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U.S. State Dept Slams Israel's Human Rights Record

The Road to Sharon: Israel Exposed

15 February 2001

Israel and the Palestine Authority arrived at their "Moments of Truth." President Bill Clinton offered proposals that had a semblance of fairness to the Palestinians and tested Israel's sincerity in the peace process. Both parties wavered. For the Palestinians, already disillusioned by previous proposals and bothered by Clinton's choices of mediators they characterized as being biased to Israel, the last proposals came too fast, required more careful study and more attention to details. For Israel's politicians the "peace process" had gone too far. The time had arrived once again for Israel to change its government.

Israel reverted to a familiar routine -new elections. The party in power had taken over the negotiations for the third time, started out well, and then became misguided. The party out of power claimed to have fought for peace each time, and was again prepared to find justice for the Israeli people and bring peace to the area. To achieve public and international acceptance of a new government, the road to Sharon had to be carefully paved.

Paving the Road to Sharon

By offering their worst candidate -the fallen Ehud Barak- the Labor Party made certain their government would be replaced. A large part of the Israeli electorate hoped that Likhud could offer a more acceptable candidate than the international pariah, Ariel Sharon. No possibility. Sharon was the only available leader and, as such, a contradiction -Israel which poses itself as the most democratic country in the region, and the most obedient to human rights, showed they have no prominent democratic leader, nor one who pursues human rights. The bumpy and rocky road leading from Sharon's provocative appearance on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif to Sharon as an honored Prime minister had to be smoothed. This was done by demonizing Arafat who had "tricked" the innocent Barak.

Demonizing Arafat

Syndicated U.S. columnists in the Washington Post approved the technique that demonized Arafat and held him responsible for the tragic events. A few examples:

" There are of course no Palestinian voters, only the vexing Arafat […]. But why chase after Arafat? It is his mess. Let him clean it up" -Stephen S. Rosenfeld, Arafat's Mess, The Washington Post, February 3, 2001.
" After embracing a peace offer that for a generation seemed possible only to its most ardent doves, the Israeli government will now line up behind a hawk who had been marginalized as an extremist for just as long. This dramatic change has been brought about, first and foremost by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who first rejected the Israeli peace offer at Camp David, then countenanced -at least- a violent uprising in the West Bank". -Washington Post Editorial, February 5, 2001

" Now, as a consequence of his own actions, Arafat faces Ariel Sharon. The former general knows that he won -and won big- on account of those 50 Jewish victims of Palestinian terrorism. For the moment at least, the peace process is as dead as those people. Yasser Arafat, to his shame, holds the smoking gun. -Richard Cohen, Israel's Answer to Arafat, February 8, 2001.

The commentators who criticized Palestinian Authority President Arafat for not accepting "Israel's proposals for peace" failed to mention:

During all the negotiating years from 1993 to 2001, Barak's Israel continued the illegal and harassing settlements, failed to withdraw troops from the West Bank, constantly perturbed the Palestinian economy, failed to follow the Oslo accords timetable and showed no sympathy for the plight of the desperate Palestinians. Meanwhile, Arafat followed the timetable of the Oslo accords within acceptable limits. The United States and not Israel originated the last minute proposals. There are no officially recorded proposals. Everyone used their own preferred guesswork and rumor mills. Barak never signed agreement to any proposals. He waited for Arafat's acceptance before making a decision. It didn't matter what Barak stated. It was obvious that the Israeli government and Israeli people were not going to grant the Palestinians anything. Arafat only asked what any fair-minded person could consider fair. (1) A contiguous West Bank territory that Palestinians had occupied for centuries. (2) East Jerusalem as a capital that Palestinians had occupied for centuries. (3) Sovereignty of the Old City including the Haram al-Sharif that Moslem authorities had controlled for centuries and (4) Resettlement, or compensation for, Palestinian refugees whose property and resources had been seized and used by Israel. Since permitting the Palestinians to retain what they already owned didn't amount to a compromise, Israel's apologists never defined the compromises they reported Barak had made. Instead, they reverted to the phrase "more compromises than any previous Israel leader had made." In 1993, as a Knesset member, Barak voted against accepting the Oslo accords. Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

Arafat needed a peace agreement to establish a viable Palestinian State and gain acceptance as a leader of that state. He had no reason to refuse a fair and honest peace agreement. Israel had reasons to continue the status quo and impede a peace agreement. The continued occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem allowed continued expansion of the settlements and delayed the resolution of the Palestinian refugee situation. No agreement benefited Israel.

The demonization of Arafat was only one part of paving the road to Sharon. Excusing Israel's violence against the Palestinian people was another part. Israel's apologists spread propaganda, which tended to excuse Israel's violence against the Palestinians and which attempted to balance Israel's record in denying the Palestinian refugees their legitimate claims.

Excusing Israel's Violence

Israel asserted its soldiers had no responsibility for killing Palestinian children; the vicious Palestinian parents placed their children in front of Palestinian sharpshooters. Despite lacking credible evidence, Israel and its supporters promulgated this racist claim. They disregarded documented and filmed reports showing that children had been killed on balconies, while walking the streets from school and in other places that had no crowds. The Israel apologists hid from the public that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza had confined children to barren lives on top of isolated outposts from which settlers constantly provoked Palestinian communities, subjecting the families, including the children, to possible reprisals from angry Palestinian neighbors.

Israel's apologists attempted to show that although Israel might have killed 350 Palestinians, the Palestinians ran the risk. The Palestinians killed 50 Israelis and that was sufficient to make the Israelis insecure and vote for Sharon.

" Why did the Israelis vote overwhelmingly for Ariel Sharon, a hard-liner, a rightwinger and the scourge of the Arabs? They know that most of the Palestinians were killed in fights they picked with Israeli soldiers […]. But the Israeli dead -that mere 50 of the news reports- include not only soldiers ambushed at their posts but civilians traveling the highways of the West Bank and Gaza strip. It includes children, or parents shot and killed before their children's very eyes".-Richard Cohen, ibid.

Usually if soldiers shoot a population, that population finds a means of retribution. Israel is the only Western country where soldiers stay behind impregnable fortified positions and shoot demonstrators. More peaceful means are used to subdue demonstrators who throw rocks that can do little damage. As for the civilians shot on the road; weren't they settlers who had shot Palestinian farmers in their fields?

To offset the indefensible Israeli position of not allowing the return of Palestinian refugees to their dispossessed lands or reimbursing them for the illegal evictions, a network of Israel apologists flooded the media with claims that those who left Arab lands and migrated to Israel deserved compensation for their financial losses.

Twisting the Refugee Compensation Situation

Towards the final deliberations of the Camp David negotiations, after the Palestinian refugee situation became an issue, Israel proposed having the Arab regimes compensate those who migrated to Israel from Arab countries. Coincidentally, the World Jewish Congress prepared a report on Jewish property in the Arab countries, primarily in Iraq and Egypt. Meanwhile, talk radio received comments from listeners pleading the case for Jewish migrants from North Africa, specifically mentioning Tunisia and Morocco, where there is no evidence that any Jews were forced to migrate or had their property seized. As a matter of fact, all Arab countries aver that they didn't force Jews to leave and didn't expropriate their property. They claim that Jews left on their own volition due to a perception that they would be in danger after Israel invaded Egypt in1956, and due to instabilities in the same nations. Other peoples of those nations were not as fortunate. If they wanted to leave, they had no place go. Syrian Jews were not permitted to leave until the last decade; one refutation that they were forced to leave en masse.

It is obvious that Israel wants the Arab countries to indirectly pay the compensation that Israel owes the Palestinian refugees. Actually, these are two independent refugee situations. One has nothing to do with the other. If the migrants to Israel from Arab countries feel they warrant compensation, then they should personally appeal to the countries from which they want the compensation. Since they haven't murmured an appeal to anybody in 40 years, it is obvious they don't have a case. Also, if they want, they can request to return to their former countries, just as some of the Palestinian refugees have requested to return to their former land. There are of course great differences between the two situations. The Palestinians are legitimate refugees, living in refugee camps or without passports and citizenship in foreign lands. They tried to return immediately after the 1948 war, and Israel refused their admittance. The Jewish immigrants to Israel from the Arab lands have never been classified as refugees. They came to a land that welcomed them, provided them with citizenship and passports and gave them financial support. They appear to have gained and not deteriorated in their new surroundings. They are no different than a refugee to America or any other country. Israel's and the World Jewish Congress' demand for compensating Jewish immigration to Israel from Arab lands is pure subterfuge. It demonstrates the little feeling that Israel has for the unfortunate Palestinians and its determination to escape the obligations for seizing the Palestinian lands and personal properties that are documented in Israel's files.

The final paving of the road to Sharon repaves Sharon.

Repaving Sharon

The usual scowling and sinister Ariel Sharon suddenly appears riding a tractor with his grandchildren. He talks in moderate and non-militant tones. He reaches out to shake hands with an equally smiling Barak. Two happy gentlemen. He is presented to the public as a new Sharon; which he might be. In order to stop the violence, Sharon might pacify the Palestinians by stopping the settlements and controlling violent activity from the settlers. He might assist the Palestinians in relieving their economic distress. He will try to create a more respectable image. But, it will all be temporary. The Israeli prime Minister can never morph from the Sharon, who at the age of 22, led commando units that specialized in behind-the-lines raids and forced Palestinians to flee their homes. Sharon has admitted that for retaliation upon Israeli settlements, in a notorious attack in 1953 on Qibia village, Jordan, his unit blew up homes and slaughtered 69 civilians, over half of them women and children. Two years later he was reprimanded for giving logistical support to four young Israelis who took random blood revenge on Bedouins for Arab attacks on Israeli settlements.
In the 1956 Suez war, Sharon disobeyed orders and sent his paratroopers into the Mitla Pass in the Sinai desert. In doing so, he deceived his superiors, sacrificed his men and gained the displeasure of the Israeli chief of staff, Moshe Dayan. Four of his junior officers accused him of sending men to their deaths for his own glory. Sharon's military career went into eclipse. In 1964, chief of staff, Yitzhak Rabin, resurrected him. Evidently, Sharon served Israel well in the 1967 war; the military gave him the task of subduing Palestinian resistance in the occupied Gaza Strip. With a brutal policy of repression, of blowing up houses, bulldozing large tracts of refugee camps, imposing severe collective punishments and imprisoning hundreds of young Palestinians suspected of being fighters, he managed to decrease resistance activity dramatically.

The leader of Israel's Likhud Party is mainly known for commandeering the invasion of Lebanon and proceeding to lead his army to Beirut. This invasion occurred despite a well-known pact made between Israel and the PLO that succeeded in preventing any retaliatory raids upon one another for more than a year. Sharon's invasion of Lebanon caused retaliation against the United States and deaths to American marines. It brought destruction, havoc, internecine warfare and economic decline to Lebanon, from which the country has never fully recovered.

Sharon is also associated with the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. For this brutality, the military removed him from office in 1983. An Israeli tribunal, that investigated the 1982 Lebanon invasion, determined that Sharon was indirectly responsible for the killings.

With a past record of brutality and reckless behavior, why did the Israeli people vote Sharon into office? Two reasons- a major portion of the electorate is not long-time Israeli citizens, and the electorate favors Sharon's characteristics.

The Fallacy of the Israeli Electorate

Israel is a new country and not a unified one. As immigrants from different cultures arrived over the years, its demographics repeatedly changed. The principal common features in the mass of the immigrants, who are mainly from North Africa, Mid-East and the former Soviet Union, have been impoverishment and a relation in being of Jewish heritage. The post-1967 war era, after Israel greatly expanded its territory and control of the Palestinians, brought immigrations of Orthodox and Messianic Jews from the United States and professional people from the former Soviet Union.

The Orthodox and Messianic Jews only attend to their fundamentalist mission - to recreate a Jewish state based upon biblical beliefs. The oppression and physical presence of Palestinians are completely invisible to them. The immigrants from the former Soviet Union, partially led by Natan Shransky, a supposed fighter for human rights in the Soviet Union, have shown little consideration for Palestinian human rights. The Russian immigrants who have education and knowledge have found within their grasp, in a short period of time in Israel, a prosperous life they never considered they would have in the former Soviet Union. The social and economic opportunities in Israel have given the Russians a nationalistic spirit. They don't want want their opportunities to be impeded and won't compromise one shekel of them. They have also transferred their psychological development in the totally domineering and oppressive Soviet system to their new land.

Powerless in the previous system, they now feel a sense of strong power. They are using their psychological development and power to its limits - to dominate and control Palestinian life while they expand their economic and material life and forge their own manifest destiny. The new generations have little cognizance of the previous injustices to the Palestinian people and easily rationalize that they are not responsible and therefore not bound to rectify them. The main point is that people, who have only recently arrived within the last two decades, have become responsible for the condition of Palestinians who have occupied the land for centuries and have a qualified legal ownership. In one day after arrival, these immigrants became part of an electorate, but it is hardly possible that in less than two decades, they share traditions and determinants of a common Israeli people. Yet, by becoming the determining factor in elections and changing the demographics of Israel, they have suited the ideology of hawkish leaders such as Ariel Sharon. They have shaped Israel into an image that the international community has despised - the image of demagogue Ariel Sharon.

Israel Exposed

Prime Minister Begin had been involved in a criminal hanging of innocent British soldiers during Britain's mandate in Palestine. Prime Minister Shamir has been accused of the murder of UN representative Count Folke Bernadotte during Bernadotte's 1948 investigation into bringing peace. Ariel Sharon's unnecessary visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif provoked the latest wave of violence that brought death to 50 Israelis and 350 Palestinians and wounded thousands more Palestinians. By voting Ariel Sharon the Prime Minister of Israel, the Israeli population has once again allied itself with brutality, recklessness and demagoguery. Israelis have shown contempt for the Palestinians and the international community who consider Sharon a "war criminal." Israel stands accused of betraying the original UN resolution that created it and specified there not be any oppression of the area's peoples. Israel is now in conflict with all people who demand justice, promote human rights and cherish freedom.

© The News Insider 2001

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