LA TIMES: "Palestinians Won't Be Forced Out Again"
Palestinians Won't Be Forced Out Again
By MUSTAFA BARGHOUTHI
May 31, 2001
Israel's recent campaign of quick, devastating and sometimes fatal
"temporary" reoccupation of territory under Palestinian jurisdiction
should be understood as part of a well-planned scheme that is not about
defending nearby illegal Israeli settlers, who are heavily armed and
well-protected by the Israeli army.
If it were only about defending settlers, why would Israeli tanks and
bulldozers systematically raze hundreds of acres of Palestinian cultivated
land and destroy the houses of innocent civilians while in the process of
reoccupying these areas for a few hours? Also, why would the Israeli army
step up its air raids and shelling by tanks if not in an attempt to kill
and maim hundreds of Palestinians or, at the least, to scare, intimidate
and humiliate them?
More than 500 Palestinians have been killed and 23,000 injured in the
past eight months. One-third of the casualties are children; more than 60%
were shot while in their homes, schools or workplaces. Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon, a longtime advocate of "Jordan is Palestine," is
hoping to force demoralized Palestinians into a third exodus.
The on-the-ground aggression certainly bears this out, as does his
March appointment of Rehavam Zeevi, a proponent of the doctrine of
"transfer"--the expulsion of the Palestinians and annexation of the
occupied territories to Israel--as minister of tourism.
The erection of tents in Beit Hanoun, Khan Yunis and Deir al Balah in
the Gaza Strip following the recent reoccupation and subsequent
destruction of these areas is strikingly reminiscent of 1948. Then, close
to 1 million Palestinians were forcefully evicted from their land. This
forced removal, coupled with the Israeli army's orchestrated campaign of
mass destruction and massacres aimed at scaring off the remaining
population, resulted in many Palestinians taking refuge under tents in
several makeshift camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as in
neighboring Arab countries. Nineteen years later, a new Palestinian exodus
was to take place when an additional 350,000 Palestinians were forced out
of their land and houses after the 1967 Six-Day War.
Sharon is a staunch proponent of settlement expansion, which is made
possible only by stealing more Palestinian land and resources. When he
embarked on a political career in the mid-1970s, Sharon set out to
implement a plan to settle 2 million Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip to ensure Israel's security. Between 1977 and 1981, while minister
of agriculture, he managed to double the number of Jewish settlements in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He was then considered the patron of the
militant settlers' movement, Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful).
Between 1990 and 1992, while minister for construction and housing,
Sharon further encouraged the development of settlements in the West Bank,
particularly to house Soviet immigrants. A recently released Israeli Peace
Now report confirms that 15 new settlements have been constructed since
Sharon took office and more than 50 since the Oslo accords of 1993.
Sharon's current calls for stepping up the construction of settlements,
supposedly to accommodate natural growth, do not even manage to fool the
Americans, who are calling for a settlement freeze.
His views, ideology and history combine perfectly for what Sharon has
in mind: killing for the sake of killing and insidiously "encouraging"
Palestinians to leave by constantly attacking their children and their
Thus, the leveling of land during the "temporary" reoccupation of
Palestinian territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip also could signal
Sharon's intention to make way for further annexation. Land confiscation
continues to rule Israeli policy. The reoccupation tactic is yet another
potential manifestation of this policy.
What Sharon tends to forget, however, is that Palestinians remember
1948, 1967 and the subsequent years of Israeli land confiscation. This is
precisely why they are not ready to embark on a third exodus and leave the
door open for further Israeli land appropriation.
What Sharon tends to ignore is that, by expanding settlements, he
increases the risks to Israelis and provides them with less security, not
- - -
Mustafa Barghouthi Is President of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief
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