Clash, tear gas, automatic fire, injuries. Assassination, bomb, tanks, towns surrounded, shelling, gunfire, clashes, more shooting, more injuries, more dead.
The “cycle of violence” has become a tired phrase, even more so in the last few weeks, iterated emptily. The majority of people may not understand the causes of the situation fully, but everyone can predict the symptoms by now. It is a well known script, and the general public has memorised it.
For the Palestinians, though, this script is also reality, and it is becoming both more intense and more desperate. Sharon continues to push back his limits and, with no pressure from the US, has carte blanche to do as he likes. The Palestinians, living amid destruction, can see only one end: freedom and real peace. This is the vision sustaining us, and the light which those observing the situation from abroad must not miss.
To believe that there is a vision for real peace, we must recognise first that the foundations for a solution have never been addressed fully. The issues allowing a real peace to prevail have been avoided. The Oslo accords, rather than becoming the basis for a final peace, formed instead the foundation designed to make the Palestinians accept an unacceptable status quo: colonisation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip into separate bantustans which would never achieve real sovereignty. Seven years of by-passing main issues meant that those involved were by-passing the road to peace.
For the past 15 months, the Palestinians have constantly had to counter Israeli claims that they do not want peace. But really, now: what sane person — after 34 years of occupation, including seven years of empty negotiations, and now 17 months into a second Intifada — would not want peace? The current Palestinian resistance is both an expression of frustration that previous negotiations by-passed peace, and a statement that Palestinians will not accept being enslaved by an apartheid system. They will accept nothing other than a viable peace. Faced with Ariel Sharon, on his rampage of destruction, it is now more important than ever to stress that there does indeed exist a vision for peace.
Palestinians continue to struggle for a real peace because we know that it is possible. Our ultimate vision is simple, and the means for achieving it clear: peace and security, reached by ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, once and for all.
Ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is the only way peace will be achieved. A real end to the occupation will allow for the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. Ending the occupation means a total end to the Israeli military presence in the West Bank and Gaza, and the dismantling of all Israeli settlements and outposts. This, and control over its borders — like any other country — are the basic physical necessities for a Palestinian state. Once this is accepted, it is viable to call for implementation of the “two- state solution.” These Israeli and Palestinian states should be separated by a width of at least 30km along their borders, both should be demilitarised, and an international presence should be deployed to the region. This vision for peace — through the existence of two independent states — will bring security to Palestinians and Israelis alike. Only this vision, with a 200km border between two states, will bring peace — not the existing colonisation of the Palestinian territories, which creates “borders” totalling 3,000km in length and encircling every Palestinian village and town. This vision — not Sharon’s plan of “enveloping Jerusalem” — will work.
This vision goes beyond merely ending the current conflict. It is the only way to sustain long- term peace and security. The existence of two independent states is the only solution that will allow economic development, prosperity and internal political development. Such a solution can win the commitment of the democratic majority of Palestinians, and will allow them to develop a sustainable, stable and democratic political system.
Certain Israeli politicians, such as Ranaan Gissen, have progressed from postponing problems to denying the presence of the occupation and the potential existence of a Palestinian state. Such denial is the ultimate deceit; it is a denial of the real problem and of the Israeli occupation. With the current situation apparently reaching its nadir, it now seems more important than ever that Palestinians, peace activists in Israel and the international community remain focused on the fact that this vision exists, and will bring with it long-term security, so desired by both Palestinians and Israelis.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi is President of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees.