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Sludge Report #33 – Darkness Before The Dawn?

IN THIS EDITION: Plunket’s Question - Israelis burn Palestinian to death - Black Friday - The Darkness Before The Dawn –Over To You Ehud!

NOTE: Authors of this report will be anonymous and wide ranging. Indeed you are invited to contribute: The format is as a reporters notebook. It will be published as and when material is available. C.D. Sludge can be contacted at sludge@scoop.co.nz. The Sludge Report is available as a free email service..Click HERE - http://www.scoop.co.nz/cgi-bin/newsagent/new_user.cgi?form=home to subscribe...

Sludge Report #33

Media Excerpt 1

Sean Plunket on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report asking a question of a Middle East correspondent in Jerusalem:

“How would Ehud Barak respond if the Palestinians responded to killings in the street with a bombing attack on the Israeli Knesset?”

Media Excerpt 2

Israelis burn Palestinian to death By Khalid Amayreh

JERUSALEM, October 9, 2000 - In a gruesome crime reminiscent of Nazi atrocities during World War II, paramilitary Israeli settlers today abducted a Palestinian farmer from his olive orchard, took him to their nearby settlement, bludgeoned him to death with clubs and axes and then set him on fire.

His charred remains were shown on the Palestinian Television at noon Monday.

The Islamic Association of Palestine quoting sources in Ramallah said the settlers, armed with Uzi submachine guns, abducted Isam Judeh Mustafa Hamed, 47, in early morning hours Monday while picking olive on his olive orchard at the village of Um Saffa near Ramalla.

Black Friday - The Darkness Before The Dawn

There was a window of opportunity yesterday during which the lynching of two (or three) Israeli soldiers by a mob in Ramalla could have been used as an opportunity to bring an end to the conflict and violence in the Holy Land.

But when Israel responded – true to type – with it’s “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” retaliation policy – designed to “deliver a message” – Israeli PM Ehud Barak once again sided with the forces of chaos and war.

Less than 24 hours ago a beaming Yasser Arafat was pictured holding hands with Britain’s Robin Cook.

The world media was observing that “everyone but the kitchen sink” was in the Holy Land trying to mediate a settlement and that Kofi Annan appeared to be making some progress. A “lull in the fighting” was observed.

It was most probably not Ehud Barak’s intention to deliberately sabotage the chances of these small glimpses of peace maturing.

Rather, it is Israel’s instinct, the long-standing, “I have the biggest stick” attitude that has failed Israel for the last four decades. It is the same policy that leads Israel to respond to border fights with the Hezbollah with air strikes on Beirut’s power supply.

Over To You Ehud!

Ehud Barak’s oft repeated mantra over the past two weeks has been to ask PLO head Yasser Arafat to just tell his people to stop the violence. (Arafat in turn has pushed for an independent investigation of the killings of his people – something that Israel has refused to agree to.)

Barak’s call is a very clever piece of misdirection.

“We have been reasonable. Look we extended our deadline. We have been patient. If only Arafat would control his people and come back to the negotiation table then this could end.”

In reality quite the reverse is true.

Arafat’s hands have arguably always been tied in the latest conflict. Without at least an investigation of the killings of his compatriots he would be a traitor not only to his own people but to justice itself.

And in the wake of the events of this morning – the missile attacks - it is clear that it is only Ehud Barak who has any power to change the script now.

Barak now has a choice to make.

He can stay staunch, play the same old tune, and remain the PM of a country which will most likely be at war with its neighbours (not to mention 1 million of its own citizens) and which will definitely remain hated by the entire Islamic world for the foreseeable future.

Quite possibly - given the recent responses of the market evident in the soaring oil price- Barak will also soon find himself the PM of a country which is held responsible for initiating a global economic crisis as the Islamic world responds to its feelings of powerlessness by turning off the oil tap.

Or Barak can take a new path – on which he at least stands an outside chance of becoming the peace-maker that he dreams of becoming.

That would mean taking a political gamble, acting against his instincts, and against the instincts his nation has grown accustomed to operating under.

It means admitting – to his own people - that it is just as wrong for Israeli settlers and IDF soldiers to murder civilians as it is for the Palestinian mob to murder undercover Israeli service personnel.

It also means explaining to the Israeli people (i.e. telling them the truth) that Yasser Arafat is not in control of his mob, and that in the circumstances can hardly be expected to be. It means conceding that the negotiating stance Israel has taken in this crisis over the past fortnight has been a mistake and that a new policy is to be adopted.

It means agreeing to an independent inquiry. And it means doing so immediately.

Internally – if not externally - Barak needs to admit that the knee-jerk bombing attacks of this morning were morally wrong – and are in fact another war crime. Why? Because there is no justice, nor profit, in punishing a whole nation for the crimes of a few extremists.

As Sean Plunket asked: “How would he respond if the Palestinians responded to killings in the street with a bombing attack on the Israeli Knesset?”

Justice must be delivered from the powerful to the weak. And it must be delivered equally. Otherwise it is not justice. That is the order of things.

“But, if he sticks his neck out on something like this then what will be Barak’s reward?” The nay-sayers will reply.

To which Sludge’s response is really rather obvious. Righteousness holds its own rewards. And right now what other choice does he have?
And so Sludge remains as ever, optimistic. With a bit of fancy footwork, and a good dollop of common sense among the world’s leaders, the first Black Friday of the new millennium could still become the darkness before the dawn.

Anti©opyright Sludge 2000


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