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IRISH TIMES on EU Punishment of Palestinians

Subject:        IRISH TIMES on EU Punishment of Palestinians
Date:   Sat, 08 Apr 2006 20:16:23 +0300
From:   John Whitbeck

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below is an excellent article in today's IRISH TIMES on the
European Union's obscene anti-Palestinian policy, which, above and
beyond the intentional infliction of further punishment on the
long-suffering Palestinian people, seriously risks convincing Arabs and
Muslims everywhere that not just the United States but the
West/Christendom as a whole views them as sub-humans unworthy of basic
human rights, with all the ugly consequences likely to flow from that
The writer is the IRISH TIMES' Paris correspondent.
*Palestinians now being punished for choosing Hamas*
*By Lara Marlowe*


Israel and the United States are concocting a Palestinian state that is
famished and thirsty, shrunken and chopped into pieces, writes *Lara

So the gutless European Commission has cut aid to the Palestinian
Authority. What sin did the Palestinians commit to deserve rejection by
their main donor? They held a free and fair election that was regarded
as exemplary throughout the Arab world. But the wrong people won: the
Islamic party Hamas. The Palestinians have to be punished.

The EU once showed a modicum of courage in attempting to counter-balance
Washington's unconditional support for Israel. Even Tony Blair, when he
was being sucked into George W Bush's Iraq disaster, sought assurances
that once it was over, the US would seek justice for the Palestinians.

Now the EU slavishly follows Washington's cue. The Hamas-led government
must jump through the hoops, say "uncle", or we'll boycott them, starve
them and impose a take-it-or-leave-it "unilateral peace".

Yes, Hamas carried out horrific suicide bombings. Dare one even mention
the disproportion in casualties, that more than 3,000 Palestinians have
been killed since the second intifada started in September 2000,
compared to some 1,000 Israelis?

Hamas has maintained a unilateral ceasefire for nearly a year and a
half, with no encouragement from the West.

The US and EU demand that Hamas recognise Israel, renounce violence and
observe past peace agreements. When did Israel recognise Palestine,
renounce violence against Palestinians or observe past peace agreements?
Ariel Sharon, hailed by Bush as "a man of peace," renounced the Oslo
agreement and violated the "road map". Our double standards have never
been so blatant.

Diplomats in Israel compare Hamas to Sinn Féin during the twilight zone
before peace and decommissioning. Hamas officials keep making
conciliatory statements, trial balloons that they often pull back. Twice
this week, the Palestinian foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas
member, spoke of a "two-state solution," once in a letter to the UN
secretary general Kofi Annan.

In a recent interview with Le Figaro, Khaled Meshaal, the head of
Hamas's political bureau whom the Israelis tried to assassinate, said
Hamas is "reaching out" to Israel.

"If Israel evacuates the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and recognises
the right of return for refugees and dismantles the new wall, I can
guarantee you that Hamas, and with it all Palestinians, will be ready
for serious steps, founded on justice and equity, in view of a permanent
peace with the Israelis." Meshaal said. All of Meshaal's demands are
grounded in international law.

Since Hamas won the election, Israel has kept $50 million per month in
customs duties which it collects at crossings into the Palestinian
territories. This money belongs to the Palestinians.

Without it, the authority cannot meet its 150,000-strong payroll. Nearly
half of the authority's employees are policemen. "Imagine 73,000 unpaid,
armed men in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank," a UN official told
Le Monde.

The EU cut another €30 million in direct aid to the authority yesterday.
The US and EU say they'll funnel humanitarian aid through the UN agency
UNWRA and non-governmental organisations. But aid workers are neither
able nor willing to circumvent the role of the authority. By dividing
Palestinian officials into "good guys" and "bad guys", Washington and
Brussels are destroying the administration which was to have served as
the foundation for an independent Palestinian state.

On a trip to Jerusalem at the beginning of this month to participate in
a TV5 Monde programme, I was struck by the deep pessimism of Israeli and
Arab colleagues.

Conditions in the Palestinian territories have never been worse. The
contrast between the Pharaonic grandeur of Tel Aviv's new Ben Gurion
airport and the Gaza Strip, just a few miles away, is shocking.

Two-thirds of Palestinians now live on less than €55 per month; the
average monthly salary in Israel is €1,268. Since January, there have
been shortages of milk and flour in Gaza, where children are suffering
from malnutrition.

Yesterday's EU slap in the face of the authority occurred one day after
Olmert was asked to form the new Israeli government. Olmert repeated his
intention to work towards setting "a permanent borderline, even without
an agreement" along the eight-metre high wall which Israel is building
the length of the West Bank. If Israel can't get the Palestinians to go
along with the plan (why would they?), Olmert says he'll seek "an
understanding with the international community, particularly the US and
president George W Bush".

Olmert intends to annex all land west of the wall. Remember: when the
wall was started, the Sharon government swore it was temporary. "We have
already lost 78 per cent of British mandate Palestine," Awad Duaibes, a
journalist with the Voice of Palestine radio station in Ramallah, told
me. "Now we're expected to give up another 10 per cent of the 22 per
cent that's left."

The new Palestinian government was sworn in by video conference because
Israel will not allow Hamas officials to travel from Gaza to the West
Bank. The Israelis are considering a Gaza-West Bank tunnel, probably for
rail traffic only.

The large settlement blocs which Olmert intends to annex and the Israeli
"military zone" in the Jordan river valley would break the West Bank
into at least five pieces. Olmert will also keep aquifers and the holy
sites in Arab East Jersalem, Hebron and near Bethlehem.

Israel does not allow the Palestinians to have a port or an airport. All
merchandise enters Gaza through the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing.
Olmert would maintain a similar stranglehold on the West Bank, with
Israel controlling the Jordanian border.

Olmert's objective is to keep as much land as possible, with as few
Arabs as possible. "The most painful moment of my life was the day I
discovered that accounting was stronger than the history and geography
of Israel," he said recently. "I realised with alarm that if we hung on
to everything, in 2020 there would be 60 per cent Arabs and 40 per cent
Jews." This is the Palestinian state that Israel and the US are
concocting: famished and thirsty, shrunken and chopped into pieces. It
doesn't take a Middle East expert to see there's no peace for Palestine
down this road. Surely the EU can do better.

© The Irish Times /
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