The situation in the Middle East is indeed very volatile. The focus shifted at lightening speed from peace negotiation to how to stop a spiraling violence, while peace is shelved if not dead. And we are not helping. We are ignoring Palestinian’s agony and the real cause of the problem, which is oppressive Occupation; and when we want to demonstrate even-handedness we equate the victim and the culprit. This creates a false symmetry between occupier and occupied.
Violence against civilians, in any form, must be condemned regardless who they are. Yet we are not helping when we fail to differentiate between the violence of desperation and the violence of occupation.
We are not helping when we portray the occupier as the victim and blame the real victim for all the wrongs. We are not helping when we are made to forget the facts and believe the lies to be facts, for no other reason than the many times these lies are repeated to us.
We are not helping when we accept the notion that the problem started when the Palestinians refused the generous offer at Camp David II. And we are not helping the situation when we repeat like parrots that “Palestinians do not miss a chance to miss a chance, Arafat must do more, or force will be the only language Palestinians understand.”
As long as we are busy asking what, where and how but failed to find out why we will not be able to reach an acceptable solution and finally stop this violence.
We forgot that it was Ariel Sharon who started the uprising, and the subsequent heavy handed brutal and excessive response by Barak against the demonstrating Palestinian civilians assured continuity. We forgot that the Palestinians gave in advance of Camp David II the maximum they can give to Israel, 78% of their land. It was a lie that they were offered sovereignty over Jerusalem, they were offered ‘control,’ meaning: to collect the garbage, supply traffic cops and keep their people in order while Israel maintains sovereign power over all of Jerusalem. They were not offered 92, 94 or 95 percent of the West Bank as claimed, in fact careful reading of the Clinton document proves that they were likely to get no more than 64 or 65 per cent.
They were denied one of their most important demands, the right to return to their homeland or be compensated for their losses, while more than half a million Russians were easily able to find a place and citizenship in Israel, leaving two million to three million Palestinians stateless.
How can we ignore the dismemberment of the West Bank into “areas A, B and C” giving the Palestinians control over 18% of isolated Bantustans while retaining control over 61%. The division of Gaza into “yellow, white, blue and green areas” giving 6000 settlers control of 40% of the territory and confining over one million Palestinians to the rest.
And how can we ignore the expropriation of 200 square kilometers of farms and pasture land from its Palestinian owners for settlements, highways and infrastructure. Or the uprooting of over 181,000 olive and fruit trees in the way of construction projects or for collective punishment under the pretence of security reasons, impoverishing their owners?
And what about the continued expansion and additions of settlements in the occupied territories over which negotiations are in process. And the destruction of 1200 homes of the people with whom peace negotiations are taking place?
For sure we can not ignore the indiscriminate beating, tear gassing, and shooting of children at home or just outside their houses, playing in the street, at school, or in their way to the store for groceries as reported by the Swedish save the Children Foundation. It added in its four-volume report that most of the Palestinian children killed by gunfire had been shot in the head or the neck; 12 per cent had been shot from behind.
Even if we forget all or some of the above Palestinians will not forget or ignore the killing of their children, parents, family members, and neighbors, whose names, identities, dashed hopes, and shattered dreams are nowhere mentioned. They will not forget house demolitions, land expropriations, illegal arrests, torture, the illegal use of flechette shells (tank shells filled with dart like nails) against them, the use of massive power including F-16s and Helicopter Gunships against civilian populations, collective punishments, blockaded roads, and the manipulation of water and electric power. They will not forget life under oppressive occupation: the need to carry at all times special identity card, cars with special license tags, compromised income and no effective rights.
In effect they are told you have nothing to live for. Desperate they are effectively to go and start an uprise. So before we ask Palestinians to do more, we should demonstrate a sincere concern for their well being, security, and dignity.
Salam Elmenyawi Is Spokesman For The Islamic Center Of Quebec.