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Mideast peace process dead -- no hope for revival

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 By Charley Reese *

* Mr. Reese's regular column in the Orlando sentinel has produced some of the best articles that shed the light on the Palestinian problem. The writer and the Orlando sentinel are under continuous pressure from the Jewish lobby.

This article was publ
ished May 8, 2001, Orlando Sentinel

The key to peace in the Middle East is in Washington, not Jerusalem. It is our government that empowers the Israeli government. It is vain for people to keep saying, "Renew the peace talks." The peace process in the Middle East is dead. Kaput. Finished.

People should take Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at his word. In recent interviews he has made it clear: There will be no permanent agreement with the Palestinians; all Jewish settlements remain; the Golan and East Jerusalem belong to Israel; and no Palestinian refugees will be allowed to return or be eligible for compensation.

Can people not understand plain Hebrew translated into plain English?

The peace process is dead. Sharon and a majority of Israelis don't want peace. They want the territory they have, and they want a defeated, despairing and docile Palestinian population living in isolation.

If they wanted peace, they wouldn't have killed more than 400 Palestinians, wounded more than 13,000, destroyed God knows how many homes, businesses and orchards. They would not have continued to expand settlements. They would not have continued to violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and defy some 60-plus United Nations resolutions.

So what's going to happen?

It's simple. The Palestinians will continue to suffer and die and will continue to try to kill as many Israelis as their limited means permit. What you have is the military occupation by a regional superpower of a largely unarmed population. Palestinians, like people everywhere and for all time, have the right to resist military occupation by a foreign power. What you are seeing are the final acts of European colonialism being played out in Palestine, which was never Europe's to give away in the first place.

This will go on until Sharon's need for enemies provokes a regional war or until the conscience of individual Americans is aroused. The key to peace in the Middle East is in Washington, not Jerusalem. It is our government that empowers the Israeli government to defy international law and human decency.

The Israelis wouldn't last six months without American backing, and they know that.

The old canard that the Israelis and Palestinians must settle their differences themselves is just an Israeli-dictated ploy to make sure nobody interferes with their treatment of the Palestinians. It's the same as if the police told a child rape victim, "Go work it out with your rapist."

There can never be negotiations between a strong party and a powerless party. To pretend otherwise is to engage in public deception. For years, Israelis would say that force is the only language the Palestinians understand. Now the Palestinians are saying the same thing about the Israelis. It's ugly stuff.

If you love violence, then get a satellite dish and you can watch them kill each other on Arab television indefinitely.

You may not like this, but the lives of 2 million Palestinians, many of them children, depend on us. Their deaths will be on our conscience. They do not have the power to stop the Israelis from occupying their land and brutalizing them. Our president and our Congress do. But they are afraid of the Israeli lobby. Therefore, if we do not give the American politicians some backbone by letting them know Americans are tired of being accessories to Israeli aggression, their misery will be unending.

Think about what it's like to be poor in a devastated landscape with no hope of relief. Then think what it's like to be blinded or paralyzed by an Israeli bullet with utterly no safety net. The Palestinian people do not deserve what is happening to them. Their plight puts us in the uncomfortable position of standing either by the innocent victims or by the oppressors.

There is no longer any neutral ground for people with an ounce of morality left in them. One way or another, we will all have to choose. "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee," said the poet John Donne.

Indeed it does, for with every Palestinian death a little bit of our own souls will die as long as we do nothing, say nothing, think nothing as if we could hide from our own conscience.

The most damned will be those in Washington who let their own fears and lust for the comfortable position condemn a whole people to a hellish existence when all along they had the power to relieve them with simply a frown and a stern word.

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