Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Netanyahu's Siege of Palestinians Completes Triumph of Rabin's Assassin

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Netanyahu's Siege of Palestinians Completes Triumph of Rabin's Assassin

Article excerpt

Netanyahu's Siege of Palestinians Completes Triumph of Rabin's Assassin

On Dec. 7, 1989, some 20,000 Israelis, Palestinians, Europeans and Americans gathered together in Jerusalem under the official slogan "1990 -- a time for peace." Holding hands, the protesters slowly walked alongside Jerusalem's walls, trying to create a human chain around the Old City.

I stood at the entrance of the Nablus gate, located in East Jerusalem, singing peace songs with a section of the crowd. We could see our fellow demonstrators advancing from the other direction. But before they reached us, the police attacked -- dispersing the crowd with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. Protesters, some of them with children in their arms, ran in every direction trying to hide. The violent action of the Israeli security forces was taking place in the east part of the city where the majority of the protesting population was not Jewish, but Palestinian.

The events which took place on that particular day were symbolic of the ongoing, if frayed, Israeli-Palestinian peace process. After years of oppression and strife, a peace initiative finally had begun with the help of European and American mediators. Yet before it could mature and develop, and before trust could be built, hostilities had erupted once again.

The recent renewal of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians is not about a tunnel, or about Prime Minister Netanyahu's unwillingness to redeploy the Israeli troops in Hebron. The bloodshed is not a direct result of Netanyahu's decision to reinstate the strategy of demolishing Palestinian houses, nor is it a reaction to the destruction of eight Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem only a few days before the fighting began. I would even argue that the confrontations are not due to the government's resolution to resume the construction of 1,800 Jewish houses on Palestinian land. These are but symptoms of a policy which at its very core seeks to deprive the Palestinian population of the right to self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The central issue is the far-from-radical Palestinian demand for statehood. This is a basic right that we, the Jewish population living in Israel, have been enjoying for over 48 years.

By continuing to deny the Palestinians this right, Netanyahu is attempting to choke off the peace process. The recent deaths of over 60 Palestinians, including 10 children, and 13 Israelis, and the injury of over 1,600 people, are a direct outcome of the course he has chosen.

Hermetically Sealed Off

Since the bloody clashes, the Israeli authorities have imposed a military siege on the towns and villages of the West Bank; they have also hermetically sealed off the Gaza Strip. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR) reported that the movement of ambulances and medical personnel has been obstructed, especially to and from major clinics and hospitals. Medical supplies are not reaching pharmacies and hospitals. The situation is so precarious that PHR together with Rabbis for Human Rights are operating an emergency 24-hour telephone line for Palestinian patients who are delayed or stopped at checkpoints as they desperately try to make their way to hospitals.

This obstruction of free movement is not only a consequence of the recent violence; it is also causing the unrest. Netanyahu's rhetoric of "peace and security" is nothing but lip service. …

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