivor of a Nazi concentration 
camp, he came to Palestine at the end of World War II.  For over thirty 
years he has been a tireless campaigner for civil and human rights, and a 
sharp critic of Zionism and Israeli policies.

Since his retirement from Hebrew University, where he was professor of 
organic chemistry, he has authored two important books: Jewish History, 
JewishReligion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years (Westview Press) and 
Open Secrets (Pluto Press), a series of essays on Israeli politics and 
society.  For many years he produced invaluable packets of translations 
from the Israeli press.  He is currently at work, with Norton Mezvinsky, on 
a book about Jewish fundamentalism and its profound impact on Israeli 
politics.  In a follow-up phone conversation with Harry Clark at the end of 
November 1998, Prof.  Shahak emphasized several points, including:

1.There will be no further Israeli withdrawals beyond those negotiated at 
Wye, and Arafat knows this.  Arafat will declare a Palestinian "state" 
inside the PA boundaries.

2.The hostile posturing of Israeli and Palestinian representatives should 
not be taken for their real relations, which are highly congenial when the 
television cameras are off.

3.Given the power of Israel and especially of the United States, the 
"settlement," despite its brutalities and injustice, is likely to be stable 
for a number of years—although, to be sure, not permanently.

—David Finkel, for the editors of ATC


Harry Clark: The peace process is very much in the news, the so-called 
peace process.  What are the interests of Israel and the United States in 
this process, what are they trying to get out of it, what are they moving 

Israel Shahak: With your permission I will not answer your question exactly 
as it was asked, because I want to concentrate on the United States.  The 
U.S. role in the so-called peace process is largely unknown except in 
Israel, where it is very much reported.

The real change that happened here, after Netanyahu came to power—because 
Netanyahu is weak with the Israeli establishment—is that he had to give to 
the United States what Rabin and Peres [previous Labour Party prime 
ministers—ed.] had successfully refused.  Netanyahu had to give to the 
United States, or rather to the CIA directly, supervision of relations 
between Israel and Arafat's regime.

All the important talks—I don't mean the official talks, which are 
unimportant as usual, but the important talks still reported in the 
(Israeli Hebrew) press between Israel and Arafat's regime —are chaired 
either by the American ambassador in Tel Aviv, or if they are really 
important, by the CIA representative in Tel Aviv.

This is all from the Hebrew press.  When there is a dispute between 
Netanyahu and Arafat, about whether the Palestinians are so-called 
"fighting terrorism" or anything called a security matter, it is officially 
agreed by both sides that the CIA representative in Tel Aviv will be the 
arbiter; he actually checks with his own agents and then reports to 
Washington who is "right."

I don't have to explain to you that he is not "objective," but directed by 
American interests.  But the point is that this has happened not under 
Rabin and Peres but under Netanyahu.

And of course, the CIA supervision of the most important part of Arafat's 
regime, meaning the secret police forces which control everything and 
anything, is much tighter than this.  All the officials of the many secret 
polices are being trained in the United States by the CIA and to some 
extent the FBI.  They are very frequently called to the United States for 
special tours.

I believe, in fact, that American direct supervision of Arafat's regime 
carried out by the CIA has no parallel in the Arab world, even in the 
pro-American countries of the Arab world.  Arafat's regime has become a 
special enclave controlled by the CIA in very many respects.  And it is 
this which gives Arafat power—limited power of course, because Israel is 
much richer, stronger and more valuable (to U.S. interests)—but some power, 
to ask the United States to compel Israel to make concessions.

This is, in my opinion, the most important feature of the so-called peace 
process, and it is reported only in Israel, by the Hebrew press.

I don't have to tell you that the Palestinian media are completely 
controlled and don't report anything.  But as Noam Chomsky has shown 
through a great series of works, the main American media are also 
controlled on foreign affairs, and controlled by omission.

What is not convenient is not reported.  In Western Europe, the situation 
is more or less the same.  The result is that the CIA, through Arafat, is 
able to mobilize a big section of the international left—quite honest 
people, I don't accuse them, I accuse the situation, really—to help its own 

There is the conference which you are attending [See Note].  Like 
everything under Arafat's auspices, you can be sure—this is why I haven't 
even asked you what has happened at the conference—that everything, at 
least in substance, has beenapproved by the CIA.

In Israel this mobilization of the left, or of the so-called left, is 
really ridiculous.  The so-called Peace Now or many organizations go to the 
American ambassador and ask him to pressure Israel on this, to do 
that—Clinton is in fact the messiah of the Israeli Zionist left.  They have 
completely forgotten who Clinton is, I mean President of the United States, 
and for what he works.  They assume he is motivated by good will, by 
concern for human rights, all that stuff—and of course he refuses.

The last answer by the American ambassador to a big delegation of Peace Now 
and other organizations, only two weeks ago [early June 1998], was that 
Clinton haddecided not to press Netanyahu too much, because if he did so 
Netanyahu would fall, and the polls he has been taking show that if there 
were new elections Netanyahu would win with a bigger majority than he has 

My own estimation is the same.  But this shows you what the so-called left 
has become .  .  .  .

The Economy and Apartheid

I.S.: I want to add something about the Palestinian Authority economy as it 
is now.  I know you are aware how Israel puts the whole economy in fetters, 
and how it dominates and continues indirectly to exploit it.  But I want to 
speak of two other things about the Palestinian economy that may not have 
been discussed at your conference.

The first is the legal dependence of the Palestinian economy on Israel; the 
second is what Arafat's regime does for its own reasons to the Palestinian 

First: During Rabin's and Peres' time, Israel took good care of making 
signed agreements between itself and the PA on economic matters.  These are 
called the Paris Agreements, which not only the United States but also the 
European Community has signed, under which the PA has agreed to Israeli 
supervision of all aspects of the Palestinian economy.

For example, they have agreed that Israel will supervise their exports and 
imports.  They have also agreed, not in writing but informally, that a part 
of the income of Palestinians in the territories ruled by Arafat will 
derive from the two old sources: the work of Palestinians in Israel, and 
the export of low-income Palestinian products, mainly vegetables but also 
unfinished textiles, to Israel.

There was an unsuccessful European attempt [in May `98] to place 
restrictions on produce coming from Israeli settlements in the Occupied 
Territories.  This was not a boycott, but an attempt to deny favorable 
terms which all Israeli produce receive in the European community.  Europe 
is entitled to do this, because in its trade agreements with Israel it's 
written "Israel." They said everything outside the Green Line [1948 
borders] is not Israel.

Israel didn't debate this point.  Rather, it has openly proclaimed that if 
Europe will hurt the settlement process, Israel will hurt the Palestinian 
economy more than now, by prohibiting the import of Palestinian vegetables 
and unfinished textiles to Israel, or through Israel to other places.

I should state that Israel has taken care that the Palestinian textile 
industry never makes a finished pair of trousers, let us say, or a finished 
shirt.  It only makes the labor-intensive part, and then the sewn material 
is sent to Israel and finished there—which means that Israel has complete 
control over the situation, and if the borders are closed the people become 

As for Palestinian vegetables, because they are low-grade vegetables Europe 
will not buy them.  Egypt and Jordan of course produce their own 
vegetables.  Israel is the only market, and if the Palestinian economy is 
tied to producing low-grade vegetables it is tied to Israel.  [In contrast, 
Israeli agriculture is heavily dedicated to specialized exports—ed.]

The other whip that Israel has over the Palestinian economy is Palestinian 
workers in Israel.  Israel has shown in the past five to six years that it 
can import foreign workers [from Romania, for example—ed.]; also, now that 
there is a slight recession in Israel, more Israeli Jews are willing to 
work in jobs formerly reserved for Palestinians from the territories.

But still Israel, in the past half year or so—whether because of American 
pressure or its own policy, I'm not sure if I can separate between the 
two—has again allowed a number of Palestinians, around 120,000, to work in 

The numbers are not proportionally drawn from all areas.  The number from 
Gaza is small, because Israel rightly supposes that this area is especially 
controlled by Arafat—so why worry if they are only getting UN refugee 
rations?  But the number of work permits granted is especially high from 
the Hebron area, which is a sensitive spot so that Israel wants to keep the 
population there more satisfied.

Of course, by the way, Palestinian media don't report this.  I have to 
derive all my information from Hebrew sources or from people like Sara Roy, 
who publish in very obscure organs in the United States.  So in these ways 
Israel maintains its rule over the Palestinian economy.

And another very important thing: You will not find an ordinary investor, 
even of Palestinian descent, who will invest in this economy, apart from 
building houses for the Palestinian elite.  The only thing developing in 
this economy is that some Palestinian rich are building apartments as 
high-priced as in Tel Aviv.

There are many areas in Gaza where apartments cost as much as in Tel Aviv.  
(I saw this myself two-and-a-half years ago—HC.) This is for other 
Palestinians who will come here on vacation—you will see that the 
Palestinian economy will not be built by such things.

Second: The whole economy is pervaded by two things that Arafat instituted 
immediately when he came here—monopolies and corruption.  First are the 
official monopolies, abetted by the fact that imports to the Palestinian 
economy come from or through Israel—a list, which Sara Roy gave, of fifteen 
or sixteen products including flour, frozen meat, gasoline.

Basically every important product cannot be sold on the free market.  You 
can ask the World Bank and IMF, who tolerate all this.  I can only mention 
that in recent weeks Arafat is being called mini-Suharto.

All these products can be sold only to Arafat-controlled monopolies, who 
then sell them to shops.  The distributor-agents are in many cases Fateh 
activists at the same time, and on top of what the monopoly takes, they 
take their percentage, as happens in every such system, and in addition to 
this there is bribery on every level which pervades the whole economy.

And by the way, those who most fully exploit this situation are Israeli 
companies, headed by former employees of the Civil Administration during 
the time of the military occupation.

You can draw the conclusions yourself, but the obvious one is that the 
economy will never develop in such a state, and how easy it is for Israel 
to exploit.  And there will never be even "ordinary" capitalism, in the 
sense practiced in the United States and Europe; there will be no 
investment in this economy.

H.C.: You have said that Netanyahu is weak.  How then would he be reelected 
with a greater majority?

I.S.: He's weak with the Israeli establishment, but he's strong with the 
majority of the public.  Israel is now being socially and also politically 
transformed, and everybody is aware of this.

You know that Israel has been ruled by what we call the old elites, people 
who came to Israel before 1948 or at least in the early 1950s, mostly 
Ashkenazi [Central and Eastern European-ed.], whose dominance in economy, 
banking, academia and the army used to be even stronger than in the 

This has begun to be shaken in the last twenty years [beginning with the 
defeat of the Labour Party in the 1977 election—ed.] but it is Netanyahu, 
although he is himself Ashkenazi of course, who is now head of the 
coalition of the "outsiders"—I am translating from Hebrew—"outsiders" 
meaning people who didn't have a big enough part of the national cake and 
political power.

You have sent me a book about the Jacksonian revolution (The Market 
Revolution, Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 by Charles Sellers—HC).  One part 
of the Jacksonian revolution, besides its capitalistic terms, was that 
people who were excluded from ruling in Washington but who were growing in 
influence wanted to rule, so that the coalition of Virginia and 
Massachusetts would not decide everything.  Here it is the same thing.  
Russian immigrants want to rule, Moroccans want to rule.  Now there is a 
storm in Israel in that for the first time a real outsider was nominated 
for military chief of staff, who came from Iran when he was seven years 
old, and was in fact failed three times, probably on racist grounds, when 
he first attempted to enter the officer corps, and only admitted after, as 
a non-commissioned officer, he invented a new method of ambush.

Here then is a clear case of someone whom the elite didn't want to accept . 
  .  .  So Israel is being transformed, the old elites are decaying, and 
like every decaying elite they are stupid and clinging to power in stupid 
ways, and Netanyahu is strong because he represents a coalition of the 

And I want to add something about the peace process: Why are all of 
Netanyahu's quarrels with the United States adding to his popularity among 
his own group? I must again say that Israeli Jews are so polarized [along 
religious/secular and political lines—ed.] that you cannot generalize, 
except on very basic questions; an issue that is popular with one group is 
unpopular with another.

So why is Netanyahu's stance towards the United States and toward Arafat so 
popular among his group?  This "outsiders" group has a petty-bourgeois 
attitude toward politics, not capitalistic in the global sense but with the 
attitude, let us say, of small merchants or businessmen, which means: What 
we have won by war is our property, in the plain sense of the word.

Of course sometimes one has to relinquish a piece of property for the sake 
of greater benefit.  But the good merchant is the one who gives away as 
little as possible, for the highest price.  This is exactly the attitude of 
Netanyahu in the negotiations.

Now this infuriates the old elites because they are capitalistic, in the 
sense that they understand that one has to make long-term investments.  But 
a petty merchant doesn't understand what a long-term investment is; he only 
understands bargains.   Netanyahu represents himself as a person who makes 
good bargains, paying the lowest price for an agreement.

H.C.: Can you comment further on the relationship of Netanyahu and the 
Clinton administration?

I.S.: I will go a little deeper into this question.  Netanyahu plays on the 
fact that the Republicans have a majority in both houses of Congress, and 
the administration cannot pass laws or budgets without the Congress.

The Republicans are for Netanyahu for three reasons, all of them discussed 
at length in the Hebrew press but not in the United States.  The first 
reason is "Jewish money." These words are a direct quotation, not my 

The Hebrew press is stating—Americans can judge whether it is correct—that 
money from U.S. Jews is fifty percent of the money given to both parties.  
As of the last elections [1996] most of this Jewish money is going to the 
Democratic Party.

The Republicans, according to the Hebrew press, are very much interested in 
having a much greater chunk of this money go to them.  I don't have to tell 
you that American elections are dependent on money.  And the Hebrew press 
is adding that because of this money factor, the big ally of Netanyahu is 
Al Gore.

H.C.: Yes, this is certainly true.

I.S.: Now the second factor, which is again discussed repeatedly in the 
Hebrew press, is that there exists a strong ideological affinity between 
Netanyahu, not as a person but as a representative of his coalition, and 
the Christian fundamentalists.

More generally, conservatives who have an ideology, or many different 
ideologies, in the Republican Party, so far as I can see are all tending in 
Netanyahu's favor.  I don't mean only the people who believe in the second 
coming of Jesus and for whom Israeli rule in the Holy Land is important; I 
mean also the people who follow the theories of Samuel Huntington about the 
"clash of civilizations."

In working on those people, Netanyahu's forces are supplying them with a 
flood of information about Muslim fundamentalism, for example—and no one is 
opposing him.  No one is showing that there is anti—Christian Jewish 
fundamentalism in Netanyahu's coalition.

And in addition, there is something that is important for continuous 
American policy:  I mean the value of Israel to the United States as an 
ally.  The most important consideration facing Clinton, according to the 
Hebrew press, is whether Israel should be pressured, because the United 
States may wish to build another Arab coalition against Iraq.

There are two approaches—I suppose, both in the Clinton administration and 
among Republicans.  One is to say let's not give a damn about Arab states, 
let's cultivate only Israel; the second is to cultivate relations with 
pro-American Arab states.

Obviously people who are not engaged in day-to-day foreign policy, who are 
only sitting in Congress, are free to express one of these two 
alternatives.  And the impression gained here—rightly or wrongly—is that 
Republicans are not giving very much weight to Arab states, apart from 
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates, because the Arab states are poor.

Israel makes a greater impression on Americans as an ally because Israel is 
rich—and in addition, of course, Israel has a great army and willingness to 
give America a base.

So to recapitulate the three reasons.  The two important ones, I am sure, 
Jewish money and the Republicans' ideological affinities (to Netanyahu's 
policies), are very clear.  And the third, of which I am less but still 
fairly sure, is that for people with a really capitalistic mentality, the 
attitude is to let the Arabs go to hell, apart from the oil states.  Israel 
is rich, Israel is profitable, let us stick with Israel.

The Hebron Solidarity Committee, a group with which Israel Shahak is 
associated, asked the organizers of the conference to present a panel 
discussing Zionist ideology, the apartheid character of the Olso accords 
and the need for a democratic secular state in former Mandate Palestine.  
The request was refused, though there was on panel on the theme of 
post-Oslo Palestine during which several speakers did discuss these topics.

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