cj#1135,rn> ZNet: Turmoil in Palestine | newsclips


Richard Moore

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Subject: ZNet Commentary / Shalom & Shalom / Turmoil in Palestine / Oct 10 
Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2000 20:56:11 +0100
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Turmoil in Palestine: The Basic Context
By Alex R. Shalom and Stephen R. Shalom

As the occupied Palestinian territories suffer their worst
paroxysm of violence in years, with the casualties, as
always, overwhelmingly Palestinian, the mainstream media,
also as always, focus on peripheral questions, offer
misleading answers, and ignore the underlying causes of the
conflict. The fundamental, neglected reality is that the
Palestinian people have been denied their basic rights for
years by the Israeli government, aided and abetted by its
Washington ally.More than half a century ago, the United
Nations (which at the time had comparatively few Third World
members) recommended the partition of Palestine into
Palestinian and Jewish states, and an internationalized
Jerusalem, with the Jewish minority to receive the majority
of the land, as well as most of the fertile land. A civil
war and then a regional war ensued and when the armistice
agreements were signed there was Israel, the Jewish state,
but no Palestinian state and no international Jerusalem,
both of these being taken over and divided between Israel
and Jordan. The occupying Israelis, however, were not
content to block the emergence of a Palestinian state; they
wanted as well to expel as many Palestinians as possible.
This ethnic cleansing -- forced expulsions facilitated by
acts of terror -- drove hundreds of thousands of
Palestinians from their ancestral lands, to refugee camps
where they lived in squalor, longing to return. In 1967,
Israel conquered Jordan's share of Palestine, creating a new
wave of Palestinian refugees, and subjecting many more to
ruthless Israeli rule in the occupied territories.
Through all the peace plans and negotiations this is the
central question: how can Palestinians achieve the right of
self-determination that has so long been refused them? To
the Israeli government, justice for Palestinians has always
been subordinated to the Israeli desire for land, for scarce
water resources, and for military supremacy in the region.
And the United States government has likewise disregarded
Palestinian self-determination and human rights, motivated
by its desire to see a dominant Israel that could help keep
radical Arab nationalism in check in a region of great
economic and strategic value.

This past week's violence was sparked by the visit of the
leader of Israel's right-wing opposition Likud Party, former
general Ariel Sharon, to Haram al Sharif, a Muslim holy site
in Jerusalem, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount. The media
has asked what Sharon intended by his visit, what role
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak played in Sharon's
decision to go there, and whether the Palestinian response
was spontaneous or orchestrated by the Chairman of the
Palestinian Authority, Yasir Arafat. But these limited
questions cannot be answered without considering the recent
history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Yasir Arafat was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO) in 1974 when it was recognized by the
U.N. (and by nearly every survey of Palestinian opinion) as
the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian
people. But, by the mid-1980's, Arafat and his lieutenants
had been away from Palestine for many years, and their
connection with Palestinians living in the occupied West
Bank and Gaza Strip began to weaken. In December 1987, after
20 years living under the systematic violence of Israeli
rule, Palestinians in the occupied territories began
wide-spread resistance known as the intifada. The intifada,
often remembered for its vivid images of Palestinian
children throwing stones at Israeli soldiers who responded
with automatic weapons, included, in fact, highly organized
non-violent resistance in addition to the more spontaneous
stone throwing. Impressively, the intifada with its
remarkable self-discipline and courage was an indigenous
uprising -- neither initiated nor controlled by the PLO
leadership-in-exile -- indicating that Arafat no longer
spoke for the Palestinian people.

It thus came as something of a surprise when Arafat joined
with then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin to sign the
1993 Oslo Accords. The peace process agreed to by Arafat and
Rabin called for the redeployment of Israeli troops from
most areas of dense Palestinian concentration to other parts
of the West Bank, but not for their full withdrawal from the
territory. Israeli settlements -- whose presence even
Israel's closest ally, the United States government, had
always considered a violation of international law -- were
to remain in place. Israel retained authority over most of
the land, and all the settlers, roads, water, and borders,
while the Palestinians gained civil control -- not
sovereignty -- over a tiny portion of the West Bank, which
essentially meant that they became responsible only for
maintaining order over a population seething in grueling
poverty and despair. While Israeli analysts saw this
arrangement as more manageable than direct Israeli military
rule over masses of Palestinians, it was clear that a peace
process that did not provide justice and self-determination
to a long-suffering people was unlikely to provide much
peace either.

Why did Arafat accept this raw deal on behalf of his people?
It appears that Arafat was more interested in being the
ruler of a Palestinian State, whatever its condition, than
in continuing to seek a just solution to the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Since his return to Palestine
in the wake of the Oslo process, Arafat has ruled the
Palestinian Authority with a brutally authoritarian fist
and, despite some public posturing, has made further
concessions to the Israeli government -- most notably giving
up the refugees' right of return, something demanded by the
U.N. since 1949, and the Palestinian claim to any part of
Jerusalem. In so doing, Arafat has further alienated himself
from the Palestinian people, who no longer see him as a
brave freedom fighter but as a corrupt collaborator.
And what of the other players focused upon by the mainstream
media? Ariel Sharon, who has received some criticism in the
press, is no stranger to being vilified, or more precisely
to being a villain. He is best-known for his role in
Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, where -- as even the
Israeli Kahan commission found -- he bore indirect
responsibility for the indiscriminate slaughter of hundreds
of Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.
He has long been an opponent of any negotiations with
Palestinians and rejects any Israeli territorial
concessions. Perhaps his visit to Haram al Sharif last week
was intended as a provocation to thwart any progress in the
peace process (though no real progress was in the offing);
perhaps he saw an opportunity to bloody some more
Palestinians; or perhaps it was all part of a maneuver to
secure his leadership of Likud against a challenge from
former Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. But the exact mix
of motives here doesn't really matter. No one could possibly
have doubted that going to Haram al Sharif and proclaiming
it eternal Israeli territory would ignite a firestorm.
As for Prime Minister Ehud Barak, also a former general and
the leader of the Labor Party, he is portrayed in the press
as a pursuer of peace, willing to make concessions on
important issues. But his fundamental position allows no
compromise. In 1998, Barak declared that Labor has a "set of
red lines which it will under no circumstances cross.... A
united Jerusalem must remain under full and unequivocal
Israeli sovereignty; most of the population of the
settlements will remain under Israeli rule in large
settlement blocs; under no circumstances will we return to
the 1967 lines" (Jerusalem Post, 13 May 1998, p. 1). So
whatever other concessions Barak might be willing to
entertain, any that might offer the Palestinians real
justice has been automatically excluded.

What role did Barak have in Sharon's decision to go to Haram
al Sharif? All indications are that Barak knew of Sharon's
visit before it occurred. The extent to which Barak would
have been able to prevent the visit had he so desired is not
clear, but there is no evidence that Barak had any such
desire. In recent weeks, even before the latest outbursts of
violence, as Barak's support in the Israeli Knesset
(parliament) had been waning, there had been rumors that he
was seeking to form a coalition government with Sharon's
Likud Party. His inaction did nothing to belie these rumors.
In any event, however, the role Barak played in Sharon's
visit is less important than Barak's overall role in the
latest violence. In addition to his support for a peace
process that offers no justice and thus no peace, it is he
and his Cabinet who are ultimately responsible for the
Israeli military's vicious lack of restraint during this
past week: the killing of an unarmed, cowering 12-year-old
boy, the killing of an ambulance driver who tried to save
the boy, the killings of dozens of others (more than seventy
at this writing), the maiming of many hundreds of others,
the tank and helicopter gunships blasting apartment

As for Arafat's role in the latest violence, he can be
viewed as the initiator only to the extent that his role in
the Oslo process has made conditions in the occupied
territories ripe for violence. What has inflamed the
Palestinians -- and world opinion, at least outside
Washington -- was the provocation of Sharon and the bloody
actions of the Israeli military; no orders from Arafat were
needed to bring thousands of enraged Palestinians into the
streets. On the other hand, while not indicating a causal
relationship as many of Israel's supporters have argued, it
must be acknowledged that given Israel's savage history with
respect to the Palestinians, Arafat might have anticipated
this sort of Israeli over-reaction, perhaps allowing him to
regain some of his lost credibility and putting some
international pressure on the Barak government. But neither
Arafat's attempts to keep up with Palestinian popular
sentiment nor the occasional mindless excesses by some
frustrated Palestinians (such as the trashing of Joseph's
tomb, a Jewish holy place) change the basic situation: what
has transpired in these past two weeks has been a
legitimate, indigenous response to the denial of Palestinian
rights, Israel's brutal occupation, and Arafat's

What will come of this latest violence is unclear. Certainly
the dire poverty in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the
repression by Arafat's police, and the hopelessness of the
Oslo process are factors which make another intifada
possible. And Barak has made clear how he would answer any
such uprising: the Israeli military would use "all means at
their disposal" and they would do so "[e]ven if it is
against the whole world." (Karin Laub, Laura King, both AP,
7 Oct. 2000) And indeed Israel is unlikely to concern itself
with international pressure as long as the United States
continues to flak for Israeli barbarism. U.S. officials may
work to quiet outbursts of violence, but they still fail to
insist that Israel offer justice to the Palestinians. Peace
and justice in the Middle East will never occur until
Washington stops giving Israel a blank check. And that will
require decisive action by the American people.
Alex R. Shalom spent five months in 1998 studying in Jordan,
Israel, and Palestine; Stephen R. Shalom teaches political
science at William Paterson University.
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Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2000 10:27:48 -0700
To: "Richard K. Moore" <•••@••.•••>,
        "Jan Slakov" <•••@••.•••>
From: Rosa Zubizarreta <•••@••.•••>

dear Richard and Jan,

world events are very scary at the moment...

i'm still on some fairly interesting lists, as a result of
y2k stuff, and just received the e-mail below. It's amazing
how little news makes it to the U.S. papers.

One good source for links to international press is is
http://www.findthepower.com/etm/ETMNewsHeadlines.htm It's
maintained by fundamentalist Christian, end-times folks. At
the same time, i know that both of you are committed to
dialog with all sorts of people, so you might not be
inclined to "throw the baby out with the bathwater".
Regardless of their world-view, they have good information.

Anyways, my main reason for writing is to THANK YOU for all
of the work that you do. Whatever unfolds out of the current
state of events, you are both laying the groundwork for a
greater consciousness to emerge....

with all best wishes,


 - www.MiddleEast.Org -
Washington - 10/06/00:

....yesterday in Egypt at Al Azhar the leading Muslim
authority in the Muslim world (government appointed by the
way) called for fighting Israel to the end, a holy war.

.... Today the same message came from the senior Muslim
authorities in Lebanon.  The Iranians have been saying the
same for some days now.


(CAIRO - Middle East Newsline - 6 October):  Violent
demonstrations erupted throughout much of the Middle East as
hundreds of thousands of Arabs demanded revenge against
Israel in its mini-war with the Palestinians.

Clashes erupted in Cairo, Beirut, Amman, Damascus and other
major cities as demonstrators fought with police. The Arabs
called for a holy war against Israel.

In Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, militants vowed to
carry out suicide attacks against Israel.

In Damascus, demonstrators tried to storm the U.S. embassy.
They clashed with Syrian police in the second such
confrontation in a week.

In Amman, riot police fought demonstrators who tried to
storm the Israeli embassy. It was the sixth straight day of

In Doha, violent protests erupted as demonstrators burned
the Israeli flag and chanted anti-Israeli and anti-American
slogans. A similar scene was reported in Manama, the capital
of Bahrain.

Bahrain television broadcast a Muslim cleric who told a
rally "Jews must be killed wherever they are."


BEIRUT (Reuters - Oct 6) - Lebanon's highest Muslim
authorities on Friday urged Arabs and Muslims to wage a holy

Shiite Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah told worshippers at
Friday prayers, "It is time to plan for Jihad (holy war)..."
He said religious edicts calling for Jihad needed to be
translated into action ...

Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, Lebanon"s top Sunni cleric. "I
renew my call on the Arab and Muslim nation to start forming
Jihad battalions ...

Occupied Jerusalem: October 6/00 - Tens of thousands of
Palestinians took to the streets throughout the West Bank
and Gaza Strip Friday ...

Massive demonstrations and marches proceeded from mosques
following congregational prayers  all over the occupied
territories, forming huge and long marches.

The predominantly Islamist demonstrators, who were joined by
Fatah and Islamic Jihad elements, clashed with Israeli
occupation soldiers in several "friction spots" in Hebron,
Bethlehm, Ramallah, Nablus and Tulkarm.


During the last 24 hours there have come the following
reports. Supposedly confirmed, but I do not personally have
the sources.

    1)   One of the 3 kidnapped Israeli soldiers is Senator
    Liebermans' cousin.
    2)  Israel's Knesset IS mobilizing for War. They are asking
    the U.S.  for  permission to strike inside Syria, Lebanon,
    3) A major Russian foreign ambassador is leaving for Syria
    shortly, after  Putin  has had conversations with various
    head's of state.
    4)  Barak has in fact removed his military presence from
    around the Temple  Mount...
    5)  There are UN-"confirmed" reports portions of the U.S.
    military are mobilizing.
    6) The Secretary General of the UN is flying to Israel
    7) President Clinton has been so involved with the effort
    that he was not able to attend Trudeau's funeral and even
    cancelled at least one fund raiser appearance. It is said
    that he may fly to Israel himself.
    8) Syria has flown a plane into Baghdad. The first in over
    20 years
    9) Russia - the other major sponsor of the Peace Effort, is
    also flying into Baghdad and according to the CIA is
    equipping them with missiles.
    10) Iranian and Iraqi religious leaders are calling for
    11) Yom Kippur is ending as I write this on Monday morning.
    You must remember the 7 days war began on Yom Kippur. It may
    have already begun again - and we will hear in a few hours.

Richard K Moore
Wexford, Ireland
Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance 
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