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What about Sharon's daily acts of terrorism against the Palestinians?

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    A leading question The main thrust of the war President Bush has declared on terrorism is directed against Bin Laden and his Qa ida organisation. But what
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 5, 2001
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      A leading question

      The main thrust of the war President Bush has declared on terrorism is
      directed against Bin Laden and his Qa'ida organisation. But what about
      Sharon's daily acts of terrorism against the Palestinians? asks Mohamed


      For over 50 years, the pivotal issue which informed American strategic
      thinking towards the Middle East has been the Arab-Israeli conflict. Only
      twice was it overshadowed in importance by other issues. The first was
      Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which represented an unacceptable
      threat to US oil interests in the Arabian peninsula; the second was the
      terrorist attacks of 11 September, said to have been carried out by
      terrorists from the Middle East, which represented an unacceptable threat
      to US security.

      In response to the first event, the first President Bush launched the Gulf
      War; in response to the second, his son has launched the war against
      terrorism. In a way, both men reacted in similar fashion to what they saw
      as challenges to America's fundamental interests. It remains to be seen
      whether the same can be said of their reaction to the clear discrepancy
      that emerged in both cases between the American and Israeli agendas.

      It is said that Bush senior advised his son to make a distinction between
      terrorism on the one hand and Arabs and Islam on the other, and to stop
      describing the war against terrorism as a "Crusade," which implies that it
      will target Muslims in general and not only individuals accused of

      The first President Bush took advantage of Saddam Hussein's invasion of
      Kuwait to convince the Arab oil states that an Arab ruler could be a worse
      enemy than Israel, and sought to neutralise Arab enmity of Israel through
      the peace process launched by the Madrid conference. This process made it
      possible to concentrate all attention on defeating Saddam and forcing him
      to pull out of Kuwait. Will the war against terrorism launched by the
      current President Bush lead to an arrangement similar to the Madrid
      conference, that is, to a resumption of negotiations between the Israeli
      government and the Palestinian Authority, on the grounds that terrorism is
      a common enemy to both? However, this logic is unlikely to prevail as long
      as there is no agreement between the parties on a definition of terrorism.

      There is no mention of terrorism in the UN Charter because the Charter
      aimed at consecrating the victory of the Allies over the Axis powers and
      the end of their occupation of wide chunks of Europe and other parts of
      the world. It sought to sanction the right of the peoples of the world to
      resist occupation of their land by all available means, including armed
      struggle. This often meant that the victims of this struggle were not only
      military personnel, but could also be innocent civilians.

      The anti-colonial struggle of the Cold War period brought about a shift in
      perceptions. The colonised peoples considered their resistance to
      occupation a legitimate undertaking, even if it gave rise to civilian
      casualties, while the colonial powers described their struggle as
      "terrorism." That was how the Algerian resistance movement was seen by
      wide circles in France. Thus definitions contradicted each other:
      legitimate resistance in the eyes of the colonised peoples, as well as
      from the viewpoint of the socialist countries, was regarded as terrorism
      by the Western capitals.

      Then came the downfall of the bipolar world order and its replacement by a
      unipolar world order which put forward the assumption that all conflicts
      could be resolved by peaceful means. This assumption carried within it
      another implicit assumption, which is that resorting to armed struggle ran
      counter to the rules of the new world order, especially when it claimed
      civilian victims. In this rationale, the very legitimacy of armed
      struggle, sanctioned as a basic human right under the UN Charter, is being
      called into question. The de-legitimisation of armed struggle is gaining
      ground thanks in no small measure to the recently introduced principle of
      "humanitarian intervention," which contemplates foreign military
      intervention to liquidate groups resorting to violence against innocent
      civilians -- that is, groups that could be described as terrorists.

      At this stage of the war against terrorism, President Bush wants to focus
      exclusively on Bin Laden and his accomplices, the "prime suspects" in the
      attacks which destroyed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. No
      distractions can be allowed to jeopardise his plan. Hence his insistence
      that the repeatedly deferred meeting between Arafat and Peres take place
      without further delay, even as each side continues to accuse the other of
      terrorism and even as the Palestinian body count hits new heights.

      Sharon cannot be allowed to compromise the US war plan by using the
      campaign against Bin Laden as an opportunity to carry his accusation of
      terrorism against Arafat through to what many fear will be its inevitable
      conclusion: the physical liquidation of the Palestinian leader, whom he
      has been quick to dub "the Bin Laden of the Middle East." Nor can the
      Palestinians be allowed to continue accusing Sharon of terrorism, invoking
      the admission by a Belgian court of a lawsuit filed against him by
      survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacres to support their claim. What
      is important is that Peres sit at the same table with Arafat to nullify
      the effect of Sharon's accusation of Arafat and of the Palestinians'
      accusation of Sharon, thus limiting the accusation of terrorism to Bin
      Laden alone.

      But the Arafat-Peres talks, limited on Sharon's instructions to security
      issues, are unpalatable to most Palestinian factions, who have declared
      that they do not consider themselves bound by any agreement the two men
      may reach. Not only is ending the Intifada without getting anything in
      return, another Sharon condition, unacceptable, but there is no guarantee
      that any deal struck during the talks will be endorsed by Sharon. Their
      fears are justified: as matters now stand, the Israeli government is
      speaking with two voices, one belonging to Peres, who is not authorised to
      exceed the limits fixed by Sharon; the other to Sharon, who has frequently
      reneged on promises made by his foreign minister. Why should the
      Palestinians have to accept this duality, why should they be able to speak
      only with an interlocutor who has no independent power of his own, with no
      assurance that the real decision-maker will honour his commitments?

      And, indeed, on the morrow of the Arafat-Peres meeting, which fell on the
      eve of the first anniversary of Sharon's provocative visit to Al-Haram
      Al-Sharif, the triggering factor of the Intifada, the Israelis stepped up
      their violent repression, killing five Palestinians and launching a tank
      attack on Rafah. It is not surprising that most Palestinian factions
      remained sceptical of the so-called cease-fire, declaring that they did
      not consider it binding.

      Can George W Bush devise a scenario to combat terrorism inspired by his
      father's scenario in combating Saddam Hussein? Can his proposal of an
      alliance against terrorism be compared to the international coalition
      built up by his father during the Gulf War, which led to the Madrid Middle
      East peace conference? Does the terrorism Bush has to confront annul the
      forms of terrorism that Sharon and Arafat accuse each other of
      perpetrating? These are difficult questions, on which depend not only the
      future of Arab-Israeli relations, but also the future of America's
      confrontation with the terrorism attributed to Bin Laden.

      This is the dilemma that faces the American president today. What is
      required is not only that the terrorism attributed to the Arab-Israeli
      conflict be resolved, but also that it be tackled totally independently
      from the terrorist attacks carried out inside American territory.
      Moreover, the American administration is required to oppose Sharon's
      attempt to identify Arafat with Bin Laden as a prelude to having him

      The Intifada was the expression of Palestinian loss of faith in the peace
      process, in the hope that Israel would withdraw, that their occupied
      territories would be restituted and that an independent Palestinian state,
      with Jerusalem as its capital, would come into being. If terrorism has now
      acquired a global dimension, it is because frustration and despair are not
      limited to the Palestinians alone. The hostile demonstrations that have
      accompanied all international conferences touching on issues of
      globalisation testify to the deep sense of alienation felt by wide sectors
      of the global community. This phenomenon took its most extreme form in the
      events of 11 September. The time has come for Washington to realise that a
      just solution of the Palestinian problem is not only necessary to correct
      the injustices done to the Arabs and the Muslims, but that it is an issue
      directly related to the security of the US and even to Israel's security
      in future.

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