Thursday, April 19, 2007

‘Only Free Men Can Negotiate’

By Dr. Daud Abduallah
Special to

".....Silent Exodus

Of all the troubling consequences of the international embargo the most shocking is its contribution to the silent exodus of Palestinians. Israel’s political leadership has no intent of repeating the forced ‘transfer’ (expulsions) of 1948. They are, however, prepared to make life so unbearable for the Palestinians that they would on their own accord resort to ‘voluntary transfer.’ This process has regrettably begun. In 2006, 46,000 Palestinian applications were submitted to foreign consulates in the OT for visas to leave. By keeping the sanctions in place the international community has in effect become complicit in a process of quiet ethnic cleansing.

Unfortunately, the worse may yet to come if the Palestinians fail to preserve their national unity. Recent American moves to deliver $60 million worth of arms to President Abbas’ security guard seem especially designed to undo the process of national reconciliation started by the Makka agreement. The similar arming and support of one faction at the expense of the other in Iraq did not only plunge that country into the inferno of civil war. It also gave birth to the largest refugee crisis in the region since the Palestinian Nakba of 1948. Since both the US and EU seem incapable of adopting an even-handed policy toward the conflict, Arab and Muslim countries share a joint responsibility to prevent a similar scenario in Palestine. With 50,000 Iraqis spilling out across the region every month the Middle East can ill afford a similar catastrophe from Palestine.

At present Palestinians are in need of assistance not to become a source of irritation to the Israelis but in order to achieve their freedom. ‘Only free men can negotiate’. Confining the discussions to security and humanitarian issues would not deliver freedom or independence. It is in the best interest of all the parties including the US and the EU to begin a new political dialogue; not for the sake of talking but in order to build a better future for the region. As a demonstration of goodwill and positive statement of intent this process must begin with the release of the Palestinian prisoners and lifting of the sanctions."

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