During the past 11 months of Intifada, more than 600 Palestinians, a large number of them teen-aged boys, have become the victims of Israel’s reign of bloody terrorism. Their only crime: to fight for the liberation of their land that has been under the Zionist state’s occupation for 34 long years.
The Israelis have continued to impose an economic blockade on the Palestinian areas, while regularly making incursions into the Palestinian territory bulldozing homes, sending in F-16s and F-15s to bomb residential areas and using tanks, missiles and helicopter gunships to destroy buildings, including the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters, the Orient House. Only one day before the Israeli occupation army killed the PFLP leader, F-16, F-15 aircraft had destroyed three Palestinian security headquarters in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as tanks, and bulldozers levelled several buildings. The Palestinians being generally armed with no more than stones and, at best, rifles, there is no parity of power between the aggressor and the aggressed. Hence the use by some of the weapon of the weak: suicide bombings.
But the American government and the media often distort these facts in a bid to make the victims of state terrorism look like the terrorists. Only the other day the US President, George W. Bush, spoke thus: “If Mr Arafat is interested in having a dialogue… then I strongly urge him to urge the Palestinian terrorists to stop the suicide bombings, stop the incursions, stop the threats.” He had no word of regret to offer for the Israeli incursions, bombings, bulldozings and premeditated assassinations. Such a blatantly biased position is not going to help improve the situation. Neither will his country’s opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s fair demand that the international observers be posted in the troubled areas to break the current cycle of violence. The Israelis oppose the demand for obvious reasons. And in doing so they have the full backing of the US, which, a few days ago, used its veto power to block the efforts that some countries were making to have the UN Security Council pass a resolution for posting of international observers.
Even if for argument’s sake one were to accept the Israeli and American allegations that the Palestinians are responsible for creating violence, it would make eminent sense to post impartial international observers at the scene. It is not hard to guess why the Jewish state and its chief backer, the US, oppose the move. That would mean Israel will not be free to pursue its policy of making deep incursions into the Palestinian territory, destroying their homes, killing their children, confiscating their lands in the name of security of some 400,000 Jewish settlers, and making life economically and physically unbearable for the people, hoping it will force them to leave or accept occupation as an unchangeable reality. As it is, the US has lost whatever credibility it may have had to act as the peace broker in the Arab-Palestinian conflict. Hopefully, Yasser Arafat has learnt that lesson well enough not to exhort George Bush anymore to play a role in ending the on-going violence.
Sadly, though unsurprisingly, the Arab League countries’ leaders, who have met several times to deliberate upon the Jewish state’s unrelenting oppression, have also done nothing to end the suffering of the Palestinian people as also the general humiliation of the Arabs at the hands of the Zionist state. It would be advisable for Arafat to try to seek the help of European Union. Unlike the US President, at least they would not have to please a strong Jewish lobby at home while trying to pretend to be impartial peace brokers in the Middle East.
The Israeli adventurism led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has pushed the region dangerously close to the precipice of a wider war. The target murders are bound to further enrage the Palestinians, diminishing whatever prospects there were for an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
In reply to a statement from Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres that he would keep pressing for truce talks with President Arafat, the Palestinian information minister Abed Rabbo said that such contacts have been called off. “Can anybody think of negotiations now with these assassins and killers in the Israeli government?” he asked.
Ariel Sharon is squarely to blame. He thinks with the use of brute military force, he can cow down the Palestinians and coerce them into a peace deal on his terms. He is mistaken. The Palestinians have over the decades gone through the most harrowing times at the hands of the Israeli marauders and have learnt to live with dire tribulations and hardships. No amount of brutality can break their spirit or will.Nobody can be as alive to this compelling reality as Ariel Sharon himself. The Palestinians didn’t cave in after the horrifying massacre in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in the Lebanon that he ordered as defence minister some two decades ago. They have not given up now when his F-16 planes, helicopters, artillery guns and tanks are mowing down the unarmed Palestinian civilians like sitting ducks in their homes, offices, apartment buildings and villages, and thinly armed policemen in their posts, barracks and headquarters.
His barbarism has only led to a cycle of ever-escalating violence in which the Israelis too are suffering, though on a much smaller scale than the Palestinians. Negotiations with the Palestinians, not their target killings, are the only way to pull the two sides out of the bloody crisis they are caught up in now. The obverse is fraught with consequences that could well spill over to the entire region and might even engulf the world. It is now for the international community to make Sharon see reason. The stakes are awfully high.
For being Israel’s political godfather, economic guardian and arms supplier, the United States has all the power and clout to rein in Sharon. The Bush administration, however, has shown no such inclination. Rather, it has come down so pronouncedly on the side of Sharon that it has lost all credibility in Arab eyes as an honest peace-broker.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has correctly put it that if the crisis is not contained, “It could spread.” But for obvious reasons, he is ‘handicapped’ to play his part to prevent this. In these circumstances, the Muslim countries should step in and take concrete measures to save the region and the world from the catastrophe the devilish Sharon is recklessly driving towards.