Does anyone remember Joshua from the Old Testament? This particular part of the Tanakh is the most violent and also a harsh reminder about the consistency of Jewish aggressiveness against non-Jews since their beginning. It is sadly ironic that these events are taking place in the same physical area where Joshua fought his “battle” killing every living thing.
I can hardly believe the images I’m seeing on the Internet, the stories I’m hearing from friends in the West Bank, and the reports I’m listening to on the BBC radio. Jericho, which up until yesterday has been one of the only Palestinian areas that was completely under Palestinian Authority control, was invaded by Israeli military tanks in order to apprehend PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) leader Ahmad Sa’adat and other Palestinians who are accused of assassinating Rehavam Ze’vi, a former minister in the Israeli cabinet. The Israelis were able to storm the prison because the American and English guards who were monitoring the prison had left. I find it curious that the Israelis knew this only fifteen minutes after their departure. Even more suspicious is the fact that the last warden message we received from the American embassy was particularly strict with warnings about travel in the West Bank. It seemed odd to be only related to American paranoia about the Hamas elections. It seems like there was some collusion going on between the U.S., England, and Israel.
In the aftermath of the event, the West Bank became a place that I just don’t know. I was shocked to learn that an American professor who teaches at the Arab American University in Jenin was kidnapped (I learned about this after receiving an email from a friend worried that it was me). The British Council and AMIDEAST offices in Ghaza were set ablaze and there were all kinds of protests by PFLP and other organizations in the West Bank. Other foreign aid workers and teachers were kidnapped as well, but all of these people have since been released (thankfully kidnapping in Palestine is an entirely different animal than in Iraq). The Israeli Occupation Forces also re-invaded places like Aida refugee camp in the Beit Lahem area, where they shot, bombed, and arrested people for five hours. The BBC has some photographs of the devastation and humiliation that Palestinians suffered at the hands of Israel’s invading and occupying army.
I’m still in shock about what happened and I find it hard to respond to what’s going on without being there. On my gut level this all seems to be provocation by the Israelis given their upcoming election in a couple of weeks. It’s an easy way for Olmert to show that he can be militant and forceful like Sharon. However, as always, Ali Abunimah has the best and most thorough analysis of what went on. Here are some excerpts of his article:
Let us remember why Ahmad Sa’adat and other prisoners in the Jericho jail were wanted by the occupation authorities. Saadat is accused of killing Rehavam Ze’evi, the founder of the Moledet Party and an Israeli cabinet minister. The missing contextual facts are that the PFLP killed Ze’evi in retaliation for Israel’s murder of its leader Abu Ali Mustafa (Mustafa al-Zibri) in August 2001. Al-Zibri was not carrying arms or fighting, but sitting at his desk when an Israeli Apache helicopter fired a missile at him blowing him to pieces. Ze’evi was the leading advocate in Israel for the destruction of the Palestinian people, calling for their wholesale expulsion. The party he founded is running on the same platform in the current Israeli election campaign as anyone can read on its website.
In the present atmosphere, we are being told that Hamas, which has maintained a truce for more than 12 months, and which has declared its willingness to come to terms with an Israel that withdraws to the 1967 border, is beyond the pale for Europeans and Americans to talk to until it “recognizes Israel” and “renounces violence.” Why were such conditions never imposed on Israel? How is it that a proud, boastful ethnic cleanser like Ze’evi could sit in the Israeli cabinet with Ariel Sharon and Nobel Prize winner Shimon Peres for years and not one of those Western officials who today threaten the Palestinians with an end to all aid for electing Hamas uttered not one single word? Why is it acceptable for the US Congress to hand over billions of dollars to an Israel whose government ministers advocate ethnic cleansing? How is it that instead of demanding the arrest of the murderers of Abu Ali Mustafa and thousands of other Palestinians, Britain and the US collude with Israel to commit new crimes under international law?
There’s much more to his article, and I encourage people to read it in total. I’m headed to the Dead Sea tomorrow, just across from Eriha (Jericho). It will be strange to sit across that magnificent sea and imagine what must be going on on the other side.