Who is the real obstacle to peace in the Holy Land? [Archives:2003/668/Opinion]

September 15 2003

Thomas L. Friedman wrote in the New York Times of September 10, 2003: “… message to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: Palestinians are not leaving either, and your iron fist will not make them accept Israeli settlements or a truncated Palestinian state. If you think Oslo was a failure, look at your alternative (Italics by CS). In three years, some 850 Israelis have been killed under your strategy. Yours and Hamas’s are two failed strategies that add up to a human meat grinder. You want Israelis to believe they have no other choice, but they do. It is to use Israel’s amazing inner strength to take a different set of Israeli actions, like really uprooting settlements, to stimulate a different set of Palestinian reactions, like controlling suicide bombers”.
Thus, Ariel Sharon and his security cabinet were not fooling anyone by their callous decision to avail themselves with the discretion of “getting rid of Yassir Arafat” as the obstacle to peace, etc. The continuous stalling and maneuvering by the Israeli Government are not new to anyone familiar with the developments in the region over the past half century and surely this decision is just one of the many steps that the Israelis have taken to make sure that the “Roadmap” to peace, like the other peace initiatives before that, is never allowed to take off.
In this context, one must bear in mind that the truth of the matter is that Ariel Sharon threw out any hopes for peace and actually erased all the progress that was engineered by the Clinton Administration over eight long years of genuine peacekeeping efforts with one stroke of his chauvinistic arrogance even before rising to the premiership of the Israeli Government some three years ago. The world has not forgotten the famous Sharon controversial and provocative walk accompanied by thousands of heavily armed Israeli security guards through the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, before becoming Prime Minister, just to spearhead the alternative he had in mind for the Israeli Government to pursue from then on. That walk was a clear act of intransigence aimed at fueling Palestinian (as well as Arab and Moslem) anger and a clear signal that the Israeli Government had an agenda to fulfill, for which peace was to be shoved aside “for awhile” until the Palestinians will simply have nothing to look forward to in any future relationship with the occupiers of their land. That walk was the trigger for the ongoing violence that was to ensue henceforth, which the Palestinians originally began by mild mostly peaceful protests, which were then met by a stranglehold occupation that was unleashed with all the war machinery at the disposal of the “Israeli Defense Forces” against rock throwing demonstrators. In the wake of severe military reprisals against an unarmed population trying to save themselves from extinction. In the meantime, the Israeli provocations of settlement building and further encroachments into Moslem and Christian holy sites and places of worship were unabashedly carried out, thus fueling more anger amongst the Palestinians. Some of this anger began to translate into the most extreme measures of resistance against the weakest points that could be found, simply because there was no other recourse, with the Israeli Army strangling them at every corner.
One must bear in mind that the Israeli losses of 850 lives (the number may be exaggerated significantly) still represent less than 1/4 of the Palestinian lives that were lost, most of whom are unarmed civilians and a third of whom are children, not to mention the many times that number who were wounded and detained. One only has to refer to the human rights reports on the situation in the West Bank and Gaza to get an idea of some of the horrific conditions faced by the Palestinians by the ugliest form of occupation of modern times. No one should be fooled into believing that this illegal occupation is merely a security measure “to protect Israelis”, especially when bearing in mind that most of the protest activities were taking place in the areas where the Palestinians were living. The suicide bombings only commenced months after it was apparent that Ariel Sharon and his thugs were actually carrying out a systematic effort to make life as miserable as it can be made for the Palestinians. The protection of Israeli citizens did not have to involve the destruction of the entire administrative and institutional infrastructure, which literally was intended to paralyze the Palestine Authority, and thus render ridiculous any claims that the Palestinians were not doing anything to secure their “extremists”. To put it bluntly, how could they?
A question that arises from this ridiculous assertion by the Israelis is, if the Israeli Army with all its mechanized and institutional might was unable to guarantee the security the Israelis were supposedly seeking, how should Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Authority, with their hands literally tied behind their back do so accordingly? What Sharon was really doing was not securing Israelis, but in fact creating the bedrock for a climate of violence, through which he can carry out the continued annihilation of any hope for any Palestinian state of viable standing. What must be borne in mind is that the Palestinians have already lost so much and have accepted this loss graciously by accepting to live side by side with an Israeli state, which was created at their expense and with great suffering. Yet, in the arrogant chauvinism that drives extreme right wingers in Israel, such as Ariel Sharon, there is no intention or desire for any Palestine state of any kind. Otherwise, why throw out all the previous progress made, in which the Palestinians were already the recipients of the short end of the stick anyway?
Notwithstanding the provocative decision of the Israeli Government, it was clear that Yasser Arafat, truly has more going for him than the Israelis (and the Bush Administration) care to admit. The Palestinians understandably were not about to let Ariel Sharon easily brush off their only symbolic figurehead, not so much because there are no other Palestinians to take his place. On the contrary, Yasser Arafat has come to represent the persistent Palestinian struggle to save as much as possible of their identity, which has been so much eroded by the continued unjustified and illegal occupation. Yasser Arafat, after all did set the foundations for this identity and has truly sacrificed so much to keep it alive, despite the ugly Zionist machine that is at work to destroy it before it has a chance to be set firmly in place. Maybe it is time for the Israelis to start looking for a more rational alternative to Ariel Sharon – for sure, the real obstacle to peace in the Holy Land and a condemned murderer by his own people!