You know something is wrong when the soft-spoken Jimmy Carter begins an article with the following line “innocent Palestinian people are being treated like animals, with the presumption that they are guilty of some crime.” The former president concludes the same piece by judiciously pointing out that “depriving the people of Palestine of their basic human rights just to punish their elected leaders is not a path to peace.”
You know something is wrong because no Arab leader can be bothered to utter similar words -- certainly not with the same passion. The big difference is that Jimmy Carter cares enough to state the obvious: “It is unconscionable for Israel, the United States and others under their influence to continue punishing the innocent and already persecuted people of Palestine.”
So, have the Arabs lost their tongues or just misplaced them in the State Department? Sure, they’ve gone through the motions of collecting funds for the beleaguered Palestinians. But they seem to be having a problem with transferring the promised aid to the Palestinian Authority. Jimmy Carter understands that the Arabs always have their excuses when it comes to delivering the goods. He informs us “the U.S. government is threatening the financial existence of any Jordanian or other bank that dares to transfer this assistance into Palestine.”
Imagine the Saudis facing the disastrous prospect of American economic sanctions. Who would want to risk such a “catastrophe”? So, watcha gonna do about it? It seems that the hapless Arabs are just going to let the almighty Bush administration have their way and allow Israel to starve the Palestinians into submission.
In terms of pure economics -- consider the absurd notion that America can intimidate the oil rich and petrodollar saturated Arabs with economic sanctions. If ever there was an economic fairy tale -- this is it.
In the real world, a bloated American economic giant -- entirely dependent on foreign financing of its monstrous budget and trade deficits -- hobbles along on crutches made of Arab oil. With trade deficits running at over two billion dollars a day, one would think that the Bush administration would have more sense and better manners when threatening the Arab monarchs who go out of their way to shore up demand for a feeble dollar.
To get a change of attitude in Washington, start with a change of attitude in Arab capitals. If the Saudis and other Gulf monarchs would merely hint that they might refuse to exchange their oil for dollars -- it would take a week for Bush to grasp a few basic concepts on the subject of the economic limitations of a superpower with $800 billion annual trade deficits.
If the Arabs had the will to keep up the pressure for a month or two -- and followed it up by cutting oil production by five or ten per cent -- watch out. You might get a complete Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 border, a resolution of the refugee problem and a lucrative Israeli offer to compensate the Palestinians for the Nakba after six decades of relentless persecution. Now, who would want a thing like that to happen?
Of course, nothing more is at stake here than the destiny of a few million Palestinians, Jerusalem and putting a limit to Israeli ambitions to unilaterally dictate a final resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. That doesn’t appear to be enough to get the attention of the custodians of the oil plantations.
As Jimmy Carter points out “with American acquiescence, the Israelis have avoided any substantive peace talks for more than five years, regardless of who had been chosen to represent the Palestinian side as interlocutor.” And what have the Arabs done to shore up the position of their Palestinian brothers? Next to nothing.
For all practical purposes, the Arab leaders have abandoned the Palestinians. It would be extremely helpful if they would do us all the favor of publicly committing themselves to follow the dictates of the neo-conservative radicals responsible for drafting American foreign policy blue prints.
But, lest we despair, the cards are not all in the hands of a few aloof Arab monarchs. For one thing, the Arab people are infinitely more sympathetic to the Palestinians cause than their unelected leaders. And while they’re in no position to challenge their governments’ policies -- they definitely have other options.
Individual Arabs -- especially the well off -- can take actions that go over the heads of their governors. They can personally engage themselves in a peaceful protest against American policy. All it would take is a grass roots movement to dump the dollar. Given the prospect that the dollar is on the verge of losing another 25% of its value, individuals participating in this pacifist act of resistance would find it not only effective but also profitable. Imagine that -- an opportunity to agitate for profit. In a single non-violent transaction, you can end up making a few bucks, or preferably a few Euros, and you get to feed a starving Palestinian while you count your gains. The best part of this campaign is that you can do it all from the safety of your local bank without the need to confront belligerent security forces.
If the movement catches fire and the alarm bells start going off in Washington, the Arab governments might have a change of heart and opt for a transplant of guts. Should they bend and decide to follow the lead of their people -- an unlikely but not altogether impossible prospect -- things will change in a hurry.
So, if you want to see a light at the end of the tunnel, set a bonfire for the dollar. There will be no more need to exchange blood for oil once the Arabs end their “oil for dollars” policy.
The choices are clear. The Arabs -- as individuals and as governments -- can opt to abandon the Palestinians or to abandon the dollar.
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