A year ago yesterday, Ariel Sharon, then Israeli Opposition leader now Prime Minister, desecrated the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in an act of historical and religious disrespect and belligerency. By storming in the holy compound with 2,000 Israeli occupation soldiers, Ariel Sharon ignited a barrel of dormant or numbed frustrations and feelings of humiliation.
It was that day that the dormant Palestinian giant arose from its sleep to send out a roar that would shake the entire region and ripple through the rest of the world. This historic and gentle giant is relentless and unheeding when decided on a goal and impossible to control when provoked. Its voice was let out through the thousands of Palestinian children, young men and women, as well as elders, who decided to finally rise up and wholeheartedly, unequivocally reject Israel’s continued cruel military occupation of their land and holy sites. They revolted, en masse, against what they could no longer tolerate.
The goals of this popular and passionate, yet peaceful revolt were and continue to be very clear. The goals are embodied in dreams that every Palestinian child and adult has lived in for the past fifty-three years. Palestinians expressed their aspiration to be a nation like others around the world; exercising sovereignty over its land and living a free and dignified life, safe from an occupier’s humiliating aggression or unmercifully bloody repression. Their anger did not finally burst because they yearn to die or have life suffocated out of them. Rather, it was because oppression turns one’s life into a state that can only resemble living in death. It is unbearable, chokingly humiliating, and excruciatingly painful. Palestinian voiced their aspirations to the homes they have been forced to exile from fifty-three years ago.
Exactly twelve months ago to the day, Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestinian worshipers inside the holy compound as they were praying. The result was the cold-blooded murder of six Palestinian civilians and the injury of at least 200 others. The unprovoked attack, particularly the use of lethal weapons not only ignited Palestinian anger, it also served Ariel Sharon’s purposes. After all, he was working towards an end to any prospect of peace in the region.
Ariel Sharon’s cataclysmic plan for an eruption of feelings and violence in the area were tragically fulfilled by the Israeli occupation forces’ brutal use of force against Palestinian civilians protesting Israel’s occupation. During the first week following that atrocious massacre of Palestinian worshipers, which was a telltale event of Israeli atrocities to follow, Israeli occupation forces murdered 69 Palestinian civilians and injured 2,560 others. All the injuries save for one were the work of snipers, aiming their tools of death at civilians’ hearts, chests, and heads. The brutality was unbearable to the Palestinian People as it would have been to any other self-respecting nation. Violence only breeds violence, something the Israeli military occupation and its political leadership are still reluctant to come to terms with.
Seeing such brutality and trigger-happy occupation soldiers did not move the international community farther than timid condemnations and a soft-spoken and toothless Security Council resolution that condemned Israel’s “excessive use” of lethal force. This is the same community of nations that has been passing Security Council resolutions condemning Israel’s countless acts of genocide, murder, and aggression for the past thirty-four years. It is also the international community that knows all too-well how any Security Council Resolution, which is supposed to be binding, becomes non-binding and inapplicable if and when it is applied to Israel and its occupation of other Peoples’ land as well as its brutal treatment of the civilians in this land.
Israeli brutality went on unabated and without an iota of official or public remorse. Israeli occupation forces were given the free hand to murder, maim, injure, and disable at will. It wasn’t too long before they were also given a free hand to bombard residential neighborhoods as well. To make matters worse, hundreds of crazed yet heavily armed Israeli settlers were given free reign to attack, terrorize, and kill Palestinian civilians.
The official Israeli permission to exact the maximum amount of death and destruction against the Palestinian People only increased in scope. Within less than a month following Sharon’s historic provocation, Israeli occupation forces had been allowed to launch attacks using American-made and funded Apache helicopters and other American tools of destructions.
Perhaps the most memorable children that Israeli sniper fire snatched from their mothers’ arms was Mohamed Al-Durra. Twelve-year Mohamed captured the world when he died in father’s arms on 30 September in Gaza City. Hiding behind a barrel, Mohamed’s father waved and pleaded with Israeli soldiers to stop shooting in their direction. A cameraman working for French television captured the horrific scene as Israeli soldiers kept shooting at the helpless man and his terrified son, who had no where to hide and worse yet, no where to die. Bassam Al-Balbisi, an ambulance driver died while trying to rescue Jamal and Mohamed. In a matter of moments, the child died still clinging to his father, after his tiny body was riddled with bullets. The images spoke volumes of what the Palestinian People have endured throughout the Israeli occupation and served as an ever-lasting image that represents why this People are engaged in a passionate and relentless revolution. For decades to come, Palestinian parents will be haunted by these images and Jamal’s desperate pleas for mercy. They will never accept any reality less than freedom and dignity for they cannot forget or ignore what occupation is.
Throughout these Israeli atrocities, Madeline Albright, then American Secretary of State and Israel’s blindest and staunchest ally in the Clinton Administration, was condemning the Palestinian People for “attacking” Israelis. The hawkish Albright condemned the Palestinians for placing the Israeli “under siege”! She ignored the fact that before one drop of Israeli blood was spilled, over one hundred Palestinians were butchered. She refused to admit that it was Israeli tanks and armored military vehicles that were surrounding every Palestinian village, town, city, and refugee camp and not the other way round.
The indiscreet diplomat even had the audacity to endorse the racist notion that Palestinian mothers send their children out to die because they do not harbor the same feelings of love and affection that Israeli and Western mothers have.
In February 2001, Ariel Sharon, a name burned deep into the Palestinian psyche for, was elected as Israel’s Prime Minister. This man’s hands are so drenched in Palestinian blood, one would hesitate to touch it or come near it. He came to Israel’s top political office boasting a military history rich with massacres of thousands of Palestinian civilians, the most notorious of which was the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres. Adding insult to injury, Ariel Sharon formed a government of rightwing zealots and racist and covered his face with the cracking mask of Shimon Peres, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Knowing his homicidal tendencies all too well, the international community should have kept a very close eye on his actions. Instead, with a new American President in office who wanted to disengage from the Middle East in particular and an international community indisposed to challenge his political inexperience, the world let Sharon be Sharon. In no time after assuming office, Israeli occupation tanks were thundering and invading Palestinian refugee camps, towns, and villages. As amazingly quick, Ariel Sharon employed F-16 fighter jets against various Palestinian buildings, turning tens of innocent Palestinians into unrecognizable and charred body parts.
A year after Ariel Sharon began his so far successful campaign to derail the peace process as well as exact unimaginable suffering to the Palestinian People and undermine its national leadership, the Palestinian People are still standing. They are actively engaged in one of the most memorable battles for freedom the Middle East, perhaps the world, has ever known. Despite their humble resources, the Palestinian People chose to face Israeli brutality with steadfastness. Their goal is not as Israeli apologists like to market, “the destruction of Israel”. Rather, it is freedom and dignity, principles that the American President is now rallying the whole world around. An end to occupation and suppression would fulfill the Intifada.
The Palestinian voice, through the Intifada, has never been clearer or simpler; end the occupation and return those who were forced to exile terror and death to their homes. Implement the relevant, as of yet unimplemented United Nations resolutions and end the last standing occupation. These are the Palestinian dreams that shall come true for their fulfillment is a prerequisite to peace and stability in the region. It would bring that giant back to his senses and assure him that anger is no longer needed for the Palestinian People’s dreams would have finally come true, and they shall.
In a time of hysterical lobbying for an international coalition against terrorism and in defense of “freedom”, anything short of that would be an unforgivable crime. Anything short of that would expose unlimited international hypocrisy and double standards, well packaged and marketed through the Western media.
Nour Odeh is Communication Director of Palestine Media Center.