Israel's Silent Murder Campaign Continues

M. Junaid Alam redjaguar at
Tue Sep 17 16:57:53 MDT 2002

ZNet | Mideast
Palestine is still the Issue
by John Pilger; September 16, 2002

LAST October, in the early hours of the morning, a young expectant mother
called Fatima Abed-Rabo awoke with intense labour pains; and she and her
husband Nasser set out in a friend's car for the hospital in Bethlehem, in
Israeli occupied Palestine.

The couple had been trying for a second child for three years and had
undergone fertility treatment. "The news of the pregnancy had made us so
happy," said Nasser, "that we celebrated by replacing the tin sheeting on
our home with a concrete roof."

The couple were stopped at the Israeli military roadblock just outside their
village. The soldiers turned them back, even though Fatima was now
haemorrhaging. They got a taxi, hoping that would be allowed through. Again,
they were turned back. No explanation was given; one soldier mimicked
Fatima's moans.

Fatima gave birth to her baby in the taxi. She remembers the soldiers
hurling her husband's ID into the blood on the floor.

"We cut the umbilical cord with a razor blade," she said. "My husband
wrapped the tiny boy in his jacket, and eventually one of his relatives
found a back route."

Barely three pounds in weight, blue and in a critical condition, the baby
was dead by the time they arrived at the hospital.

We don't know why they did this to us," she told me in my film on ITV
tonight. "It wasn't personal. This is how they treat all Palestinians. I'm
sorry to say this, but they would rather help an animal than an Arab."

STORIES like Fatima's are rarely news in Britain, yet they are typical of
the everyday treatment of the Palestinians. Human rights groups run by
Israelis have recorded hundreds of instances of pregnant and seriously ill
Palestinians being turned back at Israeli checkpoints, including ambulances.

"We don't know how many have died like this," said a spokeswoman for the
Israeli Physicians for Human Rights, "because many people don't even bother
to set out for hospital, knowing the soldiers will stop them. "These people
offer no threat to Israel. Those who do, like the suicide bombers, of course
never go through roadblocks, which exist only to control, subjugate and
humiliate ordinary people. It is like a routine terrorism."

Fatima's remark about being treated worse than an animal is apposite. It is
always easier to harm or kill people who, in the eyes of the powerful, do
not matter: be it in Afghanistan or occupied Palestine.

Israeli soldiers enforcing the illegal occupation of Palestinian land can
cause the death of babies and other innocents, or kill them outright, and
words such as murder and terrorism are almost never used. The same immunity
has been enjoyed by those politicians who design and permit this "routine
terrorism," which is the product of a form of colonialism.

Indeed, to understand both the roots and the double standards of Bush's "war
on terror," whose propaganda the Israeli regime of Ariel Sharon has adopted
almost word for word, you need to come to Palestine, where one of the
longest military occupations in modern times is now in its 36th year.

When I was passing through Israeli checkpoints last May, there were several
of these routine murders. A nurse was one of them. Nine-tenths of
Palestinians killed by the Israelis are civilians; 45 per cent are teenagers
and children. In Gaza, five years ago, an amusement park opened beside the
sea. It was the only one in a deeply impoverished place populated mainly by
refugees whose families were forced off their land or out of their villages
by the Israelis.

"At first, it was very successful," said Walid Al Dirawi, who looks after
the deserted ruin of rusting rides and dodgem cars. "Then the shooting
started from across the road. The Israeli settlers and soldiers shot it up
every weekend, and of course people stayed away." Behind the dodgems is a
wall pock-marked with bullet holes, like a shooting gallery.

THE "settlers" are mostly religious Israelis or immigrants from Russia,
America and elsewhere, who are subsidised by the government to live in what
are colonial fortresses in the midst of Palestinian communities, guarded by
the Israeli army.

They have no right to be there under international law, and the United
Nations says they should get out. Their justification is usually Biblical.

For the Israeli state, they serve a practical purpose; they occupy and
encroach upon more and more Palestinian land, while allowing the military to
control the Palestinians with more and more roadblocks and restrictions.
Many Palestinian villages are surrounded by barbed wire, and people require
a special permit even to travel to the next one. Gaza, where 800,000 are
trapped, is surrounded by an electrified fence.

When Archbishop Desmond Tutu came here recently, he said: "The way the
Palestinians are treated is the way we were treated in apartheid South

Trapped by checkpoints and arbitrary curfews the Palestinian economy is in
ruins. According to a US government survey, more than half of all
Palestinian children suffer from malnutrition, including chronic
malnutrition defined as stunted growth.

People struggle to live on less than £1 a day. One of the most moving sights
I have seen are the kites that reach for the sky every dusk, displaying the
colours of the Palestinian flag, flown by terribly thin children from their
open prison in refugee camps.

Cutting a swathe through this poverty and despair are the Israeli
"settlements": surreal, middle class suburbs that are armed fortresses with
watchtowers. From here, the "settlers" shot up the amusement park. I visited
one of these fortresses. What struck me was the lushness: the constant sound
of running water: sprinklers nourishing hothouse crops and manicured
gardens. On the other side of what looks like the Berlin Wall, in
impoverished Gaza, standpipes trickle and often run dry.

These illegal, provocative enclaves, and their surrounding security areas,
control almost 42 per cent of occupied Palestine - a fact that, on its own,
makes mockery of the popular myth that two years ago the Israelis made a
"generous" offer to return 90 per cent of the occupied territories, which
the Palestinian Authority rejected.

The truth is very different. Following peace negotiations in America in
2000, President Clinton's National Security Adviser Robert Malley, who was
there with Clinton, revealed that, although the Palestinians rejected
certain Israeli proposals, "it could also be said that Israel rejected the
unprecedented two-state solution put to them by the Palestinians, including
the following provisions: a state of Israel incorporating some land captured
in 1967 and including a very large majority of its settlers; the largest
Jewish Jerusalem in the city's history (and) security guaranteed by a US-led
international presence."

Shortly after it was founded in 1948, Israel controlled, mostly as a result
of a United Nations partition and partly by force, a total of 78 per cent of
historic Palestine. The Palestinians, who were the majority, fled in an
orchestrated campaign of fear and terror, or they were expelled. These days,
this would be known as "ethnic cleansing".

When he retired, General Moshe Dayan, Israel's military hero, said: "Jewish
places were built in the place of Arab villages. There is not one single
place in the country that did not have a former Arab population."

DURING the Six-Day War in 1967, the Israelis occupied the remaining 22 per
cent of Palestine. Today, the Palestinians, seeking to form their own
independent state, want only that 22 per cent back.

Little of this background is known or understood widely in Britain, even
though the region is constantly in the news. Last May, the Glasgow
University Media Group, famous for its pioneering media analysis, published
a study that found TV viewers in particular were rarely told that
Palestinians were the victims of an illegal and brutal military occupation.
Only nine per cent of those interviewed were aware that the Israelis were
the occupiers. For years, representing the Israelis as oppressors has been a
taboo with always the threat of slurs of anti-Semitism (a bleak irony, as
Palestinians are Semites, too).

This has been manipulated by the Israeli government and its foreign lobbies,
especially in the United States where the lobby commands most of the
Congress and the White House.

Many Israelis, like many Jews in Britain and other counties, condemn this
intimidation, just as they condemn the occupation and are fearful of its
deeply corrupting effect on Israeli society. Recently, the Chief Rabbi of
Britain, Jonathan Sacks, said he had long believed that Israel should give
back the Occupied Territories. When I was in Israel in May, some 50,000
Israelis crowded central Tel Aviv, demanding that the government of Ariel
Sharon made peace.

They are still a minority. The Palestinian suicide bombers and their mass
murder of innocents have hardened Israeli public opinion, but what is seldom
reported is that they are a relatively recent phenomenon.

For much of their resistance, the Palestinians have fought back courageously
with slingshots - against a modern army, equipped with tanks, fighter
aircraft and helicopter gunships.

Britain has a historic responsibility towards the Palestinians. The 1917
"Balfour Declaration" promised Jews a homeland provided it would not
prejudice the rights of the non-Jewish communities. The British famously
reneged on this. Britain administered the League of Nations" Mandate for
Palestine until the partition that created Israel in 1948, which the
Palestinians call al-Nakba, "the catastrophe."

AS a permanent member of the UN Security Council, successive British
governments have pledged to support the resolutions that have called upon
Israel to end its occupation.

In the General Assembly, there have been an estimated 450 resolutions
calling, in one form or another, for justice for the Palestinians. This is a
world record. No country has incurred the opprobrium of the world community
as often as Israel and no country has been excused its "rogue" behaviour so
consistently, thanks to its backer, America.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, it was ordered to withdraw by the United
Nations Security Council. When the Iraqis failed to comply, they were
attacked with such force that tens of thousands were slaughtered. When
Israel seized the West Bank of the Jordan and Gaza, it was ordered to
withdraw by the same UN Security council. That was 35 years ago, and the
occupation goes on.

On the contrary, Israel has since been rewarded with billions of dollars
worth of aid and armaments, principally by the United States, which has
helped it develop nuclear weapons and other so-called weapons of mass

Britain has nurtured the hypocrisy that reached its apogee in the United
Nations General Assembly last week when George Bush, speaking and
postulating like a Mafia don, and with the full support of Tony Blair,
threatened the very existence of the UN unless it provided him with a
figleaf from behind which he could attack Iraq.

But it was Israel's flouting of UN resolutions on Palestine that was the
spectre in the General Assembly. Every delegate knew it, especially the
British who are fully aware of the enduring destabilising effect of the
illegal occupation.

They also know that it is being intensified by Ariel Sharon, a man whom a
commission of his own parliament found indirectly but "personally
responsible" for the massacre of more than 800 Palestinians in 1982 and who
once boasted: "They (the Arabs) have the numbers. We have the matches."

With Bush and Blair about to ignite another war in the Middle East, justice
for the Palestinians remains key to peace.

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