Up in arms against apartheid
By Abdul-Jawwad Saleh* (Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 Dec. 2000 - 3 Jan. 2001)

At the end of the second millennium, three million Palestinians are
imprisoned in ghettoes by the very man whom the Palestinian leadership
hailed as the saviour of peace. Netanyahu had driven the peace ship off
course. Barak scuttled it.

For the past 12 weeks, collective punishment, in every form, has been
imposed on the inhabitants of these ghettoes -- the Palestinian people.
Five hundred settlers in Hebron impose a curfew on 40,000 Palestinians.

Under a racist colonial policy of separation, the Israeli occupation forces
are digging deep trenches in bypass roads to prohibit the Palestinians from
using them to escape imprisonment. Over 200,000 labourers, the products of
Israel's policy of dependency, are unable to reach their places of work in
Israel. Movement into and out of these ghettoes is restricted. Muslims and
Christians are prohibited from praying in their holy shrines in Jerusalem.
Women in labour, especially those travelling from villages, are stopped at
Israeli military posts and prevented from reaching the hospital. Wounded
children and young men are left to bleed to death. Ambulances are shot at,
and their drivers are killed.

The colonisers, backed by the army, are impoverishing and starving the
population of the rural areas, preventing the population from harvesting
their olive crops. They have uprooted 23,465 fruit trees so far.
Greenhouses have been destroyed by bulldozers and homes have been razed,
leaving whole families with no shelter under the barren cold skies. Schools
are closed, and classes are held in tents, without desks or chairs.

The Palestinian ghettoes are besieged by two armies: the official military
forces of the occupation, and the army of the Zionist colonisers, mostly
fanatical ideologues who regard Baruch Goldstein -- who slaughtered tens of
Palestinians praying at dawn in Hebron -- as a hero and an example to be
emulated. Many of these settlers have been found guilty of killing
Palestinian children and other innocent bystanders in cold blood. They are
the perpetrators of the assassination attempts on the mayors of Nablus,
Ramallah and Al-Bireh.

These two armies are perpetrating the most horrendous collective crimes
imaginable against Palestinian cities, towns and villages, as well as the
refugee camps where the victims of Israeli attacks in 1948 live today. This
is an apartheid regime.

The generals of the official Israeli army are united with the settler army.
The occupation forces have used extravagant violence, deploying gunships,
snipers and tanks to crush civilians who are struggling to defend their
land and their very existence. Assassination campaigns have been launched
against Palestinian activists. Palestinian journalists and photographers as
well as foreigners have been wounded.

A former Shin Bet security service director criticised such policies
recently. Ha'aretz newspaper quoted him in its editorial of 6 December as
saying: "This is the same security outlook whose failure to realise its
aims led almost naturally to the idea of separation from the
Palestinians... Is the option of a Jewish democracy with apartheid
acceptable? In my opinion, no."

Under Barak's government, the state of Israel has become the state of the
Israeli army. Barak has outdone Shamir and Netanyahu in allocating budgets
for building new and expanding old colonies in the Palestinian occupied
territories. The Israeli press has also launched a propaganda campaign
against the Palestinian people's uprising. One of its most outrageous and
perverse claims has been that Palestinian parents send their children out
to be killed by Israeli soldiers. Some American and Israeli writers have
described this as "Palestinian paganism." This is more than racist folly --
it is fascism. It is not even an attempt to dehumanise the Palestinians --
it is far worse, for even animals protect their young.

If willingness to sacrifice their children makes the Palestinians something
less than animals, however, what are the civilised Israelis who are more
than eager to massacre those children?

The Palestinian ghettoes will never surrender to Oslo and its conditions.
The Al-Aqsa Intifada, as a popular uprising, is a refusal of Clinton's
attempt to dictate the priorities of the political process in the interest
of Israeli security. It is an outcry against the creation and enlargement
of Palestinian intelligence agencies at the expense of democratisation and
essential public services.

Since the establishment of the PA, conditions for the Palestinians have
worsened. Poverty has increased, according to World Bank and United Nations
reports. If the closures continue, poverty will reach the dangerous rate of
50 per cent. Corruption has spread. Many factors triggered the Al-Aqsa
Intifada, among them internal Palestinian problems, and the leaking of a
"final solution" that would have legitimised permanently the Israeli
occupation of the territories taken in 1967.

The PA does not yet know the people it governs. This time, it has succeeded
in channelling the Intifada against the occupation. But the Palestinian
leadership should think twice before returning to the negotiating table on
the same terms.

*The writer is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.