In the light of the tragic events of the last weeks in the West Bank, some recent statistics should rise concern, if not for the present condition of all those people who, maybe not for the first time, found themselves without a home, at least for the future of any reasonable solution of the conflict.
It is confounding to state that, against all expectations, the horrid outrages committed by Tsahal as reported by numerous witnesses do not upset the Israelis!
In the past, Ariel Sharon’s criminal activity in Lebanon during the 1982 siege had been investigated and condemned by an Israeli Committee (Kahane) who found him guilty of complicity as regards the butchery in Sabra and Shatila refugees’ camps. Today, it sounds that the Israelis are unable to see any wrongdoing in the criminal behavior of their army. Of course, in such times the charges of ” treason and compassion with the enemy of the nationé are quickly delivered. This is also true for the other camp, as it is actually the case everywhere during war times. Yet, there is a wide and clear difference between “collaborating with the enemy” and realizing that the army is perhaps not behaving as it has to; accordingly with the principles of military honor any army is usually proud of exhibiting. Indeed, some Israeli servicemen preferred to face the charge of “desertion” rather than to take part to the collective bloody, blind vendetta led by their generals against ordinary Palestinian people. But while it is the duty of all the Human Rights Organizations to take the defense of those Conscience Objectors, it is no less important to state that the majority of their compatriots remain utterly indifferent to the criminal acts of their army. Some signs are é alas! – too obvious to be misread.
It seems for example that Israeli public opinion polls show a dramatic increase in support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon since the current West Bank military offensive began.
A poll published in the daily Ma’ariv said 65 percent of Israelis now express confidence in Mr. Sharon, compared with 30 percent who do not.
A poll published by another daily, Yediot Ahronot said 64 percent of Israelis now trust Mr. Sharon’s leadership. That contrasts with a March 9 poll in that newspaper, which showed 76 percent of the people were dissatisfied with Mr. Sharon’s performance.
The Ma’ariv poll said 57 percent of those surveyed feel safer since the offensive, called Operation Defensive Wall, was launched.
Do you know what that mean? It means in the least that should an Israeli election be organized today, Sharon would win it again! Of course, that may seem unbelievable for any human being concerned for the ruthless and brutal manners of Sharon. But the Israeli people, who lately appeared scandalized by the unexpected arrival “en masse” of the French ultra-right wing Jean-Marie Le pen, have ” seen the straw in the eye of the French, but not the girder in their own eye”! (A French proverb).
And do you know why the Israelis sound so satisfied, unless their polls are as lying and misleading as the French polls, which prior to the elections, have all of them estimated that the second ballot would include only Jospin and Chirac, thus completely excluding Le pen? You can find some elements of the answer in a New York Times story, which mentions that: “Now, after Israel’s biggest military offensive in the West Bank since it first occupied the territory in 1967, the settlers appear, for the moment, to have the upper hand. Some have fled the violence of the last 18 months, but their numbers continue to grow over all”. And Mr. James Bennet adds:” Settlers continue to build new Jewish homes in the middle of Palestinian Hebron and in the rocky West Bank hills, and to pursue a vision that blends nationalism, messianism and yearning for the good life.” (April 28).
The fact that those settlements (160 in the West Bank and 19 in Gaza, according to Peace Now) are the embodiment of the illegal occupation does not seem to disturb the Israelis! Their American sponsors sound almost as insensitive as they are, and their most illustrious representative (Mr. Bush) pushed the hypocrisy to the extent of pretending that “Sharon is a man of peace”!
Why not? After all, for twenty years the successive American administrations were completely apathetic towards the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, representing the most scandalous defiance to the International Security Council resolutions. Today, Israel is still occupying Syrian lands and murderously rampaging in the West Bank, supposed to be a self-ruled Palestinian territory, and the USA is still “powerless”, as to stop or even to pressure Sharon, despite the news reported by many international media about another genocide in Jenin.
The US is said to be standing for Human Rights, freedom and democracy in the world. All right, but how? Who ever would believe that the American administration couldn’t do more to protect the Palestinian population? Who ever would believe that this population is nothing but a pack of terrorists? If this is what the American people believe, then all the Arabs are damned! But if this is not what the Americans think, so who has been hijacked? And in which conditions? And for what purpose?
Let’s remind the forgetful that all that mess in the West Bank occurred just after a proposition of peace including all the Arab states has been adopted by no less than a very official Arab summit in Beirut. Recently moreover, the man who issued that proposition é Crown Prince Abdullah- presented it personally to President Bush when the latter received him. The new Saudi document, while complementing the Beirut plan, calls for an end to the Israeli siege of the West Bank town of Ramallah, deployment of an international peacekeeping force, reconstruction of damaged Palestinian areas, a renunciation of violence, a focus on talks toward a political settlement to Israeli-Palestinian issues, and an end to Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas.
But who believes today that the present administration would really commit itself to a true effort in this direction? In the Arab world, they are no longer under any illusions. Maybe even Crown Prince Abdullah himself knows that his propositions would find their way to the manuals of history even before any peace would loom at the horizon of the Middle East! Considering the “historic” unwillingness of the Americans to find any wrongdoing in the Israeli acts, nothing is amazing!
Mr. Bush indeed does not miss a single occasion to remind us that his first concern is about fighting terrorism, and “fighting terrorism” is exactly what Sharon has pretended to achieve! Thus supporting Sharon is the duty of the American president!
But what if an international committee, trusted by everybody in the world, finds after thorough investigations an evidence of genocide committed in Jenin? Would Mr. Bush still pretend that Sharon is “a man of peace”?
Here’s what an Israeli militant (Mr. Uri Avnery) recently wrote:
“If Sharon had really intended to “destroy the infrastructure of terrorism”, he would have acted very differently. He would have given the Palestinian masses hope of achieving their national freedom in the near future. He would have fortified the position of Yasir Arafat, the only effective partner for peace. He would have strengthened the Palestinian security forces and radically improved economic conditions in the Palestinian territories.”
But it seems that, with the exclusion of Ariel Sharon, there are no men of peace to be heard in Washington!
That the present administration has ridiculed itself and undermined its future chances in the search for peace does not need to be proved.
This is not only what the Arab observers say, but also what their Western colleagues state, when obviously it sounds as ludicrous as dangerous to hide the truth known to everybody, or to disguise it. Thus, Mr. Charley Reese writes on April 24, under the headline ” the end of America’s prestige”:
“I said earlier that Colin Powell’s trip to the Middle East would answer the question of who determines American foreign policy: America’s elected leaders, or Israel and its powerful American lobby. The answer is Israel. Powell has disgraced himself. He did the ritual moaning and groaning about six Israelis killed by a suicide bomber but said nothing about the hundreds of innocent Palestinians killed by the Israelis.”
And Mr. Robert Fisk, the Middle East insightful observer since so many years, noticed in a comment about the Secretary of State’s last trip: “Thanks to Mr. Powell, President Bush and Mr. Sharon, America’s credibility has been shattered. Israel, it turns out, does indeed run U.S. policy in the region. The Secretary of State sings from the Israeli songbook.”
To be sure, we can add many other quotations from the American and the European media. But our purpose is just to give examples, so that the American administration, or those in Washington who have the power of decision, stand back from repeating infinitely the same tragic mistakes that hitherto have doomed any honest effort for peace in the Middle East. The purpose of these examples is actually to make them wonder: if this is what our own observers state about our policy, so how can we blame the Arabs when giving up to emotions they burst out angrily against all what we stand for?
In other words: are the Arabs really against America or the American way of life as some fools pretend? Absolutely not. What happened on September 11 was the exclusion not the rule. For you will notice what the rule is, when you know how the ordinary folks in the Arab cities enjoy the American products, how they are fond of American movies, and American books, and American culture, and American food. Why should the Arabs be the enemies of the USA if the globalization and the media boom made our world so small, and our cultures so similar? Are there really rival civilizations in our modern world, fighting and sometimes-, as it seems! – clashing, for survival-or a single human cosmopolitan civilization with varied faces and aspects? What distinguishes the Arab citizen who lives in Abu Dhabi from an American citizen of the Michigan, if they are both endowed with the same material conditions? I mean that both men could enjoy the same modern welfare, maybe have the same job and the same salary, read the same books, love the same movies and plays, travel abroad during vacations, and lead a successful life! Why should these two citizens, who have perhaps never met, hate each other?
Yet, this is precisely what over fifty years of mishandling of the Middle East problem would lead to.
Whose fault is that?
If it is hard for anyone to acknowledge its mistakes because of the so-called “national pride”, we should notice that it is exactly that kind of unbridled nationalism that led to the worst outrages of history. And while it is understandable that America, under the strain of the terrorist menace, tries to unify its people and to mobilize it for the fight against terror, it is definitely important to notice that this effort must not veer into a crusade against Arabs and Islam, under different labels.
Now, anybody can state that this is precisely what Sharon is doing, justifying his excesses by the fight against terror, thus seemingly “responding” to the American call. Are the Americans recognizing themselves in Sharon’s acts? Are they identifying their purposes to those of Israel? Allow us to doubt it.
But if the Americans in their majority stay faithful to the principles of reason and democracy, how could a minority of people endowed with powerful means of coercion such as the Zionist lobby (AIPAC), trap the Congress and the different governments in a long, almost indefectible, consuming complicity with its projects of hegemony and wild expansion, at the expenses of other peoples’ rights?
Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.