by Zafar Bangash (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 31, No. 4, Safar, 1423)
Israel’s murderous attacks on Palestinian towns and refugee-camps, which intensified on March 29 and were continuing at Crescent International press time (April 9), have set the Muslim masses on fire. Massive demonstrations have been held in such places as Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Rabat and Jakarta. In Egypt student protests, going on for more than 10 days, resulted in clashes with the police. Similar scenes took place in Jordan, where the regime of Abdullah II is particularly vulnerable because of its close ties with Israel as well as total subservience to Washington. Egypt is little better, although as a sop to the Egyptians’ growing anger Mubarak temporarily downgraded diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv. Massive demonstrations have also been held in several Western capitals, some of the largest rallies having been in such places as Rome and Madrid.
At least 50 Palestinian refugees were murdered in Jenin alone on April 6. There were also grim scenes in other Palestinian towns, as the Israeli army rampaged through narrow alleys, shooting everyone in sight. Ramallah, Bethlehem, Qilqilya, Nablus and Jenin have been especially hard hit. Water and electricity have been cut off and no food is allowed in. Even ambulances are shot at to prevent them from reaching the wounded, who often bleed to death. In one gruesome act reported by Ha’aretz, a Hebrew newspaper, on April 3, the bodies of Samiya Abda, a 60-year-old Palestinian woman from Bethlehem, and her 38-year-old son were prevented from being moved from the family apartment for burial. Both had been killed by an Israeli tankshell. Relatives, including children, were forced to live with the corpses for days. When the bodies began to decompose, the children were moved by the adults to the bathroom.
Similar gruesome scenes took place in Ramallah, which was under curfew for several days. The curfew was lifted for three hours on April 2 so that some of the bodies in the overflowing morgue could be buried in temporary graves in the hospital’s parking lot. Ariel Sharon, prime minister of Israel, has said repeatedly that his aim is to inflict “heavy casualties” on the Palestinians, yet he remains a close friend of US president George Bush, who dined and feted the indicted war criminal at the White House last month.
American officials readily accept the plea that Israel is fighting in “self-defence” or is fighting “terrorism”. It is the Palestinians who have been dispossessed of their homes and land, not just once but twice or three times over by the invaders. It is intellectually dishonest and morally repugnant to equate the Palestinians’ struggle for self-determination with “terrorism.” Equally despicable is the attempt to delegitimize the martyrdom-seeking operations of the Palestinians by describing them as “suicide” missions or bombers sent for money. Such lies have been exposed in studies conducted by Dr Eyad Sarraj, head of the Mental Health Clinic Programme in Ghazzah. According to Dr Sarraj, these martyrdom-operations are perceived as empowering the Palestinians. Far from recruiting them, the more difficult problem facing the Palestinian leaders is how to control the eager seekers of martyrdom. A recent example was that of 18-year-old Ayat Akhras, who left a telling message before her martyrdom on March 29: “I am going to fight instead of the sleeping Arab armies, who are watching Palestinian girls fight alone. It is intifada until victory.” Similar sentiments were repeated by marchers in Beirut the following day when they asked: “If the attack on Iraq is an attack on every Arab state, why not the attacks on Palestinians?” in response to the Arab League communique that had been issued two days earlier.
Every law, international instrument, and convention or article of the UN charter allows the victims of aggression to defend themselves. These are laws crafted not by Muslims or Palestinians but by the very governments, especially in Washington, that are today underwriting Israel’s crimes. The violation of these laws is compounded by the daily humiliations to which the zionists subject the Palestinians. The military checkpoints are typical examples: they are invariably manned by young gun-toting soldiers, often recent immigrants from America or Russia; these unruly Israelis insult elderly Palestinian men by forcing them to walk barefoot, or deliberately delay taxis carrying Palestinian women in labour to hospital. Many have had to suffer the indignity of giving birth in cars in the presence of strangers; some mothers and babies have died. It is such degradations and abasements that have forced the Palestinians to use the means at their disposal, in this case only their bodies, to fight back. They have neither tanks nor missiles nor planes; that the Israelis use US-supplied tanks and helicopter-gunships makes their crimes even worse: they constitute state terrorism, aided and abetted by a “superpower”.
Much noise has been made about Bush’s statement on April 4 in which he said that he wanted Israel to pull its troops out of Palestinian territories; Bush also repeated the mantra that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat must do more to end the violence. Arafat has been under “room arrest” for several weeks; his HQ in Ramallah is besieged by tanks, which have destroyed most of its buildings. He cannot even use his cell phone, because there is no electricity to charge its battery, yet Bush insists that Arafat must end the violence. There is barely a hint that Israel must end its murderous occupation and barbarism.
Bush dispatched Colin Powell, his secretary of state, to the region on April 8, ostensibly to secure a ceasefire and Israel’s military withdrawal from the reoccupied Palestinian towns, but without ending the occupation. Anthony Zinni, the American special envoy, has been in Palestine for nearly a month, but his mandate is limited – only to secure a ceasefire – without any proposal to end the zionist occupation, so there is little incentive for the Palestinians to respond. The earlier Mitchell and Tenet Plans also suffered from the same flaw. There is nothing in them for the Palestinians, only a rescue package for the zionists. Sharon has said that he will consider when to hold negotiations about what Israel may be prepared to concede to the Palestinians. These nonsensical proposals are peddled as “peace” initiatives under the equally derisory rubric of a “peace process.”
What the second intifada has shown, with increasing numbers of young Palestinians eager to become martyrs, is that the zionists can be made to pay a much higher price for their occupation of Palestine. When this cost is increased to the point that it outweighs its benefits or becomes more than the Israelis are willing and able to pay (or both), the zionists will be forced to go. Neither negotiations nor diplomacy mean anything to the zionists. After all, the Oslo accords were designed to favour the Israelis, who used them simply to trick the Palestinians into doing the zionists’ dirty work, without the Israelis fulfilling any of their obligations. So why should anyone at all, let alone the besieged, betrayed Palestinians, trust them to behave differently in the future?