Ignoring Occupation, The Root Cause Of
Friday, December 07 2001 @ 06:15 PM GMT
By Michael Jansen
Last weekend's bombing blitz by the Islamic resistance movement Hamas was inevitable. The retaliatory strikes which killed more than two dozen Israelis became inevitable when, on Nov. 23, the Israeli air force
assassinated the head of Hamas military wing in the West Bank, Mahmoud Abu Hannoud. Hamas renounced a three month suspension of bombings and took revenge.
Israel's harsh response was also inevitable.
Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon rejected the urgent Palestinian call for four days
of respite from bombing to permit the arrest of those responsible for the
attacks. Israel proclaimed that it was engaged in a war against the "a
The cycle of attack and counter-attack might have been broken if Washington had put the brakes on Sharon who met with President George Bush on Sunday. Instead, Bush said Israel had the right to defend itself, put the blame for the carnage on Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and called on him "to fight terror". Secretary of State Colin Powell backed up Bush. But as Arafat was arresting Islamist militants, Sharon used his US-manufactured helicopter gunships and US-made F-16 fighter bombers to launch a sustained military attack against targets.
On Tuesday Sharon went to an Israeli military base on the edge of Ramallah to take charge of operations. As Israeli military aircraft swooped low over the city and struck a building next to Arafat's own office,
television footage showed a gleeful "General" Sharon back in his headquarters commanding his evergreen campaign against "Arafat in his bunker".
The smiles that wreathed the sagging folds of
Sharon's face showed that he had forgotten nothing and learnt nothing since he
laid waste to Lebanon and slaughtered 18,500 people in 1982. Sharon is still the
hardline military man striving for "Greater Israel", the man who
ordered the Israeli army to ring the perimeter of the Sabra-Shatilla camps while
his allies from the Falange and Haddad militia slaughtered or made disappear
But the situation today is much worse. In 1982, Arafat was the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). At that time, the PLO was not recognised as the "sole representative of the Palestinian
people," not even by the Arabs. Arafat was in Lebanon, not Palestine. Although Arafat had repeatedly described his "dream" for a peaceful independent state alongside Israel in geographic Palestine, he had not held talks with the Israeli government on how to realise this dream. Indeed, during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Arafat met his first Israeli politician, Uri Avnery, the veteran peace campaigner.
Today Arafat is the elected president of the Palestinian National Authority. He is recognised as the president of the Palestinian-state-to-be and the red carpet is rolled out whenever he visits a world capital. He lives in Palestinian self-rule enclaves in Gaza and the West Bank which were evacuated by Israel under the 1993 Oslo accord negotiated with previous Israeli governments. For this he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Arafat has met dozens of Israeli political figures, including Sharon (who, thanks to enduring antagonism, refused to shake his hand). Whether or not they like or admire Arafat, Palestinians consider him "Mr.
Palestine", the father of the state they have been promised.
In 1982, Sharon was Israel's defence minister, one of the three senior ministers in the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Begin was deeply suspicious of Sharon.
And with good reason Sharon secured cabinet approval of his Lebanon war plan by subterfuge: by presenting a proposal for a limited operation, then launching an all-out invasion of Lebanon. After the Sabra-Shatilla massacre, Sharon was eventually dismissed from his post after Israelis belonging to leftist parties, Labour and Peace Now, staged massive popular demonstrations demanding his removal.
Today Sharon is the directly elected prime minister of Israel. Between 1982 and his rise to the top, he voted against all the peace agreements reached with the Palestinians.
He openly proclaims his intention of reversing the Oslo process. He heads a "national unity" government which commands the support of 75 members of the 120 seat Knesset, including those from Labour. The majority of the members of his cabinet are right wingers, several come from extreme right parties. Since the Intifada erupted 14 months ago, the Israeli electorate has moved decisively to the right. The Labour Party is in extreme disarray and has no effective leader. Its leading figures, Shimon Peres and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, cling tenaciously to the foreign and defence ministries in Sharon's government, in spite of the fact that Sharon is the author of his own polities in both spheres.
In 1982, Defence Minister Sharon was given the US "green light" to invade Lebanon by the hawkish Secretary of State Alexander Haig who was ultimately sacked by President Ronald Reagan for doing so. Today, Premier Sharon has been given the "green light" by President Bush, the top man in the administration. In spite of being a "dove", Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former military man like Haig, supports Bush. Neither Bush nor Powell seem to understand that Arafat is fighting for his life, the existence of the PNA and the very survival of his people's dream of a state.
The Bush administration is more right-wing than the Reagan administration. Bush's conservative wing of the Republican Party has close ties with Israel's Likud and other rightist Israeli groupings which have, since
1982, infiltrated the US political system.
The September attacks on New York and Washington have driven the Bush administration even further to the right and straight into the arms of Sharon. Bush has adopted Israel's contention that Arafat bears sole
blame for "terrorism" in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. The root cause of "terrorism," Israel's illegal and brutal occupation, is ignored.
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