Palestinian lives count for less
By Eric Ruder | January 2, 2004 | Page 7
THE U.S. media establishment proved once again last week that it places far more value on an Israeli life than a Palestinian one. On Christmas Day, a Palestinian detonated a bomb at a bus stop in a Tel Aviv suburb, killing himself and four Israelis, three of whom were soldiers.
The newspaper headlines blared that the bombing had shattered nearly three months of "relative calm"--and dealt a new setback to efforts at brokering "peace." But calm for who?
What the U.S. media ignored is that since the last Palestinian suicide bombing in Haifa on October 4, Israeli forces have carried out dozens of raids and attacks. These assaults have killed 117 Palestinians, injured hundreds more and destroyed enough houses to leave thousands of Palestinians without shelter, according to a tally by Palestinian commentator Ali Abunimah.
But for the U.S. corporate media--its horizons defined by loyalty to the U.S. agenda in the Middle East--a period of intense Israeli violence still counts as a "lull" in the conflict. In fact, just two days before the suicide bombing, more than 40 Israeli military vehicles--supported by Apache helicopters--staged an assault on the densely populated Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza.
A terrifying storm of heavy gunfire, shelling and missiles killed nine Palestinians, injured at least 30, many critically, and forced hundreds to flee their homes. The same week, Israeli forces carried out similar raids in the West Bank cities of Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarem.
But these assaults didn't shatter the "calm." Nor did a bloodcurdling speech by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in which he announced the possibility of implementing a "disengagement plan."
Under Sharon's scheme, Israel would unilaterally impose its own "solution," annexing most of the West Bank and enclosing Palestinians in tiny, isolated enclaves. Sharon says that he will wait six months before implementing this plan. That allows him to accomplish two goals.
First, he will step up construction of Israel's apartheid wall, the massive concrete and barbed wire fence that runs deep into Palestinian territory--and would become the future boundary if Israel were to impose its unilateral "solution." Second, by waiting six months, the military operation required to impose Sharon's "solution" would take place during a critical phase of the U.S. presidential elections.
Neither George W. Bush nor the Democratic candidate would be likely to challenge Sharon's assault and risk losing the support of pro-Israel voters. Incredibly, the New York Times claimed that because of Sharon's pledge to dismantle unauthorized settlement outposts, the speech might represent an "olive branch" to Palestinian negotiators.
In reality, Sharon's offer doesn't even meet the terms of the U.S.-backed "road map" for negotiations--which calls for the dismantlement of all settlement outposts established since 2001, not just those that aren't "authorized" by the Israeli government.
"Sharon is not about to change the settlement map," wrote former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin in Israel's Maariv newspaper. Beilin, an architect of the 1993 Oslo plan, is right about Sharon--but his criticism is aimed at building support for a rival plan called the Geneva Accord that he co-authored along with other Oslo celebrities.
The Geneva Accord--drawn up in secret and signed with much fanfare on December 1--has the support of some elements in the Israeli Labor Party, many within the Palestinian Authority and several international figures, including former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. It calls for the dismantlement of a far larger share of Israeli settlements than anyone in the Israeli establishment is willing to consider--which no doubt accounts for its appeal to some in the Palestinian Authority.
But it also contains concessions of historic proportions for Palestinians. Most importantly, the accords would give away the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes stolen from them by Israel's wars of conquest.
Like Oslo, the Geneva Accord would produce a Palestinian state with no real sovereign control over its territory--thus allowing Israel to continue its colonial domination of Palestine, with a small Palestinian elite overseeing the administration of poverty conditions for the bulk of the population.
Thus, Amram Mitzna, the former Israeli general who led the Labor Party to defeat in the last general election, supports the Geneva Accord--because he thinks it gives Israel everything that it wants. "For the first time in history, the Palestinians explicitly and officially recognized the state of Israel as the state of the Jewish people forever," wrote Mitzna in Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper.
"They gave up the right of return to the state of Israel and a solid, stable Jewish majority was guaranteed. The Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter [of Jerusalem] and David's Tower will all remain in our hands. The suffocating ring was lifted from over Jerusalem and the entire ring of settlements around it...will be part of the expanded city, forever. None of the settlers in those areas will have to leave their homes."
No wonder, then, that while talk about the Geneva Accord has rippled through diplomatic circles, it hasn't found broad popular support among Palestinians.
As Israel's integration of Palestinian territory continues, it becomes that much clearer that the often-repeated proposals of "two states for two peoples" are practically and politically impossible. The only just solution is to uproot Israeli apartheid--and replace it with a single, democratic and secular state in all of Palestine with equal rights for Arabs and Jews alike.