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When History Repeats Itself, Again And Again

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 By Sam Bahour and Michael Dahan

March 6, 2002 

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American living in the besieged Palestinian City of Al-Bireh in the West Bank. 
Michael Dahan is an Israeli-American political scientist living in Jerusalem. 


The first Palestinian refugee camps are a product of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. In 1967, when Israel militarily occupied the West Bank, Gaza  Strip and East Jerusalem a second wave of Palestinian refugees was created. Today, Ariel Sharon and his government are creating a third wave of Palestinian refugees by attacking those very same refugees that, decades ago, fled for their lives and have been living under illegal Israeli occupation ever since. 

It was twenty years ago when Sharon himself was responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon. Today, the  Sharon-Peres coalition is repeating history by entering refugee camps within the  Palestinian Authority, killing people and destroying homes and property. 

They are repeating history when they insist on keeping Arafat prisoner in Ramallah, as Sharon tried and failed to do in Beirut. When tank shells are used for "pinpointed" assassinations and kill a mother and her children "mistakenly" (tell us  please where is the pin and the point?). When an entire family is killed in  Jerusalem while celebrating a child's Bar Mitzvah (the Jewish coming of age  ceremony), when missiles are fired from F16s into densely populated areas in  Ramallah, Gaza and Bethlehem, when death and destruction, debasement and  humiliation are part and parcel of official Israeli policy towards millions of  Palestinians, history is repeating itself again and again. 

The Sharon-Peres coalition has no plan. Tenet, Mitchell, the Saudi Arabian initiative have all been rejected. Sharon's only response is to say "the Palestinians  have to be hit harder". And after they are hit hard? They then need to be hit  harder? And harder? And then? The Israeli government has rejected every  proposal to try and calm the violence. The only response that the government has  is to increase its war against the Palestinians. And make no mistake, this is not a  low level conflict, but a war against the Palestinians. Sharon is not simply a hard  liner - he has absolutely no intention of reaching any agreement whatsoever with  the Palestinians. Anyone who thinks that he does is only fooling themselves, while  everyday innocent people are being slaughtered in the streets of Ramallah and  Jerusalem, Jenin and Tel Aviv. 

Sharon has rejected and will continue to reject any proposal that attempts to calm  the situation, while at the same time raising the stakes even higher. The only  action that Sharon is capable of taking is to create a smoke screen, which will  allow him to continue his personal vendetta against Arafat. This is the only  conclusion that one can reach - Sharon has neglected his responsibility as a leader  and is willing to place his own personal agenda ahead of the common good and  common interest of Israel. 

For those in the military, we would like to remind them of one of the basic laws of  physics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is a simple  fact. "Hitting the Palestinians harder" will only serve to create more and more  people willing to commit acts of violence, and will only serve to send a message to  the Palestinian people that Israel has no intention of trying to reach a political  solution. 

It is time to send a clear message to Sharon and to the international community as well. There is no military solution for the conflict. Constantly bombarding the  Palestinians will not make them give up their hope and legitimate desire to live in a  free and independent state. Stifling them with roadblocks and indiscriminate  violence will not soften them up, but will only serve to increase their commitment  to achieve their goals. 

In a few weeks, Jews all over the world will be celebrating the holiday of Passover,  which is also known as the "Holiday of Liberty" from Egyptian slavery. It is time to  apply the inalienable principle of liberty, which Jews cherish so much, to the  Palestinian people. The only possible hope for a solution is the complete and total  end of Occupation, the Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders and the establishment of  a free and independent Palestinian state. As the Israeli government is not willing or  not capable of implementing this simple and fair solution, we call on the  international community to put as much pressure as possible on Israel in order to  stop the cycle of violence. Failure to do so will only encourage Sharon to  implement his own agenda, and history will continue to repeat itself. 

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