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EDITORIAL: 1-15 November 2000

Implications of the new intifadah

After many years of a precarious peace the situation in West Asia is tense again. Clashes between the Palestinians and Israelis are continuing and escalating despite international efforts to calm down the situation. Thousands have been hurt and over a hundred people have already died. Over 90 percent are victims of Israeli bullets, rockets and tank shells. Israel is moving towards a national unity government and the Arab states are preparing for a summit conference to assess the deteriorating situation. There is talk of war in the air. Israel is threatening to say good bye to the peace process and start an all-out war against what they call ‘terrorism.’

The clashes started on 28 September as a direct result of the provocative visit of the Israeli opposition leader General Ariek Sharon who is a war criminal for his role in the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacres in which thousands of defenceless Palestinian men, women and children were mercilessly killed by Israel's Phalangist cronies. General Sharon went to the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, one of Islam's three holiest shrines, in an act of calculated defiance to show, as he said, that the place belongs to the Jews. The clashes between the Palestinians and Israelis which started during the former general's visit escalated and reached South Lebanon and led to Israeli gunship attacks on the Palestinian Authority offices including the residential area where Chairman Arafat lives in Gaza, closure of the Gaza International Airport and turning the whole of Palestine Authority territories in Gaza and West Bank to a virtual prison.

The provocative visit to the Aqsa Complex may have been the immediate provocation. But the actual causes run deep. It is already eight years since Oslo Accords and the Palestinian State should have been in place by now on a fraction of the original territory of historical Palestine. The rump state should have come out last May according to the accords, then it was delayed to September on Israeli request and now that date too has passed and the Israelis are threatening that if Arafat opts unilateral declaration of statehood they will not recognize it and will not transfer the areas still under their direct occupation and will not talk about the other important issues on the table of negotiations, viz. refugees, Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in occupied territories water, etc. 

It is well known that Chairman Arafat accepted Oslo under duress and conceded the Israeli minimum on offer in order to end the long suffering of his people. He had accepted a sovereign state in the areas occupied in 1967 foregoing all other areas of mandated Palestine occupied before that in excess of the 1947 UN resolution. Instead of 47 percent of Palestine earmarked for the Arab state, he had accepted a state on only 23 percent of the historical Palestine. But the Israelis with full American backing are dragging their feet on almost every issue. Earlier too they had gone back on the autonomy agreement within the Camp David agreements two decades ago. Now they have not transferred all the agreed lands to the Palestinian Authority and would like to re-negotiate the terms of Oslo in order to keep at least ten percent of the West Bank lands. Morevoer, there is no progress on three main issues: Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem. There are no signs that Israel would allow the majority of the five million Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands. Israeli settlements are sought to be kept in Palestine Authority areas under Israeli sovereignty and there is no compromise on the sovereignty over Jerusalem. Israel is ready to transfer only municipal powers on East Jerusalem, that is the Arab part of the holy city. The ease with which Israeli tanks entered PA areas and strafed it from helicopters shows the kind of sanctity Israel holds for this entity.

Israel's resorting to a national unity government has its historical connotations, that it will harden its positions as has happened every time Israel has seen a national unity government. In the circumstances an early settlement of the current crisis as well as the resolution of the ticklish issues on the table of negotiations seems far fetched in the near future. War cries coming out of israel against its historical victims shows that there is no way to deal with the zionists except by armed struggle. That alone holds any meaning to the Israelis was clearly shown last June when Hizbullah drove them away lock, stock and barrel. The same may be repeated in Palestine.

During the current crisis and the new spate of Israeli crimes the Indian government has chosen to stay aloof and take a neutral stand. This happens for the first time in the history of India. Even before independence Indian national leaders had clearly spoken against the injustice zionists were causing to the people of palestine. The current incumbents in the seats of power in Delhi have great admiration for the fascist rulers in Tel Aviv just as their mother organization once had for the Nazis. India has to hold the high moral ground as it always did. Let prejudices of the ruling ilk at any given time not blind us to discharge our obligations to justice and humanity. There will be no India if it abandons the high moral ground. Indian Muslims too have been slack in their show of support and solidarity with their Palestinian brothers.

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