Intifada needs international support

The second Intifada that erupted three years ago has attracted much comment, support and criticism. Its victims are many, nearly 3000 Palestinian and 780 Israeli dead, some 30,000 Palestinian wounded.

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    Images of children taking on tanks has turned public opinion but not international political will

    Huge economic damage has been wrought on the Palestinian areas, a state of near starvation prevails along with high levels of child malnutrition and a long list of other depredations.

     

    But with all this, the Intifada’s signal achievement has been to put the

    Palestinian question right back onto the international agenda.

     

    No matter

    with what hostility that issue is viewed by traditional sympathisers of

    Israel, no one can escape the fact that Palestinians need a solution without

    which the Middle East cannot be secure and nor can US plans for the region

    advance further.

     

    For the first time ever, we heard a US president, George Bush, publicly

    declare as he did in 2002, that there must be a Palestinian state.

     

    The “road

    map” which followed this, inadequate as it was on many points, had as its

    end point a viable Palestinian state with a timetable, something that had

    never emerged from years of negotiating over the Oslo Accords.

     

    The EU has

    followed this American lead and the idea of a Palestinian state is now

    firmly established in political and public circles.

     

    Legitimate suffering

     

    At the same time, there has been a change in popular feeling towards the

    Palestinians as a people with legitimate suffering. The West had long held

    an unwavering allegiance to the Israeli project, receptive to Jewish

    suffering at the hands of Europe and the horrors of the Jewish holocaust.

     

    But as the human rights abuses perpetrated against the Palestinians by

    Israel’s army have been exposed, so a growing wave of sympathy for the

    victims has been in evidence.

     

    Simultaneously and more significantly, Israel'

    s image as a helpless country surrounded by enemies intent on its

    destruction has been demolished forever.

     

    No one in the West now believes

    that old myth and, with Israel’s close alliance to the US over the Iraq war

    exposed, it is seen as a powerful regional actor with a huge army.

     

    Bush made an unprecedented
    public declaration

    The EU, major trading partners with Israel, has been flexing its muscles

    against the Israelis by conditioning its trade commitments on improvements

    in Israel’s human rights record.

     

    Israeli produce that comes from the illegal

    settlements in Palestinian areas is banned from sale in Europe and frequent

    squabbles have broken out between the EU and Israel over this issue.

     

    Anecdotal evidence, which is all we have since this is not an issue that has

    been subjected to opinion polls or surveys, shows that sympathy with Israel

    as at an all-time low, a consequence entirely of the Intifada.

     

    However, it is important not to exaggerate this trend. The proof of real

    change in the West towards Israel must be measured by deeds and not by words

    or impressions.

     

    Far-reaching accord

     

    Last week, the French and Israeli governments signed a far-reaching accord

    on scientific and cultural research and interchange which will rehabilitate

    the Israelis at a level that far exceeds the criticisms aimed at their

    government’s actions against the Palestinians.

     

    Likewise, Britain continues to receive the Israeli prime minister and

    members of his government with great warmth and understanding. And Europe,

    for all its disapproval of Israel, has never imposed any meaningful economic

    or diplomatic sanction against the Jewish state.

     

    Needless to say, the US president has gone back on almost every single

    admonition towards Israel that he has ever uttered.

     

    Most notably, the US

    administration which had considered withholding $8bn worth of loan

    guarantees from Israel, pending a halt to its settlement expansion in the

    occupied territories, has now withdrawn the “road map”, which had enjoined 

    both parties to abide by certain terms, making it a blueprint for enjoining

    Palestinian compliance only.

     

    The change of heart towards the Palestinians that had been gathering pace in

    the West has now been converted into an impatience with Palestinian

    terrorism” and an insistence that their leadership be reformed.

     

    The reason for this turnaround, it is alleged, is the wave of so-called "

    suicide bombing" which has re-enlisted international sympathy for Israel. The

    latter has been able to exploit the situation with great adroitness,

    portraying itself as the victim once again and tapping into the Western fear

    of terrorism.

     

    "the first Intifada, for all its non-violence,

    achieved no end of Israeli occupation"


    Friends of the Palestinians have rushed to warn them against any more of

    these operations, pointing out that all support for their cause has been

    dissipated and advising a return to peaceful means of protest.

     

    The first

    Intifada is held up as a model, where civil disobedience was the norm and

    none of these attacks took place.

     

    Unsuccessful

     

    What no one points out is that the first Intifada, for all its non-violence,

    achieved no end of Israeli occupation and no cessation in the Israeli theft

    of Palestinian land.

     

    It did indirectly produce the Oslo Agreement, which,

    under a veneer of Palestinian autonomy and a peace process, legitimised the

    Israeli hold on 78% of Mandate Palestine and allowed Israel to go on

    stealing Palestinian land and resources.

     

    French President Jacques Chirac:
    Reached accord with Israel

    The real problem here is the way in which this conflict is viewed. So long

    as the two parties are seen as equal combatants with equal resources, the

    Palestinians will be judged as failing.

     

    This concept of equivalence even shows in the language used to describe the

    conflict: terms such as "ceasefire" and "crossfire" apply only to armies,

    not to one army ranged against a civilian population with a lightly armed

    police force.

     

    Likewise, the idea of ‘controlling the militants’ is only meaningful if the

    Palestinian side were a functioning sovereign state with enforceable powers.

     

    Both sides are criticised for claiming equal victimhood, as if the occupier

    could ever by the victim of the occupied; and of course the whole concept of

    negotiations between the parties is based on the same premise, as if both

    sides were equally free and not, as is the case, occupier and occupied.

     

    Unless the essential fact is grasped that one side has all the power and the

    other none, Israel will maintain its occupation and Palestinian resistance

    will be called “terrorism”.

     

    And for that to happen, the international community will have to revise its

    support for the Zionist project and its connection with its guilt-ridden

    obsession with Jewish persecution.

     

    The charge of anti-semitism has been

    immensely useful for Israel in its colonisation of Palestine. If the heroic

    resistance of this Intifada is not to be in vain, the world must confront

    its obsession with placating Israel and abandon Zionism.

     

    Ghada Karmi is a Palestinian activist and writer. She is the author of ‘In Search of Fatima, a Palestinian story’ (Verso)

     

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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