The Jordan Times
April 17, 2001
EXIT FROM the deadly impasse between the Palestinians and Israel
requires the separation and then the elimination of two major myths
that are firmly entrenched in the active, and rather confused, debate
on how the negotiations can be restored and the search for a
Palestinian-Israeli peace can be resumed.
The first is the Sharonian myth, for which he secured instant approval
and firm support from his American hosts during his recent visit to
Washington. This myth insists that the Palestinians should stop the
violence before the Israelis agree to go back to the negotiating
table. This is wrong, misleading and entirely based on exploitative
The truth is that violence was the result, not the cause, of the
breakdown of a sterile peace process which ended up as it started,
being used by Israel, with American acquiescence, as a convenient
cover for legitimising its occupation, continuing the implementation
of its expansionist colonial settlement programme and consolidating
its war gains in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Violence, for Israel, means the Intifada, and it is evident that the
Israelis' major goal now is to end the Intifada, not as a prerequisite
for restoring negotiations (which are the least of Israel's concerns),
but as a desperate security and policy necessity, to extricate itself
from a deep crisis, while its military superiority, a handy tool of
its aggression policies since its creation, is failing to break the
spirit of Palestinian resistance, in spite of its ruthlessness and
unprecedented destructive cruelty.
Israel simply insists on ending this Intifada, as it did the previous
one, to strip the Palestinians of any cards that may help their
negotiating position towards a meaning settlement.
Should that happen, it will reverse the situation to the very critical
point that ignited the present crisis, ensuring a certain re-entry
into a violent and deadly vicious cycle.
Does the mean that the Intifada, and therefore the violence, should
continue? Before answering this tricky question, clear distinction
should be drawn between the two: for violence and the Intifada are not
The Intifada, as a legitimately recognised form of rejecting half a
century of ongoing oppressive Israeli occupation, should certainly
continue until justice is done. The rights of people to resist
occupation and fight for their independence are recognised by
international law; and for the Palestinians it is not only their right
but their irrefutable duty to free themselves from an historic
injustice (just, on only 22 per cent of their country) and to put an
end to a persistent threat to their very existence, after seven years
of mounting frustration with vain, reckless, comic and
The Intifada should be seen as a useful catalyst, as liberation
movements often are, for temporising attitudes and for confronting
Israelis with the hard fact that peace has its requirements and that
they could not have peace while maintaining occupation and inflicting
continued injustice. They should choose, as president Carter put it in
his famous letter to The New York Times few months ago, land or
The Intifada stands as a last resort for imposing reason on the
Israeli defiant and extremist attitudes, when everything else over the
last thing five years has failed. The United Nations with its
resolutions has failed. The United States has failed. The Europeans
have failed. The Arabs have failed. All the methods of temptation,
appeasement, persuasion, threats and force have failed.
The Intifada should be seen as part of the solution and not of the
problem; it should be the way, not the obstacle. This is not going to
be easy for the Israelis to accept and, therefore, they will pursue
their fierce war until faced with what will not be the desired end.
This was the lesson, and the fate, of all the colonial powers who
chose to row against the current of history and to ignore its fatal
The Intifada should continue until the negotiating terms are corrected
and redefined and until the Palestinian rights are clearly recognised
in accordance with the relevant United Nations and the internationally
approved principles and terms as basis for peace.
Violence, on the other hand, of which the Palestinians are victims,
not propagators, should certainly be stopped. In their expressions of
anger, and for various causes, people throughout history resorted to
forms of violence which varied in their intensity and scope according
to the prevailing circumstances. Throwing stones at tanks and fully
protected Israeli army bunkers by Palestinian protesters would not
have submerged the region in blood and destruction had it not been for
that brutal Israeli retaliatory war of destruction, mobilising the
full force of their superior military capability against civilians
and, lately, against Palestinian National Authority installations, in
spite of its pacifist moderating role. This is the source of violence
which should be instantly terminated by Israel.
The Israelis know very well that throwing stones does not constitute a
threat to their existence or to the lives of their soldiers. But in
their usual arrogance, they could not accept any form of insolent
defiance by inhumans who should be grateful for being allowed to
provide cheap menial labour for Israeli factories, against their
In an article in the Jan. 29 issue of the New Yorker, Jeffery
Goldberg describes his experience when, in the late 1980s, he worked
in a chicken house in a kibbutz south of Haifa. When it was time to
clean out the house, Goldberg asked the foreman when we would be
shovelling out the house, to remove a three feet high layer of
droppings. We are not cleaning the shit out the foreman answered.
We get the Arabs to clean up this shit. That is why we have Arabs,
the foreman continued. The Arabs who were used in the chicken houses,
Goldberg adds, were citizens of Israel who come from the town of Umm
This typical, and by no means solitary, example clearly indicates a
deeply rooted racist, discriminatory attitude on the part of the
Israeli Jews against the Arabs, citizens or occupied. It should also
explain the deep pain felt by the Palestinian victims of this
unprecedented historic injustice.
To break the spiral of violence, Israel should stop its aggression
against the Palestinians. This will most certainly, be reciprocated by
the Palestinians who have been mainly responding and defending
themselves, not initiating any of the violence which has been hurting
The second myth is the notion that the return to the negotiations will
automatically create momentum and yield positive results. This is also
elusive, unrealistic and untrue. The negotiating table was not
deserted as a matter of choice, rather, as the result of a total
breakdown of a peace process which had been totally derailed and
emptied of any meaningful content.
Israel, with American approval and support, had denied the validity of
the agreed principles, terms of reference and United Nations
resolution as a basis for negotiations and settlement and had them
replaced with what serves its purposes and expansionist designs. In
addition, Israel failed to implement any agreements it had signed with
the Palestinians, making a mockery of the negotiations and the peace
Sharon is offering much less now than the little his predecessor
offered and fell far short of the lowest requirements for any possible
He would "never divide Jerusalem," Sharon told Goldberg (in the
previously referred to article of the New Yorker). The Jordan Valley
would remain under Israeli army control, and no settlements would be
dismantled. Palestinian refugees of course would not be allowed to
return to Israel, Sharon declared. Referring to peace, he said: You
know my position about it. It cannot be achieved.
What can be achieved then at any negotiating table with a Sharon team
sitting across after such flagrant revelations had been made?
Any return to the negotiations should require renewed commitment, from
Israel in particular, and a comprehensive review of the futile
previous negotiation. Before agreeing to return to the negotiations,
the Palestinians need to know the terms they would be negotiating
should insist on unequivocal recognition of their legitimate rights.
It would be a disaster if they agree to participate in any
negotiations with the purpose of dealing with security, which will
only mean Israeli security needs, and which will necessarily impose on
the PNA new, impossible demands, to chase and liquidate patriotic
symbols of the national resistance, and to surrender their inalienable
rights of resistance and self-defence as was the case before Oslo.
Such an eventuality, if it ever happens, will guarantee Israel's
unchallenged freedom to renew aggression and leave the Palestinians
totally disarmed, exposed and defenceless. It will further offer the
Israelis a temporary exit from the present crisis. But it will not be
long before they run into a new and more serious one. In the meantime,
tension in the region will continue to fester towards the imminent
next round; however, on the basis of myth there will be no peace.
The writer is former ambassador of Jordan to the United Nations. He
contributed this article to the Jordan Times.