Response to ‘Playing into Sharon’s hands’ by Robert Malley, The New York Times, 25 January 2002.

While reading “Playing Into Sharon’s Hands” (Jan 25th), one should bear in mind that writer Robert Malley was an advisor on this very conflict in an administration described by more than one Israeli official as the ‘most pro-Israeli in history’. For him to be berating Bush for a lack of even handedness and decisive action is high irony.

The solution to the majority of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains what it always was, namely to end the Israeli military occupation without which there would be no conflict within the boundaries of the West Bank and Gaza, where three-quarters of Palestinians live.

Malley acknowledges this, albeit filtered through a bland series of modifiers that evoke OsloSpeak at its most obtuse:

“Any end to violence will depend on taking steps to end the conditions that helped produce it […the occupation]”.

This same semantic dancing graced page one of the Declaration of Principles where one-party Palestinian elections were heralded as

“a significant interim preparatory step toward the realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

Significant, not definitive. Interim, not final. Preparatory, not participatory. Step towards, not arrival at…. by the time we realised we had awarded Rabin, Peres, and Arafat the Nobel Prize for presiding over a rerun of Apartheid, the words were still plodding towards genuine negotiations.

What is needed by the US is action, as Malley suggests. But let is not resurrect the slowly-slowly approach of Oslo, where we are always preparing an interim step towards the realisation of something that we’re hoping we can depend on to maybe work out. Let us see decisive action.

Washington’s current expressions of “understanding” for Arafat’s containment in 100 square yards of Ramallah are nothing more than an admission of its misunderstanding of the profound hopelessness brought about by the containment of Palestinians in Oslo’s scattered areas and bisecting settler roads.

On that White House lawn on September 13th, 1993, whether the world realised it or not, Palestinians gave the supreme gift of three-quarters of their historic homeland to Israel. In return we have waited 9 years for Israel to satisfy the primary historical demand both of Palestinians and the mountain of international law that underlines it — an end to the occupation. The only appropriate step left to be taken toward anywhere is an immediate, unilateral Israeli step out of the occupied territories.

Nigel Parry lived in Ramallah and worked at Birzeit University during the transition from Israeli occupation of the town to Palestinian autonomy, 1994-1998. His photodiary from the period can be found at Parry is one of the four founders of The Electronic Intifada. The following op-ed submitted to the New York Times was not published.