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The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been going on for nearly eight months. The battle sparked off by Ariel Sharons provocative visit to Masjid-Al Aqsa, has now taken 500 lives and has resulted in serious injuries to over 1000 children alone. While both sides have suffered casualties, Palestinians have borne a disproportionately large share of human losses in the present conflict. Not only have over 435 Palestinians lost their lives, the entire Palestinian population has suffered untold misery after Israel cut them off from their livelihoods. Starvation, poverty, fear of reprisal by the Israeli army continue to haunt a people who for half a century have been at the mercy of Israel and its powerful Western allies.
It is absolutely essential that the international community intervene in this human tragedy and restore order and sanity before more mayhem is perpetrated. The horrific sequence of terror and counter-terror that is taking place currently cannot be allowed to continue unabated. Peace must come and now.
The outcome of recent elections in the US and Israel have brought in two extremely dangerous and irresponsible people to power. In the US George Bush has turned his back on the Palestinians. In Israel Ariel Sharon is realizing his lifelong dream to cut loose the extremely lethal Israeli army against poorly armed and disorganized Palestinian youth.
For eight years, Palestinians danced to the trumpets of peace blown from Washington. Now Bush comes along and acts as if all the commitments made by the US to the Palestinians in the past have no meaning. Were the Palestinians dealing with the US or with Clinton? Does continuity mean anything at all? In the future no one will be able to have any trust in the US, which can use a change in an administration as an excuse to turn its back on its past commitments. Bushs victory in November 2000, ironically with the support of American Muslims, essentially means that Palestinians wasted eight years by trusting the US to broker peace. Now they should be careful about making any deals with the US, for if Bush loses the next elections, then they will be back to square one. Is there any guarantee that the next administration will fulfill the promises made by this one?
The US under George Bush has become an unreliable international player, selfish and self-centered, dancing to the vagaries of domestic politics. Anything positive happening while Bush is in charge seems unlikely, as he seems to be in the mood to let Sharon use as much force as he wishes to beat up the Palestinians until their desire for freedom and independence is broken and they resign to a life of political and economic submission.
With the victory of Sharon, Israel too has become an even more unreliable peace partner. Sharon in the eyes of many is a war criminal. His record is terrible and his recent actions, marching into the Masjid-Al Aqsa at the head of 1000 Israeli troops, escalating settlement building, using helicopter gun ships and tanks against children and teenagers, are all indicative of his proclivity toward warfare and antipathy toward peace. Palestinians fear and hate him, and there is no way that they can learn to trust him. Making peace with Israel while Sharon is at its helm is inconceivable.
The third entity that the Palestinians hope will help their cause are the Arab nations. Unfortunately the saying, With friends like these who needs an enemy aptly defines the Arab worlds support for Palestine. The Arab world is long on rhetoric and short on action. Arab foreign ministries are like travel agencies organizing gala events at resorts like those at Sharm Al-Sheikh and Amman. They create photo-ops for foreign and Arab leaders where profound proclamations are made with no follow up action. Their defense ministries are busy waging hot and cold wars against their own populations, and their intelligence agencies are more concerned with destabilizing each other and fighting a resurgent Islam than with helping the Palestinians.
Given that Palestinians cannot rely on the US, or Israel or their fellow Arab brethren to ameliorate their misery, the only option they have is to turn to the more humane souls in the global society.
So my fellow humane souls, what can we do for the poor Palestinians?
In the short term, we must do whatever we can to pressure our leaders, wherever we are, to create an international momentum for a UN peacekeeping force. This peacekeeping force will at least fulfill the minimum function of separating the two parties and end the daily violence and bloodshed. Let us do what we can. Write opinion pieces and letters to the editors in our local papers and lobby our Congressional representatives. Those outside the US should also write to their leaders to put pressure on the US to abandon its opposition to a peacekeeping force.
If Bush will not assume active leadership to end the present conflict, he should at least step aside and let others take the leadership role.