The past week in the saga of the Palestinian struggle for freedom was little discussed in the news. The unilateral cease-fire by Palestinians continues but the 3 month clock is ticking. But, in the meanwhile, non-violent direct action initiated by Palestinians with International support was met with Israeli violent attack on Monday and Friday. On Monday Six peace activists were injured (two Palestinians, two Americans, one Scottish, one British, and one Israeli). On Friday, three Palestinians and eight Internationals were wounded when Israeli forces opened fire on them with rubber coated steal bullets (see http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasen/spages/324719.html). Scores of Palestinians were arrested in various parts of the West Bank as Israel intensified its occupation.
Hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners went on a hunger strike and in one prison, prisoners rebelled and were put down brutally injuring several. The first phase of the so-called road map calls for an Israeli settlement freeze. Yet, only yesterday Israel announced new housing units to be built in settlements in Gaza and an Israeli Zionist group calling itself “Peace Now” reported that the more settlement “outposts” were built than dismantled in front of the foreign cameras. Building continued in colonial settlements and bypass roads throughout the occupied areas. 400,000 settlers now live in the areas illegally occupied in 1967. The Israeli government also just approved $170 million for expansion of the apartheid wall that surrounds Palestinian towns and cities and separates people from their farms and lands and from the Jewish colonies built on confiscated Palestinian lands. At 650 Kilometers, it is nearly five times longer and has much more concrete and height than the Berlin Wall (see http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article1775.shtml ).
To add insult to injury, the Israeli Knesset this week passed a law decried by International human rights groups as racist. It is added to 20 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of the “Jewish state.” The law says that Palestinians married to Israeli citizens would not get Israeli citizenship (thus must either live apart or leave the country). This law applies to Palestinians marrying Israeli citizens but not any other national marrying an Israeli.
On the eve of Sharon’s visit to Washington (call it a photo opportunity), much was made of the “easing restrictions” and dismantling checkpoints. The facts are that three checkpoints were removed out of a total of 168 Israeli checkpoints. There was essentially no change in freedom of movement for the Palestinians. Most still are separated from their work, schools, or even hospitals by a network that Dr. Jeff Halper describes as a matrix of control. The matrix of control consists of a network of settlements, bypass roads, walls, checkpoints, fences, ditches and moats. According to Halper and Israeli human rights groups, the function of this system is strangulation and impoverishing, to take Palestinian land, and to force them to leave. It has little or nothing to do with Israeli public security. “Security” as defined by Israeli leaders has always been a ruse for Palestinian land taken without protest for Israeli colonization. All land confiscation is final. Israel never slowed down, let alone reverse, its colonization. Palestinians owned more than 94% of the Holy Land in 1947 and today their remnant own of less than 10% of the Holy Land. Palestinians were ethnically cleansed by various means over the intervening period ( see www.PalestineRemembered.com ). Those thinking that Israel would ever allow a sovereign Palestinian state (even on the 22% of Palestine that is the area occupied in 1967) simply have not studied the history of the Zionist movement and its evolution. The path resulting in the so-called Oslo accords, was judged flawed by Amnesty International because it “ignored human rights.” So now, even a road map that is far more flawed (and also does not mention human rights) is being violated daily by Israeli actions with impunity.
Palestinians need to soberly reflect on this state of affairs and the collaboration of regimes stretching from Arab countries to some European countries to the Israeli occupied US Capital. Some like Abu Mazin and Dahlan are praised by Israel and the US government for playing the game as it is rigged and simply acknowledging defeat. Others like Dr. Hanan Ashrawi and Dr. Mustapha Barghouti provided an alternative agenda: The Palestinian National Initiative (see http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/646/focus.htm). This initiative, to which I subscribe to, seeks peace based on justice and human rights. Justice and human rights are enshrined also in International law ranging from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 4th Geneva Convention, to the countless UN resolutions that have been adopted (181, 194, .etc). We recognize not only our own strengths and weaknesses but our past accomplishments and our responsibilities to future generations. The Palestinian struggle has also become the lightning rod for all disenfranchised people fighting for equality and justice.
There is a key to the persistence of the Palestinian struggle despite the incredible oppression and conspiracies of silence, collusion, and obfuscation over the years. Simply put, Palestinians know their cause is just and is not lost. As long as there are children born to Palestinian households at home or in their diaspora, they will be home and Palestine will be free someday. 55 years of repression is a small segment in human history; one British-French war lasted 120 years and the crusaders occupied Jerusalem for 88 years. The fact that Israelis and Internationals are finally joining the liberation struggle (and being injured in the process) should give us hope that we are getting very close. Apartheid walls, racism, and separation did not work in South Africa and will not work in the Holy Land. The 21st century as the age of information is beginning to show its power in undermining the house of lies that is built to justify colonization and oppression. Such oppression hurts all humanity and has repercussions to all countries. For us as Palestinian-Americans, we hold a special burden as $5 billion of our taxes are plundered every year by a Congress supporting Israeli apartheid. Just as slowly and as surely as water seeping through mud and rocks makes a desert oasis, truth finds a way through to create a bright future in the middle of the harsh reality.
Dr. Mazin B. Qumsiyeh is Chair of the Media Committee, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Connecticut, USA.