Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Divide Arabs, Conquer Palestinians

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Divide Arabs, Conquer Palestinians

Article excerpt

ISRAEL has everything it wants. Looking at the state of the peace talks, Israel seems to have recouped its losses of a few months back. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin invited Syria's leader to meet him (the Arab leader predictably rejected the offer). Israel seems to be offering to return Golan land to its adversary. Having announced a peace with Syria to be imminent, Israel now informs the world an agreement with Jordan is all but signed. Mr. Rabin halted the killings of Israeli policemen and civilians.

How astonishing! One must now make an effort to remember that only six months ago Israel's international standing was at an all-time low. On Dec. 26, the Rabin government expelled 415 Gaza residents from their homeland in an unprecedented retaliation. It was severely censured by the United Nations and earned another Security Council condemnation.

Across the world, especially in Arab Gulf states, support for Palestinians escalated during the winter. The determined Palestinian men sitting out on the South Lebanon hills became a symbol of Israeli injustice and the enduring Palestinian will. It won widespread support among Palestinians inside and abroad on a scale unseen since the outset of the intifadah.

Today the expellees remain on the hillside. They may be more comfortable during summer. They may claim to enjoy popular support. Still, they remain expelled. Also, three Americans sit in Israeli jails - Palestinians detained without charge or for alleged ties to the Hamas organization. The US State Department failed to secure their release.

Six months after Israel could barely face the world community and Palestinians gloated over a symbolic Hamas victory, the situation is totally different. At the end of the 10th round of peace talks in Washington, Palestinians seem in a weaker position than ever.

On the ground in the occupied territories, among the 2 million people there, poverty is at a new low. Starvation, while still rare, was unheard of before in Gaza and the West Bank. Joblessness is the norm. Deaths of Palestinians shot by Israeli troops were 36 in May. This is the deadliest month for Palestinians in years, yet it is barely reported in the United States press. The relentless killing seems to have had no impact on the peace talks.

Few can imagine the deterioration of life across the occupied territories today. The early months of the intifadah now appear mild by comparison. The 14,000 Palestinians languishing in prison are joined by new prisoners every night. Daily, conditions of townspeople more closely approximate those of prisons. The closure of the green line separating the West Bank and Gaza from Israel proper is wreaking havoc for Palestinians. Links between the majority of the population, living in villages and towns, and Jerusalem, their cultural and spiritual center, are cut. …

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