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A Trap for Fools; Cowboy Philosophy in the Middle East

By       Message Uri Avnery     Permalink
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IN A classical American western, the difference is as glaring as the midday sun in Colorado: there are Good Guys and Bad Guys. The good ones are the settlers, who are making the prairie bloom. The bad ones are the Indians, who are blood-thirsty savages. The ultimate hero is the cowboy, tough, humane, with a big revolver or two, ready to defend himself at all times.

George Bush, who grew up on this myth, sticks to it even now, when he is the leader of the world's only superpower. This week he presented the world with an up-to-date western.

In this western - or, rather, middle eastern - there are also Good Guys and Bad Guys. The good ones are the "moderates", who are the allies of the US in the Middle East - Israel, Mahmoud Abbas and the pro-American Arab regimes. The bad ones are Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, Syria and al-Qaeda.

It is a simple script. So simple, indeed, that an 8-year-old can understand it. The conclusions are also simple: the good guys have to be supported, the bad guys have to bite the dust. At the end, the hero - George himself - will ride off into the sunset on his noble steed, while the music reaches a crescendo.

THE CLASSICAL western, of course, does not show us the heroic pioneers stealing the land from the Indians. Or the United States Cavalry attacking the camps of the Indians, burning down the tents and killing their inhabitants, men, women and children. How the US government, after signing formal treaties with the Indian nations, breaks them one after another. And how it drives the remnants into desolate regions, long before the term "ethnic cleansing" was first used.

Denial runs through the classical western like a purple thread, as it does through this speech of Bush's. This finds its main expression in a simple fact: the occupation is hardly mentioned at all.

In the Palestinian community, for example, there is a struggle between the "moderates" and the "extremists". The extremists are killers. Why are they killers? There is no why. They are killers because they are killers. It's in their nature. They were just born that way. The moderates are moderates because they are moderates. Some people are just born good.

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So the whole problem is a Palestinian problem. They must decide. They must choose between moderates and extremists. If they choose the moderates, they will get everything they can imagine: colorful glass beads and gallons of whisky. If they choose the extremists, their end will be bitter.

The Jewish Israelis do not have to choose between good and bad. Why? Simply because there are no Bad Guys among them. They are just good. They must help the good Palestinians. "Release" the Palestinian tax moneys and give them to "Prime Minister (Salem) Fayad". Not to the Palestinian government, but to one specific named person, the darling of Bush.

What else is required from the Israelis? They must understand that their "future lies in developing areas like the Negev and Galilee - not in continuing occupation of the West Bank". (That's the only time the occupation is mentioned at all.) They should remove unauthorized outposts and end settlement expansion. Also, they may "find other practical ways to reduce their footprint (in the West Bank) without reducing their security". Meaning: the occupation can continue, but it would be nice if we take some steps to make it less visible.

A long time ago, the United States viewed all settlements as illegal. When the Israeli government continued to expand them, James Baker, the Secretary of State under Bush the father, imposed financial sanctions upon Israel. Bush the son at first demanded that all settlements established after January 2001 should be dismantled. Later he withdrew all opposition to the settlement blocs ("centers of population"). In the "Road Map" he decreed that Israel must immediately freeze the enlargement of the settlements. Now he is satisfied with a sanctimonious request to "remove unauthorized outposts" (with no article) - that's to say, some of those put up without the official authorization of the Israeli government itself. All this without "or else" or any mention of sanctions.

In the last few years, only one such outpost, Amona, has been dismantled, and this week Ehud Olmert decided to pardon all the fanatics accused of attacking the police during that event. The Israeli government knows that Bush is only paying lip service, and does not take him seriously.

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IN MANY classical westerns there appears a crook selling a patent medicine to heal all ills: headaches and hemorrhoids, tuberculosis and syphilis. George Bush has his own patent medicine, which appears in the speech again and again. It will heal all diseases and ensure the final victory of the Sons of Light over the Sons of Darkness.

The label on the bottle says "Building Palestinian Institutions".

How come we didn't think of this until now? Why did we go chasing off after all kinds of solutions, and did not find this one, so simple, lying in front of us for all to see?

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