By Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban
The avalanche of top secret cables leaked from the American Departments of State and Defence is still an intriguing enigma to many commentators and political analysts. A large portion of the hundreds of thousands of secret documents and cables posted on WikiLeaks are about the Middle East and the events which have happened in the region over the past decade. They cover the wars waged by the United States and its armed surrogate on Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Gaza and their efforts to destabilize Arab countries, weaken them through military action and drain their monetary reserves under different pretexts. The process included assassinating major political leaders in Lebanon to achieve political objectives. Although this has been spoken of in hushed tones for a while, now we can read all about it on the WikiLeaks website; this begs the question why, and how?
Television news hurried to interview the website's founder and owner, Julian Assange; he's another puzzle who, on the one hand, appears to have obtained all these documents without much apparent effort and, on the other, has been indicted in Sweden on rape charges. This makes the whole issue even more sensational; is indicting Assange meant to send the message that the leaks are impossible to control?
After Assange received threats to his life and applied for asylum in Switzerland, his website revealed tens of thousands of confidential messages exchanged between American embassies in the Middle East and the US State Department, between the State Department and Arab officials, and between Israeli and Arab officials. The dominant subject in these cables is the convergence of views between Arab and Israeli officials on Iran and that the source of danger in the region is not Israel alone but also Iran. Some Arab officials – terrified at the thought that Iranian power in the Middle East might disturb their cosy comfort zones call for action to end Iran's nuclear programme. It appears as if we are being invited to put into practice the theory that my enemy's enemy is my friend and join with Washington and Tel Aviv against Tehran.
What is remarkable is that American embassies in the region have leaked minutes of meetings which aim to distort the image of the Arabs, even while, for example, some of their officials stress that "a Palestinian state must be demilitarized, without control of its airspace and electro-magnetic field [sic], and without the power to enter into treaties or control its border". See Robert Fisk in Britain's Independent newspaper on 30 November. The documents also contain Major-General Amos Gilad's denouncement of the UN's Goldstone Report on the war against Gaza. The leaks make the situation murkier when they reveal that some Arab leaders describe Benjamin Netanyahu as "elegant and charming". The Israeli envoy to one Arab country says that its leader has "a strategic view of the region that is curiously close to the Israeli one".
In the face of this we should be asking ourselves a simple question: how could American embassies leak thousands of secret documents without their government raising any queries or charging these ambassadors with a breach of diplomatic protocols and their own security integrity? And why didn't we read any leaks which point the finger at Israel's Mossad spy agency, known for assassinating Palestinian leaders and other activists, even though there are indications that it has been involved in murdering Lebanese figures in order to achieve well-known Israeli objectives?
What the "secret" documents have revealed is that the United States pays lip-service to democracy and freedom in the Middle East but has no intention of allowing it to flourish. The prime example is the way it conspired to destroy the results of Palestinian democracy; this is still very much alive in people's minds and WikiLeaks merely confirmed rather than revealed such hypocrisy. The revelations about torturing prisoners and violating human rights were also well known before the leaks.
What is new, however, and what could be the purpose behind the release of these documents, is how they show a new reality at the heart of the Arab world the level of support that Israel and its strategies and policies enjoy, even among Arab leaders. The worldwide coverage of the leaks overshadowed the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People commemorated on 29th November. It also coincided with Israeli arrests, threats and racist policies against Palestinian civilians, across the occupied territories and inside Israel itself. A statement by Israel's ultra right-wing Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that the words "settlement freeze" should be eliminated from Israeli terminology went unnoticed and without comment from Arab politicians. And Israel once again arrested elected members of the Palestinian parliament, in addition to its already atrocious crimes against Palestinian children. Avi Issacharoff's "Childcare experts condemn police treatment of Palestinian stone-throwers" in Haaretz on 1st December blew the cover off the latter. He wrote about the suffering of Palestinian children at the hands of the Israeli police and the treatment they are subjected to; it is a disgrace to humanity, not just the "Jewish state". However, this did not merit any coverage in the Western media, or even the Arab media.
WikiLeaks did not offer the Arabs or the Palestinians any insights into Israel's crimes against them. Nor did they advance the struggle for justice for the Palestinian people one iota. They are the natives oppressed in their own land and facing the same ethnic cleansing that native peoples have been subject to on other continents.
After the international media's disregard for the suffering of the Palestinians, along come hundreds of thousands of documents on Wikileaks which overlook completely Israel's crimes against humanity, especially against the people whose land they have occupied. On the contrary, the documents basically confirm that Israel's vision for the region and its future is shared by many Arab leaders who have not, so far, dared to declare such support for Israel to their own people. Is the WikiLeaks phenomenon, therefore, merely a stage-managed process intended to move the Israel-Palestine conflict yet further against Arab rights and in favour of Israel, despite the illegal Israeli occupation of Arab land and usurpation of Arab rights? Far from revealing new facts about the issue, the WikiLeaks episode establishes those facts in the minds of the people? As it was, I suspect, intended to.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.