An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

20 March 1997 Edition

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By building, Israel tears down peace

By Dara MacNeill

Whatever else he may be doing by pushing ahead with the settlement in occupied land on the outskirts of Jerusalem, it is clear that Israeli premier Binyamin Nethanyahu is in breach of the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Remarkably, Nethanyahu's clear violation of the agreement is notable by its absence from media reports on the construction of the Har Homah settlement.

Under the Accords, which underpin the supposed Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it was agreed that neither party would in any way attempt to alter ``facts on the ground'' in advance of the final status negotiations, which were to decide on all outstanding issues, including the final status of Jerusalem.

Altering ``facts on the ground'' translates simply as an attempt to change the population structure of various `disputed' territories in order to ensure their continued retention by one side or the other, when the final deal is signed. Thus Nethanyahu, by constructing a 6,500 house settlement in Har Homah will weaken if not altogether destroy the existing population balance and make it easier for Israel to retain control over the territory in question.

Har Homah - Jabal Abu Ghneim to Palestinians - is to be constructed on land annexed by Israel from Jordan in 1967. That fact alone means its ownership is disputed. However, the settlement has a greater significance for Palestinians and, in turn, for the fate of the now virtually moribund peace process.

Not only will the occupants of the 6,500 settlement irretrievably alter the population balance of the area in Israel's favour, but it forms part of a chain of similar settlements which are to form a chain of veritable Israeli colonies enclosing Jerusalem and cutting the eastern Arab section of the city off from its natural Palestinian hinterland in the West Bank.

The Palestinian's have made no secret of the fact that they view east Jerusalem, at least, as the capital of any future Palestinian state. However, with the construction of Har Homah Israel is effectively denying and obstructing Palestinians the right to regard east Jerusalem as their city.

The construction of the settlement also fits another pattern which has been emerging in recent months: just prior to the public announcement of Har Homah's construction the Israeli authorities arbitrarily closed four official Palestinian offices in Jerusalem, while there are also reports that increasing numbers of Palestinians resident in the city have had their identity cards withdrawn and cancelled. Without the cards, they cannot live in the city. Thus Israel appears intent on ethnically cleansing the city of Palestinians in the run-up to the final status talks. If successful, they will ensure that the issue of Jerusalem itself will be settled well in advance of the negotiations.

That they can carry out such a policy, and that they can flagrantly breach both the spirit and letter of the 1993 Accords, is yet another illustration of the chronically weakened position in which those Accords have placed the Palestinian leadership. Indeed, the only apparent option left to the leadership in recent times has been to appeal to the good offices of the US administration. That would be perfectly reasonable if such good offices existed in the first place.

The US has made noises and indeed issued the occasional protest over the Har Homah proposal. Yet, in early March when the issue came before the UN the United States used its veto to prevent the organisation issuing a strong condemnation of the Israeli action.

It must also be remembered that it is largely - if not wholly - with the aid of US money that these settlements are constructed, part of the estimated $80 billion in aid which Israel has received from the US over the last two decades.

The US deployment of their veto at the UN was a green light for Israel to proceed. Binyamin Nethanyahu understood the message. On 18 March bulldozers and other construction equipment moved into the area. All they await is the go ahead from Tel Aviv.

And Nethanyahu confirmed that it is only a matter of time before that instruction is delivered, when he stated that he was ``ready to stand up to any threat'' in his determination to proceed with Har Homah.

In doing so, Binyamin is ignoring the advice not only of his army, but his intelligence services. Both have stated that proceeding with Har Homah will result in serious violence. Ominously, Palestinian hospitals have begun clearing beds and cancelling non-emergency treatment in preparation.

In so clearly demonstrating Arafat's powerlessness to influence Israel on issues of such crucial importance, Nethanyahu has explicitly told the Palestinian people the 1993 Accords are not worth the small forest of paper they are printed on. He has equally told them, in no uncertain terms, that there is no peace process, no process of negotiation and, most certainly, no process of conflict resolution. In its stead there is continued Palestinian subjugation.

But by his actions on this issue, Nethanyahu has also made clear that `politics' - as expressed in the 1993 Accords - do not work. All they produce is insult heaped upon insult. For a people that has been struggling to reclaim its nation since 1948, the conclusion is obvious.

Reign of terror in Colombia

Rightwing paramilitaries are continuining their offensive in Colombia. They have now moved into areas which were considered relatively safe from their violence. They claim to be engaged in an offensive against the three guerrilla organisations in the country but their victims are invariably peasants who dared to ask for what is theirs or human rights activists who championed their cause.

On 2 March the paramilitaries rampaged through the town of Segovia, killing a number of human rights activists and trade unionists. They also killed a town councillor who was threatening to run as a people's candidate in the upcoming mayoral elections. He had been a member of the ruling Liberal Party but became tired of their corruption.

The last time someone ran against the Liberal Party was in 1988. They won hands down so the paramlitary groups decided to punish them by executing 43 people, including a 9 year old child. The recent killings are just as worrying; they have effectively silenced the local human rights committee which has now ceased to function.

The other worrying aspect is the ease with which the paramilitaries were able to move about the town over a period of five days without once being stopped by the military or police. Anyone entering Segovia needs a military pass and the town is surrounded by a number of barracks. Some of the attacks took place only yards from the police station.

Despite this, the British embassy maintains the official lie that there is no proof to even suggest that Colombian police and military cooperate with or passively tolerate the death squads.

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