Occupation as withdrawal
When speaking about Gaza, Sharon has not used the word "withdraw". Mustafa Al-Barghouti*
predicts that the premier will never utter it
The evidence is piled high, yet some remain in denial, still believing Sharon plans to "withdraw" from Gaza. Sharon himself never used the word "withdrawal", yet the word has spread like wildfire. The international media invented it, the Arab media picked it up and Palestinian officials seem to have believed it. Arab officialdom now acts as if "withdrawal" is just around the corner.
All Sharon ever wanted to do was to turn Gaza into one enormous big prison. Sharon seeks to surround the strip with Israeli forces on all sides and prevent its inhabitants from communicating with the outside world by air, sea or land. Sharon dreams of a Gaza he can invade and attack at will. This is his scheme. This is the alternative he offers to the roadmap and the assortment of other "peace plans".
Sharon is working overtime to undermine any possibility of an independent Palestinian state. He is using the apartheid wall to annex and Judaise 58 per cent of the West Bank. His methods are simple. He is directing one military blow after another at the towns, villages and camps of the West Bank and Gaza. Sharon wants to splinter the unity and struggle of the Palestinian people. He wants to compromise the future of the occupied territories, from Jerusalem to Gaza. The disengagement plan is his attempt to conceal his true intentions.
Sharon has repeatedly announced the death of the roadmap, by word and by deed. But none of this has dissuaded the defeatists in our midst to cease their endless attempts to fit Sharon's scheme into that same roadmap.
Sharon's tanks are rampaging through Jabalia and Beit Lahia, just as they did in Khan Yunis, Rafah and Beit Hanun. The simple fact is that Sharon is doing to Gaza what he did to the West Bank in 2002. He is reinstating the occupation, one step at a time, until he judges the time ripe to re-impose complete occupation.
Sharon is not retaliating for Palestinian acts, as some claim. He has a clear strategy, and he is justifying it with every possible excuse. His scheme is being put into action regardless of anything the Palestinians say or do.
At the most recent Israeli cabinet meeting Sharon had wanted to call up reserves and wage "Operation Protective Shield II", an operation to re-occupy Gaza entirely. His ministers convinced him to carry out the plan in stages, as has been widely reported.
In Rafah, Israel has been demolishing homes, one row at a time, for the past two years. The number of demolished houses now exceeds 2,000. These are the brutal mechanics of ethnic cleansing, aimed at widening the so-called Philadelphia corridor to 500 metres and in doing so, to sever all links between Gaza and Egypt.
Yet some people still think of taking part in the future management of Gaza, of acting as policemen in this big Israeli prison. What is taking place in Gaza is not withdrawal, or the preparation for a withdrawal. It is not even redeployment. What is happening in Gaza is the reinstatement of full occupation, of apartheid and racial discrimination. It is an attempt to reconfigure occupation and make it less costly to Israel. This is why Sharon wants to get the settlers out, all of 6,000 of them. That gives him the freehand he needs to act with utmost brutality in Gaza.
We don't need to react to Sharon. We don't need to react to him or his ideas. We need to boycott Sharon. We need to reject his plans altogether. We need to send a clear message, to the Arabs and the world, that we reject Sharon's schemes and intend to fight and defeat them. We need to formulate a unified Palestinian stand. We want Sharon's government boycotted and placed under sanctions for it is a government that has broken every law and norm.
As for the Palestinian dialogue, it has to focus on unifying our energies, on coordinating our methods of struggle -- not on sharing a cake that exists only in the imagination of the defeatists. The occupation is waging a full war against us and we have to confront this war with unity and steadfastness.
* The writer is secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative.