I am confused – really confused. The Palestinian people are under a brutal military occupation that continues to demolish their homes, confiscate their property, and subjugate them at humiliating military checkpoints. Moreover, settlements are being built on the ruins of the Palestinians to make room for Jewish settlers, the Israeli government continues to maintain a stranglehold on water resources, the Israeli security apparatus continues to torture Palestinians for months without trial and curfews are constantly declared to ensure the safety of machine-gun-toting Jewish settlers. That more or less describes the hardship the Palestinians have been forced to live under for over 30 years now. This part is clear to me. Now, what confuses me is why there is an outcry when Palestinians want to oppose this illegal “military occupation”. Have we forgotten the context, the setting, and the facts? Why do I get the impression that the military occupier é rather than the occupied – is the victim? And why has the media embarked on a campaign of vilifying the Palestinians who é allegedly é attempted to smuggle arms with the purpose of defending themselves?
The media claims Arafat was caught “red-handed” trying to smuggle arms from Iran on the Karine-A. The use of extreme language such as “red-handed” is meant to end debate on Arafat’s involvement. You will notice that I used the word “allegedly” above because Arafat’s involvement has yet to be proven. The Israelis and Americans have yet to present any evidence proving this. Furthermore, the Israelis and Americans have refused Arafat’s invitation to join an investigation to uncover the “plot”. And é equally important – it does not make sense that Arafat would try to smuggle arms by sea knowing full well that the Gaza port (the only entry into Palestinian territory from the Med Sea) is under Israeli control. There obviously is not logic in the case against Arafat and the Palestinians. However, to argue the technicalities of the case is pointless because the media has turned this episode into a fact that is already embedded in the minds of millions as sacred and incriminating evidence against the occupied Palestinians. Rather, my point here is to argue for the right for the Palestinians under occupation to bear arms against the occupying Israeli army.
Arafat is the leader of a liberation movement. His people are under occupation. As long as Israel does not recognize the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and continues to destroy their cultural and national identity it is incumbent on Arafat to support his people’s right to resist. Given the failure of the Oslo Accords and given Israel’s refusal to abide by international convention and resolutions, the Palestinians are allowed the right to defend themselves. Therefore, the smuggling of arms for purposes of self-defense is legitimate. Under international law the Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves against their Israeli occupiers. Since the Palestinians cannot rely on Israel for its protection, and since the Oslo Accords are essentially dead, the Palestinians therefore have the right to bear arms in their own defense. Let’s not forget that under the British, Irgun and Stern bore arms against the British in their quest for establishing a Jewish state. Why is one form of resistance deemed legitimate and the other not? The Israelis stated that the Karine-A was carrying enough weaponry to destabilize the whole region. How about the $4 billion US worth of sophisticated weaponry Israel receives from the US annually? Israel’s weapons have done little for the sake of peace.
Israeli intransigence has to be dealt with accordingly. Sharon’s comments about regretting not killing Arafat in 1982 do not help the situation and clearly signal the Israeli government’s classroom-bully ethics in dealing with the Palestinians. The hypocrisy of destroying Arafat’s security apparatus and then asking him to restore security is yet another indicator of Sharon’s policies. At the time of writing the Israeli government is demolishing “illegally” built Palestinian homes as Israel is accelerating its virtual take-over of East Jerusalem. This is ethnic cleansing, folks – pure and simple. And, yet, the people being “cleansed” have no right to oppose the ones doing the “cleansing”. It should be obvious that there is lots of dirt resulting from all this cleansing and many lives are being taken and destroyed in the process. A people’s tolerance for oppression can only last so long and the Intifada is an indication that that tolerance – and the patience that goes with it – has snapped. The Israelis have declared war on the Palestinians and the Palestinians – in turn – cannot rely on the Israelis to guarantee their safety. If there was a time when the Palestinians have to take matters into their own hands it is now.
We are é without a doubt é dealing with a media that is at odds with reality. The media’s treatment of the Intifada closely resembles the symptoms of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia “interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others”. Specific abnormalities that can be noted in individuals with schizophrenia include delusions, alterations of the sense and an inability to sort and interpret incoming sensations, and an inability therefore to respond appropriately. This definition (taken from The Schizophrenia Homepage) adequately describes the general malaise that affects the media. Furthermore, delaying treatment of this disorder results in increased treatment resistance and worsening severity of symptoms. However, it is difficult to help someone who refuses to help himself by listening to reason. Like a stubborn child, the media covers it ears with its hands and tries to silence our concerns with taunts of “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!”
An example of this flawed view of reality and a refusal to heed reason was evident on CBC’s 60 Minutes with Mike Wallace grilling President Arafat on the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and on his personal involvement in the Karine-A affair. Wallace behaved like a Rottweiler let loose with the intent of causing maximum damage to the image and credibility of Arafat and of the Palestinian cause (recall how journalists like Mike Wallace interviewing Palestinian officials employ Rottweiler-like instincts and journalists like CNN’s Paula Zahn employ poodle-like tactics when dealing with Israeli officials). Wallace referred to the words of New York Times’ Thomas Friedman and Secretary of State Colin Powell as sacred in his attack on Arafat. It is disturbing how the words and opinions of pro-Israeli writers like Friedman were deemed holy and used as reference points in trying to ascertain the “facts”. This display of “journalism” is representative of the double standard in the media and of the lack of clear and logical thinking about the issues at hand.
Ultimately, to vilify and discredit the Palestinians’ attempt to smuggle arms is to deny them their right to self-defense and é by extension – to legitimize Israel’s occupation of Arab lands. I cannot say it enough times: the Palestinians are at the mercy of a brutal occupation regime. Their livelihood is at stake and their very attachment with their homeland is being uprooted. I am for peace but recognize that the first attempt at peace has failed and that a future peace must be premised on the respect of Palestinian rights and freedoms. However, at the moment the Palestinians are at war with a powerful military and need the means to defend themselves. I am ashamed that Arab governments are comfortable just standing by, as more and more Palestinians are being killed and left homeless. The Palestinians are essentially taking matters into their own hands. It is unfortunate, though, that the world is blind to see that the hands of the Israelis and the Americans are soaked more and more with Palestinian blood.