When History Repeats Itself, Again And Again
By Sam Bahour and Michael Dahan*
March 6, 2002
The first Palestinian refugee camps are a product of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. In 1967, when Israel militarily occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem a second wave of Palestinian refugees was created. Today, Ariel Sharon and his government are creating a third wave of Palestinian refugees by attacking those very same refugees that, decades ago, fled for their lives and have been living under illegal Israeli occupation ever since.
It was twenty years ago when Sharon himself was responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon. Today, the Sharon-Peres coalition is repeating history by entering refugee camps within the Palestinian Authority, killing people and destroying homes and property.
They are repeating history when they insist on keeping Arafat prisoner in Ramallah, as Sharon tried and failed to do in Beirut. When tank shells are used for "pinpointed" assassinations and kill a mother and her children "mistakenly" (tell us please where is the pin and the point?). When an entire family is killed in Jerusalem while celebrating a child's Bar Mitzvah (the Jewish coming of age ceremony), when missiles are fired from F16s into densely populated areas in Ramallah, Gaza and Bethlehem, when death and destruction, debasement and humiliation are part and parcel of official Israeli policy towards millions of Palestinians, history is repeating itself again and again.
The Sharon-Peres coalition has no plan. Tenet, Mitchell, the Saudi Arabian initiative have all been rejected. Sharon's only response is to say "the Palestinians have to be hit harder". And after they are hit hard? They then need to be hit harder? And harder? And then? The Israeli government has rejected every proposal to try and calm the violence. The only response that the government has is to increase its war against the Palestinians. And make no mistake, this is not a low level conflict, but a war against the Palestinians. Sharon is not simply a hard liner - he has absolutely no intention of reaching any agreement whatsoever with the Palestinians. Anyone who thinks that he does is only fooling themselves, while everyday innocent people are being slaughtered in the streets of Ramallah and Jerusalem, Jenin and Tel Aviv.
Sharon has rejected and will continue to reject any proposal that attempts to calm the situation, while at the same time raising the stakes even higher. The only action that Sharon is capable of taking is to create a smoke screen, which will allow him to continue his personal vendetta against Arafat. This is the only conclusion that one can reach - Sharon has neglected his responsibility as a leader and is willing to place his own personal agenda ahead of the common good and common interest of Israel.
For those in the military, we would like to remind them of one of the basic laws of physics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is a simple fact. "Hitting the Palestinians harder" will only serve to create more and more people willing to commit acts of violence, and will only serve to send a message to the Palestinian people that Israel has no intention of trying to reach a political solution.
It is time to send a clear message to Sharon and to the international community as well. There is no military solution for the conflict. Constantly bombarding the Palestinians will not make them give up their hope and legitimate desire to live in a free and independent state. Stifling them with roadblocks and indiscriminate violence will not soften them up, but will only serve to increase their commitment to achieve their goals.
In a few weeks, Jews all over the world will be celebrating the holiday of Passover, which is also known as the "Holiday of Liberty" from Egyptian slavery. It is time to apply the inalienable principle of liberty, which Jews cherish so much, to the Palestinian people. The only possible hope for a solution is the complete and total end of Occupation, the Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders and the establishment of a free and independent Palestinian state. As the Israeli government is not willing or not capable of implementing this simple and fair solution, we call on the international community to put as much pressure as possible on Israel in order to stop the cycle of violence. Failure to do so will only encourage Sharon to implement his own agenda, and history will continue to repeat itself.
* Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American living in the besieged Palestinian City of Al-Bireh in the West Bank and can be reached at email@example.com.
Michael Dahan is an Israeli-American political scientist living in Jerusalem and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.