Briefing Paper February 2001
For a conflict that’s been going on for a hundred years, it seems rather perplexing that suddenly, everyone is in one great mad rush to finish it. – – – – Since the whole world seems to be in a terrible rush to quickly brush under the carpet all the searing wounds of a long, bloody conflict, we should inform them all that here in Palestine, we do not feel personally pressurised by the fact that Bill Clinton has a taxi waiting to take him to his new home on January 20. Neither are we particularly hassled with Barak’s new career plan after February 6.
Ziyad Kilani The Jerusalem Times (31/12/00)
This was one way of summing up the events which heralded the start of 2001. For the first time in decades, in the Western media, there was mention of the right of return of Palestinian refugees. And in the last dying breath of his presidency, Clinton attempted to extinguish this vital component of any peace agreement by presenting proposals which traded off this right of return with some spurious notion of Palestinian sovereignty in parts of Jerusalem.
This was preceded by the arrival, in the region, of the international fact finding mission led by US senator George Mitchell on the 10th December. A poor substitute for international protection but a symbol of the reality of real politik in Palestine. Talks resumed between Palestinian and Israeli but with not much hope or expectation of a result. There was agreement “in principle” and with ”reservations” while “clarification” was sought, with each of the adversaries avoiding being blamed for any perceived failure, but progress was nil.
On the 19th, a PLO demand to have international observers sent to the occupied Palestinian territories, was rejected by the UN Security Council. Eight countries voted in favour with seven, including Britain, abstaining.
Apparently the fear was expressed that the passing of the resolution could affect the ongoing “peace” negotiations. With yet another attempt to involve the international community foiled, Israel expressed pleasure at the outcome.
If the Oslo experience has taught even the most “pragmatic” Palestinian officials anything, it is the folly of signing vague agreements that lack implementation guarantees, and which the Israelis can therefore reinterpret, pick and choose from, or renege on at will.
Middle East International 12/1/01
By the end of 2000, with an election campaign for prime minister facing Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, Clinton was demanding of the Palestinian side that they clearly accept his suggestions, with questions and clarification later. One commentator observed that, as usual, the Palestinians would get the promises while the Israelis would get what they want. However, it was clear to most observers that there was strong Palestinian opposition to talks as previously structured. International arbitration was essential if talks were not go on for ever and a day. The intifada had revealed the flaws of Oslo with reversion to the “Oslo pantomime” being regarded as political suicide for Arafat.
By mid-January the pressures on Palestinian society, in general, were surfacing. Two self-confessed collaborators were executed after a quick, and controversial, trial in the Palestinian State Security Court. Following months of brutal suppression, with death squads targeting and shooting alleged activists, few Palestinians appeared to be in a mood to philosophise over the factors which lead to a man betray his relative to the occupation forces, in the near certainty that this will lead to his death. General jubilation at the executions was reported. Business as usual
Barak’s arrogance reached new heights when he launched his election campaign in a restuarant in the Israeli Arab town of Tayyiba. For alleged security reasons the restaurant was devoid of its usual Arab diners. Not that many would have wanted to dine in the proximity of the man responsible for the recent cold-blooded killings of 13 Israeli Arabs.
On the 6th, the visit of UN Special Coordinator for the Occupied Territories, Terje Larsen, was obstructed, journalists injured, when he tried to obtain access to Usama Ben Munqeth school (which had been converted into a camp for the occupation forces) in the Israeli controlled part of Hebron.
It was during this week that it became apparent that the occupation forces were conducting extra-judicial killings, or in plain-speak, cold blooded murder of activists. Mohammed Mughrabi from Dheisheh refugee camp was shot dead by an Israeli soldier on the 11th as he made his way to his work. The following day Yousef Ahmed Abu Sway from Artas, also near Bethlehem, was shot dead – his head, shoulder, chest and legs penetrated by a recorded 20 bullets. It was the turn of Abbas Othman Oweiwi, from Hebron, the next day. By the end of the month, at least 25 activists had been singled out by the occupation forces for assassination, including 50 year old Thabet Thabet, a dentist by profession, a dignitary in the Fatah movement in Tulkarm and peace activist involved with the Palestinian Committee for Dialogue and Understanding with the Israeli people. He suffered fatal gun shot wounds to his head, chest and back as a consequence of being attacked by a sniper on the evening of the 30th. (On the same day extreme settler leader Benyamin Kahane and his wife were killed in a drive-by-shooting).
Throughout this week, Hebron saw its share of the increasing casualty toll, including the death of 14 year old Ahmed Ali Hasan Al-Qawasmi Both Tulkarm and Khan Younis suffered bombardment with the latter suffering severe clashes with the occupation forces, resulting in the death of four Palestinian fighters.
In general, for December, the carnage continued with killing of Palestinians trying to go about their usual business, or helping the wounded, recorded. The death toll was around 330 with as many as 50 children amongst the fatalities. However, one particularly brutal killing deserves attention.
During December it was revealed that a group of disguised, undercover Israeli troops chased and shot at young stone-throwers in Hebron, outside Ali Bakka Mosque in the Palestinian Authority controlled part of the town. All but 14 year old Ahmad Qawasimi escaped, he was frozen to the spot.
One eyewitness observed a soldier drag Ahmad to the ground, put his boot on his neck, then shoot him at pointblank range through the head.
Another Hebron child, Sami Jaber, was left fighting for his life when his twice demolished house was stormed by settlers intent on occupation. He was also shot at point blank range.
“If they clear 50 metres either side of every by-pass road,there won’t be any trees left in the West Bank”
The occupier’s bulldozers were also very busy throughout December. Ditches, earth mounds, concrete slabs were all used to seal villages from the outside world. Immediately a new way was formed, this was blocked. It was accompanied by the wholesale destruction of thousands of acres of olive groves, banana plantations and citrus orchards. There was little evidence of pretence at “security considerations”. Vindictive, punitive measures were the order of the day with the Palestinian farmer and his family picking up the tab of an estimated $30 million worth of destroyed crops.
The observer was given the occasional glimpse into the lives of the children living in the constant fear of attack and bombardment, particularly those living close to settlements, with parents powerless to give the much sought after reassurance. Fearful of venturing into the streets to play, loss of appetite and concentration, recurrent nightmares, adverse reaction to loud noise. Pupils attending Tayaseer boys and girls schools on the West Bank find themselves resorting to donkeys in order to circumvent the concrete, boulders and dirt barriers placed on the road from their villages.
These reports made sharp contrast with life, for example in West Jerusalem, where one report dwelt at length on Israeli joggers, complete with the latest designer gear, leisurely doing a circuit of a modernised running track. Overhead the Apache helicopters streaked through the skies with, seconds later, the thuds of missiles making impact – and hardly disturbing the conversation of the joggers.
Where is God?
Thus reacted 76 year old Ali Abed Daoud Jaber of Hares village on the West Bank. With the sound of chain saws during the night, he wakened to find that he was ruined. Stumps of olive trees rose from the ground, all that remained of over 400 olive trees, of which a quarter were owned by Ali, some of which were hundreds of years old.
Already the olive crop had been a disaster, since the occupation forces refused all movement of the fruit to the market. Now the trees were gone – all because they lined the road to three nearby illegal settlements. It was alleged that children had been throwing stones at settlers’ cars along the road – so the livliehood of the villagers was removed.
For the first time in years, the families of the 2 200 Palestinian political prisoners imprisoned in Israel were refused permission to visit the detainees during the feast of Eid Al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadam.
With the Palestinian economy at “melt-down” and hardship all too prevalent, the World Bank announced a £12million grant for the purpose of alleviating hardship. Temporary, labour intensive jobs using locally produced material for improvement of local services and infrastructure should benefit. Long term development projects would also be targeted. At the same time it was announced that only $7 million of the promised £1 billion had been released by the Saudi-based Islamic bank for Development. Lack of mechanisms for collection and disbursement was blamed.
The first day of the new year was one that 50 year old Jadallah Ja’bari will remember. He was photographed one moment in conversation with one of the occupation troops at Hebron’s market place. The next moment he was photographed lying on the ground holding a shattered and dangling leg , screaming with pain. He had been shot by a nearby soldier, with no pretext offered. In the evening a car bomb exploded in Tel Aviv, injuring a number of Israelis.
Meanwhile statistics published indicated that the occupation forces, by the end of the year, had bulldozed over 1000 acres of land in the Gaza Strip, the bulk of it agricultural including fruit-tree groves and green houses. The fear was expressed that the land would be used for militarty purposes or annexed to local settlements. Losses in Bethlehem were estimated at $6.5million.
On the 2nd, a 51 year old farmer from Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, was shot dead as he picked potatoes.
On the 5th, 19 year old Arij al-Jabali was shot dead by gunfire fromoccupation forces stationed at Haggay settlement, south of Hebron. Sources indicated that the gunfire was a response to fireworks aimed at the settlement by a Palestinian agent provacateur. The Israelis later admitted that the shooting was unprovoked, giving rise to the fears of a possible strategy of provoking assaults on the Palestinian population. Earlier, physically handicapped Muhammad Abu Hasira was shot dead when he tried to by-pass a security fence in the Gaza Strip in an attempt to get into Israel for work.
On the 7th, a nurse travelling home from Nablus was shot dead by soldiers. On the same day mentally handicapped Abd al-Hamid al-Kharti from Maghraka, Gaza Strip, was riddled with bullets by soldiers who raided the locality. At a checkpoint near Halhoul, Hebron. a young Palestinian boy, arrested and handcuffed, was shot in the leg.
On the 10th, following a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli at Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip it was agreed that some of the “internal closures” would be lifted in Both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Five days later, wholesale collective punishment was enforced following the discovery of the body of a settler in Khan Younis. A siege was imposed on the Strip, passages and airport closed. Trucks with goods and emergency supplies travelling through Egypt were denied access.
On the 12th, Shaker Faisal Hassouneh,23, from Hebron was fatally wounded and five others seriously wounded when shot at by the occupation forces. Medical aid was refused access and cameras recorded jubilant troops dragging the body through the streets to the settlement of Beit Hadassa. Observers reported that settlers danced and drank in celebration over the murder.
Five days later, Hisham Shaki the head of the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation was shot dead by two assailants unknown. There was a feeling that Palestinian elements were responsible, with Shaki being associated with corruption.
On the 15th, following the killing of a settler in the Gaza Strip, and for the 5th time in four months, the Gaza Strip was closed off to the world. Electricity and water was cut off to Khan Yunis causing panic amongst the 120 000 residents. The 6 000 settler community then went on the rampage for two hours in the Mawassi area. Greenhouses, trees, irrigation systems fell victim. Israeli bulldozers decimated the area where the body was found, destroying all the fruit trees. In true “Zionist response” a mobile colony was established on the site. The fear was expressed that the devastation, the laying of the land to waste, was in preparation for extending settlement control thereby facilitating internal “closures” and consolidating the presence of the settlements.
Violence and resistance activities apart, the autonomous areas of occupied Palestine remained hermetically sealed.
Towns remained cut off from each other. Imported goods remained impounded at the ports, some since September. Humanitarian aid was not allowed in. The occupation authorities refused Palestinian municipalities permission to dispose of thousands of tons of refuse at dumps under Israeli control – a decision which could prove to have catastrophic consequences, particularly in the densely populated Gaza Strip.View all →