The government of Sharon has finally revealed itself to the world as a government of war. Since his election, we in Palestine have warned of his violent and aggressive behavior and been fearful of what he would unleash on the Palestinians and Israelis. Now his real intentions are unmasked – his desire to destroy the peace process he never agreed with.
Sharon is cynically using the current international situation to irreparably damage the work of the past ten years that brought the Israeli and Palestinian people closer than ever before to a peaceful solution to their conflict.
Sharon, who declared after the Ze’evi assassination that “starting from today, everything is different”, has in the last 48 hours overseen a military invasion into areas of Ramallah, Jenin, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour; at the same time tanks and troops are building up on the borders of other cities including Nablus and Qalqiliya.
Thus begins the gradual reoccupation of the Palestinian areas by the Israeli military, a reoccupation that is aimed at expanding the Israeli occupation into the mere 18% of the West Bank and Gaza Strip which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
Already four people have died during these Israeli invasions – including an 11-year-old girl in Jenin and scores more are wounded.
However these current invasions into Palestinian areas are not only aimed at destroying the PA and the peoples will to resist, they are also aimed at destroying homes, schools, buildings, roads and the physical infrastructure that has developed since the signing of the Oslo agreements. This physical destruction is symbolic of the destruction of everything that Palestinians and Israelis have worked towards for these past ten years. Furthermore, by destroying the physical infrastructure the potential for a future Palestinian state is also being destroyed, and with it the potential for peace and co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis.
And despite the Israeli revulsion at the assassination of their own tourism minister, the Israeli government continues to use assassination as a method to weaken the Palestinian Authority and to force complete capitulation to Israeli demands to submit to a continuation of the illegal occupation. To date 63 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s assassination policy – including 22 bystanders, three of them dying within 12 hours of Ze’evi.
Instead of acting as the international community has asked by resolving the Palestinian-Israeli problem, Sharon is making the situation increasingly perilous.
At this dangerous time we cannot afford to ignore the parallels with history. It was the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador in London that led to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 when Sharon was Minister of Defense. The initial invasion of Lebanon left more than 20,000 people dead; by the time the Israeli army withdrew last year, thousands more had lost their lives and the history of Israeli was forever tarred with the massacres of Sabra and Shatila. Neither the Israeli’s nor the Palestinians can afford Israel’s repetition of the mistakes of history.
Nor should Sharon believe he can defeat history; colonialist ventures have eventually been destroyed when the occupied people struggled for their independence. In Algeria it cost a million lives, but independence was eventually achieved. The Israeli government and people need to remember that these acts of revenge and retaliation that pass in the Israeli government as ‘solutions’ to the problem are in fact responsible for increasing the danger we are all living in. Moreover they are obscuring the real reason we find ourselves teetering on the abyss of intensified violence and death – Israel is occupying 82% of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Only by addressing this fundamental, core concept can we arrive at a place where security and a future, free from the horrors of today, can be achieved.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi is President of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees.