by P A Joseph (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 12, Rabi' al-Thani, 1418)
The identity of the two bombers who blew themselves up simultaneously in a busy outdoor market in West Jerusalem on July 30 remains a mystery. The allegation against Hamas by the London Times (July 31) that a leaflet outside the Red Cross offices in Ramallah confirmed their hand behind it is viewed with skepticism here.
The CNN reported (July 30) that the bombers, in addition to being angry over insults to the noble Messenger, upon whom be peace, were also angry at the depiction of Mary, the pure mother of the Prophet Jesus, upon whom be peace, by an Israeli magazine with the head of a cow. This story, however, was quickly dropped from the headlines lest it should arouse any sympathy for the bombers among Christians in the west.
The death toll was first reported at 18, but gradually decreased to as low as 11, and the injured were over 150.
Typically, Israeli forces immediately closed the territories and government spokespersons filled the Israeli and western media reciting the standard litanies about ‘enemies of peace’ and ‘terrorism’. After an Israeli TV station announced an unconfirmed report that the Islamic Jihad was responsible for the attack, international news agencies in the region, such as CNN, began using the term ‘Islamic suicide bombers.’
But looking beyond the rhetoric, it is instructive to follow the reportage immediately after such incidents, before the various political and economic forces can get their stories, and take note of the contradictions they expose. It is also useful to consider related issues in the wake of the media-fest.
Yasser Arafat quickly gave a statement in English, insisting the ‘I condemn completely this terrorist act because it is against the Israelis, it is against us, and it is against the peace process.’ Arafat’s police had recently raided a ‘bomb factory’ in Beit Sahour near Bethlehem, apprehending two suspected ‘terrorists.’ Just prior to the attack, there seemed to be some signs that the Israelis, who had been foot-dragging for months, would allow the talks to continue, but Palestinian optimism seemed to be at a low point. The blast, ironically, seemed that it would give a boost to the floundering talks.
Hanan Ashrawi and other Palestinians cleared by the international political investment community, all publicly insisted that talks must continue. Palestinian journalist Adel Darwish* [See correction-Ed] told CNN that the only response is to continue the talks, and added that Israelis and Arabs must work together to ‘isolate the terrorists, isolate the radicals’ by making the Palestinians ‘dependent upon the peace infrastructure.’
The attack damaged Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that no ‘terrorist acts’ have occurred under his new government. His advisor David Bar-Ilan, and Israeli officialdom in general, insisted that all such acts are irrational, and in no way related to constant Israeli provocations, such as expanded settlements in Jerusalem or continuing land confiscation throughout the territories.
The Zionist party line is recited like Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbel’s ‘big lie,’ in the belief that if repeated enough times, it will be believed. But as the little public discourse allowed here suggests, it seems that the only ones who buy the lie these days are those who sell it hardest - the Zionist regime. Bar-Ilan has even dismissed Israeli voices linking the attack to his government’s actions demanding that all the blame must go to Arafat, who has not, he insists, been giving 100 percent effort in combating ‘terror.’
Netanyahu declares allegiance to Oslo but acts daily to undermine it. Just prior to the attack, Netanyahu had been denouncing the peace process. But when journalists asked Bar-Ilan if the attack did not provide an ideal opportunity for Netanyahu to ‘extricate himself from the peace process,’ he responded with another big lie, that the Israelis have always been for the peace process, but the Arabs are preventing it by allowing ‘terror’ to continue.
But this kind of blind insistence on big lies plunges the Zionists into a quandary. Mahane Yehuda Street in West Jerusalem where the attacks occurred, is under Israeli control and therefore the security breach is Netanyahu’s fault. The Zionist position seems to be that Arafat is responsible for any attack wherever it occurs. The Israelis have also demanded the resignation or dismissal of several members of the Palestinian police, for allegedly sympathizing with ‘terrorists.’ But would anyone tolerate mutual demands, for, say Ariel Sharon’s resignation?
As the hours after the blast wore on, the contradictions piled up. The current American administration is the most pro-Zionist ever, but incidents like this and the Israeli intransigence in sticking to its big lies has been trying nerves in Washington. US president Bill Clinton, with his voice raspy and still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, issued an early morning statement right after the attack suggesting that the Palestine Authority could not have done anything more than it has been doing to prevent this attack, and that his envoy Dennis Ross would postpone his trip to the region in order to observe a ‘period of mourning.’
The European Union’s (EU) Mideast envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos issued a statement from Damascus seconding Clinton’s admission, noting that Arafat is doing all he can to prevent such attacks, and he only needs to ‘reinforce his commitment.’ At the same time he also suggests that there cannot be peace without security for Israel but that there cannot be security without justice in the region. He added that the EU could ‘create the conditions for continuing the peace process.’
American academics had trouble dealing with the contradiction highlighted by the attack. For example, according to Robert Lieber of Georgetown University, the Palestinian leadership has an ‘attitude problem’ in continuing to refer to an ‘occupation,’ and that they were wrong in expecting the US to put pressure on Israel. But he also added that the Netanyahu government was being ‘inept’ and carrying out many ‘ill advised’ acts that were ‘provocative,’ though not in violation of Oslo.
However, the Palestinian Authority, he insisted, has consistently violated Oslo, and has released some ‘terrorists’ from prison and celebrated others in mass rallies. A spokesman for the Center for International and Strategic Studies at Georgetown admitted the dilemma of the asymmetry of power between the Israelis and Arabs, but focused only on military power and ignored the Zionist lobby which calls the shots on Mideast policy in Washington. Despite claims by politicos and academics to the contrary, the US continues to provide military and economic support to Israel. The US clearly acts as it chooses in the Mideast, as sanctions and embargoes against Iran and Iraq suggest, but refuses to put any pressure on the Zionists.
After the incident, CNN and Israeli TV quickly filled with incessant, repetitive images of wounded Jews. But these images lose their impace when one considers that none of the media outlets bother with the wounded and suffering of, for example, the Lebanese who endure daily Israeli attacks, or the various kinds of wounded that have resulted from the 50-year occupation of Palestine. In fact, despite its importance in the struggle for Palestine, focusing all the attention on high profile incidents like the attack in Jeruslaem distracts the world from realizing what has been going on in the rest of the region, and especially in the rest of Palestine.
Despite loud proclamations that the Israelis are pulling out of the West Bank, most of the actual movement is political. Israeli army units are still deployed around the numerous Zionist settlements that dot the territories like Crusader forts of another era. In Beitunia, a town near Ramallah, there is an Israeli military zone, in which the Israeli defence forces have burrowed into a mountain and constructed a vast network of tunnels in which they store military equipment. Garages at the site look like they could accommodate airplanes. This underground complex is said to be the biggest Israeli weapons stockpile in all of Palestine, and it is hard to imagine how a pullout would be engineered.
The road that leads to this military site is part of a network of roads that the Israelis are building around most Arab towns. In Beitunia, which has a hilly topography, the Zionists have encircled the town at the foot of its hills. Building outside these roads is prohibited, even if Arabs show legal title to the land. The road acts as a wall, turning Beitunia into a strictly circumscribed region with no chance of expansion beyond the borders established by the zionists.
Such roads, which circle many towns, also make it quite easy for the Israeli forces to close the areas and prevent any movement in or out. When the government plans to confiscate land for such projects, the owners are called into offices and offered a pittance to sign away their lands. This is cosmetic only, since land is at a premium in all of the West Bank these days, which is in the midst of a real estate and construction boom.
But alongside the boom is the creeping circumscription of all major towns by roads that severely limit their land base. What is occurring is that Arab towns are forced to expand inward, and upward with high rise buildings. Many, such as Ramallah and El Bireh are already quite congested, while the Zionists quietly monopolize the rest of the land. It is policies like this that exacerbate tensions in the region. While the world is focused on Jerusalem, creeping Zionism is slowly and surely enclosing what remains of Palestine, and that is the most tragic contradiction of all.
*NB: Adel Darwish, who is quoted in this article, is not a Palestinian. He is a British journalist of Albanian/Egyptian origin - Editor.
Muslimedia - August 16-31, 1997