Ceasefire? Expect more bombs
Behind all the discussion of a ceasefire and a peace deal in the Middle East, the bombing, shooting and stone-throwing will go on.
The discussion of a ceasefire in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an excellent example of doublethink.
Since the ceasefire came into force on 13 June 2001, events have included: fierce gun battles in the Gaza refugee camps; the killing of three Palestinian women by an Israeli tank; and continued Palestinian attacks on Israeli settlers.
At the same time, Israel has tightened the restrictions on the Occupied Territories, stopping Palestinians from going into Israel proper – or even from moving around freely within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (1).
But according to some of the Western media, these are just ‘threats’ to the ‘delicate ceasefire’ – ignoring the fact that Israel’s suppression of Palestinian protest continues unabated.
The increasingly extreme nature of Israel’s violence against Palestinians over the past month forced the West to adopt, albeit briefly, a more critical stance towards Israel. Such criticism is muted – often blaming the violence on the power of ‘hardliners’ in Israeli politics, and calling for Palestinians to accept a negotiated deal. Following the Palestinian suicide bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub on 1 June, which killed 20 young Israelis, PLO leader Yasser Arafat declared a ceasefire in a flash, and the media could return to the more familiar position of condemning the ‘extremists on both sides’ who broke it.
But Arafat’s and the PLO’s hopes that George W Bush’s increasing involvement in the Middle East will help secure a peace deal are likely to be shortlived. As the past 10 years have shown, peace processes in the Middle East have very little to do with peace (2).
The future has rarely looked so bleak for Palestinians. George Tenets, head of the CIA, has devised a plan whereby, should the ceasefire hold, the Israeli Defence Force will return to the positions it held before the start of the current intifada. In return, Arafat’s police are expected to round up Palestinian Islamicists. Though they have become used to this task since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 (often arresting those on lists given to them by the CIA or Israeli intelligence), they may find it harder this time. Palestinians even seem unlikely to get the freeze on the further building of Jewish settlements that they had hoped for.
So expect more bombs. Palestinian life is brutal; unemployment is extremely high (especially given the closure of the Israeli job market to Palestinians); and conditions in the refugee camps are squalid, with no real improvements since the Palestinian refugees were forced out of their homes 50 years ago. Their lives are hemmed in on all sides by the Israeli occupation that decides whether they work, study, or even whether they move from one village to another. And if they protest, they are attacked.
This is the reason there have been more suicide bombings. These tragic events are the result of a ‘peace process’ that offers Palestinians nothing. Little wonder that a few young Palestinian men choose a brief moment of freedom and power which the ending of their own lives seems to offer.
(1) See Feeling the closure on the Electronic Intifada website
(2) War and peace in Israel, by Nicholas Frayn
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