May 2, 2002 Halifax Herald

Collective punishment and Mideast hate

THE FOLLOWING are a few of the many indefensible reasons peace in the Middle East is impossible without forceful outside intervention:

On one side are Ariel Sharon and his radical right-wing followers, determined to hold onto Arab lands no matter how much Israeli blood is spilled. In fact, even during the suicide attacks and the subsequent Israeli invasion of Palestinian territory, illegal settlements were being expanded. On the other side are Yasser Arafat and his radical followers, seemingly willing to be uncompromising about the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their former homes in what is now Israel, and about Israel's right to exist, no matter how much Palestinian blood is spilled.

Complicating matters further is that both of these old, uncompromising warriors thoroughly despise one another, and believe that by inflicting collective punishment upon the other's constituency, they will make them love and trust them. Such terror tactics didn't work for the British and other former European colonial powers and won't work today in the Middle East.

Then both are labelling the other a terrorist and a war criminal. In fact, both have the blood of innocents on their hands and neither appears to have the least bit of sympathy for the suffering they inflict on the people on the other side. Ironically, by their present belligerency towards one another, they are the cause of the other becoming very popular in his respective camp. Both men were democratically elected by their citizens, but until the present troubles started, were becoming fading stars.

Former United States president Jimmy Carter, in a New York Times opinion piece, described them: "Ariel Sharon is a strong and forceful man and has never equivocated in his public declarations nor deviated from his ultimate purpose. His rejection of all peace agreements that included Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands, his invasion of Lebanon, his provocative visit to the Temple Mount, the destruction of villages and homes, the arrests of thousands of Palestinians and his open defiance of President George W. Bush's demand that he comply with international law have all been orchestrated to accomplish his ultimate goals: to establish Israeli settlements as widely as possible throughout occupied territories and to deny Palestinians a cohesive political existence.

"There is adequate blame on the other side. Even when he was free and enjoying the full trappings of political power, Yasser Arafat never exerted control over Hamas and other radical Palestinians who reject the concept of a peaceful Israeli existence and adopt any means to accomplish their goal.

"Mr. Arafat's all-too-rare denunciations of violence have been spasmodic, often expressed only in English and likely insincere. He may well see the suicide attacks as one of the few ways to retaliate against his tormentors, to dramatize the suffering of his people, or as a means for him, vicariously, to be a martyr."

The before-mentioned is why neither man has enthusiastically embraced Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's peace plan. Neither really wants peace unless the other meets his outrageous demand for a complete capitulation. Which, of course, isn't going to happen.

David Kimche, in an April 8, 2002, item in the Jerusalem Post, states, when commenting about Colin Powell's visit: ". . . Powell, with the might of the United States behind him and with the backing of Europe and the Arab states, has the power to drag a recalcitrant Israeli government to the negotiating table as a quid pro quo for the Palestinians reining in their terrorists. They won't do everything we are demanding them to do, because they can't. Under close American supervision they can, however, do a great deal to reduce terror attacks, provided they have the incentive to do so.

"That incentive can be the Saudi peace proposal as a basis for renewed negotiations. This proposal is in Israel's interests. As far back as June 1967, shortly after the war which propelled us into the territories, the government of Israel declared that it would withdraw from the occupied territories in exchange for full peace with all the Arab countries. We were then rebuffed. Now, more than 30 years later, the Arab summit has offered us what we had demanded and what we have always said is our goal - full peace with all the Arab countries. Their offer is not conditional on a return of refugees. It could and should be a basis for peace negotiations not only with the Palestinians, but with the entire Arab world. At the very least, our government should declare an interest in the offer, something it has not yet done."

During his latest invasion of Arab lands, Sharon has managed to make even Israel's most important ally, the U.S.A., and its president, George W. Bush, look impotent. But he should be careful; you don't poke the most powerful man in the world too often in the eye and not reap negative consequences.

There can be no military solution in the Middle East; only a political settlement will end the cycle of violence. The Saudi plan, adopted by the Arab League, offers the best hope. NATO and Russia, with enough military might behind them to cower the most intransigent aggressor, should adopt it and work out a plan to enforce it. They can guarantee the security of both Israel and Palestine. Who would have the courage to oppose them?

Without a political settlement, suicide bombings will continue, more invasions will occur, resulting in more deaths and destruction. For the security and peace of the innocents on both sides, it's time to end it.

Daniel N. Paul


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