Retaliatory violence stalls peace

By now, it certainly isn’t difficult to see that a lucrative crusade against Palestinian suicide missions will only be possible when the Israeli military institutes a clear method of physical and rational distinction between those directly responsible for the bombings and the Palestinian population these organizations claim to represent. When a targeted assassination of a high-ranking Hamas official also kills innocent bystanders in the West Bank, terrorism aimed at Israeli civilians becomes an attractive option for more and more young Palestinians. Thus, it is difficult to avoid questioning whether Sharon’s government has been a direct source responsible for the increase in terror in Israel. After all, a clear parallel can easily be charted between the rise in suicide attacks in Israel and the increase in Israeli-sponsored terror implemented by Sharon’s government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Is Israel’s military complicit in the deaths of thousands of its own people? The Israeli air force pilots who resigned two weeks ago by refusing to continue carrying out lethal missions over the Occupied Territories must have figured out the answer to this Middle East riddle.

The escalation in the cycle of terror shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s familiar with Sharon’s policy towards Palestine. It seems evident that the Israeli intelligence officials who design the military agenda and give the final approval for “targeted” assassinations know precisely what they are provoking, and in many ways, promoting. The pattern is crystal clear. In fact, Ariel Sharon is more than legendary for his callous, yet meticulously planned military tactics. His involvement in the Phalangist slaughter of over 3000 Arabs in Sabra and Shatilla is the most famous example of his unapologetic cruelty. Israeli intelligence shouldn’t be underestimated; every assassination, from the lowest- to the highest-ranking Hamas official, is carefully planned and the consequences are thoroughly examined by Sharon and his advisors. If the Israeli military fails to assassinate a Palestinian leader but ends up wiping out innocent Palestinians in the targeted area, an inaccuracy doesn’t seem to be the likely culprit in this Sharon-sponsored terror campaign.

And now, with recent Israeli calls for the assassination of Arafat, a patent Palestinian symbol of resistance, Sharon is once again directly contributing to the recruitment of suicide bombers. His threats chip away at all chances for genuine Palestinian support of a truce and the U.S.-backed road map. It seems that Sharon is more averse to a Palestinian cease-fire than the terrorism he claims to want to contain with a separation wall. The Israeli leader is familiar with the reality that the continued media coverage of suicide bombers targeting cafes and buses can only damage Palestinian aspirations of an independent state since world support for Palestine dwindles with every television image of bloody Israeli victims.

It is a fact that Palestinian suicide bombings are vicious and grave abuses of human lives, clearly war crimes under international law. The explosion in a Haifa cafZ last week on the eve of Yom Kippur can only be described as a horrific massacre. However, the truth is that Sharon’s interactions with Palestinian factions such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine are far more significant than Arafat’s, Abu Mazen’s or Ahmed Qureih’s verbal reprimands or calls for disarmament when it comes to curbing suicide missions and achieving a workable cease-fire. The sense of tranquility that surrounded Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for three weeks this fall was only an Israeli illusion since innocent Palestinians continued to be wounded in Gaza everyday, homes continued to be bulldozed by the dozen across the occupied territories, settlements continued their illegal expansion on stolen land, and the apartheid wall construction raged on in the West Bank. In fact, this week, the Israeli terror campaign culminated in the pervasive demolition of over 165 Palestinian houses in Rafah, leaving over 8 civilians dead and about 2000 refugees, mostly women and children, without shelter. Is Rafah becoming the next Jenin? A pattern of ethnic cleansing is evidently underway.

When Hamas spokesman Ismail Abu Shanab was assassinated by the Israelis in the crowded streets of Gaza city last August, Sharon made it clear that his objective was to wipe out any moderate voice in the organization that could effectively spread the word on Israel’s policy of illusions. After demonstrating his willingness to facilitate a cease-fire agreement that didn’t compromise Palestinian rights, Shanab, an American educated University professor and a non-military Hamas official, represented the sole English speaking spokesman that could clearly articulate Hamas’ agenda on CNN and other American news networks. His useless assassination only served in ending of the seven-week summer truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions and, consequently, the total collapse of Bush’s shaky road map. The bottom line is that the cycle of retaliatory violence will go on until Sharon and his advisors realize they too, not only Palestinian political factions, hold the key to the significant curtailment of Palestinian suicide bombings. Clearly, no doors to peace negotiations can be opened while Israel continues to build its separation wall, to expand its illegal settlements and, most importantly, to abuse and kill innocent Palestinian civilians. After the completion of the West Bank separation wall, the Israeli fantasy that the Jewish State can achieve peace and security within its borders while imprisoning millions of non-Jews in isolated ghettos will only be shattered by a drastic revitalization of extremist activity. Instead of bringing Hamas and Islamic Jihad to their knees, the fence is a quick fix that will drive more Palestinian youth into the welcoming arms of these expanding and increasingly attractive radical groups. I challenge Sharon to give these young and desperate Palestinians, children of the abusive Zionist occupation, a peaceful option that can only be found in the restoration of human dignity and freedom. Because at this point, there is no doubt that the Palestinian youth sees its best bet to freedom within the walls of extremism.



Gabrielle Goodfellow is a senior in Trumbull College and volunteered for the United Nations in Gaza City this summer.

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