Robert Fisk: This terrible conflict is the last colonial war

Robert Fisk: This terrible conflict is the last colonial war

'Arafat used to make the same expressions of grief

when his gunmen

murdered innocent Lebanese'

04 December 2001

Can Ariel Sharon control his own people? Can he

control his army? Can 


stop them from killing children, leaving booby traps

in orchards or 


tank shells into refugee camps? Can Sharon stop his

rabble of an army 


destroying hundreds of Palestinian refugee homes in

Gaza? Can Sharon

"crack down" on Jewish settlers and prevent them from

stealing more 


from Palestinians? Can he stop his secret-service

killers from 


their Palestinian enemies  or carrying out " targeted

killings", as the

BBC was still gutlessly calling these executions

yesterday in its 


to avoid Israeli criticism.

It is, of course, forbidden to ask these questions. So

let's "legalise"

them. The Palestinian suicide bombings in Jerusalem

and Haifa are

disgusting, evil, revolting, unforgivable. I saw the



of the Pizzeria suicide bombing in Jerusalem last

August: Israeli women

and children, ripped apart by explosives that had

nails packed around 


designed to ensure that those who survived were

scarred for life.

I remember Yasser Arafat's grovelling message of

condolence, and I 


to myself  like any Israeli, I guess  that I didn't

believe a word of 


In fact, I don't believe a word of it. Arafat used to

make the same

eloquent expressions of grief when his gunmen murdered



during that country's civil war. Bullshit, I used to

think. And I still


But there was a clue to the real problem only hours

after the latest

bloodbath in Israel. Colin Powell, the US Secretary of

State, was being

questioned with characteristic obsequiousness on CNN

about his reaction 


the slaughter. Nothing, he said, could justify such

"terrorism", and he

went on to refer to the plight of the Palestinians,

who suffer "50 per

cent unemployment". I sat up at that point.

Unemployment? Is that what 


Powell thought this was about.

And my mind went back to his speech at Louisberg

University on 20 


when he launched  or so we were supposed to believe 

his Middle-East

initiative. "Palestinians must..." was the theme:

Palestinians must 


the violence"; Palestinians must "arrest, prosecute

and punish the

perpetrators of terrorist acts"; Palestinians "need to

understand that,

however legitimate their claims"  note the word

"however"  "they cannot

be... addressed by violence"; Palestinians "must

realise that violence 


had a terrible impact on Israel". Only when General

Powell told his

audience that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and

Gaza must end, 


it become clear that Israel was occupying Palestine

rather than the 


way round.

The reality is that the Palestinian/Israeli conflict

is the last 


war. The French thought that they were fighting the

last battle of this

kind. They had long ago conquered Algeria. They set up

their farms and

settlements in the most beautiful land in North

Africa. And when the

Algerians demanded independence, they called them

"terrorists" and they

shot down their demonstrators and they tortured their

guerrilla enemies

and they murdered  in "targeted killings"  their


In just the same way, we are responding to the latest

massacre in 


according to the rules of the State Department, CNN,

the BBC and 


Street. Arafat has got to come alive, to get real, to

perform his duty 


the West's policeman in the Middle East. President

Mubarak does it in

Egypt; King Abdullah does it in Jordan; King Fahd does

it in Saudi 


They control their people for us. It is their duty.

They must fulfil 


moral obligations, without any reference to history or

to the pain and 


suffering of their people.

So let me tell a little story. A few hours before I

wrote this article

exactly four hours after the last suicide bomber had

destroyed himself 


his innocent victims in Haifa  I visited a grotty,

fly-blown hospital 


Quetta, the Pakistani border city where Afghan victims

of American 


raids are brought for treatment. Surrounded by an army

of flies in bed 


12, Mahmat  most Afghans have no family names  told me

his story. There

were no CNN cameras, no BBC reporters in this hospital

to film the

patient. Nor will there be. Mahmat had been asleep in

his home in the

village of Kazikarez six days ago when an bomb from an

American B-52 


on his village. He was asleep in one room, his wife

with the children. 


son Nourali died, as did Jaber  aged 10  Janaan,

eight, Salamo, six,

Twayir, four, and Palwasha  the only girl  two.

"The plane flies so high that we cannot hear them and

the mud roof fell 


them," Mahmat said. His wife Rukia  whom he permitted

me to see  lay in

the next room (bed No 13). She did not know that her

children were 


She was 25 and looked 45. A cloth dignified her

forehead. Her children

like so many Afghan innocents in this frightful War

for civilisation  


victims whom Mr Bush and Mr Blair will never

acknowledge. And watching

Mahmat plead for money  the American bomb had blasted

away his clothes 


he was naked beneath the hospital blanket  I could see



he and the angry cousin beside him and the uncle and

the wife's brother 


the hospital attacking America for the murders that

they had inflicted 


their family...

One day, I suspect, Mahmat's relatives may be angry

enough to take 


revenge on the United States, in which case they will

be terrorists, 


of violence. We may even ask if their leaders could

control them. They 


not bin Ladens, Mahmat's family said that  "We are

neither Taliban nor

Arab"  but, frankly, could we blame them if they

decided to strike at 


United States for the bloody and terrible crime done

to their family. 


the United States stop bombing villages? Can

Washington persuade its

special forces to protect prisoners? Can the Americans

control their 




Back To Islam Awareness Homepage

Latest News about Islam and Muslims

Contact for further information