Saturday, April 27

MCC Palestine Update #46

MCC Palestine Update #46

The talk in the international media this past week was of an Israeli pullout from West Bank towns. Reality proved more complex, with Israel still very much present in many West Bank towns while completely besieging others. Curfews and severe restriction on movement are the order of the day in many places.

Palestinian institutions--be they non-governmental or governmental, private or public--are beginning to dig out from under the looting, vandalism and destruction. Banks, development organizations, human rights organizations, the Ministry of Education, shops: the list of places trashed and from whom valuables were stolen goes on and on. The Israeli military has been engaging in a war against the Palestinian infrastructure, on the Palestinians' ability to function as a normal society. One example: the Ramallah and Nablus offices of the East Jerusalem YMCA were trashed and looted. MCC supports women's development programs and projects with persons with disabilities operated by the East Jerusalem YMCA: now they'll have to operate without needed equipment and records.

MCC continues to participate, along with Catholic Relief Services, World Vision International, Caritas International, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, the Lutheran World Federation and the International Orthodox Christian Committee, in relief convoys to West Bank cities. Last Saturday we went to Nablus; this Thursday to Jenin.

Below you will find four pieces. The first, by Edward Said, provides a trenchant analysis of the first three weeks of April. The second, by Israeli academic Avi Shlaim, details the obstacles the current Israeli government places before peace. The third, by Amira Hass of Ha'aretz newspaper, provides a report from the Jenin refugee camp. Fourth, Gideon Levy of Ha'aretz asks what, if any, political horizon Israel's currently military action presupposes. In the fifth and final piece, Naseer Aruri provides some historical perspective to the recent conflict, examining claims (which have been received repeated airings recently) that Israel generously offered the Palestinians an end to occupation.

1. What Israel Has Done
Edward Said
Al Ahram Weekly, 19 April 2002

Despite Israel's effort to restrict coverage of its extraordinarily destructive invasion of the West Bank's Palestinian towns and refugee camps, information and images have nevertheless seeped through. The Internet has provided hundreds of verbal as well as pictorial eyewitness reports, as has Arab and European TV coverage, most of it unavailable or blocked or spun out of existence from the mainstream US media. That evidence provides stunning proof of what Israel's campaign has actually (has always) been about: the irreversible conquest of Palestinian land and society. The official line (which the US, along with nearly every American media commentator has basically supported) is that Israel has been defending itself by retaliating for the suicide bombings that have undermined its security and even threatened its existence. That claim has gained the status of an absolute truth moderated neither by what Israel has done nor by what in fact has been done to it.

Plucking out the terrorist network, destroying the terrorist infrastructure, attacking terrorist nests (note the total dehumanization involved in every one of these phrases): the words are repeated so often and so unthinkingly that they have therefore given Israel the right to do what it has wanted to do, which in effect is to destroy Palestinian civil life with as much damage, as much sheer wanton destruction, killing, humiliation, vandalism, purposeless but overwhelming technological violence as possible. No other state on earth could have done what Israel has done with as much approbation and support as the US has given it. None has been more intransigent and destructive, less out of touch with its own realities, than Israel.

There are signs, however, that the amazing, not to say grotesque, ature of these claims (its "fight for existence") is slowly being eroded by the harsh and nearly unimaginable devastation wrought by the Jewish state and its homicidal prime minister, Ariel Sharon. Take this front-page report, "Attacks Turn Palestinian Plans Into Bent Metal and Piles of Dust" by the New York Times's Serge Schmemann (no Palestinian propagandist) on 11 April: "There is no way to assess the full extent of the damage to the cities and towns -- Ramallah, Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Nablus, and Jenin -- while they remain under a tight siege, with patrols and snipers firing in the streets. But it is safe to say that the infrastructure of life itself and of any future Palestinian state --roads, schools, electricity pylons, water pipes, telephone lines has been devastated." By what inhuman calculus did Israel's army, using 50 tanks, 250 missile strikes a day, and dozens of F-16 sorties, besiege Jenin's refugee camp for over a week, a one square kilometre patch of shacks housing 15,000 refugees and a few dozen men armed with automatic rifles and with no defenses whatever, no leaders, no missiles, no tanks, nothing, and call it a response to terrorist violence and the threat to Israel's survival? There are reported to be hundreds buried in the rubble Israeli bulldozers are now trying to heap over the camp's ruins.

Are Palestinian civilians, men, women, children, no more than rats or cockroaches that can be killed and attacked in the thousands without so much as a word of compassion or in their defense? And what about the capture of thousands of Palestinian men who have been taken off by Israeli soldiers without a trace, the destitution and homelessness of so many ordinary people trying to survive in the ruins created by Israeli bulldozers all over the West Bank, the siege that has now gone on for months and months, the cutting off of electricity and water in all Palestinian towns, the long days of total curfew, the shortage of food and medicine, the wounded who have bled to death, the systematic attacks on ambulances and aid workers that even the mild-mannered Kofi Annan has decried as outrageous? Those actions will not be pushed so easily into the memory hole. Its friends must ask Israel how its suicidal policies can possibly gain it peace, acceptance and security.

A monstrous transformation of an entire people by the most formidable and feared propaganda machine in the world into little more than "militants" and "terrorists" has allowed not just Israel's military but its fleet of writers and defenders to efface a terrible history of suffering and abuse in order to destroy the civil existence of the Palestinian people with impunity. Gone from public memory are the destruction of Palestinian society in 1948 and the creation of a dispossessed people; the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza and their military occupation since 1967; the invasion of 1982 with its 17,500 Lebanese and Palestinian dead and the Sabra and Shatila massacres; the continuous assault on Palestinian schools, refugee camps, hospitals, civil installations of every kind. 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 specializing 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?

In such a context of disparity and asymmetrical power, it seems deranged to keep asking the Palestinians, who have neither army, nor air force, nor tanks, nor defenses of any kind, nor functioning leadership, to "renounce" violence, and to require no comparable limitation on Israel's actions. Even the matter of suicide bombers, which I have always opposed, cannot be examined from a view point that permits a hidden racist standard to value Israeli lives over the many more Palestinian lives that have been lost, maimed, distorted and foreshortened by long- standing Israeli military occupation, and the systematic barbarity openly used by Sharon against Palestinians from the beginning of his career in the 1950s until now.

There can be no conceivable peace, in my opinion, that does not tackle the real issue: Israel's utter refusal to accept the sovereign existence of a Palestinian people that is entitled to rights over what Sharon and most of the people supporting him consider exclusively to be the land of Greater Israel, i.e. the West Bank and Gaza. A profile of Sharon in the 6-7 April issue of the Financial Times concluded with this extremely telling extract from his autobiography, which the FT prefaced with "he has written with pride of his parents' belief that Jews and Arabs could live side by side." Then the relevant quote from Sharon's book: "But they believed without question that only they had rights over the land. And no one was going to force them out, regardless of terror or anything else. When the land belongs to you physically... that is when you have power, not just physical power but spiritual power."

In l988, the PLO made the concession that the partition of historical Palestine into two states would be acceptable. This was reaffirmed on numerous occasions and certainly again in the Oslo documents. But only the Palestinians explicitly recognized the notion of partition. Israel never has. This is why there are now over 170 settlements on Palestinian lands, why a 300-mile network of roads connecting them to each other and totally impeding Palestinian movement exists (according to Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition, it has cost $3 billion and has been funded by the US), why no Israeli prime minister, from Rabin on, has ever conceded any real Palestinian sovereignty to the Palestinians, and why of course the settlements have increased on an annual basis. The merest glance at a recent map of the territories reveals what Israel has been doing throughout the peace process, and what the consequent geographical discontinuity and shrinkage in Palestinian life has been. In effect, then, Israel considers itself and the Jewish people to own the land of Israel in its entirety: there are land ownership laws in Israel itself guaranteeing this, but on the West Bank and Gaza the network of settlements, roads, and no concessions whatever on sovereign land rights to the Palestinians serve the same function.

What boggles the mind is that no official -- US, Palestinian, Arab, UN, European, or anyone else -- has challenged Israel on this point, which has been threaded through all of the Oslo documents, procedures and agreements. That is why, of course, after nearly 10 years of "peace negotiations," Israel still controls the West Bank and Gaza. They are more directly controlled (owned?) by over 1,000 Israeli tanks and thousands of soldiers today, but the underlying principle is the same. No Israeli leader (and certainly not Sharon and his Land of Israel supporters who are the majority in his government) has either officially recognized the occupied territories as occupied territories or gone on to recognise that Palestinians could or might theoretically have sovereign rights that is, without Israeli control over borders, water, air, security on what most of the world considers Palestinian land. So to speak about the "vision" of a Palestinian state, as has become fashionable, is mere vision alas, unless the question of land ownership and sovereignty is openly and officially conceded by the Israeli government. No Israeli government ever has made this concession and, if I am right, none will in the near future. It needs to be remembered that Israel is the only state in the world today that has never had internationally declared borders; the only state not the state of its citizens but of the whole Jewish people; the only state where over 90 per cent of the land is held in trust for the exclusive use of the Jewish people. That it is also the only state in the world never to have recognised any of the main provisions of international law (as argued recently in these pages by Richard Falk) suggests the depth and structural knottiness of the absolute rejectionism that Palestinians have had to face.

This is why I have been sceptical about discussions and meetings about peace, which is a lovely word but in the present context simply means that Palestinians will have to stop resisting Israeli control over their land. It is among the many deficiencies of Arafat's terrible leadership (to say nothing of the even more lamentable Arab leaders in general) that he never made the decade-long Oslo negotiations focus on land ownership, and thus never put the onus on Israel to declare itself constitutively willing to give up title to Palestinian land; nor did he ever ask that Israel be required to deal with any of its responsibility for the sufferings of his people. Now I worry that he may simply be trying to save himself again, whereas what we really need are international monitors to protect us, as well as elections to assure a real political future for the Palestinian people.

The profound question facing Israel and its people is this: is it willing juridically to assume the rights and obligations of being a country like any other, and forswear the kind of impossible land ownership assertions for which Sharon and his parents and his soldiers have been fighting since day one? In 1948 Palestinians lost 78 per cent of Palestine. In 1967 they lost the last 22 per cent, both times to Israel. Now the international community must lay upon Israel the obligation to accept the principle of real, as opposed to fictional, partition, and to accept the principle of limiting Israel's untenable extra-territorial claims, those absurd Biblically-based pretensions, and laws that have so far allowed it to override another people completely. Why is that kind of fundamentalism tolerated unquestioningly? But so far all we hear is that Palestinians must give up violence and condemn terror. Is nothing substantive ever demanded of Israel? Can it go on doing what it has without a thought for the consequences? That is the real question of its existence: whether it can exist as a state like all others, or must always be above the constraints and duties of all other states in the world today. The record is not reassuring.

2. America must see that Sharon is the problem
Avi Shlaim
The Observer, 14 April 2002

The Middle East conflict cannot be resolved while the Israelis are led by a man who sees military force as the only instrument of policy.

When running for Prime Minister in February of last year, Ariel Sharon, Israel's ferocious hawk, tried to reinvent himself as a man of peace. Against the background of the al-Aqsa intifada, which he had helped to trigger by his provocative visit to Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount), he ran on a ticket of peace with security. In his first year in power, Sharon has achieved neither peace nor security but only a steady escalation of the violence. In the last two weeks Sharon has revealed himself once again as a man wedded to military force as the only instrument of policy.

The 74 year-old Israeli leader has been at the sharp end of confrontation with the Arabs for most of his life. The hallmarks of his career are mendacity, the most savage brutality towards Arab civilians, and a persistent preference for force over diplomacy to solve political problems. These features found their clearest expression in the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 which Sharon masterminded as defense minister in Menachem Begin's Likud government.

The war that Sharon is currently waging on the West Bank fraudulently named 'Operation Defensive Shield', is in some ways a replay of his war in Lebanon. It is directed against the Palestinian people; it stems from the same stereotypes that the Palestinians are terrorists; it is based on the same denial of Palestinian national rights; it employs the same strategy of savage and overwhelming military force; and it displays the same callous disregard for international opinion, international law, the UN, and the norms of civilized behavior. Even the principal personalities are the same: today, as in 1982, Ariel Sharon confronts Yasser Arafat.

The invasion of Lebanon was not a defensive war but a war of deception. Sharon obtained cabinet approval for a limited military operation against the PLO forces in southern Lebanon. From the beginning, however, he planned a much bigger operation to serve broader geo-strategic aims. The principal objective of Sharon's war was to destroy the PLO as a military and political organisation, to break the backbone of Palestinian nationalism, to spread despair and despondency among the inhabitants of the West Bank, and to pave the way to its absorption into Greater Israel. A second objective was to give Israel's Maronite allies a leg-up to power, and then compel them to sign a peace treaty with Israel. A third objective was to expel the Syrian army from Lebanon and to make Israel the dominant power in the Levant.

Under Sharon's devious direction, an operation that was supposedly undertaken in self-defence developed into a merciless siege of Beirut and culminated in a horrendous massacre in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila which led to the removal of Sharon from the ministry of defence.

In his crude but relentless propaganda war, Sharon tries to portray Arafat as the master terrorist who orchestrates the violence against Israel and secretly encourages suicide bombings by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. To be sure, Arafat is not above using violence. Nor has he done as much as he could to curb the activities of the Islamic militants. Yet Arafat is the leader who persuaded his movement to abandon armed struggle and adopt the political path in the struggle for independence. By signing the Oslo Accord in 1993, and clinching it with a hesitant handshake, he and Yitzhak Rabin undertook to resolve the outstanding differences between their two nations by peaceful means. Until the assassination of Rabin two years later, Arafat proved himself an effective partner on the road to peace. The subsequent decline of the Oslo peace process was caused more by Israeli territorial expansionism than by Palestinian terrorism. Israeli settlements on the West Bank, which Sharon's government continues to expand, are the root of the problem.

Ever the opportunist, Sharon was quick to jump on the bandwagon of America's 'war against terror' in the aftermath of 11 September. Under this banner, Sharon has embarked on a sinister attempt to destroy the infrastructure of a future Palestinian state. His real agenda is to subvert what remains of the Oslo accords, to smash the Palestinians into the ground, and to extinguish hope for independence and statehood. To add insult to injury, he wants to remove Yasser Arafat, the democratically elected leader and symbol of the Palestinian revolution, and to replace him with a collaborationist regime which would serve as a sub-contractor What Sharon is unable or unwilling to comprehend is that security cannot be achieved by purely military means. The only hope of security for both communities lies in a return to the political track, something that the champion of violent solutions has always avoided. Consequently, Sharon's second war, like his first, is doomed to failure. If the history of this conflict teaches anything, it is that violence breeds more violence.

Many people who do not necessarily support Sharon's brutal methods nevertheless have sympathy for Israel's predicament. They point out that the suicide bombs against innocent Israeli civilians pre-dated the incursion of Israeli tanks into West Bank towns and villages. Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, however, goes back to 1967 and constitutes the underlying cause of Palestinian frustration, hatred, and despair of which the suicide bombs are only the cruelest manifestation. They say that Hamas and Islamic Jihad deny altogether Israel's right to exist. These are, however, them extremist fringes. The savage treatment meted out by Sharon to the Palestinians is self-defeating precisely because it undermines moderates and strengthens extremists.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the current crisis is America's complicity in the Israeli onslaught. One might have expected George Bush Jr. to resume the even-handed policy of his father towards Arabs and Israelis. Instead, he has reverted to a blatantly pro-Israeli policy reminiscent of the Reagan years. Although America is a signatory to the Oslo Accord, Bush has abandoned the Palestinian side.

Sharon is holding Arafat hostage in his headquarters in Ramallah, depriving him of food, water, medicines and telephone lines. The only concession that the American President has managed to extract from the truculent Israeli Prime Minister is a promise not to kill the Palestinian leader. The Israelis have destroyed much of Arafat's police force and security services, leaving him with a mobile phone. Under these conditions the embattled Palestinian leader does not have the means to prevent suicide attacks even if he had the will to do so.

In an apparent reversal of American policy a week ago, President Bush called on Sharon to pull out his troops from the Palestinian towns and villages. Sharon insisted they would stay as long as necessary to accomplish their mission of uprooting the infrastructure of terror. Secretary of State Colin Powell was dispatched to the region to broker a cease-fire and restore the political track. He is unlikely to get far with Sharon unless he backs up his words with the threat to cut economic and military aid to Israel. The death toll in 'Operation Defensive Shield' is more than 200 Palestinians and 60 Israelis. How many more lives will have to be sacrificed before the Americans understand that General Sharon is part of the problem, not the solution?

Avi Shlaim is a professor of International Relations at Oxford and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (2000)

3. What kind of war is this?'
Amira Hass
Haaretz, April 26, 2002

It is still impossible to know how many people are buried under the ruins in the Jenin refugee camp, where the smell of decomposing bodies mingles with the stench of garbage and the scent of geraniums and mint.

Leaning on a cane, the man stood on a huge pile of ruins: a jumble of crushed concrete, twisted iron rods, shreds of mattresses, electric cables, fragments of ceramic tiles, bits of water pipes and an orphaned light switch. "This is my home," he said, "and my son is inside." His name is Abu Rashid; his son is Jamal, 35, and confined to a wheelchair. The bulldozer began to gnaw into the house when members of the family were inside it. And where would they be, if not in the house, seeking - like all the inhabitants of the refugee camp in Jenin - the safest place to hide from the firing of the mortars and the rockets and the machine guns, and waiting for a brief respite?

Abu Rashid and the other members of his family hurried to the front door, went out with their hands up and tried to yell to the huge bulldozer, the operator of which was unseen and unheard, that there were people inside. But the bulldozer did not stop roaring, retreating a bit and then attacking again, returning and taking a bite out of the concrete wall, until it collapsed on Jamal before anyone could save him.

All around Abu Rashid other people were climbing up or down heaps of rubbish, making their way between piles of cement, sharp iron wires and fragments of metal, concrete pillars and ceilings that had collapsed, fragments of sinks. Not all of them were as as Abu Rashid, who talked to himself more than he talked to those who stopped to listen to him. There were those who tried to rescue something from the ruins: a garment, a shoe, a sack of grain.

Nearby, a young girl almost stumbled on a pile of broken cement blocks, pointed at the ceiling, at her feet, and wept and wept. Between the wails, she managed to say that this had been her parents' home and that she does not know who is buried under it, who had managed to get away, whether anyone was alive under the ruins, who would get them out, or when.

Among the piles of ruins, and in the midst of some houses that were still partially standing, the walls that had not collapsed riddled with numerous bullet holes of all sizes, a broad expanse had been created. Where, up until two weeks ago, several houses had stood, some of them three stories high, one or more Israel Defense Forces bulldozers had gone over the piles of cement several times, flattened them, ground them to dust, "made a `Trans-Israel highway,'" as A.S. put it. His home had also fallen victim to the bulldozers' teeth. Someone indicates a small opening in one pile of rubble. From it he had heard cries for help until Sunday night. On Monday morning there were no longer any sounds coming from it. Someone else points to what had formerly been a house where two sisters lived. Someone says that they are crippled. It is still unknown whether they are under the ruins or whether they got out of the camp in time.

Relative quiet

There are houses that were empty of inhabitants when they were demolished. In some cases the soldiers ordered people to leave immediately, so that they would not get killed. One old man, people say, refused to leave his home. "Fifty years ago you expelled me from Haifa. Now I have nowhere to go," they report he had said. The soldiers lifted the stubborn old man bodily and hauled him out. And there were cases in which they did not bother to issue a warning -and the bulldozers came. Without announcing over the bullhorns, without checking whether anyone was inside. This happened on Sunday, April 14, to the members of the Abu Bakr family, who live on the thin line between the refugee camp and the city of Jenin proper.

In both city and camp, a curfew had been imposed; soldiers were circulating in tanks and armored vehicles and on foot, shooting from time to time, tossing stun grenades or blowing up suspicious objects. But relative to the previous week it was quiet: There was no longer any firing from helicopters, no more exchanges of fire with a handful of armed Palestinian activists. But all of a sudden, at four in the afternoon, the members of the Abu Bakr family heard the sound of a wall being crushed. The father of the family went outside, waved a white flag and yelled to the soldiers: "We are in the house; where do you want us to go, why are you demolishing our home with us inside?" They yelled at him: "Yallah, yallah, get inside," and stopped the bull- dozer.

This narrow seamline where the house is located, several meters wide, has in recent days served as a transit bridge from the city to the refugee camp. The residents of the city, many of whom come from the refugee camp, tried to evade the soldiers and bring their relatives and friends water, food and cigarettes. At the Abu Bakrs' home they concluded that the soldiers wanted to expand the area that separates the city from the camp in order to prevent "smuggling" of one sort or another.

In the evening, an armored vehicle was positioned next to the house and soldiers combed the surrounding courtyard. Then the armored vehicle left. M. went to make coffee. He managed to put a teaspoon of sugar into the narrow-necked, long-handled coffee pot and began to stir the boiling water when someone or something came quickly in through the window,
broke the glass and set the kitchen on fire. A stun grenade? A tear-gas grenade? Did the soldiers outside think someone was firing at them when he lit the gas burner? M. thanks God that only his hands and face were burned in the flames that were immediately extinguished, and that other people in the family weren't hurt, and that the house was not destroyed.

Mohammed al-Sba'a, 70, was not so lucky. On Monday, April 8, the bulldozers thundered near his home in the Hawashan neighborhood, in the middle of the camp. He went out of his house to tell the soldiers that there were people inside - he and his wife, his two sons, their wives and seven children. He was shot in his doorway, hit in the head and killed, related one of his sons this
week. Members of his family managed to bring him inside. But then they were ordered to come out: The men were arrested, and then released and taken to the village of Rumani, northwest of Jenin. The women were taken to the Red Crescent building. The father's body remained in the house. When the men of the family returned from arrest, they could not find the house.

The destruction of dozens of houses by bulldozers began on Saturday, April 6, four days after the Israel Defense Forces attack on Jenin began. It is not yet possible to know how many people were buried under the ruined houses. The horrible smell of dead bodies of which new ones are being discovered every day - mingles with the stink of the garbage that has not been collected, the garbage that has been burnt and the surprising smells of geraniums, roses and the mint that grows near the bougainvillea that people cultivated in the narrow strips of ground between the crowded houses. When the time comes, UNRWA and the Red Cross will make lists of the detained, the wounded and the missing. But the most urgent mission right now is the distribution of water, food and medicines. The camp has been defined as a disaster area.

The demolition of the homes by bulldozers was preceded by heavy shooting and shelling from tanks, from the beginning of the IDF action on the night of Tuesday, April 2. The tanks surrounded the camp, took up positions on the hill to the west of it, rumbled into the main street. Two days later, firing from helicopters began, people relate: rocket fire and submachine-gun fire. People took shelter under staircases, on the ground floor, in interior bathrooms, in storehouses near the inner courtyards. People crowded into small rooms, feeling each other in the dark, frightened. They blocked their ears and shut their eyes, cuddled the small, crying children.

Damage statistics

When the shooting died down, they related, they went out and found their houses scorched, flames and smoke rising from them, riddled with holes, their floors shaky, doors and windows ripped out, windowpanes smashed to bits, huge holes in the front walls. The turn of the damage statistics will also come, and when it does, UN teams will tell of how many houses were destroyed by the bulldozers, how many were damaged by the shooting and whether they can be repaired or whether it is safer to demolish them altogether. How many families were in them. How many individuals.

Yumm Yasser rescued a year-old baby from the neighbors' house, which was shelled. The baby's father, Rizk, she related, crawled out with his two legs injured and his back burned by fire. He came out with his arm stretched forward, bleeding, she said. The house was surrounded by soldiers. A military doctor or paramedic came, cleaned the wounds, bandaged them, and soldiers took him to the area of the cemetery and left him there. Neighbors who saw him gathered him up and called a doctor. They managed to get him to a hospital only a week after he was wounded.

H. and her family were in their house when it was bombarded. They ran to take shelter in her father's home nearby. H. thinks that this was on April 8. People find it hard to remember exact dates; all the days of the attack have become a jumble of fear and blood and destruction, without nights or days. Y., her husband, was wounded by the shooting when he went out the door. She dragged him to her father's house. There they bandaged his leg, prayed that everything would be all right and managed to get him to a private hospital only on Sunday, April 14, evading the soldiers who patrolled the alley on foot.

A.S. was wounded in the course of performing an IDF mission: A foot patrol took him out of his house to accompany soldiers, walk ahead of them and open the doors of the neighborhood for them. A.S. did as he was told, and as he stood by one of the doors, another unit of soldiers appeared. Perhaps they thought he belonged to the mukawamin (insurgents, armed activists), because no one else dared to roam the streets during those first days of the IDF takeover of the camp. He was shot and wounded. For four days he lay in the home of neighbors, until his brothers managed to take him to medical care. Their home, on the second floor of the family's house on the hillside, was damaged by three to five rockets and numerous bullets. Soldiers took up positions in a tall house nearby, and shot.

His mother tells the story at length, leading visitors from one destroyed room to the next. And then she takes us out to the garden: he loved to plant things, he loved life, not death, she said of her son. Her other sons offered the visitors fruit from the garden: pleasantly tart loquats, refreshingly juicy plums. Most of the water tanks in the camp had been hit during the first days of the shooting. The water pipes were burst by the IDF bulldozers and the tanks. The fresh water supply was cut off immediately. Therefore, when every drop of water must be saved, biting into these fruits is a luxury.

Abu Riyad, 51, was also enlisted, like many others, for IDF missions. For five days he accompanied soldiers: During the day he walked ahead of them, from door to door, knocked on the doors as the soldiers concealed themselves behind him, their rifles aimed at the door and at him. At night he was with them in a house they had taken over. They handcuffed him and two soldiers guarded him, he said. At the end of his mission, they told him to stay in a certain house,alone. All around the bulldozers and the tanks thundered. One of the tanks rolled onto the house. Abu Riyad jumped to another house, leaping from one destroyed house to another until he got to his home, which he also found partially in ruins, from hits by three rockets. There were 13 people in the house when the rocket landed on it.

A soldier cleaned the bathroom

S. declared that she had been lucky. Her family's house was only occupied for a week, like a dozen other houses in the camp that climbs up the hillside and the cliffs. S. is a widow who lives withher brother and his family in a house at the western edge of the camp: four adults, 10 children. Most of the residents had left the neighborhood before the IDF invasion. On the first and second nights soldiers took over two or three houses adjacent to the home of S.'s family. The members of the family took shelter in the kitchen, which they thought was the most protected room. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, someone came in through the wall, made a gaping hole near the floor and came in right over the head of 8-year-old Rabiya. Windowpanes shattered and the room was covered in dust. The 14 people in the kitchen began to scream. Through the hole in the wall they heard someone shouting in Arabic: Anyone who leaves the house will die. They peeked and saw a group of soldiers in the narrow alley. They tried to negotiate with the soldiers; perhaps they would go out to the neighbors' house, to a safer room, but the only answer they heard was: "Whoever leaves the house will die."

After a short while, the soldiers made a hole in the wall that leads to the staircase and came in through it. The members of the family, huddled together in one corner, looked on in astonishment as more and more soldiers came in, their faces painted black. The members of the family were put in another room, full of broken glass and dust. They were held there from the evening until early Friday morning. The soldiers, related S., did not allow them to leave the dimly lit room. When they pleaded to go to the bathroom, the soldiers brought them a pot from the kitchen. S.'s brother-in-law was arrested, and three women and their children were left along in a house filled with strange soldiers.

At dawn, S. opened the door and discovered that the soldiers had been replaced. With hand gestures and body language she signaled that she wanted to go to the bathroom, to take the children to the bathroom, to bring food. Someone who looked to her like an officer said to go ahead. She had to make her way through any number of soldiers who were lying on the floor of her home, tiptoeing among them. The filth she found in the bathroom disgusted her. The officer who was next to her hung his head and she concluded that he was ashamed of what he saw. He went to a nearby house, where no one was home, and brought water. And he cleaned the bathroom. When they leave in about a week the soldiers will leave behind a large pile of leftovers from their rations.

During that night, when the family was locked into one room, the soldiers made a search of the house. They emptied drawers and cupboards, overturned furniture, broke the television, cut the phone line, took away the telephone and broke another hole in a wall that leads to another apartment. Along the broken wall is a picture done in watercolors that was painted by her brother-in-law's brother when he was 15. He drew a Swiss landscape: a lake, snowcapped mountains, evergreen trees, a deer, a house with a red-tiled roof and smoke curling from the chimney. By the shore of the lake he painted two mustached men dressed as Palestinians, riding a donkey. The date: May 10, 1995. The signature: Ashraf Abu al-Haija.

Al-Haija was killed on one of the first days of the IDF attack, hit by a rocket. On Tuesday of last week his scorched body was still lying in one of the rooms of the half-destroyed house. Al-Haija was an activist in Hamas, who together with members of other armed groups had sworn to defend the camp to the death. J.Z., two of whose nephews were among the armed men who were killed, estimates that they numbered no more than 70. "But everyone who helped them saw himself as active in the resistance: those who signaled from afar that soldiers were approaching, those who hid them, those who made tea for them." According to him, no door in the camp was closed to them when they fled from the soldiers who were looking for them, the people of the camp, he said, decided not to abandon him, not to leave the fighters to their own devices. This was the decision of the majority, taken individually by each person.

Despite his family and emotional relationship with many of the armed men, he admits that it is hard for him to describe exactly how the fighting went in which they were killed and in which Israeli soldiers were killed. "From reconstructions that we made together, it appears to us that the army attacked the camp with tank and machine gun fire from several directions and tried to get infantry forces in. But because of the resistance by our fighters, this failed. Then they started to attack all the houses in the camp with helicopters and tanks, indiscriminately. The soldiers that took over the houses at the edge of the camp signaled where to fire and hit." Gradually, the armed Palestinians were routed deeper into the camp, to their last battles.

J.Z. is a construction worker who built his own home and homes of friends. His house was destroyed by direct hits from several rockets. He is sleeping at the home of his young friend, A.M. When darkness envelops the camp, whose electricity has been cut off since April 3, candlelight shines through only a few of the windows. There is an illusion that a window through which light does not shine will not be hit by shooting. IDF fire continues at intervals, though there are no longer any Palestinians who will shoot in the direction of the soldiers. From time to time the silence is shattered by the sound of an explosion.

Anxiety and uncertainty are overcome in a conversation typical of these days, with A.N.'s mother and his aunt. On Monday evening the conversation with the guest from Israel began with the enumeration of those J.Z. knows were killed: Seven of them were armed men killed in battle. There were 10 civilians, among them three women and at least two old men. There are scores of people whose fate is still unknown.

The conversation jumps from memories of the prison installation at Ketsiot, where J. was imprisoned during the first intifada and which has now been reopened, for soldiers. One soldier, someone had told A.M., had left his skullcap in a house he had searched. Heavy shooting enveloped the neighborhood and the house where he had forgotten the skullcap. The soldier told a young Palestinian who had been "recruited" that if he brought him the skullcap he would be released. Dodging the bullets, the young man ran to the house, brought the skullcap and was allowed to go home. J. tells another story that is going around the camp, about soldiers who were attacked from inside a house they had taken over earlier, from which they fled, leaving their weapons behind. It is said in the camp that one of them cried: "Mother, mother, what kind of war is this?"

4. Listen to Barghouti
Gideon Levy

It's a good thing Israel did not kill Marwan Barghouti; but it's a shame that it arrested him. Following dozens of assassinations, the Israel Defense Forces suddenly proved that when it wants to arrest someone instead of assassinating him, it knows how to do it quite well. If Israel had only adopted the same approach with Fatah activist Dr. Thabet Thabet, or the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Abu Ali Mustafa, plus a long list of other targeted Palestinians, the intifada's flames would be a lot lower and a lot of blood would have been spared on both sides.

Regrettably, however, Israel did not take the wiser course of action and allow the Tanzim leader to remain in hiding, the way it has done with some of the other leaders of the Palestinian security services whom, Israel says, have been involved in terror attacks. Arresting Barghouti may have been just, but it is not wise. Now he'll become the Palestinian Nelson Mandela.

Now that Barghouti is under arrest, Israel must put him on trial in a civilian court, as befits a political leader suspected of serious crimes. As for the difference between civilian courts and military ones, it has already been said that it's about the same as the difference between a philharmonic orchestra and a military band - the same instruments, but with different results.

Barghouti has a much greater chance of getting a fair trial to which, like any suspect, he is entitled - in a civilian court in Jerusalem than in the military tribunals of Beit El. The court hearings should be open to the public, so that the representatives of the Shin Bet security service and the State Prosecution are required to display the evidence against the man to the entire world. And do we still need to point out that Barghouti should not be tortured, as happened the last time he was arrested? Humiliating him will also fan the flames of rage in the Palestinian and Arab street.

Of no less importance is to listen to the accused. Not only could the Shin Bet learn quite a bit from him, all Israelis should take heed as well. Look at Barghouti and you'll understand the entire story.The path he took was the only one we showed the Palestinians a path on which we tripped and pushed them deeper and deeper into despair and ultimately to violence.

Barghouti may be responsible for ruthless terror attacks, but Israel is likely to long for leaders like him, because his heirs will be much, much worse. Full of vengeance and hate, they will not be partners to a compromise like he would be. "You think tomorrow they'll find someone more moderate than me, someone to make [Chief of Staff Shaul] Mofaz coffee in the morning?" he quipped to me a few months ago when he feared he was on Israel's death list.

Barghouti did not begin by killing. As a politician, who apparently turned into a terrorist, it cannot be said of him that he did not try the path of negotiations. He was a peace activist. Few Palestinians were as active as he in promoting peace. He was deeply involved in contacts with many Israelis - and not only ones from the left and never hid his admiration for certain elements of Israeli life. "I wake up in the morning and look West, not East," he once told me. In those days, he marched in peace demonstrations, his arms locked with those of Meretz lawmakers Dedi Zucker and Zahava Gal-On.

That image may be surreal now, just like the days when he used to take his children to the Safari animal park in Ramat Gan. He would visit the political parties' central committees and MKs, making friends with some of them on joint delegations overseas, never missing a meeting and believing all the time in the purpose of the dialogue. "When will you finally understand that nothing frightens the Palestinians the way the settlements do?" he asked me on Land Day in 1997, while we drove around burning tires in his little car.

A few months ago, while already in hiding, he still called himself "the Palestinian peace camp." An alumnus of Israeli prisons, Barghouti is practically the last vestige of those Palestinians who knew Israelis well and even admired some of their characteristics. "I tell myself how patient we were," he said recently. "I was ready to meet with Shas and the Likud - with everyone. To talk. To persuade. But the Israelis don't want to understand." Now, the beloved has become an enemy. "I know how I've changed," he admits.

More than anything else - and he should be believed on this he wanted an end to the occupation, not the killing of Israelis and the destruction of their state. But the path grew longer and longer, until, as far as he was concerned, it was never-ending. As in any criminal case, pay attention to the motive for the crime: Barghouti's motive was politically justified, even if his actions cannot be. The politician became the leader of a violent organization that chose terror. At first, he limited his organization to actions only inside the occupied territories, apparently escalating its efforts until he eventually sent suicide bombers to Tel Aviv. "Why should you feel safe in Tel Aviv when we don't feel secure in Ramallah?" he asked.

The image of Barghouti shackled by Israeli soldiers is also a picture that goes back terribly far in time. The former prisoner and deportee, who became a leader and a legitimate partner for dialogue, is once again in irons. Israeli tanks are in the casbahs, soldiers are in the refugee camps, the Ketziot Prison has reopened, and Barghouti is under arrest once again. The long path Israelis and Palestinians walked together seems to have vanished, as if it had never existed at all. When Barghouti is released again from prison, he'll be even more extreme. Maybe by then, there will be nobody to talk with.

"This is our gift for Independence Day," one IDF officer so arrogantly defined his arrest. No gift could be more depressing.

5. Israel’s recipe for perpetual conflict"
Naseer Aruri on why Oslo was doomed to fail
19 April 2002 Page 7

NO ISRAELI defense of its war on Palestinians would be complete without a reference to Yasser Arafat’s supposed rejection of "peace" at the Camp David summit hosted by Bill Clinton in 2000. The story is so engrained in the mythology of the conflict that the mainstream media repeat it at the drop of a hat--that an irrational Arafat walked away from a generous Israeli offer that would have given his Palestinian Authority (PA) control of 95 percent of the Occupied Territories of Gaza and the West Bank.

The facts are different. NASEER ARURI is the author of The Obstruction of Peace: The U.S., Israel and the Palestinians. He explained the reality to ANTHONY ARNOVE.

DID YASSER Arafat reject peace at Camp David?

ARAFAT WAS offered neither a credible peace nor a viable Palestinian state at Camp David II.

Israel had reneged on its obligation to make an agreed-upon withdrawal, and proceeded to Camp David with a speech by Prime Minister Barak in which three no’s were delivered: not to any return to the 1967 borders of Israel, no to any change in the status of Jerusalem, and no to the return of refugees.

The myth of the "generous offer" consisted of four enclaves, bisected by illegally built colonial settlements and bypass roads for Jews only that would have prevented the Palestinians from ever establishing a viable, independent and contiguous state in any area between the River Jordan and
the Mediterranean Sea.

Although the four cantons (northern West Bank, central West Bank, southern West Bank and Gaza) may have been called a "state," the requirements of nation-states were sorely missing. It would have been a state without sovereignty, without geographic continuity and lacking control over its borders, airspace and economic and water resources. In fact, it would have consisted of 64 clusters as islands in the midst of Israel--a "state" existing within Israel, but not alongside Israel.

Moreover, the often-touted story that Barak offered to relinquish 95 to 96 percent of the West Bank-Gaza territory was never examined by the army of U.S. journalists who never spare a chance to repeat it.

The percentage game didn’t take into account the fact that occupied and annexed East Jerusalem was expanded from six square kilometers to 70 square kilometers--to include the land of 28 Palestinian villages. Israel’s total percentage figures have conveniently excluded Jerusalem,the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley and the settlements.

Needless to say, the West Bank and Gaza constitute 22 percent of pre-Israel Palestine, in which Jewish ownership comprised 7 percent. So the generous offer was not 95 percent of the 22 percent, but more like 70 percent of the 22 percent--which would be about 15 percent of historic
Palestine at best.

Moreover, Arafat was expected to relinquish the right of the refugees to return, which is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as by UN General Assembly Resolution 194. In addition, Israel would have retained sovereignty on the land on which Muslim and Christian Holy places are built, while the Palestine Authority would have had control over the buildings.

This was certainly a recipe for perpetual conflict rather than peace.

DO YOU think the Oslo "peace" process was doomed to fail?

THE OSLO process failed because it was an agreement to reach an agreement with built-in gridlock. It was intended to create a facade of diplomacy that would enable Israel to conquer additional Palestinian territory for colonial settlements and bypass roads, under presumed peace

The Israeli strategy behind Oslo was based on pursuing a settlement that excluded any sovereign existence for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. It was designed to be a cost-effective strategy, in which the economic and moral cost of policing the occupation would be transferred to Arafat and his Palestinian Authority, while Israel would be released to pursue its world trade ambitions in an atmosphere of normalization with the Arab Middle East.

Knowing that the end game would never include Palestinian independence and the dismantling of the occupation, Israeli governments--irrespective of whether they were led by Likud or Labor--exploited the gridlock in order to procrastinate and prolong the interim period, but never arrive at the final-status negotiations.

The Oslo process became, in effect, a mere process with little substance--a process of creating a self-governing modality for thePalestinians, instead of reaching accords on sovereignty, borders, water, Jerusalem and refugees.

That was the reason for Bill Clinton’s personal involvement in what became known as the Wye River agreement and the Hebron agreement during the late 1990s, among other attempts to iron out problems.

During these endless meetings, the Palestinian Authority was pressed to make one concession after another, including becoming virtually a CIA operative whose mission was to eliminate any popular resistance to the occupation (defined as terrorism).

When Ehud Barak finally decided to renege on Israel’s obligations to make scheduled withdrawals and opted for a final settlement at Camp David in July 2000, the pillars of a credible settlement were absent. Arafat, however, was coaxed into attending a prematurely arranged conference that was bound to fail. Having realized that they had more than exhausted the search for a negotiated settlement, the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories rebelled, and the rest is well-known.

WHAT STRATEGY is Sharon following now?

SHARON’S STRATEGY right now is a continuation of his strategy from more than a quarter of a century ago--the redefinition of Israel’s borders to include all of pre-1948 Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. He has been an outspoken advocate of the notion that the
Palestinians should have their sovereign state--in Jordan.

Under the pretext of dismantling the "terrorism infrastructure," he launched an all-out onslaught designed to obliterate not only the Palestinian Authority, but also the economic and political infrastructure of the Palestinians, including cultural, medical and humanitarian institutions.

As prime minister, he has been vigorously trying to browbeat Palestinians into an unconditional surrender--forcing them to end their uprising against the occupation once and for all and accept a fragmented entity under Israel’s overall control.

He has tightened the economic siege and blocked communication between towns, villages and cities--making life unbearable for the ordinary Palestinian, with the purpose of persuading as many as possible to leave.

This is calculated to implement the policy known in Israel as "transfer"--meaning expulsion of Palestinians, or ethnic cleansing.

A negotiated settlement, even on the basis of Oslo, hasn’t been and isn’t now on Sharon’s agenda. That doesn’t mean that it’s on the agenda of the Labor Party, whose luminaries such as Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak have adhered to the same strategies with different tactics.

Thus, any attempts by Colin Powell to broker a settlement will be futile unless the occupation is dismantled in accordance with international law, and negotiations begin over implementing international law relating to the principal issues, such as the status of Jerusalem, rights of refugees, water and borders.

No comments: