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http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng/scripts/article.asp?id=35794&mador=4

Ha'aretz, December 9, 1998

The Burden of the Lie

By Amira Hass
 

Once again the Israeli security and political establishments are insisting that the wave of clashes in the West Bank is the result of "incitement" by the Palestinian Authority. True, the Palestinian Legislative Council - headed by Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), the darling of the Americans and the Israelis in the negotiations - did issue an outright call to its people to enter into confrontations to defend their lands from the Jewish settlers beyond the Green Line and the bulldozers of the bypass roads. Others, like Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who is also described as a "good" negotiator, have declared that there must be no compromise on the release of petty car thieves rather than security prisoners. Thus, it was implied that he, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's deputy, gave the green light to the demonstrations that were initiated by an organization readily identified with the Fatah movement - "The Palestinian Prisoner's Club.".In scenes that are becoming routine, hundreds of youngsters in Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah run unhesitatingly toward IDF barricades and guard posts, burn tires and throw stones and broken bottles. The IDF has been left no room for doubt. To deter them, the soldiers immediately fire off steel bullets covered in rubber - before they try all the other means at their disposal, which are, in fact, several times more effective in dispersing demonstrations and preventing the escalation of confrontations: tear gas, for example. A report issued by B'Tselem last week indicates that rubber bullets are lethal ammunition that should be kept in reserve only for life-threatening situations. These shootings accomplish exactly the opposite of what was intended. They spur the crowds to scale the rooftops and hills, to hide behind water tanks and boulders, or to run bare-chested at the soldiers and try to strike at those whom they see as perpetuating and symbolizing the occupation.

True, PA leaders have called upon their people to enter into confrontations, but the claim of "incitement from above" proves that the Israeli leaders still think the Palestinians are spineless, a flock that is putty in the hands of the PA. The opposite is the case. In their call, the PA leaders have responded to enormous pressure from below. They have had to show that they are attentive to the distress of their people and their complaints and they are not just being obedient to Israeli orders. They have done this under open and trenchant criticism of the way they are conducting and have conducted the negotiations with Israel.

At the same time, the PA has sent its police to intervene between the demonstrators and the Israeli soldiers. In Ramallah, they did this with a delicate hand and with persuasive words, and then by pushing. In Nablus, to Israel's satisfaction, they did it with billy clubs and then with exchanges of fire with the demonstrators. In its scoldings, Israel has again revealed what it expects the PA to be: not the representative of its people and their interests, but the representative of Israeli interests. This expectation is sometimes fulfilled, but in its fulfillment it sows hostility and anger toward the Palestinian government and undermines confidence in the reconciliation with Israel.

Most of those who take part in the confrontations are high school students who identify themselves as Fatah youth. Some of the senior leaders of the movement who accompany them (but do not throw stones) and the Palestinian police are dumbfounded and worried that these young people again and again prove that they are not afraid of the rifle barrels directed at them. Every one of these boys has a mother at home who is tearing her hair out with worry as the ambulance sirens slice through the routine noise of the city. True, those who take part in the demonstrations do not number in the thousands. Most people believe "nothing will come of it." But everyone is groaning under the burden of the lie that they are in a process of peace and liberation.

The Oslo agreements implied a deal that most of the Palestinian public accepted. As the Palestinians understood the agreements, as they were presented by some of the authors of "Oslo" and as they were understood by the international community, the accords contained a promise that Israeli occupation would end by stages in return for a Palestinian promise of an immediate halt to "violent" opposition to the occupation. But occupation is not just the presence of civil governors in Ramallah and in Gaza. Occupation is the liberty one nation seizes by force to determine the way of life of another nation and define the limits of its welfare and its chances of development. It is becoming clearer and clearer to the Palestinians that Israel has not relinquished and does not intend to relinquish this; it has only changed its means. And under the cover of this change, it continues with what all the Palestinians see as a direct, conscious and intentional threat to their lives and future: the entrenchment of the Jewish settlements and their welfare to perpetuate Israel's hold on 60 percent of the territories that were occupied in 1967, and the fragmentation of the remaining territories into prison-like enclaves which, even if they are called a "state" and accepted into the UN, will not be able to ensure the independent development of the lives of those who live there.

As was the case with the outbreak of the Intifada, 11 years ago today, the demonstrating teenagers need no orders or "incitement" to endanger their lives. They are declaring to the whole world that as far as they are concerned, the Israeli occupation is showing no signs of any readiness to disappear

 

(c) copyright 1998 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved


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