"We will harass these Palestinians 'til they move like drunk cockroaches in a bottle." Ñ Rafael Eitan, former Israeli general, present head of the Tromet Party
The recent suicide bombings, while increasing Israel's political turmoil, are at the same time obliterating the human and political rights of the Palestinians. The situation is ready to explode into military confrontation.
The so-called "Oslo II Accord" helped set the stage for this tragedy since not one of the basic issues dividing the two peoples was adequately addressed. Arafat, reduced to Quisling status by pressure both from Israel and the U.S, is now being forced to suppress his own people, who presently control less than 10% of the territory promised them under UN Resolutions 242 and 338. These Palestinians sense their euphoria fast fading after the recent elections, which got them a council of Arafat's cronies rather than the independent legislature they had desired. The illegal settlements still grow and highways between them and Jerusalem, all of which cut across Arab land, are closed to the Arabs. Israel not only controls water rights, but both Israelis and their settlers use over ten times the water allowed the Palestinians and at rates ridiculously less.
True, Israeli troops pulled out of some major Palestinian cities, but they then seized adjacent Arab land and are building 62 new military posts just outside the cities' limits, controlling every Arab move with hundreds of humiliating checkpoints. Peres broke Rabin's promise to release their remaining 5,000 political prisoners, so Israel still holds and tortures these activists, and this week added hundreds more. Arafat, with the encouragement of the U.S., has set up "kangaroo" courts, thus collecting his own illegal prisoners. (Vice President Gore recently applauded this move.) With over 60% unemployment in the Territories, and Israel's illegal "collective punishment" closing her borders to the Palestinian workforce at will, many Arab families are barely able to survive.
Our Congress, with a knee-jerk response to the recent bombings, just threatened to withhold their less-than-generous $500 million (over five years) promised Arafat until he "controls the violence." At the same time these legislators gave Israel (with a voice vote to cover themselves) the usual $3.5 billion.
All of this is persuading a generation of Palestinians, raised in the climate of Israel's arrogant brutality, that things will never change. That militant sect within Hamas, once created and armed by Israel to weaken Arafat's PLO, is now turning on both its maker and her Quisling.
Stealing a people's land and wealth, encroaching on their civil and political rights, destroying their economy while creating discord within their ranks is the pattern of behavior Israel learned from those western nations which colonialized the Mideast after WWI. This physical and psychological compression has now reached a critical mass and the explosion can take place at any time. The "cockroaches" have had it.
Israel's immediate responses to the bombings will not increase her security, but rather add to Palestinian frustration and anger. Closing the borders and forcing another 20,000 Palestinians out of work, barring all travel between the 465 villages and cities, blockading the Mediterranean coast, and forcing 4,000 Arab fishermen to stay home, all Israel's on-going measures of "collective punishment," illegal under international law, are being ignored by the Clinton Administration.
Palestinians in Gaza suffer increasing shortages of basic foodstuffs. The 8,000 tons of flour imported monthly from Israel have been stopped, and 20,000 tons of flour from Egypt are held at the border by the IDF (Israeli Defense League). Palestinian patients with cancer are being denied radiation and chemotherapy in Israel and those with kidney disease, denied dialysis. Sixty percent of West Bank physicians have been unable to reach their hospital and offices. 330,000 babies awaiting polio vaccine are denied medication. Forced by Israel, Arafat has arrested hundreds of Hamas leaders who are being held without trial, and an additional 400 have been arrested by Israeli soldiers. Under Peres' orders to "destroy the social infrastructure," the IDF has closed ten Islamic colleges and universities and several charitable institutions. All these actions are in violation of International Law and the Geneva conventions signed by Israel and 140 other countries. In the UN yesterday (March 19th) Hannu Halinen, a Finnish ambassador serving as observer in the Occupied Territories, strongly criticized Israel's actions.
The already-devastated Palestinian economy was estimated by the British journal The Economist (February 10) to lose an additional $6 million/day as a result of the border shutdowns, yet our President, wearing his yarmulke in Jerusalem last week, promised Israelis another $100 million American taxpayers' dollars to "increase their protection." Not one cent for those starving Palestinians.
Neither this increasingly severe repression nor Clinton's international conference on "terrorism" will solve the problem, only the political and financial reining-in of Israel which isn't likely to take place in today's Washington climate.