Arafat focused on political survival as Palestinians die around him

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Our Own Correspondent

Dhu al-Hijjah 27, 1423 2003-03-01

Occupied Arab World

by Our Own Correspondent (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 32, No. 1, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1423)

Some news items remain fairly constant: while the world’s attention is turned to international politicking before the US’s almost-inevitable attack on Iraq, Israel is maintaining a heavy military pressure on Palestinians, killing an average of three or four a day in recent weeks.

The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights (LAW) reported on February 24 that 38 Palestinians had been martyred by Israeli troops in the two weeks from February 6-19, including three children aged 8, 10 and 13, and a 65-year-old woman killed during the destruction of her home. Eleven of those martyred were killed in a single Israeli operation in Ghazzah City on February 18, bringing the total number killed in Ghazzah alone since the beginning of the intifada up to 1,821, according to Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

As Crescent went to press, Israeli troops were also attacking Nablus’s old city for the fifth consecutive day. At least seven people were killed in the first three days of the operations, including an elderly man and his grandson shot by a sniper on the roof of their house on February 19. Two other children were killed in separate incidents. In yet another incident, a youth was stopped at a checkpoint, searched, then told to go on his way. Witnesses say that after he had walked about 40 metres, he was shot in the back for no apparent reason. These deaths are on top of the 38 reported by LAW.

The continuing Israeli operations are clearly part of an deliberate plan to cause as much suffering and damage to the Palestinians as possible, while it is possible for them to do so, and in the hope that the Palestinians will lose heart and stop their resistance to Israeli plans. Israeli defence minister Shaul Mofaz said on February 17 that "It is time to act, not to talk. It is time to strike the Palestinians with the full capacity of our power."

Despite the Israeli brutality, however, the Palestinian mujahideen have been successful in maintaining resistance against them. In a major triumph on February 15, Hamas destroyed a heavily-armoured Minerva tank near the Jewish settlement of Dugit in northern Ghazzah. Four soldiers were killed, and Israel’s usual tactic of using armour to protect their troops while entering Palestinian towns and cities was severely shaken.

Two days later, six Hamas mujahideen were martyred when an unmanned aircraft which they were preparing for an operation against Israeli troops exploded prematurely. It was not immediately clear whether it exploded through a mishap, or whether it was hit by a missile fired by an Israeli aircraft or helicopter. 70,000 people took part in the martyrs’ funeral procession.

While ordinary Palestinians are fighting and dying to resist the zionists, however, their so-called leaders are struggling not for Islam or Palestine, but for their own political survival. Yasser Arafat, the ‘president’ of the Palestinian Authority (PA), such of it as survives, expressed his "unreserved agreement" on February 18 to the ‘road map’ for peace proposed by the ‘Middle East Quartet’ (comprised of the US, the UN, the European Union and Russia), which is charged with resurrecting the peace process. This includes further political reform of the PA, including the appointment of a prime minister at some time in the future, whom the West hopes will replace Arafat as leader of the PA, and renewed efforts to persuade Hamas, the main resistance organization, to accept a ceasefire on Israeli terms.

Bowing to every demand made of him, albeit reluctantly, is Arafat’s latest strategy for survival. It is unlikely, however, to save him in the long term. Charged by Israel and the West with persuading the Palestinians to accept their terms for ‘peace’, the intifada and resistance to Israel’s reoccupation of PA areas is proof of his failure. Unable to deliver the impossible, he will soon be cast aside and replaced by someone who, Israel and the West hope, will prove more cooperative and able. The impossible, however, will remain impossible, so the struggle will go on.

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