by Waseem Shehzad (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 31, No. 9, Rabi' al-Thani, 1423)
In a speech that appeared to have been written in Tel Aviv rather than in Washington, US president George Bush demanded that the Palestinian people find a leader to replace Yasser Arafat if they hope to have a state of their own in some distant future. Bush was essentially parroting what Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon had been saying for months, even as the Israeli army reoccupied West Bank towns on June 24. While Bush demanded the Palestinians end their resistance to zionist occupation, the Israeli army continued its mayhem, killing six more Palestinians in a rocket-attack in Ghazzah even as Bush spoke. The Palestinian death toll has now passed the 2,000 mark since the second intifada began (September 2000).
Bush gave a string of conditions for the Palestinians to fulfil before they could hope for an undefined state three years from now. These include “a new and different Palestinian leadership so that a Palestinian state can be born.” The American president also demanded “reforms” that “must be more than cosmetic changes or a veiled attempt to preserve the status quo.” According to Bush’s schedule, elections should be held by the end of the year for a legislature with normal authority, and there also must be a constitution. “When the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbours, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state, whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East.” There were few demands, if any, made of the occupiers of Palestine, who have in effect been given a green light to kill at will.
The Palestinian state of Bush’s conception, however, will only have provisional borders and sovereignty that will be negotiated as part of a larger Middle East settlement at an undetermined time in the future. So the Palestinians must end their resistance but they can only hope for the Israelis’ and Americans’ non-existent good will. While calling for the Palestinians to elect their leaders by a “democratic” process, the American president at the same time demanded the dismissal of Arafat. The Palestinian Authority chairman may not be the most likeable person in the world—and Palestinians are certainly familiar with his brutal tactics — yet it is ridiculous that Bush should be talking about ‘democracy’ while insisting that a Palestinian leader must have his approval.
It is ironic that Arafat was imposed on the Palestinians after the Oslo Accords were signed in September 1993. Arafat’s mandate was to crush the Islamic resistance; his police were trained and armed by the Israelis to do that dirty work. Arafat’s men did it with relish, consigning hundreds of Islamic activists to prisons, where they were tortured. For this treachery Arafat was made “chairman” and projected as a world statesman. To their credit, the leaders of the Islamic resistance showed great wisdom, refusing to retaliate and thereby frustrating one of the zionists’ major plans, namely to instigate a Palestinian civil war.
It was the beginning of the second intifada, also called the al-Aqsa Intifada, that led to dramatic developments, forcing Arafat to make amends with the Islamic resistance. While the Palestinian Authority continues to give in to US demands, Sharon is busy demolishing its infrastructure because he does not really want peace, even the kind that the US brokered in Oslo. Sharon is a butcher who is only prepared to offer the Palestinians the peace of the grave. Now he has also found an American president who is completely ignorant of Middle Eastern realities, so he can dictate to him. This is compounded by the blackmailing tactics of the zionist lobby in the US, whose support Bush hopes to use to get back to the White House in 2004. His advisors are determined not to repeat the mistake his father made by alienating the Jewish vote in America. Bush’s presidential victory was regarded by many as a fraud until the events of September 11 last year elevated him to the position of the most popular president in American history.
Bush’s speech was in reality an acknowledgement of the success of the Palestinians’ martyrdom operations. When he called on the Palestinian people “to elect new leaders not compromised by terror,” he was actually admitting that Sharon and his murderous thugs had failed to crush the spirit of resistance. Bush alleged that “Today, Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing, terrorism. This is unacceptable.” Appearing on CNN’s Crossfire programme on June 24, Hassan Abdul Rahman, Palestinian ambassador to the US, asked straightforwardly how, if the 50,000-strong Israeli army of occupation, backed by hundreds of tanks, could not protect people in Jerusalem from bombings, how Arafat could do it while under house arrest in Ramallah.
The Islamic resistance, meanwhile, continues to deal heavy blows to the zionist occupiers. On June 18 a bomber destroyed a bus in Jerusalem, killing 19 Israelis, most of them soldiers, and wounding 50 others. The following day, another bomber detonated a bomb near a bus-stop, killing six more Israelis, bringing the total to 26 in two days. A day later, an Israeli settler colony was attacked near Nablus and five more people were killed. This was one of the grimmest weeks in Israel’s history. After each such operation, Israel’s response is to attack Palestinian areas in an attempt to terrorise them into submission. This is what happened on June 19 as well as two days later, when Israeli tanks fired shells into a crowded market in Jenin, killing four children. But this has failed to intimidate the Palestinians; people who have suffered so much and have so little hope for the future are not going to be cowed by such tactics. The Palestinians have reached the conclusion that, if they have to die at their tormentors’ hands, then they would rather take some of those tormentors with them.
The martyrdom-seeking operations have given the Palestinians a sense of empowerment. For the first time in history, the Palestinians feel they can inflict as much damage on their enemy as the enemy has been inflicting on them for all these years. The martyrdom bombers are very accurate: they reach their target almost every time. That explains why Israelis now live in constant fear; they cannot venture out of their homes without fear, nor can they go shopping without the possibility of being blown to pieces. This used to be the case only for the Palestinians; they still suffer, but at long last they feel that they are giving the Israelis back some of what the Israelis have been handing out to them for decades.
Aware of their own failures, the Israelis are becoming hysterical about the Palestinians’ attacks. One Knesset member has suggested that, for each Israeli killed, 1,000 Palestinians must be murdered. Ehud Yoram, a former Shin Bit chief, has suggested that families of martyrdom-seeking Palestinians be expelled. Israel’s army, meanwhile, is busy reoccupying the West Bank and Ghazzah; an enormous fence is also being erected to prevent Palestinians from entering zionist areas. These are the desperate measures of those who have clearly failed to terrorize their victims into submission.
Bush’s announcement on June 24 is part of a plan to buy the zionists more time. Like previous attempts, this is likely to fail because it does not address the fundamental injustice perpetrated against the Palestinian people.