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Intifada II Enters Year Five

With Some Trying to Pin Blame on the Palestinian Victims

But some Israelis themselves are realizing, as is the title of a new book:
"How We Won and Why We Lost the War With the Palestinians."

MIDDLEEAST.ORG - MER - Washington - 28 Sept: It was four years ago today that Ariel Sharon, accompanied by many hundreds of heavily armed soldiers and with the approval of then Prime Minister Ehud Barak, 'visited' the Dome of the Rock in occupied Jerusalem and purposefully ignited the latest historic phase of bloodshed and hatred in the once Holy Land.

It's called Intifada II...following Intifada I one more than a decade ago now. But the reality is this struggle against dispossession through military occupation and a peculiar form of creeping ethnic cleansing has been going on now in one form or another for more than half a century... and it shows no signs of resolution any time soon. Indeed it is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which has not only poisoned much of world affairs but which has itself spawned today's 'Clash of Civilizations' with rampaging Western armies and covert operatives, especially those of the United States, now occupying and infiltrating Arab and Muslim countries throughout the world.

The figures for the Intifada are brutal. Adjusted for the size of the U.S. population, that is if the Israeli occupation were taking place in the U.S., over 300,000 Americans would have been killed in just the past 4 years alone, well over a million seriously injured, many millions imprisoned and tortured, plus considerable land confiscated, homes destroyed, and occupying Jewish 'settlers' taking over.

With overwhelming firepower, technology, and American superpower money and arms, the Israelis have brutally contained this latest eruption of Palestinian resistance, Intifada II. But it comes at considerable cost to all, including the Israelies, in lives, resources, credibility, hatred, and the future.

Using one excuse after another, decade after decade now, the Israelis have now implimented a new form of Apartheid far worse than what was done by the condemned South Africa of old. In recent years they have used as never before battle tanks, attack fighter planes, assault helicopters, assassinations and 'target killings' -- all to quash the legitimate Palestinian struggle against the military occupation which has continually dispossessed, imprisoned and killed them.

The International Court of Justice has this year finally condemned Israeli policies as never before. But the United Nations, continually hamstrung and threatened by the United States, has once again still failed to act in a serious and determined way.

Now add to what they have done to the Palestinians that the Israelis, and their powerful Washington lobby, have helped push and manipulate the United States into the Iraq invasion/occupation, continually throwing political and rhetorical gasoline on the 'War Against Terrorism' and the 'Clash of Civilizations' at every turn. And now they are pushing hard to bring on American clashes with Iran and Syria and all who oppose American/Israeli domination, hegemony and neo-imperialism in the years immediately ahead.

The AFP article below at least gives some of the facts, though hardly adequately explaining what really gave rise to the Intifada and the increasingly brutal bloody nature of the military occupation and dispossession it is designed to bring about. The LATimes article is extraordinarily self-serving and to say the least inadequate -- but that's what we have all come to expect most of the time from the corporate American media, especially with regard to all matters relating to Israel and the Middle East.

Two Palestinians killed on intifada anniversary

JENIN, West Bank (AFP - 28 Sept 2004) - Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire as the Palestinian uprising entered its fifth year, and a CNN producer was released 24 hours after being kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen in Gaza City.

Mahmud Ibzur, 16, was fatally hit in the chest during clashes between troops and stone throwers protesting the second day of a large army search and arrest operation in northern West Bank town of Jenin and its refugee camp.

Earlier in Jenin, troops shot dead Saleh Bilalu, a 47-year-old mentally ill man, after he violated a army curfew.

Palestinian medics said Bilalu died of a bullet wound to the stomach, but Israeli military sources insisted he was shot in the leg and subsequently fell off a roof.

The deaths took to 4,346 the overall toll since the start of the intifada or uprising four years ago, including 3,327 Palestinians and 948 Israelis.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's chief advisor, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said the anniversary was an occasion for a renewed effort for a negotiated solution.

"The only way to bring peace is through a ceasefire, an end to assassinations and a return to the negotiating table," he said.

"The Palestinian people is holding out for its rights and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. That is the only way to reach peace, security and stability in the region."

The intifada was sparked when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then leader of the opposition, made a controversial visit to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site.

The compound was at the center of a renewed controversy Tuesday after Israeli officials warned they might restrict access by worshippers during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which starts next month, for safety reasons.

Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra said a section of the complex was in danger of collapsing, making it necessary to impose restrictions on numbers.

But both Jordan and Egypt insisted the safety concerns were spurious, and Jerusalem's top Muslim cleric Sheikh Ekrima Sabri charged they were just a pretext for Israel to get its hands on the compound, which is also the holiest site in Judaism.

In Gaza City, CNN producer Riad Ali was set free by his kidnappers, police chief General Saeb al-Ajez told AFP.

No group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the Arab Israeli journalist.

But the US network said it had received a video tape in which the abduction appeared to have been carried out by members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, an armed offshoot of Arafat's Fatah movement.

And Ali told reporters immediately after his release that his abductors "had presented themselves as members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigdes, but I can't tell whether they really were or not."

A leader of the group in Gaza told AFP the Brigades had nothing to do with the abduction.

"Those who kidnapped the journalist are a small group which has nothing to do with the Brigades and only represents itself," said Abu Qussai, as he urged Arafat's Palestinian Authority to bring the culprits -- whom he said numbered five -- to justice.

"I look forward to being reunited with my family, my wife and children," Ali said as he expressed his gratitude for Arafat and Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qorei's efforts in helping secure his release.

Earlier, Arafat's office said the Palestinian leader was personally following up the matter and had ordered his security services to work on Ali's liberation

It was the first time a journalist had been kidnapped in the Palestinian territories, although several Palestinian officials were seized by militants and disgruntled former security men over the summer.

In England, meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday he would make the revival of the Middle East peace process his "personal priority" after the November US presidential election.

"Two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in an enduring peace, would do more to defeat this terrorism than bullets alone can ever do," he told delegates to the annual conference of his Labour Party in Brighton.

Negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis have been completely frozen amid persistent violence as internationally-sponsored peace efforts stalled.

Losing Faith in the Intifada

As uprising enters fifth year, some Palestinians call it a political and economic disaster.

By Laura King
Times Staff Writer

LATimes - September 28, 2004: RAMALLAH, West Bank — When Abu Fahdi joined a Palestinian militant group and took up arms against Israel, he thought he was serving his people. Now he believes he did them only harm.

"We achieved nothing in all this time, and we lost so much," said the baby-faced 29-year-old, who, because of his status as a fugitive, insisted on being identified by a nickname meaning "father of Fahdi." "People hate us for that and wish we were dead."

The young militant, a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, is not alone in such thinking. Among Palestinians from all walks of life, there is a quiet but growing sentiment that their intifada, or uprising — which broke out four years ago today — has largely failed as an armed struggle, and lost its character as a popular resistance movement.

Moreover, many Palestinians fear that what has been, in effect, their military defeat at the hands of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has left them without leverage to extract political and territorial concessions that would help lay the groundwork for their hoped-for state.

The official Palestinian line is that the struggle continues. Veteran leader Yasser Arafat and old-line members of his Fatah faction insist that ordinary Palestinians are unbowed by the overwhelming degree of force that Israel has brought to bear in cities and towns all over the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which have been responsible for more than 100 suicide bombings over the past four years, also insist that they will continue to hit Israeli targets with all their strength.

But relentless Israeli strikes at the militant groups' leaders and field operatives, together with the partial construction of a security barrier meant to seal off the West Bank, are credited with reducing such attacks inside Israel by 80%.

For some time now, influential figures in Palestinian society — intellectuals, lawmakers, analysts, professionals and well-regarded local officials — have been asserting, almost matter-of-factly, that the violent confrontation with Israeli forces has reached a dead end and their people must look to the future.

"We have witnessed the destruction of Palestinian society — its civil institutions, its economy, its infrastructure," said Zuhair Manasra, the governor of Bethlehem. "The result has been a complete disaster for the Palestinians, at all levels. Now we must think how to rebuild."

This month, a poll commissioned by An Najah University in the northern West Bank city of Nablus — traditionally a stronghold of militants — found that more than two-thirds of Palestinians surveyed supported seeking a cease-fire arrangement with Israel. In the past, a similar proportion lent support to continued fighting.

The Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Korei, made a statement last week that was extraordinary in its implicit assumption that the post-conflict phase is already underway. Interviewed on Israel Radio, Korei spoke of the need to rehabilitate members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed offshoot of Arafat's political faction.

"The Al Aqsa Brigades are part of Fatah, and we are ready to absorb them and deal with them, but for this to happen, I must ask that Israel guarantee their security," he said. "As long as Israel continues to hunt them and kill them and make their life difficult, this won't happen."

Abu Fahdi is a case in point. He joined Al Aqsa about five months after the outbreak of the intifada — spurred, he said, by a surge of civilian deaths during Israeli military operations in his West Bank hometown, which he did not want named.

"The Israelis are the ones who started it all, by coming to our towns and our homes," he said.

All those enlisting were veterans, in their childhood or early teenage years, of the first Palestinian intifada, which raged from 1987 to 1993. In that conflict, young Palestinian stone throwers — not heavily armed militant groups or suicide bombers — were a driving force.

Beginning in 2001, Abu Fahdi took part in dozens of attacks against Israelis, mainly shooting at cars on West Bank roads used primarily by Jewish settlers. Although he fired at such vehicles indiscriminately, he remembers being horrified when one of his fellow gunmen managed to kill three members of an Israeli family.

Neither he nor most of his comrades in arms, he insists, had envisioned a conflict that would drag on this long or bring so much suffering to both sides. Casualty figures are disputed, but more than 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians have died in the intifada, with the number of injured about 10 times that.

From the beginning, civilians were caught squarely in the middle by the tactics of Palestinian militants. Abu Fahdi described the use of thickly populated areas as cover when staging attacks.

"It made me uneasy when we would use someone's house to fire at [Jewish targets] and know that the army would shoot back at the families in the area or destroy the home," he said. "But we thought it was something that had to be done in the short term, in order to inflict blows."

During the first year of the intifada, Israel for the first time began routinely employing battlefield weapons such as tanks, heavy artillery, helicopter gunships and F-16 fighter planes in densely populated parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They were aimed at Palestinian militants but exacted a heavy civilian toll.

Israeli civilians, meanwhile, bore the brunt of Palestinian suicide bombings, which peaked in the spring of 2002 and triggered the Israeli military's seizure of nearly all of the West Bank's population centers.

With the Israeli campaign of arrests and "targeted killings" having thinned the ranks of the militant organizations, teenagers and women are increasingly recruited to carry out attacks. A 19-year-old woman blew herself up in Jerusalem last week, killing two border policemen. In the last week, authorities have announced two abortive bomb plots involving 15-year-old Palestinian boys.

Senior Israeli military officials say that unless they keep a tight grip on Palestinian towns, they risk a return to near-constant suicide attacks. At the same time, they are keenly aware of the long-term danger of holding a population under oppressive conditions.

Maj. Gen Dan Halutz, the Israeli military's deputy chief of staff, was asked last week by the Yediot Aharonot newspaper whether Israel would have to maintain its military posture — with troops deployed in force all over the West Bank — into a fifth year.

"Yes, and if you ask me about 2006, I have nothing to indicate that the conflict won't enter a sixth year, either," he replied.

Although dogged resistance to the Israeli occupation helped keep the Palestinian hope for statehood in the world spotlight, many now believe that the visible public support for suicide bombings was a crucial error.

"In a post-9/11 world, that could only harm our cause," said Manasra, the Bethlehem governor.

Israeli analysts credit the government's military and intelligence branches with containing a highly motivated guerrilla-style insurgency — no small task, as American forces in Iraq have learned — but warn that there is no substitute for a long-term political solution.

Two prominent Israeli journalists, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, authors of a much-discussed new book on the intifada, drew similar conclusions about the pitfalls of short-term victory. Their title is telling: "How We Won and Why We Lost the War With the Palestinians."

The conflict has coincided with a series of failed or failing diplomatic initiatives, most notably the "road map" peace plan, which was put forth with tremendous fanfare by the Bush administration, among others. At this point, talks between Israel and the Palestinians have completely broken down, and Sharon is under little U.S. pressure to return to the table.

Despite the devastated social landscape left by four years of intense fighting, some Palestinian political figures believe it will ultimately pave the way for crucial reforms.

"The first intifada gave birth to Hamas," said Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a leader of the Palestinian National Initiative. "The second intifada is bringing to life a new option, a Palestinian democratic trend…. It is consolidating a new young leadership."

But throughout the turmoil, Arafat has managed to hold tight to power and maintain iconic status in the eyes of many Palestinians. Sharon continues to threaten to remove him but has so far been restrained by the United States from ordering Arafat's expulsion or assassination.

The coming year will be pivotal to the success or failure of Sharon's initiative to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Both sides see opportunity as well as peril in the plan: An Israeli pullout could provide either a prototype for Palestinian self-governance or usher in chaotic infighting among Palestinian factions.

But even in Gaza, traditionally a more radical region than the West Bank, groups such as Hamas have been looking for a way to transform themselves into political movements rather than guerrilla militias.

The intifada's foot soldiers are reassessing their lives as well. One day last week, Abu Fahdi was speaking to a journalist as reports of a suicide bombing flashed on the television screen. He shook his head.

"I used to think that attacks like this would hasten our victory," he said. "Now I only think that attacks like this will hasten my arrest or my death."

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