uploaded : Saturday 28th Dec 2002 at 14:58
by : Khalid Itum
The news was on, on Nov. 21, 2002, in Washington, DC. A horrific scene
appeared. Emergency workers running around, screaming and yelling, voices
moaning in pain, and a bus blackened by explosion. I should have watched in
disbelief, but I did not. This had become commonplace, unfortunately.
A crowded bus was blown up in Jerusalem. Initial reports kept changing;
ultimately the figure settled on eleven dead and dozens wounded. Suicide
bombings - or I should say homicide bombings - are too easily becoming a fact
of life in Israel and too many of us are actively or passively accepting this
as the status quo. Debate about the morality (or lack thereof) of these
attacks against civilians and about their utility(or lack thereof) for the
Palestinian cause barely exists in the Arab world, let alone in the
Palestinian street. Where there should be earnest and public debate about
these and other Arab issues, there is, instead, a silence evocative of death
and decay - the path the Arab civil society seems to be on today (and seems
to have been on for quite some time now). The Arab Human Development Report
2002, written by Arab scholars, attests to this fact.
The sanctity of human life is not being respected, regardless of whether that
life belongs to an Arab, an Israeli, a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian.
The means that these Palestinian men (and women) and their supporters have
chosen surely will not lead to the ends they claim to be trying to meet.
Every additional homicide bombing in Israel draws the Palestinian people
further away from its ambitions.
The facts speak for themselves. In the last two years, the Israeli public,
when polled about policy towards the Palestinians, has increasingly shifted
from a relatively dovish position to a much more hawkish, right-wing stance.
Labour, once very popular in Israel, trails behind Likud by a very wide
margin today. Given that Israeli elections are now on the horizon, where the
Israeli public stands is a matter of consequence for the future of all
Palestinians. And, to a large degree, Palestinians can affect the mood of the
Israeli public in a way that could be quite favourable to their own cause if
they so choose. The moderates just have to take the matter in their own
But it is not just the Israeli public and the outcome of Israeli elections
that matter here. The world is watching us, Arabs, very closely right now -
and it has been since Sept. 11, 2001. I can assure you of this because I see
it every day, in and out of the classroom, on American national television,
and in the press. International support for the Palestinian people seems to
be waning as the struggle takes on forms unacceptable to most human beings.
My professor Fouad Ajami remarked in the "Arab political thought and
practice" class that there is a place carved somewhere in history for
Palestinian statehood. It is there on the table now for Palestinians and all
Arabs alike to seize. Amidst criticism and pressure from some members of his
own party, even Ariel Sharon accepts its eventuality.
When that Palestinian state is achieved is a matter of our own choosing. It
is there as an element of Arab societies' and Arab leaders' free choice if we
truly want it. How we achieve it, though, is not.
We must choose the path of peace, and choose it now. We must no longer
condone the path of terror. Terror will only bring about more pain, more
suffering and more destruction, not only to the Israelis but also to
ourselves. Peace is the only path if we intend to establish the state of
Palestine. We must no longer accept vengeance and the tactics of the
oppressor that we abhor so much as the way to attain the state of Palestine.
For, in doing so, we diminish the very nobility of the struggle for an
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The writer is a Jordanian student of international relations and economics at
The Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the John Hopkins University. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.
First published in The Jordan Times, December 3, 2002
Visit the Jordan Times website at http://www.jordantimes.com/
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