Mar 29 2002

‘Let our people go’

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

As the world entered the 21 century with the goal of ending occupation, colonization and military rule, it is important to give these goals a practical application and not just lip service.

Today these are the goals of the Palestinian people wishing to end the Israeli occupation of their land and to establish a free Palestinian state. And while US President George W. Bush and his administration publicly support this call, the time has come to implement these universal rights in Palestine. This is the only way to end the present tragedy that has affected so many innocent people.

For months, the world media have focused on the imprisonment of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah office by the Israeli military. The humiliating conditions Israel imposed on the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian people reflect an occupier’s mentality. Unfortunately, the US has done little to rein in the Israelis. How could it do so? Only a few weeks earlier, the US vice president, Dick Cheney, who was on a tour of the Middle East, met all Arab and Israeli leaders except Arafat.

While Arafat’s house arrest has received a lot of attention, less consideration was given to a much more appalling ordeal that the Israeli army has forced three million Palestinians to go through for a year and a half. This collective punishment has gone on with little world outcry. The Israelis seem to acknowledge that they are holding the Palestinian people hostage when they state publicly that they would lift the siege if the Palestinian National Authority carries out some actions or makes certain political concessions.

Collective punishment is illegal, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention. This particular piece of international law was drawn up after World War II specifically to deal with situations of prolonged occupation.

Movement of people and goods has been hampered to such a degree that the World Bank is sounding alarm bells about the economic situation in the Palestinian territories.

The Israelis insist that they are in a defensive posture and that their offensive acts are only to prevent potential suicide bombers. This fact is not supported by the reality on the ground: medical staff, ambulances, UN personnel and journalists have been injured and killed by the Israeli army.

Suicide bombings and attacks against civilians are wrong and must end. They are the product of a frustrated Palestinian population that sees no hope or political solution on the horizon. Nobody can stop a person whose sense of helplessness has made him willing to give up his life for the cause of his people’s freedom.

An immediate relief of the situation would stipulate that Israel end its illegal siege on the Palestinian population, end its policy of assassinations and immediately begin political negotiations. A third party, possibly a US-led monitoring force, must be deployed to ensure that both parties respect such a ceasefire agreement.

In the biblical Passover story about the plight of Jews in Egypt, the pharaoh’s heart is said to have hardened after every plague that had hit his people. This went on for nine plagues until the first-born of every Egyptian family was killed. The pharaoh finally gave in and allowed the enslaved people to leave. Since then, the slogan “let my people go” has become a calling cry for oppressed people the world over.

The cycle of violence of the previous 18 months has caused grief and hardships for both Palestinians and Israelis. What is needed now is a bold decision to allow the Palestinian people to be free. This freedom is not only to enjoy the basic right of any human being to live and move about; Palestinians must be able to enjoy the collective freedom of creating their own independent, sovereign and viable state.

The week-long Jewish Passover holiday will most certainly suspend the current efforts by the US envoy Anthony Zinni. Let us pray that the Israelis and their friends around the world will focus on the real meaning of this holiday and allow the Palestinian people “to go and come” within their own independent state alongside Israel.

No responses yet

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.