Tuesday, March 13

MCC Palestine Update #17

MCC Palestine Update #17

As Ariel Sharon arrived in Washington, D.C. to open arms at the White House this past week, the Israeli government was busy proclaiming loudly that the siege on the occupied territories was being eased. While it was true that movement in some areas became somewhat easier, however, the mechanisms of siege remained in place for the most part (dirt and cement barriers, trenches, checkpoints), along with the military occupation which makes the siege possible.

Palestinians have no illusions about the "peace" plan Sharon discussed with U.S. President Bush--Sharon's vision of extended interim agreements will, like Oslo, simply allow for continued settlement expansion and Palestinian dispossession. Palestinians are also bemused when Sharon declares that he won't negotiate while violence continues: Palestinians, it appears, are expected to negotiate even as the everyday violence of the Israeli occupation continues.

Project Update

As engineers from the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) were completing work on an agricultural road between Deir Ibziya and Ein Kinya (funded by MCC) on March 20, the Israeli military authorities arrived and put a halt to the work and forbade any further work on the road. Please keep PARC and the farmers of Deir Ibziya and Ein Kinya in your prayers.

Action suggestion

Write to your congressional representatives or parliamentary officials to inform them that the work of Mennonite Central Committee and other international relief and development agencies in Palestine (such as World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children) is routinely disrupted and thwarted by random Israeli military procedures: roadblocks prevent free travel within the occupied territories; projects, such as the agricultural road mentioned above, are suspended for no reason; the siege in the occupied territories destroys projects aimed to promote sustainable development. Explain that a just, durable peace in Palestine/Israel cannot be achieved so long as the Israeli military occupation continues, constraining Palestinian economic development and making Palestinians prisoners in their own country. For information on how to get in touch with your elected officials, contact MCC's offices in Washington, DC (jdb@mail.mcc.org) or Ottawa (mccott@web.ca).

On March 31, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem is organizing a day of prayer and fasting for justice and peace in Palestine/Israel. During this time of Lent, fasting and prayer is more vital than ever: consider organizing a day of prayer and fasting, either on March 31 or later in the year, as an act of solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis who struggle for justice and true peace.

Below is an article written by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent Palestinian spokesperson. Dr. Ashrawi recently led a nonviolent protest march by women towards the Ram checkpoint in the north of Jerusalem: the march was met with tear gas and percussion grenades.

1. Sharon’s Message to the Palestinian People
Hanan Ashrawi
MIFTAH, 12 March 2001

To every man, woman, and child in the Palestinian territories. YOU are my target; you will be made to suffer; and you shall pay for the original crime of being a Palestinian and for being there.

Every camp, village, town, and city is hereby declared a prison. Instead of arresting each individual and having to build even more incarceration centers and foot the bill for your detention, I shall simply instruct the army to dig ditches and build barricades around your population centers, thus with one sweep render your isolation complete. Wherever you are, you are under arrest at your own expense and in your own home.

School children may not reach their schools and college students are to stay home. Some of you might try to climb over the dirt barriers or walk around the ditches. Take your chance! After Hours of misery you might find a tank (or more) lying in wait for you. You might find snipers on your hilltops or armored vehicles at your crossroads. Defy the siege at your own peril, and if you die don’t blame me. In my book, you are guilty of the subversive act of seeking education. The same applies to your teachers and school administrators who are guilty of the equally heinous crime of attempting to teach. Besides, I can close down all your educational institutions with a military order: That would tarnish my new and improved image in the West (and my new ally Shimon might not like it). This way, your institutions will collapse by themselves and ignorance will prevail.

All patients seeking treatment (including cancer, kidney, and heart patients) are hereby forbidden to reach their hospitals and clinics. You shall suffer in silence and you shall die in silence, for you are guilty of daring to claim the same human treatment reserved for real people not for subhuman genetic terrorists like you. All pregnant women will deliver in their own homes, or in ambulances and at checkpoints if they dare defy the siege. Should you suffer complications leading to the death of your infants (or to your own death), you have only yourselves to blame. For you are guilty of the ultimate crime of attempting to give birth to even more Palestinian terrorists. All mothers should know that no vaccination will be allowed to reach your children, for they deserve no protection against infancy and childhood diseases. They too will grow up to be a threat to our security.

All shopkeepers, tradesmen, industrialists, construction workers, businessmen (and women we don’t discriminate) are hereby forbidden from engaging in any kind of gainful activity. Since you cannot go anywhere anyway, you might as well stay home and watch your families starve even if your warehouses are full of products you cannot market. You too are guilty for attempting to conduct a normal life in defiance of the occupation.

This applies even more directly to farmers and peasants and all those involved in agricultural activity. Is it not enough that we confiscated most of your land to build settlements for those Brave settlers who had defied real hardships in New York, London, Moscow, and other such hostile places to come to the Land of Milk and Honey? You had no business being there, tilling the land and feeding your children. Now, we have to confiscate even more lands for these settlers to build by-pass roads (i.e. to bypass your reality) and to connect them to Israel directly without having to witness the mere fact of your existence. You call it apartheid? We call it security by the power of the gun.

If our brave settlers used their guns against you, uprooted your trees, destroyed your crops, and terrified your children, that is the least they could do given the hardships they endured in their drive to grab more land. We, of course, are more than happy to provide them with the full protection and support of our army while they wreak havoc amongst you, and will distort our laws to find them innocent no matter whom they kill, maim, or injure from amongst you. When will you learn that you do not count? They do, and we will make sure that in this equation you finally learn that you are the zero.

Let me be painfully frank with you. I blame you for forcing us to besiege you, kill you, shell your homes, assassinate your activists and leaders, and perform other such distasteful tasks (even though, I must admit I have had a long and rich experience in invading Arab lands, murdering civilians and prisoners of war, and massacring Palestinians wholesale while destroying whole villages). You are truly exasperating. We made you a generous offer whereby wewould annex only parts of your land (including our settlement clusters), expand settlements according to need (and will), annex Jerusalem and keep it under our sovereignty (while trying our best to render it Palestinian-free), and totally deny the Palestinian refugees their right to return. Yet, ungrateful wretches that you are, you persisted in your stubborn refusal. You claim international law and legitimacy? What nonsense! Only our law prevails, and we deem you illegal.

Despite all our attempts at persuasion (our gun ships, tanks, sniper fire, and military checkpoints are very subtle means of persuasion), you continued to deny us our rights to your lands and rights. We have to be able to help ourselves to that which is yours, what else is occupation for? What other use of power if not to be unleashed on the weak?

I therefore find you guilty and deserving of the utmost punishment (we may not have the death penalty in our laws, but we can carry out as many extra-judicial murders and assassinations as we please). You are guilty for holding on to your humanity, for daring to exercise a collective (and individual) will, for refusing to succumb, for daring to claim equal rights before the law, for maintaining your dignity and a stubborn yearning for freedom.

We, on the other hand, should be free to inflict any type of pain and brutality on you, and it should be your lot to lie down and die quietly. You must not be allowed to disturb our peace or security. We have the right to drive you to desperation, and should you protest or react, not only will you be conveniently branded as terrorists, we will also pound you into submission while calling on you to stop the violence and end terrorism.

Not only that, but we will stand up before CNN (and all the friendly Western press) to expose you for not accepting our hand stretched out to you in peace. Don’t worry. They will swallow it hook, line, and sinker. We have been feeding them our spin for years to the point where they have lost not only their critical judgment and journalistic integrity, but also their sense of sight and hearing when it comes to your image and narrative. They are guaranteed to pay attention only when you harm an Israeli or provide them with a negative proof of our stereotype. So don’t count on any audience or sympathy in the world for you are guilty and will be blamed. And if you suffer from any misguided notion that the UN or any other global body will come to your rescue, rest assured it ain’t gonna happen! Kofi Anan has been dispatched forthwith to prevent the destruction of statues (cultural heritage) in Afghanistan; he can’t be expected to deal with human reality at the same time. Besides, we might promise him a role in the peace process provided he behaves himself and looks the other way. We might have a harder time with your European friends, but they too can’t afford to irk us. As for the new US administration, don’t hold your breath. It, too, has decided to give me time to demonstrate my peace making skills. And I’m busy demonstrating those to the hilt, as you can see and feel. I will make peace with you if it takes everything that you have, including your land, lives, rights, and freedom.

My colleagues (including Chief of Staff General Mofaz and Minister of Defense General Ben Eliezer) concur with me. It is wonderful to be able to do my worst and still have Labor instruments (like Fuad) and apologists (like Peres) on my team. They certainly clean up my image! Besides, I’m not doing anymuch worse than Barak did. At least I‘m not shelling your homes for now (the Americans didn’t Like our use of Apaches for that purpose, and it didn’t look good before the cameras anyway.

So, if you know what is good for you, please behave like good little natives and kiss the hand that beats you. Say YES to peace, my way, and I guarantee you an efficient apartheid system. In the meantime, stop the violence and stop being the terrorists that youare. As for me, I remain forever a pacifist and a humanist (my way).

If only you would see it my way.

p.s. Note from Shimon (Peres). I really am pained at what you have to endure, but I am truly helpless having cast my lot with the Sharons, Liebermans and Ze’evis of this world. However, I will continue to work for my vision of new realities in the Middle East. This is only a sample of what it has in store for you. I have to rush and meet with my European colleagues and members of the press to let them know that Sharon isn’t all that bad. He is a new man for a new age. Given my (and his) history and age I have a tough job selling that spin! What do you think?

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