Friday, January 13, 2006

[ePalestine] BAHOUR: Palestinians Ponder Future

"So, under me [Sharon] you will not see a child shot next to his father. It is better to level an entire village with bulldozers-row after row."  

Palestinians Ponder Future   

[Opinion] Removal of Sharon from political doesn't change bleak forecast  

Sam Bahour (internews)   

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's incapacitation has left Palestinians pondering over what their future holds. Unfortunately, any glance forward is unavoidably haunted with flashbacks of the past.  

While Sharon was at the helm, it was somewhat clear that Israel would continue taking unilateral steps that repeatedly attempted to batter Palestinians into submission, albeit no one really knows what the terms of that submission are, given that Palestinians have already relinquished 78% of historic Palestine to Israel and recognized Israel's right to politically exist. Now, as Sharon lies seriously ill, unlikely to return to office, Palestinians are gauging their occupier's next moves against them.  

As Palestinians ponder, they are also taking some very bold steps forward. First and foremost, Palestinians will hold parliamentary elections on January 25 for the Palestinian Legislative Council. This election is following the presidential and municipal elections, both of which were overwhelmingly successful and introduced multiparty competition into mainstream Palestinian Authority politics.  

Not only are all of these elections important because they are seriously overdue, but Palestinian factions that historically refused to participate in the presidential and legislative elections--because both were products of the Oslo peace accords, which they objected to-- have now accepted to join the Oslo framework, at least that part which relates to elections.  

Palestinians are also becoming much more vocal regarding the "facts on the ground" that Israel, and Sharon in particular, were so eager to plant over the past 38 years of Israel's military occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip.  

These facts include, among others, a Separation Wall, which was meant to separate Israel from the West Bank, but was built by Israel on Palestinian lands and not on the internationally recognized border of the year 1967 (1949 Armistice Line). Although this wall has been deemed a violation of International Law by the International Court of Justice and UN General Assembly, Israel keeps on building, slapping the international community with every ten- meter high cement slab erected. Then, there are illegal Jewish-only settlements in the heart of the West Bank, with a heavy concentration in Arab East Jerusalem, and a maze of control mechanisms - such as checkpoints, permit systems, border control, trade control, arbitrary imprisonment, etc - made to force Palestinians into total despair.  

Today, Palestinians are raising hard questions to the international community, such as: Have Israel's illegal unilateral actions over the last four decades made a two-state solution that the world was demanding unfeasible?  

Another hard question being posed, mainly to the U.S., by Palestinians is the meaning of the recent U.S. Congressional decision to cut funding to the Palestinians if specific Palestinian factions are permitted to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The U.S. has gone to great lengths over the years to get Palestinians to collectively accept U.S.-style democracy, at least the holding of elections. Then when the Palestinian leadership was finally able to get all Palestinians aligned in a national elections process, not to mention an election process built on the Oslo framework, the U.S. introduced new political hoops for the Palestinian leadership to jump through to remain legitimate in their eyes, namely threatening the moderate Palestinian President if specific factions are elected into office.  

Although Palestinians have started looking beyond an Israel led by Sharon, they can never forget Sharon's rule, which to them was no less than a raw representation of Israel's 38 years of military occupation. Richard H. Curtiss, Executive Editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs Magazine, said it most pointedly when he recently wrote in the Arab News, ("Palestinians Won't Miss Sharon," January 8, 2006): 

"Over the years, people seem to have forgotten the viciousness of Sharon's military record. Even his sobriquet "the butcher of Beirut" has morphed into "the bulldozer," or similar nicknames indicating courage and resolution. Even the bulldozer nickname, however, is the result of a chilling remark he made as candidate for prime minister. Asked what he would do about Palestinians from Beit Jala [near Bethlehem] shooting at the illegal Jewish settlement of Gilo, Sharon replied, "I would eliminate the first row of houses in Beit Jala." And if the shooting continued? "I would eliminate the second row of houses; and so on. I know the Arabs.... For them, there is nothing more important than their house. So, under me you will not see a child shot next to his father. It is better to level an entire village with bulldozers-row after row."" 

So although Palestinians have started to look forward and maybe, and finally, more aggressively forward, they remain haunted by an international community that allowed a war criminal like Sharon to lead what is claimed to be "the only democracy in the Middle East." Add to this the bitter reality that Israel's sole strategic ally in the world, the United States, is recreating the same fate for Iraqis that Israel, with total U.S. support, has been creating for Palestinians, and the future still looks bleak.  

With or without Sharon as prime minister, and as long as military occupation is allowed to persist with the world's sole superpower--not to mention the international community at large- -not only turning a blind eye, but rather financially, politically and morally underwriting such an occupation, Palestinians are braced for yet another difficult year ahead, but this time with a newly elected leadership. 

- Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the Israeli- occupied Palestinian city of Al-Bireh. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and may be reached at  

2006/01/13 - 10:51

© 2006 Ohmynews


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