As many parts of the world displayed solidarity with the Palestinians by commemorating September 28 as the second anniversary of the Intifadah, Israel and her supporters are faced with a stark choice: annihilate all Palestinians or abandon Israel.
Since the intifadah erupted on that fateful day when Ariel Sharon provocatively led armed troops to the sacred Haram al – Sharif, revered by Palestinians and Muslims all over the world, it is extremely unlikely that the Palestinians will accept a political process that does not end Israel’s military occupation.
Ending military occupation for Israel does not merely represent a withdrawal of troops and retreating to its own borders – it in effect translates to committing political suicide for it would require transgressing Zionist expansionist policies by dismantling illegal Jewish settlements.
Being the last remaining colonial, settler state, Israel does not possess any contingent borders which explains why Sharon’s elaborate trench-digging exercise to confine Palestinians within the Occupied Territories was dropped midway. It suddenly dawned on his regime that it would be viewed as a de-facto border, inconsistent, with the ideals of zionism.
Sharon, as one of the main architects of this occupation realises that conceding the illegality of these settlements is the shortest route leading to abandoning Israel in toto. His option therefore to seek the elimination of “terrorism” which is a covenient euphemism for Palestinian resistance, is characterised by his blatant public regret for not “eliminating” Yasser Arafat, when as minister of defence, he launched the invasion of Lebanon 20 years ago.
Despite the invasion and re-conquest of the West Bank as well as the world’s most densely populated area, the Gaza; thousands bravely defying Israeli military curfews and young children still pelting army tanks with stones tell the story of a people deeply committed to the Intifadah as the only means to seek liberation.
Short of the nuclear option, Israel has applied every conceivable military method – legal or otherwise – to defeat the Intifadah. None has succeeded. This failure by the Sharon regime to contain Palestinian resistance, let alone defeat it, is reflective of a people determined to continue striving for freedom and liberation.
It also demonstrates the paradox of a belligerent state, eager to enforce punishment upon its adversaries yet revealing its weakness: extreme vulnerability. The refusal by the Palestinians to be overawed by Israel’s formidable and feared military might has had a debilitating effect on the apartheid state.
The refusal by Israeli army generals to serve in the IDF and conscripts defying military orders to commit war crimes is a phenomenon unheard of before, and many would suggest, unexpected in Israel. Yet, despite Israel’s efforts to restrict coverage of this and other extraordinary developments, news reports seeping through confirm that the Intifadah has triumphed in touching the inner recesses of former antagonists leading them to oppose a fundamental pillar of zionism: military occupation.
Another major impact of the Intifadah has been the profound manner whereby Palestinians have consolidated their ranks and embraced each other to remain resolute, united and determined to continue their painful struggle. Israeli society on the other hand is deeply divided and not merely over mundane issues; they are wrestling with principles which underpin Zionism and on which no open critical debate was previously countenanced!
A case in point is the bold campaign by Gush Shalom activists to warn Israeli officers and soldiers alike that certain actions could lead to their indictment for war crimes. They have spelled out that execution without trial (called ‘liquidation”), the killing of defenseless wounded (called “verification of death), preventing. medical help from reaching the injured, shooting at ambulances and medical teams, allowing populations to starve, dropping bombs on residential areas, wholesale destruction of houses, penalising families for the deeds of one of their members by expulsion and home demolition – are all illegal acts, constituting war crimes.
As Israeli brutality intensifies, so does their frustration. Hence, Edward Said asks what anti-terrorist purpose is served by destroying the building and then removing the records of the ministry of education, the Ramallah municipality, the central bureau of statistics, various institutes specialising in civil rights, health and economic development, hospitals, radio and television stations?
Is it not clear that Sharon is bent not only on breaking the Palestinians, but on trying to eliminate them as a people with national institutions?
(Mr. Iqbal Jasarat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)