Domination, not partnership
Hopes for a ceasefire dim as Israel rejects Palestinian proposals for cessation of fighting, reports Khaled Amayreh in East Jerusalem
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Palestinians, surrounded by Israeli soldiers, rally at the Hawara Israeli manned checkpoint to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 six-day war, in the West Bank city of Nablus
Israel has arrogantly rejected outright Palestinian proposals for a mutual ceasefire in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, arguing that there can be no "parity" between the Israeli occupation army and Palestinian resistance groups.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah as well as other smaller guerrilla groups notified Egyptian mediators of their readiness to halt all military operations against Israel, if the Jewish state agreed to reciprocate by ceasing the assassination of Palestinian activists.
Egypt, which has been hosting representatives of the major Palestinian factions, reportedly proposed a "ceasefire deal" dubbed "Gaza-First" whereby a mutual ceasefire would take hold in Gaza and later be extended to the West Bank.
The Palestinian factions didn't reject the Egyptian proposal out of hand. However, they demanded that Israel halt its assassinations in the West Bank in a matter of days or, at the maximum, a few weeks, after a ceasefire is established in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials countered that a "ceasefire" which would restrict Israeli military "activities" in the West Bank was unacceptable, on the grounds that Israel had the right to protect its citizens from Palestinian "terror".
But what Israel is saying in real terms is that it has the right to kill Palestinian civilians with impunity and carry out any military operation it sees fit, regardless of whether the Palestinians maintain a ceasefire or not.
This attitude that supports the abuse of power is repeated in daily statements made by Israeli politicians and military officials, as the brutal 40-year-old occupation of Palestinian land and lives continues unabated. This includes the destruction of civilian homes and neighbourhoods, in addition to the detention, without trial or charges being brought, of thousands of activists in inhumane conditions for prolonged periods.
This week, the Israeli military machine killed more than 13 Palestinians, including two Gaza boys (aged nine and 12) who were searching for scrap metal to sell for a few cents to help their families, impoverished by a harsh Western- Israeli blockade of the occupied territories.
As expected, the killings raised no eyebrows in Israel. The Israeli army, faithful to a long tradition of lying and concocting stories to justify its murderous crimes, claimed that the two boys were trying to plant a bomb near the Israel-Gaza border.
In fact, a sizeable segment of Israeli society (more than 40 per cent) are already demanding the "re-occupation" of the Gaza Strip in order to stop the Palestinians from firing Qassam missiles into Israel from Gaza. However, Israel de facto continues to occupy Gaza, as the Israeli army retains control of its airport, seaport, coastline, skies, as well as all border crossings leading to it, including the Rafah terminal. Hence, Gaza is literally the biggest prison in the world.
Seeking to create a semblance of deterrence which would discourage Israel from carrying out more indiscriminate killing of Palestinians, resistance groups have been firing the generally notoriously ineffective home-made Qassam missiles towards Jewish settlements east of Gaza, particularly the town of Sderot.
Following two weeks of Qassam fire, two Israelis were killed, while more than 65 Palestinians, mostly innocent civilians, lost their lives during Israeli bombing of Gaza's neighbourhoods.
The failure of the Israeli government to militarily force the Palestinians into submission and accept defeat has been a source of frustration. for both the Israeli government and public.
Shaul Mofaz, a member of Ehud Olmert's inner cabinet, called for the assassination of Palestinian political leaders and proposed that Palestinian civilians be made to "pay the price."
Mofaz told Israeli television on Tuesday that more assassinations of Palestinian politicians, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, would stop Palestinian resistance.
Mofaz, who was former defence minister, is widely viewed as a war criminal, who ordered the killing of hundreds of Palestinians, including numerous civilians, while he was in office from 2003-2006.
This week, a particularly outrageous call for employing murderous tactics against the Palestinians came from Mordecahi Elyahu, Israel's former chief rabbi.
According to the Hebrew press, Elyahu urged the army to carry out a sustained carpet bombing of Gaza population centres until the Palestinians were cowed into surrender.
"If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill 1,000, and if they don't stop after we kill 1,000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop after we kill 10,000, then we must kill 100,000 even a million, whatever it takes to make them stop."
The Iraqi-born rabbi, who has hundreds of thousands of followers, argued that saving Jewish lives, including soldiers, took priority over saving non-Jews, including civilians.
Elyahu's remarks are by no means marginal or isolated, and may well reflect a growing discourse in Israeli society which has been sliding towards Talmudic chauvinism and jingoism.
Meanwhile, the London-based human rights group, Amnesty International, has called for the deployment of international observers throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, including the West Bank, in order to uphold human rights and international law.
In a soon-to-be released report marking the passage of 40 years since Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem on 5 June, 1967, the organisation denounced Israel for its systematic persecution of Palestinians.
The report, titled Enduring Occupation: Palestinians Under Siege in the West Bank details Israeli crimes and human rights violations, including the construction of the so-called separation wall in the West Bank, which has reduced Palestinian population centres to de facto detention camps.
Most Palestinians would like to see UN peacekeeping forces or even multinational ones in the occupied territories, in the hope that they would provide a semblance of protection from the daily terror and harassment by the Israeli military and settlers.
However, Israel and its guardian-ally, the United States, have consistently rejected the idea on the grounds that third-party forces would "interfere with Israel's security".
In short, Israel wants to remain above international law, a position that frustrates and weakens moderate forces in the Middle East while encouraging and strengthening the forces of extremism, such as Al-Qaeda.
Indeed, with the Israeli occupation now reaching 40 years of age, and with the inability, or unwillingness, of the international community to pressure Israel to end the illegal occupation, many observers here are questioning why huge armies are mobilised and countries invaded, in order to deal with relatively minor issues, while the immensely grave problem of Palestine is allowed to fester unresolved for 40 years?