Palestinian, Israeli and international activists demonstrate at a protest against the apartheid wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in, June 9, 2006. (Mushir Abdelrahman/MaanImages)
With his latest statements and unrestrained violence, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, has once again confirmed that the occupation, the oppression and the slow genocide of Palestinians by the Israeli war machine he heads will not stop. Any talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders are meaningless he says, and as far as he is concerned there will be no relief for the Palestinians, not even symbolic relief for people trying to cross the checkpoints. After all, even a short delay at the checkpoint can put an end to the life on an innocent Palestinian. Barak who has earned the dubious distinction of Israel’s most decorated soldier, by killing mostly unarmed Palestinian civilians, will do nothing that might hinder the liquidation of Palestinians, young or old. With Barak in control of Israel’s security apparatus Israelis and Palestinians can expect more violence and more losses of innocent lives.
Barak and his generals all have innocent blood on their hands and should be tried at The Hague for violations of international law and crimes against humanity. But instead they direct Israeli soldiers, government-trained assassins, secret police, and so-called border patrolmen to shoot and kill innocent Palestinians. Because in Israel all “security” personnel are all above the law and none of the perpetrators of these crimes, their commanding officers or the government ministers in charge are brought to justice.
At the same time thousands of Palestinian political prisoners are continually thrown into Israeli prisons for daring to resist the unlawful crimes of the Israeli occupation and since they are categorized as “security” prisoners they have no real protection under the law. Many of these prisoners are political activists and leaders who would otherwise be hailed for daring to resist Israeli apartheid. One can say with certainty that “defense” Minister Barak will block any attempt to change this situation, thus guaranteeing that the conflict will go on with no end in sight.
Rather than brace for the next Palestinian uprising of which there is already talk, it is time to consider a joint, non-violent struggle to end the occupation for good. As an example, we should note the courage, persistence and the determination of the unarmed, joint resistance that has been taking place in the small Palestinian town of Bil’in in the West Bank. For several years now Bil’in residents, together with Israeli peace activists and others have conducted a non-violent, joint struggle against the confiscation of Bil’in lands and the erection of the separation barrier.
Besides the regular weekly resistance, Bil’in has already hosted two international conferences on the non-violent struggle against the occupation and both were well attended. One would hope that the next conference would seriously discuss the means of expanding the struggle against the occupation to all parts of Palestine/Israel.
The term “occupation” gives the false impression that the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, and indeed in all of Palestine/Israel is somehow temporary. It is common to speak of 40 years of occupation but in reality the occupation of Palestine has been going on for 60 years and there will be no end to it without well-planned, joint, non-violent resistance. From its very creation Israel has been an apartheid state in which the Palestinian population that survived the ethnic cleansing of 1948 have been living under occupation, as prisoners in their own land.
At its very inception Israel had developed a brutal system to enforce the occupation and the state of apartheid. This system, conveniently but disingenuously referred to as the “defense” or “security” apparatus has for 60 years been in charge of policing the Palestinians as they fight for their rights as a nation. Using collaborators, the internal secret police or Shabak, the so-called Border Patrol (which is made up of mostly disenfranchised segments of Israeli society) and the Israeli Army, this massive Godzilla has been sucking the marrow out of Israeli society and destroying Palestinian life.
It is interesting to see how this Behemoth of a “defense” force reacts to the rather small non-violent protest in Bil’in; disproportionate number of forces being used; rubber coated bullets and tear gas canisters are shot into the crowd even though children are present; all this disproportionate violence is an indication that even though they are large and armed to the teeth the Israeli “defense” forces view the non-violent struggle as a threat. Violence is the life-blood of the Israeli “defense” forces and the notion of a non-violent, joint struggle is threatening its very existence.
There are two characteristics of Israeli life that the Israeli “defense” system, or security system, whichever cynical name it chooses to go by, needs to preserve at all cost. The first is the racist character of the state of Israel, and the second is the occupation that allows it to suck the life out of both nations. By keeping these two alive, the “defense” department receives its pound of flesh in the shape of an estimated $30 billion per year.
It is therefore of the highest national priority for both Israelis and Palestinians to defy this massive monster and to defy the occupation that it is protecting. Any future organized resistance must follow the lead of Bil’in and be joint and non-violent and it must have clearly defined objectives. Among these objectives should be the complete elimination of the racist segregation and discrimination against Palestinians within Israel/Palestine.
It would be a serious mistake to think that cosmetic changes like the Oslo Accords could bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The era of cosmetic changes together with the two-state solution is gone forever. Only full equal rights for both people in their historic homeland will bring an end to this conflict. And while there are those who will claim that this it is a naive dream and will never become a reality, we would do well to remember that the success of any struggle depends on the determination of its leaders and the clarity of its purpose, not the doubts of naysayers.
According to the Zionist narrative a Palestinian State may exist only if it neighbors a state that has a Jewish majority and which occupies most of the land of Israel/Palestine. When Israeli governments speak of a Palestinian state they mean a walled off Bantustan like Gaza. But as we see in Gaza, enclosing and starving people and depriving them of hope solves nothing. In Gaza, besides the violent power struggles, which one might expect under the circumstances, there are close to 1.4 million people, more than half of who are under 18 years of age. In other words over 700,000 children live in Gaza completely exposed to the unrestrained violence of the Israeli military.
If the violence would cease there could be a chance to protect these children and give them a better life and perhaps even a future. But as it stands, with Barak at the helm only resistance similar to the Bil’in example, which is non-violent and includes Israeli-Palestinian cooperation can provide hope for children in Gaza.
In a recent article that was published in the United States, Dr. Mona El Farra from Gaza wrote that, “This may seem an unlikely time to discuss the prospect of one state with equal rights for all, but the fighting in Gaza makes clear that a cordoned-off Gaza Bantustan is no solution.” The question that Dr. El Farra raises is monumental: Why is it right to speak of equal rights everywhere except for Israel and Palestine? Indeed, it may be an unlikely time but it is never the less the right time to discuss the establishment of a secular, democratic state in Israel/Palestine in which human and civil rights are guaranteed to all its citizens.
Clearly it is time for Israelis and Palestinians to rise and defy the highly decorated General Barak and the violent system he heads. It is a system that through the use and manipulation of violence has kept the two nations captive within the conflict for 60 years. It is time for a joint, non-violent struggle that will finally free the two peoples from the violence imposed on them, and bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Miko Peled is an Israeli peace activist and writer living in the US, and co-founder of the Elbanna Peled Foundation. He is the son of the late Israeli General Matti Peled. He can be reached at mikopeled at aol dot com.