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Netanyahu’s Ramadan Greetings

By Meg Walsh


August 4, 2011

This past Sunday July 31, on the eve of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent "greetings" to the Muslim world. In light of the Arab Spring, he stated that "Israeli-Arabs" can serve as examples to their brothers in the region because they "know the taste and meaning of democracy".

Palestinians living inside Israel (or Netanyahu’s "Israeli-Arabs") know the taste of Israel’s perfect democracy where their homes are routinely demolished in east Jerusalem and the Negev, where they cannot expand for natural growth, where they cannot live outside of Israel for too long because they will lose their residency, and where they cannot protest settlement products produced on stolen Palestinian land.

Netanyahu also invited President Mahmoud Abbas to join him at the negotiating table right away, with no preconditions. He went on to say, "We want to see the Arab societies and democracies succeed and I know, that if an Arab democracy will be born, there will be true peace".

If you didn’t know any better, it might sound like Netanyahu’s words were sincere. Yet he fails to mention that nonviolent protests in the West Bank, similar to those in the rest of the Arab world that he praises, are brutally and violently shut down by the Israeli army on a weekly basis.

"I want to see a region of democracy and peace and I would like to wish you peace," he concluded.

Fast forward some hours later to Qalandiya refugee camp just outside the West Bank city of Ramallah to witness the type of peace that Netanyahu spoke of. Around three in the morning, as people were heading to the mosque for dawn prayers, the camp was violently raided by the Israeli army. It is telling that the soldiers would invade the camp on this day, at this specific time, and then proceed to ransack homes and indiscriminately fire on those who stood in their way.

It was in those early hours that Mutasim Issa Udwan, 22, and Ali Khalifa, 23, were killed in what the army stated was a "routine arrest procedure". One of the young men was shot in the head, the other in the stomach— shots aimed to kill.

And the nightly raid, save for its timing, was not an isolated incident. An Israeli military commander quoted in a recent New York Times article stated that the troops make about six nightly raids in Area A alone. Area A is under Palestinian control during the day, but the Israeli army reserves the right to enter come night time.

"For intelligence dominance and freedom of action, this is the minimum number of entries we have to make per night," he said.

The fact that the army has to make a minimum number of raids per night shows that the incursions are simply part of the system of domination —a system that does nothing to promote peace or build confidence between the two populations. Instead, it breeds constant fear and resentment among Palestinians. The idea of conducting random nightly raids in order to assert dominance is reinforced by the group Breaking the Silence which consists of ex-Israeli soldiers who speak out against the occupation and what they were required to do while in the army. Many soldiers have testified that incursions are often carried out just to make their presence felt—to show the Palestinians that they are always there and that they are more powerful.

As Netanyahu preaches democracy and peace to the Arab world, he is simultaneously backing a system that promotes the very opposite.

As the September deadline for the Palestinians’ UN bid for statehood approaches, Netanyahu and his government appear to be increasingly nervous, but apparently only nervous enough to make bold statements, not action. The word "peace" is meaningless, almost laughable, when the man who utters it has made Palestinian life unbearable through the bombings of Gaza, the theft of land in the West Bank, the nightly raids that killed two bystanders just three days ago, and the various methods of domination and control that are actively enforced. No peace can grow under occupation.

Israel, the occupier, always with the upper hand, has the power to promote peace and begin to dismantle the structure of occupation. If they so badly desire to see an Arab democracy, they would not be conducting undemocratic acts and carrying out actions that are illegal even under international law. Netanyahu’s words, "I would like to wish you peace" say it all; wishing does not bring peace. Neither will nightly raids, bombings, or discriminatory policies. As the September vote gets closer, Israel is attempting to stop the process by calling for a renewal of negotiations. It is doubtful that the Palestinian leadership will succumb to the pressure of negotiations and the empty promises that they entail. And the reality is that no group of people should have to negotiate anything in order to receive basic human rights.

Meg Walsh is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at mid@miftah.org.

:: Article nr. 80227 sent on 05-aug-2011 18:26 ECT


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