Israeli tanks fire shells at us and randomly fire heavy machineguns, killing unarmed civilians, and destroying their homes. Occupation soldiers storm unarmed citizens' homes, wreaking havoc, destroying and plundering like the soldiers of Holako did in the cities and towns of old Arab and Islamic civilizations. These Israeli soldiers are like Holako who destroyed the Baghdad library and turned the river black with its ink. These Israeli soldiers do not belong to any civilization, but to the ideology of Holako that aimed at destroying civilizations.
Faced with this barbaric advance that has reached to the birthplace of Christ, with tanks that have desecrated Shepherds' Field, with vengeful bullets that have touched Omar's Mosque and with weapons surrounding the Aqsa Mosque, the following question comes to the mind of every sane person:
What does Sharon want, and where is he pushing the region?
Some see Sharon's criminal acts and behavior as part of his election agenda for competing against a strong Netanyahu for leadership of the Likud in two months time. Some explain the mass crimes he commits against the Palestinians on a daily basis as one of his attempts to keep the Right in the coalition, and bring in those who are not part of the coalition, so he can be in a strong position to confront the situation should the Labour party decide to leave the coalition.
These two points of view undoubtedly have great importance in Sharon's political map. We do not however believe them to be the decisive factor in Sharon's decision to commit massacres against the unarmed Palestinian people. We believe that the decisive factor that shapes and molds Sharon's decisions is his vision of the region's future. Sharon does not consider establishing peace with Israel's neighbors a sound strategy for a number of reasons.
The most important of these reasons is that keeping Israel in a state of hostility with its neighbors would enable it to constantly blackmail the West and the Jews of the world to send money, immigrants and volunteers. This state of hostility will also keep the U.S. and the European countries in a position where they have to support Israel. This way Israel would get the most advanced arms in quantities sufficient to ensure its superiority not only over its direct surroundings, but also over the broader area which includes Islamic countries such as Iran and Pakistan. Qualitative and quantitative superiority over all the "powers of darkness" as Binyamin Netanyahu liked to call them; as if Israel was the "power of light"!
The other factor that has dominated Sharon since childhood revolves around the idea of emptying the land of Greater Israel of most of its inhabitants in order to establish the state of Greater Israel, with a Jewish majority to maintain the purity of the Hebrew state and to forcefully maintain the control of its forces and services over the region.
In this vision of Sharon's, the priority is to empty the West Bank of the majority of its Palestinian population in order to give the Hebrew state a geographic range that would, in his mind, enable it to defend itself temporarily until the surrounding areas can be emptied of most of their population as part of his plan to build the Greater Israel.
President George W. Bush must surely remember what Sharon told him, before Bush was elected President of the U.S, and before Sharon was elected Prime Minster, during a helicopter tour Sharon arranged for Bush over the West Bank. Sharon told him to see how small Israel is, and how Israel needs the West Bank to defend itself. When the helicopter reached the Jordan Valley, Sharon told Bush that this river is the border, and that the Jordan Valley is the area through which Israel will hold off any attack from the East.
Sharon's ideas and convictions have not changed. So why then is Sharon now launching this barbaric attack against the Palestinian people? What must be taken into account here are the new circumstances the world is facing which have affected the Middle East as they have affected the world.
Ever since Sharon gained power in Israel, he has been trying to do as he likes and achieve his goals while stirring up as little world reaction as possible, and without angering the U.S. For that he assembled his military, political and media forces, as well as creating a coalition of parties in which the Right wing would provide him with the support of the extremist Israeli masses, and its other wing would provide international, European and American cover. Sharon waged a military war against the Palestinians to force them to accept his political offers, offers which the Palestinians cannot accept. He took advantage of all Palestinian reactions, be they natural self-defense operations or those operations that targeted civilians, to justify and cover up his criminal war against the Palestinian people.
What took place on September 11th of this year changed a lot of the equations. The United States decided to build an international coalition to fight terrorism, a brutal form of which it suffered in New York and Washington. The U.S. seeks to have Islamic and Arab nations join this coalition because its prime target in its war against terrorism is Afghanistan.
The Western coalition, the United States and Britain in particular, had to mollify the countries neighboring Afghanistan, and the Arab countries in the Middle East, in order to be able to wage this war with the minimum amount of political losses.
The U.S. gave Russia what it wanted in return for its contribution and no objections to a war that will be waged on its borders; gave China what it wanted for the same reason; gave Pakistan what it wanted, and maybe more; as well as the Asian countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. As for Iran and India, the U.S. has pledged consolation prizes for them, to be granted directly or through European countries, particularly Britain.
A lot of the complicated issues that existed between these countries and the United States faded in face of the United States' interests and its desire to defend itself and achieve its long-term strategic goals - controlling the strategic oil, gas and mineral resources in the region.
The U.S. pursued a similar policy in the Middle East, though perhaps clearer. The American administration, which, before September the 11th, was about to launch a Middle East peace initiative because of the worsening of the situation, and because of the Arabs' feeling of injustice because of the administration's pro-Israel bias, decided to reveal the goals of the initiative without launching it. President Bush, along with is partner Blair, declared that the U.S. and Britain support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on resolution 242 on condition that it guarantee the safety and security of Israel.
This shocked Sharon and made him act irrationally. Sharon was surprised and terrified at the idea that the American administration was setting the scene for launching a peace initiative without first discussing the matter with him. Sharon's alarm sounded, and he was quick to send Right wing representatives and his advisors to the U.S. to discuss the matter and object to it.
From another perspective, Sharon felt that the United States' own interests were about to become the highest priority for the U.S., and that Israel's interests, according to Sharon, were no longer interests that normally took precedence over U.S. interests. He felt that the American administration was about to strike a deal with the Arab and Islamic countries to end the Israeli occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state in return for these countries joining the American coalition waging a war against terrorism. Despite Sharon's attempts to link the terrorism to the Palestinians and to find a connection between what took place in New York and Washington and the Palestinians' resistance to the Israeli occupation, he failed miserably. Sharon therefore decided to launch this savage attack against the Palestinian people and destroy the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
Sharon's war against the Palestinian people, and the attack of the barbaric occupation forces against unarmed Palestinian people, is the largest blackmail operation to date against the U.S., in order to prevent it from proposing its peace initiative. The Palestinian people have turned into a group of hostages Sharon is using to threaten the United States with. He is killing 5-7 hostages daily from this people, and is threatening to kill more if the U.S. and Britain continue with the West's initiative to establish a Palestinian state in exchange for the security and stability of Israel.
Naturally Sharon is trying to cover up these crimes by accusing the Palestinian Authority of protecting and harboring terrorism like the Taliban; but no one is falling for that, not even members of Sharon's coalition government.
The whole world knows that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands is an illegal and unlawful occupation.
The whole world knows that the Security Council adopted resolution 242 thirty four years ago - a resolution that demands Israel to withdraw immediately from all lands it forcefully occupied on June 5th 1967, a resolution Israel has not as yet implemented.
The whole world, including the United States, considers any confiscation of occupied lands, the building of settlements on it and changing its demographics, to be an illegal act, and against all international resolutions and treaties.
The whole world, even that part that knows but acts as if it does not, realizes that the Israeli occupation carried out, and carries out still, the vile actions that have violated, and violate still, human rights, basic liberties and the most basic international and moral conventions.
The whole world realizes that the Israeli occupation has committed mass crimes and is still committing them, is demolishing houses on top of their civilian inhabitants, is uprooting trees and attacking ancient Islamic and Christian holy sites, as it did yesterday in Bethlehem and Beit Jala, and as it did before in the Haram Al-Shareef in Jerusalem.
From the time he came to power, Sharon has killed 750 Palestinians, wounded over 35 thousand Palestinians, demolished thousands of houses and uprooted 200 thousand fruit trees.
So what are the United States, Britain and Europe waiting for? The world is required to impose a solution that is based on international legitimacy resolutions, and to end this silence that has almost reached the level of participating in this heinous crime Sharon and the Israeli government are committing against the Palestinian people.
Sharon is a criminal, a butcher and short sighted, and is still living with the old colonialism and settlement mentality. The civilized and democratic free world must stand up for eliminating the injustice, ending the occupation, and stand by the Palestinians' right to self determination and to the establishment of their sovereign independent state on their lands occupied by Israel in 1967. If Sharon is short sighted and will bring disaster to the region, then the Western leaders are required to be far sighted.
Bassam Abu-Sharif is a special advisor to President Arafat