Tuesday, July 18, 2006

[ePalestine] BAHOUR: Game Over

Game Over 

The Israeli-Palestinian peace charades ended with Israel’s aggression on Gaza and Lebanon. Now, peace with justice is the only way out. 

By Sam Bahour 

In case anyone had any remaining doubts, the flawed Middle East peace process and the international community’s half-hearted efforts have miserably failed, culminating in Israel’s most recent aggression in Gaza and Lebanon.  Following the Palestinian’s democratic legislative elections which brought Hamas to power, Israel announced that its goal was to topple the Palestinian government at any cost.  When that misguided plan proved harder than expected, Israel did what any good Western ‘democracy’ would do; it sought to turn world attention elsewhere: Hezbollah provided the perfect pretext for this by violating Israel's sovereignty, allowing Israel to claim its all-out aggression against Lebanon is justified. 

Some may pronounce the beginning of the end of the Oslo Peace Accords was the very day they were signed, given the lopsided agreements put Palestinians at a structural disadvantage that provided a perfect and sophisticated framework for failure.  However, having lived through the agreements from the start of there implementation – or attempt thereof – I believe that the beginning of the end of the peace process started on November 4, 1995, when an extremist Israeli Jewish student assassinated then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.  Throughout his bloody career, Rabin surely did his part to add to the Palestinian’s disadvantage, but upon his assassination – by one of Israel’s own products of extremism - Israel started spiraling out of control. 

Five successive Israeli governments in a short 10 year period have all miserably failed to address the source of the Middle East conflict, Israel’s 39 year old military occupation of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  Furthermore, each and every Israeli government slapped humanitarian and international law in the face by refusing to implement scores of UN resolutions and internationally agreed upon rules of engagement.  Israel made a mockery of the rule of law while claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East. 

Now, as we listen to the Israeli military publicly calling for Lebanese civilians to leave there homes and we painfully watch entire families flee the fighting by crossing the border into Syria, carrying their children and what little belongings they can on their backs, it reminds anyone who has any inkling of knowledge of the Middle East conflict of how Israeli military aggression forced Palestinians from there homes in 1948, 1967, 2000 and continues to do so even today.  Jonathan Cook, a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, recently wrote in the newsletter Counterpunch of how the naked Israeli onslaught of Gaza, which provoked the Hezbollah capturing of the two Israeli soldiers may be read in the larger context.  He wrote, “This is how ethnic cleansing looks when it is designed not by butchers in uniforms but by technocrats in suits.”  Israel’s continuous collective punishment of Palestinians and Lebanese is a blatant war crime, and should be treated as such by the US and international community. 

Israel’s disregard for the rule of law, let alone the well-being of its own captured soldiers, coupled with the US’s blind and public support of every Israeli violation of UN resolutions and acts of aggression is the foundation that was poured to allow for Israel’s current rampage.  If Israel was a person, she would be admitted into the psychiatric ward of the nearest hospital, but it is not.  Rather, Israel is a nuclear and regional military superpower that has chosen time and again to attempt to forcefully instill a ‘might is right’ equation to further its skewed national interests.  Israel has been unable to internalize the simple fact that there is no military solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Justice, historical and otherwise, must be served if a lasting peace is to be realized. 

As in all formal military funerals, Israel’s attack on Lebanon is equivalent to a 21 gun salute announcing the formal end to any remaining hope that the peace process could be restarted on the same terms of Oslo.  The Palestinian leadership should finally wake up to this reality and dismantle Palestinian Authority and demand Israel assumes its full legal responsibilities to those it occupies. 

The official Israeli and US government lines are that the destruction of Lebanon and Gaza are happening because Israeli combat soldiers were taken prisoners, 3 in total.  The international community’s state of amnesia seems to forget the 9,000 Palestinians that are currently lingering in Israeli prisons, of which over 1,000 had no charges brought against them.  If so many civilians were not being killed in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel, the Israeli and US positions would be laughable.  Even small town USA newspaper editorials are becoming aware of the US being on the wrong side of history in this conflict.  The editorial of the Youngstown Vindicator of July 14 noted, “…the United States should have thought longer and harder before giving Israel unqualified support.” 

The words of Arik Diamant, an Israeli military reservist and the head of the Courage to Refuse organization, sheds light on a growing sentiment within Israeli ranks that mainstream media is refusing to cover.  Mr. Diamant recently wrote of his experience in arresting one of the thousands of Palestinians that the Israelis have illegally imprisoned over the years, he said, “No one wrote about it in the paper. European diplomats were not called to help him. After all, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the kidnapping of this Palestinian kid. Over the 40 years of occupation we have kidnapped thousands of people, exactly like Gilad Shalit was captured: Threatened by a gun, beaten mercilessly, with no judge or jury, or witnesses, and without providing the family with any information about the captive.” 

Provocation clearly comes in many sizes and shapes.  Israel’s mere refusal to end its military occupation of Palestinians is a level of provocation that most of the world could never even imagine.  Taking prisoners of war, if this can even be called a war, is yet another provocation.  There was no international outcry in 1989 when Israeli commandos crossed the Lebanese border and snatched Sheikh Abd al-Karim Obeid, a Hizballah leader of south Lebanon, and imprisoned him in Israel.  The Israeli government even introduced legislation to maintain his imprisonment and called him a pawn to be used later.  Israel repeated this again in 1994 when Mustafa Dirani was kidnapped from his home in Lebanon by Israeli commandos during the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha.  Although provocations vary and are made by all sides in this conflict, no action, whatsoever, justifies the destruction of a civilian population’s infrastructure and wonton killing of civilians.  Such acts only breed more violence and more hatred. 

Lebanon is only the latest bloody chapter of Israeli aggression in the region. Immediately preceding this latest bout of Israeli military adventurism, and continuing to this day, albeit buried from the media due to the extremity of Lebanon, is the destruction of the civilian infrastructure of Gaza, yet again. Hopefully, the scenes of horror and sheer magnitude of death and destruction emerging from Lebanon will shock the international community to acknowledge their collective failure and emerge from their coma to finally and unequivocally impose international sanctions and a global boycott on Israel until it brings itself in line with the international rule of law.  Anything less, would be tantamount, to merely turning a page of history in a blood- stained textbook that Palestinians and Lebanese, and now Israelis, are writing with their children’s blood. 

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the Israeli- occupied Palestinian city of El-Bireh, currently visiting his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and can be reached at sbahour@palnet.com 


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