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Palestine: Facts on the Ground

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    68 women gave birth on checkpoints, 33 infants and 4 women died http://www.imemc.org/article/47767 The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2007
      "68 women gave birth on checkpoints, 33 infants and 4 women died"

      The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights (PICCR)
      reported that Israeli troops stationed at hundreds of roadblocks in
      the occupied territories barred dozens of pregnant women from crossing
      the checkpoints while in labor; 34 infants and four women died on
      their roadblocks.

      Soldiers searching a Palestinian Ambulance - photo

      The Commission reported that soldiers forced 68 pregnant women to give
      birth on road blocks after barring them from crossing as they were
      being transferred to hospitals and medical centers.

      Also, the PICCR said that the Israeli procedures complicated the lives
      of the Palestinian civilians including pregnant women by enforcing
      harsh conditions and carrying illegal practices at these checkpoints.

      Since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada on September 28 2000 until
      July 2006, 68 pregnant women had to give birth at checkpoints, and
      that 34 infants and 4 pregnant women died on these checkpoints.


      Palestine - The Facts On The Ground
      By Terrell E. Arnold
      June 19, 2007


      In the past few days mainstream media--that only notice Palestine when
      it interferes with their tranquility-have nearly foundered on a few
      questions: What happened in Gaza? Whose fault was it? And what will
      happen now? In US media, these questions are being asked and loosely
      answered in a scripted and oft-repeated format favored by Israel and
      the Quartet (the Middle East Roadmap peace team of the US, Russia, The
      European Union and the United Nations), but there is little apparent
      serious looking at the facts.

      The simple facts are that, having won a free and fair election in
      January 2006, Hamas has put up with more than a year of rejection,
      insult and harassment by much of the outside world, especially the
      Quartet. Meanwhile the US and Israel have covertly done everything
      they could to topple Hamas or to convince it to recognize Israel and
      stop fighting back. While demonstrating some capacity to flex in the
      awkward political circumstances of Palestine, Hamas has refused to
      give on its main points of principle-basically concede nothing in
      advance, but be prepared to bring everything to the table. That
      position mainly violates the cardinal rule of the Palestine peace
      process: With the blessings of the Quartet, Israel can dictate
      conditions in advance of negotiations; Palestinians cannot.

      To all but the stone deaf and totally blind in the outside world, it
      has been obvious that Fatah (with US and Israeli help) has worked
      assiduously on Hamas destruction. However, while obviously not
      comfortable with the hostility and the track record of Fatah (a
      history that after all got Hamas elected) Hamas made an effort to work
      with the losers in the January election to craft a national unity
      government. Fatah clearly was even less enthusiastic about the
      arrangement than Hamas. But a national unity government was cobbled
      together at Mecca with the support of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
      and other Arab leaders.

      That government was born under a constellation of dark stars. The
      first of those was the prevailing situations of Arab governments.
      While they may have given a polite blessing to the idea of a Fatah-
      Hamas unity government, mainstream media have noted widely that none
      of the Arab governments was comfortable with Hamas. The reported Arab
      government fear is that Hamas would form an Islamist government that,
      if copied by dissidents in Arab states, could Islamize those now
      "secular" societies. Hooked to alleged future interference with
      "secularism" is the charge that Hamas would obstruct any trend toward
      democracy in the region, while promoting Islamic fundamentalist regimes.

      That is a set of arguments that play well with the present autocratic
      and elitist regimes of the region. None of them has so far had an
      election that is more than show biz in democratic or top leadership
      selection terms. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria and others
      have been run by the same families or closed loop clans for
      generations. Hamas simply arouses fears of homegrown political
      opposition to the oligarchs, and that, for those regimes, is a bad
      idea. Given the pragmatic way it deals with its Palestinian
      constituents, the real Islamic character of Hamas is hard to define.

      A companion to that star is in the crown of the United States. The US
      may not have many real friends left in the region, but those it has
      are the autocratic regimes that are surrounded by small and wealthy
      elites. Those people plug well into the international financial and
      economic power structure. They would not easily be replaced as
      reliable US friends; however, a not too sanguine look at individual
      country situations suggests that, if the existing governments fell,
      leadership cadres and public majorities are likely to emerge who could
      be much less attentive to US interests or actively hostile to them.

      In that regard, Hamas is two pains in the American backside: In
      addition to the hazy threat to regional oligarchs, it has potential to
      interfere with the cozy relationship with Israel. Hamas makes US
      rejection on that ground easy by refusing, in advance, to recognize
      Israel or to stop fighting for the rights of the Palestinian people.
      It makes no difference to this American posture that Israel has not
      once conceded anything of significance in advance of negotiations. If
      George III had been able to effect such neat constraints on the
      colonists, there would never have been an American Revolution.

      The third dark star in the Hamas firmament is the American and Israeli
      attitude toward "terrorists". Hamas is an insurgency that uses far
      fewer terrorist tactics on Israelis than the Israel Defense Force uses
      on the Palestinians. Neither the US nor Israel is prepared to accept
      the fact that the reason Hamas is now a political problem is that it
      mastered the process well enough to win a majority in a free and fair
      election. That most Israeli leaders, starting with David Ben Gurion,
      have been former terrorists or have condoned various forms of state
      terrorism against the Palestinians somehow gets lost in the US and
      Israeli postures. Those postures are at least tolerated, if not fully
      shared, by others in the Quartet.

      The lodestar of this constellation is that Israel's Zionist leadership
      is not prepared to make any concessions to the Palestinian people at
      any time. That has been clear since David Ben Gurion launched the
      ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. It has been particularly
      obvious in the new century, while, under the cover of occupation, and
      in continuous violation of international law, IDF forces have
      facilitated the progressive absorption of the West Bank into Israel.

      The territory allegedly available in the West Bank for a Palestinian
      state has shrunk to less than 20% of Palestine; some say less than
      10%. That remaining bit of territory is studded with illegal
      settlements, even one that hogs the heart of the ancient West Bank
      city of Hebron. The would-be Palestinian state is further chopped up
      by Israeli-only roads, blocked by effective no trespass rules for the
      Jordan Valley region, and controlled by hundreds of checkpoints.

      Hardly anyone now believes that a Palestinian state is possible.
      Serious thinkers about the matter, such as the Israeli historian Ilan
      Pappe, argue that nothing is viable but a one-state solution. Many
      Palestinians would prefer that, and probably most would if the
      Israelis treated them as fellow citizens and human beings. Long time
      Israeli peace advocates such as Uri Avnery suggest that is not likely;
      by their reckoning, Israel is a democracy for Jews only.

      Under those stars, the facts on the ground in Palestine are harsh.
      Struggling to survive in a political economy rendered virtually
      penniless and ungovernable by western boycott and Israeli theft of
      revenues, Palestinian society simply descended into the anarchy that
      is predictable for the bottom-scraping poverty that the situation
      imposed. It is convenient for onlookers to refer to that situation as
      "civil war" because it relieves all outsiders of any responsibility.

      What happened in Gaza was not a civil war; it was a battle to survive
      in which the lines were drawn by patterns of family, friendship and
      community. When the chips were down, Hamas simply demonstrated higher
      orders of cohesion and leadership than Fatah. In effect, the PLO
      revolutionaries of the 1970s and 80s had lost their touch. Actually
      Fatah's chief revolutionary, Marwan Barghouti, is locked for life in
      an Israeli prison while his insurgents, the Al Aqsa Brigades, are
      presently Fatah's best fighting force.

      Ironically, Barghouti's force is now being armed and encouraged by
      Israel and the US to fight Hamas. However, even with weapons and
      financial support from the US and Israel, Fatah was the loser in Gaza.
      But perhaps the larger weaknesses were Fatah's corrupt leadership
      along with the fact that most Palestinians appear to see Fatah as
      unwilling or unable to defend or promote the interests of the
      Palestinian people.

      Western media largely view events in Gaza and the West Bank through
      the optics of various outside interests. Friday's Washington Post, for
      example, says the Hamas victory in Gaza "illustrates failure of Bush's
      Mideast vision". In truth, if many Middle Easterners, especially the
      young, were polled, the vision of a more open and liberalized group of
      societies would find a great deal of resonance. What clangs are the
      efforts of outsiders to impose such changes by force and, as in Iraq,
      to have outsiders dictate what the rules of the game--including who
      will profit most from Iraqi oil--will be for the future.

      The Week, that micro-media brief on everything worth talking about,
      takes the view that the Israeli pull out of Gaza gave the Palestinian
      people a marvelous opportunity to show how they could govern
      themselves, and they blew it. However, The Week ignores the fact that
      the Israelis officially pulled out but have continued forcefully to
      pound the region with bombings, targeted assassinations and ground
      warfare moves. That is to say nothing of rigorously controlling any
      traffic in or out. In fact the Israel Defense Force withdrew and
      turned Gaza into a range for target practice as well as an open-air
      prison for all who live there. That was on top of the economic
      privation caused by the western, mainly US and Israeli boycott.

      Now it is time to take a clear-eyed look at the art of the possible.
      To stay alive, Hamas has taken control of Gaza, that being the center
      of its support, although it is worth remembering that Hamas also won a
      political majority in the West Bank. The immediate US, Israeli and
      Quartet decision is to use the outcome of Hamas/Fatah infighting as
      the defacto creation of a Hamas government of Gaza (which Hamas says
      it does not want to do). But the larger and more perverse decision is
      to not deal at all with Gaza leadership. The specific excuse for that
      position is that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and stop fighting
      back. So Gaza becomes a non-actor on the stage of Palestinian peace
      negotiations. Outsiders, except for humanitarian assistance, will
      ignore it. In effect, the international community has decided to treat
      Gaza as an open-air prison for 1.5 million people who presently have
      no rights in any forum-much like the Palestinians in refugee camps in

      It is well to review here the terms outsiders use to describe this
      situation. "Moderates" are those people who cooperate with Israel and
      the Quartet. "Extremists" are those people who do not. In Palestinian
      terms, however, "moderates" are the leadership cluster around Mahmoud
      Abbas who have collaborated with Israel and the US while the Zionists
      have continued to steal Palestine. "Extremists" are the people who
      stand up for Palestinian rights and actually try to prevent the
      ultimate Israeli theft of Palestine from its people.

      For Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas has asserted control in the West Bank.
      However, Hamas is refusing to accept his decision to dismiss the
      elected government and appoint one. Here the democratic West seems
      content to have an elected government that it doesn't like arbitrarily
      replaced by an un-elected one that seems more tractable. But the
      benefits of this arrangement, especially to the Palestinian people,
      will be illusory.

      It is easy for outsiders to assert that there is now a Hamas
      government in Gaza and a Fatah government in the West Bank. But the
      Palestinian people remain a mix in which the strength of Fatah is
      limited, and whether in or out of the government, the Hamas
      representatives still are the majority of elected officials. Abbas
      would have to call a new election to change that (assuming that under
      present conditions Fatah could win a majority). It may gain some
      acceptance simply because the West will see that the prisoners in the
      West Bank are better fed, but prisoners of Israel they will remain.

      Abbas has proposed early talks, but it is unlikely that any progress
      toward peace will come of this arrangement. The Zionists will
      perceive, quite rightly, that the Palestinians have no leadership of
      sufficient strength to negotiate any deal that matters. The most
      cynical product of that perception could be a proposal to renew
      discussions of the Roadmap with Abbas and Fatah without bringing the
      Hamas leadership that exists also in the West Bank into the picture.
      However, the political goal of any such talks would be the appearance
      of progress over the next eighteen months of the Bush administration.
      The chance that any Fatah led team could achieve more than a sellout,
      is slim to none. The Palestinians will resist that idea, if it
      surfaces, and objections will not be confined to members of Hamas.

      The hardest reading to make of the situation at this point is whether
      the Palestinian cause has been fatally damaged by these developments.
      That cause has not been in good shape for many years, because the
      Israelis have made no concessions, and the outside world has insisted
      on none, while the Israelis have actually made sizeable territorial
      gains through illegal settlements and mere encroachments with walls
      and roads. The Palestinians who remain are long-suffering, toughened
      by the experience, and still believers in their rights to at least
      part of their ancestral home. If Abbas were to appear to make grave
      concessions, e.g., taking the core Palestinian issues of right of
      return, compensation, Jerusalem off the table, he would actually lose
      more support to Hamas, and could lose his scalp. His geographic
      situation may be made easier, but his political problem would not be

      The Hamas transition to a role of actual governance may be a more
      rapid transition from insurgency to politics than the pre-existing
      situation would have promoted. It is hard to go on calling them
      terrorists if they are being held legally responsible for the daily
      lives of 1.5 million people. This puts a pragmatic cap on the ability
      of the outside world to ignore them, especially if they succeed in
      getting Gaza under effective control. They will have become the
      government of a virtual city-state. In this regard, one of their
      proofs of effectiveness will be their ability to control the militant
      extremists, that means maintaining law and order.

      Measures of effectiveness will be crucial in coming weeks and months.
      If Israel and the US do not continue to conduct open warfare against
      Gaza, Hamas will succeed in bringing it together. After all, Hamas won
      the January 2006 election because it was more effective than Fatah in
      serving the interests of its supporters and others. If Hamas does
      succeed, it is predictable that there will be some population transfer
      to Gaza, at least to get fragmented families back together.

      Thanks to the Israeli/US/Quartet decisions, Fatah is likely to have
      more resources than Hamas (even though the Palestinians in Gaza have
      equal rights to them). But Fatah has demonstrated declining ability to
      serve the people. In an environment of close order surveillance by the
      US and Israel, as well as constant Israeli interference to serve,
      protect and expand its colonies, Fatah will never have a chance to get
      the West Bank under its exclusive control.

      If not physically restrained from doing so, Hamas operatives will
      continue to work with its supporters and sympathizers in the West
      Bank. As the fact becomes daily more obvious that any real peace
      process is a dead issue, more Palestinians will look to Hamas, and its
      political as well as its potential militant power will grow.
      Palestinians in general will shift toward a greater militancy.

      The solution to this problem has been obvious since January 2006.
      Hamas movement toward effective political participation in Palestinian
      life has to be encouraged and rewarded not combated. The name of the
      game must be effective support for leadership the Palestinian people
      have chosen. A scheme in which Palestinians who simply give up their
      rights are rewarded while Palestinians who fight for their rights are
      punished will not thrive for long. The situation in which Israel
      continues to occupy Palestine in order to steal the rest of it cannot
      go on. US, European, UN and Israeli priorities are out of touch with
      the human requirements of Palestine, while Israeli ambitions are on a
      collision course with Palestinian needs. These are not political
      abstractions. It is time everybody faced the facts on the ground that
      are making life miserable for millions of Palestinians and that will
      keep the region in turmoil unless they are fixed.

      The writer is the author of the recently published work, A World Less
      Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist on
      rense.com. He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US
      Department of State whose immediate pre-retirement positions were as
      Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National
      War College and as Deputy Director of the State Office of
      Counter-Terrorism and Emergency Planning. He will welcome comment at
      wecanstopit @ charter.net.



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