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
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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