The Guardian October 25,2000


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.

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