The last chance

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I had previously stated, in an article published by Alsharq Al-Awsat, that General Anthony Zinni’s mission in the Middle East presents the biggest challenge of his history – a history filled with difficult challenges spanning decades, from Vietnam to Afghanistan. I also said that this mission would present his biggest challenge because it was complicated, and because the consecutive American administrations face internal factors connected with the supporters of Israel in the Congress and Jewish pressure.

We are, however, hopeful because of General Anthony Zinni’s appointment as special envoy. He has a history as the man of difficult missions who perseveres in his missions until he achieves the goals and succeeds, and because he is a true American; that is, with General Zinni, America’s interests come first. He is not one of the American politicians who face various party and election considerations that make them, in most cases, sacrifice their nation’s interests to serve their own best interests.

I again say that what Prince Saud Al-Faisal said almost two months ago is what all sane people in the world think. Prince Saud expressed great worry regarding President Bush’s administration’s stands on the bloody violation of the Palestinian people’s rights, and the methodical destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, institutions, buildings and economy being committed by the Israeli occupation forces on Palestinian lands. He expressed this by saying that no sane person on the face of this earth cannot but lose his mind when hearing of the United States’ stands regarding what the Israeli government and its occupation army are doing in Palestine. I have no doubt that Prince Saud Al-Faisal was not making an emotional outcry. He was merely stating his opinion based on an objective and calm vision. Indeed, anyone aware of the facts related to the American nation’s interests in the Middle East, and the strategic importance of the Middle East in the long-term American economic, industrial and marketing programs, cannot but lose his mind regarding the stand the current American administration is taking about the crimes Israel is committing on a daily basis against the Palestinian people, institutions and leadership.

It is incomprehensible that the American administration gives full support for Israel in its increasing aggression against the Palestinian people, when it knows that Israel is occupying Palestine, the Golan and Sheba’a. It knows that Israel refuses to implement Security Council resolution 242, that was drafted by the Americans, and refuses to implement the Land for Peace formula drafted by the Republicans and publicly announced to all by President Ronald Reagan. Not only this, but the American administration is also providing support to Sharon’s government to destroy the Palestinian people’s national Authority – an Authority that was democratically elected under the supervision of President Jimmy Carter, who engineered the Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The Palestinian people democratically elected Yasser Arafat to be their President, the President of their Authority and their state. This in addition to his being a leader and a symbol for the Palestinian people and an international figure, one of the heroes of national liberation and one of the major figures in defending freedom, the right to self determination and peace.

This stand taken by the United States, and Sharon’s attempts to destroy the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat, are much more dangerous than the Taliban’s destruction of two Buddha statues in Afghanistan. This is a new crime that is being committed against all freedom, justice and peace loving people and powers. The killing of Palestinians, with and without cause, has become a matter as casual as drinking a cup of morning coffee on the terrace of the White House on a Spring day.

Israel’s use of American weapons of mass destruction against the Palestinian people has become normal news, no more important than the story of two thousand dollars being stolen from a gas station worker in Mclean near Washington.

We use the term “weapons of mass destruction” relative to the situation. The unarmed Palestinian people, that are facing F-16 missiles, Apache missiles and Plutonium-filled American tank shells, are indeed facing weapons equal to weapons of mass destruction. An Israeli professor, whose name I do not wish to mention in order to protect him form the Shin Bet (Israeli intelligence), informed me that the Israeli army with all its different sections, airforce and infantry, is using the Palestinian people as a test field for various new weapons – weapons whose effects will appear later on those who were able to survive.

Once again we say that condemning terrorism and working to uproot it is a vital matter, be it terrorism by individuals, groups or organizations that support terrorism and are willing to cooperate to achieve it. This matter, however, cannot be dealt with by violating human rights, rejecting the right to self determination, supporting colonial occupation, assassinations, the destruction of houses over the heads of civilians, uprooting trees and destroying the environment as Israel does. It also cannot be dealt with by having the United States continue fighting terrorism by using tilted scales, using double standards or violating international legitimacy resolutions and international accords and treaties.

We go back to General Zinni who continued his Israeli and Palestinian meetings in the shadow of his threat to leave the region if no progress was made. The criticism directed at President Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians has reached unbelievable proportions, despite the fact that Sharon is the one who is being arrogant with the American force that the Israeli soldiers are using, and is dealing with the Palestinians and their democratically elected leadership as if they were war criminals and is publicly threatening to eliminate the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat – as Sharon himself informed Turkish Prime Minister Ajawid. This criticism aimed at Yasser Arafat is a clear example of the imbalance in the American policy in fighting terrorism. The terrorism of the Taliban and Bin Laden must be confronted, and that is taking place now, but what about the state terrorism being carried out by Israel against the entire Palestinian people?

We agree with Powell and Bush that the operations carried out against Israeli civilians were terrorist operations and that those who committed them must be punished, and this takes time and effort, but what about punishing those who are committing mass crimes against the Palestinian people and are killing civilians and Palestinian security personnel whose duty it is to pursue and arrest terrorists in Palestine?

Sharon accuses the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat of terrorism, and the Palestinians and Yasser Arafat accuse Israel of practicing organized state terrorism against the Palestinian people. The circle of violence widens, and the bloodbath continues. So what does the American administration want to do?

The shortest path to ending this bloodbath and to make those in charge see sense, is for General Zinni to take a decision and make the Palestinian and Israeli sides abide by it. This decision should include a cease-fire, the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian cities, villages and streets, the deployment of Palestinian Authority security personnel to impose order, and for General Zinni to begin practical implementation of the Tenet and Mitchell recommendations and deal with both sides in a balanced, even manner.

This requires a clear authorization from President Bush to General Zinni, and this must be done quickly so as not to allow the days to pass futilely because this would give extremists on both sides the opportunity to foil the serious attempt.

When the Palestinians see Israeli fighter bombers withdrawing from their cities and villages, and when they see an end to their humiliation at the hands of the soldiers manning road blocks, then they will control matters in the hope of reaching peace, and in the hope of establishing their independent state.

The Palestinian people do not support terrorism, and see that the operations some carried out against Israeli civilians seriously harm their national interests. They are willing to stand up to those who harm national interests, if the Israeli soldiers disappear and withdraw from their homes and lands.

Once again we say that General Zinni is a man who enjoys the respect of the Palestinians because he is an honest and fair man who wants to make peace in the Middle East.

We call on him to take the above-mentioned stand; committing both sides to a cease-fire and to the implementation of Tenet and Mitchell immediately and without delay.

Otherwise Sharon’s appetite for more Palestinian and Israeli blood will increase.

Bassam Abu-Sharif is a special advisor to President Arafat.

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