Thursday, November 18, 2004

The High Cost of Peace

Last Saturday was bookstore day in my household. The Last Amazon and I are both reading our way through the Sharpe series, Montana needed a new Redwall book and Isaiah wanted comics. So after guitar lessons, but before the bread factory trip we started at Yonge & Dundas and worked our way north. One of the books I picked up was Yosseff Bodansky’s The High Cost of Peace. I started reading the book on the return trip home. Coming after the death of Arafat and all the accolades showered on the curse of the righteous, I was struck by this (page 9):

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union’s growing involvement in the Middle East during the early 1970s led to its increased support for, and exploitation of, the Palestinian revolutionary movement. To further their join aims, Moscow advised the PLO to develop a political image that would gain support from Western elites. Taking Moscow’s advice, Arafat sent a high-level PLO delegation headed by Salah Khalaf—also known as Abu-Iyad—on a milestone visit to Hanoi. The Palestinians had lengthy discussions with a Politburo team lead by General Vo Nguyen Giap, in which the Vietnamese told their Palestinian guests about their success in manipulating the Western media, to the point that they had a direct impact on the United States’ ability to wage war against North Vietnam and the Vietcong.

In his book Palestinian Without a Motherland, Abu-Iyad related how he brought up the question of why the Palestinian armed struggle was considered terrorism whereas the Vietnamese struggle was lauded and supported throughout the West. His hosts attributed this phenomenon to the different ways the two liberation movements had packaged their goals. The Vietnamese team agreed to sit with the PLO delegation and help them develop a program that would appear flexible and moderate. Especially in dealing with the United States, the Vietnamese explained, one must “sacrifice the unimportant if only in order to preserve the essential.” They emphasized that while the PLO must remain committed to its ultimate objective—namely, “the establishment of a unified democratic state in the entire Palestine”—in near term it would be politically advantageous to accept transient phases and even interim solutions. The Vietnamese suggested that accepting “the division of the land between two independent states” without making it clear that this was only an interim phase would neutralize the PLO’s opponents in the West.

The Vietnamese team in Hanoi introduced the Palestinians to such issues as dealing with the US media and with liberal political circles and institutions, and they provided insight on the power of the Jewish community. Disinformation and psychological-warfare experts assisted the Palestinians in formulating a “moderate political program” accepting the establishment of a “small Palestine” in the territories. Hanoi also promised to help the PLO persuade pro-North Vietnamese organization in the West to accept the PLO’s transient solutions by using “moderate, even vague” terminology to make these solutions appear nonthreatening to Israel. Abu-Iyad wrote that the PLO adopted the Vietnamese recommendations and began implementing them immediately.

The result was the Phases Program/Phased Plan, adopted as the resolution of the Twelfth Palestinian National Council in Cairo on June 19, 1974.

I’d say that the pupils have become the master; and General Giap, you have done your job well, Fidel couldn’t have done it better and I bet Ho Chi Minh would be proud.

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