Press Release: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MPAC Welcomes Israeli Disengagement From Occupied Territories
The long awaited withdrawal of Israeli settlers and forces from seized Palestinian land began last week as the world watch with what follows next. This operation, which is expected to mark the end of an era in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, must kick-start a process that will spread to other parts of the occupied historical Palestinian land and free its people from the grotesque conditions they are daily subjected to as a result of the long and torturous occupation. Israeli forces have forcefully occupied Palestinian territories with staunch backers in the West pre and after the 1967 war resulting in a record level of brutality and inhumanity that can neither compare to America’s Deep South or apartheid South Africa. All of these for standing up in defiant defense of a land that had been inhabited by the Palestinians before the creation of Israel in 1948 after the tragic incident in which Britain evacuated the Palestinians and some of the remaining Palestinian population were brutally massacred in what has come to be known as – Al Nakba [The Catastrophe].Mahmoud Abass, the Palestinian Authority President speaking on Friday, looked like one filled with some level of satisfaction on the achievement made so far under his administration. He said he was filled with joy and saw the withdrawal a reward for patience and sacrifice, which came about as a result of the determination and wisdom of his people to see to the end of the occupation and also represented the effectiveness of armed resistance. In the shadow of Abass speech was a woman who hoped her son (one of several thousands killed by the Israeli occupation forces) could be with her to join in the celebration. But as the text of Abass speech read, these martyrs did not die in vain, because it was the determination of the Gazans that led to the evacuation of the settlers.
However, Gaza represents only 5% of the occupied Palestinian territory and as many as 13,350 Gazans were made homeless in the first 10 months of last year alone by Israel’s giant armour-plated Caterpillar bulldozers – a total that easily exceeds the 8,500 illegal Gaza settlers that were removed. Also, it must not be overlooked that while Sharon claims to be unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza and some parts of the West Bank, he is busy expanding other illegal settlement in some other parts of the occupied territories. This pull out and the ones that will follow must be seen in the context of what has preceded; what is possible or not. The events that have started playing out should not just be watched, but Israel has to be encouraged to go the whole hog and withdraw from all the Palestinian lands they have illegally occupied. It is the completion of this process that will lead to the two states existing side by side in peace and security. Since the Gaza strip represents only 5% of the occupied land, it should be seen in not so much what has been given up but what remains occupied.
Britain and America in particular, the two principal actors in bringing about the creation and upbringing of this tragic episode in the Middle-East history, must now actively and openly engage in the processes to bring about a just and fair resolution of the conflict for all the people to see. Britain through its intrusive and colonial adventures brought about the creation of Israel while America and its willing partners have continued to militarily enrich and fund Israel’s unjust occupation of the Palestinian land. As we all wait to see what follows, it is time that America jettisons its open-ended diplomatic shielding of Israel at the UN; especially in the scandalous misuse of its veto power, as well as through irresponsible and counterproductive cash and military supports. It is time that these players realize what the rest of the world already knows; that they have never been credible mediators in the search for peace in the zone and that most of their acts are detrimental on all fronts; both domestic and international. Indeed, the vast majority of the world’s leaders have always categorically condemned Israel’s actions and illegal occupation of the Palestinian land and it is time for the two administrations to rescue themselves from the Israeli lobbies that are forcing them to act against their own national interests. The Bush and Blair administrations need to take these sentiments seriously and consider that the lack of a strong U.S./Britain response to Israel excesses and illegal occupation of its neighbour’s lands only strengthens the dangerous perception of unethical foreign policy in the conflict, even if they claim that the perception is not grounded in fact.
Though we do not presume to fully understand the vast complexities of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, MPAC reiterates its support for a two state solution, in which the Palestinian people would be guaranteed a viable, sovereign and independent nation on contiguous territory. True and lasting peace that ensures a safe and secure Palestine and Israel will require an end to the occupation, the dismantlement of illegal settlements, removal of controversial “Security Fence,” and preserving the right of return for Palestinians.
Director of Media & Communications
Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC