Dear Secretary Powell,
Over the past twenty four hours, as you are aware, there has been a serious upsurge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians. On Friday, Israel used F-16 fighter jets to attack Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, killing at least twelve and injuring more than one hundred. Today, Israel continues to attack Palestinians in the occupied territories using helicopter gun-ships, and more people were killed on Saturday by live fire from occupation forces. At least six Israelis have been killed in the most recent violence.
In response to these events, you called for an “unconditional cessation of violence,” both by Palestinians and Israelis. I for one, am ready to support that call. But do you give to the words “violence” and “unconditional,” the same plain meaning most people would give them? Consistent United States policy makes me doubtful. We probably agree that an attack on Israeli shoppers is violence. We probably agree that the use of advanced warplanes against a defenseless population in occupied territory is violence.
But are you now ready to call for an immediate, unconditional halt to the violence of Israel’s forced seizure of land, and displacement of Palestinians in the occupied territories? Are you prepared to call clearly for an immediate halt to the violence against unarmed Palestinians, especially children? Does your call include an end to the violence of house demolitions, and of siege and closure? The daily violence and humilitions at checkpoints? Are you prepared to demand an end to all the many forms of violence that Israel has not ceased for one day from perpetrating against Palestinians in the occupied territories even while the “peace process” was said to be working?
Or is your call for an “unconditional” end to violence merely a call for Palestinians to aquiesce to occupation in tranquility, and for Israel to desist only from those forms of violence which are most acutely embarassing to the United States? Do you want Palestinians to return to “negotiations” while Israel continues with daily violence of the kind which has made Palestinian life intolerable but against which the United States rarely protests and never acts? You will need to be crystal clear about what you mean, because the U.S. has no credibility left to do otherwise. No one will buy any more of America’s “constructive ambiguity,” which was always just a euphemism for the destructive continuity of the status quo.
Under U.S. doctrine, the United States considers some countries that provide weapons, or training, or funding or any other kind of support to certain groups to be a “state sponsors of terrorism,” and therefore to be liable for any of the acts those groups perpetrate.
Does your call for an “unconditional” cessation of violence therefore recognize the United States’ direct participation in this conflict, as the main state sponsor of Israel? Without the funds, training, and advanced weaponry that the United States provides to Israel, all garnished with a guaranteed U.N. veto of any actions that could restrain Israel, the violence might be much diminished? Are you ready to stop, unconditionally, U.S. participation in Israel’s efforts to colonize completely the occupied territories and its war against any who try to resist it?
If you look back over the past eight months, it is terrifying to think where we are. The widespread uprising began, as the State Department correctly noted in its annual human rights report, when US-backed Israeli occupation troops shot dead at least four unarmed protestors in Jerusalem on September 29. How did we get from there to the point that Israel is using its mighty air force in the occupied territories? Who could have imagined this, and who dares to imagine what will happen next?
Will we see a repeat of Beirut 1982, except now in Gaza or Nablus? Will we see a repeat of 1967 or 1948 when defenseless Palestinians will once again be forced from their homes in hundreds of thousands, victims of Israel’s limitless expansionism?
All of this can now be imagined, and all of it can happen. All of it can be avoided too. But you will have to stop pretending that the United States is not involved in this war. You will have to stop the flow of arms and aid to Israel’s war and settlement machine. You will have to act to stop Israel’s reckless leaders pulling the United States and the Middle East into a situation from which there is no exit. Does the United States have the strength, the democracy and the political independence to do that? If not, we will all pay the price.