Israel’s most recent occupation of six Palestinian towns is a clear violation of basic human rights and is an attempt to use the strike against Afghanistan as a cover for war crimes against Palestinians.
And If there was any time that the United States was blunt with Israel it was Monday ( Oct 22). Commenting on the Israeli incursion into six Palestinian cities US State Department spokesman made the American position clear. Israel must withdraw immediately from these areas and not return was the statement made from the spokesman’s podium.
The message behind this US position was clear. After three days of terror to nearly a million Palestinians living in cities suddenly occupied by Israeli tanks and armored carriers, America wanted its closest ally to understand that this act will not be tolerated. More than 20 Palestinian civilians including women and children were killed by the newest occupation act by Israel.
The stated reason for the military occupation of areas its withdrew from seven years ago under the Oslo Peace Accords was its fight against terrorism. Borrowing from the US lexicon Israel tried to win American and western support for its actions by calling Palestinians who assassinated a right wing Israel minister to be terrorists. While the perpetuators of that attack are unknown, tens of Palestinians have been assassinated by the state of Israel as part of its “targeted killing” policy. For three days in a row before the assassination of the Israeli minister, Israeli troops unabashedly assassinated Palestinians. While the Palestinian Authority has denouncing the killing of the Israeli minister and has declared the guerrilla group which took responsibility for the assassination to be outside the law, Israeli military personnel have appointed themselves judge, jury and executioner to over 70 Palestinians in the past year.
Israel states that its assassination policy is aimed at “terrorists” who have killed Israelis. But Israel failed to sufficiently explain why it killed a senior Palestinian political leader, Mustafa Abu Ali. Abu Ali, who was the secretary general of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was allowed into the Palestinian areas by Israel in the mid 1990s, given VIP permits to travel freely by Israel and was not on any Israeli wanted list. Even Israel’s own propaganda machine was unable to present any evidence that the slain Palestinian leader had ordered or caused the death of a single Israeli.
The truth is that Israel’s hawkish prime minister Ariel Sharon used the killing of Minister Rahavam Zeevi as a pretext to do what he had wanted to do ever since getting elected. Sharon had run on a platform of bringing security to Israelis, instead he plunged the area into more bloodshed. Every attempt to broker a cease fire between Israelis and Palestinians was blocked by Sharon who understood that a quite region will force him to come up with political answers. And as the White House and Downing Street were publicly calling for an independent and viable Palestinian state, Sharon understood that a cease fire was his biggest enemy.
In order to accomplish his goals, Mr. Sharon placed seemingly impossible conditions. Palestinian guns (and not Israelis) had to come to a complete stop for one week before talks about a cease fire can begin. After this week of quite Sharon wanted a few months of continued quite before he was willing to allow political negotiations to begin. As difficult as these conditions were, the Palestinian Authority, with little resources was able to forge ahead and come up with the necessary quite to allow for case fire talks to begin. For days Mr. Sharon bulged but after extensive international pressure he relinquished to allow a gradual relaxation of an inhumane siege that had been imposed on Palestinians for the past year. Even as the cease fire was taking effect and life was slowly returning to normal, Mr. Sharon continued his assassination policy. In t a 48 hour period after the cease fire agreement Israeli assassinated three Palestinian activists. Then came the assassination of Mr. Zeevi and Sharon found his excuse to reoccupy Palestinian cities with his tanks shattering not only a fragile cease-fire but all hopes of progress in the larger political talks.
History seems to be repeating itself. In 1982, following an assassination attempt of an Israeli diplomat in London., Sharon invaded Lebanon. At that time he deceived Israelis and the rest of the world about his intentions saying he only wanted to occupy a 40 kilometer area. He ended up in Beirut within days. Now Mr. Sharon is saying that Israel has no plans to stay in the Palestinian areas. How many more people will have to die, how much suffering will have to take place and how much longer will average Palestinians will have to endure this evil occupation.
Daoud Kuttab is a journalist who covered both intifadas and Director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Jerusalem.