“The government of Israel has tonight resolved to commit a cold-blooded murder, with the implementation deferred — the cold blooded murder of the elected president of the Palestinians. Let there be no mistake about it. Let no one be fooled by the talk of ‘deportation’. There is no intention that Arafat will survive the encounter with Sharon’s soldiers. I know Sharon, I have followed his career for decades, ever since he was a young commando officer carrying out brutal cross-border raids. He has not changed in any essential, only in the amount of power held in his hands. He means to do it, he means to kill Arafat. He will watch for his chance, wait for a moment when the Americans look elsewhere - and then he will pounce.”
That was the immediate response by Uri Avnery, former member of the Israeli Parliament and veteran activist of Gush Shalom (The Israeli Peace Bloc). “The cabinet ministers of the Government of Israel have tonight adopted an ominous, criminal decision, whose implementation would entail rivers of shed blood - far beyond all the horrors we have already seen in the past three years. The effects will spread far beyond the confines of this country - throughout the region and the world. The ministers who raised their hands for this infamous resolution will never be able to shirk of responsibility for what they have done”.
Avnery — spry and energetic, two days after his eightieth birthday had been marked at hundreds of political and personal friends packing the Tzavta Hall in Tel-Aviv — said these ominous words at the peak of an hours-long vigil opposite the gates of the defence minstry in Tel-Aviv, the place Sharon had chosen to gather the members of his Inner Cabinet. For hours we have been tensely waiting — more than a hundred Tel-Aviv activists of Gush Shalom, Ta’ayush and smaller groups, among them also the former KM Tamar Gozansli, as well as a similar number of Jerusalemites at a simultaneous vigil outside the Prime Minster’s office — until we heard the cabinet’s ominous decision on a small squeaking transistor radio.
Israeli peace activists seem doomed to spend a disproportionate portion of their lives on that dismal small parking lot, coming again and again to manifest protest at ever more outrageous acts of the government and army — but this time was different. This time we had the knowledge that in one of the official buildings behind the fence on the other side of the street, a small group of men was at that very moment gathered to take life-and-death decisions — and we, whose own lives might be directly affected, had no confidence whatsoever in their motives or their judgement. This lent an extra electric quality to the atmosphere, the feeling of being actors in in vast tragedy — an extra poignancy to the ongoing chanting from young and not-so-young throats: “Sharon, Mofaz and Ya’alon -terrorists in power!” / “All the minsters - are war criminals!” / “Down with the occupation!” / “Sharon, Sharon, the Hague is waiting for you!” / “Jewish - Arab Brotherhood!” / “Peace Yes - Occupation NO, NO, NO!”.
Oveall fluttered a big banner bearing a long series of words: Liquidation>Suicide Bombing>Liquidation>Suicide Bombing>Liquidation>Suicide Bombing>Liquidation>Suicide Bombing>Liquidation>Suicide Bombing>Liquidation>Suicide Bombing>…..
And now what? The Americans blocked Sharon from sending his troops into the Palestinian presidential compound — already last night — as according to some press accounts he planned to do. But how much reliance can be placed on the Bush Administration — which itself engaged more than once in adventurous, ill-considered and ill-fated decisions? For us, at least, the immediate idea is to organise a visit of our own to Arafat’s compound — not a visitation of death and destruction such as Sharon is planning, but a visit of solidarity, of belief in the peace between this land’s two peoples, a peace which is still possible and which is more then ever a vital need.