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Gush Shalom: Palestinian elections and new leaders

Palestinian elections and new leadership - brutal occupation continues

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GUSH SHALOM - pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 http://www.gush-shalom.org/

1) Free Elections? - Gush ad on Sharon rhetoric and practice 2) "Give Me Some Credit!" - Avnery on Abu Mazen and the Palestinian elections 3) "In the end, it is the violin which wins" by Meir Shalev

1) Free Elections? - Gush ad on Sharon rhetoric and practice

òáøéú áàúø / Hebrew on the website http://www.gush-shalom.org/

Sharon has promised the Americans and the Europeans not to sabotage the Palestinian elections.

And in practice?

* The members of a regional election committee were held up for six hours at a checkpoint between Yata and Hebron.

* Instead of setting prisoners free, the army continues every night to arrest activists of all factions, including people active in the election campaign.

* While the Fatah leadership in Ramallah is discussing the elections, Fatah activist Muhammad Rassan and two of his colleagues were killed in a Ramallah suburb.

* The Israeli army continues to shoot without warning at Palestinian policemen who are carrying arms, calling them ‘terrorists'. These are the same policemen who are supposes to maintain order during the election campaign.

Under such conditions, free elections are impossible. We are warning again: Don’t listen to what Sharon is saying, look at what Sharon is doing!

Gush Shalom ad published in Ha'aretz November 26, 2004

P.S. The following appears in today's Ha'aretz

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/507164.html (...)Samir Hijazi, a 38-year-old physician, died of wounds he sustained when the IDF fired tank shells and automatic gunfire towards the Rafah refugee camp near the Gaza-Egyptian border. Palestinians said Hijazi was critically wounded by gunfire as he passed by a petrol station close to his home on the outskirts of the camp. Medics who evacuated him recognized him as being a local physician, hospital officials said.(...) Meanwhile, Ra'anan Gissin, a top aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Sunday that Israel has scaled back military activity in Palestinian areas

2) "Give Me Some Credit!" - Avnery on Abu Mazen and the Palestinian elections

Avnery - a longtime observer of the Palestinian political scene and participant in dialogue with many of its leading figures - analyses the dilemmas and opportunities facing Abu Mazen. a scapegoat.

òáøéú áàúø / Hebrew on the website http://www.gush-shalom.org/

Uri Avnery 27.11.04 “Give Me Some Credit!”

http://www.gush-shalom.org/english/index.html

“Give me some credit!” the new Israeli Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, cried out at the Labor Party convention in February 1965, addressing David Ben- Gurion.

>From the moment he resigned, Ben-Gurion started to undermine his successor. Eshkol, who until then had only dealt with finances, looked pale and ineffectual next to his monumental predecessor, the Father of the State, the leader in two wars.

Eshkol meant his words quite literally. He said: “Ben-Gurion, I shall use the language of a treasurer: Give me some credit! That’s all I ask, for one term in office, four years at most!”

The dramatic cry did not help. Ben-Gurion left the party and continued to rain fire and brimstone on Eshkol.

Abu Mazen finds himself in a similar situation today. He, too, could cry out: “Give me some credit!”

Of course, his great predecessor cannot attack him except indirectly, by way of his legacy. But Abu Mazen has enough opponents in his own Fatah party.

Television presents this as a personal fight between him and the middle generation, in particular Marwan Barghouti. That lies in the nature of television. Since the small screen is at its best when it shows a human face, but is unable to show ideas, every controversy becomes a matter of personalities (confirming, by the way, the famous dictum of the Canadian thinker, Marshall McLuhan, “The medium is the message” - meaning that reality is shaped by the character of the media.)

Naturally, the Abu Mazen-Barghouti controversy does partly reflect a personal and generational confrontation. Abu Mazen represents the Fatah Old Guard, while his opponents represent the fighters of the first and second intifadas. But the real confrontation is between two world views and two grand strategies for the Palestinian national liberation struggle.

I heard the name Abu Mazen for the first time in 1974, when I established contact with the PLO leadership. I asked my first partner, Sa’id Hamami, the peace martyr, to tell me who was standing behind him. He informed me, in confidence, that Fatah had set up a three-member committee to direct contacts with Israelis. I called them the “Three Abus” – Abu Amar (Yasser Arafat), Abu Mazen (Mahmud Abbas) and Abu Iyad (Salah Khalaf).

Among the three, Abu Mazen was directly in charge of Israeli affairs. His doctoral thesis at Moscow University was about the Zionist movement’s activities during the Holocaust, and once I was even asked to bring him books about the Kastner Affair (the negotiations between the Zionist Rescue Committee and Adolf Eichmann in 1944).

I met him for the first time face to face when a delegation of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (General Matti Peled, former Treasury Director Ya’acov Arnon and myself) was invited to meet Arafat in Tunis in January 1983. Before the meeting, we spoke with Abu Mazen, as in all the subsequent meetings in Tunis: we always discussed our ideas first with Abu Mazen and then brought our proposals to Arafat, who spoke the final word.

This experience helps me to understand Abu Mazen’s approach nowadays. His strategy goes like this: the main Palestinian effort must be directed towards the United States and the Israeli public. There is now an opportunity to change the one-sided policy of President Bush. During his second term of office he can ignore the powerful Jewish lobby, since he cannot be elected again anyhow.

Israeli public opinion, too, can be changed. For this, the armed intifada must be stopped. In Abu Mazen’s view, it has brought no benefits to the Palestinians, but rather hurt their cause.

Most of the young Fatah generation rejects this view out of hand. They believe that it is based on illusions. Bush is under the influence of Sharon and, anyhow, he is one of the Christian fundamentalists who support the most extreme right-wing in Israel. Also, it makes no sense to rely on the Israeli Peace Camp, which has forsaken the Palestinians in their hour of dire need. Except for some small groups, they have done nothing to end the brutal occupation, the killing, the destruction and starving out, the choking separation wall and the expropriation of land and water. All it does is issue papers that have no effect whatsoever.

The armed actions, the young Fatah activists believe, do bear fruit. They have hit the Israeli economy hard. They have created an atmosphere of fear and a reality of poverty. They have produced a readiness to give up the Palestinian territories. The Israelis understand only the language of force.

A more moderate variant of this attitude proposes intensifying attacks on settlers and soldiers, but stopping the attacks on civilians in Israel proper. Meaning: the suicide bombings.

While Arafat was alive, the controversy did not get out of hand, because Arafat, as was his wont, created a synthesis between the two approaches. He used – alternately or simultaneously – diplomacy and violence, according to the changing situation. The adherents of both strategies saw him as their leader. And, indeed, Arafat led the strategy of recognizing Israel and seeking peace with it, as in Oslo. But when he came to the conclusion that this effort had run into an Israeli wall, he used violence. Marwan Barghouti was his pupil.

Now Arafat is gone. The two strategies clash in the Palestinian society, and perhaps in every Palestinian home.

One thing must be clear: the debate about strategy does not reflect a divergence of aims. All Fatah factions are united around the aims laid down by Arafat: a Palestinian state, the pre-1967 borders (with some possible exchange of territories), East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, sovereignty over the temple Mount, evacuation of the settlements, an agreed solution to the refugee problem. There is no argument about these. So how will the controversy be settled?

It will not be easy for the wearers of suits to overcome the bearers of Kalashnikovs, who put their lives on the line every day. But the Palestinians will use their intelligence. They may well ask themselves: Abu Mazen wants credit? Let’s give him credit. He believes that he can extract concessions from Bush and Sharon? Why not give him a chance?

Let him try to achieve an end to “targeted liquidations”, “verification of killing”, demolition of homes, degradation at the checkpoints. Let him try to get meaningful peace negotiations started. Let’s see if Bush offers him more than empty phrases.

The first time, when the Americans pressured the Palestinians into appointing Abu Mazen Prime Minister, he got nothing. Sharon stuck a knife in his back. Bush ignored him..

If he can really achieve something this time – so much the better. If not, the Kalashnikovs will speak again. That is the background of Marwan Barghouti’s decision not to run this time.

Every credit expires sometime. Half a year? A year? Certainly no more. Abu Mazen has already promised Barghouti to hold elections inside Fatah within nine months.

If the credit bears no interest, the Third Intifada will surely follow.

3) "In the end, it is the violin which wins" by Meir Shalev

Meir Shalev, well-known writer, writes a regular column for the Yediot Aharonot weekend edition. Normally it is printed on an inner page, but last week (NOv. 26) it appeared on the front page, accompanied by photos. The decision of Israel's largest mass-circulation paper to publish it as conspicuously as possible ads interest to an article which in any case would have been well worth the effort of Gush Shalom to translate it into English and make it available internationally.

In the end, it is the violin which wins

Meir Shalev Yediot Aharonot, 26.11.2004

So, what did we have in the past weeks? We had an officer who "confirmed" the killing of a 13-year old girl. We had soldiers mutilating the dead body of an enemy and posing for photos with a cut-off head and a cigarette placed between the dead lips. We had soldiers at a checkpoint demanding that a passing Palestinian play the violin for them. And we had several members of the naval commandos pose naked for a photo on top of Mount Hermon. This is what our armed forces issue in the course of one or two weeks.

About the "confirming kill" of the girl, the army conducted a flawed and lying investigation. The mutilation of bodies is still under investigation, please be patient. About the soldiers before whom the Palestinian had to play his violin, the army spokesman said that they were insensitive. But the commandos who posed naked were cashiered forthwith - for the IDF is a moral army which cuts off abominations from its midst. When it is rally necessary, the IDF knows how to to take a swift and decisive action.

I look at the photo of the Palestinian playing the violin to our soldiers. The face seems very familiar. It seems very familiar because this deliberately expressionless look on the face, this intentionally unfocused gaze, is very common at thousands of checkpoint encounters, and even at ID checks conducted by our fighters right here in the center of the city. But it is also familiar because we know this sight from the not too distant past, we know it very well from the other side of the violin, and the other side of the checkpoint, and the other side of the gun barrel.

"Such severe incidents make clear the imperative need for continuing our efforts to make our troops understand the message" said the army spokesman in response to the checkpoint recital. But the message was already long ago delivered and well understood. It was understood when the army not only allowed the settlers to mistreat Palestinian civilians, but often itself acted on the settlers' behalf. The message was well understood when the commander of the air force said that he feels nothing when dropping a one-ton bomb on a Gaza neighborhood - and was rewarded for that statement by a promotion to deputy chief-of-staff. The message was understood when a division commander was cashiered for leaking information to a journalist, after having been praised for an operation in which civilians were indiscriminately killed and their homes razed to the ground. The message is well understood indeed, the understanding of it and its implementation have long ago spread from the army and into the behavior of drivers on the road, and the violence of pupils at school, and the economic policy which is trampling over the poor.

And the army spokesman also said that the soldiers' conduct towards the violinist was "An insensitive conduct by soldiers who are facing a complicated and dangerous situation". This automatic-modular answer clearly shows that the army spokesman does not understand the true complexity and the true danger of the situation. For once, we were the people who played the violin. The Jewish violin played in weddings, and at concert halls, and before the thugs in the camps. We played and joked: the violin is our instrument because it is so small, so easy to carry when you need to run away...

Zionism asked of us to lay the violin aside for some time, to pick up the rifle instead "until things get better". The Territories and all that is involved in holding them have made this into a permanent situation. And here is the real danger. For in the end, it is the violin which wins.

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