Mar 24 2004

To talk about peace in time of war

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

It is often said that there is a time for everything. The meaning of such a saying is that when it is the time for war those who believe in peace should shut up. It is certainly difficult to talk when the sound of canons (and in our case apache killing missiles) drowns any other noise. But it can be just as easy to argue that at the height of intolerance, murder and anger voices of reason are even more needed to speak.


I am confronted with this dilemma as the assassination of the spiritual leader of the Islamic Hamas movement Sheikh Ahmad Yassin has shocked Palestine, the region and the entire world.


Before talking about peace it is important to set the record straight on a number of issues that seem to be lost in the daily bombardment of news bulletins and breaking news headlines.


Unlike the impression that the Israeli propaganda machine and its supporters in the West might imply, Palestinians don’t occupy any other people’s land but are rather occupied by Israel. The Palestinian actions, which are sometimes wrong by human standards are not taking place internationally but are focused in any other country but the source of this occupation.


The illegal Israeli occupation has continued for over 37 years and has been accompanied by an aggressive campaign to settle Jews in Palestinian land in contravention to international law and specifically the fourth Geneva Convention.


Palestinians, both moderates and militants have repeatedly expressed willingness and readiness to negotiate and sign a cease fire agreement. In fact on more than one occasion Palestinians have declared unilateral cease fire agreements and a hudna (truce) only to have the Israelis attack and breakup any chance for a peaceful resolution.


The international community, specifically the quartet, has produced a comprehensive place, the road map, which was accepted fully by the Palestinians and rejected in deed by the Israelis in the form of the continuation of the settlement activities, the illegal building of  a wall on Palestinian land, the refusal to return to the September 2000 lines and the continuation of assassinations and killings of Palestinian civilians.


No official Palestinian individual or group has been involved in carrying out any attacks on Israelis, certainly none have made such an admission, while the Israeli government has publicly boasted of extra judicial killing and assassination of people, destruction of homes and trees.


In the case of the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin one is puzzled about its intention. This paraplegic religious leader had no operational role in the Islamic group’s military wing. In fact, more than anyone in his group he has been a source of moderation rather than extremism. On numerous occasions he has called for a hudna or truce and he has been known to have been involved in recent weeks in an effort to deescalate the present conflict. What does his killing mean then?


It means that the present Israeli attempts to dictate a solution will continue for some time. It means that the Israelis continue not to be interested in peace and security- not unless the other side surrenders which is unlikely. And it also means that the Israelis continue to oppose the road map in deed as well as in word and will clearly continue to ignore the will of the international community.


If this is the case, what should people of good will do?


The worst thing would be to allow all this to defeat the voices of reason. People should not excuse the wrong no matter which side committed it. We all need to refuse the attempts to generalize everything. We must insist on the need to stop the bloodshed. We must insist on the refusal of violence as a means of solving problems and the call for peace and justice. It might seem far away but this not the time to allow the radicals on both sides to hijack the process for the rest of the population. It might appear to be the time for war, but we must insist that it is the time for peace.

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