Edna Yaghi’s Column
Like the Intifada that erupted in December of 1987, young Palestinians were no longer able to bear Israeli oppression. The Intifada of 2000 was ignited by the present Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Muslim holy site of Haram Al Sherif before he was elected. Like the Intifada of 1987, Palestinians rose in protest, not armed with weapons, but wielding stones in the name of freedom.
As always, any form of protest on the part of the Palestinians has been branded as “terrorism” by Israel and dealt with in the cruelest of ways. Yet it is Israel that has continued to wage a war on Palestinian civilians and has used American-made weapons in a much greater form of terrorism than anything unarmed civilians could ever manage.
During the year of the Intifada 2000-2001, the Israeli army has used tanks, Apache helicopters, F-16 jets, bulldozers and live ammunition to crush Palestinian resistance to the foreign and illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
While Palestinian infants bravely fight for the freedom of their people with small stones against a cruel and invincible enemy, Israel on the other hand, has reacted with excessive and lethal force. According to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, 682 Palestinians have been murdered during the present Intifada. The number of children killed under the age of 18 is 186. The number of Palestinian wounded is 21,480. Many of these wounded will be permanently disabled for the remainder of their lives, among this number, many too are children.
Israeli forces intentionally have assassinated 41 Palestinians extra-judicially in 35 operations. Twenty-two innocent Palestinians were also killed in these operations.
The number of Palestinians imprisoned during the Intifada has been 1605, 1373 of whom are still in prison and 218 of this number are children. One hundred and sixty Palestinian children are being held as political prisoners and are subjected to torture while under interrogation. Furthermore, these children are denied family visits and are withheld under circumstances that lead to the deterioration of their health and well-being.
Palestinian lawyers are banned from visiting these children so their situation inside the prisons where they are being held is unknown. In the Ramle Prison, Israeli prison guards stormed cells holding female child prisoners. The children were severely beaten and thrown into solitary confinement.
In Telmond Prison on September 17, a Palestinian child was slashed with a razor blade by Israeli criminal prisoners. It is illegal to incarcerate Palestinian political prisoners along with Israeli criminal prisoners and in particular children should not be exposed to the dysfunctionals of Israeli society.
In the Gaza Strip, 341 Palestinian civilian homes have been completely destroyed and in the West Bank, 116 homes were destroyed. Homes partially destroyed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip amounted to 5575. Nine thousand and seventy dunams of agricultural land has been bulldozed in the Gaza Strip and 7486 in the West Bank. In both areas, a total of 134 wells have been completely ruined. The economic loss to Palestine due to the Israeli siege and closures has amounted to more than $3 1/2 billion.
On December 13, 1988, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in an address to the UN General Assembly, recognized Israel’s right to exist renounced terrorism and asked Israel to make peace with the Palestinians.
We have yet to see Sharon recognize the Palestinian right to exist. He refuses to admit that the Palestinians must have a state of their own. We have yet to see Sharon renounce Israeli terrorism against the Palestinians and to ask the Palestinians to make peace with the Israelis.
So far, all we have seen 52 years and two Intifadas later is Israeli aggression and the oppression of a people yet longing to be free.