Ready, Aim, Cease-fire

The people of Gaza are living under occupation. The prison quarters diminished as Israel implemented “no-go” areas in the northern Gaza Strip and took military control. Israel remains firmly in control of the airspace as well as the sea and all borders except the European Union monitored Rafah border, which according to Israel can be shut down at any time. All the while, human rights reports come and go, asserting that the harsh conditions of “post disengagement” are worsening rather than improving. Poverty, malnutrition, and unemployment are on the rise, while new “peaceniks” like Ehud Olmert are ushered into the Kadima party on feathered pillows to bring Israel to new heights.

Unlike unruly prisoners that are thrown into isolation, the 1.4 million jail birds living in Gaza are collectively punished. The “promised” bombardment of Gaza began the last week of December, striking a Fatah office and ten roads. But it’s ok because Israeli forces dropped leaflets, in Arabic and English, to warn Gazans that “Israel is on the attack.” I’m sure Gazans needn’t a leaflet explaining the capabilities of Israel–”most could just stand chest deep in the craters made by the Israeli air strikes. Israel paid no mind to the fact that militants could fire rockets from any road in the Gaza Strip, while the roads that Israeli forces hit were used by Palestinians to reach schools, hospitals and work.

Given these “new realities,” I am patiently waiting for words of condemnation from the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana. It seems those in the EU “struggling for peace,” have put issues concerning Palestinian human rights on the back burner. The US administration has been more forthright, recognizing Israel’s “right” to strike the Occupied Territories, but conveniently leaves out the Palestinian right to live free from occupation.

The cycle of violence continues. On December 28, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint in the West Bank. Islamic Jihad took responsibilities for attack. While this event was tragic, it was all too predictable. As the siege on Palestinian cities continue the will for attacks on Israel rise. Violence begets violence–”but I’m sure the occupying “democracy” has enough analysts and military professionals telling them how the cycle works.

So where do we go from here? Israel should immediately implement a plan to de-escalate the violence. The Israeli government must come out against the plans of a buffer zone and stop the massive aerial and artillery campaign against Gaza. Through intermediaries, Israel must call for the principles of the Sharm Al Sheik cease-fire to be adhered to by Islamic Jihad as well as a resigning of the cease-fire by all other militant groups, to stop potential suicide bombings and rocket attacks. In return Israeli forces must stop extrajudicially assassinating Islamic Jihad members and leaders in the Occupied Territories, as well as attacks against other militant groups. Furthermore, the bus convoys scheduled for January 15 should continue as planned, while Gazans move closer toward autonomy via uninterrupted trade, open borders and a cessation of Israeli attacks. It is crucial that the January parliamentary elections run smoothly and include occupied East Jerusalem.

If Israel truly wants peace there will be no problem to implement these first steps. The success in militarily containing Hamas since the signing of Sharm Al Sheik should be reason enough. Israel’s Shin Bet found Hamas directly responsible for only one Israeli death in 2005 and credited the cease-fire for the large overall drop in violence.

This is the right direction for Palestinian people living under occupation and daily Israeli aggression, and the right direction for Israelis who fear suicide bombings and rocket fire. The will of the Palestinian people has been documented in numerous polls–”the vast majority want attacks on Israel to stop, democracy to start and the road to peace to begin. Outside pressure from the US, the EU, the UN and Russia must be swift and immediate. The cycle of violence is ineffective politically and an injustice to its victims. A new cease-fire is feasible and it is paramount that negotiations start without delay.