Between Armageddon and Peace: Iraq and the Israeli
By Hanan Ashrawi
October 14, 2002
It is no coincidence that the most vociferous voice
advocating a military attack on Iraq is that of the
Israeli Likud-led government and its spin machine.
In fact, if Sharon had his druthers, the US would
oblige by conducting Israel's proxy war on its behalf
against a long list of targets, including Iran,
Syria, Libya, Sudan, and even Saudi Arabia (or at
least a convenient fragmentation and "regime change"
War mongering had become such a favorite past time of
the Israeli establishment that Sharon found himself
uncharacteristically asking his cohorts to tone down
the rhetoric and curb their gleeful drum beating.
In addition to Iraq being viewed as a "strategic
threat" to Israel, the motives are diverse. They
include the weakening of the Arab world, maintaining
Israel's "strategic superiority" in the region,
imposing a solution more favorable to Israel on a
"defeated" Arab nation, plus the further debilitation
of the captive Palestinians and their leadership.
The flip side of the coin is the current Israeli
preoccupation with the question of "will he-won't he"
(i.e. Saddam Hussein) strike at Israel in the course
of the war, particularly if he concludes that "all is
lost" and he has "nothing more to lose."
The "will we-won't we" (respond) argument seems to be
rhetorical, at best. Actually, the nature of the
debate seems to be more in line with "when" and "how"
rather than "whether or not."
While those who are openly in favor of a preemptive
strike are in the minority, particularly given the
gigantic monkey wrench that this would throw into the
American machinery), there are still those who would
seek to join a war in progress.
To do so, they need a visible excuse such as another
feeble missile strike against Israel to justify its
involvement under the pretext that Israel has the
right to "self defense" and that sitting idly by
would be construed as weakness and hence would weaken
Israel's deterrent ability in the eyes of the Arab
In fact, such a strike would play straight into the
hands of this government that had already threatened
the use of nuclear weapons in such an instance to the
extent that Iraq would cease to exist as a state.
Furthermore, a major cause for concern among American
war mongers has become how to keep Israel out of the
war and to keep it straining at the leash rather than
stampeding into the battlefield and fulfilling
doomsday projections of Armageddon.
To the Palestinians, however, the most prevalent
doomsday scenario is in Israel's exploitation of the
world's preoccupation with war to carry out its own
end game in Palestine.
Anti-war Israeli, international, and Palestinian
voices have repeatedly cautioned against the "final
solution" of "transfer," or the ethnic cleansing of
Palestinians through forced expulsions.
Given the nature of the discourse in Israel and the
"legitimization" of racism and extreme measures
advocated by military sources, pseudo- respectable
partners in the government, and thinly-disguised
"think tanks," such a course of action may not be as
unthinkable as it seems.
Neighboring Arab countries have taken this threat
with sufficient seriousness as to close down their
borders with Israel/Palestine, particularly Jordan
and Egypt who had signed peace agreements with Israel
and who would view such expulsions as a declaration
Israel, however, might be contemplating a variety of
additional options to complete is destruction of
These would include a further tightening of the
already devastating siege by imposing long term,
unrelieved curfews that would further exacerbate the
economic, educational, health, and personal suffering
of the Palestinians.
Expulsion might take on a more restricted and
selective form by targeting "undesirable" leadership
figures and/or specified populations along the lines
of the "security fence."
Further violent measures might include massive
"military operations" in refugee camps, urban
centers, and more isolated rural areas including
A wholesale military assault on Gaza (as opposed to
the daily attacks or incursion by installments) has
been on the drawing board for some time and is still
being viewed as an option awaiting the opportune
moment of implementation.
The pretext for such drastic "operations" does not
have to be more than one incident of violence by a
Palestinian individual or group, or (as some Israeli
spokespersons are hoping for) a misguided show of
support for Saddam by any Palestinian individual or
In all cases, the Palestinian people under occupation
feel targeted and vulnerable should the projected war
against Iraq materialize.
The collective mood however is one of staying
put-digging in of heals and resisting any attempt at
expulsion. Hence one can discern the resurgence of
the spirit of "steadfastness" or sumoud that had
characterized the earlier intifada.
Along with the conscious rejection of any panic or
fear response, the Palestinians are engaged in a
reevaluation of the most effective and acceptable
forms of resistance, thereby generating greater
support for peaceful, popular resistance and civil
The return of a direct Israeli military occupation
has also given rise to the more constructive forms of
resistance including the establishment of
popular/support committees and other forms of
These certainly would be essential in any war
scenario and regardless of the course(s) of action
adopted by the Israeli military forces and armed
With all that in mind, however, the most effective
means of protection and of preventing Israel from
resorting to any drastic measures and forms of
insanity remains in the hands of the international
It has become imperative that European and American
decision-makers finally reach the inevitable
conclusion that a policy of more positive and engaged
intervention is required.
Rather than piecemeal handling or selective crisis
management and partial damage control, the time has
come to fully engage in a comprehensive program of
"Control" is translated as forces or troops along
with an army of civilian experts and professionals to
carry out the dual task of peace- making/keeping and
With Sharon on yet another visit to the US to enhance
his most frequent White House visitor status, it
behooves the American President to spell out a timely
and unequivocal message to his guest (war criminal
cum "man of peace").
UN resolutions are adopted to be implemented;
violence against civilians will not be tolerated; the
last remaining military occupation cannot be allowed
to last forever; there are no unilateral or military
solutions to the conflict; the US "vision" of a
two-state solution and the end of the June 5, 1967
occupation will be decisively carried out; Israeli
military measures (including the reoccupation,
incursions, assassinations, mass detentions, siege,
daily killings, and all other human and economic
violations) must cease; a global rule of law means
full Israeli compliance.
Both Bush and Sharon must be called upon to
understand that the question is not a temporary and
artificial calm before the new storm in the gulf, but
a comprehensive and just resolution of the underlying
causes of conflict and instability that should have
been addressed yesterday but definitely must be
addressed today if a disastrous breakdown is to be
Contrary to the scare tactics of the ideological
right, the apocalypse is neither an option nor an