Meta Arafat! Palestinians deserve his dream

The next step is for all Palestinians to participate in elections, including those in occupied territories and in exile.

The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat passed away Thursday. An important question many are asking: What impact will his death have on the progress of the peace process and ultimately the future of the Palestinian people?

Obviously, the daily suffering of Palestinians has not stopped with Arafat passing away; they will have to keep living under the occupation they and their leader fought for so many decades. The ruining of homes and the daily casualties among the innocent continue till this moment, sometimes reported many others ignored.

Many are hopeful that the passing away of Arafat will push forward a peaceful solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am very pessimistic about such hopes. The Palestinian resistance, whether peaceful or violent, to the brutal and Israeli occupation is not the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The root cause of the conflict is and always has been the military occupation of and settlements in Palestinian lands and the oppression of the Palestinian people. These policies are immoral.

The Palestinian regime was intentionally installed on the backs of a people who had already suffered ages of colonial interest of foreigners in their land. Israel subsequently used the failings and flaws of the very regime to demonize the entire Palestinian people after it turned out there were limits to the level of continued Israeli violations Arafat could convince his people to accept.

Arafat was often accused by Israelis and the peace talks sponsor (the United States) of using two languages: One for his own people to incite terror and one for the world to promote peace. I challenge those who hold these claims to prove it.

On the other hand, they turn their deaf ear to what Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and a key liaison with Washington, said “the significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process.”

The real question the talking heads should be asking is whether Israel will become a “genuine partner” for peace this time around. It is likely Israel will try to come up with new excuses for not proceeding with the peace process, and not proceeding with the application of the international law and the international regulations. Israel will try to find new excuses for not conducting peace and not ending this occupation, which has become the longest in modern history (77 years of occupation). That’s transforming quickly into an apartheid stalemate.

The United States sends on the level of $3 billion or more per year to Israel, the vast majority of which is used in military capacity. According to ABC news, 75 percent of aid is used in a military capacity. This means you and I have actually paid for rubber bullets that have paralyzed children and snipers who have killed journalists, not to mention bulldozers that have run over and killed peace activists.

Do we, the U.S. public, support a system of punishment that does not include a trial, jury or judge? When we support Israeli policy, we support their strict policy of assassination and unlimited “collateral damage.” Do we support the collective punishment of neighborhoods of hundreds because of the actions of a “possible resident”? When we support Israeli policy, we advocate the bulldozing of civilian homes and razing of agricultural crops of peoples uninvolved with violence. To claim our support for Israel and its policy is not misguided is ludicrous.

Now Arafat has left the scene. The next step for the Palestinians is to hold elections including all Palestinians, those in the occupied territories, those in the refugee camps and those in exile, to choose a new leader.

Do we, the U.S. public, want to keep a biased support that comes out of our tax money, or do we want to take the opportunity now to make real peace and stop the conflict?

Omar Merhi is a kinesiology graduate student and a writer for Al-Madinah Cultural Center. Please send comments to [email protected]