I have previously published in Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper an article which dealt with Sharon’s plan to regain total Israeli control over the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority by claiming to withdraw and surrounding these areas with a suffocating siege and preventing all movement except with a permit from the Israeli civil, in reality military, administration. This is indeed what is happening now.
I also previously published in Asharq Al-Awsat an article that called for awareness and for understanding the difference between continuing to resist the occupation é soldiers and settlers é and suicide operations against Israeli civilians é operations that give Sharon free and important cards with which to implement his plan to complete the reoccupation and begin his plan to displace hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the areas Sharon plans to annex completely to Israel.
I asked the Arab countries not to allow lagging and give Sharon time é Sharon thinks that by election time in Israel (2003) he would have achieved his dream.
I wonder most times when I hear or read the opinions of some analysts and politicians who talk as if our armies were besieging Tel Aviv.
What we are in at the moment is not a war, but a constant aggression carried out by an army heavily armed with technology and armored vehicles against a people who are unarmed except for guns that cannot protect them from armored vehicles or planes. Therefore we said, and say again, that the central point in these critical times is to continue to resist the occupation é soldiers and armed settlers é in the occupied territories; that is, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and for everyone to refrain from carrying out any suicide operations in Israel, especially those that target civilians.
This is because the essential weapon the Palestinian people possess is national justice and that they are victims of a racist occupation that is tearing their homeland apart and is practicing torture, persecution and humiliation every hour and every minute. This weapon, if used well, will mobilize international public opinion and pressure the international community into adopting practical firm stands to stop the aggression and end the occupation.
This is the central strategy now, and we must not allow anyone any more, no individual or group, to harm the higher national interests of the Palestinian people and harm the people themselves, by carrying out such operations inside Israel, because at the very least they have transformed the Israelis into victims and the Palestinians into terrorists in the minds of the international community. We must concentrate on resisting the occupation é soldiers and armed settlers é and they are abundant in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, because this reinstates the truth in the mind of the world é the truth that states that the Palestinian people are victims of a racist and terrorist occupation, and that the main and constant source of terrorism is the occupation as long as it continues, and that Israel is a racist country that persecutes all of our people, killing civilians, destroying houses, uprooting trees, imposing a siege on them in their cities, villages and camps so suffocating that more than 78% of them are now below the poverty line according to international standards.
Mobilizing international public opinion to exert pressure on governments, especially in the West, is one of the most important weapons the Palestinians and Arabs possess, based on the justness of their cause and because it is supported by unanimously approved Security Council resolutions, most important of which are 242, 338, 1402 and 1397.
Based on this we say that the operations targeting Israeli civilians makes the Palestinian people lose the ability to defend their rights and changes the true image in a way that serves Sharon and the racist Israeli occupation and causes many countries in the West to be hesitant or unable to push towards taking practical steps to put an end to the Israeli aggression and to push towards the process of ending the Israeli occupation.
We know very well that the West in general has demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate blind support for Israel, but the West and the U.S. cannot ignore the war crimes and massacres that Israeli is committing if the suicide operations against Israeli civilians had not provided these countries with excuses to say that Israel is defending itself. Why do the factions insist on carrying out such operations when they can concentrate on the occupation forces and armed settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?
These operations have made it easier for Sharon to mobilize the Israelis fully for a barbaric and racist war against the Palestinian people under the banner of a battle for survival.
The Israeli were indoctrinated during the months that preceded the new invasion of the West Bank, based on the suicide operations inside Israeli, that the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat have returned to the armed struggle option for ending Israel and destroying it. This is of course completely untrue because the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Yasser Arafat has confirmed and confirms again now that the goal is to establish peace between the state of Israel and the independent state of Palestine with full sovereignty over lands occupied by Israel in 1967; that is, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But as we said, these condemned operations against Israeli civilians have given Sharon the material he needs to mobilize’ the Israelis and the army to fight a battle of survival and to use that incitement in the U.S. and the West to support the war crimes he committed under that banner.
The Palestinians were stunned at the barbarism and brutality with which the Israeli army stormed, with its tanks, machinery and planes, their cities, villages and camps. The soldiers who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in these areas will undoubtedly suffer from chronic psychological illnesses, in addition to the illnesses they had when they committed these crimes, but the indoctrination was: Kill them before they kill you é it is the battle of survival for the Jews. The reason once again is these suicide operations against Israeli civilians, which harmed the Palestinian people’s interests and destroyed the infrastructure and institutions of the Palestinian people.
Now, dangerous possibilities as well as positive possibilities appear on the horizon and everyone must think hard and not make light of the brinkmanship tone because that is possible for everyone. We must think hard and choose the wise way to protect our people, raise their status and achieve their national goals by working hard and wisely to end the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital.
If Sharon seeks to escalate matters and commit more war crimes and evict hundreds of thousand of Palestinians then why do these factions send suicide bombers into Israel (against civilians)? Do they do that to give him an excuse or to deprive the Palestinians from their right to present their just cause to international public opinion é that they are victims of a racist occupation and that the terrorism is the occupation and that the Palestinians are not terrorists?
I call on everyone to stand firmly against these leaderships that direct these young people in suicide operations against Israeli civilians and I ask them to exert popular pressure to concentrate on resisting the occupation army and the armed settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
This matter will be, to a great extent, connected to diligent work (which we must intensify together with the Arab countries) to push Israel to withdraw from the West Bank at least back to the borders of September 28th and remove the roadblocks and dirt and concrete barriers so the Palestinian citizens may be able to move between their villages, cities and camps. This is also directly connected to the Palestinian people’s demand that international forces, even if only American, be sent to separate and to protect the Palestinian people from the series of repeated criminal attacks that have touched and still touch all the cities, villages and camps that Israel claims to have withdrawn from.
Once again we say that the Arabization of Prince Abdulla bin Abdel Aziz’s initiative received from the beginning a clear Israeli reply which was to reoccupy all PA areas and besiege President Yasser Arafat and the Church of the Nativity. Therefore, what is required from Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, is to form a permanent ministerial committee so Sharon cannot waste time until 2003 as he wants. What is required is for this committee to head for the U.S., to the head of the European Union and Russia and to the UN Secretary General and to follow up with them in a continuous manner and prepare a mechanism that includes:
The withdrawal of the Israeli troops from Palestinian Authority areas.
Preventing Israeli incursions and raids into Palestinian cities, villages and camps.
Removing roadblocks from West Bank roads and lifting the siege off the cities, villages and camps.
The immediate start of political negotiations based on the initiative of Prince Abdulla bin Abdel Aziz, which is based on international legitimacy resolutions.
Also, we must say that Prince Abdulla bin Abdel Aziz is required to follow up on his initiative closely. This cause has become the pivot of all the causes in the Middle East region, and we should not allow the fire to go cold.
After this we say that the circumstances of the Palestinian people are catastrophic, but the Israeli situation is no better. Israel’s economy has suffered great setbacks, the amount of investments has dwindled, strikes are widespread and whole economic sectors are paralyzed (such as tourism, construction, hotels, restaurants and agriculture), and Sharon is in serous trouble. Operation Defensive Shield did not achieve what Sharon claimed he could achieve through it and the only result was: the killing of hundreds of civilians, the arrest of more than ten thousand Palestinians, the destruction of hundreds of houses and the destruction of institutions, the infrastructure, the sewage system, electricity, phone networks, etc.
This indicates that Sharon’s war was not as he claimed; it was directed at the Palestinian people, civilians, institutions, trees, houses and the civil infrastructure. Despite this he lost to Netanyahu at the meeting of the Likud central committee.
His popularity has begun to decrease and the Israeli peace movement has begun to escalate its activities, the peak being demonstrations that included sixty thousand Israelis in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, demanding the withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In other words, Sharon’s Israel is in trouble too.
Therefore, the political and diplomatic Arab movement towards the goals mentioned earlier will be in a race against time against Sharon’s approach to escalate in order to regain his lost popularity and the Likud leadership.
The path is clear and known; it is the path of Washington, Moscow, the European Union and the United Nations.
Bassam Abu-Sharif is a special advisor to President Arafat.