Arabs should speak harshly to Israel and carry a big stick

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A week into the umpteenth Israeli re-invasion of Palestinian towns and land, tempers are understandably explosive and passions are high. The Arab masses have never been more tempted to lash out into outright war against the Jewish state, but what is really needed now is composure and perspicacity, while full support for the Palestinian people and their intifada continues through every means possible. Simultaneously, it is vital to continue exposing the Israeli government’s premeditated criminal intentions to the world.

Imagining that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is currently giving way to rage over the killing of Israeli civilians is ignoring the evident schemes that have been brewing in the Israeli administration for months, or rather years. Just as this savage character is not “reacting” to suicide bombings as a “madman,” so must the Arabs coolly consider their response to this barbaric onslaught.

It is crucial that international public opinion, silently aghast at Israel’s brutality, be made to understand once and for all that Sharon has never acted more calculatedly or more in tune with his people’s wants, and that this latest Israeli invasion, with America’s full acquiescence and assistance, is only a step toward the ultimate goal of eliminating any Palestinian pretense to a national state and ensuring that Palestinians are perpetual refugees.

It is no coincidence that Sharon’s declaration of war occurred just as the Arab League had presented a peace plan to Israel, nor is Sharon’s attack a direct reply to this initiative. This was all planned. There is not even a “conspiracy theory” to divulge: Browsing through Sharon’s past statements and the record of Israel’s actions will more than repair selective memories. In fact, Sharon himself must be pleasantly surprised at the naivety of all those who have overlooked his clear messages.

Sharon, like his Likud predecessors, has never pretended he would ever give back any Palestinian land, regardless of the supposed peace he feigns to implore for his people. Israel wants land, even more land, and it never meant to resolve the land for peace equation. Peace, perhaps, but not in exchange for land. Land and security, yes, both of which Israel plans to acquire (or so it hopes) through violence. A Palestinian state, never.

Plainly, Israel has been pushing the Occupied Territories to the point of explosion, so that it can appear to be forced to intervene and then calmly reoccupy or annex the last remnants of Palestine. Playing the victim, an Israeli forte, is easier when the world is fed the analysis only through Sharon’s spokesmen, and when labels that are abhorred by a post-Sept. 11 Western opinion are stuck indiscriminately and baselessly on his opponents.

Thrusting this escalation into high gear since his ascension to power in a landslide election, Sharon has been purposely breeding Palestinian humiliation and despair. Assassinations, bombings, detentions, house demolitions, settlement implantations; all these were executed with the logical certitude that they would eventually entail furious -é and violent -é reactions from the people who endured them.

This is exactly what Sharon wanted. The more he repressed Palestinians, the more they gave him a pretext for further repression, or, as the Bush administration calls it, “self-defense.” The more they were pushed, the more they reacted, and vice versa. The absurdity of this strategy seemed to have reached its culminating point last December, when Sharon placed Palestinian President Yasser Arafat under house arrest in Ramallah, but it was just a prologue. A few more acts were needed before the grand finale.

As word came out of a peace initiative to be adopted at the Arab League summit in Beirut, all Sharon had to do was increase both pain and shame on Palestinians. Incursions into a few towns, significant killing sprees, parading of blindfolded men with numbered foreheads, and naturally unacceptable travel restrictions on the Palestinian leader. It was only a matter of time before the next desperate Palestinian decided to sacrifice his life to kill countless others in the process. In fact, it was practically as if Sharon had himself set the time and date for the suicide bombing he would exploit to justify his phony reaction.

This reaction was just as phony as the panel of supposedly outraged Israeli ministers who declared war. The Sharon Cabinet did not even bother coming up with its own speech, nor did it need to.  President George W. Bush, by allowing Sharon to link two completely unrelated and unequal situations, clearly had no qualms about letting him manipulate Sept. 11 and thus abuse the memory of its victims. Freely borrowing from the American rhetoric, Sharon announced that Arafat was an enemy of the free world, but deliberately omitted that this was not a war on the Palestinian people.

The Arab states, momentarily paralyzed by their peace offer, are trying to use every diplomatic channel as they consider a proper response. Sharon is determined that by then, he will have neutralized the Palestinian entity through sheer brutal repression, and will be able to say to the world “now we are ready for peace,” hoping that the Arabs will have decided they were ready for war. This would allow Israel to continue playing the victim and decrying the failure of the so-called peace process and the travesty of Oslo.

Real initiatives upset Sharon’s plans, and he must not be allowed to dictate Arab policy. This is only one of the reasons why temptations to withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative must now be resisted, even as support of Palestinians continues in every possible manner. Arabs have a right to continue demanding a just and comprehensive settlement while simultaneously making provisions for less diplomatic measures.

In the meantime, America does much more than watch in silence. The ridicule brought on the US by its current president will be remembered for years to come. Fluttering between a vague vision of the Middle East, support for a UN Security Council resolution requiring Israeli withdrawal, and demands that Arafat (besieged with no food, water, electricity, or even telephone) do “more” to quell “terrorism,” Bush has only succeeded in appearing clueless about the havoc he has helped wreak.

While Bush tries to understand exactly what his position is on this conflict, he is openly encouraging a notorious war criminal to ruthlessly obliterate the dreams and the lives of the people of Palestine. Perhaps more perspective is needed to comprehend exactly what Bush had not anticipated in this mayhem. Is it that he did not expect Arab unity to actually emerge? Was he surprised to find unanimous agreement on the peace initiative, and (even worse for Bush) on the support of Iraq? Is he resentfully “reacting” to reconciliation within the Arab world? Whatever his true motives, all the American president has achieved is that more perfectly normal people over the planet increasingly resent the United States.

One champion has so far emerged from this chaos: Yasser Arafat. Israel’s intransigence and atrocities have only caused Palestinians to support him more, and even Sharon could not prevent a brave Arafat from looking and acting like a real leader, not requesting any help for himself but rather calling for assistance for his Palestinian people, as ever the true heroes.

It is imperative that the true aims of the Israeli government be exposed to international public opinion. Israel plans and acts, it does not react. And it plans on making the Palestinian people a destitute people forever.  Correspondingly, Arabs must plan and act to achieve the reverse.

It is now the global community’s prerogative to decide whether to help, and whether the mockery of a democracy that Israel is can be allowed to continue flouting international laws, human conventions and divine commandments. This time, no one can pretend that “we didn’t know.”

Rime Allaf is a writer and specialist in Middle East affairs. She is also a consultant in international communications and new economy business.

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