Roger Normand

October 4, 2000

(Roger Normand is executive director of the Center for Economic and

Social Rights in New York)

Televised images of Israeli combat soldiers killing unarmed Palestinian

children and helicopters strafing Palestinian neighborhoods have publicly

exposed the Israeli military force that undergirds and shapes the Oslo


Despite previous crises and setbacks over the past seven years, government

officials and media sources have portrayed the negotiations as a slow, at

times troubled, but nonetheless steady journey towards a peaceful

resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But after recent events,

the public is now well aware that something is seriously wrong with this

picture. It is difficult to reconcile even a troubled peace process with

the merciless images of war -- especially with this one-sided war in which

a heavily armed military force is crushing -- the word "massacring" may be

more appropriate -- crowds of largely unarmed protesters.

It is hardly a contest on the war front, but an equally important battle

is being waged over the meaning of the conflict. This parallel battle for

public opinion, and through it government support and political

legitimacy, mirrors the dynamics of the military conflict. Israel

strategically deploys a superior arsenal (in this case, media access and

connections coupled with well-funded and sophisticated spin control) to

enforce its version of events, while the Palestinian leadership squanders

the opportunity to mount effective resistance based on the moral and

political appeal of a defenseless, oppressed yet galvanized population.

The intensity of the conflict indicates larger forces at play than

spontaneous protest and military escalation. We are witnessing more than

the pent-up outrage of a people for whom seven years of peace negotiations

has meant increased poverty, repression and humiliation from both Israeli

occupation forces and their own corrupt and brutal self-rule authority. We

are also witnessing a harbinger of the Barak government's plan for final

status, the liberal Israeli vision of peace -- ethnic separation enforced

by a military iron fist.


Israeli officials charge -- and media outlets uncritically accept --

that Arafat is orchestrating the violence for political gain. This charge

is truly Orwellian in its inversion of logic and reality. In a move

calculated to maximize Palestinian anger, Sharon, along with 1,000

well-armed police and border guards supplied by Barak, chose to champion

Israeli sovereignty over the Haram al Sharif with a personal visit on the

anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacres. The ensuing Palestinian

protests were spearheaded initially by Islamists and students -- the very

sectors that most despise Arafat and over which he exerts the least

control. And far from intervening decisively, the PA's 40,000-strong

security forces, which Arafat does control, have largely avoided direct

confrontation with the Israeli army, offering only sporadic support to

rock-throwing demonstrators facing off against Israeli helicopter

gunships, armored units and combat platoons. In this context, the charge

that Arafat is directing and radicalizing Palestinian protest from behind

the scenes is a transparent pretext to shift blame for the violence and

pressure the PA to crack down on "the street" -- which paradoxically has

the effect of distancing Arafat and the PA even further from popular


Notwithstanding Israeli claims, the issue of who is actually orchestrating

the violence seems rather obvious. Israel's massive and coordinated

military assault, with tank deployments ringing major Palestinian

population centers throughout the Occupied Territories, testifies to

careful planning. In recent months Barak and army leaders have openly

threatened the strategic deployment of overwhelming military force to

crush Palestinian "violence" in the event of a unilateral declaration of

statehood by Arafat. Other components of this very public plan included

annexing large areas of Palestinian territory and besieging encircled

population centers.

Lack of international response to this brazen threat set the stage for the

recent conflagration. It should not be necessary to recall that

Palestinians have an internationally affirmed right to self-determination.

The PLO's 1988 Declaration of Independence already constitutes a

declaration of statehood, recognized by almost all countries in the world

(except of course Israel, the US, and a handful of others). Israel's

self-proclaimed veto over Palestinian statehood, and Arafat's playing

politics by repeatedly postponing the (re)declaration, in no way negate

the legal, moral and political basis of this fundamental Palestinian

right. Yet the international community stood silently by when Israel

asserted an explicit commitment to deploy massive and illegal military

force against Palestinians for declaring their right to statehood. Now

that Israel has chosen to implement this plan, albeit a bit later under

different circumstances than anticipated, it is hardly surprising that

most world leaders have issued only weak appeals for "both" sides to stop

the killing, even while Israeli helicopter gunships fire American-supplied

TOW missiles into residential Palestinian neighborhoods. This muted

reaction is only the latest and most egregious example of the

"even-handed" approach adopted throughout the Oslo process, whereby the

two parties are left to their own devices to work things out irrespective

of power imbalances or human rights considerations.


Inside Israel, police contingents have killed nine and wounded hundreds of

Palestinian citizens of Israel in northern towns like Nazareth and Umm

al-Fahm. Many of the casualties were struck in the head and chest with

live ammunition, apparently the victims of shoot-to-kill targeting.

According to rights groups, scores of demonstrators have been detained,

beaten and tortured. Unlike their counterparts in Gaza, these protestors

do not include armed police within their ranks, or even experienced

stone-throwers. The use of excessive force against Israel's Palestinian

citizens comes on the heels of a recent campaign by Galilee police

commander Alik Ron, who accused Arab communities in northern Israel of

harboring a network of Islamic terrorists. Though later proven false,

these widely reported charges generated a wave of anti-Arab sentiment

among the Israeli public. Many Israeli Palestinians fear that Ron's

slanders, followed by the brutal police response to unarmed protests, are

part of a broader campaign to isolate and intimidate Israel's Arab



In the short-term, all progress towards final status talks has stopped.

The larger question is whether Barak can revive momentum for his peace

plan, repeated endlessly to the Israeli public of "us here, them there."

This model of socio-economic, cultural and especially physical separation

between Jew and Arab derives from the original Labor Zionist ideology that

culminated in the 1948 military expulsion of 90 per cent of the indigenous

Palestinian population from what became Israel. Through the Oslo process,

Barak is seeking international sanction and legal ratification for this

longstanding vision of ethnic and religious segregation. "Us here, them

there" has a formula to resolve the contentious final status issues of

statehood, land, refugees and Jerusalem. Palestinians are to be separated

from Israel politically and geographically, linked only economically in

the form of cheap labor and captive markets. Arafat will be anointed

president of his cherished state on 90 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza.

But the population will remain confined in territorially non-contiguous

bantustans, encircled by and controlled through a network of Israeli

settlements, roads and military checkpoints, and subject to repressive PA

security forces. In return for Israeli sovereignty over the settlements,

the Barak camp has even floated the possibility of ceding sovereignty over

Arab areas in northern Israel, thereby ridding the state of 300,000

Palestinian citizens. As the final element in this plan, over three

million Palestinian refugees will be denied their internationally

recognized human right to return to homes within Israel, and instead given

some cash and the "choice" of involuntary resettlement in either the new

statelet of Palestine or surrounding Arab countries.

At Camp David, the narrow dispute over the old city of Jerusalem

overshadowed broader agreement on these basic elements of "us here, them

there." While the recent crisis has temporarily set back prospects for a

final status agreement, it may also reinforce Barak's fundamental message

to the Israeli public that Jews and Arabs are better off apart --

including in divided Jerusalem. To Palestinians living in the Occupied

Territories and inside Israel, the message is even more clear: the

alternative to Israeli-imposed peace is the ruthless iron fist of war. It

remains to be seen whether Palestinians can effectively put forward

alternatives of their own.

(When quoting from this PIN, please cite MERIP Press Information Note 33,

by Roger Normand, October 4, 2000.)

Lucy Mair

International Program Associate

Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)

162 Montague Street, 2nd floor

Brooklyn, NY 11201

Phone: (718) 237-9145, ext. 18

Fax: (718) 237-9147




Oproep Palestijnse organisaties in Israel

Please Circulate Widely.

October 3, 2000

Ittijah Calls for International Campaign to

Protect Palestinian Citizens of Israel

As the recent attacks by the State of Israel on its Palestinian

citizens made clear, the Palestinian population of Israel is a

population at risk and in dire need of outside assistance to protect

its freedom and defend its rights. Ittijah - Union of Arab Community

Based Associations therefore calls for an international campaign to

safeguard the rights and existence of the Palestinian community in


This campaign is necessary as recent violence aimed at Palestinians

on both sides of the Green Line has shown that in dealing with

Palestinians, Israel makes no distinction between Palestinians in the West

Bank and Gaza who live under Israeli occupation and the Palestinians in

Israel who make up some 20% of country's citizenry. Indeed, this sentiment

was expressed explicitly by a high ranking Israeli police office who,

commenting on the ongoing clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli

forces, asserted that "[The] Green Line doesn't exist anymore". Implied by

this statement was the fact that Israel feels free to oppress Palestinians

on both sides of the Green Line in equal measure.

As citizens of a state that refuses to accord them even a modicum of

security or protection, Palestinians in Israel are in urgent need of

international support. Ten Palestinian citizens of Israel have

already been murdered by their government's forces in the past

four days: 3 in Umm El-Fahem, 2 in Arabeh, 2 in Sakhnin, 1 in

Nazareth, 1 in Moaweye and 1 in Jatt. Dozens more were injured, and

thousands endangered, as Israeli police attacked unarmed

demonstrators in Palestinian towns throughout Israel.

The scale of these attacks, and Israel's ongoing treatment of

Palestinians as enemies and not citizens both indicate that this is

not an internal Israeli matter but rather one that demands

international intervention.

Ittijah therefore calls on all people of conscience to join the

campaign to safeguard the rights of Palestinians in Israel. We urge

you take the following action:

1. Call or write to your local government representative demanding

that they take all necessary steps to assure an end to Israeli

massacres of Palestinians everywhere;

2. Call or write to your national representatives (Presidents,

Prime Ministers, and Foreign Ministers) demanding both their

immediate intervention to halt the bloodshed and their public

condemnation of Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians;

3. Call or write to Israeli Embassies in your home country

expressing your horror at the scale of Israeli attacks on Palestinian

civilians and demanding an immediate end to the violence [for updated

statistics on those injured and martyred in the continuing attacks go to]; 4. Call or write to Prime Minister Ehud

Barak and acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami demanding they take

immediate action to end the massacres and grant Palestinians everywhere

their human and civil rights; 5. Contact your local human rights

organizations urging them to follow Amnesty International's lead and

investigate, and report publicly on, Israeli attacks on civilians in

Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, attacks which Amnesty has already

condemned as "excessive and indiscriminate use of force which is in

contravention of international human rights standards".

For more information, please contact Ameer Makhoul either by e-mail

at, or by telephone at +972 4 862-1713.

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