Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
28 Dec. 2000 - 3 Jan. 2001
Issue No.514
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Up in arms against apartheid

By Abdul-Jawwad Saleh*

Abdul-Jawwad Saleh At the end of the second millennium, three million Palestinians are imprisoned in ghettoes by the very man whom the Palestinian leadership hailed as the saviour of peace. Netanyahu had driven the peace ship off course. Barak scuttled it.

For the past 12 weeks, collective punishment, in every form, has been imposed on the inhabitants of these ghettoes -- the Palestinian people. Five hundred settlers in Hebron impose a curfew on 40,000 Palestinians.

Under a racist colonial policy of separation, the Israeli occupation forces are digging deep trenches in bypass roads to prohibit the Palestinians from using them to escape imprisonment. Over 200,000 labourers, the products of Israel's policy of dependency, are unable to reach their places of work in Israel. Movement into and out of these ghettoes is restricted. Muslims and Christians are prohibited from praying in their holy shrines in Jerusalem. Women in labour, especially those travelling from villages, are stopped at Israeli military posts and prevented from reaching the hospital. Wounded children and young men are left to bleed to death. Ambulances are shot at, and their drivers are killed.

The colonisers, backed by the army, are impoverishing and starving the population of the rural areas, preventing the population from harvesting their olive crops. They have uprooted 23,465 fruit trees so far. Greenhouses have been destroyed by bulldozers and homes have been razed, leaving whole families with no shelter under the barren cold skies. Schools are closed, and classes are held in tents, without desks or chairs.

The Palestinian ghettoes are besieged by two armies: the official military forces of the occupation, and the army of the Zionist colonisers, mostly fanatical ideologues who regard Baruch Goldstein -- who slaughtered tens of Palestinians praying at dawn in Hebron -- as a hero and an example to be emulated. Many of these settlers have been found guilty of killing Palestinian children and other innocent bystanders in cold blood. They are the perpetrators of the assassination attempts on the mayors of Nablus, Ramallah and Al-Bireh.

These two armies are perpetrating the most horrendous collective crimes imaginable against Palestinian cities, towns and villages, as well as the refugee camps where the victims of Israeli attacks in 1948 live today. This is an apartheid regime.

The generals of the official Israeli army are united with the settler army. The occupation forces have used extravagant violence, deploying gunships, snipers and tanks to crush civilians who are struggling to defend their land and their very existence. Assassination campaigns have been launched against Palestinian activists. Palestinian journalists and photographers as well as foreigners have been wounded.

A former Shin Bet security service director criticised such policies recently. Ha'aretz newspaper quoted him in its editorial of 6 December as saying: "This is the same security outlook whose failure to realise its aims led almost naturally to the idea of separation from the Palestinians... Is the option of a Jewish democracy with apartheid acceptable? In my opinion, no."

Under Barak's government, the state of Israel has become the state of the Israeli army. Barak has outdone Shamir and Netanyahu in allocating budgets for building new and expanding old colonies in the Palestinian occupied territories. The Israeli press has also launched a propaganda campaign against the Palestinian people's uprising. One of its most outrageous and perverse claims has been that Palestinian parents send their children out to be killed by Israeli soldiers. Some American and Israeli writers have described this as "Palestinian paganism." This is more than racist folly -- it is fascism. It is not even an attempt to dehumanise the Palestinians -- it is far worse, for even animals protect their young.

If willingness to sacrifice their children makes the Palestinians something less than animals, however, what are the civilised Israelis who are more than eager to massacre those children?

The Palestinian ghettoes will never surrender to Oslo and its conditions. The Al-Aqsa Intifada, as a popular uprising, is a refusal of Clinton's attempt to dictate the priorities of the political process in the interest of Israeli security. It is an outcry against the creation and enlargement of Palestinian intelligence agencies at the expense of democratisation and essential public services.

Since the establishment of the PA, conditions for the Palestinians have worsened. Poverty has increased, according to World Bank and United Nations reports. If the closures continue, poverty will reach the dangerous rate of 50 per cent. Corruption has spread. Many factors triggered the Al-Aqsa Intifada, among them internal Palestinian problems, and the leaking of a "final solution" that would have legitimised permanently the Israeli occupation of the territories taken in 1967.

The PA does not yet know the people it governs. This time, it has succeeded in channelling the Intifada against the occupation. But the Palestinian leadership should think twice before returning to the negotiating table on the same terms.

*The writer is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Related stories:
Barak unmasked
The American bridge
Killing Christmas
Israel must concede more

See Intifada in focus

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