Speaking in Ram Allah on Tuesday, Mustafa al-Barghuthi, secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, accused the Israeli prime minister of seeking to turn the Gaza Strip into the "biggest prison in the world".
 

He said: "If what we see reflects Sharon's intentions, then we could safely say that the so-called disengagement plan is a trap and a ploy to distract Palestinians from confronting the racist annexation wall, which itself is aimed at preventing the creation of a viable Palestinian state by annexing and confiscating up to 58% of the West Bank."

 

Al-Barghuthi, who is a relative of the imprisoned West Bank Fatah leader Marwan al-Barghuthi, cautioned against "accepting Sharon's plan at face value" or "giving him the benefit of the doubt".

 

He said Israel never used words such as withdrawal or pullout or evacuation to describe its Gaza plan, adding that the Jewish state intended to hermetically seal the Gaza Strip and reduce it to a crowded and tightly guarded prison.

 

"I think Sharon is devising a fictitious plan that is compatible with his own vision for a final-status settlement with the Palestinians, whereby Israel would annex 58% of the West Bank and confine more than two million Palestinians to small enclaves, cut off from each other and controlled by Israel."

 

Al-Barghuthi termed the Israeli separation wall a mere continuation of Israel's colonialist arrogation of Palestinian land which began in 1948.

 

He said the gigantic wall had already swallowed more than 17 square kilometres of the Salfit district alone, completely isolating Palestinian villages such as Rafat, Dir Ballout, Zawiya and Masha.


"The wall is simply cordoning off these villages and imprisoning their inhabitants"

Mustafa al-Barghuthi,
Secretary, Palestinian National Initiative

"The wall is simply cordoning off these villages and imprisoning their inhabitants. In addition, it has devoured more than 90% of the villagers' fields, orchards and farms, effectively killing their livelihood and source of income."

 

Al-Barghuthi termed the construction of the wall in the Jerusalem area an "ethnic cleansing in form and substance".

"
This wicked wall is cutting off as many as 271,000 Palestinians from East Jerusalem, 80,000 of them having Jerusalem residency rights. It is decimating the Palestinian social and economic fabric."

 

Tragic toll

 

Al-Barghuthi said the Israeli occupation army and paramilitary Jewish settlers had killed 3139 Palestinians during the 46 month uprising, 82% of whom were innocent civilians, including more than 600 children.

 

Furthermore, a total of 357 Palestinians were assassinated by Israel's death squads and Apache helicopter attacks, among them 166 civilians - including 32 children and 25 women - who he said were killed for no reason other than being present in the vicinity of the targeted person or building.

 

The West Bank wall has deprived
locals of 90% of their
fertile land

Al-Barghuthi put the number of Palestinians who were maimed and injured by the Israeli army and Jewish settlers at 52,000, of whom 2500, including 500 children, sustained life-long permanent disabilities.

 

As a proportion of the total population, he said the figure would corresponded to 269,000 Americans killed and 4.4 million injured.

 

Israel has arrested more than 28,000 Palestinians during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, of whom 7200 are languishing in jails and detention centres, including 1200 people imprisoned indefinitely without trial or being charged, al-Barghuthi said.

 

During the same period, according to him, a total of 2200 Palestinian children were arrested, 226 of whom are still in Israeli custody.

 

In this context, al-Barghuthi lauded the role played by Palestinian non-governmental organisations who he said were able to use the support and solidarity of 209 European organisations, 446 EU lawmakers and 192 European Parliament members to "expose Israel's racist and colonialist policies and practices".

 

These civil-society groups can be instrumental in bringing about a comprehensive boycott of the Israeli government similar to the sanctions that contributed to the dismantling and eventual downfall of the South African apartheid regime, al-Barghuthi said.