Mid-East Realitieswww.middleeast.org


March 14, 2001

Monday in Washington the various Arab-American groups will stage a protest demonstration outside the Washington Hilton where now Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be talking to the lead organization that makes up the Israeli-Jewish lobby in Washington. But it's far too little far too late far too misleadingly put together and sponsored by groups and persons who long ago lost their credibility and vibrancy. The impotence of those opposed to what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, and to what the Americans are doing to the Middle East, has deep roots in both Washington and the Middle East region itself.

And it's the same in general with the "Palestinian Authority". After so many years of ineptitude, corruption, duplicity, and double-dealing its not easy to consider these "leaders" credible or trustable no matter what they now say or do.

The week ahead will be one of considerable posturing, and possibly considerable violence. Everyone is now positioning themselves for the complicated battles ahead that involve many kinds of power and authority -- and at least for the foreseeable future the Israelis continue to be prepared and positioned far better than their opposition and are emensely more powerful in all measures, as much as their policies are deplorable and Apartheid-like.

As for the Europeans (see The Guardian article that follows), it's not that difficult to look more reasonable and thoughtful when the Americans and the Israelis do what they do and are what they are. But they too have a long history of saying one thing and doing another, and they too after so many years can't be trusted or even believed in a serious way on issues relating to the Middle East.

Furthermore it's not just Sharon who is coming to Washington. One of the additional reasons the Arab "leaders" and their associated groups lack credibility is because of how they have played around with Rabin, Peres, and Barak; with the "Peace Process" and the "Peace of the Brave" and Bill Clinton; demonstrating their own lack of understand what has really been happening to them for some time and making those who want to support a just and honorable Middle East peace cringe at so many of the things they have done and said over the years.

So now Sharon cometh once more to the capital of the modern world, this time as the Prime Minister of Israel...and with "Nobel Peace Prize recipient" Peres at his side and friends George W. in the White House and General Powell at the State Department.


By Deborah Camiel

JERUSALEM, March 14 (Reuters) - Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday while Palestinians in the West Bank took to the streets in mass demonstrations to protest against an Israeli blockade.

Israeli troops at the Karni commercial crossing on the Israel-Gaza border killed 19-year-old Ahmed Bannar, a resident of a nearby village, medical workers said.

They said Bannar was shot in the back by a single bullet and that no clashes were taking place in the area at the time. The Israeli army said it was checking the report.

Bannar's death brought the death toll to at least 345 Palestinians, 13 Israeli Arabs and 65 other Israelis, since a Palestinian uprising erupted in late September.

Chanting "Get out occupation," about 500 flag-waving Palestinian protesters marched towards a military checkpoint near the West Bank town of Ramallah during a "Day of Rage" organised by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's faction.

Israeli soldiers later wounded 10 Palestinians when they fired rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas at stone-throwing youths who lobbed rocks at soldiers positioned nearby.

"We broke the Israeli siege with our hands and it is a message to (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon that the siege will not kill the Intifada (uprising)," said Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti after the soldiers withdrew from a roadblock to a nearby hill while youths dug Palestinian flags in the ground.

Palestinians sent a bulldozer to fill in a trench ploughed by the army as part of its blockade of Ramallah which it says it has implemented to prevent a group of Palestinian militants in the town from carrying out a bomb attack in nearby Jerusalem.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers fired bullets and tear gas at stone-throwing Palestinians near the town of Qalqilya, witnesses said. There were no reports of casualties.

A Palestinian woman died on her way to hospital after Israeli troops turned her away from a roadblock at the entrance to the town of Jenin, a relative said.

At the refugee camp of Qalandia on the outskirts of Ramallah, soldiers shot rubber bullets at Palestinians pelting them with rocks. No injuries were reported in either place.


Likening the Israeli clampdown to a policy of apartheid, Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said on Tuesday his people were determined to resist Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza until they won independence.

He accused Israel of provoking a war by sealing off Palestinian areas, and a Fatah leaflet called on Palestinians to "break the siege using all means."

Israel said it imposed a blockade on Ramallah, an important Palestinian business centre, to try to catch a group of militants who have killed eight Israelis in shooting attacks and were planning more.

Israel eased the closure on Tuesday by opening two entrances to the city for vehicles passing through a security check.

The army said it had loosened its hold on four other West Bank cities in recent days. But it said troops had reclosed roads around Qalqilya after gunmen fired on an Israeli car.

Sharon was due to convene his security cabinet on Wednesday to consider a further loosening of the blockades before talks next week in Washington with President George W. Bush.

Washington and the 15-member European Union have criticised the blockade. Russia added its criticism on Tuesday.

Brigadier-General Benny Gantz said on Tuesday the army would ease the restrictions when it saw a reduction in the fighting that flared when a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation began in late September after peace talks deadlocked.

European Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten and Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said after a visit to the region that economic chaos in Palestinian areas would set back peace hopes.

Abed Rabbo said the blockade had turned Palestinian areas into detention camps and had forced the closure of hundreds of schools. More than 160,000 Palestinians are also being prevented from reaching their jobs in Israel and in Palestinian areas.

Palestinians say the closures are collective punishment that cripple the Palestinian economy.

A senior Israeli military source told reporters on Tuesday the army was bracing for an escalation of violence towards the end of the month when Arab leaders meet in Amman, Jordan.

"The Palestinians will try to provoke the area as much as they can. They would like to reach the Arab summit with higher flames in the area... escalation is a real potential," he said.


France leads call for action over
blockades of Palestinian cities
and human rights abuses as EU
seeks greater role in Middle East

Ian Black in Brussels and Suzanne Goldenberg in Jerusalem

The Guardian - 14 March 2001: Israel could have a key agreement with the European Union suspended if it does not end human rights abuses and blockades of Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza.

In their first practical response to the Middle East crisis, EU governments are considering punitive measures to underline that the policies of the new Likud prime minister, Ariel Sharon, are not acceptable, the Guardian has learned.

Robin Cook and fellow EU foreign ministers are to review options next Monday after Chris Patten, the commissioner for external relations, warned Israeli leaders yesterday that their economic stranglehold must be lifted.

"It does not seem to us that everything that is being done in the West Bank and Gaza can be justified in security terms," Mr Patten said during a visit to the area with Anna Lindh, the foreign minister of Sweden, the current holder of the EU's rotating presidency.

France is leading calls for tough diplomatic action against Israel, seeking to boost the EU's role in a region traditionally dominated by the US at a time when the new Bush administration has not made its policies clear.

In a strongly worded paper on the Middle East submitted to EU governments last month, the French foreign minister, Hubert Védrine, argued: "Europeans have shrunk from making the effort needed to overcome their contradictions and apprehensions [and] are not prepared to pay the political price of a genuine role, and have become accustomed to their role as bit players.

"The EU should make the US recognise that it is legitimate for Europe to take its own approach to peace. If the union really wishes to pay a role, it must escape from the situation where defining a common position comes down to seeking the lowest common denominator in platitudinous declarations or ritualised diplomatic tours."

The EU could decide to suspend all or part of its 1995 association agreement with Israel - which includes high level political dialogue, cooperation in several key areas and valuable trade preferences worth millions of pounds a year - with immediate effect. Britain and Germany would be unlikely to favour such action but France would have the backing of Spain and Greece.

EU diplomats said last night that other less drastic measures under consideration included suspension of cooperation with Israel in the areas of science and technology or agricultural liberalisation talks.

The EU-Israel agreement was only ratified last year after the previous Likud prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, was replaced by the Labour leader, Ehud Barak, who was in turn defeated by the hardline Mr Sharon last month.

Israel bowed to its critics yesterday by easing its blockade of cities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Two roads to the West Bank town of Ramallah were reopened.

But the Palestinian information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said the changes were cosmetic and aimed "at deceiving the world that the closure has been lifted".

Washington warned Israel on Monday that if the economic pressure brought about a collapse of the Palestinian Authority, then it would harm prospects for peace.

The Israeli army sealed off the West Bank and Gaza when the intifada erupted, blocking more than 100,000 workers from jobs in Israel that are the lifeline of the economy.

Since then, the army has intensified its stranglehold on Palestinian cities, sealing off roads with concrete blocks and mounds of earth, positioning armoured personnel carriers at the entrances to towns and, in the last few weeks, digging an 11-mile waterless moat around the desert town of Jericho.

Mr Patten said the EU urged Mr Sharon to transfer £36m in tax revenues it has withheld from the Palestinian administration. He said the siege, which has cost the Palestinian economy at least £1bn and driven up unemployment, was counter-productive.

"If the economy continues to deteriorate in the West Bank and Gaza and if more people lose their jobs, if the Palestinian administration is undermined as a potential centre of authority, it will be more difficult to deal with security issues," Mr Patten said.

In his visit to the Gaza Strip on Monday, Mr Patten also issued a warning to Yasser Arafat, saying the EU did not want to continue its financial bail-out unless the Palestinian leader ended corruption and imposed some order on the Palestinian Authority.
Mid-East Realitieswww.middleeast.org

Source: http://www.middleeast.org/articles/2001/3/103.htm