Retribution Has Led the Middle East to an Abyss

Suicide bombing as a tactic in the struggle against Israeli occupation has always been a topic of debate among Palestinians. However, the bombings this past weekend were certainly part of no meaningful strategy but rather revenge for Israel’s assassination of Hamas’s top military leader.

A few weeks ago, Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) carried out the targeted killing of Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi in retaliation for the Israeli assassination of PFLP Secretary General Ali Abu Mustapha.

“You, who killed my father, you are temporary residents and Canaanites, I’m letting you know: We are staying – because [the land] is ours,” said Yiftach Ze’evi, son of Ze’evi, at his father’s funeral.

He then called upon Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to avenge his father’s death, saying: “To you, Arik, [Sharon], such a close friend of Father . . .Take revenge . . . and return to lead the way we knew you.”

And revenge is what Sharon wrought on the entire Palestinian population. Palestinian cities were invaded, dozens of Palestinians were killed, and the economic vice on the Territories was tightened even further. An Israeli reporter saw Israeli tanks flatten cars parked on the streets and destroy telephone polls. In one town, Israeli soldiers shamelessly made Palestinian residents sit outside of their homes while they ate their food and napped.

Yiftach’s rage and the anger of other Israelis at Ze’evi’s death were understandable but then why are so many Israelis advocates of assassinations of Palestinian leaders? It is as if Palestinians can be wiped off the face of the earth and it is insignificant to their population. As Israel has and continues to seek retribution, always often disproportionate to the original act, so Palestinians are going to retaliate. Palestinians do not mourn any less for their loved ones. More than 65 Palestinians have been assassinated in the last 14 months, because Israel says they are ‘terrorists.’ No evidence is ever provided. Israel need only claim that they are affiliated to groups like the PFLP, Hamas, or Islamic Jihad. Self-defense is what they say. To make matters worse, at least two dozen Palestinians murdered during Israel’s so-called ‘targeted killings’ have been innocent bystanders, including children.

Israel says it is facing a threat that few can understand. But Palestinians are facing a situation of Occupation that nobody else is subjected to. The misery that has visited them for the last 35 years is indescribable and would hardly be tolerated by any human being. Still, Israel says it ‘must’ take these kinds of measures so that ‘terrorists’ don’t win. It compares its war on the Palestinians with the US war against the Taliban. But we’re not an occupying army nor do we assassinate people based on affiliation.

So how can the cycle of retribution between Palestinians and Israelis stop? Israelis need to stop their policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders, plain and simple. The desire for revenge is a two-way street. And Israelis need to end the Occupation, which is the heart of the matter. Israeli analysts keep raising the “generous” Barak plan of 2000 as proof that the Palestinians are to blame for their own suffering — but a future Palestinian state was not going to be viable and 80% of Israeli settlements would remain. International law needs to be implemented and mutual security guaranteed. There must also be respect for Palestinian human rights.

That Ariel Sharon planned the Hamas assassination before a US envoy visit with the expectation that militants would respond is of little debate for most Palestinians. The world reacted with the usual horror not afforded to Palestinian suffering. What is unfortunate is that Sharon will use the latest attacks to wreak far more deadly retribution on millions of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Collective punishment is a familiar scenario to Palestinians.

Weeks ago, Yiftach Ze’evi could have taken the opportunity to wisely discourage the official Israeli policy of assassinations. Instead, he called for more revenge. He got it. Many Palestinian innocents were killed. The Israeli government also decided to assassinate another leader. Palestinians retaliated. More innocents have died. Now, Israel has blocked all movement in the Occupied Territories, fired on the Palestinian Authority headquarters, attacked a refugee camp, and have already killed several Palestinians, including a ten-year-old child. Palestinians are not blind to the devastation ahead of them after Israel’s Cabinet meeting.

When will it end? And when will Israel finally take an honest look at its policies which keep promoting further violence?

Sherri Muzher is a Palestinian-American activist, lawyer, and freelance journalist.

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