23 - 29 December 1999
Issue No. 461
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Justice is the keyThe speech delivered by Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Sharaa at the opening of peace talks with Israel in Washington last week was a good indication of how most Arabs feel towards the conflict with Israel. It also proved that the Syrians would not be easy negotiators and that they are keen on concluding a "peace of the brave" between two countries which are officially still at war.
No sooner, however, had Israel announced that it would bow to international law and return the Golan Heights to the Syrian people than the international media began to wring its hands over the plight of the 17,000 Israelis settlers who will be forced to move out. Al-Sharaa quite rightly asked about the fate of the 500,000 Syrians whose villages in the Golan were destroyed and who were forced to leave their homes when Israel occupied their land. Why has the international media made no mention of their plight?
The same logic applies to the Israeli air force's recent bombing of a school in south Lebanon, which injured 20 children, leaving some crippled for the rest of their lives. How would the "developed" world react if a Katyusha rocket hit a school in northern Israel, injuring the same number of children? Pictures of Israeli children with their families wailing and shouting "death to all Arabs" would have filled the front pages of all the international newspapers, which despite their claim to objectivity have virtually ignored the Lebanese children's suffering.
Of course, Israel would not have been satisfied with a cursory apology, as the Lebanese people were forced to do in this most recent incident.
Agreements on paper will not lead to peace between the Arabs and Israel. Israel must acknowledge all the wrong it has done to its neighbours over the past 50 years, and deal with them as equal partners. Justice is the key word. And justice will only be done when all occupied Arab land is returned to its rightful owners, and an independent Palestinian state is born.