It was 34 years ago this week when the famous Six Day War in the Middle East took place. Numerous casualties occurred then, and the casualties resulting from Israel’s subsequent post-war brutal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem continue to occur now as Palestinians wage an uprising for their freedom.
The bombing over the weekend underscores what military occupation has done to the psyche of some in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. In this case, a growing number of young Palestinian males who feel they no longer have anything to lose. The deaths of the young Israelis at a Tel Aviv disco was certainly tragic. Loss of innocent life always is, be it Palestinian or Israeli. And there have been many, particularly on the Palestinian side. Almost 500 deaths and 15,000 injured since last September. However, it is troubling that many Israelis appear oblivious to the suffering of Palestinians. Oblivious as to why there is an uprising at all. When one gets past the violent acts, be it suicide bombings or Israeli F16 bombings, the root problem is Israeli occupation.
Would it have been nice to resolve the conflict at the negotiating table? Sure, but Israel sought to circumvent international law and hand out the carrots it wanted to give. The reasons for the current Intifada are many. All of which any human being can understand. Freedom from occupation would be a good start. Freedom from having their olive orchards uprooted, a source of income for many. Freedom from having their homes demolished. Freedom to go to schools and universities without the threat of IDF live ammunition. Freedom from Israeli military checkpoints between every Palestinian city, which never went away since the signing of the Oslo Accords. Freedom from land confiscation to build more illegal Israeli settlements. Freedom to travel to hospitals during emergencies without being detained — some until death ensues. Freedom from torture, which still exists despite a ban issued by Israel’s High Court. Freedom from the sadist brutality of Israeli border patrol when they go to their jobs. Freedom to be children as opposed to fighting like adults so that they are not subject to the same humiliation their parents are. Freedom of the same kind of security that Israelis want for themselves. Freedom to dream.
Three million Palestinians have tolerated the denial of these freedoms for more than three decades, overwhelmingly and without incident. They ought to be commended for their restraint all of these decades, as opposed to being demonized in our press. There are an occasional few young men who can no longer bite their lip, however. The results are often tragic. It’s been said that there is no enemy greater than the one who has nothing to lose. The Islamic “martyrdom” excuse is too convenient. In each case where a suicide bomber’s family spoke to the media, they noted that the bomber was depressed and fed up with Israeli actions against their people. Do people realize that 80% of Palestinian Gazans now live under the poverty rate because of Israel’s economic siege? Do people realize that there is now an unemployment rate of 60% in the Occupied Territories? Prior to the Intifada, the average annual income was about $1,500 per year. Israelis were at about $18,000.
The Israeli force against Palestinians has been excessive and completely disproportionate. The world and even several in the Israeli community have acknowledged this. Palestinian pleas for an international force to protect them have been dismissed by the Israelis é who apparently are the sole decision makers on this issue. Ironic, given that they are the ones that Palestinians want protection from.
There is an expectation that Yasser Arafat can somehow put a stop to the Intifada. But the Intifada is bigger than Yasser Arafat. It is bigger than Ariel Sharon. It is bigger than the defunct Oslo Accords. It is about the human spirit and the desire to be free. The famous Patrick Henry quotation, “Give me liberty or give me death,” is actually very applicable in the case of the Palestinian Intifada.
In the end, it seems that Israel’s victory in the Six Day War was actually quite hollow. Israel has not found security by taking more land or denying their Palestinian neighbors the right to live with the same dignity and security they demand for themselves. When Israel starts dealing with their Palestinian counterparts as true equals, peace just might be achieved. Until then, the bloodshed will sadly continue.
Sherri Muzher is a Freelance writer for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and Former Executive Director of the Council for Palestinian Restitution and Repatriation.