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December 12, 2001
Palestine on brink of disaster

By Dr Mustafa Barghouthi


Date: 5 December 2001

Palestine on brink of disaster
Dr Mustafa Barghouthi*

So far, 25 Israelis have been killed and about 200 injured in the weekend attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa, bringing the total number of Israelis killed in the past 14 months to 239, and nearly 800 injured.

Up to November 28, 862 Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli army and settlers, and 25,000 injured. These numbers are a shocking illustration of the expression "violence breeds violence".

The root of the problem here is Israeli military occupation, the longest in modern history, the continuous growth of hundreds of illegal settlements in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem and the Draconian closure to which Palestinian civilians are daily subjected. Israeli military aggression, the occupation and endless racial discrimination against the Palestinian people are feeding extremism and violence.

Colin Powell's diagnosis was correct: the settlements and the continuing occupation are the primary problem impeding the development of a Palestinian state and peaceful co-existence.

There must be an immediate deployment of an international observer/protection force to the Palestinian territories to ensure safety and security for both sides. There must also be a real and just peace initiative, not the unrealistic type offered by Ehud Barak, but a balanced settlement ensuring the future security and sustainability of the two states.

Negotiations must concentrate on the implementation of the United Nations resolutions 242 and 338 and other UN resolutions to ensure the rights of Palestinians, end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian state, so that both peoples can begin to work towards peaceful co-existence.

At this moment, Israeli tanks are surrounding all towns and cities. Re-occupation seems imminent, as does more bloodshed. All movement is blocked; doctors, nurses, students and patients are unable to move. A whole population is subjected to vicious collective punishment. No one knows what we are heading towards, and a lack of immediate action could result in Israeli retaliation with a massive military campaign, a horrible prospect that brings with it the risk of a massacre - a massacre that the world can, by acting now, prevent.

*Director, Institute of Health, Development, Information and Policy, Ramallah, Palestine