Hopes for peace fade
Prospects for peace looked grim with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak telling his Cabinet that he would declare a "time-out" in the peace process and the death toll in the Middle East conflict continuing to rise. One hundred and twenty-two people are already dead and tragically, many more will lose their lives as the Israeli Government continues its bloody occupation and oppression, using the most sophisticated and heavy weapons against unarmed Palestinians. In giving casualty figures the daily papers almost invariably comment that "the overwhelming majority of the dead are Palestinians". Of the 122 dead, eight are Israelis, the rest are either Palestinians from occupied territories or Palestinians who are citizens of Israel. The most damning testament to Israel's brutality is the number of children who have lost their lives in the last three weeks. One in five of those killed are children or teenagers. More than 3,500 people have been wounded, many gravely. According to Palestinian medical relief committee figures, by last week 1,134 of the wounded were children. "They shoot at children with dum-dum bullets. When these bullets enter the body, it tears it apart", said Nafya Fouad, a Palestinian mother. Emergency summit The emergency summit in Egypt ended last Tuesday with a cease-fire call. Hastily convened, the summit was hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and European Union security head and former NATO chief, Javier Solana. US President Bill Clinton presented a statement which neither Ehud Barak nor Yasser Arafat formally signed. The statement said that Israeli troops must pull back to positions held prior to September 28, end the closure-siege of the West Bank and Gaza Strip which entraps three million Palestinians, and re-open Gaza airport. Leaders agreed that a special committee to investigate the crisis should be formed. The Palestinian demand to have an independent inquiry into the violence was once again rejected. All these measures were conditional on the Palestinians also reverting to the pre-crisis circumstances. This appears highly unlikely. The attacks by the Israeli army and Israeli settlers continue, leading to daily clashes on the streets and in settlements. And once again, pressure is put on Yasser Arafat to "control the streets". Blaming the victim In essence, the summit meeting in Egypt was not directed towards finding a just solution to the problem. Kofi Annan failed to demand that Israel implement the resolutions of the United Nations for Israel to return to its 1967 borders. Rather, the summit was mainly intended as a whitewash for Israel by laying "equal" blame and a means of undermining the Arab summit that was to follow by pre-empting moves for Arab unity and possible sanctions against Israel by the Arab countries. Barak was quick to repeat his call for a "national emergency government" on his return from the summit. This would mean that Likud leader General Sharon, the butcher of Lebanon and the man who had knowingly sparked off the present crisis, would be part of the Barak Government. Barak holds only a third of the 140 Knesset (parliament) seats; with Sharon, he would secure the majority. Sharon has made it a condition of joining such a government that Barak abandon the peace process with a view to re-occupying the West Bank and Gaza and forestalling any declaration of statehood by the Palestinians. This obscene political game has already been paid for in blood. The Barak Government has taken the path of appeasing the most right-wing and racist forces in Israeli politics hoping to hang on to power, hoping to ignore the justified demands of Palestinian people for justice and peace and hoping that the Palestinian people will tire of the struggle. Across the world solidarity actions with the Palestinian protests are continuing. Little, if any mention is made in the media of the acts of solidarity with the Palestinians which have taken place among the Jewish population in Israel. This is despite the fact that vigils and other actions by democratic and peace-loving Jewish forces have taken place almost every day since the beginning of the crisis. The Israeli Communist Forum, for instance, supports the demand to form an international commission of inquiry to investigate the bloody events. The Forum calls for the immediate evacuation of all Israeli settlements situated within Palestinian territory and the dismantling of all Jewish settlements in the occupied territories — all of which are obstacles to peace and are sources of further bloodshed. The Forum says that Israel must basically change its policy towards the Palestinian people by halting all attempts to force agreements to surrender and renew negotiations with Palestinians. These negotiations should be premised on the legitimate right of Palestinians to establish their own independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, including East Jerusalem. Within Israel itself, the Communist Forum demands that discrimination against the Arab population be stopped and that full equality be ensured. Israeli policies have created a new apartheid. The South African apartheid system was defeated by solidarity actions around the world in support of anti-apartheid struggle within South Africa. The Palestinian people, in their hour of need, require all the support they can get. Do not hesitate to take part — it may save a child's life. Meanwhile at the Arab Summit also held in Cairo there were sharp differences on the question of whether to break all ties with Israel. The Summit failed to take any strong action against Israel. A number of the Arab countries are ruled by oil rich sheiks who have little sympathy with the struggling people of Palestinian and more in common with the big corporations of the US.