Sep 22, 2003
With complete cynicism, the Israeli government on September 11 adopted a resolution which declared Yasser Arafat an "absolute obstacle to all reconciliation attempts between Israelis and Palestinians." It went on to say that "Israel reserves the right to get rid of this obstacle in one fashion or another, and at a time it will deem suitable."
The more "moderate" members of Ariel Sharon's government suggested this meant Israel could expel Arafat to another country. Others have said, plain and simple, that they would rather have the head of the Palestinian Authority assassinated. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmer, for example, said on September 14, "We are trying to eliminate all the heads of terrorism, and Arafat is one of them."
Sharon and his government act like mafia bosses who are deciding to "whack" a rival. The only difference is that the godfathers of the mafia do so discreetly, amongst themselves, while Sharon and his gang announce their criminal intentions loudly and proudly.
Sharon must think that he can get away with saying anything, calling Arafat an "absolute obstacle to reconciliation," when the Israeli army has rained down terror for years on the entire Palestinian population, assassinating thousands of men, women and children.
Yasser Arafat has actually accepted many compromises and retreats. He has served as a cop against his own people in return for the tiny autonomy granted to his "Palestinian Authority." In the ten years since the "historic" Oslo accords which followed the first Intifada with its thousands of Palestinian casualties, it's the Israeli government that never respected the agreements it made. During all these years of the so-called "peace process," Israel never stopped depriving Palestinians of their land, strangling them economically, reducing a large part of the Palestinian population to a state of misery and pushing an entire people into despair.
It is this policy that has fueled the blind terrorism expressed in suicide bombings. After the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000, the Israeli army responded to demonstrations with open terror, adding thousands more deaths to those before. In the last three years, over 2250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, while 800 Israelis lost their lives as a result of attacks by Palestinians.
The random terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas and other Palestinians organizations are also unjustifiable. They are nothing but the counterpart of the terrorism carried out by the Israeli state. Both types of terrorism demonstrate contempt toward a whole population, be it Israeli or Palestinian. Islamic leaders who propose suicide bombings do so in their own interests, which are not those of the Palestinian people. But if so many Palestinians – mostly young men but sometimes also young women or even older people – are ready to blow themselves up in random attacks on the Israeli population, this shows the level of despair that has accumulated in the Palestinian population.
As for Arafat, since December 2001 he has been confined to his compound in Ramallah, sometimes with Israeli tanks at his window. In March, he agreed to give up his power and appointed a prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, who had the approval of Israel and the U.S. But that was still not enough for Sharon & Co. Despite the truce and the U.S.-sponsored "roadmap," they continued to assassinate Palestinian leaders who had actually agreed to suspend their actions, and they continued to routinely shoot on crowds in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The only role that Sharon saw fit for Abbas was to act as an auxiliary to the repression organized by Israel.
The cycle of violence thus restarted led to a new impasse and the end of Abbas's tenure. And now the Israeli government wants to seal the fate of Arafat himself. But that would resolve nothing, and Sharon knows it better than anyone else. That kind of humiliation will only aggravate the situation even more and unify the Palestinian people in struggle even more.
Thousands of Palestinians have already taken to the streets to announce this. The U.S. government has expressed its objections to expelling Arafat by force because it is aware of the danger of an explosion this can bring about in the whole region. Of course, it would be an illusion to count on the U.S., the staunch longtime sponsor of Israel, to stop Sharon. Not surprisingly, the U.S. was one of only four countries that voted against a United Nations resolution last week calling on Israel to rescind its threat against Arafat – the other three being Israel, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.
But it would be equally naive to expect all the other governments which condemned Israel at the U.N. to put any kind of real pressure on Sharon's government. From the past several decades, the U.N.'s books contain hundreds of resolutions condemning Israel, but not even once has the U.N. done anything to try to enforce those measures. As the recent example of Iraq also proves, a U.N. vote has meaning only if the U.S. agrees with it.