Israeli Assassination Squads Dim Hope for Peace
BETWEEN THE LINES Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in major media
For release April 9, 2001
Israeli Assassination Squads Dim Hope for Renewed Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks
* International human rights groups condemn Israel's murder of Palestinian officials as U.S. government provides Israel uncritical support
Violence between Israelis and Palestinians -- which has claimed over 400 mostly Arab lives in the West Bank and Gaza -- continues to spiral out of control as newly-elected Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took office. The increasing number of children killed on both sides has created an explosive situation especially among Israeli settlers who demand that Israel's army aid them in seeking revenge against nearby Palestinian communities.
During the course of this latest intifada or uprising, Israel has increasingly employed secret army "death squads" to assassinate members of Palestinian organizations that the government deems to be engaged in terrorist activities. But the officially sanctioned murders have only brought calls for vengeance from victim's families and condemnation from international human rights groups. Meanwhile, the Bush administration in its first months in office, has pulled back from a direct role in brokering negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Nasser Aruri, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth and president of the Trans-Arab Research Institute. Professor Aruri assesses the continuing violence and potential formulas which could lead to a resolution of the long standing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Nasser Aruri: I think that what the Israelis are doing now is that they are trying to reinforce the idea that this is not a civil resistance to an occupation -- that this is not an uprising, but something that Arafat is orchestrating, forgetting that this uprising was really just as much against Yassir Arafat as it is against the Israeli occupation. People were fed up with Arafat after seven years of pseudo-diplomacy where he was hoodwinked and simply bribed by VIP status and all kinds of things that he and his cronies desire.
But now, since he said no at Camp David last year to then-president Clinton and then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, they're trying very hard to make it look like it's a fight between Arafat and Israel and therefore, they're going after his lieutenants. Perhaps they haven't decided to go after him personally because after all, he may still be useful for them. They think they may be able to create such despair that Arafat will eventually agree to go back and negotiate on the basis of disconnected, fragmented (apartheid era South Africa-styled) "Bantustans" for the Palestinians on a very, very small part of the land. This is the whole reason behind the assassinations of these people, and of course, assassinations are illegal.
The world community is saying through various of its organs, that Israel has used force excessively. Some of them, such as Amnesty International, say this excessive force borders on war crimes. Recently, the secretary general of Amnesty International, an organization that's been slow to move and deliberate and careful in its statements, said that Israel was guilty of war crimes. So at the time you have the Human Rights Commission saying the same thing , a simple resolution was introduced into the United Nations Security Council recently seeking protection for the Palestinian people who live under occupation and who are being subjected to atrocities. That resolution was vetoed by the U.S. government; everybody else voted for it or abstained.
So Israel has a green light from the U.S. government and it also has a very comfortable position with the U.S. media in the sense that U.S. media is almost acting like a public relations agency, if you will, for Israel by not giving the facts whatsoever.
Between The Lines: Please give us some brief thoughts on possible formulas for reaching an accord of some kind for a long-term resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nasser Aruri: There must be a Palestinian independent state; the occupation must end. Then you begin a healing period and then you have commission of truth and reconciliation such as what they had in South Africa. There used to be a global consensus supporting this but it's not going to happen because of the intransigence of Israel at this time and because of the uncritical support that the U.S. is giving to Israel. I think that if we are looking long term, the fact that the Oslo peace process has created disconnected Palestinian communities would really almost preclude two independent states living side by side.
Maybe unwittingly, the architects of Oslo have set the stage for a future struggle that would be based on joint struggle by Jews and Arabs who would try to establish either a bi-national state or a single democratic state that would be based on the principle of equal rights, equal citizenship, equal dignity. I think that ideally this would be the solution in Palestine-Israel. I know that this sounds like something that is not even thinkable or attainable now, but I think that this kind of struggle is long term and it really is the only alternative to the apartheid situation which exists today in the occupied territories.
Visit the Institute's web site at: www.tari.org
See related links and listen to the RealAudio interview segment on our Web site and archives at: www.btlonline.org for the week ending 4/13/01.
Scott Harris is WPKN Radio's public affairs director and executive producer of Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly newsmagazine, Between The Lines, for the week ending April 13, 2001.
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