Only three days have passed following US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Middle East policy remarks at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center for Political Leadership in Kentucky. Following Secretary Powell’s tribute to a key member in the audience, Kentucky’s Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, one of the fiercest opponents of the PLO and the Oslo Peace agreements, who together with Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, published AIPAC’s (the Israeli political lobby in the US) most recent initiative against the Palestinian Authority (Ha’aretz 22/11/2001), Secretary Powell boldly declared:
“The overwhelming majority of Palestinians [...] have seen their schools shuttered and their parents humiliated. Palestinians need security as well. Too many innocent Palestinians, including children, have been killed and wounded. This, too, must stop.”
Today, a 16-yr.-old boy was killed by Israeli troops while attending the funeral of five 6-14-yr.-old Palestinian schoolchildren that were instantly shredded to pieces yesterday by an Israeli bobby trapped mine planted near their school! Also today, three Palestinians in Nablus were killed when an Israeli helicopter fired a missile on their car, their bodies were charred beyond recognition. Two days ago, a 56-year-old Palestinian heart patient died after his ambulance was held at an Israeli checkpoint and refused permission to proceed to a hospital. The Israeli occupation forces in Gaza demolished the same day 18 Palestinian homes and entered the Palestinian City of Birzeit and detained five Palestinians. These actions are added to the, to numerous to mention, indignities that the illegal Israeli occupation causes to Palestinians, indignities that the best of media cameramen cannot capture.
Today, Secretary Powell’s words seem equivalent to that of a policeman walking past a rape victim, still pinned under her assailant, and verbally scolding both parties by advising them to work out their differences. Nevertheless, America has spoken. Israeli occupation must end. Palestinians have a legitimate right to self-determination. All have a right to live in security.
The current Israeli government led by internationally accused war criminal, Ariel Sharon, and politically cushioned by the Foreign Minister media wizard, Shimon Peres, have proved their incompetency or unwillingness to rein Israel in from the cold. Israel adds to its shame every day that it continues its criminal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. The Israeli economy is failing, and will continue to due so, as long as regional instability continues. A steady stream of Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian children is tearing the Israeli moral fabric beyond repair. If Israel is a real democracy this is the time for its people to act.
Israelis have a choice.
Remain silent and watch a people that have endured 34 years of occupation, coupled with one steady year of being bombed and locked up like a pressure cooker, explode while Israeli leaders explain that what is needed is 100% quiet to quell the situation.
Or, Israelis can take back Israel, for the sake of Israel. Israel can unilaterally begin to make right their 50 years of historic injustice against Palestinians. Israel can end occupation tomorrow and return to the negotiation table stronger than ever before. Israel can take its citizens out of dangers way and avoid putting its teenagers in a situation where they can fire upon innocent Palestinian children.
Occupation will end because it always has. This is a fact. Israel would be doing itself a monumental favor by ending the occupation on its own terms, rather than withdrawing due to additional international pressure.
As the pressure cooker prepares to explode, national egos need to be set aside. The time to end occupation is now; otherwise, Secretary Powell’s words will become an extended license to kill for Ariel Sharon and gang. CP
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the besieged Palestinian City of Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.