Palestine’s Difficult Prospects

Against the Current, No. 31, March/April 1991

interview with Anan Ameri

Anan Amen is the national president of Palestine Aid Society, a charitable and educational organization dedicated to material support of Palestinian institutions and preservatlion of Palestinian culture. She spoke with David Finkel of ATC during the first week of the war.

ATC: Looking to the future of the Middle East, what do you think is the U.S. government’s plan and what does it hold in store for the Palestinian struggle?

Anan Ameri: With what had happened in Eastern Europe, the winds of democracy were, coming to the Middle East. We were seeing this in Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia—people demanding elections, for instance. This development probably scared the United States administration and regimes like Saudi Arabia.

So I would expect that the Americans would like to see very tight control over the region. I don’t know what they expect to have in Iraq if Saddam falls—but I don’t think that someone more progressive, democratic or even liberal will be on the U.S. agenda for Iraq.

With this war, I also think the Palestinians will have more difficulties, fora number of reasons. One of the deals is that if Israel doesn’t retaliate, the United States will block any possibility of a peace conference on the Palestinian issue. And with recent decisions to give Israel more weapons and, for the first Lime, Americans directly involved in Israel’s military, lam sure that Palestinians will be subjected to even more harassment than before.

Now that nobody is paying attention to what is happening in the Occupied Territories, it’s an opportunity to unleash repression If Jordan were to, be drawn into the war, the idea of mass deportation or transfer of the Palestinians, which has been around for many years, could be implemented.

This wouldn’t surprise me, because nobody is paying attention. On the other hand, for the first time in the United States, people are listening to the concept of “occupation,” that is, the occupation of Palestine as well as Kuwait.

ATC: What information are you getting about the sentiments of Palestinians in the Middle East since the war began?

A.A.: What I get from people is that there is a lot of fear and apprehension, but at the same time some pride that an Arab nation is standing up to so many colonial powers. Palestinians have been under bombardment for so many years—in Beirut, for example—and nobody did anything.

There is a sense of pride, but a lot of fear about how much they will pay for it.

ATC: What do you think might be the Palestinian political strategy after the war?

A.A.: The Palestinians will try to ally with the Arab countries that stood against this war. It’s not true, as often reported, that the Arab countries lined up for this war. Those who opposed it will be for the international peace conference.

The Palestinians will be on the losing side of the war. But once the war stops, there must be a political settlement and negotiations—even in the Gulf, and even if they get rid of Saddam. Then the Palestinians will seek to promote their own settlement.

After 1948 when Israel was created, there was either a coup or a revolution in every Arab country. Today, this American aggression against Iraq will be seen as an attack on the Arab people.

Even if every regime involved remains stable until the end of the war—and I do not think this is 100% certain, when I see that (Egyptian president) Mubarak had to speak in his own parliament for two hours to justify his opposition in the war—the Arab world will not be static afterward. We don’t know what will happen in Egypt, Syria, etc.—and the longer the war goes on, the greater the potential instability. That’s why the United States wanted a quick victory.

The only option for the Palestinians in any case is to push to settle all the conflicts in the region.

ATC: Compared to before the war, how do you assess the prospects for the creation of an independent Palestinian state?

A.A.: The prospects are worse. For the first time, the United States could have been a champion for peace, to take a bad situation and make it the vehicle for a comprehensive peace. Instead the U.S. opted for war and, I believe, will continue to oppose any settlement. Any U.S. proposal will be far short of an independent Palestinian state.

There has been a curfew in the West Bank, except for two hours, in the week since the war began. People were allowed top after a week, but found no food in the stores because the farmers hadn’t been allowed into their fields. That’s what people are facing now.

March-April 1991, ATC31