Why A UN Peacekeeping Force In Palestine Is Urgent
2004 New Year Resolutions for Palestine
By Genevieve Cora Fraser
The year 2004 will present many opportunities and challenges for Palestinians, chief among them will be to position themselves toward a successful bid for statehood. Elections slated for June 2004 must proceed and not be suspended as in the past due to the occupation.
According to Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, “The physical conditions on the ground, principally the siege and fragmentation of Palestinian territory, the lack of freedom of movement, plus the constant Israeli military escalation and incursions, all render the mere possibility of conducting free and fair elections entirely unfeasible.”
Yet, the viability of all political life in Palestine is dependent on whether the Palestinian system of rule can be transformed into an accountable system of governance, according to Barghouthi. Clearly, it is time to call in the troops.
Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967, whenever a vote would come before the United Nations to replace the Israeli Defense Force with an international battalion of UN Peacekeepers, America and Israel blocked the move. Though Israel clearly wants total subjugation of the Palestinian people, I believe Americans would support Palestine as a democratic state if they came to understand the true dynamics of the region. But to have open and fair elections, the presence of UN Peacekeepers to replace the IDF is vitally needed. This can be accomplished if America supports it.
To date, Prime Minister Sharon has successfully portrayed Israel as the victim. Though many in the world media disregard the ploy, America and certain others in the international media buy into the victimization of Israel as fact, or at least they go along with the portrayal. However, the truth is obvious if one were to apply simple logic. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah stated during a pre-Christmas press conference, though neither Israelis nor Palestinians want war and bloodshed, the onus of violence belongs to Israel. “The one who occupies the land of the other is more responsible,” he said.
The challenge is to find a way to break through the illusion of a Fortress Israel defending itself against the alleged might of Palestinian terrorism. Hiding behind the façade, Sharon sees no need to curb Israel’s violence, but instead ratchets up attacks.
Following Sharon’s recent address, massive troops of Israeli occupying forces re-invaded the Balata refugee camp of Nablus, closing all its entrances and intersections. In another incident, one Palestinian teenager was killed and up to five wounded after Israeli occupation soldiers opened fire on schoolchildren returning home in the West Bank town of Nablus. The Israel Defense Force boldly use live ammunition to disperse demonstrations against the racist Apartheid Wall. And according to recent reports, a massive contingent of Israeli occupying forces accompanied with 30 tanks, armored personnel carriers and several D-9 military bulldozers advanced into Rafah under an aerial shield of combat helicopters amidst a barrage of random fire. Few in America have heard of these attacks. Its time they did!
Reports of the daily violence against Palestine by the Israeli Defense Force must be an image the American public sees not merely the image of Palestinian terrorists. The truth of Israeli non-stop terrorism foisted upon an innocent civilian population is the ammunition needed to assault the long-standing lie perpetuated by Israel as the innocent victim rather than the victimizer. Along with letters to the editor, write articles and submit them to the local press. There are thousands of small and medium size newspapers and magazines looking for articles. Do not rely on Tom Friedman to frame the argument. Become your local media's Middle East expert. As Israel ratchets up violence, ratchet up letters, faxes, phone calls and visits to Congressional representatives and other persons in power such as the President (in an election year) and your representative to the United Nations.
In addition to the daily news, recent reports published by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights are powerful tools, irrefutable truth to be read, discussed, and written about. A major assault on Fortress Israel would be to either copy and send via E-mail, or download, print and send these reports to churches, synagogues, libraries, human rights and pro-peace groups, friends, family, and to Congress as well as to educational institutions for inclusion in classroom discussion and curriculum.
The documents are the “Question of the Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab Territories including Palestine,” published as E/CN.4/2004/6 on September 8, 2003; and “The right to food Report by the Special Rapporteur, Jean Ziegler, Mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” published on October 31, 2003. To access the reports, go to http://www.unhchr.ch/ - Drop the document number into the “Charter-based” search box. The text is available as either an Adobe or Word file.
The late Dr. Edward Said argued in his classic work, “Orientalism,” that the Western (especially American) understanding of the Middle East as a place full of villains and terrorists ruled by Islamic fundamentalism produces a deeply distorted image of the diversity and complexity of millions of Arab peoples. Believe Said and do something about it. An institutional video, “Edward Said: On Orientalism” is available for purchase through www.arabfilm.com where many other fine video and DVD documentaries and dramas on Palestine can be purchased and shown publicly in libraries, churches, synagogues, colleges, town halls, and other locations as well as on cable television for a nominal sum. Amazon.com also carries many Arab and Palestinian films and many video stores can arrange for purchase or rental.
Organizing a Palestinian Film Festival requires arranging to pay a viewing fee, figuring out times and a venue, and sending out a few press releases. Along with showing the film, plan discussion groups. The money collected through public showings of features such as the chilling portrayal of occupation in “Jenin, Jenin” and “Gaza Strip” and the story of a Palestinian Village in 500 Dunam on the Moon, to name but a few, is given to the artists in support of their important work. If all that sounds like too much trouble, build up a collection of films on Palestine and invite friends and family over. Later, you can donate them to your local library, but write a press release about your donation so that people know they are there.
Le Carré's fiction, “The Russian House” offers insight into political and bureaucratic reality of the time and even anticipated the fall of the former Soviet Union. The message he sent the world was the metaphor that the Russian knight is dying inside his armor. Might the same be said of Fortress Israel?
Today money wasted on a needless occupation and the resulting violence as well as Israeli racist discriminatory practices is taking a toll on Israeli society. Approximately 40 percent of Israel’s total youth live in poverty, of which 54.4 percent are Arab, according to recent reports. This is accompanied by a deepening discrimination of the Arab citizens of Israel.
In the past decade, the rise in crime among minors and young victims of violence and assault has resulted in a 50.1 increase in cases appearing before the Israeli Youth Court.
As Israel grows more impoverished and violent, fewer are drawn to immigrate and many feel compelled to leave. Meanwhile reports of murderous gang wars, prostitution, and drug abuse coupled with corruption reaching into the highest echelons of Israeli society should also serve as a wake-up call. Israel would be far better served to reestablish itself as a non-racist, egalitarian society that upholds Jewish traditions while living in peace with their neighbor, the 1st democratically elected Arab nation, Palestine. Happy New Year. Let us all unite to work toward peace.