PNet: Three Million Hostages

JOHN M COX coxj at
Thu Oct 19 04:44:05 MDT 2000

The following was published in the Jordan Times and the Jerusalem

               Three million hostages
               View From The East By Daoud Kuttab

(October 19) - The title of this article, "Three million hostages,"
may surprise some, but this is actually what has happened to the
Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza during the past few
weeks. These Palestinians have become prisoners in their own country.
Movement between cities and towns was completely forbidden, as was
the movement across the Jordan River bridge, the Gaza airport, and
the land crossing with Egypt. Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport was also
forbidden to Palestinians. This procedure was not limited to those
wishing to exit but also applied to those who happened to be outside
the area when this arbitrary decision was made.
Unlike previous times when such radical steps were taken, the
Israelis made no attempt to describe this action as a security
precaution. This was collective punishment.

And the prime minister was not even apologetic about saying to the
press after the Sharm e-Sheikh summit that this siege will continue
until the violence [meaning, of course, the Palestinian violence]
Such collective punishment is illegal according to international law.
The Fourth Geneva Convention, which was created to deal specifically
with prolonged occupations, banned such collective action against a
civilian population.
According to Palestinian sources, this collective punishment was not
restricted to the movement of Palestinians but it also included the
banning - for a variety of reasons and excuses - of things like
medical supplies and food supplies. Movements of medical staff and
vehicles were also restricted.
One Palestinian newspaper ran a photo of four ambulances awaiting
approval to enter the Jordan River crossing. The Palestinian Red
Crescent Society has said that 18 ambulances weren't working because
Israeli soldiers shot at them. The Palestinian driver of the
ambulance who was sent to pick up the 12-year-old boy Mohammed Aldura
was killed by Israeli snipers.
The supply of gasoline was also restricted, leaving many people
unable to drive their cars within the city limits.  This problem was
spread even to areas under full Israeli sovereignty. When I tried to
put gasoline in my own car, the gas station in the northern parts of
Jerusalem said that they were out of 95 octane gasoline because the
Israeli trucks were afraid of coming to the Palestinian areas.
The collective punishment of the Palestinian population has at least
two immediate results.
It unifies the people. No longer is there poor or rich, city people
or villagers, Christians or Moslems - the entire Palestinian people
come together as a result of the Israeli blockade and siege. People
quickly find ways to overcome the difficulties, give up on luxury
items, provide first aid and other medical help, find alternative
roads, and in general, share their resources.
The second result of such punishment is the dramatic rise in
Palestinian aspirations for independence and statehood. At times of
relative quiet, people are often divided as to the best way to move
the peace process forward. While the desire for independence is
always there, it becomes an urgent need when people see the way the
Israeli occupation affects Palestinians, while they treat their own
people, including Jewish settlers who are fragrantly breaking the
law, very differently.
The way that Barak tried to make political gains out of lifting the
blockade produced an angry response.  Discussions in homes often
centered on the absurdity of the situation. People commented on how
Israel places a blockade and then begins negotiations with the
Palestinians on what it will get in return for lifting this blockade.
Such absolute disregard for a civilian population is not much
different than what criminals do when they hold innocent people
hostage and try to trade their release for money. The difference is
that this time three million people are held hostage by a country
which claims to be a democracy.

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