Being a Palestinian, one is born into this struggle and you can't get out of it no matter what you do. It's a birth mark that I've experienced since I was three years old. I want to discuss the so-called roadmap to peace--the "roadmap to nowhere" is an accurate description. Alexander Cockburn, a well-known American journalist, wrote: "Don't waste your time fretting over the fortunes of the roadmap to peace in the Middle East. It's all a fraud following the contours of other frauds." There were a variety of plans before this one: the Rogers Plan, the Mitchell Plan, the Zinni Plan, the Tenet Plan and the Oslo Plan. A variety of plans all manufactured to prolong the agony of this straggle and bring the Palestinians to nowhere.
In fact there was another interesting statement by Alexander Cockburn based on the June 24th speech that George W. Bush made last year. He said: "The speech sounded at the time like it was written by Ariel Sharon and it probably was." Senator William Fullbright stated 30 years ago that "the American policy in the Middle East emanates from Tel Aviv not Washington," and that's an accurate statement. I say this is a fraud because it is evading the fundamental issues of international law and basic humanity that ought to be the fundamental principle of any peaceful solution. It talks about a three year process to end in a kind of statelet for the Palestinians, a form of a Bantustan, with no definable qualities in terms of control of it's borders, skies, water resources--none of this. It requires that the Palestinians at the outset forgo any element of resistance to an illegal occupation to which they are subjected, and they submit to whatever the United States and Sharon decide.
There are many questions that ought to be dealt with: Why would we need three years to achieve whatever is vaguely defined as this statelet of Palestine? The Palestinian territory we're talking about now is the illegally occupied territories in 1967 of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza strip. These were occupied 36 years ago--an illegal occupation through armed aggression committed by Israel against it's neighbours. Besides occupying the Palestinian territories, there's the Golan Heights of Syria and other territories occupied. Why do we have to wait 36 years to discuss this illegal occupation? Why does this require negotiation? When Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait in 1990, nobody talked about the negotiation of withdrawal from 90 percent, 80 percent or 60 percent of the occupied territory. This was not acceptable. There was a Security Council resolution and a million troops were sent from the United States and it's allies including Canada and Arab countries to evict Saddam Hussein from illegally occupied territory in Kuwait. Israeli occupation of the territories of the West Bank and Gaza as well as Golan Heights stands against repeated Security Council resolutions as well as blatantly defying international law and yet we are told we have to negotiate. The two parties have to negotiate? Here are the Palestinians who are literally weak and disarmed. If they are to negotiate with Sharon, then he determines the final terms of the agreement.
The other aspect of this, is the incredible behaviour of the Palestinian leaders. Mr. Abbas who was at the Aqaba Summit stated: "The armed Intifada must end." The armed Intifida is a form of resistance to an illegal occupation. The United Nations Charter and repeated United Nations resolutions state categorically that people under foreign occupation are entitled to resist this foreign occupation by all means in their power. Yet we're told that the Palestinians have to forgo any system of resistance against this illegal occupation. Mr. Abbas also went on to talk about the Jewish suffering throughout history. The Jewish suffering throughout history is no fault of the Palestinians, yet there was no mention of Palestinian suffering during the 55 years of dispossession and ethnic cleansing to which they were subjected, and no mention of Palestinian aims in his statement whatsoever.
The fault of this roadmap, as with previous plans, is that there is no mention that it will have to be effected in compliance with international law. International law seems to be evaded, blatantly and clearly. Similarly, the fault of Abbas and his followers is that they signed an agreement without specifying what are the ultimate terms. It is unacceptable to sign an agreement without specifying clearly the fundamental issues of how they must be resolved, the borders of this state, the complete dismantlement of the illegal settlements, the right of return for the Palestinian refugees, the water resources, who controls the border and so on. None of these issues are mentioned, they're left for negotiations! Why should they be negotiable? This is totally unacceptable and will not achieve anything for the Palestinians whatsoever.
In Sharon's statement at the Aqaba summit, he said he would "renew direct negotiations according to the steps in the roadmap as adopted by the Israeli government." The Israeli government adopted the roadmap with14 amendments which stated clearly that the right of return would not be accepted or tolerated, Jerusalem would remain united under Israeli control, and the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories (illegal settlements in defiance of international law) would not be dismantled.. The Fourth Geneva Convention categorically states that an occupying power has no right to transfer it's population to the occupied territories--expropriation of property is totally unacceptable. There are about 400 thousand people living in these settlements and we're told they will stay there. These settlements have already expropriated approximately 60 percent of the land of the West Bank. They've built by-pass roads around these settlements, for Jews only, that make the Palestinian movement from one village to another totally difficult. They're having to wait for hours at checkpoints. People who need medical aid or mothers who are about to give birth are kept for hours.
The story of the torture and oppression to which the Palestinians have been subjected is phenomenal. The extrajudicial assassinations, thousands of prisoners detained without charge or trial, the demolition of thousands of homes including total villages, the uprooting of orchards and olive trees. Recently a World Report stated that 83 thousand olive trees have been uprooted over the last year. All these acts are in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and thus tantamount to war crimes as defined by international law. This is ongoing yet Mr. Bush says we have to negotiate about it and we have to wait and see what comes about.
How is this reported in the world media? In a report from Washington in The Middle East International on June 27th, 2003, Michael Brown states: "Facts no longer seem to matter. They are malleable, easily altered to fit the prevailing view." Let us look at the facts. On the 3rd of June Mr. Bush arrived at the Sharm El-Sheikh Summit where he met the Arab leaders and they talked about this peace. On the 4th of June, he was at the Aqaba Summit with Sharon and Abbas. On the 5th of June, Israel assassinated two Palestinians near Tulkarm. I again quote Michael Brown: "No sooner had the upbeat Aqaba Summit concluded than the downbeat violence surged. The bloodshed was portrayed in almost all Americans newspapers as having been initiated by the Palestinians. This is not the case, but the papers were none the less relentless in publishing timelines claiming the post-Aqaba violence started on June 8th with a coordinated attack by various Palestinian factions on Israeli soldiers in Erez." On the 10th of June Sharon sent troops in an attempt to assassinate Aziz Rantisi and there was a Palestinian response after that.
Another process also going on at the moment is the building of the so-called separation wall which is in fact an apartheid wall being built in the occupied territories and West Bank annexing thousands of acres of land belonging to the Palestinians. In the town of Kalkelia, with a population of 40 thousand, which is an agricultural center in Palestine, 80 percent of their land is being expropriated by this wall.
Stephanie Le Bens, from Le Monde Diplomatique from Paris, says: "From the north to the south in the west Bank, the land is covered with white gashes that rip through fields of olive trees, carve up hectares of greenhouses, separate families and disfigure villages. They are the wounds left by the busy steamrollers and bulldozers pushing ahead with the building of the separation, or apartheid wall as it is properly described". And she goes on: "the way in which the wall twists and turns with some sections penetrating several kilometers into the West Bank, initially planned to be 350 km is now over 600 km."
In my opinion, the struggle in this land will continue until justice is obtained for the Palestinian people. Evacuating all the settlements is crucial. This is an illegal occupation and there should be complete withdrawal. The Palestinian refugees, who were systematically evicted from their homeland in 1948, must be allowed to choose the right of return or accept compensation in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the UN Resolution #194. This is a fundamental principle and cannot be argued about, negotiated away or bargained by Mr. Sharon, Mr. Abbas, Mr. Arafat or anybody else. This is an individual right, the right of return for the Palestinian refugees.
Dr. Ismail Zayid was born and grew up in Beit Nuba, Palestine and now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is the author of numerous writings including two books: Palestine: A Stolen Heritage, and Zionism: The Myth and Reality. He is also founding President of the Canada Palestine Association.
This article is an excerpt from a speech recorded by Pierre Loiselle and originally broadcast on radio CKDU on July 23th, 2003. Dr. Zayid made the presentation at a forum called "The Roadmap to Nowhere. Palestine and the Struggle for Worm Peace" organized by the Halifax Symposium on Palestine and jointly sponsored by Dal For Peace and Justice, Halifax Peoples Front, Shunpiking magazine and the Canada Palestine Association.
My Opinion does not necessarily represent the editorial views of Briarpatch. We welcome submissions and encourage any ensuing dialogue.
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