By Uri Avnery
10 October, 2004
Ariel Sharon announced his plan for unilateral disengagement,
the media reported that the Peace Now movement was preparing a big public
campaign in support. The Prime Ministers office asked them to
desist, fearing that such a campaign would cause the extreme right to
Peace Now was not
the only leftist group that waxed enthusiastic about the
plan. The chiefs of the Labor Party declared that it was really their
own plan and that, therefore, it was their duty to join the government
and help Sharon to implement it.
I was one of the
very few who immediately raised their voice against the plan. I argued
that it was really
a right-wing plan for annexing most of the West Bank, burying the peace
process and deceiving public opinion in Israel and abroad.
I was certain of
this, because I know Sharon. I have been watching the man for 50 years
and have written three biographical essays about him. I know what he
thinks and I know how he operates.
Now Dov Weisglass
has confirmed everything I said and more. In an interview with Haaretz,
he stated that the sole aim of the plan was to freeze the
peace process. The real purpose of the disengagement is
to block negotiations with the Palestinians for dozens of years and
to prevent any discussion about the West Bank, while at the same time
extending the Israeli settlements in a way that will put an end to any
possibility of a future Palestinian state.
Dov Weisglass is
not just anybody. He reminds one of the eminence grise (gray
cardinal), the secretary of Cardinal Richelieu, the Prime Minister
of France 400 years ago. It was said at the time that it was the secretary
who was really in charge behind the scenes.
Weisglass has been
the legal advisor and a close personal friend of Sharon for decades.
He is Sharons special emissary for delicate missions, the man
who can twist Condoleezza Rice around his little finger. In Sharons
menagerie, he is the fox.
His frank statement
is the final word. It puts to shame not only the simple souls of Peace
Now and the less simple souls like Shimon Peres & Co. of the Labor
Party, but also George Bush and the other world leaders who for months
have taken this piece of deceit as a serious peace plan. (Poor Colin
Powell called it historic.)
X X X
disclosure was vying for media attention with the stretcher case
a story that also reveals Sharons methods. It might have
been funny, if it did not threaten such tragic results.
Sharon wants to
destroy UNRWA, the special United Nations Relief and Works Agency that
moderates the misery of the four millions of Palestinian refugees. It
is a big organization with some 25 thousand employees, including teachers,
social workers and physicians, almost all of them, of course, Palestinians.
It provides the refugees with food, education, health services and,
in case of need, a roof over their head. Without it, the refugees would
long ago have descended into an abyss of hunger and despair. At present,
while our army is destroying whole Gaza neighborhoods and their infrastructure,
UNRWA is providing food, tents and medical care to needy Palestinians
who are not refugees.
The very existence
of this organization disturbs Sharon and his generals, who want to break
the resistance of the Palestinians by turning their life into hell.
After working systematically to smash the Palestinian National Authority,
they are now trying to crush UNRWA. As reported in the media, Sharon
ordered his generals to supply the Foreign Offices propaganda
department with secret army photos, in order to prove that UNRWA cooperates
with the terror organizations.
The next day, all
the Israeli TV channels displayed aerial reconnaissance photos showing
a Qassam rocket launcher being loaded into an UNRWA ambulance. That
was the beginning of a wild campaign against the organization. Israeli
diplomats in New York demanded that the Danish UNRWA director, Peter
Hansen, be fired.
Two days later,
the whole thing came apart. UNRWA claimed that the man in the picture
was not carrying a rocket launcher but a stretcher. The generals first
issued a denial, than stuttered, then half-heartedly admitted that,
perhaps, a deplorable mistake had occurred: the professional analysts
in the army intelligence department, lowly sergeants or second lieutenants,
may have misinterpreted the pictures.
This answer needs
investigating. Did the analysts lie or did they believe what they said?
Each possibility is worse than the other.
If the experts
lied, they did nothing unusual. It can be said that they did what intelligence
people do all over the world: supply their bosses with the information
they want to hear. Bush wants to attack Iraq? The CIA provides information
about Sadams WMDs. Sharon wants to destroy UNRWA? Army intelligence
provides photos of Hansens rocket launchers.
Fifty years ago,
when foreign correspondents asked me about the credibility of official
IDF statements, I used to answer that our army does not lie. One should
believe its communiques, without a good reason to the contrary. Those
days are long passed. When I am asked the same question nowadays, I
advise not to believe a single word of army announcements, without good
reason to the contrary.
So it is not surprising
that army intelligence is lying. In countless appearances before the
cabinet and the Knesset foreign-and-security committee, the intelligence
chiefs have peddled outright lies and false assessments. Thats
But there is also
the possibility that the analysts did believe that they were providing
accurate information. And that is even more frightening.
One does not have
to be an expert to see that the man in the photo is not carrying a rocket
launcher. No one carries a heavy object in one hand like the person
in the photo. Clearly, what he is carrying is light. A second glance
also shows that, without doubt, it is indeed a stretcher. It looks like
a stretcher and the man is carrying it like a stretcher. (If it
walks like a duck and squawks like a duck
If the experts
made a mistake, why is that so awful? Its awful because the air
force has often hit rocket launcher squads identified as
such by the same photo analysts, a finding that is transmitted within
seconds and that results in death within seconds. Afterwards the army
spokesmen announce with great satisfaction that another deadly squad
has been eliminated. How many human beings, children including,
have been killed by this kind of certain identification?
Even worse, this
particular mistake practically invites soldiers to shoot
at ambulances carrying the wounded.
I have met Peter
Hansen only once, at a UN conference about the refugees. He struck me
as a decent and principled person. I hope he will stay in his post .
X X X
One case of killing
caused by certain identification this week should have shocked
Iman Alhamas, a
13-year old girl from Rafah, was on her way to school, following the
same route she took every day. Suddenly deadly fire enveloped her. The
doctors extracted 20 bullets from her body. Since not every bullet hits
its target and some pass right through, it may be assumed that at least
100 bullets were fired at her from several army positions one
hundred bullets for one little girl. In her bag, only schoolbooks were
The army spokesmen
issued the standard mendacious statement: the girl had entered a forbidden
zone, the soldiers took her for a terrorist, the bag
looked as if it contained explosives, etc. etc.
So what happened
The simplest explanation
is that the soldiers shot as if they were at a shooting range as revenge
for the two children killed by a Quassam rocket in the Israeli town
Sderot. But that is not easy to believe.
no less alarming, is that the soldiers are in a perpetual state of panic.
I have personally seen soldiers in panic shooting at everything that
moves. Perhaps this is what happened here, too: the girl threw her bag
away and started to flee after a warning shot was fired, and the soldiers,
instead of shooting at the bag, shot at her.
X X X
The skeptical attitude
of the Israeli public towards announcements of the security apparatus
caused another tragedy this week.
On the eve of the
Jewish New Year, the General Security Service advised the public not
to cross into Sinai because of urgent security warnings. The people
voted non-confidence with their feet. In spite of the repeated warnings,
tens of thousands spent the Jewish holiday season there. They believed
that the warning was politically motivated and that, anyhow, if the
threat were serious, the authorities would have closed the border.
This time, however,
the warnings were justified. Many dozens were killed and wounded in
organization would have thought of provoking the Egyptian government.
Therefore, it appears that something new has happened.
We have warned
many times that the young Arab and Muslim generation in the world will
not stand aside forever while the TV brings reports every day that show
how the Arab nation is humiliated. The apathy of the Arab and Muslim
governments towards the events in the occupied Palestinian territories
looks to them like humiliating cowardice or rank treason.
of the Palestinian people by Sharon and his predecessors has created
an explosive situation. The invasion of Iraq by Bush has provided the
spark. An Arab-Muslim resistance movement is coming into being, a resistance
that sees no difference between Iraq and Palestine, between Israel,
the US and the Arab governments.
That, it seems,
is the message of Taba.