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October 2000 - Return to Complete Index                         MiddleEast.Org       10/04/00
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MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 10/03:

Just before this latest orgy of killing Arafat met a week ago with Ehud Barak at his home in what we now learn was a very cordial and even playful evening.  The Israeli/American design to get Arafat's signature on an "end to conflict" agreement had reached another crucial stage, and that has always included a great deal of playing up to Arafat's huge vanity.  Just a day later Barak then gave an interview in which he said the Palestinians would have their capital in "Al Quds" (Arabic for Jerusalem) alongside of Israel's capital in Jerusalem.  And at the same time Barak had delegated Minister Yossi Beilin to go to Europe and make sure their applause, along with their money, would be considerable for the deal ahead.  Here is the report of how things stood just a few days ago:

                       HAVE VERY WARM MEETING
   By Uzi Benziman

"Ha'aretz, 29 Sept:  When President Clinton phoned the prime minister's residence in Kochav Yair, Ehud Barak   and Yasser Arafat got into a contest of manners reminiscent of the flurry of "after-you"s the two exchanged at   the entrance to the president's cabin at Camp David. Each one insisted that the other be first to speak with   Clinton. Unable to agree, they tried to activate the speaker-phone so that they could listen to the president   and respond simultaneously but were frustrated when they couldn't figure out which button to push. In the end,   Arafat acceded to Barak's argument that the guest should rightly go first in this instance. Each was able to   hear the other's answers to the American president's questions.

That, more or less, is all that is known about the meeting that has been described as a major ice-breaker   between the two leaders. The chemistry between the two men was reportedly so good it makes one wonder why no   friendly get-togethers of this type were arranged earlier and why it took an American millionaire, Danny   Abrams, to organize the tete-a-tete, complete with Clinton's phone call to Barak's living room. The men were     hitting it off so well that Arafat was regaling Barak with stories about his days as a prisoner in Damascus. As   the Palestinian Authority chairman took his leave of Barak, he kissed and embraced him.

For a good part of the evening, Barak and Arafat sat out in the garden apart from everyone else. They had a   one-on-one conversation that lasted about an hour. Afterward, Barak volunteered very little information about   what had transpired in the course of that conversation. It was a dialogue between leaders, each conscious of   his nation's expectations and of the constraints he must take into consideration. Inside, with everyone   present, expressions of a commitment to peace were the order of the day. The diners spoke of the linked destiny   of the two peoples, of how history has decreed that they must live together, of the necessity of obtaining an   accord because the alternative of armed conflict won't alter the basic situation and about the need to reach a   compromise. Still, the Israeli participants noted that Abu Mazen and Abu Ala were taking only a modest part in   the discussion.

A few hours later, Shlomo Ben-Ami and Gilad Sher took off for the United States, having received an urgent   summons from the administration. They went to meet with the American peace team after Arafat and Barak agreed     to seriously review some new bridging proposals different from the ones presented at Camp David. The new   American ideas apply not only to arrangements regarding the Temple Mount, but also to other issues that remain   in dispute.

The Kochav Yair meeting and the talks in the United States appeared to constitute a final attempt by President   Clinton to reap the fruits of the enormous efforts made during the past year and a half, propelling Barak and
Arafat toward an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now that Ben-Ami and Sher have returned, we'll see if   a breakthrough has in fact been made.

In any event, Barak came out of his encounter with Arafat with the unprecedented feeling that the Palestinian   leader also does not wish to miss this opportunity."

Now Arafat and Barak are making their way to Paris to meet Madeline Albright.  At a critical time they are both leaving their own peoples to see how much the Americans and the Europeans are willing to ante up to keep the Western nations in control of the area through what is essential their "peace process".  After all, the origins of all this go way back to the Paris Peace Conference of 1918 -- "the Peace to End all Peace" writes the brilliant historian David Fromkin -- when the West began carving up what was supposed to be an Arab State into all kinds of sheikdoms and fiefdoms and preparing the way for a "Jewish Homeland" in Mandate Palestine.

What they are likely to do this time is use the tension of the moment as an excuse to reach another partial, rather than total, agreement -- one that will be a continuation of what has been but not a resolution of the key gut issues.  By doing this they will keep themselves front and center for the foreseeable future, attempt to save their mutual political skins, let Arafat declare his State (one more time!) which is in fact what the Israelis want, and at the same time the Israelis will do a little annexing of key settlement areas while on the whole keeping control of the whole area pretty much as things are today.  Watch for it.  Probably coming soon.

Meanwhile, the following additional developments that now set the backdrop for what those in charge are trying to do:

                       M E CLOSE TO "ALL-OUT WAR" U N CHIEF SAYS

LUXEMBOURG, Oct 3 (AFP) - The situation in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians is close to "an   all-out war," UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said here Tuesday night.  "I had hopes we were very close in the   peace process," he told reporters after meeting with European Commission President Romano Prodi. "Instead of   moving forward ... we now seem to have an almost all-out war in a highly populated area, and it is incumbent on   the leaders to do whatever they can to rein in their forces," said Annan.


  (The Palestinian Society for the Protection for Human Rights and the Environment, Jerusalem, 3 Oct):

In a press conference yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, a previous army General of the occupation   forces, was shameless in saying that his soldiers were “exercising utmost self-restraint” during the incidents
spurred by the provocative visit of Ariel Sharon to the Haram Al-Sharif last Thursday.

As usual, the media was unresponsive to the statement.  Perhaps, the media have didn’t watch the footage of the murder of 12 year old, Mohammad Adura from Gaza.

Barak took it even farther when he blamed the PNA for the eruption of violence and that his soldiers would definitely fire in self-defence if so threatened.

According to his logic, Adura was shot by mistake. If so, what about Samer Babanjah, the 12 year old boy who was shot with gun fire of a helicopter hovering above his head. What about one and a half year old, Sarah, shot in her father’s car in cold blood by armed settlers, did she constitute a threat against the lives of the Israeli occupation soldiers or Israeli civilians?  Did 14 year-old Wael Qatawi, from Balata Refugee Camp, constitute a threat on the lives of the Israeli soldiers?

To look at these shootings through Palestinian eyes, you can only come to one conclusion. These killings are several in a series of orchestrated murders and massacre of Palestinians. On the first day of the clashes,
Israeli soldiers and undercover units disguised as Arab’s entered the compound and began shooting, most of the injured and dead were shot in the eyes. On that day, 8 Palestinians were transferred to St. John Ophthalmic Hospital for medical treatment. Many others were sent there on the following days.

On 2 October 2000, LAW’s field researcher went to St. John’s hospital to visit the injured and take a number of affidavits. In an affidavit given by Awad Masour, 33, a teacher, he said that on Friday 29 September 2000, he
was heading to Al Aqsa when he heard gunshots. He saw a large number of heavily armed soldiers, all wearing bulletproof jackets, heading towards the compound at Al Aqsa. According to Mansour, they randomly opened fire at the worshippers. He hid himself behind one of the pillars in the Al Aqsa courtyard and there was another man with him who was trying to hide a child from the hail of bullets. Mansour waved at a sniper and shouted for him
to stop shooting and according to Mansour, "he did not heed my pleas so he hit me in the eye. I fell to the ground. A young man arrived for my rescue.  He tried to pull me out of the range but I was hit with another bullet in my left thigh".

In another affidavit, Omar Salim, 31, from the Old City, said that he was about to complete his religious rituals outside the courtyard of the mosque when he heard gunshots. He was only 100 meters away from the soldiers
and was suddenly shot in his right eye. He was taken to a makeshift emergency room in the Al Aqsa compound. Due to the fact that the Israeli army did not let any ambulances in to the area, Salim waited 90 minutes for an
ambulance to take him to hospital.

The war of eyes was not over however. More Palestinians were admitted into St. John’s hospital in the following days. Among them were: Omar Samouri, Ahmad Abu Ghayada, Omar Muheisen, Hussein Hamdan, and Hussein Hamdan.
Khaled Khamis, 26, from Beit Ummar, was caught in Israeli gunfire at the Rachel’s Tomb compound. He had finished his prayers in a nearby mosque and was preparing to return home when suddenly, he was hit with a bullet in his
left eye, resulting in the loss of his sight. Khamis supports a family of 14.

On the same day and the same place, Ziad Al Fararja, 20, from Dieheisha Refugee Camp, was hit with a rubber bullet in his left eye. He too, lost his sight. Mohammad Abu Zeid stated that he escaped a hit in the head when
he moved his head to the side, but unfortunately, a few hours later he was hit in the chest and in the right eye.

The question remains.  ‘Do Palestinian eyes constitute a threat to soldiers’ lives?’ ‘ Do Israeli occupation soldiers exercise utmost self restraint?’  So many direct hits indicate personal, unrestrained hatred,
not brought about by fear or the need for self-defence, but by the mere presence of the "other".

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