by Mahmud Sehwail
Three years have passed since the beginning of the Aqsa Intifada and still the violence escalates. Bystanders cheer and mourn the victories and defeats of their party. The truth of the matter, however, is that both sides are suffering alarmingly, and only the percentages differ. The cycle of action and retaliation seems never-ending. The price being paid by both sides is unendurable. Both sides are not only tolerating financial, material and economic losses but, even worse is the large-scale loss of human life - regardless of identity, religion, or ethnic group.
Unfortunately, absolutely no effort is being given to planning a brighter future for the peoples of this region. Rather, some are planning the termination of life, scheming to force their enemy out of his home, to label and isolate him. While this paints a very gloomy picture, I do not want to suggest that intellectuals, academics and all interested parties should cease to strive for a better future. On the contrary, an allegiance must be formed where political differences are left behind to arrive at a position based on justice and recognizing legitimate human rights. There must be a stance that admits the horrendous effects of collective punishment, closures, sieges, raids, land confiscation, uprooting of trees, and the daily humiliations - all policies which Israel practices on Palestinians. Furthermore, this allegiance should recognize that apartheid policies have never, nor will ever, result in coexistence among nations. Such a policy begets only hatred.
We need to raise a united, strong voice that speaks out against crime, against the abuse of innocent civilians, and that aspires to justice. If Israelis insist on returning to this land, they must also be able to acknowledge that Palestinians too have a clear right to this land and reject what is termed the “alternative homeland.”
Israel claims to be relieving tension, but it has instead created a carefully controlled prison where Palestinians are monitored and movement is crippled. This prison is divided into tiny segments, each with gates fiercely guarded by Israeli soldiers. As a result, frustration amongst Palestinians has reached feverpoint. Israelis have successfully managed to convert Palestinians into pressurized time bombs, and Israeli policy has created a culture dominated by violence. All these measures are counterproductive as they rob Israeli citizens of peace of mind. The Israeli government has created a cycle of violence with a very large circumference.
Generations of Palestinian children are inheriting an unacceptable legacy. It is hard to conceive that a nation that is subjected daily to systematic humiliation and denied basic human rights, should be expected to present flowers to its persecutor. Random checkpoints with no clear rules of passage prove that Israel has adopted haphazardness as part of its policy. Now, with the infamous “security fence” under construction, families and property are being split, Palestinians must climb physical obstacles to go about their daily life, doctors are denied passage , and the symbolic “belts” have been tightened even further. It is clear that the operations carried out by some Palestinian youths spring from despair, frustration and hopelessness.
Israeli violence has so badly affected the Palestinian community psychologically, socially and economically that it will need decades to recover. A study conducted by the Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC) revealed that 54.4 percent of the Palestinian public in Ramallah alone suffers from PTSD and 22 percent manifest symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress related disorders. Both Palestinians and Israelis are already feeling the results and future generations of Israelis will have to bear the burden of the atrocities being carried out by Israel today.
Ironically, one would expect Israelis to be more understanding as they themselves have endured a history of persecution. It is redundant to mention here that the roles have switched and the persecuted have clearly become the persecutors. Understandably, a recent poll in Europe [November, 2003] puts Israel high on the list of countries that endanger security and threaten global stability. Furthermore, the poll suggests that Israel is not only a threat to global security, but to its own. It seems the world is waking up and tolerance for Israel’s actions is coming to an end. Unfortunately, Israeli policies are causing heightened hatred for Israelis, and citizens of Israel must bewary lest history repeat itself. Resisting all forms of persecution and violence is a collective responsibility. The Palestinians can no longer suffer Israeli violence. Fighting this injustice is not their, or even a regional, responsibility: It is an international responsibility.