No let up in the ongoing misery:For the Palestinians, Sharon is just being himself [Archives:2005/824/Opinion]

March 14 2005

In much of the western press, the situation in the Holy Land is hardly getting any meaningful attention these days, although anyone who thinks it is peaceful and quiet there is overtaxing his/her imagination. Maybe the continuing ugliness of the situation in Iraq and the new directions of the Bush Administration hostility prone compass needle towards Lebanon and Syria have slackened the interests of the western press and even a lot of the Arab media coverage of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Israelis would undoubtedly prefer it to be that way and are not complaining, but for the Palestinians, the temporary calm and “ceasefire” is no more a reality than snow in the Empty Quarter Desert in the month of July. From eyewitness accounts and some coverage by some of the Arab media, as well as from independent western organizations, and even some Israeli sources as well, Israel has not let up on any of its police state tactics in its stewardship of the Palestinian territories nor its aggressively hostile attitude towards the helpless Palestinian population. On the contrary, the Israeli ongoing policy of making life as difficult and miserable for the Palestinians as can be remotely imagined that has been in effect since 1967 is the prevailing dominating characteristic of life in the West Bank and Gaza. Notwithstanding all the efforts of projecting a calm in the territories and the “inclinations” of the Ariel Sharon Government to reach a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians, the facts on the ground tell a continuing tragic tale. The truth of the matter is that almost on a daily and demonstratively systematic manner there are Palestinians dying, injured detained indefinitely for no substantial reason, not to mention being subjected to harsh conditions or lack of mobility, as curfews are randomly put into effect and road blocks set up, without any hopes of a let up. Even the land there is complaining that the Israeli efforts to proceed with the demographic and geographical disassociation with the Palestinians has actually picked up momentum. Mind you, these are all under official moves fully sanctioned by the Israeli authorities and undoubtedly with the seal of blessings of the now projected peace loving Israeli Prime Minister and his peace-seeking government. There are also the free lance activities of the settlers in the illegal settlements that Israel has set up over the last 35 years, which in some cases are even more distressing for the helpless Palestinians. As the settlers are not subject to any official scrutiny and would often avoid or remove any likelihood of press coverage, they have not hesitated in taking the “law into their hands” and maximize their officially granted permission to bear arms, which are actually supplied by the Israeli government, and unleash their hate filled measures of intimidation and provocation against the Palestinians.

Judging from various Palestinian and other accounts of the situation in the West Bank, Israel is out to make sure that it maximizes its hold on the biggest area of Palestinian land, before any reluctance to even recognize any “land for peace” arrangements. In other words, the only peace that the Israelis are actually seeking is that the Palestinians just sit out their nightmarish ordeal and pray that the Israelis will let them off for another day or so, before their turn comes up to have their children coming from school shot at, at random, by Israeli troops (and settlers), their olive trees uprooted to enlarge the areas or extend the boundaries of Israeli settlements, or have their land officially confiscated to make room for the racist wall the Israelis are still illegally building in Palestinian occupied territories.

In the Holy City of Peace, no effort is being spared to literally strangle the remaining Palestinians that are still in East Jerusalem as large plots of land and a mounting number of dwellings are confiscated, almost on a daily basis, under clearly weak justifications and legal pretexts that were actually devised to facilitate the mounting efforts to turn Jerusalem into a one-religion city.

Yet all this is not stirring the heart of the White House or anyone in the George W. Bush Administration, because for the Palestinians, there is no one there that would not consider it offensive to even mention “Palestine”. For the White House, all that matters is that the Palestinians are not doing anything to upset the peace and the serenity of the Israelis, no matter what the latter do, and that the Palestinian Authority is clamping down on any Palestinians, who would dare even think about just protesting the ongoing Israeli aggression. Even Palestinian peaceful protests are treated with the harshness of suicide bombing attacks, with protestors risking indefinite arrest and possible destruction of their homes and seizure of their land.

That is how it looks on the face of it. When viewing the more generic pathetic economic situation of the Palestinians, the story becomes even more tragic. Almost every economic activity that the Palestinians are engaged in is subject to severe obstacles that would almost render those activities as useless, let alone able to sustain their owners or operators. Even if the Palestinians can get over the difficulties of producing their output, they will then face the horrendous obstacles that will make it difficult to get their products to the market. That is for those who can manage to set up or maintain any economic activities, including agriculture. For the vast majority of the Palestinians, who are employees, or skilled, semi-skilled or day laborers, despair would be the least common denominator amongst them. For those who are lucky to get any work, it means having to spend as many hours getting to the work location as having to work and that is for the lucky ones. The passage through the numerous road blocks, security systems and other obstacles is just one manifestation of the ordeals Palestinian workers and employees must go through, if they are lucky not to have to go through areas under curfew or undergoing an Israeli raid. In the latter case, the added plus of getting shot at by random Israeli gunfire is not at all remote.

Any way one looks at it, the lack of seriousness in the quest for peace with the Palestinians by Israel is further evidenced by the obvious contempt shown to any assemblage concerning the Palestinians, or anything to do with them. Israel refused the invitation to attend the recent Palestinians Blair Conference in London even when it was delivered by hand by Prime Minister Tony Blair himself some months ago. That is a wonderful gesture of peaceful coexistence, as only Israel knows how to give.