It Takes More Than One Man to Torment a Nation
Cries From a Battle Zone
"Listen, listen...can you hear that?" My friend cried out with a trembling voice as I waited on the line, trying to make sense of the rush of sounds coming from the other end. "That's an Israeli helicopter firing missiles at Khan Yunis refugee camp," he screamed, "there's another one...I have to go, I must wait with the people outside."
He hurried outside to gather in the camp's graveyard, south of Gaza City. It seems that gathering in the graveyard has become a ritual for them, a graveyard that is now full of victims left by random shootings. They gather there to bury their dead.
Another friend, a nurse at Makased Hospital in Jerusalem's Intensive Care Unit appeared much calmer as his experiences seem to have become a devastating routine. "I worked in the intensive care Friday," he began. "Six injured young men were brought in the morning. None survived," he said. "It's a war zone, it's a war zone. The only difference between what's taking place here and a real war is that it's a war from one side--Israel's side" said yet another friend. "Israel is shelling us with missiles, can you believe it? They are shooting rockets at the refugee camps in Gaza. They bombarded Gaza's community college. No space is left for the injured, they had to operate on people in small clinics. They barely have aspirin in these clinics. Our children are filling the streets like slaughtered sheep. Are you writing this down? ...like slaughtered sheep.."
Who's to Blame for the Violence?
Most of us find it comforting to hold one reason or one person responsible for such tragedies. Others prefer the "both are responsible" approach, a diplomatic way to escape the burden of accountability that comes with confronting the truth.
Unlike what many have concluded, the continuous violence is not simply an outcome of Israeli hard liner Ariel Sharon's "visit" to Al Haram Al Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), one of Islam's holiest sites. Yes, Sharon is a well known war criminal, that's uncontested. It's also true that a trail of blood seems to be accompanying the champion of the Jewish settlers. But it's utterly unfair to give the man all the credit for the deaths of nearly 70 Palestinians and well over two thousand injuries. Many others share the crime, and they too must be recognized.
Would Sharon have succeeded in assembling 1,000 Israeli soldiers and police to accompany him on his disgraceful visit to the Muslim sites in Jerusalem without the Israeli government's approval? Supposing that Sharon succeeded in ordering 1,000 heavily armed Israeli soldiers and police to join him on his controversial trip, how can one explain the violent events developing in the West Bank and Gaza?
Sharon, a Criminal Face Among Many
It wasn't Sharon who ordered the killing of scores of Palestinian protesters, many of whom were children. It wasn't Sharon who is shelling Palestinian refugee camps with Apache helicopters, nor is he the one who killed 12-year-old Mohammed al Durah as he clung to his father's knee and wept. What about the shoot-to-kill policy carried out by the Israeli army throughout the West Bank, Gaza and Arab towns in Israel? Though such a policy might be denied verbally, medical statistics in the Palestinian territories prove its validity. Eighty percent of the injured Palestinians received bullets in the upper parts of their bodies according to the Palestinian Minister of Health, Riyadh Zanoun, in an interview with Voice of Palestine radio.
Israeli Lieutenant-General Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli Chief of Staff who oversaw the Israeli army's retreat from Lebanon, appeared to be determined in recent months to deploy heavy armories into Palestinian territories, anticipating a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. Israeli settlements were flooded with supplies, and even sand bags were brought to Gaza's Jewish settlements.
Israel's muscle flexing was aimed at instituting fear in the hearts of Palestinians, as the option of armed struggle reemerged following Israel's defeat in South Lebanon. The Israeli government wanted to bolster its weakened image of a strong army at any cost, and as quickly as possible. Recent Palestinian protests in May were dealt with swiftly by the Israeli army. Six Palestinians were killed and nearly 900 hundred were injured. With the suppression of protests by the PA police, the violence would have carried on, and Israeli soldiers were fully equipped and ready to teach them a lesson.
A Political Message
But the Israeli message was also political. PA Charmin's Yasser Arafat's position at the intensive negotiations at Camp David last July appeared to Israel as too stubborn. Arafat was immovable when the talks narrowed down to Jerusalem, perhaps because of his knowledge that Jerusalem is too complex, too emotional and far too sacred to sacrifice.
In order to support Israel against the PA's seemingly firm stand which demanded the implementation of UN resolution 242 fully, the US began it's own scare tactics, launching a verbal war against Arafat for not being as "courageous" as Ehud Barak during the talks, according to Clinton. The US Congress also participated in the mental war by passing bills vowing to cut aid to Palestinians if they dared to declare a state unilaterally. The latest of these measures passed September 27th, when a 385-27 House vote decided withhold diplomatic recognition and aid from any such Palestinian state.
As Israel's "diplomatic options" were exhausted one by one, time was ripe for the military option to conquer what peace has failed to uphold. With every missile fired at Palestinian protesters, with every bullet, tear gas grenade, tank being deployed or tank pulling into a Palestinian town, Israel is sending a message: it's our way and no other way.
Sharon's role in what is clearly a well-orchestrated Israeli government scheme is to initiate the conflict, and shoulder whatever responsibility may be put on Israel. So in the end, the responsibility of the violence is equally shared between the Palestinian Authority as a whole, and Sharon, not the Israeli government.
No Room for Innocence
The crying face of Mohammed al Durah, who died in the prime of his youth, was a tragedy that was witnessed all over Palestine, as many other innocent faces were gunned down one by one. And it is amongst those bloody faces that one could also see the real face of Israel: inhumane, unmerciful and relenting as ever. If you look deeper at the images of al Durah as he is fades away at his father's side, you will see much more than a face of one killer named Sharon, you will see a government with a hostile policy, an occupation army, an apathetic international community, billions of US government dollars and one-sided policies. This is no place for the innocence of a twelve-year-old boy.
Ramzy Baroud is a free-lance journalist living in Seattle, Washington. He is a regular columnist for iviews.com.
Topics: Conflicts And War, Occupation