By The Progressive on March 31, 2002
Military occupation strangles the Palestinian people
By Moustafa Bayoumi

April 1, 2002

There is a dangerous tendency in the United States to view the violence between Israelis and Palestinians as either the product of Palestinian fanaticism or as symmetrical fighting between two warring factions. Many people seem to believe that violence is the inevitable outcome for these two peoples.

This ignores a fundamental truth. The suicide bombings must be stopped, but the root of the violence is not pathological terrorism or cynical politics, but a brutal military occupation that has been strangling the Palestinian people for decades.

One recent proof of the cruelty of the occupation started on March 1, when the Israeli army began to carry out its plan of invading Palestinian refugee camps around the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army rounded up every man and boy, numbering into the hundreds, between the ages of 14 and 45, reported the Washington Post. Guilty of nothing more than being male and Palestinian, each was stripped to his underwear and handcuffed, interrogated and then photographed, according to the Associated Press. In the Tulkarm refugee camp, the Israeli army wrote numbers on the arms of Palestinian men and boys after the roundup.

In early March, the Israeli army fired upon at least three ambulances. On March 4, Dr. Khalil Sulieman, a high-ranking physician in the Palestinian Red Crescent Services (the Palestinian Red Cross), was killed when the Israeli army shot at his ambulance in the Jenin refugee camp. On March 7, an ambulance driver and employee of the United Nations was killed while heading to Tulkarm to provide medical assistance. The United Nations and the Red Cross have both condemned these killings, as have several human-rights organizations. "Attacking humanitarian personnel and their vehicles is strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law," said Human Rights Watch.

These are aspects of an Israeli policy intended to humiliate and deliberately harm the general Palestinian population in order to force it into submission. This was articulated most clearly when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, "We must inflict heavy losses on their (the Palestinian's) side."

Upon hearing Sharon's statement, Secretary of State Colin Powell responded by saying, "If you declare war against the Palestinians thinking that you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed, I don't know that that leads us anywhere."

Sharon's policy has led to a sharply escalated death toll. It has also ultimately led to the invasion of Ramallah and the virtual proclamation of war by the Israelis against the Palestinians. The tragic violence we are witnessing today must be understood as the culmination of decades of military occupation. Since September 2000, when the current uprising began, at least 1,260 Palestinians and 410 Israelis have been killed by the violence, reports Reuters.

"Daily funerals and thoughts of revenge among Israelis tend to blur the fact that we, the Israelis, are the occupiers," wrote Ishai Menuchin, a major in the Israel Defense Forces reserves, in the New York Times. "And as much as we live in fear of terrorism and war, it is the Palestinians who suffer more deaths hourly and live with greater fear because they are the occupied." Menuchin has taken a brave stance, refusing to serve in military actions he finds morally repugnant. "I will not obey illegal orders to execute potential terrorists or fire into civilian demonstrations," he wrote. "And I will not take part in 'less violent' actions like keeping Palestinians under curfew for months, manning roadblocks that prevent civilians from moving from town to town or carrying out house demolitions and other acts of repression aimed at the entire Palestinian population."

People like Menuchin and the Palestinian physician Mustafa Barghouti, who heads a nonviolent activist movement called Grassroots International Protection for Palestinians, need to be heard above the continuing cries for more death and more repression.

Every victim of the conflict, both Palestinian and Israeli, deserves to be mourned, and there can be no excuse for targeting civilians on either side of the conflict. The suicide bombings must cease. And the Israeli army, too, must cease its illegal activities in the occupied territories. Under the Geneva Convention, an occupying power must protect a civilian population, not brutalize it.

There can be no solution to the conflict without an end to the occupation and a just resolution to the Palestinian question. This must begin with a concerted international effort to guarantee the safety and security of everyone in the region, Palestinian and Israelis alike. Without the help of the international peacekeepers and observers, the cycle of violence may never end.

Moustafa Bayoumi is a professor in the English department at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and co-editor of "The Edward Said Reader" (Vintage, 2000). He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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