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by Haithem El-Zabri Friday, Oct. 01, 2004 at 7:17 AM Marina del Rey, CA

An assessment of Palestinian losses during 4 years of uprising against occupation, the world's reaction (or lack of it), and the responsibility that activists for Palestine need to fulfil for meaningful change.

The Palestinian Position: "Give me liberty or give me death"
September 28th marked the fourth anniversary of the Palestinian people's uprising against the illegal Israeli occupation. In spite of the enormous imbalance of power, and in spite of the very heavy losses the Palestinians are suffering on a daily basis, all signs indicate that the struggle for freedom is not about to stop. All indications show that the Palestinians will no longer accept the miserable status quo, and are willing to pay with their lives for liberty.
During the past four years, 3,236 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli Occupation Forces, the vast majority unarmed civilians, including 621 children. In comparison, 1,008 Israelis have been killed, 112 of them children. Israel still practises the abhorent policy of extra-judicial "targeted assassinations," by which they have murdered 230 Palestinian leaders and almost as many bystanders. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been injured, many of them permanently.
More than 7,500 Palestinians languish in Israeli prisons under inhumane conditions, many without due process, including women and children. Healthwise, more than 30% of Palestinian children are suffering from chronic malnutrition, which often results in permanent damage. Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, is without clean drinking water and on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.
Property damage has included the demolition of more than 3,700 homes, and damage to twice as many, making tens of thousands of civilians homeless. Hundreds of thousands of trees have been uprooted, including thousand year-old olive trees, a means of livelihood to many Palestinian families. Checkpoints dot the West Bank, strangling Palestinian movement and the economy and contributing to an unemployment rate of 50-70%, and putting three quarters of the Palestinian population below the poverty level, living on less than per day.
And now the horrendous wall that is being built under the false pretext of security, is putting more than half of the West Bank, including the precious water acquifers, on the Israeli side, and further ghettoizing the Palestinian communities. According to many, this is Israel's latest tool for ethnically cleansing the West Bank and making the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible.
Despite all of this, the Palestinians continue to stand strong, choosing to die on their feet rather than live on their knees.
World Reaction Remains Apathetic
One request visitors often receive is "Tell the American people what you saw, tell them what is really going on." The expectation is that any decent human being would oppose the crimes that the Israeli government is committing against the Palestinian people on a daily basis. Yet, the world remains silent.
In the U.S., which as Israel's sponsor and the world's only superpower holds the key to reaching a solution, supporters of the Palestinian cause have faced an uphill battle. Politicians, including Bush and Kerry, race to please Israel and its supporters. Mainstream media consistently whitewashes Israel's crimes and uses suicide bombings to give Israel the victim's role. And the American public has been conditioned by decadess of propaganda to support Israel, or to be intimidated by potential accusations of being "anti-Semitic." Even avid anti-war protesters have been reluctant to adopt the Palestinian cause, despite the striking parallels with the situation in Iraq. However, Sharon's unrestrained brutality has prodded some Americans to reconsider their positions and shift their attitudes. The realities of the conflict, no matter how hidden by mainstream media, sometimes trickle through, and support for the Palestinian cause is increasing.
In Europe, while public support for the Palestinians is much higher than in the U.S., European governments still maintain strong ties with the Israeli government. And many of them continue to provide Israel with weapons, knowing full well that they will be used to commit war crimes against Palestinian civil society.
In the Middle East, the Arab governments appear to have given up even on the worthless lip service that they had been providing for years. Jordan, Egypt, and Mauritania maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. And at least a half dozen other Arab countries have some level of ties with Israel. The Arab public in these and other Arab countries is paralyzed by it's U.S.-backed dictators, and seems content with just providing humanitarian relief aid (often blocked or delayed by Israel).
International Activists Can Make a Difference
A growing number of activists worldwide are putting enormous effort in pushing for justice for the Palestinian people. This support is crucial for Palestinian survival against Israeli military might, but still needs to increase and reach a level that will tangibly affect Israel.
Effective actions can be grouped into four categories: Political lobbying, public awareness, volunteering in Palestine, and financial support.
Political lobbying involves influencing elected representatives and, in turn, government policies. In the U.S., most politicians consider it to be politically suicidal to express support for Palestine, so aside from informational exchanges, an important part of the activists' job is to be able to assure these politicians of substantial public support.
Public awareness includes educating the public about the realities of the situation, as opposed to what is being reported on mainstream media. Alternative media needs to be promoted, and informational resources put to maximum use. Protests, lectures, film screenings, flyers, posters, banners, even bumper-stickers help influence public opinion. Engaging mainstream media is also crucial, including monitoring coverage, interacting with editors, and demanding fair reporting.
Volunteering in Palestine enables activists to build a personal relationship with the issue, express solidarity in a way no other action can do, and report the realities as an actual witness. Although the International Solidarity Movement isn't the only group coordinating such efforts, it is one that has achieved great success and has gained the world's attention in its use of non-violent resistance. Actions that volunteers can participate in include riding in ambulances so that Israeli soldiers would be less likely to block them at checkpoints, walking children to school so that they would not be shot at, staying in family homes slated for demolition, helping farmers harvest their fields without being attacked, and participating in peaceful protest marches.
Financial support is desperately needed for humanitarian aid in Palestine, as well as for pro-Palestinian lobbying elsewhere. Donations are welcomed by charities such as KinderUSA, which provides food and medicine to Palestinian children, by groups such as the International Solidarity Movement to help fund more volunteers, by Palestinian media watchdogs and lobby groups in order to be more effective in their work, and for campaigns of politicians sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Aside from donations, supporters may also purchase Palestinian-made goods, boycott Israeli-made goods, and support the divestment movement.
All these actions need to be performed to a much greater degree than they currently are. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are paying with their lives every day. Those who's lives are not in immediate danger have a duty to stand up and oppose Israeli crimes and their own governments' complicity and support for these crimes. Without strong support from the international community, the Palestinian people's days are numbered.
Figures obtained from: Palestine Red Crescent Society Almubadara - The Palestinian National Initiative B'Tselem Health Deveolpment Information and Policy Institute
Links for Political Lobbying: U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights
Links for Public Awareness: Electronic Intifada Palestine Media Watch Stop the Wall Campaign If Americans Knew Palestine Monitor Palestine Chronicle Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
Films, books, olive oil and other products from or about Palestine: Palestine Online Store Palestine Children's Welfare Fund Palestine Olive Oil
Link for Volunteering in Palestine: International Solidarity Movement
Donations for Humanitarian Relief can be sent to: KinderUSA Playgrounds for Palestine Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees
Links to Groups working for justice: Al-Awda American Muslims for Jerusalem Divestment Conference
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