The Israeli gangster regime is continuing Sharon’s declared campaign to kill Palestinians deliberately and cause them as much pain as possible in order to force them to submit quietly to Israel’s military rule. Because Palestinian bodies, like Israeli ones, are made of flesh and bone, he is succeeding in the first goal, but because Palestinian determination to be free is made of much stronger and more permanent material, he will never succeed in the second.
After killing another 11 people yesterday, 18 so far have been killed today, with dozens injured. At least 150 Palestinians have been killed in the past three weeks. Israel today bombed another elementary school, the fourth to be hit in as many days, injuring 10 children.
Yesterday, Sharon, the Butcher of Beirut, ominously warned that he would not “allow the refugee camps to become shelters for terror.” It was under this pretext that Sharon allowed and assisted Israel’s militia allies to massacre thousands at Sabra and Shatila in 1982, even though all armed PLO forces had already left Beirut under a US-brokered and guaranteed deal. Today, Israeli cabinet ministers openly bray for war crimes and massacres while the world watches. Minister Avigdor Lieberman yesterday called for Israel to bomb Palestinian marketplaces, commercial centers, banks and gas stations. It is only a matter of time before Israel carries out much larger atrocities than we have seen since the Intifada began, such as the 1996 Qana massacre, when Israel’s occupation forces under the command of then Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres killed more than 100 Lebanese refugees at a UN base in southern Lebanon. Or even worse.
Apparent criticism of Israel’s actions from the United States administration has been dismissed by Sharon, and indeed such criticism is less than compelling. In the eyes of many, the United States government has made itself an accomplice to Israel’s crimes by unconditionally arming and funding Israel’s occupation, and declaring all resistance to be “terrorism” while justifying the violence and murder wrought to maintain a brutal and endless military occupation as the exercise of a “right to self defense.” Words therefore, from the United States, mean absolutely nothing. As the US government is fond of lecturing others, only actions count. The United States says it wants to “stop the violence,” but it has no interest in stopping the occupation, which is what lies wholly behind the violence. And therefore, the violence it says it opposes will go on, and will get much worse.
The recent Saudi peace initiative offers nothing new in substance—“land for peace” has been on offer to Israel for at least two decades and is the basis of the “peace process”—but its importance lies in exposing the fiction that Israel just seeks peace with and recognition from its Arab neighbors. Despite the fact that Israel has recognition from the PLO within its 1948 borders, full peace with Egypt and Jordan, could obtain peace treaties with Syria and Lebanon if it returns their land, and Saudi Arabia holds out the hope of further and broader normalization, Israel has rejected all such initiatives.
What it wants simply is the land of “Judaea, Samaria and Gaza.”
The Israeli myth of “generosity” in the 2000 Camp David negotiations has been exploded in the rest of the world, but continues to thrive in the United States as one of the bases for supporting Israel’s brutal attempt to suppress the Intifada. We need to constantly remind people that by accepting to negotiate for an independent state in only East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians gave up in advance the 78 percent of Palestine conquered in 1948, the country in which they were an overwhelming majority and owned all but a small fraction of the land just a few generations ago. For making this enormous, unprecedented historic compromise, Palestinians are still routinely accused of wanting to “destroy Israel.” Yet even these fragments of the Palestinians’ native country was too much for Israel to allow the Palestinians to keep and Israel has never offered more than a form of super-autonomy under continued Israeli control and domination.
Hence the conflict has been reduced to its most basic element: Israel maintains a huge occupation army outside its internationally recognized borders, in someone else’s land, for the sole purpose of taking that land from those people, giving it to well-armed settlers and preventing the freedom and independence of the dispossessed.
Sharon believes that by unleashing Israel’s firepower on an almost defenceless people, he can force them to surrender. In fact, he has done the opposite. While Israeli morale is at its lowest in years, Israel’s economy is collapsing, and there is increasing dissent within the army and society. Israel is in a deep internal crisis. Palestinians, though suffering unimaginably under Israel’s sadistic rule, are more united and firm than ever that the occupation will end completely. If the world will not enforce the dozens of United Nations resolutions requiring Israel to withdraw, then the Palestinian people will enforce them themselves.
Israel’s dominant discourse about itself and its own sense of victimization, even as it oppresses an entire nation, is so neurotic and self- absorbed that most Israelis do not even see that despite the bitter circumstances of its birth, Israel had succeeded in achieving recognition even from the very people it dispossessed—the Palestinians. Now Israel is working its hardest to undo that recognition and return itself to the status of a pariah. And because of its intransigence and insatiable greed for territory, Israel looks less permanent and less legitimate in the world’s eyes than ever before.
This is the path that Israel has chosen, when it could instead have had peace on the most generous terms that any dispossessed people could offer to its conquerors.
A glimmer of hope is offered by Israel’s re-emerging peace movement, but we have yet to see if this movement has learnt the mistakes of its past, when with a few brave and notable exceptions most of its adherents abjectly failed to advocate for a complete end to the occupation, and complete equality for Israelis and Palestinians, and therefore helped to fuel the illusion that Israel could have peace while keeping some of its conquests and giving the Palestinians less than their full rights.
While I have absolutely no doubt that the occupation will end, we should be under no illusions, nor should we celebrate. Israel will not succeed in imposing its will by force where every other colonial occupier in modern times has failed, whether in Algeria, India, Kenya, Cyprus, Vietnam, or East Timor. But as defeat for Israel’s occupation becomes more and more inevitable and visible, so can we expect Israel’s actions to become more dangerous, desperate and deadly.
Although the day of liberation will come, it will not come easily or quickly, nor without a great deal of further and wholly unnecessary bloodshed and misery for Palestinians and Israelis.
Ali Abunimah is vice-president of the Arab-American Action Network and a well-known media analyst, Abunimah regularly writes public letters to the media, coordinates campaigns, and appears on a variety of national and international news programs as a commentator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is one of the founders of The Electronic Intifada. Ali Abunimah contributed to “The New Intifada: Resisting Israel’s Apartheid” (Verso Books, 2001).