Sharon cabinet plans "removal" of Yassar Arafat
By Eric Ruder | September 19, 2003 | Page 12
"EXPULSION IS certainly one of the options, and killing is also one of the options." Imagine the outcry in Washington if a government official in North Korea or Iran made this statement about the elected leader of a rival political state. George W. Bush would probably have the B-52s in the air by now.
But the statement comes from Israel, and it is about Palestinian Authority chair Yasser Arafat. And so all U.S. officials can manage is a mild reprimand.
As Socialist Worker went to press, the Middle East was on the brink of war--after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's security cabinet passed a resolution vowing to "remove" Arafat "in a manner and at a time which will be decided afterwards." Ehud Olmert, Israel's vice prime minister, later spoke on Israeli radio to clarify that one "manner" under consideration was murder.
Even as the United Nations and governments around the world condemned the resolution, mainstream Israeli newspapers echoed the calls for bloodshed. "Killing Arafat, more than any other act, would demonstrate that the tool of terror is unacceptable, even against Israel, even in the name of a Palestinian state," spluttered the Jerusalem Post in a logic-defying editorial.
The threats against Arafat followed escalated raids by Israeli forces into the Occupied Territories after a series of Palestinian suicide bombings. But these suicide attacks in turn were plainly provoked by a renewed Israeli campaign of "targeted killings"--the government's phrase for the cold-blooded assassination of Palestinian resistance leaders.
The offensive against Arafat brought the confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians to a new head. Throngs of Palestinians streamed to Arafat's compound in Ramallah, where he has been confined by Israeli forces for 21 months, to show their solidarity.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell issued a statement saying that the "United States does not support either the elimination of him or the exile of Mr. Arafat. I think you can anticipate that there would be rage throughout the Arab world, the Muslim world, and in many other parts of the world," Powell told Fox News Sunday.
But the U.S. government's policy of regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq--and Washington's push to sideline Arafat during negotiations around the so-called "road map" to peace--paved the way for Israel's arrogant declaration. And even as Powell made his criticism, he agreed with the general thrust of Israel's policy. "The question is how Mr. Arafat departs from the scene," Powell said, "and if he departs from the scene as a result of Israeli action, I do not think that would help the road map process."
This is effectively an endorsement of removing Arafat--even though he happens to be one of the few elected heads of state in the Middle East. The hypocrisy certainly isn't lost on Palestinians. "I will be part of human chain to defend him," Randa Taher, a mother of two, told reporters outside Arafat's compound. "How come the Americans and Israel brag about democracy, and at the same time, they want to kill the Palestinian people's choice?"
If Israeli officials openly discuss plans to kill the most widely supported Palestinian leader, imagine the daily treatment of millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. In an article in Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper last week, Batya Gur--an Israeli woman who by her own admission avoids "political activity"--described watching as three Israeli soldiers harassed an elderly Palestinian man.
"What was it that drew me back there?" wrote Gur. "It was something undefined and awful; an evil, whose ripples forced me to return and take a second, more focused look at what was happening." When Gur tried to intervene on behalf of "the old man, a tall Arab of about 70, wearing a traditional white keffiyeh and with an expression of disorientation and meek acceptance on his face," the soldiers demanded to know why she got involved. "I found myself saying that I refuse to feel like a German walking past an abused Jew in Nazi Germany, and turn away indifferently or fearfully," wrote Gur.
The Israeli security cabinet vote to seek Arafat's "removal" came within days of the 10-year anniversary of the Oslo "peace" process. There could be no better illustration of what Oslo has meant for Palestinians.
In the years since Israeli and Palestinian leaders first agreed to negotiations, Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories have more than doubled in size, settler roads and checkpoints have sliced through Palestinian regions, and the lives of Palestinians have grown far worse. And at each point where talks progressed to the point that Israel might have to make real concessions, the Israeli government found a way to torpedo the "peace" process.
Palestinians have been driven to despair--the true source of the suicide bombings directed against Israelis. "They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture," Avraham Burg, the former speaker of Israel's parliament from 1999 to early 2003, wrote in Britain's Guardian newspaper.
"They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated. We could kill a thousand ringleaders a day, and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below--from the wells of hatred and anger, from the 'infrastructures' of injustice and moral corruption."
Israel's occupation of Palestine--the infrastructure of injustice--must end. Only a secular and democratic state in all of Palestine that guarantees equal rights to Arabs and Jews will bring peace.