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“Let me tell you about those Gaza olives. First of all, they are the bitterest ones in the entire world. Gaza people say that the olives get their bitterness from life in the Gaza Strip, from the pressure of the Occupation.
And not only are these olives bitter, they can also drive you crazy with their saltiness. And that is because of the tears of the Gaza women. Tears they shed in the olive groves seep through into the olives”.
These are words written by Tal Belo, a Staff Sergeant in the Armoured Corps of Israel’s occupying forces.
Tal Belo is one of more than 500 Israeli “Refuseniks” ? conscientious objectors currently refusing to serve in the West Bank and Gaza. Part of a letter they have signed and delivered to their government reads: “We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.”
Another signatory, Sergeant Noam Livne, makes an emotional appeal to the Israeli people: “People wake up! This is now! Now it is happening! Just a few kilometres from where you are sitting now there is a war which is taking place, a brutal, awful, idiotic, unjust, voluntary war.”
These words were written before the recent Israeli elections and as history shows the Israeli public ignored the passionate appeals of those who have taken part in the heinous occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Instead, they once again chose an alleged war criminal, said to have links with the Russian mafia, to be their guiding light. Israelis have chosen and will have to accept the consequences resulting from that choice.
Now it is our turn. We are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to attack Iraq. Now it is up to the peoples of the American, British, Australian, Spanish and Italian so-called democracies ? whose leaders are all supporters of the Bush doctrine ? to make up their minds whether or not to follow the Israeli lead and choose conflict over peace.
Are we (I say “we” as a British national)… are we prepared to condone the state-sanctioned murder of thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people, including women, children and babies?
A leaked United Nations report read: “Up to 500,000 people could suffer serious injuries during the first phase of an attack on Iraq”. The report also suggests that up to 10 million Iraqis could require assistance during the aftermath and warns of an enormous refugee problem.
Shouldn’t this alone give us food for thought as to whether we can accept such an outrageous toll?
An indication of our true feelings concerning Bush’s pre-emptive war are the polls which show that most of us want a peaceful solution to the disarmament of Iraq. Almost 10 million concerned individuals voted with their feet through the streets of more than 600 cities worldwide on February 15.
Yet, in our “democracies” our leaders brush aside our expression of solidarity with humanity. George W. Bush dismissed millions of protestors as a mere interest group. If he is right then I am honoured to be a member. This is a group, which believes in life over death and altruism over greed, epitomising all that is fine about mankind.
Tony Blair admits that he has failed to convince us as to the justification of this war but arrogantly clings on to his own self-righteousness. Blair pits his own moral rectitude against that of most religious leaders, including the Pope, who in a fraught face-to-face meeting on Saturday urged him to “avoid the tragedy of war”.
Sheikh Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, is another opponent of American aggression. He said: “We reject any harm to befall the Iraqi people who are an integral part of the Arab and Muslim worlds”.
Rowan Williams, the Arch-bishop of Canterbury issued a rare joint statement with his Catholic counterpart Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor refuting any moral basis for war, and condemning the quasi-religious rhetoric being used by certain leaders to elicit support. It is obvious by Blair’s words and deeds that he feels he knows better.
Britain’s Daily Mirror depicted the British Prime Minister with blood dripping from his upturned palms on its front cover but what it didn’t explain was that we will all have the blood of Iraqi and Palestinian children on our hands if this war is allowed to proceed.
Those of us who live in democracies must make our feelings known by peaceful protest, letters, phone calls and emails. If our leaders refuse to listen then our ostensible democracies are nothing but a sham. We will at least have tried.
We try to salve our own consciences by telling ourselves that if Security Council member nations approve Iraq’s forcible disarmament then that’s fine. But is it? As I write, in the United Nations Headquarters, behind closed doors, nations are being intimidated, threatened and bribed by emissaries of the powerful warmongers.
Turkey has been offered six billion dollars to allow American soldiers to use its soil as a launching pad for the invasion and demands 30 billion, Germany has been threatened with economic isolation and France subjected to insulting rhetoric. Mexico has been bullied with the spectre of economic retribution. The Arabs have been scrutinising the signs which read “Watch out! You could be next”.
Some 141 foreign ministers, representing more than 50 per cent of the world’s entire population, recently expressed their opposition to a U.S.-led war on Baghdad, and urged the lifting of the debilitating sanctions. So, are we truly able to call any United Nations resolution sanctioning war with Iraq “the will of the international community?”
Russia has complained about pressure (from the U.S.) being put upon the chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, to declare Iraq’s non-cooperation.
Perhaps like many of us, the Russian government finds it suspect that the inspectors are invariably hosted by Washington and London prior to their visits to Baghdad.
Blix and El Baradei still maintain that they want more proactive cooperation, whatever that entails, and have now presented the Iraqi regime with a difficult choice.
With the enemy literally at the door and self-defence a prime concern of the Iraqis, Baghdad is being told that hundreds of its Al Samoud missiles will have to be destroyed before March 1 because they exceed the permitted range of 150 kilometres by what most people would term an insignificant 20 kilometres.
If Iraq agrees, the country will be left vulnerable. If it doesn’t, it will be accused of being in material breach of Resolution 1441, a probable trigger for war. The Iraqis seek negotiation, Blix is intransigent.
Even if we are willing to put our hands over our ears and eyes when it comes to Iraq and convince ourselves that everything is the fault of Saddam Hussain ? la Tony Blair, what about the Palestinians?
How will a war with Iraq affect them? Does anybody care? America has loaned Israel missile defence capabilities to protect Israelis. Sharon has issued gas masks to Israeli citizens in the unlikely event that Iraq launches missiles carrying biological or chemical warheads, destination Israel. Israelis have the opportunity and the cash with which to purchase protective kits.
The Palestinians, however, have been left defenceless in case of such an attack even though, as an occupied people, their safety is the responsibility of the occupying state. A petition filed with Israel’s High Court by various human rights organisations, asking that the Israeli government be forced to hand out gas masks to West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, was rejected.
Many Middle East pundits, including 100 Israeli intellectuals and academics, say that Sharon is waiting anxiously for the bombs to begin raining on Iraq, so as to implement his dream of a Greater Israel “from the Nile to the Euphrates”.
They believe that the Israeli Occupying Forces will carry out enforced transfer of the Palestinian people across the River Jordan, and perhaps, through the Rafah Crossing into Egypt. Others foresee an Israeli attack on Lebanon and Syria.
Such prophesies have yet to be put to the test, but one thing is certain, the olives of Gaza will never be as bitter as this year’s harvest and the next, and the next. And the tears of millions of women and children in Iraq, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will never be able to wash clean our collective conscience if this terrible so-called pre-emptive war is allowed to proceed.