THE PALESTINIANS : CALLING FOR JUSTICE
The increasing violence we are witnessing today in the occupied Palestinian
territories raises, in the minds of many, questions as to the crux of this
problem. Many describe the Palestine- Israel conflict as a very complex
one. In fact it is a very simple one, which was summed up, in the words
of a simple Palestinian farmer, quoted by the late Frank Epp, the then
President of Conrad Grebel College of the University of Waterloo, who told
Dr. Epp: " Our problem is very simple. A foreigner came and took our land,
took our farms and our homes and kicked us out. We have in mind to return.
It may take a hundred years, but we will return."
This, in a nutshell, is the essence of this conflict. A country, Palestine, has been dismantled and its people systematically uprooted from their homeland, and they want to return.
In 1948, Israel conquered 78% of the Palestinian territory and it proceeded, in June 1967, through an act of blatant aggression to occupy the remaining territories of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Today, the Palestinian people find themselves as either refugees, scattered outside Palestine, or under an illegal occupation. The Palestinians of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem have been under an oppressive illegal Israeli occupation for 33 years, maintained in defiance of international law and repeated Security Council resolutions. They have been brutalised, their land expropriated, for the creation of illegal Jewish settlements, thousands of their homes demolished and whole villages totally bulldozed, including my own village of Beit Nuba.
In 1993, the Oslo agreement was initiated in the hope of achieving peace and an end to the occupation. Today, seven years later, the Palestinians are under even worse conditions. Successive Israeli governments maintained the occupation, continued land expropriation, expanded the settlements and created numerous by-pass roads, for Jews only.
In July this year, President Clinton orchestrated the Camp David II conference, in which Clinton was simply the mouthpiece for Barak. Susequently, we have been hearing the farcical statements that Arafat was foolish to reject the most 'generous concessions' offered by Barak. What Arafat was actually offered is to create a statelet composed of multiple small ghettos or 'bantustans', encircled by Israeli forces and Jewish settlements and with Israeli-controlled access to the outside world. The settlements around Jerusalem and in the occupied West Bank are to be annexed to Israel, leaving the Palestinians a fragmented statelet over no more than 70% of the original area of the West Bank, taking into consideration the seven-fold expansion of Jerusalem, illegally annexed by Israel in 1980. As to East Jerusalem, it is to remain under Israeli sovereignty, including Muslim and Christian holy places. The Palestinians have to be content with a capital in the villages on the periphery of Jerusalem, which they may call Alquds. The right of return for the refugees and the control of the water resources of the West Bank are also overlooked. These absurd proposals would never be accepted by any Palestinian.
The Palestinians want no 'concessions' or 'generosity' from Barak. They are calling for the implementation of international law and Security Council resolutions with complete Israeli withdrawal from all the illegally occupied territories of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, so as to create a truly independent state on 22% of historic Palestine. Furthermore, the settlements are illegal and must be dismantled. The Palestinian refugees must be allowed the right of return, if they so choose, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN resolution # 194, of Dec 11,1948, which has been reaffirmed repeatedly since then.
As to the current uprising " Al-Aqsa Intifadeh", this is a simple response to the continuing frustration and oppression that the Palestinians have suffered for 33 years. It was sparked by that cynical provocative act by Ariel Sharon, who marched in Alharam Alsharif surrounded by a thousand troops. This act was followed by demonstrations met by a vicious response by Israel's forces, murdering, so far, nearly 300 Palestinians, mostly children and young men.The mostly stone-throwing children are being killed by live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets, let alone the rockets from tanks and helicopter gunships. This is the "excessive force" that has been condemned by the Security Council and Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. To crown these vicious acts, we have been hearing the preposterous charges that the Palestinians are sending out their children to be killed so as to gain publicity for Arafat. Palestinian parents love their children, like all parents. These statements are simply offensive and racist, de-humanizing the victims. The Palestinians, men, women and children, are resisting this illegal brutal occupation. It is perhaps relevant to remind all that it is the legitimate right of all peoples, including even the Palestinians, to resist foreign occupation. We all stood in support of the French and other Europeans under Nazi occupation, in their resistance against this foreign occupation.
The Palestinians are simply asking for the implementation of Security Council resolutions and the termination of this foreign occupation, which has been allowed to go on for 33 years. No haggling or negotiation should have been necessary.This is the policy that was adopted against the illegal Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Israel must not be allowed to remain above international law. When this occupation is completely terminated, the Palestinians want to live in peace with their Israeli neighbous. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis are desperately seeking peace.
To sum up, The Palestinians are asking for a modicum of justice. For without justice, there is no peace for Arab or Jew in the Middle East.
Ismail Zayid, MD.
President, Canada Palestine Association.