Sunday, November 5, 2006
By Dr. Mustafa Barghouti
"Nothing is sadder when the inmates get so absorbed in their fight for turf that they forget their real situation: that they are in prison and therefore powerless. For the past seven months, this has been the case in the occupied territories, where Fatah and Hamas have been too busy pushing each other around to think of anything else.
Meanwhile, the occupation forces have escalated their brutal attacks, expanded their settlement building activities, continued to build the racial separation wall, and kept changing Jerusalem's borders and demographics. The Israelis are destroying every chance for an independent Palestinian state, and we're too busy to speak in one voice.
In these prisons, we continue to fight and call each other names. We continue to jockey for imaginary power, a power that is totally controlled by our occupiers.
Donors from the East and the West are vying to boost the size of our security services. Now we can make it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the only government in the world where security personnel (over 81,000) outnumber the rest of public servants. And yet we have no security and no peace. Worse still, our security services are being used as militia, a matter that is degrading by any standards.
During the first Intifada, we used to challenge the occupation. We used to organize medical relief, in defiance of Israel, to treat the wounded and take care of the patients. When Israel closed our schools and universities, we organized grass-root education committees. When the occupation authorities arrested us, we set up clinics and classes within the prisons. Now we close our schools with our own hands. And some of us feel no pity at the sight of a poor woman needing medical help to deliver her baby.
Despite the siege and the prisons -- and at a time when we had no government -- no one went hungry during the first Intifada thanks to social schemes and organized charity. Now thousands cannot feed their children, while others are getting fat on incredibly high wages -- by local standards -- working for foreign agencies.
Israel has learned from its failures during the first Intifada. Israel managed to distract us through the Oslo Accords and its annexes. Then it proceeded to change the rules of the game, to demonize our just struggle and denigrate our humane principles. Now we have to prove our good conduct to the world with every passing day. And instead of standing together in the face of this grave injustice, some of us are pleased to prove our compatriots wrong.
Israel's whole strategy is based on distorting the essence of our struggle, on twisting international laws and norms. Israel wants to turn the occupied territories into disputed territories. Israel wants to portray the legitimate struggle against injustice as acts of terror. Israel wants the blame to fall not on the occupation, but on the victims of occupation. And yet Israel's ideas are now seeping into our political culture. Some of us are now ashamed to assert our right to defend our dignity and resist. Some of us want us to capitulate instead of understand and change reality.
We need a unified mechanism to manage the conflict, defend our rights, break the siege, and protect our people and our name from the harsh judgment of history. We need to remember that the conflict must not be among our factions, but between our people and the forces of occupation, injustice, and repression."