NO PEACE PROCESS AND NO CEASE-FIRE EITHER
By Christopher Barder
The terms we are being forced to read are fraudulent and misinforming. They are a part of a disinformation process which colours perceptions in a most damaging way. They are rooted in agendas which are not based upon designs for Israel's safety or security. Indeed, political terminology derives from attempts at approximating to realities and labelling them. So many of the terms in current use, liberal, conservative, democratic fore examples, stem from usage in the first half of the nineteenth century when it was necessary to describe emerging European political ideas and phenomena.
Today we have equivalents. Peace process' is one of them: it is supposed to mean a kind of evolutionary and developing set of trends lending themselves to peace. It appears that it takes the form often of agreements which are then violated with impunity so that they can be improved on for the benefit of one side. This is especially true in the Middle East version, where there is a requirement apparently, that land be given away in order to buy peace and therefore since the land given is never enough to ensure peace, peace must be contingent upon the next offer. Thus there is never peace prevalent for long as that would be to signal enough land had been given away to cause peace. It is scarcely surprising therefore that all negotiations have been to some extent under the shadow of the gun.
However, what Shimon Peres did in meeting with Yasser Arafat was to signal that it is legitimate to talk with enemies and those responsible for the enmity and that is constructive.[i] Yet all the world with eyes to see knows that Arafat: 1. does not want peace with Israel and nor does his constituency'; 2. could cease the incitement and provocation in the speeches, media and culture of the PA; 3. has no intention of stopping hatred and murder; 4. has the track record for brutality and intimidation to stop anyone in his way from doing anything (yet PLO brutalities in Lebanon, for example, have been conveniently forgotten). In a philosophical and realpolitik sense therefore, anything goes so long as it means the process' is maintained talking while murdering, accepting violence as a part of everyday life, building to protect against snipers but tolerating the shooting anything except what international law recognises as essential: punishment of offences. And also what international peace can depend upon: deterrence of aggression. This list goes on: policing borders to maintain peace is essential. Where there are no borders, policing still remains a duty. Different ethnic or religious or political communities still require policing. All these norms are abandoned by the rest of the world when it comes to Israel and by Israel's governments, under that duress, too.
As Professor Beres has powerfully put it: "With Israel, as with the torture victim, the declared motive of the perpetrator is largely a fiction. The torturer tortures because he enjoys torturing. The Palestinian terrorist murders Jews because that, exactly, is what he wants to do. The torturer cannot be stopped by answering his questions (the overwhelming majority of torture victims know absolutely nothing about such questions, and the torturer knows that his victims know nothing). The terrorist cannot be stopped by giving in to terror. In the case of Israel, the Palestinian terrorist will cease his terror only when the Jewish State has itself ceased to exist. It is not surprising, in this connection, that all official PA maps identify Israel proper as "Occupied Palestine." And Israel does not exist on the maps of a single Arab country."[ii]
It is equally absurd, and a dangerous misnomer, to call the prevalent conditions of June-July 2001 a cease-fire'. There is no cease-fire with deaths and shooting continuing. It is not, as the media choose to misrepresent it, a fragile affair struggling to be maintained. That may be useful as an interpretation glorifying to the Mitchell Report, the CIA, Kofi Anan and the hopes of the State Department, but in reality it is an utterly misleading concept. Frequency and intensity of confrontation are issues relevant to the measurement of conflict but cease-fires can only be in place or not in place. They cannot be half in place by virtue of level of firing if it exists at all, then it has not been ceased from. That is all there is to the matter.
Ariel Sharon has limited the effectiveness both of pre-emption and of deterrence. As such he has rendered violence unpunished and removed the means of protecting the citizens of Israel from what they require, in a number of respects. The current situation does not, as the spin-doctors assert, require a political settlement. First it requires a security/safety one. That is a military one. Retribution must be swift, terrible and superbly targeted. Above all it must be sufficient to make escalation impossible, due to its speed and ferocity but also its precision. It must be shown that violence will render the PA and its security services, inoperable, unable to function, and the promise to make Jewish lives safe must be kept: no more empty words or threatened punishments. This is not a matter of a cycle of violence. It is a matter of rendering the enemy unable to function in a violent manner.
This is not so hard to achieve. Sealed off in their own towns, with no communications and armaments buildings undamaged, with all muster points and police and intelligence venues destroyed and broadcasting facilities rendered useless (remember the NATO attack on Belgrade's Serbian television building), the water and electricity supplies in the hands of Israel -- then price becomes too high to pay. Hence endangerment of Jewish lives must be shown to be an option unavailable to Islamic Jihad or Hamas and, as they are parts of Palestinian society, that society which tolerates them, in its midst, will be destroyed. In other words, if Nabil Sha'ath and Hanan Ashrawi and other western supported spokespeople (moderates') will indeed not allow decent international cooperation on behalf of law and order to occur, then Israel will do its own work and the purposes of the Oslo accords are null and void.[iii]
After learning how neighbours should behave, IF that lesson were ever learnt, be it by the hard way or any other, IF Palestinian behaviour and education turned towards acceptance and peace, and that for a protracted period of years, then and only then are talks of any value, and then and only then can peace be said to be on the Arab agenda in any true and meaningful sense. Until such a day, which is tragically hard to imagine, the value of human life and the living in peace of all citizens, must be ensured by all the force and determination necessary. And it is time that these grim realities were faced up to and the deceptive descriptions which do nothing but postpone and mislead were abandoned.
What the statistics show cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.[iv] Nor can it continue to be described and circumscribed by verbal distortions for where truth is a casualty, so too is human life.
05 July 2001
The author writes on Middle East affairs.