Sunday, January 13

MCC Palestine Update #36

MCC Palestine Update #36

13 January 2002

This past week eight Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip joined colleagues from Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt in Amman, Jordan for a regional meeting of conflict resolution practitioners sponsored by MCC. Those attending the meeting were graduates of the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University and are active in peace building in their respective countries and communities. At this meeting, participants shared knowledge and experiences with one another. MCC stands ready to support these committed peace builders as they consider what work they can do together regionally.

The Center for Agricultural Services, an MCC partner in the Hebron district, distributed over 3000 tree seedlings to more than 30 farmers in villages around Hebron. Targeted farmers were those living in close proximity to illegal Israeli colonies.

Below are three pieces. The first is a brief update on Israel's destruction of more than 50 homes in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, an act of collective punishment against a civilian population in retaliation for the killing of four Israeli soldiers by Hamas operatives on Wednesday. Former Israeli Knesset member Shulamit Aloni was straightforward when she called the Israeli Army action a war crime.

The second piece, by Israeli peace activist Neta Golan, movingly details her encounter with an Israeli soldier who had killed one of her friends in the West Bank village of Hares.

Finally, an interview from Le Monde with Ami Ayalon, the former head of the Shin Bet (Israel's internal security service which was responsible over the years for the torture of thousands of Palestinians); Ayalon's remarks are candid surprisingly insightful.

1. Urgent Update: Israeli Army Attacks Residential Neighbourhoods, Demolishing 73 Homes
The Palestine Monitor, 11 January 2002

Yesterday’s Israeli attack on, and destruction of, the Palestinian Civilian airport in Gaza has been widely reported. However, the army’s complete destruction of 53 homes, and partial destruction of 20 more, leaving 120 families homeless, is barely mentioned.

The destruction of these houses took place under the cover of tank and gunfire on Wednesday and Thursday nights while the inhabitants were sleeping; families, including hundreds of children, have now to seek temporary shelter in tents and school buildings -- in the middle of a severe winter.

At the same time the main road between Rafah and Khan Younis has been completely cut in two, with access denied to all traffic. This move makes the collection and transportation of refuse and sewage from the city of Khan Younis an impossibility. Furthermore the centralized sewage network was attacked and destroyed by the Israeli army at the same time as the attacks on Rafah. These two events leave the 110,000 residents of Khan Younis facing severe epidemiological and environmental problems.

Additionally, the destruction of the road means that the total population has been completely isolated from the only hospital in the area – the European Hospital, constructed by the European Union. Moreover, an ambulance attempting to transport a patient to the hospital was fired upon.

Since the Palestinian December 16th ceasefire the Israeli army has made over 20 attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and has killed 23 Palestinians.

For more information please contact The Palestine Monitor +972 2 2985372 and see

2. By Neta Golan

I had spent the day with the villagers of Deir Istiya in which we planted trees on land coveted by the settlement of Yakir. I was on my way home. Two soldiers recognized me and asked in Hebrew:" Neta how are you?" To them I was a novelty. "You know who I'm talking to?" One of them told a friend that phoned his cell phone "Neta from Peace Now" ( I am not from Peace Now but that's as far left as they could fathom).

We talked. At one point one of the soldiers told me: "when I see a terrorist laying on the ground in his own blood it gives me an appetite". He hesitated before continuing. He wanted to reveal to me something he was proud of. "There was a time when someone in Hares village picked up a huge bolder to throw at me. Do you know what I did?" He asked.

I knew. - "You killed him."

- "That's right" he smiled self-satisfied.

I know the two children and the young father who where murdered in Hares in the last fifteen months by Israeli soldiers so I asked him when it happened, On what day? By his answered I realized the soldier in front of me was the murderer of my friend Muhammad Daud.

- " Let me tell you who you killed" I said.

- "I don't care."

"I know you don't but I want you to know who you killed. His name was Muhammad Dud he was fifteen years old he was retarded and I loved him very much..." I told him every thing I could think of about Muhammad and about his family. He didn't want to hear it.

"I know where he was standing" I said "I saw his blood on the ground. There is know way he could have thrown a stone at you from so far away, let alone a boulder."

- "You weren't there." He was screaming now.

- "OK. You were there. So you tell me. How far do you think he could have thrown that "boulder"? three meters? Ten meters? Lets just imagine that it was humanly possible to throw it a hundred meters you where over three hundred meters away.

- " You weren't there. "

- "That's right I wasn't there. You were there. So you tell me how far away where you when you murdered him?

He kept trying to stop me but I wouldn't stop. It was all I could do. And the fact he didn't want to hear it was the only indication that maybe somewhere deep inside there is a piece of humanity still intact in this boy.

After they walked away I was lucky to have friends with me who held me as I wept. Meeting his killer reopened the wound of losing my friend, a wound that never healed. I realized that if any man was evil the soldier I just spoke to was, and yet he was a boy, an ignorant and stupid boy that never should have been given any power. That never should have step foot in any village. that never should have had a gun.

Young Soldiers, many of them like Muhammad's Killer control every Aspect of the lives of millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Ignorant youth like these have the power of life and death over Palestinian elders and children alike.

This cannot continue.

To stop this injustice we need help.

Help us.

In solidarity,
Neta Golan

3. An unconditional withdrawal from the Territories is urgently needed: Interview with Ami Ayalon
Le Monde, 22 December 2001

[Ami Ayalon, 55, headed Israeli interior security (known as Shin Beth), from February 1996 until May 2000, under Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Barak. in this interview with Le Monde from December 22. Ayalon urges that Israel unconditionally withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He says that there is no way for Israel to vanquish terrorism through military strength. The piece was translated from the French by Annette Herskovits.]

[Small, lean, dressed in jeans and an open shirt, Ayalon speaks

Alain Cypel (Le Monde): How do you see the state of political debate in Israel?

Ami Ayalon: Israeli society, top to bottom, is sinking into confusion.There are no reference points. People mask this reality with swaggering slogans: “We will vanquish terrorism!”. At a colloquium, the army chief of staff declares: “We are winning”; he evokes the “superiority of Tsahal” --the Israeli army -- and his “feeling that the nation is finding its strength.”

Then he adds “there are today more Palestinian terrorists than a year ago” and says there will be even more tomorrow! If we are winning, how come terrorists are multiplying?

In Israel, no one is in touch with reality. This is a consequence of a misperception of the peace process. “We have been generous and they refused!” is ridiculous, and everything that follows from this misperception is skewed. Moreover, our obsession with the Palestinians makes us forget to ask questions about ourselves. What do we want to be? Where are we going? No leader addresses these questions. Thus the confusion and general anxiety.

AC: The majority of leaders though are convinced that time works in favor of Israel.

AA: Since September 11, our leaders have been euphoric. With no more international pressures on Israel, they think, the way is open. This obscures the consequences of our holding onto the Palestinian Territories.

This is not only a moral matter. Our founders saw a state that provided a homeland for Jews and was a democracy. From both points of view, time plays against us! Demographically, it works in favor of the Palestinians. And politically in favor of Hamas and the settlers. But to fight against Hamas, we must evacuate the settlers, whose proximity to the Palestinians reinforces hatred.

Among the Palestinians, the weight of the Islamists is increasing, and also that of intellectuals who used to favor a two-state solution, but who now say: “Since the Israelis will never evacuate the settlements, well, then, there will be a binational state.”

This is something I absolutely oppose. It would not be a Jewish state any more. And if it remained a Jewish state while dominating the Arab population, it would not be a democracy.

AC: Do you exclude the possibility of an Israeli victory, despite the power differential?

AA: We have had our “victory”! In 1967, we occupied all the Palestinian lands. Once “terrorism is vanquished,” what shall we do? This is absurd. The Palestinians want self-rule. Whoever wants to “vanquish” them, then offer them bread and circuses, understands nothing. The Israeli army is stronger than ever, our secret services are excellent; then why is the problem not resolved? Reoccupying the Palestinian Authority lands, andkilling Arafat, what would that change? Those who want victory want an unending war.

AC: Yet, since September 11, many think that Israel can change the regional situation in its favor.

AA: An illusion! September 11 has changed many paradigms in the U.S., but nothing basic in the Middle East. Whatever Arafat’s errors, the Palestinian people will continue to exist. As long as the Palestinian question is not resolved, the region will not know stability.Only a Palestinian state will preserve the Jewish and democratic character of Israel.

We do need international political and financial help to resolve that problem and that of the refugees, because as long as the refugee problem persists, even if a Palestinian state exists, it will poison our relationship.

AC: But the Israelis are traumatized by the Palestinian demand for the return of refugees.

AA: Let us stop worrying about what our adversaries say and ask what we, ourselves, want. We do not want the return of the refugees. But we can refuse only if Israel acknowledges unambiguously its role in the suffering of the Palestinians and its obligation to help solve the problem. Israel must accept the principle of the right of return and the PLO must commit itself to not question the Jewish identity of our state.

AC: What do you think of the view put forth by the head of Mossad of Israel in the front line of the “third world war” against terrorism?

AA: Anyone who equals Arafat with Bin Laden understand neither Arafat nor Bin Laden. The latter is the guru of a very harmful sect, but one that is very marginal to Islam; it aims to bring chaos and cares nothing about the international community. But Arafat dreams of being accepted by the international community -- since 1993, he has constantly made reference to it, demanding the application of the UN resolutions, while we, Israelis, refuse! If Bin Laden is killed, his sect may disappear with him. If we kill Arafat, the Palestinian people will continue to want its independence.

AC: Do you fear that the Palestinian Territories may become a quagmire?

AA: We say the Palestinians behave like “madmen,” but it is not madness but a bottomless despair. As long as there was a peace process -- the prospect of an end to the occupation -- Arafat could maneuver, incite or repress violence to better negotiate. When there is no more peace process, the more terrorists one kills the more strength their camp gains.

Yasser Arafat neither prepared nor triggered the Intifada. The explosion was spontaneous, against Israel, as all hope for the end of occupation disappeared, and against the Palestinian authority, its corruption, its impotence. Arafat could not repress it. The peace process is what allowed Arafat to be seen as the head of a national liberation movement rather than a collaborator of Israel. Without it, he can fight neither against the Islamists nor against his own base. The Palestinians would end up hanging him in the public square.

AC: From Oslo to Camp David, did Israel miss a rare opportunity for peace?

AA: Yes. It is not all the Israelis’ fault. The Palestinians, the international community, bear some responsibility, but we missed an extraordinary opportunity: the international situation was incredibly favorable after the fall of communism, the Gulf war, the emergence of globalization, all these phenomena led Israel to reexamine its own assumptions. Now, we are regressing.

AC: Do you favor a “unilateral separation” from the Palestinians?

AA: I do not like the word separation, it reminds me of South Africa. I favor unconditional withdrawal from the Territories -- preferably in the context of an agreement, but not necessarily: what needs to be done, urgently, is to withdraw from the Territories. And a true withdrawal, which gives the Palestinians territorial continuity in a Transjordan linked to Gaza, open to Egypt and Jordan. If they proclaim their own state, Israel should be the first to recognize it and to propose state to state negotiations, without conditions, on the basis of the Clinton proposals, to resolve all pending problems.

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