Revisiting the Roadmap Peace Initiative

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As Israel prepares for unilateral military withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank, some very important questions are being raised by its proposed withdrawal that must be answered. The most pressing of such questions is whether or not we have allowed Israel to complicate peacemaking with demands that are too unrealistic and undoable, thereby making peace unobtainable outside the prospect of a Palestinian civil war, and a unilateral Israeli action. For years the quest for peace through a negotiated settlement has been staged as a struggle for Israeli security, and the restoration of illegally occupied Palestinian lands to the Palestinian people. The problem with the staging of the peace question along such lines is that it allows Israel to commit human rights abuses in the name of achieving security, which has now become synonymous with peace, while focusing purely upon the land as the ultimate representation of peace for the Palestinian. This way of thinking ! grants human rights to the Israeli, and promises of land to the Palestinian. It gives meaning to Israeli life, and to Palestinian land, while the Palestinian is robbed of both rights and land. The reality is quite the opposite. The people of Palestine are also in need of security, and enjoy a right to security, to jobs, and also to independence. The equality of rights must be a starting point for any discussion related to peace between Palestine and Israel. We cannot have such a conversation until we are able to accept that the attainment of and protection of Palestinian security is a greater challenge than achieving the same for the Israelis. The Palestinian does not possess the weaponry, nor the military infantry that Israel does, which means the greater threat to peace is posed by Israel, and not by the Palestinian. Every day we see the truth that Israel is able at will, to enter the occupied territories and carry out military activities, killing civilians and even children. Is! rael does such things without just cause in most instances.

The Roadmap peace project, even though it was primarily authored by the United States in collaboration with the European Union, and also the United Nations, is premised upon the Israeli demand that the Palestinian Authority disarm and disband the Islamic resistance movement. The Roadmap also requires Israel to dismantle illegal settlements, and to withdraw from illegally occupied Palestinian lands, which includes all of Gaza and the West Bank. Without delving too deeply into the geographic disagreements regarding borders, suffice it to say that the Roadmap peace initiative requires that each side make concessions. The problem is that the concessions are perhaps reasonable for one side, Israel, but completely unreasonable for the PA, since the PA is being asked to dismantle the Islamic resistance movement. The spirit of resistance, whether restive, or calm is as thoroughly entrenched in the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people as the idea of the Jewish ! "only" state is fixed in the psyche of Jewish settlers, and central to the Zionist nationalist ideology and objective. The elimination of an idea requires much more than gun collection. It dictates political and ideological purging that can only take place through a type of ideological genocide, which is not only illegal, but is also immoral.

Another factor possibly complicating the Roadmap peace initiative is that Israel is bound by law, most especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as numerous UN resolutions to dismantle illegal settlements and withdraw from the occupied territories, occupied after 1967, and to end it’s aggression against the Palestinian people. The Roadmap is not calling for anything new in that respect. Israel has yet to fulfill either of these requirements, even though it claims that it is resolved to do so. More than 20 years has transpired, and Israel has ignored numerous UN resolutions making Israel second only to Saddam Hussein in respect to its blatant disregard for international law. Israel conditions its compliance with the Roadmap upon compliance by the PA, and dismantling of the Islamic resistance movement, knowing that it is impossible to remove the resistance movement from Palestine, just as it is impossible to remove Zionism from Israel. In such a situati! on and under such unreal expectations there are primarily two possible outcomes: 1. The PA will dissolve, and cease to exist, and all of the factions of resistance will unite and form an Islamic authority that will replace the PA. Israel will attempt a war to eliminate the Islamic resistance movement and increase social pressures to foment civil war. 2. Israel will withdraw, seal itself off from the territories and under the pressure created by political and economic isolation, no food, or jobs, the Palestinian people will turn against one another in civil war which will lead to a further postponement of statehood. More embittered, the resistance will become more aggressive, and perhaps reckless, and as a result the Palestinian drive for peace and statehood will be aborted and will not be reconceived for many years. A third possibility exists and it presents the possibility for peace from a different perspective that has nothing to do with land. This third way suggests that securi! ty is the number 1 priority for both peoples, and that real peace, and human rights lays a foundation for trust, and an end to aggression, which would facilitate discussions of land and borders. Negotiations for land might be completely separated from negotiations that deal with security arrangements, and these arrangements for security should precede others. Once security arrangements that guarantee safety for the people from military aggression from either side, negotiations should begin on land and borders. Outside such an arrangement, it is impossible to expect that borders and barriers have any real meaning.

The Fourth Geneva Convention protects the rights of a people living under occupation to militarily resist, and whether we like it or not, or Israel likes it or not, that is what the law says. Israel understands the dynamics at play in relation to the law and occupation. Sharon, without doubt, realizes that Israel’s big picture victory will come about as a result of pitting the world against the resistance movement, and then turning the Palestinian people against one another. If it succeeds at pushing the world to undo the Geneva Conventions in this way, it will have removed one of the primary barriers to Israeli military expansion in the region, and that is the Fourth Geneva Convention, which makes it illegal to acquire land through conquest. Israel’s peace partners should keep this in mind as they push and promote obsolescence for the Geneva Conventions. International laws only exist through various treaties and conventions. The international community eith! er makes the law obsolete by refusing to acknowledge its relevance, or by acting in concert against the letter and spirit of that treaty or convention, making it obsolete. If Israel has its way, and the Roadmap prevails without important revisions, the Fourth Geneva Convention will have been rendered obsolete by a specially packaged peace plan inspired by Israel to open the door for its future expansion.

The Fourth Geneva Conventions focus almost exclusively on the rights of sovereign governments in combat, prisoners of war, and people living under military occupations, etc. Unlike some other international treaties that wander off into discussions of human rights, the Conventions represent a type of just war doctrine, that is purely tactical, not ideological.

Whenever the discussion of Fourth Geneva Convention rights is raised in respect to Palestine, or people of the Middle East, or the war on terrorism, we are told that these Conventions only offer protections to government armies and their uniformed oppositions, and prisoners in declared wars. A good part of these Conventions also addresses the rights of civilians living under foreign military occupation, and recognizes the people’s rights to organize and to arm themselves and to resist the illegal military occupation of their land, and the destruction and/or confiscation of their private property.

The Fourth Geneva Conventions makes it illegal to acquire lands through military conquest as a matter of law, and not only principal, meaning it can be enforced. The Convention’s recognition of civilian rights and its emphasis on civilian rights in times of war, or foreign occupation make it a body of law that might be key to a homeland defense strategy right here in the United States. Should the United States ever be invaded, or become subject to an enemy force hiding within our borders waiting to attack, civilians would be justified in our right to rise up against, and to resist that occupying entity with all of our might. In the absence of a US law, international law would suffice until the country could regroup, and re-establish the law. Even though international permission is not required for a nation to mount a self-defense, the justification of national defense sanctioned by international legal authority accomplishes two purposes: 1. The Geneva Conven! tions as international law makes it possible to demand that punitive action be taken multilaterally to punish belligerent and aggressive governments or groups who invade or attack sovereign nations, and who imperil the lives and property of civilians. 2. It also entitles a nation or peoples to receive outside assistance and material support in the way of arms to resist occupation, and to defeat foreign occupiers.

Homeland Security should review international laws, and also the Roadmap to see how the rules and lack thereof impacts the United States in the international realm. We should also understand these laws as they pertain to an attempted occupation and not exclusively terrorist invasion, or attack from outside. In respect to the Palestine/Israel conflict, the Roadmap must also be reviewed. Before going further in our insistence that the resistance movement in Palestine be eliminated, we must insure that in our haste to appease Israel by removing the most powerful legal deterrent to its further military expansion in the Middle East, that we are not also removing our own protections. It is also important to note that the United States is a signatory to the Fourth Geneva Conventions. Our connivance in the removal of legal protections offered to the Palestinians through this important body of international jurisprudence might come back to hunt us legally, as we seek! to resolve border conflicts and disputes elsewhere, and also to mitigate internecine conflicts within other nations and between other peoples.

That being said, without doubt the Islamic resistance movement must be dealt with if we are to attain a sustainable peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. There is no reason for us to expect that a peace agreement is going to happen so long as the military arm of the Islamic resistance movement is blocking a political settlement. The secular Palestinian groups are also armed and against negotiations. There does not appear to be a single armed group that is ready to disarm, or to submit to the authority of a Palestinian authority, allowing the authority the necessary influence it needs to either initiate, or to sustain any type of meaningful change. Most observers have concluded, as has Israel, that Arafat has not proven himself to be an effective negotiator, nor a serious political or military player that can bring about the necessary persuasion among his own people, required to craft a reliable and sustainable agreement, or even to enfor! ce an agreement. That a new authoritative body must be constructed goes without saying. This body, if it cannot be a single entity that represents all of the people, can be divided into two factions, each overseeing its own constituency and vouching to some extent control of that segment of Palestinian society under its control. Without elections, a two party system can be forced into being in Palestine that would allow for the establishment of a government that is run by the two most popular factions. Each faction would have the right to operate according to its interest, which must fall within the confines of a negotiated settlement, and the national Palestinian interest. This puts something at stake for both factions, allowing for greater transparency and accountability. It brings both into the negotiation process, and gives each an opportunity to pursue its vision for a united Palestine, much the same way that the Likud and Labor parties share responsibility for Israel.

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The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women. The author is also head of the International Assoc. for Muslim Women and Children, an accredited NGO with the UN Division on the Rights of the Palestinians. She is a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN).

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