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|Is the US really serious about ending carnage...|
|04/14/02 at 20:41:29|
|Is U.S. really serious about ending carnage in Mideast? |
The Toronto Star
HAS THERE been a time when an American president has looked as vacillating and weak as has George W. Bush on the Middle East?
In moving from disengagement to siding with Ariel Sharon's "war on terror" to ordering the Israeli leader to pull back troops from the West Bank — "as soon as possible," "immediately," "without delay," "now" — to little or no effect, the president found himself defied by a client state and ignored by Arab puppets who refused his call to condemn suicide bombings.
Symbolic of American helplessness was Colin Powell's leisurely journey through the gilded palaces of Mideast potentates, while the West Bank burned, hundreds died and the world was denied a full accounting of the horrors inflicted on a civilian population.
Journalists, relief workers and human rights activists from such groups as B'Tselem were kept at bay — for their own safety, of course, and not because there was anything to hide.
Equally eloquent was the confusion surrounding Bush's call to replace Yasser Arafat and Powell's labelling of him as "the leader of the Palestinian people."
Let's not pretend that America is attempting anything other than the usual procedural procrastination — a ceasefire leading to a plan of political negotiations, at some point — rather than completing the Oslo peace process, derailed for the most part by two Likud prime ministers, Benjamin Netanyahu and Sharon.
Ostensibly fighting terror — as would any government, regardless of political stripe — Sharon has added another chapter to his legacy of killing Palestinians indiscriminately, without much benefit to Israel. We don't know if terror has been reduced, and if Hamas and others are any less determined after the addition of Jenin to the lexicon of Sabra and Shatilla.
We do know that Arafat's stature has gone up, not down. Pro-Israeli Arab regimes face the wrath of a radicalized populace. The quiet border with Lebanon has been reignited.
The painstaking work of Palestinian moderates in building the infrastructure and institutions of a civil society lies in ruins, not just from the latest offensive but also from Sharon's yearlong drive to smash just about every semblance of Palestinian Authority rule, which would have provided the basics of an Oslo-envisaged new state.
The only note of optimism comes in a Washington Post story that Bush, lately a hostage to hawks at home and in Israel, may be awakening to the difference between being committed to Israel and being committed to Sharon.
Meanwhile, here are excerpts showing how Israel is being vilified, including by its friends:
Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter (http://www.pbs.org)
"The Palestinians are being turned, largely by Mr. Sharon, into something like the Algerians: People absolutely determined to wage urban guerrilla warfare brutally, ruthlessly, at any cost, at enormous self-sacrifice. And the Israelis are becoming increasingly like the white supremacist South Africans, viewing the Palestinians as a lower form of life, not hesitating to kill a great many of them and justifying this on the grounds that they are being the objects of terrorism, which is true. But the reactions are all out of proportion...
"In the course of the last year, we have had Palestinian terrorism but we have also had deliberate overreactions by Mr. Sharon designed not to repress terrorism but to destabilize the Palestinian Authority, to uproot the Oslo Agreement."
Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations
"Respect for international humanitarian law and the humanitarian organizations is the most basic requirement for any nation that lays claim to democracy and membership in the international community...I don't think the whole world, including the friends of the Israeli people and government, can be wrong."
The Guardian newspaper, editorially (http://www.guardian.co.uk)
"Israel continues to pursue a campaign of terror... Some sensitive souls might prefer to describe Ariel Sharon's actions as a defensive security sweep, as a targeted military operation, or more fashionably, as a legitimate contribution to the wider `war against terrorism.' But when civilians are killed or wounded in their hundreds, when a generation of children is traumatized, when the feeble structures of nascent Palestinian statehood are systematically destroyed, when a whole people is corralled, penned in, humiliated and denied basic human rights, when even the holiest of religious shrines is transformed into a battlefield, when hatred and revenge, individual and collective, replaces reason and decency as the fount of government policy, and when hope is daily blindfolded, placed before a wall and coldly executed, what other word is there for this than terror?"
Michael Peers, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (http://www.anglican.ca)
"The British promise in 1916 of a Palestinian state has not been fulfilled. The principles by which partition was to have proceeded, brought forward in 1947 by the United Nations, have not been realized. The uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948-49 and again in the wake of the 1967 war, and the legacy of despair that has resulted for their descendants, is a deep offence against God's justice....
"Since 1967, Israel has illegally occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza. In the wake of the Israeli war of independence in 1947-49, the homes, orchards and settlements of Palestinians became the spoils of war. The right of Palestinians to return to their lives in those places has not been recognized by the State of Israel, and the territories annexed have not been returned....
"When Israel withdraws from its illegal occupation of Palestine, when Palestinians are free to return in peace to their homeland, when civilians are no longer the targets of terror, either for suicide bombers or government tanks, then healing will begin. Any other path will simply entrench violence and death as the norm for this generation and many generations to come."
Haroon Siddiqui is The Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursday and Sunday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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