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For anyone familiar with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, President Bush’s speech politely “asking” Israel to end its destructive military aggression against the Palestinian people and Authority calls for continued global alarm.
In awkwardly trying to strike a balance between both parties, President Bush proved that he either does not want–or is unable–to comprehend that Israel’s 35-year old US funded, equipped and politically protected military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem is at the core of this conflict. The last seven days and the next suicide bombing are mere symptoms of a much worse calamity on the verge of eruption.
Merging the Palestinian struggle against occupation and for independence with Bush’s superficial obsession with the word ‘terror’ leaves a lot to be desired from American leadership. Similarly, following Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s cue by attempting to justify Israel’s current war crimes as a reply to acts of suicide bombers is as unproductive as the bombings themselves. Most suicide bombers are themselves victims, as are the innocent civilians whose lives they have taken. The latter are victims of a bombing, the former victims of the brutal 35-year military Israeli rule that drove them to it. Both deserve our acknowledgement.
With President Bush limiting his statement to saying that the “United States is on record supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a Palestinian state”, this US Administration continues to commit the same three-decade mistake of ignoring the fact that the Palestinians are engaged in a national liberation movement similar to the movement that ended South African apartheid and that their rights are embedded in International Law. “Aspirations” make for great poetry, but implementation of internationally recognized national, political and economic rights are what will make a lasting peace.
The Bush’s Administration’s handling of this latest round of Israeli violations of Palestinian rights sheds the clearest light yet on the hidden agenda of the morbid Oslo Peace Process – the creation of another Middle East Banana Republic in Palestine. When duly elected Palestinian President Yasir Arafat refused to go along with this agenda, President Bush did not hesitate to un- elect President Arafat and condemn him to death from the White House lawn.
This traditional colonialist political strategy can be directly attributed to the pro-Israeli lobby influence on US policy, which, for the last 35 years has-from one administration to another–continued to threaten short- and long-term US interests in the Middle East.
Now the Palestinian Authority has been reduced to a President taken hostage and a people under military attack, facing the constant threat of death from US-supplied, Israeli-operated armaments. The Palestinian Authority exists today only in the imagination of those who have contributed to its demise and rendered it nearly defunct. With the Palestinian Authority’s deliberate destruction, Israel has succeeded once again through its brutal, uncompromising aggression to destabilize the entire region.
President Bush would have been better advised to replace in his speech, “now we must build the road to those goals,” to, “to many roads have been built trying to reach to many self-declared goals, and today I declare that the US will implement United Nations Resolutions and bring the Israeli occupation to a swift end.” When Israel would have issued its inevitable refusal, US financial aid, which in FY2001 amounted to US$2.82 billion, should have been immediately discontinued and US vetoes in the United Nations to protect Israel discontinued.
The Palestinian people, however, are very politically astute.
Under Israeli military gunfire and in spite of full US sanction, Palestinians from across the political spectrum will defend President Arafat and their cities with all their might and with whatever little resources are available to them. However, as far as the Palestinian people are concerned – whether they are living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, in refugee camps or in the Diaspora — the Palestinian Authority President and leadership will be held accountable for committing and/or continuing to commit to a political path that has led us to the impasse we face today.
The failed institutionalization of Palestinian decision-making–be it within the Palestinian Authority or the Palestinian Liberation Organization–after so many years, so many lessons, and so much pain and suffering, can no longer be overlooked, but it will never be dealt with under Israeli fire.
President Arafat’s blanket acceptance of President Bush’s speech is yet another shallow attempt to redirect US foreign policy without engaging US foreign politics. Faced with the “persuasion” of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s gun at President Arafat’s head, no court of law would accept any agreements signed by President Arafat. Likewise, under the same conditions, it can only be expected that the Palestinian people will not accept yet another half-baked, Israeli-designed, cosmetic “process” that subjugates them to continued military and economic occupation, let alone daily humiliation and often death.
While US Secretary of State Powell casually packs his bags to travel to the region to find a way out, the Palestinians will continue to pay a heavy toll for being Palestinians. In the meantime, Israeli war criminal Ariel Sharon is unnecessarily marching Israel down a long, bloody road that will, like all other roads, lead eventually to a viable Palestinian state.
Mr. Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman, born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, who relocated to his family’s home in Al-Bireh, West Bank immediately following the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994).
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