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News ::
4/1: Arabs, Jews, Others Vigil for Palestine
04 Apr 2002
Modified: 13 Apr 2002
On April 1 at 5:00 outside of Park St. T Station, about 200 people gathered for a vigil in solidarity with the Palestinian people, currently under intensified attacks by the Israeli occupation forces. It was a diverse crowd, with women in Muslim headscarves, families with small children, and many clearly self-identified Jews.
Boston Solidarity Vigil with Palestine
By Matthew Williams

04/01/02; Boston, MA--Today at 5:00 outside of Park St. T Station, about 200 people gathered for a vigil in solidarity with the Palestinian people, currently under intensified attacks by the Israeli occupation forces. The vigil was organized by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine, and the Boston Committee for Palestinian Rights (BCPR). It was a diverse crowd, with women in Muslim headscarves, families with small children, and many clearly self-identified Jews. The latter were holding up signs reading “Not in Our Name” and “As a Jew, I demand an end to Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories”.

People were responding to the latest Israeli attacks against Palestinians. This weekend, the Israeli military re-invaded those parts of the Occupied Territories from which it had withdrawn under the Oslo peace process. Ellen Cantaro, a Jewish activist who worked as a journalist in the West Bank from 1979-1989, said, “I am horrified that Israel acts in my name and is committing war crimes and atrocities against the Palestinian people.”

Merrie Najimy of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) said, “The atrocities in Palestine are growing unfathomable. We think we hit the bottom and that it’s the worst that it can be and suddenly more atrocities happen in a way that we never imagined they would.”

Israel’s re-invasion came immediately after the heads of the Arab states united in a conference in Beirut, Lebanon to offer normal, peaceful relations with Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from all of the Occupied Territories, recognition of a Palestinian state, and a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. Among those cities under siege are Ramallah, where Yasir Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority, has his headquarters. The Palestinian Authority is the official Palestinian body set up under the Oslo peace process that was eventually supposed to become a democratic government of an independent Palestine. Israeli forces have been laying siege to Arafat’s HQ, trapping him in the basement.

There have been numerous reports of Israeli war crimes against civilians. The Israeli military has cut off electricity to Ramallah and imposed a curfew, leaving many Palestinian civilians without adequate supplies of food and water. Israeli soldiers have been occupying civilian houses, confining their inhabitants to a single room and destroying their personal possessions. The Israeli military has arrested large number of Palestinian men and not allowed the Red Cross to visit them to ensure their safety. The Israeli army has been firing on Palestinian ambulances for the last week and five Palestinian policemen were found lying dead, apparently executed (without trial) by Israeli forces. The Israeli government has forbidden international observers or media into the areas it has re-occupied in an attempt to close them off to the outside world. However, many international peace activists have managed to make their way in and are acting as human shields in Arafat’s headquarters and Palestinian refugee camps. Israeli soldiers opened fire with live ammunition on a group of peace activists and journalists in Bethlehem, wounding one Australian activist.

Joseph Gerson, a Jewish organizer with the AFSC, warned of dire possibilities: “Already, this is deepening the cycle of violence. These kinds of attacks only create more terrorists, more people who are angry and builds enemies on all sides. In the mainstream press, we’re not hearing about what’s happening in the Arab streets. In some ways, this is a gift to bin Laden. This is splitting the United States from the Arab world and it’s taking a close step to what Bush threatened to begin with, a crusade with catastrophic consequences.”

The Israeli government has stated that its current invasion and attacks on the Palestinian Authority are in response to a wave of recent suicide bombings by independent Palestinian groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. While everyone at the vigil condemned the suicide bombings, they also insisted that the Israeli attacks would only make the problem worse. Najimy said, “We really have to look at the root of why there are suicide bombers. When we understand that, then we can understand what to do about it. [. . .] These are people whose homes are being demolished on a daily basis, whose olive trees are being uprooted on a daily basis, whose roads and cities are being demolished on a daily basis. Their cities have now been invaded and surrounded and are under closure. People haven’t left their homes in thirty days. Innocent people are getting bulldozed, shot at, run over. They’re living in a war zone and they’re innocent people. The ones who are choosing to use suicide bombing are the ones who have been driven to desperation.” Najimy was referring to Israeli attacks on Palestinians as part of the Israeli occupation going back to 1967.

The roots of the conflict extend back to 1948, when the Israeli state was created by Jewish forces seizing 78% of what had been the British mandate (under the United Nations) of Palestine. In the process, most of the native Palestinian population was driven into exile in neighboring countries, where they and their descendants continue to live as refugees, often in extreme poverty. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel occupied the remaining 22% of historic Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel proceeded to colonize this seized land with settlements, mainly of fundamentalist Jews, in violation of international law. Israeli troops have also systematically destroyed Palestinian farmland and homes, creating more refugees, as well as building “Jewish only” roads crisscrossing the Occupied Territories. After the first intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the 1980s, the Oslo peace process was created in order to set up an independent Palestinian state in the 22% of historic Palestine occupied by Israel since 1967. The peace process fell apart after then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s most “generous” offer involved Israel retaining control over Palestine’s natural resources such as water; control over Palestine’s borders; and control over Israeli settlements and roads, which would have left Palestine fragmented and unviable as an independent state. Since then, living conditions for most Palestinians have continued to deteriorate. Since the start of the second intifada on September 29, 2000 and the resulting Israeli repression, 1,230 Palestinians and 415 Israelis (both civilians and soldiers) have been killed.

Cantaro, a member of the BCPR, compared the suffering of the Palestinians to that historically of her own people, the Jews: “Our people suffered the kinds of war crimes that are going on now in Palestine in Germany in the years before the Holocaust, when there were closures of villages, sieges, people unable to work, random killings, vigilanteism by the Brown Shirts. All of this has been happening in the West Bank and Gaza and has been happening for a long time, although not with the intensity that’s it going on now. When I was reporting in the West Bank, there was settler vigilanteism and Israeli oppression and apartheid.”

Another Jewish protester, Yale Rabin, said, “One of the most cynical aspects of what is going on now is Sharon’s clear understanding that for every massive act of repression there will be a terrorist response. One can only conclude from that he is perfectly to willing fifteen or twenty Israelis a day in order to maintain this international image of all Palestinians as terrorists.”

The activists differed slightly on why the Israeli government launched the invasion immediately after the peace offer from the Arab heads of state in Beirut. Leila Farsakh, a Palestinian working on her dissertation at Harvard, said, “[Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon does not want peace. He has a vision of the Middle East in which his only problem is how to weaken the Palestinians and not allow them an independent state. When the Arab the countries unanimously said that they were willing to normalize relations with Israel, this meant the conflict would be over, but Sharon has never really wanted a real Palestinian state.”

Gerson said the peace offer was actually irrelevant to the Israeli government: “The _Washington Post_ carried the story days in advance that the invasion was coming. Sharon has from the beginning has sought to conquer the Palestinians. One of the things we have to fear now is the Israeli version of ethnic cleansing.”

Najimy said that the United States government has the power to solve the current crisis. Noting that Israel receives over $5 billion of military and economic aid from the US a year, she said, “The United States holds the purse strings. The United States needs to take and stand and tell Israel that they will not get next week’s check until they end the occupation. Once the occupation is ended, we can talk about peace, we can talk about borders, we can talk about how two peoples can live side by side.”

So far, however, the Bush administration has expressed its support for the Israeli invasion and called on Arafat to do more to stop the suicide bombing attacks on civilians. It has not condemned Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians or other Israeli war crimes, nor has it clarified how the Palestinian Authority is supposed to stop terrorist attacks when its own police officers are under attack by Israeli forces. The Israeli military has a long history of bombing Palestinian police stations, in one case accidentally freeing the leader of Hamas after Palestinian police had arrested him. These continual attacks by the Israeli military have generally crippled the Palestinian police in their attempts to crackdown on organizations launching terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.

Around 6:15 the vigil dispersed. About a quarter of the people marched to the Israeli consulate, where the sectarian group Workers World Party (under the guise of their front group International ANSWER) was holding a much smaller protest. The rally continued there till at least 7:15, with people spilling into the streets waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans at a tiny group of pro-Israel demonstrators across the street.

****

Those who would like to take further action are urged to call President Bush at 202-456-1414 and Secretary of State Powell at 202-647-5291 and demand that the US government withdraw immediately from the Occupied Territories and that an international peacekeeping force be sent in to prevent any more attacks on civilians on either side.

For continuous updates on the situation in Palestine, see Indy Media Israel http://www.indymedia.org.il and Indy Media Palestine http://jerusalem.indymedia.org. To get in touch with the Boston Committee for Palestinian Rights, call 617-292-6308 or e-mail info (at) bcpr.org. For more background information, see the Electronic Intifada http://www.electronicintifada.org or ZNet’s Mideast Watch webpage http://www.zmag.org/meastwatch/meastwat.htm.
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NOTES
05 Apr 2002
"The Palestinian Authority is the official Palestinian body set up under the Oslo peace process that was eventually supposed to become a democratic government of an independent Palestine. "

The P.A. broke the OSLO accord. When Sharon visited the Temple Mount in the year 2000, the P.A. instructed the extremists on their side to initiate the suicide bombing campaign again.
and just so you know
05 Apr 2002
"Vigil" is not a verb.
the PA, Oslo and Palestinians
05 Apr 2002
Yes, I know "vigil" is not a verb. I'm trying to convey a certain amount of information in a limited amount of space when I make up the title. I don't believe that I used "vigil" as a verb in the article.

As for the argument that the PA ordered suicide bombings, this grossly oversimplifies the situation among Palestinians. Arafat is not and has never been completely in charge. Palestinians do not mindlessly obey his orders--like all human beings, they think for themselves. There are a number of political factions in the Occupied Territories: 1) the Fatah and other supporters of Arafat; 2) the fundamentalist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad; 3) grassroots groups working in conjunction with Israeli peace activists. It was the fundamentalist groups that initiated the suicide bombings. Unlike the other two factions, they reject the idea of a two-state solution; they are fanatics and they are at odds with Arafat; they also only have support of about 20% of the Palestinian people. As the intifada has continued and Arafat hasn't been able to produce anything by his continued begging for a cease fire with Israel, he has begun to loose any control he had over the Fatah and other such groups; they have recently taken to suicide bombings as well. There are still Palestinians working nonviolently with Israeli peace activists for a two-state solution. Unfortunately, all the violent groups have made it very difficult to carry out grassroots activism.

There are of course also all the Palestinian civilians who just want a decent life for themselves and their families, who are now being attacked by the Israeli army because they are the same nationality as the suicide bombers. Such collective punishment is racist.

It's also important to understand, as was said by some folks in the article, the causes of the suicide bombings. People are desperate, they have nothing (literally nothing--their homeshave been bulldozed, their farmland destroyed, etc.) to loose, and they have been so dehumanized by the Israelis for the past 50+ years that they have begun to dehumanize Israelis in turn. We have to remember that this problem started with the colonization of the area by European Jews with the backing of the British Empire; most of the European Jews had a condescending, racist attitude towards the Palestinians--who included Arab Jews, as well as Muslims and Christians (all of whom managed to live together relatively peacefully); the Arab states in the area were suspicious of anything backed by the British Empire, which wanted to control the Middle East. The problem really got bad when Jewish nationalist groups forcibly expelled most of the Palestinians from their homeland in 1948. Israeli Jews and their supporters need to face up to the fact that they 1) are a colonial power attacking an oppressed people and 2) they started this cycle of racism and violence. They are the ones in a position to stop it.

Finally, the Oslo accords were probably doomed well before the start of the second intifada. As the article notes, Barak's most "generous" offer would not have lead to a viable Palestinian state. Arafat, for all his faults, was quite right to turn it down (if he hadn't he probably would have faced a Palestinian uprising directed against him as well as Israel). The majority of Palestinians have agreed to recognize an Israeli state in 78% of their original homeland. All they are asking for is to live free in the remaining 22%. The only just response Israel could have made to this offer would have been to pull out of the Occupied Territories; isntead, the Israeli government tried to set up a colonial pseudo-state they could control.
Occupied Territories???
13 Apr 2002
Considering that the racist Zionist entity called "Israel" was carved out of the organic Palestinan nation by the British Empire and their henchmen in the UN (and AFSC), isn't ALL of "Israel" - not just Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank - an unlawfully occupied territory?

Prior to the advent of Zionism - advocated by the British Empire, Hitler and other NAZIs - Palestine was a successful multi-ethnic state (as was Yugoslovia).

Dump the UN. Dump the Quackers. Dump the World Bank Group and all their criminal minions. Especially the affluent phonies who call themselves "progressive".

Besides totalitarianism, what are you creeps progressing toward, anyway?

Obviously the more you "progressive activists" monopolize the media, the worse the world becomes.

Neither "Right" nor "Left", but Radically Centered,

Jon Chance
See also:
egroups.com/group/jpchance