As this issue went to press (June 26), Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was meeting with US president George W. Bush at the White House in Washington. It was the second meeting between the two men since each came to office earlier this year, and a calculated demonstration of the US’s partiality towards Israel. US Senator George Mitchell, author of the Mitchell Report that is supposed to be the basis for a resumption of the ‘peace process’, said after the meeting had been announced that Bush should also invite Palestinian president Yasser Arafat to the White House in order to show balance; he was studiously ignored. Instead Arafat had to make do with a meeting with William Burns, the US special envoy to the Middle East, in Ramallah on June 23. Burns reportedly assured Arafat that the US remained committed to the ‘peace process’; Arafat may have been reassured, but few others Palestinians can have been.
All this is of course just more of the posturing that has characterised the ‘peace process’ from the outset. The situation in Palestine has fallen out of the headlines since the Mitchell Report and the ‘ceasefire’ brokered by CIA director George Tenet earlier in June. The ceasefire is illusory; but the illusion is being maintained because it suits the west’s latest strategy, which — in the terms of the Mitchell Report — is for a ceasefire, followed by a cooling-off period and then a resumption of negotiations. In a sharp contrast to his earlier bullish attitude, Sharon said after the deaths of two Israeli soldiers in a Hamas operation on June 23 that the intifada could not be defeated “by force alone”. Voice of America radio summed up the attitude, reporting paradoxically on June 24 that the ceasefire was holding “despite repeated clashes”. Clearly they too know that what people say matters more than what is really happening.
The Palestinians, meanwhile, have no illusions about the ceasefire, as thousands continue to suffer the consequences of zionist “restraint”. The Palestinian human-rights group LAW reported on June 22 that “Israeli forces have continued to commit grave violations against Palestinian civilians over the past week, including the excessive use of armed force against peaceful demonstrations”. LAW recorded three civilian deaths during the week of June 14-20, all of them of children. It also catalogued 19 cases of soldiers firing on unarmed demonstrators, in which over 50 Palestinians were injured, and 16 cases of attacks on Palestinians by settlers, in which over 30 Palestinians were injured. As overt military activity was reduced, moreover, demolitions and burning of property, by both settlers and soldiers, have increased since the ceasefire. The Palestinian areas also remain under siege, and continue to suffer grave economic damage.
The intifada, and the Muslim response to it, is now following a pattern that must be familiar to Islamic activists: an initial burst of activity, greeted with ecstacy and great hope by Muslims around the world, followed by a gradual decline, the reassertion of control by our enemies, and growing disillusion and disappointment with the gains made. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have pledged to continue the intifada and carry on rejecting the ‘peace process’, but the question facing them remains the same as it was before: yes, the struggle must be continued, but against whom? The ultimate enemies are the Zionists of Israel and beyond them the US and the West; but the problem is that in Palestine the immediate enemy are all too often the fellow-Palestinians of the Palestinian Authority (PA), conned into doing the Israelis’ dirty work for them. In the past Islamic movements have stopped short of targeting the PA, but as Arafat’s security forces move against the Islamic movement once more, the problem returns with greater force.
The root of this problem is that in Palestine, in other countries and everywhere else, Islamic movements are forced to operate on a battlefield controlled and designed by our enemies in every way, at every level. Until this control is broken, by Islamic movements building Islamic states in Muslim countries and then working together to assert the collective power of the Ummah against the domination of the West, problems like the question of the PA in Palestine (and Kashmir, Chechenya, the Balkans, Mindanao, Sudan etc.) are unlikely to be solved. The important thing at this stage, as shown by the mujahideen in Palestine, is that the fight must not be abandoned, nor any ground willingly conceded.