While Israeli troops are amassing in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with the siege tightening to unprecedented proportions and with the Palestinians being increasingly subjected to a policy of persistent shelling, political assassinations, abductions, house demolitions, and destruction of crops and trees, the global question seems to focus on whether there will be a war or not.
From the Palestinian perspective, war has already broken out-a unilateral, brutal war launched by a powerful army of occupation against a captive civilian population.
Granted, the dramatic impact of a massive military onslaught is not immediately visible, but the lethal effects of a war-by-installments are just as painful and morally abhorrent.
Daily incursions, murders, and across-the-board mayhem and destruction are taking place before the very eyes of those who are holding their breath awaiting the “invasion.”
The Israeli occupation has thus succeeded in carrying out a grand deception: Its deliberate leaks on an “impending invasion” have distracted the world from the ongoing atrocities, and, more seriously have desensitized global public opinion by creating an “acceptable” level of Palestinian suffering administered in daily doses, therefore easily absorbed by an already-numbed conscience.
Such evasive tactics have succeeded also in deflecting any potential responses and criticisms of Israel should it carry out its threats of an all-out war.
The gradual “normalization” of occupation plays right into the hands of the most extreme religious, political, and military elements in Israel as represented by its present government.
Sharon may have learned some lessons from the massacres, war crimes, and military adventures of his blood-drenched past-albeit the wrong lessons.
Clearly, he is trying to carry out more of the same, but without being caught red-handed. Evasion of notice, and thereby of responsibility, as well as the generation of misleading smoke screens (with his PR and media advisers) has been incorporated into Israeli public policy.
But the essence remains unchanged.
The lessons that Sharon should have learned must include the following:
Occupation by any other name and in any guise remains the most pervasive form of violence, human rights violations, and immoral enslavement of a whole nation. It is the ultimate provocation at the individual and collective levels.
No amount or degree of violence can succeed in subjugating the will of a people or destroying their spirit when they are struggling for their freedom, dignity, and right to sovereignty on their own land. All previous Israeli attempts at intensifying the brutality of the occupation against the Palestinians have led only to the escalation of the conflict and the increased determination of the Palestinian people to gain their liberty.
Security is the outcome of a just peace, not a prerequisite to talks. No occupation in history has ever been secure, comfortable, pleasant, or normal. No people under occupation have ever been called upon to guarantee the safety of their occupation army or settlers.
A just peace cannot be accomplished by battering the weak into submission or by forcing the victims to relinquish their most basic rights. An unfair truce or capitulation under fire is temporary by definition-a conflict in waiting, ready to erupt at the appropriate moment.
Hence the causes of the conflict must be addressed and resolved in a just manner, if there is to be a permanent and legitimate peace.
All conflicts are resolved politically and legally, on the basis of parity of rights and the global rule of law. Ideological and absolutist mindsets serve only to aggravate the conflict as a form of exclusivity and exclusion. If all of historical Palestine is claimed as a “Jewish homeland,” then the corresponding response is that all of historical Palestine is an “Islamic waqf land.” The sharing of the land in a two-state solution based on the June 4th, 1967 boundaries is thus entirely eradicated-as are the prospects of peace.
The Palestinian question is not a domestic issue in Israel and the occupied territories are not “disputed” lands. Hence, Israel is not a sovereign power in Palestine, but a “belligerent occupant,” and the Palestinian people are protected in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
Consequently, the protection of the Palestinian people under occupation is an international responsibility, not subject to Israeli approval or veto.
Given the nature of the Sharon agenda, and in light of the willful blindness and military adventurism that have characterized Israeli policies and measures towards the Palestinians, it is highly unlikely that a sudden epiphany will manifest itself soon.
Rather, one hopes that the Israeli public will arrive at the realization of the extreme danger and futility inherent in such policies before it is too late and before more innocent blood is shed. Accountability starts at home, especially if the current insanity is to be checked.
One also hopes that the international community will come to an understanding and a decisive recognition of its own responsibility, and hence take upon itself the pressing task of positive intervention before current tragic conditions spin out of control.
The Palestinian people cannot and must not be abandoned-particularly by the Arab world whose own security, prosperity and development are inextricably linked to the just solution of the Palestinian question.
If only to safeguard their own interests, Europe and the US must also reach the realization that they cannot take the Arab world for granted; their standing, influence and interests will be directly affected by their policies towards the Palestinians and by developments in the region.
Sharon’s war mongering and his beating of the war drums against the Palestinians are not inaudible within the region and beyond. Just as sound carries, so does war.
It would be an even greater tragedy if Sharon and his ilk were left alone to dictate the agenda and to export the conflict even further, instead of acting decisively to bring about its immediate containment and solution.