Sharon's War Cannot Be Won

December 5, 2001

Sharon's War Cannot Be Won



CHICAGO -- Once again the world has had to confront

the horror of innocent men, women and children killed

by suicide bombers in the heart of Jerusalem and in

Haifa. No decent person can refrain from condemning

such attacks in the strongest terms. Such deeds harm

not only their innocent victims, which in this case

probably included Palestinian citizens of Israel, but

also the just cause of Palestine.

As a Palestinian I am often challenged by the press on

my views about such horrific bombings. I emphatically

repeat my condemnation and state that I oppose the

targeting and killing of innocent civilians regardless

of whether they are Israelis or Palestinians.

Yet I wonder why no one asked how I felt when five

Palestinian schoolboys were killed by a bomb planted

by the Israeli occupation forces in a refugee camp in

Gaza less than two weeks ago  or why Israelis and

pro-Israel spokesmen, who are called for comment by

the same radio and television stations that call me,

are rarely asked to condemn the violence that is

committed in their name.

I watched in sadness the latest American envoy to the

Middle East, Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, laying a wreath in

Jerusalem at the site of the bombings. But where was

the American wreath for the five boys killed in Gaza?

Why are the targeting and killing of hundreds of

Palestinian civilians, including more than 150

children, and the suffocation by siege of three

million Palestinians so often considered mere

background noise to Israel's drama? 

In response to the suicide attacks, Secretary of

Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said, "The only way to

defend against terrorists is to go after the

terrorists." This can only be understood as an

endorsement of Israel's policy of extrajudicial

executions, which on Nov. 23 took the life of a senior

Hamas leader and set off the latest round of suicide

bombings. The retaliation by Prime Minister Ariel

Sharon of Israel  bombing Gaza and the West Bank  is

the beginning of a new stage of war. What other

punishments will be imposed on the Palestinians? More

shelling of refugee camps? More houses destroyed? More

kidnappings? More torture? An even tighter blockade?

None of these strategies are likely to end the

violence; after all, all have been used relentlessly

and without mercy. Perhaps this time Mr. Sharon will

order the special forces to either kill Yasir Arafat

or send him back into exile.

My response to all of this is a big shrug. So they

send Yasir Arafat back to Tunis or assassinate him 

the occupation will still be there. The Israelis will

be the losers because they will no longer have the

decrepit old man, their bin Laden, to blame for all

their problems. They will come face to face with the

fact that it is the occupation that is the fuel of the

conflict. Palestinians will be neither better off nor

worse off. Some even think that a return to direct

military occupation without the intermediary of the

Palestinian Authority can only sharpen the

confrontation and bring about a conclusion  however

miserable  more rapidly.

Certainly no serious person believes that Mr. Arafat

and his lieutenants, nominally controlling a few

divided scraps of land in the West Bank and Gaza, can

through coercion, arrests and torture do what Israel

with all its might has failed to do: bring about an

unconditional end to all resistance against the

occupation or attacks on Israeli civilians.

Mr. Rumsfeld revealed that even he doubts that Mr.

Arafat can succeed when he said on NBC's "Meet the

Press" that Mr. Arafat "is not a particularly strong

leader" and added, "I don't know that he has good

control over the Palestinian situation." But the view

of the Bush administration, reinforced by Israel's

intransigent lobby, blames one man for all the ugly

symptoms of 53 years of repression of millions of

people in Palestine  policies supported for decades

by the United States. All too aware of his assigned

role, Mr. Arafat has declared a state of emergency.

This amounts to little in practice since all the means

of repression and arbitrary rule at the disposal of

the Palestinian Authority are already in full use

while none of the means that could actually improve

the lives of Palestinians are granted to it by Israel.

The burden of death has fallen on Palestinians as it

has fallen on Israelis. The only surprise will come if

dozens more innocent people are not killed in the

coming weeks.

Mr. Zinni said he will stay in the region until he

succeeds in getting a cease-fire. But if American

policy avoids dealing directly with the root causes of

the conflict, he should plan to be in the Mideast war

zone a long time.

Ali Abunimah is vice president of the Arab American

Action Network.


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