The two devastating bomb attacks in Baghdad and Jerusalem last week have further confirmed the fragile nature of measures taken so far to deal with the two complex issues of Palestine and Iraq. It was particularly shocking, and deeply agonising to realise that even the United Nations’ Baghdad headquarters would not be spared the evil of those whose main interest, it seems, is only to spread death, destruction and total chaos. The United Nations, and the many noble people who fell victim in the senseless, horrendous attack had no reason to be there other than to help the Iraqis overcome the suffering of the war, and provide them with much needed assistance to rebuild their shattered country and battered society. By any standards, they, the lucky survivors, and the innocent souls whose lives were the price of their nobility, were the least deserving of such barbarity and inhumanity. But since when does logic apply to such acts of pure and indiscriminate evil? The attack on the UN came just two weeks after — the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad was bombed in a similar fashion — killing innocent Iraqis, injuring Jordanians and others.
The attack in Baghdad and gruesome bus bombing in Jerusalem, which killed 19 Israelis including six children, were strongly, widely, and rightly condemned, as was the case with every previous atrocity of this type. Equally and deservedly recognised were the heroic acts and the dedication of the UN personnel whose courage has always taken them into the most dangerous fields of conflict and war in order to alleviate the fear and the suffering of others. These people have often paid a very high price for their goodwill.
All this may bring some comfort to us, victims of evil or victims of its ramifications — growing insecurity and fear. All this may temporarily be soothing, but the sad reality is that it can also be deceiving in the sense that the brief and artificial suppression of pain tends to conceal the real sources of evil, and therefore prevents any serious action to stem the problem at its very roots.
Condemnation of the ongoing violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, and the ugly violence in Iraq has never been mild or wavering, but always issued in the strongest possible terms. Yet none of it has managed to reduce the level of violence. Neither did any of the denunciations by the world’s greatest statesmen repeatedly describing the perpetrators of such evil as “enemies of peace,” do anything to stop the flow of blood.
On the contrary, after more than two years of a sustained “war on terrorism,” violence has not only been steadily on the rise, but also breaking fresh ground, as in Iraq. Is it not stunning that a war, which was stubbornly waged against Iraq with the avowed intention of removing a rogue regime (to prevent it from linking with terrorists and supplying them with weapons of mass destruction to threaten all of us), ends up replacing Saddam with Osama Ben Laden’s Al Qaeda — at least if we believe the Bush administration’s claims about who is carrying out the violence?
Most statements from the United States, and President Bush in particular, have blamed foreign terrorists, and Al Qaeda, for attacks on occupation troops in Iraq. The assumption is that these people are crossing the border from several neighbouring countries, in addition, of course, to remnants of Baathist and Saddam supporters. The same terrorists were blamed for attacking the Jordanian embassy and the UN headquarters. In fact it was recently reported that Al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the UN attack.
This may or may not be true. If it is, then the war on terrorism has in reality been helping the terrorists and facilitating their expansion and operations. Regardless of how terrible the toppled regime of Saddam Hussein was, the irony is that it kept Iraqi territory out of bounds for all terrorists. How could the war planners, and now the occupiers of Iraq, justify this counterproductive outcome?
The other possibility is that the claims about terrorist infiltration of Iraq are not true, in which case the propagation of the terrorist take-over theory is no more than a distraction from the harsher reality of a bogged down occupation struggling to cut its mounting losses, desperately striving to cover up its embarrassing blunders, and borrowing time try to extricate itself from a certain quagmire.
Here lies the main danger — evading the problem to serve ulterior and instant motives. This has allowed the problems to grow and take deep roots, and stymied meaningful efforts to confront them on the basis of truth, not misleading propaganda.
The attack on the UN headquarters can never be justified, no matter what grievance one might have at UN performance in the Iraq crisis. But, since the collapse of the regime, chaos has prevailed in Iraq and in times of chaos everything, no matter how irrational and wrong, becomes expected and possible. Chaos is the right environment for lawlessness to prosper as it is the right climate for outlaws to act. The outcome is what we have been witnessing. The answer is not to wonder why it happened or why they did it. Neither is it in the extent of condemnation of the act and the denunciation of the perpetrators. The answer is in eliminating the chaos and allowing the Iraqi people to freely and independently govern themselves, and end the occupation.
Similarly, in Palestine violence continues to rage out of control while we witness the collapse of peace initiatives. The convenient explanation, adoped by the parties with power — Israel and the United States — is that it is “Palestinian terror” which is solely responsible. Until the new Palestinian government ends its procrastination, takes drastic action to dismantle the terrorist organisations, collect their weapons, arrest them and rid Israel and the region of them, Israel and the United States persistently claim, there will be no chance of peace. Most sadly, and to confuse the picture even further, the new Palestinian government of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, and indeed the earlier leadership, have both subscribed to this concept by admitting that some forms of Palestinian resistance are acts of terror, and that the Intifada in any form should end, but without insisting that the occupation should also go. Abbas has repeatedly committed himself to end the Intifada and dismantle the resistance organisations. His inability to do so has been played perfectly into the hands of the Israelis, who are justify the continuation of the occupation, assassinations and extrajudicial killings of Palestinian resistance leaders, as simply fighting the Palestinian Authority’s war on its “terrorists.”
There is no question that ending violence should be an essential part of any plan for a peaceful settlement. It is also normal for the Palestinian leadership to commit itself to controlling any elements who may not abide by its official undertakings towards an acceptable and integral peace plan. What has not been normal so far is the imbalance of blaming the Palestinian resistance of an illegitimate occupation, without demanding the removal of the occupation first. Worse is the Israeli insistence that the Palestinians should continue to implement what is required of them, not only without any Israeli promise of reciprocation, but also with continued physical and visible erosion of the little left of Palestinian rights and lands.
The collapsed truce, which Israel never recognised or abided by, was no more than a cover for sustained malice and vicious manoeuvre, and it was bound to collapse. It was no more than a portion of a deceptive strategy to reduce the entire `roadmap’ project to a mere security plan to solve Israel’s security problem, with the new Palestinian government simply acting as a security agent for Israel, not as a nucleus of a real state as it should.
All this may serve Israel’s immediate tactical goals, but it will neither end the violence nor bring peace. The road to peace starts with nothing else other than ending the occupation, wherever that occupation may be.
The writer is former ambassador of Jordan to the UN. He contributed this article to The Electronic Intifada.