Palestinians have now reached a so-called Hudna, or internal cease-fire.
Armed resistance to the occupation, as well as terror attacks
on Israeli citizens, have fallen to a minimum: there has not been
any massive terror attack since the 11th of June, considerably
longer than the "seven days of quiet" demanded in the
past by PM Sharon as a precondition before demonstrating his promised
Hudna is not a new idea: the Palestinians and Egypt have suggested
it several times before. Whenever the Palestinians came close
to signing it, the Israeli army initiated a major escalation –
usually an assassination with extensive "collateral damage".
Last year, when Israel's President Moshe Katzav asked to go to
Jordan to discuss a Hudna initiative, PM Sharon vetoed his trip.
time, even the Israeli assassination attempt of Hamas leader Rantisi
failed to do the trick: the Hudna is a fact, and, given the masses
on the streets, a paper signed between the Palestinian Authority,
Hamas and Islamic Jihad seems to give Israelis much more security
than one of the strongest armies on earth has been able to. Following
years in which Israel did its best to pulverize the Palestinians
physically, politically and institutionally, one is astonished
by the almost absolute obedience to the Hudna on the Palestinian
truth should be said: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far
from ending. The parties' visions and expectations are incommensurable.
In the long term, the Palestinians expect the evacuation of Israeli
settlements; Sharon – take my word for it – will never dismantle
a single settlement, and won't even freeze settlement activity;
he says it over and over again. But even in the short term, the
Palestinians expect the release of all Palestinian detainees,
whom they consider prisoners of war; Israel, though it often also
claims "there is a war going on" in the territories,
might release some 300 detainees: just 5% of the 6.000 Palestinians
arrested in Israel, and probably less than the number of those
arrested in the past few weeks alone. And even this symbolic release
has been postponed over and over again. Add to it new Israeli
provocations, like opening the Temple Mount for Jewish zealots
to visit, and you don't have to be a prophet to see that peace
is not where we are going to.
readers probably take me now for a hopeless party-pooper. After
all, it all sounds so good in the main-stream media. Okay: I won't
argue. Just listen to two marginal, insignificant stories. Then
draw your own conclusions.
2nd Channel Evening News (21.7.03) described renewed
efforts to enforce traffic laws in Gaza. The Palestinian Police
is again in charge, trying to control the 1,5 million Palestinians
who (with some exceptions, as we shall soon see), for the first
time since September 2000, enjoy the luxury of free movement in
two-thirds of their 50 km long and a few km wide Strip (a third
is taken by Israeli settlements, army bases, and roads for Israelis
only), with nothing but an electronic fence to limit their freedom.
on the pictures of Palestinian policemen training in destroyed
police bases in Gaza, the Israeli News expressed hope that stolen
Israeli cars would soon be returned to Israel. Indeed, stealing
Israeli cars was a prosperous Palestinian industry. Car thieves
used to steal thousands of cars, taking them to the Occupied Territories
to be re-sold or broken down for spare parts. Almost everyone
was happy: the thieves enjoyed a good income, the owners bought
new cars paid by the insurance, the State enjoyed the high taxes
on new import cars and had little motivation to stop the thieves.
There are about 12.000 stolen Israeli cars in Gaza, 5.000 of them
used by Palestinian security forces. Now, thanks to the re-emerging
Palestinian Police, Israelis hope to get their stolen cars back.
Why not? In times of peace, stolen goods should be returned.
read the following short report, published on page 12 of Ha'aretz
on the 6th of July.
units of the Israeli army have received for operational use 23
high-priced jeeps of the Palestinian Police, seized by Israel
during fighting in the territories. Last year, during the siege
on Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah in Operation Defence Shield,
a commander of an elite unit detected 23 Land rover jeeps. The
British manufactured jeeps cost hundreds of thousands of NIS each.
Thanks to their design, they were especially suited for that elite
unit […] Ever since, several elite units have competed for the
vehicles, all eager to get them. It now turns out that the army
has decided to give the jeeps for the use of several elite units;
among those enjoying them is probably the unit whose commander
seized them in the first place."
is outraged by a recent change in US policy: starting this month,
Israelis need to apply for a visa to get into the States. Since
its announcement, this issue has been constantly in the news.
Having to apply for a visa, which includes such draconic measures
as "a personal interview with a consular official in English"(!),
as Ha'aretz (9.7.03) notes, is conceived as a slap in the
face to those tens of thousands of poor innocent Israelis who
just want to spend a few thousand dollars on a trip to the other
side of the world. Israelis feel insulted, humiliated, criminalized
and violently curtailed in their freedom of movement, all in the
name of "security reasons" (what an excuse!). As Ha'aretz
put it, in a passionate editorial devoted to this outrageous American
with all due sympathy, especially in Israel, for the American
need to tighten its homeland security, it was correct for the
foreign ministry to express its reservations about the hard line
the U.S. is taking with Israelis who want to visit. Israel and
the U.S. have a very close strategic relationship in security
cooperation. Is the relationship only meaningful in the political
and military sphere? Is there no civil dimension to this intimacy?
[…] And now, with the need for personal interviews at American
consulates for anyone between the age of 16 and 60, there is real
concern that the waiting list will grow ever longer and many will
miss the dates of their planned journeys. […] Hopefully, the U.S.
authorities will find a way to ease the way for Israeli citizens
seeking to visit their country and help make tangible the special
relations between the two countries." (9.7.03)
a scandal indeed. Israelis might be late for their planned summer
holidays abroad. Now read the following excerpts from a long article
by Amira Hass on the small agricultural village of Seafeh
in the Gaza Strip – some 180 people, after more than half its
families left it – locked in between expanding Jewish settlements
and surrounded by an electronic fence. To get out of their village,
the people of Seafeh need neither a visa nor an interview in English.
gate has been set into the fence. It is locked during most of
the day, and is officially opened only to residents of Seafeh,
and only from 7 till 9 in the morning and 2 to 5 in the afternoon.
Every morning and afternoon an armored personnel carrier arrives
there: After a search the soldiers open the gate and the armored
personnel carrier supervises the pedestrian traffic from afar.
Officially, that is. But often the soldiers are late, and the
gate opens way after the designated hour. Yesterday, for example,
it opened at 7:40 in the morning. During the school year, the
schoolchildren are regularly late for class. As are the inhabitants
who work outside their village […] Entry to anyone who is not
an inhabitant of Seafeh is prohibited. […] Palestinian medical
teams always encounter difficulties trying to enter. […] The easing
of movement in the Gaza Strip after the hudna has skipped Seafeh:
In fact, regulations have become more severe. […] All of a sudden,
after the hudna, carts were prohibited from exiting every day,
and the exit of tractors was prohibited entirely. About two weeks
ago, the inhabitants were told that henceforth they would also
be permitted to take out agricultural produce only on Monday and
Thursday. Why? They were given no explanation. […] The inhabitants
of Seafeh are forbidden to go down to the seashore. People sit
in their houses, 300 meters from the beach, and sigh, 'How I miss
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