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English Edition
Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Israel has failed the test

By Amira Hass

  The lynching of two IDF soldiers by a Palestinian mob and the precise counting and effective publicizing of every Palestinian volley of shots heard (they only rarely hit their targets) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are making the Israeli public relations machine's work very easy. This also helps the Israeli public convince itself that they are disgusting, that we are under attack, that everything has been coordinated by Yasser Arafat, and that we are lucky that there is Palestinian television: We can use it to prove that they are engaged in incitement (after carefully editing out all the broadcasts which show the Palestinian casualties, one-third of them children, and those with head wounds and the various types of wounds). Us? We are only reporting and analyzing and explaining, even when we broadcast the pictures of the lynching 50 times a day. In the Oslo agreements, Israel and the West put the Palestinian leadership to a test: In exchange for an Israeli promise to gradually dismantle the mechanisms of the occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian leadership promised to stop every act of violence and terror immediately. For that purpose, all the apparatus for security coordination was created, more and more Palestinian jails were built, and demonstrators were barred from approaching the settlements.

The two sides agreed on a period of five years for completion of the new deployment and the negotiations on a final agreement. The Palestinian leadership agreed again and again to extend its trial period, in the shadow of Hamas terrorist attacks and the Israeli elections. The "peace strategy" and the tactic of gradualism adopted by the leadership were at first supported by most of the Palestinian public, which craves normalcy. The Fatah (the main faction of the PLO) was the backbone of support for the concept of gradual release from the yoke of military occupation. Its members were the ones who kept track of the Palestinian opposition, arrested suspects whose names were given to them by Israel, imprisoned those who signed manifests claiming that Israel did not intend to rescind its domination over the Palestinian nation. The personal advantage gained by some of these Fatah members is not enough to explain their support of the process: For a long time they really and truly believed that this was the way to independence.

But they belong to a people, the Palestinian people. From their perspective, Israel was also put to a test: Was Israel really giving up its attitude of superiority and domination, built up in order to keep the Palestinian people under its control?

More than seven years have gone by, and Israel has security and administrative control of 61.2 percent of the West Bank, and about 20 percent of the Gaza Strip (Area C), and security control over another 26.8 percent of the West Bank (Area B).

This control is what has enabled Israel to double the number of settlers in 10 years, to enlarge the settlements, to continue its discriminatory policy of cutting back water quotas for three million Palestinians, to prevent Palestinian development in most of the area of the West Bank, and to seal an entire nation into restricted areas, imprisoned in a network of bypass roads meant for Jews only. During these days of strict internal restriction of movement in the West Bank, one can see how carefully each road was planned: So that 200,000 Jews have freedom of movement, about three million Palestinians are locked into their Bantustans until they submit to Israeli demands.

Israel has failed the test. Palestinian control of 12 percent of the West Bank does not mean that Israel has given up its attitude of superiority and domination. Israel has proven that it does not envisage a peace based on the principles of equality of nations and of men. It has continued its official policy of "tower and stockade" (the method of building Jewish settlements overnight during the British Mandate period, to defy official British policy against building and to extend the borders of the future Jewish state), in order to extend the permanent borders and to ensure maximum control over most of the Land of Israel, and has relied on the Palestinian security apparatus and the Fatah to continue to keep things quiet.

The bloodbath that has been going on for three weeks is the natural outcome of seven years of lying and deception, just as the first Intifada was the natural outcome of direct Israeli occupation. Those who settled for being photographed conducting friendly meetings with senior Fatah members (now known by their threatening name "the Tanzim") and the heads of the Palestinian security apparatus, and who were involved in promoting Palestinian industrial areas where the salaries are lower than the Israeli minimum wage - are still unable to heed the voice of the Palestinian nation. Those who did not want to know, for the last seven years, that for the majority of Palestinians this is not peace but a new, more sophisticated type of occupation, are still not ready to understand that this is a popular uprising.

Now the vast majority of victims have come from among the Palestinian insurgents. Will the message of the uprising be understood in Israel only when Palestinian groups obey the Hezbollah, and try methods which will inflict heavy casualties on the Israelis as well

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