by Sam Bahour & Michael Dahan
The world community has become numb to the
decades of conflict in the Middle East. The last nine months
of fierce clashes between Israel, which
illegally occupies Palestinian territory, and Palestinians who
continue to resist this 21st century form
of Apartheid has taken the same shape as every previous flare-up.
First, flaming rhetoric from both sides. Then
a spark ignites the fire (in this round, Sharon's provocative
visit to Muslim quarters in the Old City
of Jerusalem). Then rock throwing, shooting, missiles and
tanks all resulting in endless and needless funerals. Then the
media moves on to the next world crisis
leaving the Middle East in a state of low
intensity warfare verging on explosion.
Most Israelis are sheltered from the day to day
brutality of their illegal
occupation of the West Bank, Gaza
Strip and East Jerusalem. Israelis living
only a few kilometers from the
fighting have no idea what is going on and
continue with their daily lives.
Many Israelis have become accustomed to
blindly accepting government policy
and shielding themselves with euphemisms
like "closure" "retaliation" "transfer" and "liquidation".
Israeli mindset goes a long way in sanitizing a brutal and
illegal occupation, allowing
principals of human rights, equality and democracy
to shatter within the Israeli
political character. With more than 500 dead,
the mass majority being
Palestinians, and over ten thousand wounded, these
euphemisms allow Israelis to wrap
themselves in their own sheets of personal
However, it should be noted that this time around
the media left too soon.
The rapidly growing sentiment against occupation within
Israel is as much a powder
keg as is the current Palestinian-Israeli political stalemate.
The media has chosen to
ignore this important development that has the power
to make Israel end occupation by a decision from within.
Israeli soldiers are refusing
to serve within the occupied territories. A few years ago, an
Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
Sergeant who refuses to serve mandatory military reserve
duty if it includes being part of the Israeli occupation would
have gone unnoticed.
Today Israel is jailing Israelis for doing just that,
refusing to participate in continuing the occupation of
"I won't take part in a siege enforced against
hundreds of thousands of people,
including women and children, I won't starve entire villages and
prevent their residents from getting to work each day or to
ups; I won't turn them into hostages of political decisions. A siege
against cities, like bombing
raids from helicopters, does not stop terror. It is
a sop to placate Israel's
public, which demands 'Let the IDF win.'" (Ha'aretz
newspaper, June 15, 2001)
What is interesting is that this author and
conscientious objector of the
above statement is not one of the
denizens of Tel Aviv's trendy cafes, but
rather a religious "National
Zionist" Israeli, himself a former settler
and the son of the former dean of
the Tel Aviv University Law School. His name
is Yishai Rosen-Tzvi.
Sergeant Rosen-Tzvi is one of a growing number of
brave and courageous Israeli reservists
who refuse to take part in the occupation of the
Palestinian territories and
people. He is also one of a growing number of young men
and women with similar
backgrounds who remain religious but refuse to mix
religion with politics, nor do they
buy into the growing levels of messianism
and fundamentalism among Israel's
religious settlers. By refusing to serve
in the occupied territories (and serving a 13-day sentence in prison
for doing so),
Sergeant Rosen-Tzvi is protesting the increasing brutality toward
the Palestinian people.
And maybe more so, he is protesting the deafening Israeli
silence allowing the occupation to continue.
Like Sergeant Rosen-Tzvi, average Israelis and
Palestinians terrifyingly know
that this final chapter in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far from
over, that is, if the United States
remains distant to a conflict that it brought to
the point of explosion.
This time, when the media is dispatched to cover the next
horrific suicide bombing, which is
bound to arrive as long as occupation
exists, the fear
is that the war-focused Sharon-Peres government may already have
succeeded in creating the next world
crisis before they arrive.
It's time for the world community, and the U.S.
in particular, to actively step
in, otherwise, the Palestinians and
Israelis will enter another 50 years of
being the occupied and the occupier.
If this happens, it will no doubt engulf
the entire Middle East into chaos
and U.S. strategic interests in the region
will be the biggest losers of all.