Like other colossal events, the attacks of September 11, 2001 on New York and Washington, have significantly transformed many countries. The events of 9/11 have had devastating repercussions on the regional and international levels, and forced some rulers in Arab and Muslim countries to make some unsavoury choices. On that ominous day, the US administration, under George W. Bush, began to look more narrowly and fanatically than ever before at regional and international issues.
From the time he first took office, Bush was determined to pursue a policy contrary to that of his predecessor, Bill Clinton. And right from the start, Bush did away with Clinton’s repeated efforts to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the time of 9/11, Bush was neither interested nor experienced in international politics. The Palestinian cause was not much of a concern for him. Nor was the collapse of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations at Camp David, the eruption of the second intifada and the election as Israeli premier of Ariel Sharon, the anti-peace rightwinger.
Moreover, the official US stance was ostensibly clear even before 9/11. The then national security advisor Condoleezza Rice publicly said the Middle East crisis “needs a miracle” to be solved. Clinton and his administration had approached it, but only burnt their hands there. Bush was no miracle-maker who can change rock to loaf, nor did he intend to burn his fingers in it.
And then, the 9/11 attacks provided the Republicans in Washington with an excuse to give total and unflinching support to Israel, at the expense of the Palestinian people and their leadership, which had become, after Oslo Accords, a part of the US alliance in the region.
True, it was only in the aftermath of the attacks that Bush began to focus on foreign policy, where the “war on terror” was placed at became the main issue on his agenda. The US has since then effectively exploited the September 11 attacks and involved the international community in it.
The US administration was not satisfied with mere statements from foreign states denouncing the attacks. It arrogantly told those governments that it was “compulsory” for them to declare whether they were “with us” or “against us”.
As such, the exploitation of terrorism as an international phenomenon began, and the administration subsequently strengthened its policy of using force in international relations, legitimising its interference in others’ internal affairs and marginalising the role of the United Nations. On the Arab level, the administration has followed a new strategy, which intensified the Arabs’ subordination to US demands.
As for the Palestinian cause, the attacks were so catastrophic that they denigrated acts of Palestinian resistance to “terrorism”. The US administration even started seeing Israel’s war against the Palestinian people as a part of America’s war on terror.
So Israel made immediate use of the attacks and plunged its tanks, just a few days after September 11, into cities and towns in the West Bank, and without any hesitation, the US stepped in to equip the Zionist state with more helicopters to be used in the assassination of several Palestinian leaders.
In the political arena, the US often vetoed any UN resolution condemning Israel for its criminal actions against the Palestinian people. Among several other things, the US also played down the “Mitchell Plan”, and the proposal of sending international observers to the Occupied Territories to control “violence”.
Strange enough, while European criminal courts were prosecuting Sharon for the crimes he perpetrated against the Palestinians, Bush came up with his own claim, calling Sharon “a man of peace”.
The period that followed 9/11 had put the Palestinians in a critical situation. Rather than being given the support to bring the Israeli occupation of their land to an end, the Palestinians were asked to make “reforms” and “fight terrorism” – demands to evade the growing calls for an end to Israeli occupation and the formation of a Palestinian state.
Along with this, secret hands have also been responsible, to an extent, in creating the division that have now led to the West Bank and Gaza being dominated by different factions.
Indeed, the US has been playing the “creative disorder” game. The Palestinian cause has been distorted. It is now being seen as part of America’s war on terror, and as such distanced from international purview, while Israel has been given the green light to carry out its policies of aggression, expansion and colonisation.
Finally, irrespective of Bush’s call for a peace summit to be held this autumn (an event that has revived optimism in certain circles) isn’t it politically wise to assume that the upcoming meeting will only cement Israel’s efforts to hoist its flag in Arab skies?
Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the Chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopedia.