Meditation Focus #93
Saving Peace in the Middle East
What follows is the 93rd Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, August 24, 2003.
SAVING PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Meditation Focus
As much of the world's attention is still focused mainly on the worsening situation in Iraq under US/British occupation, a recent spate of violence on the long-simmering conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples threatens to render completely impassable the proposed road map to peace and the creation of the State of Palestine, thus opening another round of deepening violence with no end in sight. Although humanity's revulsion to such violence in general is growing steadily with the increased awareness of our common responsibility to care for each other as brothers and sisters of the One Life Force in all and to protect the Web of Life we all depend on, there is a seemingly growing tolerance for the suffering endured by both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples albeit, admittedly the harshness of the living conditions of the Palestinians under Israel's occupation if far worse than what their relatively affluent and heavily protected Israeli counterparts have to face on a daily basis. The fact that this conflict looks so intractable, coupled with the remoteness of its daily occurrence from most people's lives, as is often the perception with regard to so many other armed conflicts around the world, also contribute to diminish the level of interest and concern as to what other planetary citizens can do to help foster peace and sanity in this part of our troubled planet. Yet, our fate and destiny are intrinsically linked with the outcome of what happens there, as well as in the rest of our interdependent human family, and our role as peace sowers and love nurturers is to remind, inform and inspire every other soul on Earth as to our collective responsibility to bring about Peace, Love and Harmony wherever these conditions are found to be lacking.
It is clear however that some people bear a larger responsibility when it comes to putting an end to some of the most compelling and disturbing aspects of what is going on in Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that so threatens the security and well being of millions of innocent victims of this conflict. On the one hand, the random or targeted killings of Palestinian citizens, the torture of prisoners, the defacement of the land by a so-called "separation" or "security" wall now being hastily built, the destruction of houses and means of livelihood, the continuous restrictions of movements amounting to almost permanent curfew and the desecration of human dignity in general are some of the most visible causes for what amounts to a systematic repression of a whole people while, on the other hand, the recourse to suicide bombings in public places in Israel contributes to maintain most Israeli citizens in a permanent state of fear and serves to justify the very repression these desperate acts of violence hopes to counter.
Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following one, to contribute in saving peace in the Middle East through inspiring a renewed sense of urgency in the heart of every human affected, directly or indirectly, in the Middle East and abroad, as to the need to stop all forms of violence and repression, no matter their alleged justification, and start with fresh vigor new initiatives and efforts aimed at creating the conditions for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, for the Highest Good of All.
This whole Meditation Focus is also available at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus93.htm
2. MEDITATION TIMES
i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes.
ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.
These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:
Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM
+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.
* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.
You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/full.html to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.
3. More information on this Meditation Focus
This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.
Road map sowed seeds of ceasefire's destruction
US plan called on Palestinian PM to rein in violence, while at the same time declaring war on Hamas and Islamic Jihad
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Saturday August 23, 2003
The trap laid for the ceasefire, which brought a few weeks of hope after almost three years of intifada, was sprung by the peace plan it was supposed to help, the widely scorned road map.
At the heart of the first part of the road map was a fatal contradiction. It required the Palestinians to call a ceasefire while disarming and dismantling "terrorist organisations".
"A ceasefire and the dismantling of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad were in contradiction," said Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian political analyst. "You can have one or the other. We had one. It has been destroyed. Now we will have the other."
Yet right up to the moment that five missiles slammed into Ismail Abu Shanab's car on Thursday, killing one of Hamas's most influential leaders and burying the ceasefire, even he believed the truce could survive its near collapse from the cycle of assassinations and suicide bombings over the past fortnight.
Neither Hamas nor Israel wanted the ceasefire. But the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, saw it as his best, possibly only, strategy to avoid a civil war and build the popular political legitimacy he lacked.
If the violence ended, Mr Abbas reasoned, then the Israelis would be forced to make concessions which would strengthen his negotiating position on a future Palestinian state. Hamas went into the ceasefire believing it would emerge stronger if Israel wrecked the truce.
Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, was suspicious but was pressed by the Americans into agreeing not to subvert it. The Israelis pledged to halt "targeted assassinations" and ease their stranglehold on Gaza.
But Israel's cooperation was predicated on the condition that Mr Abbas put Hamas and its allies out of business as a fighting force. Disillusionment set in among the Israeli leadership when Mr Abbas made it clear he had not engineered the ceasefire to provoke a Palestinian civil war.
"It was ridiculous," Mr Shikaki said. "From the beginning the Israelis wanted Abbas to breach the commitment he had made and go after these groups. Why would Hamas continue a ceasefire if it was merely cover for its destruction? And if Abbas had the infrastructure to dismantle these groups, he wouldn't need the ceasefire in the first place."
Even some of those at the heart of arranging the ceasefire doubted its chances. The Palestinian security minister, Mohammed Dahlan, warned that Mr Sharon, in league with the Israeli army, would blast a hole in the truce.
But there were reasons for optimism. In the first month the killings on both sides dropped sharply. Israel's intelligence services told Mr Sharon that the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad had a grip on their activists.
Life for many Israelis and Palestinians relaxed a little. But the disillusionment set in as Israel resisted calls to free the majority of the 6,000 Palestinian security prisoners it held and Mr Sharon pressed ahead with the controversial "security fence" gobbling up Palestinian land. And then the killings started again.
The beginning of the end for the ceasefire came a fortnight ago when Israel gave up waiting for Mr Abbas and decided to resume pursuing Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
A squad of naval commandos killed two leading Hamas activists in Nablus, Hamis Abu Salam and Faiz al-Sadar. The army said they were "ticking bombs" preparing more attacks. The Hamas leadership accused Israel of subverting the ceasefire.
Four days later Hamas retaliated with a suicide bomb attack near the Ariel settlement, killing a soldier. A few minutes earlier, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade sent a bomber into a shopping centre, killing a man. Hamas said it was still committed to the ceasefire but had unilaterally changed the conditions to permit it to retaliate against Israeli attacks. "The minute Hamas said that, it was an invitation to its military wings in the West Bank cities to respond to each attack," Mr Shikaki said.
Last week the Israeli army killed an Islamic Jihad commander and a Hamas activist in Hebron. There was a score to settle with one of the men for the killing of a army commander in Hebron. Hamas hit back on Tuesday, murdering 20 people, including six children, on a bus in Jerusalem. The ceasefire was on life support.
But up until the killing of Abu Shanab it was not clear if the Israelis would bury the truce. Mr Sharon wavered but was apparently persuaded by his defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, that Israel's response had to be devastating.
An Israeli official, Gideon Maer, insisted that Abu Shanab was among those who had approved Tuesday's bombing. But it is clear from interviewing Hamas officials in Hebron and Gaza that the leadership knew nothing of the attack. The bomber took his cue from the earlier statement that Hamas had the right to retaliate against Israeli killings without breaching the ceasefire.
The truce was a means to an end and the real political damage is to Mr Abbas, who invested heavily in it. Israel has given him 24 hours to take on Hamas. If he fails to do so, it will do it for him.
"Either the Palestinian Authority does something and goes after Hamas, or Israel will. The third option, that Israel will just sit on its hands, is not an option," said Dore Gold, one of Mr Sharon's advisers.
Mr Shikaki said: "I don't think Abbas has what it takes in terms of popular legitimacy and capacity to confront Hamas."
"Unless the road map is revisited, it has failed. If the US administration believes the plan has a future, it needs to address two issues: how to deal with security and how to give popular legitimacy to a Palestinian government. Otherwise it's dead."
Israel to continue targeting militants
Saturday August 23, 2003
Israel says it will kill other Hamas leaders if the militant group retaliates for the assassination of Ismail Abu Shanab and that it will target them anyway if the Palestinian Authority does not confront "terrorist organisations".
Israeli officials said the army had held off from further attacks on militant leaders for a brief period to give the Palestinian Authority time to move against Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But the Israelis say they have little expectation that the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, will do so.
One Israeli official said: "If he arrests just one Hamas leader, if he just disarms one Hamas terrorist, that would show willingness. But so far we haven't got even that, and so we will do it ourselves, except when we do it we won't arrest them."
Ehud Olmert, Israel's deputy prime minister, said the government doubted Mr Abbas would take on Hamas.
"We didn't think that in 24 hours or 48 hours they would suddenly promise to do what they hadn't done for months," he said.
Egypt sent a presidential envoy to meet Mr Abbas and Yasser Arafat yesterday to salvage the seven-week ceasefire which collapsed with Abu Shanab's death.
Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian foreign minister, said Egypt would pressure Hamas and other groups to avoid a civil war. The envoy also met Israel's foreign minister to plead for Mr Abbas to be given more time to rein in the Islamist groups.
Israel's warnings came as tens of thousands of people turned out for Abu Shanab's funeral in Gaza City, chanting threats of revenge against Ariel Sharon and his defence minister, Shaul Mofaz.
Hamas marked the end of the ceasefire by firing mortars from Gaza into an Israeli town, but there were no casualties.
Shortly before the funeral, Israeli forces reimposed road blocks in Gaza. Troops also killed an Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade member in Nablus.
Middle East sides appeal to US (August 23)
The Palestinians and Israelis have both appealed to America after a week of bloodshed engulfed the US-backed roadmap peace plan.
A Palestinian Authority (PA) official called on Washington to take a strong line in stopping Israeli "escalation" as moves began to secure a new, broader cease-fire.
An Israeli official called on the US to bring the message home to the PA that it had to keep Palestinian militant groups in check itself.
US chief peace monitor John Wolf met PA officials in the West Bank on Saturday as new tensions arose in the town of Nablus.
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is to visit Arab capitals in September and he has hinted that an even more senior US official might arrive in coming weeks.
Mr Wolf went to Jericho to meet the PA's chief negotiator, Saeb Erakat, who made a strong protest at "assassinations of Palestinian leaders... by Israel", according to a Palestinian source quoted by AFP news agency.
However, the more immediate US response to this week's violence - in which a Hamas suicide bomber killed 20 people in Jerusalem and Israel killed Ismail Abu Shanab, a high-profile political leader of the group - has been to crack down further on Hamas.
It froze the assets of six top Hamas figures, including those of spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
"The whole situation is dependent on the Americans," Nabil Abu Rudeina, a close aide of PA leader Yasser Arafat, told AFP on Saturday.
"They should come out with a serious and decisive position to put an end to the Israeli escalation and violations... The Americans need to intervene."
Another official, Cabinet Minister Abed Rabbo, said the PA could only tackle militants if the Israeli military ended operations.
PA Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath has gone to Ramallah in a bid to get a new truce to replace the seven-week unilateral cease-fire by militant groups which broke down this week.
"We want a hudna [pause] between the whole PA and Israel, that Israel commit itself to as much as we do," he told reporters.
He called on the US to send monitors to the region.
The BBC's Barbara Plett notes that Israel lowered the level of its operations during the earlier truce but still arrested scores of Palestinians and had killed more than 20 by the time of Tuesday's bomb attack in Jerusalem.
On Saturday, Israel troops clashed with stone-throwers in Nablus, reportedly injuring at least 16 people.
Most of them received light wounds from rubber bullets but three received bullet or shrapnel injuries, according to Palestinian doctors in the town, which has been under an Israeli curfew.
Dov Weissglas, the chief of staff of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, also called for US intervention - but to put pressure on the PA to disarm groups like Hamas.
At a meeting on Friday with US envoys and in a phone call with US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, he said the US should put more pressure on PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen.
Israeli officials are meeting an Egyptian envoy, Osama al-Baz, this weekend who is visiting on a mission to help rescue the cease-fire.
Mr Baz's initial talks with Mr Arafat on Friday reportedly made little progress, however.
Gaza funeral draws thousands (August 22)
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have turned out in Gaza for the funeral of the Hamas leader killed in an Israeli air strike on Thursday.
The body of Abu Shanab and his two bodyguards were taken from the city's main hospital to the mosque surrounded by militiamen.
The three men were killed as the Israeli Government took retaliatory action for a suicide bombing in Jerusalem on Tuesday that left 20 people dead, including six children.
Gaza City has been blocked off by Israeli forces, who for the second night running also entered the West Bank city of Jenin.
As Abu Shanab's funeral procession travelled through the streets of Gaza, shots rang out along with voices calling for revenge against Israel.
The BBC's Chris Morris, reporting from Gaza, said Mr Shanab was a popular figure among Palestinians and was being buried as a martyr.
But, our correspondent says, after the attack on a bus full of Jewish families in Jerusalem, senior Israeli sources are talking tough.
"This, they say, is just the beginning. They have a list of names to target and they will work through it if they have to," he said.
On Friday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian militant and wounded two others when they opened fire on a hospital in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian security sources said.
Witnesses said the three men were hiding in a rooftop room of Rafidiya hospital when soldiers shot at the room.
Israeli security sources said the men were armed militants wanted for their involvement in a suicide bombing in Israel last week and shooting attacks in the West Bank.
Palestinian sources said the men were members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have both said their seven-week-long truce is now over and vowed to take revenge for Abu Shanab's killing.
Israel reimposed a roadblock on Gaza's main highway that cuts the territory in two and undoes one of the confidence-building measures adopted under the US-backed peace roadmap.
In a statement, Hamas' military wing urged its "fighters in Palestine to strike in every corner of the Jewish state" following the death of Mr Shanab.
The BBC's James Reynolds, in Jerusalem, says Israeli political sources doubt the ability of the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas - known as Abu Mazen - to tackle the armed groups.
In Jerusalem there are more police officers and security guards out on the streets looking to prevent suicide bombings, our correspondent says.
On Thursday night, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired more than a dozen mortar bombs and several rockets at Jewish settlements inside the Strip and at Sderot, a nearby Israeli town.
Witnesses said the shelling caused slight damage but no casualties.
The upsurge in violence threatens to derail the US-backed roadmap for peace, accepted by Israel and the Palestinians as a way to end the three-year-old conflict.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the violence did not mean the end of the roadmap and called on both sides to recommit to the peace moves.
But Egypt's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Maher, criticised Israel over the killing of Abu Shanab.
And French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, called on both the Israelis and the Palestinians to break out of what he called the tragic cycle of violence.
Mr de Villepin also called for Europe to become more active in the stalled peace process.
Mid-East papers write off truce (August 22)
The regional press sees little prospect for peace in the wake of the killing by Israeli forces of Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab.
Arabic papers suggest the Israeli action was not so much a revenge attack for Tuesday's suicide bombing in Jerusalem, as part of a plan to sabotage the ceasefire.
In Israel, some commentators question the wisdom of Israel's "targeted killing" of Palestinian militants. But others point the finger of blame firmly at Hamas.
The truce has not collapsed because of the Jerusalem bombing, nor did it collapse after the killing of Hamas leader Abu Shanab. The truce collapsed much earlier, due to the fact that, since the truce was announced, the Israelis have persisted in provoking the Palestinians.
Al-Jazeera - Saudi Arabia
It is no secret that Israel was striving to strike at peace...The only option left to Palestinians is to retaliate against Israel's violations which are aimed at alienating Palestinians and forcing them out of the road map.
Al-Safir - Lebanon
All this violence and bloodshed between Palestinians and Israelis does not come out of the blue. Israel bears the responsibility because it was the first to violate the truce in pursuing its assassination policy against the Palestinians.
Al-Ahram - Egypt
We think that the first and most important factor is goodwill. If Israel had goodwill and really intended to achieve peace, it would end its revenge policy against the Palestinians... Repression will only bring about endless violence and more bloodshed.
Al-Akhbar - Egypt
The operation that killed martyr Ismail Abu Shanab will not weaken the Hamas movement and will not succeed in putting pressure on its leaders. It will rather make them more radical in aspiring to even more martyrdom.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi - London
The killing of Ismail Abu Shanab is a revenge operation, which will only add to the fire rather than extinguishing it, leading to more violence which cannot be controlled, putting everyone on a path to destruction with no horizon.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat - London
Despite the "success" achieved by the Israeli army in the killing of Abu Shanab, the Israeli peace movement has summarised the situation with wisdom by saying: The killing of Abu Shanab will not save a single Israeli.
Al-Ra'y - Jordan
With the increasing danger in the Palestinian arena, it is now important for Arab intervention to contain the deteriorating situation.
Al-Dustur - Jordan
The situation obliges the Israeli Government to help Palestinians who want to fight terror achieve their goal... Actions like the assassination of Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab could make it difficult for the Palestianian Government and eliminate the small chance that exists to revive the peace process.
Ha'aretz editorial - Israel
Does it really suffice to pin all the responsibility for the crisis on gangs of Palestinian terrorists and a frail Mahmud Abbas[Palestinian prime minister], while absolving Israel's prime minister? Two years of national tailspin suffice to tell Sharon he ought to go.
Ha'aretz commentary - Israel
The security establishment decided to return to the policy adopted a week before the truce came into force: pursuit of Hamas heads... Now there is a need to convince the Americans of the importance of this root canal treatment of Hamas and Islamic Jihad
Yedi'ot Aharonot - Israel
So if the truce has departed this world, and also if the Israeli reaction to the Jerusalem terrorist attack will now bring about renewed violence, in the end everything will return to square one.
Ma'ariv - Israel
In Palestine, Hamas and other terrorist groups enjoy wide support... In Palestine, one increasingly gets the sense that terrorist movements and democratic ones blend.
Jerusalem Post - Israel
BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.
How the truce was broken
Brian Whitaker Friday August 22, 2003 The Guardian
27 Israel and Palestinians agree disengagement deal in Gaza
29 Israeli troops begin Gaza pullback. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Arafat's Fatah faction, including al-Aqsa Martyrs, declare truce
2 Israel withdraws from Bethlehem. US announces $30m (£18.8m) aid for West Bank and Gaza
3 Israeli troops shoot dead a militant and block traffic on Gaza's main road, angering Palestinians
5 The Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, meets the Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin for the first time
6 Israeli cabinet decides to release several hundred Palestinian prisoners
9 US approves giving $20m in aid directly to the Palestinian Authority in a move aimed at strengthening Abbas
20 Abbas meets Ariel Sharon
25 Abbas meets George Bush in Washington for the first time
27 Israel agrees to free 210 militants
28 Israeli troops fire teargas and rubber bullets to break up protests against the construction of a huge separation/security barrier in the West Bank
29 Sharon meets Bush in Washington
31 Israel announces plans for 22 new homes at a settlement in Gaza, in defiance of the US
2 Al-Aqsa Martyrs threaten to resume attacks after Yasser Arafat has 20 of them detained in Ramallah. Lebanon car bomb kills a Hizbullah member, Ali Hussein Saleh; Hizbullah accuses Israel of involvement
5 Abbas calls off meeting with Sharon, accusing him of dragging his feet
6 Israel releases 336 Palestinian prisoners as a gesture
8 Two Hamas militants and an Israeli soldier killed in Israeli raid on West Bank refugee camp. Two more Palestinians die later in protests
12 Two suicide bombers strike in Israel; one other person killed in each attack
14 Israeli troops kill Mohammed Seder, head of Islamic Jihad's armed wing in Hebron
17 Israelis and Palestinians fail to agree terms for the handover of four West Bank cities to Palestinian security control
19 Suicide bomber on a Jerusalem bus kills at least 20
21 Israel kills Ismail Abu Shanab of Hamas; Islamic Jihad official declares ceasefire over
Analysis: Missed opportunity in Mid-East (August 22)
Behind the seven-week truce by militant Palestinian groups was real, if modest, progress in the peace process. That truce and any progress have now been blown apart.
Following a bloody bomb attack and Israeli retaliation, the truce has broken down completely, all progress has been reversed, and the main players are back in their familiar roles.
Most depressingly, the cycle of attack and counter attack looks like getting back into full swing.
Maybe it was all too good to be true. The truce and the relative lull in violence were holding.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was in talks with the militant groups to extend the truce.
Israelis and Palestinians were in stuttering talks on Israeli troop withdrawals from Palestinian city centres. Bethlehem city centre was back in Palestinian hands and Israeli troops had pulled back from positions deep inside the Palestinian controlled areas of Gaza.
There had been some Palestinian prisoner releases.
The "roadmap" and accompanying US pressure may not have been bringing dramatic breakthroughs, but it appeared for a while to be reducing the violence and making space for a possible breakthrough.
If there was an opportunity offered by these developments, it has been missed absolutely.
Palestinians insist that Ariel Sharon was not serious about peace. With every settlement outpost that was brought down, others seemed to pop up.
The killing of Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab, Palestinians argue, was also a deliberate provocation. Shanab was, by Hamas standards, a moderate. He was unique among Hamas leaders in arguing that a Palestinian state would have to exist alongside Israel, not instead of it.
Israeli officials say they were never bound by the militants' ceasefire and that the assassination of Shanab is a perfectly reasonable response to the latest Palestinian atrocity.
The immediate future looks grim. Israeli officials are talking about going after the remaining militant leaders one by one.
Hamas are talking bloody revenge.
Civilians on both sides will be bracing themselves for a period of intense violence.
Caught in the middle
In between the militants and Israel is Mahmoud Abbas.
He, with Yasser Arafat's approval, appeared ready to go after the Hamas members behind the most recent bus bombing.
Reports say he was preparing for a round of arrests, tough restrictions on Hamas run mosques and the disbanding of Hamas' network of schools and hospitals. The plans have been dropped, leaving Mr Abbas looking toothless and indecisive.
Israeli and American officials are making their traditional calls for the Palestinian prime minister to dismantle the militant groups.
These have been hollow demands for a long time.
It is not clear what Mr Abbas can do to combat the militants that the Israeli army has not done. He has neither the political authority nor the security forces to go after the well-resourced and popular militant groups.
Disaster for the roadmap
For the roadmap, recent developments will probably spell disaster.
The peace process, heavily endorsed by Washington, has not brought increased security for Israelis, has not improved life for Palestinians, and has not delivered any discernable progress to the overall aim of a peace deal.
If the Palestinians and Israelis have missed and opportunity, it appears that Washington has too.
The US has failed to pressure Israel to stop the construction of the security barrier in the West Bank - by George Bush's account a development unlikely to foster confidence between Israelis and Palestinians.
The assassination of Shanab has drawn only the traditional warning that Israel needs "to take into account the effect its actions will have on the peace process" from a White House spokesman.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has warned that "the end of the roadmap is a cliff that both sides will fall off of".
It is not clear what the United States can or is willing to do to prevent the peace process crashing completely.
Washington has despatched John Wolf, the man in charge of monitoring the progress of the roadmap, to the region.
Largest demolition in years: Israel destroys entire commercial market in one day
Press Release, PENGON/Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, 21 August 2003
OVER 100 SHOPS AND 5 HOMES DEMOLISHED IN NAZLAT 'ISA FOR THE BUILDING OF THE WALL
(21 August 2003, Nazlat 'Isa, Occupied West Bank. PENGON/Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign) -- Marking the single largest demolition of buildings in years, the entire commercial area of Nazlat 'Isa was today raised to the ground as some 15 bulldozers, accompanied by large numbers of military and border police, entered the community at 5:00 AM and destroyed over 100 shops and 5 homes. The market, which was previously targeted in January of this year with the destruction of 82 or close to one half of its shops, has been the commercial center for the entire region.
The bulldozers began the demolitions early in the morning and continued unabated until the late hours of the night.
(PENGON/Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign)
The commercial area, just east of the Green Line in the Occupied West Bank, has been leveled for the building of an "isolation barrier"--an extension or offshoot of the Wall--that will entrap the community and the surrounding areas between it and the Wall to ensure complete isolation. Commercial areas along the Green Line have been consistently targeted with the building of the Wall in what assures that communities trapped between the Wall and the Green Line (the Wall in this case is located 2 km inside the West Bank) will have no infrastructure for survival.
Today, Nazlat 'Isa saw countless tragic images of people clearing their shops and hurriedly removing goods and produce to safeguard their investments and livelihoods. Everyone interviewed in the area was unaware of today's arrival of the military and demolitions. The aluminum factory demolished, which was the largest distributor of aluminum for the area and for clientele inside Israel, managed to have the immediate presence of an attorney to postpone the demolition for a few hours in order to remove its raw material prior to the total destruction.
(PENGON/Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign)
In late January of this year, the demolition of 82 shops of the same commercial area received worldwide media attention--and condemnation--and was called by the foreign press "the biggest West Bank demolition in years." Today's lack of media presence was profoundly noticeable, as most media was dispersed in other areas of the West Bank covering an extra-judicial assassination and aerial and land attacks by the Israeli military in major West Bank cities.
Tens of villages in the area acknowledge that this is a major step by Israel in sealing their fate and making survival on their lands and in their homes impossible.
The Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign emphatically reiterates that this act is a crime and calls for the worldwide declaration to Stop the Wall!
Up against the Apartheid Wall
Daniel Jacob Quinn, writing from Jenin, Occupied Palestine
19 August 2003
Life here on the ground in occupied Palestine is rarely reported in the United States. The brutal impact of Israel's military occupation is hidden behind the rhetoric of pundits and politicians, many of whom have never met a Palestinian. They have never, as I have, held a sick Palestinian child in their arms as her parents beg soldiers to let them pass a checkpoint. They have never babysat Palestinian children while their mother goes out to find out what happened to her husband during an armed invasion of their refugee camp. Talk of a "roadmap" is cold comfort to a Palestinian doctor who is not allowed to travel the road from his home to the hospital or to a Palestinian farmer whose lands have been made inaccessible to him due to the construction of a separation wall that is anything but a "security fence."
Since my arrival in Palestine on July 1, 2003, I have seen things that most Americans, which sadly includes American journalists, will never see thanks to the blackout in the American media when it comes to factual descriptions of daily life in Palestine.
On Tuesday, August 12, I joined over 60 international peace workers and over 200 residents of the West Bank town of Qalqilia to protest Israel's construction of a 25 foot high concrete apartheid wall. In Qalqilia, the wall circles for 7 miles, completely sealing off the town. During the march from the civic center to the wall, children flew kites with ribbons the color of the Palestinian flag. Women's groups carried signs demanding the release of their husbands and sons being held as political prisoners. Young men carried signs with messages such as: "Learn from history: Welcome to the Qalqilia Concentration Camp."
Indeed, by turning the town into a veritable ghetto, Israel has devasted the lives of the 33,000 men, women, and children who live in Qalqilia. Once, the town thrived on commerce with Israelis who would shop there looking for bargains. Now, no Israelis or other tourists are allowed in through the one checkpoint that controls entrance to and exit from the town. As a result, one third of the town's businesses were forced to close and unemployment soared to 65%. The group of internationals I was with had to find a back way into the town through the fields.
Isolated from Israel and other Palestinian municipalities, Qalqilia had to rely on its agriculture to survive. But by the time the construction of the ghetto wall began on August 15, 2002, Israel had made its decision to confiscate 35% of Qalqilia's land and another 225 acres were isolated from the town on the other side of the wall. Farmers are regularly denied access to fields and pastures by Israeli soldiers. Families are cut off from each other, pregnant women are cut off from hospitals, and children are cut off from schoolyards.
Moreover, Israel confiscated 15 of the town's 39 precious wells, causing the people of Qalqilia to lose a third of their water supply. Vital irrigation systems have been destroyed as well. U.S.-made Caterpillar bulldozers have uprooted thousands of ancient olive and citrus trees.
"We are living in a prison. The city was once like a garden, but now we are in hell," one resident of Qalqilia told me during the march from the civic center to the wall. "And think about the children. What does this say to them? It says, 'You have no freedom. You have no future.'"
After the demonstration, which included painting the wall with the flag of Palestine and releasing 36 white doves (one for each year of occupation since 1967), I travelled back to Jenin where the situation is growingly similarly dire. I went to the village of Jalbon outside of Jenin and enjoyed unparalled hospitality from the people there during my 5 day stay. Even though my country sends military and financial aid amounting to $10 billion every year to support Israel's illegal military occupation, I was constantly met with, "A'halan wa sa'halan!" "You are most welcome here."
A group of internationals from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Sweden met with the mayor of Jalbon and the school principal to discuss the occupation in general and the impact of the wall specifically. We also met a shepherd in Jalbon whose livelihood has been severely impacted by the wall. His fields have been confiscated by the Israelis, and most his land is now on the other side of the wall. On what little land he has left, he cannot use to graze his sheep due to threats from Israeli soldiers who patrol the wall.
We went out each morning with the shepherd and his flock in an attempt to protect him from violence and harrassment by Israeli soldiers. Our work was successful, according to the shepherd who told us that our presence was instrumental in giving his flock of sheep and goats their first good grazing in months. "But you cannot stay here forever. The soldiers will be back."
In Jalbon alone, over 500 acres of residential and agricultural land have been confiscated by the Israelis for the construction of the apartheid wall which is not being built along the 1967 border with Israel, but in some places as much as 2 miles inside Palestinian territory. The loss of land in Jalbon amounts to over 500 acres - the size of George Washington's ancestral estate, Mount Vernon, outside of Washington, DC. It is roughly one third of George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, TX . For Jalbon, a small farming village which had already had hundreds of acres stolen after the 1967 war, this constitutes a devastating loss of land, water, and source of livelihood.
It is clear from such relentless policies aimed at apartheid, ethnic cleansing, land and water theft, and economic strangulation that Israel is not interested in peace. There can be no hope for peace in the face of state-sponsored terrorism paid for by the United States. With the unquestioned support of the governments of the world, Israel is allowed to act with impunity. No member of the United Nations is willing to demand that Israel abide by international law as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel arrogantly dismisses demands of the U.N. Security Council resolutions to withdraw from Palestinian territories. Without such compliance, no "road map" will be navigable.
By holding the trump card of "anti-Semitism," Israel is able to sustain the world's longest military occupation. Every day, the ghetto wall around the West Bank and Gaza grows longer and higher. It will stretch for 280 miles - 3 times longer than the wall built by the Communists to separate East and West Berlin... and more than 25 times longer than the wall built by the Nazis to seal off the Warsaw Ghetto.
Whether attempting to force Palestinians from their homes by violence, harrassment, economic strangulation, or starvation, ethnic cleansing is ethnic cleansing. The Palestinians have literally been forced up against the wall, with nowhere to turn, and no one to turn to. How long will the world contintue to watch silently?
If nothing else, the international peace activists I've been working with have shattered the consensus that Israel is immune from criticism for its barbaric actions. The noble work of 100 activists, however, cannot compare with what would happen if just 10 nations said "Enough!" to Israel's barbaric occupation of Palestine. Actually, all it would take is the action of one nation, the U.S., to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against humanity. The occupation is a direct violation of the fundamentals of American democracy. The cry of the Palestinians could easily be transposed into our own Declaration of Independence.
And by helping to force Palestinians up against the wall, the U.S. is complicit in not only oppressing 3.5 million civilians who simply want to live normal lives: We are actively compromising our own security and the security of Israel as well.
Daniel Quinn is a licensed clinical social worker with a local public school system. Last summer, he lived and worked for 2 months in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, volunteering as a clinical consultant with the Palestine Children's Relief Fund.
Israel's Apartheid Wall: Environmental Disaster in Palestine
In 1961, the world was transfixed as the Soviet Union enclosed West Berlin, Germany, in the 96-mile, 12-foot-high Berlin Wall. The social implications of the wall had a profound impact on world politics for nearly 30 years.
In 2003, the world remains largely ignorant of the fact that Israel is building a 200-mile, 25-foot-high Apartheid Wall around the West Bank of Palestine. Palestinians have named it after the reviled South African term meaning apartness. In the northern West Bank, the first phase of the Apartheid Wall is to be approximately 70 miles long and is to include electric fences, a dead zone, trenches, cameras, sensors and security patrols, all at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.
The wall will not mark the 1967 border, also known as the Green Line. The first phase will place 45,000 West Bank acres on the Israeli side, approximately three percent of Palestinians land mass. The footprint of the wall itself will be enormous, with as much as 8,750 acres completely lost. Construction of the wall will mean the removal of tens of thousands of trees and will effect the hydrology of the watersheds. This will cause changes in water quantity and quality, stream channel morphology and groundwater levels. Surface water flow will be altered, and there will be an increase in erosion and sedimentation.
The impacts on the regions water supplies around the wall are also of serious concern. The climate of Palestine is semi-arid, and water sources are precious. In villages around Qalqilya and Tulkarm, more than 30 wells will be lost in the first phase of the wall. These wells, located in the western groundwater basin, were drilled prior to the 1967 occupation of Palestine by Israel. As a result, Palestinians will lose nearly 18 percent of their share of the basins water.
Construction activities and the long-term presence of a continuous 25-foot-high impervious barrier will cause a decrease in populations of animals and plants. The wall will cause habitat loss from the footprint and construction. As the micro-ecology of the area is impacted, exotic weeds, pests and pathogens will more easily invade and thrive in the disturbed areas. Animal populations will be fragmented and distribution patterns will be altered. The remaining small populations would then be vulnerable to all of the problems associated with rarity: genetic deterioration from inbreeding, random drift in gene frequencies and difficulty recovering from environmental catastrophes. Some species may disappear completely.
In addition to the problems associated with the wall, Israel is responsible for numerous other environmental impacts on Palestine. Israeli settlements annually discharge 224,000 tons of waste into Palestine, often polluting villages, streams and farms. Drinking water is contaminated by broken, but unrepaired, pipelines and sewage. More than 250,000 olive and other fruit trees have been destroyed in the last two years. This is all in addition to the environmental destruction that wars and their associated industries bring -- including poisoning from the use of depleted uranium shells to land and property laid waste by fire, bombings and the machines of war. During the 35 years of occupation, Israeli authorities have neglected to consider the management, transfer or disposal of solid waste within Palestine. As a consequence, much land is rendered unfit for either agricultural or domestic use. The Israeli authorities also prevent municipalities from transporting solid waste to dumping sites outside city and village boundaries. Many Palestinian villages and cities have no other choice but to resort to using alternative dumping sites in urban areas where there is no environmental monitoring. In some areas, air pollution has become a problem due to burning garbage.
The Israeli government, military and colonizers -- with the assistance of 14 billion dollars of aid from the US government this year alone -- steal the Palestinians water, destroy their crops and take their land. The US government and the citizens of the US must reassess their stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and intervene to stop Israels war on the environment and on the civilian population of Palestine. Hopefully, this generations Berlin Wall will not stand.
John Reese was recently in Palestine for seven months working with the International Solidarity Movement and the Palestinian Hydrology Group. John is from Seattle, Washington, and has been a peace activist since the Vietnam War, as well as a hydrogeologist and environmental consultant for 20 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit
More about the Wall:
Israeli security fence casts shadow
A World Bank report: The Separation Fence Will Hurt Palestinians Immensely
The Fence Crosses Agricultural Roads and Pathways and Cuts Off Residents from their Water Resources, Schools, Businesses and Public Services - A report written by Bank experts for the U.S. and Norway governments, the U.N. and European Community has studied the impact of the separation fence being built by Israel since the summer of 2002. The report warns against the severe effects of the fence construction on the Palestinian population living in its vicinity, east of the green line.
The Wall in Palestine: Security as Pretense for Dispossession
Jamal Juma', The Electronic Intifada, 18 August 2003 Here in Palestine we have been watching with great despair the visits of Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to Washington. Amidst the rhetoric of negotiations, over 100 bulldozers are working non-stop, every day, to continue construction of the Wall, which highlights the actual path that the Road Map is paving. While President Bush was correct in calling the Wall "a problem" and referring to it as "a wall snaking through the West Bank," on the ground there is no sign of an end to what has been called the largest "project" ever undertaken by Israel. PENGON coordinator Jamal Juma' comments.
The collapse of the hudna in a wave to terror attacks and assassinations, Israel Defense Forces raids on towns in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and the freeze on the implementation of the road map are all reminiscent of the wretched days before the army launched Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002. The Israeli security forces's take over of terror centers during that same operation helped pave the way to political and economic reforms in the Palestinian Authority and to the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as PA prime minister. Abbas's government accepted responsibility for implementing the road map and, primarily, for aggressively combating terrorism.
The deterioration in the security situation has exposed the weakness of the Abbas government in the face of Hamas's increased power and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's subversive efforts. In light of the lack of a moderate and trustworthy alternative, however, doing away with the Abbas government will clear the way for violent anarchy. Declaring the failure of the road map is likely to drag the sides into a never-ending bloody cycle.
An examination of the results of the road map, however, shows that any attempt to let the sides manage the crisis and stop a further deterioration themselves does not really end well. Emotions and conflicting interests make it difficult for the Israeli government and the PA to take even the most modest of confidence-building measures.
As the days pass since U.S. President George W. Bush presented the road map, the developments on the ground illustrate the absolute necessity for active international involvement, primarily American, even during the implementation of the various stages of that same plan. It is not enough that the White House spokesman preaches to Israel that it "needs to take into account the effect that actions they take have on the peace process."
The strongest power in the world must increase its involvement in the Jerusalem-Ramallah axis. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell cannot fully perform his duty by publicly warning that "the end of the road map is a cliff that both sides will fall off." Powell and his three partners in the Mideast Quartet are those who came up with the road map. The failure of the initiative will be seen, first and foremost, as a failure by the Israelis and Palestinians; but the patrons will not be able to shirk their responsibility.
Powell's intention to send his deputy, Richard Armitage, to the region in an attempt to save the road map should be welcomed. Bush's decision to freeze the assets of six Hamas officials is also deserving of praise, as is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's goading of the PA that it battle the Islamic extremists.
In order for Bush to be "very much engaged" in forging a Mideast peace, as he promised on the weekend, however, he must tighten American supervision on the implementation of the road map. The U.S. must demonstrate a level of determination fitting of a power that has declared its commitment to peace in the region - this, of course, without exempting the Israelis and Palestinians themselves from the responsibility for a deterioration in the situation and from the need to halt it wisely.
A chronology of events in the Middle East
Special report: Israel and the Middle East
PA begins action against militants (August 24)
Palestinian security forces yesterday appeared to be taking preliminary steps against the terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip following heavy pressure from the U.S. on top Palestinian leaders this weekend.
Sharon faces new corruption inquiry (August 20)
Attorney general investigates claims that Israeli prime minister favoured childhood friends in compensation for land taken by state.
Weekly report on human rights violations Report, PCHR, 21 August 2003
This week, Israeli forces assassinated a Palestinian activist in Hebron and in an apparent wilful killing Israeli forces killed a child in Tulkarem. Israeli forces continued to indiscriminately shell Palestinian residential areas and invaded a number Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli forces demolished a home in Rafah and raided a number of homes in the West Bank. Three homes were demolished as Israel continued its reprisals against families of wanted Palestinians. Israeli forces established three new observation towers in Khan Yunis and instated a total siege on the occupied Palestinian territories.
Palestinians languish in Israeli jails
Thousands of Palestinian political prisoners are being held by Israel - and many thousands more have passed through Israeli jails during nearly three years of the current Palestinian intifada.
`Torture in Israel has again become routine' (August 18)
A report released yesterday by the Public Committee Against Torture claims that the use of torture in the interrogation of Palestinian suspects has increased significantly over the past two years.
854 Israeli Violations Of Truce In July: Report
GAZA CITY, Aug 12 (IslamOnline.net) - Israel has in the last month alone killed seven Palestinians and carried out 854 violations of the three-month truce declared by Palestinian resistance factions, a Palestinian human rights report revealed Tuesday, August12 . The seven victims included four children under18 , one man who was assassinated by Israeli troops and two others, who were killed by Israeli settlers, according to a report by the Palestinian National Information Center of the Gaza Information Service. Israeli tanks shelled residential districts and houses 299 times while public and private establishments were bombed 312 times, it said, adding that eight government, public and private establishments had been partially or totally damaged. (...) The report further said that Israeli occupation forces erected 46 military checkpoints and obstructed the Palestinians' freedom of movement for67 times during the same period. It registered 21 Israeli operations of scooping up Palestinian farmlands as well as two attacks on media correspondents and reporters. Israeli bulldozers devastated 3510 donums of land, uprooted 100757 trees, destroyed 15 greenhouses, three stables and confiscated 4733 donums of farmland owned by Palestinians for the interest of Jewish settlers, indicated the report.
Gush Shalom Political positions
The Green Line (the borders of the pre 1967 war) Will be a border of peace Between two free and sovereign states: Israel and Palestine. All Israeli settlers in the now occupied territories will return to Israel. Jerusalem will be an open city, and will serve as capital to both states: East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel. Both parties can reach a just and agreed upon solution for the tragedy of Palestinian refugees, based on these guidelines: Israel will acknowledge its share of responsibility for this tragedy, and will accept, in principle, the right of return. The refugees will be offered several possible venues of rehabilitation and compensation. One of these venues, will allow a limited number of refugees, the right to return To the state of Israel, based on a formula that will maintain the Jewish majority in the state of Israel. These positions do not offer absolute justice, but rather, a formula which can be accepted by the majority of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. -- An elaborate draft of a peace proposal
Israeli plot to create a mock Al-Qaeda cell
GAZA CITY : A senior Palestinian security official claimed Saturday his services had uncovered an Israeli plot to create a mock Al-Qaeda cell in the Gaza Strip, while an Israeli official dismissed the charge as "absurd". Gaza head of preventive security Rashid Abu Shbak told journalists at a press conference that Israeli agents, posing as operatives of Osama bin Laden's terrorist group, recruited Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. "Over the past nine months, we've been investigating eight cases in which Israeli intelligence posing as Al- Qaeda operatives recruited Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," said Abu Shbak, referring to a series of e-mails and phone call conversations. He added that three Palestinians had been detained. Abu Shbak's revelations came two days after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon charged Al-Qaeda militants were operating in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon raising fears of an intensification of Israeli military operations. CLIP
PeaceWatch - Fencing around the Issues (August 12)
For anyone who did not understand that the road map "peace process" is a tragicomic charade, the twin Palestinian suicide attacks of August 12 should be a wake up call. It is not surprising that both sides are violating both the letter and the spirit of the agreement while blithely proclaiming their commitment to peace. What is surprising is the nearly total silence of the US and EU in the face of Israeli and Palestinian violations, and the almost total silence of peace groups. Only one non-issue has preoccupied both the US government and the different peace and Palestinian advocacy groups in recent weeks: the Israel security fence. CLIP
An imposed solution is the only option (August 24)
Even if the hudna collapses altogether in the wake of the horrifying scenes we saw this week on Shmuel Hanavi Street in Jerusalem, the basic facts will not change: Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not capable of putting an end to war. This is not because of this or the other leader, or any lack of good will on both sides, but because of the objective circumstances in which the two societies find themselves. While a dominant military power and a population under occupation cannot be assigned the same degree of responsibility, the inability to rise above the situation is shared by all. Indeed, the key question is not what Sharon wants or whether Abu Mazen is capable of controlling the Arab street, but whether the two societies have the practical ability to climb out of the rut into which they have dug themselves. The problem is immeasurably greater for the strong side. The truth is, Israel can no longer give up its stranglehold on the territories because it cannot even free itself from the shackles of occupation. Since 1982, Israel has been imprisoned no less than the Palestinians by a monster of its own creation. CLIP
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