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These are EXCELLENT articles, which I have cached on my site to prevent them from vanishing

The Real Aim

Posted on Saturday, April 27 @ 07:18:25 EST by RamallahOnline  

 By Uri Avnery
The real aim of “Operation Defensive Shield” was not to “destroy the infrastructure of terrorism”. 

This was merely a good slogan for uniting the people of Israel, who are angry and afraid after the suicide bombings. It is also a good political device, allowing Sharon to ride on the bandwagon of President Busch’s “war against international terrorism”. Under the umbrella of “destroying the infrastructure of terrorism” one can do practically anything. 

If Sharon had really intended to “destroy the infrastructure of terrorism”, he would have acted very differently. He would have given the Palestinian masses hope of achieving their national freedom in the near future. He would have fortified the position of Yasser Arafat, the only effective partner for peace. He would have strengthened the Palestinian security forces and radically improved economic conditions in the Palestinian territories. 

But destroying the infrastructure of terrorism is not Ariel Sharon’s aim. His program is far more radical: to break the backbone of the Palestinian people, crush their governmental institutions, turn the people into human wreckage that can be dealt with as he wishes. This may entail shutting them up in several enclaves or even driving them out of the country altogether. 

As Sharon sees it, this would be finishing off the job started in 1948: to establish the real Israel, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river; a state inhabited solely by Jews. It was no accident that he openly supported Slobodan Milosevic, the inventor of “ethnic cleansing”. 

When I wrote this a year ago, it sounded like malicious slander. Sharon was still pictured as a man determined to fight terrorism, not as a person using the fight against terrorism as a means to achieve quite different aims. 

No more. 

Four days ago I was in Ramallah. I sneaked into the town (Israelis are forbidden by the military commander from entering the Palestinian territories) in order to see it for myself. I visited the Palestinian ministries. A shocking sight, indeed. 

Take, for example, the Palestinian Ministry of Education. It is housed in an imposing building, probably going back to British times, a mixture of neo-Classic European and oriental styles. In front of it there was a rose garden – “was”, because a tank has crisscrossed it, for no apparent reason, leaving only one purple rosebush in all its glory. Just so. To teach them a lesson. 

On the upper floor, where the archives and computers were housed, the destruction was total. The computers were taken apart and thrown on the floor, the safe blown open, the papers strewn around, the drawers empty, the telephones crushed . Some of it was just plain vandalism. The money in the safe was stolen, the furniture upturned, the papers dispersed. But when one looked closer, the real aim of the operation became clear. All the hard disks were taken from the computers, all the important files taken away. Only empty shells remained. All the important contents of the ministry were taken: the lists of pupils, examination results, lists of teachers, the whole logistics of the Palestinian school system. 

The Ministry if Health suffered the same fate. The hard disks that contained all the information, state of diseases, medical tests, lists of doctors and nurses, the logistics of the hospitals had been taken. 

Even the people most critical of the Palestinian Authority admitted that these two ministries – Education and Health – had been functioning well. They have been utterly destroyed. 

This happened to virtually all the Palestinian government offices. Gone is the information pertaining to land registration and housing, taxes and government expenditure, car tests and drivers’ licenses, everything necessary for administrating a modern society. 

The lists of terrorists were not hidden in the land registration books, the inventory of bombs was not tucked away among the list of kindergarten teachers. The real aim is obvious: to destroy not only the Palestinian Authority, but Palestinian society itself: to push it back with one stroke from the stage of a modern state-in-the-making to the primitive society of Turkish times. 

This is true for the civil society, and even more so for the security system. The headquarters of the security services were destroyed, files burned, computers crushed, the information concerning armed underground organizations and all other details pertaining to the war against terrorism were obliterated. There is no better evidence of the aims of this operation: not war on terrorism, but destruction of organized Palestinian society. 

By the way, on that day I passed, with a group of Israeli peace activists, through the center of Ramallah – from the mass-grave in the hospital parking lot to the besieged headquarters of Yasser Arafat. We carried Hebrew posters and encountered much sympathy and not a single sign of hostility. Even at this time, the Palestinians know the difference between the Israeli peace camp and those who responsible for this brutal attack. Here, perhaps, lies the only glimmer of hope. 

The destruction of Palistinian institutions

Posted on Saturday, April 27 @ 07:53:00 EST by RamallahOnline  

 Press Conference Summary
April 26th 2002 
On the 24th of April, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti gave a press conference in the offices of HDIP, which were vandalized, with most of the equipment and contents destroyed as a result of the Israeli invasion to Ramallah on the 29th of March and the subsequent occupation of the offices by Israeli soldiers. 

The press conference had two main threads: the actual destruction caused by the Israeli army, in particular the attacks on the health system, and secondly the overall Israeli policy of systematic invasion and destruction of Palestinian areas. 

Throughout the past month the Palestinian health sector and health workers have come under unrelenting attack. For example Israeli soldiers used Dr. Muhammad Iskafi as a human shield while attacking and breaking into buildings on the fourth day of the Israeli invasion of Ramallah. This happened on more than one occasion with different health workers in different areas. Dr. Barghouti also explained how the Israeli army attacked and humiliated emergency health workers, forcing them to crawl on the ground, hit them with mud, removing them from their vehicles and holding them for hours at a time and forcing them to strip naked in public places. 

Dr. Barghouti stated that since the beginning of the invasions on the 29th of March there have been 128 attacks against medical teams. This also included attacks against governmental and non-governmental health organizations and hospitals, such as the Medical Care Hospital in Ramallah, five UPMRC clinics and centers, the Palestinian Red Crescent in Al-Bireh and the Al-Razy Hospital in Nablus, which was shelled by an Israeli tank which resulted in the killing of a female patient. The soldiers also banned the Al-Razy medical team from rescuing an injured man, who was less than two meters away from the hospital's gate. He died as a result. 

“Among the other systematic attacks is abandoning the injured to let them bleed to death. This is a clear evidence that the atrocities committed by the Israeli army can only be described as massacres", Dr. Barghouti argued. 

He pointed out that the army also prohibited the burial of the dead. Consequently, 25 corpses were buried in a common grave in the yard of Ramallah Hospital. In addition, in Nablus, for six days the Israeli army did not allow 67 injured people to be moved from the field hospital in Al-Baiq Mosque in the Old City of Nablus, to hospitals where they could receive life saving treatment. As a result dozens of people died. 

Dr. Barghouti also pointed to the dangers of diseases spreading among Palestinians; especially as restricting Palestinians freedom of movement has lead to children being deprived of receiving the necessary vaccinations. In addition, 260 governmental and non-governmental clinics stopped working, which means 73% of Palestinians in rural areas have been left without medical care. The curfew and closure of all of the West Bank towns and villages has also had a negative effect with the prevention of access to medical treatment. “We have monitored many death cases as a result of restricting the movement of Palestinians. For example, the son of Ali Sha'ar from Nablus died a few hours after he was born when the Israeli army denied him access to hospital. Tabarak Odeh, from Dair El-Hatab, died when the Israeli army refused, for 10 days, to let medication get to her. In Al-Walajeh in Bethlehem province, Halima Al-Atrash gave birth to a stillborn baby when she was not allowed to pass the checkpoint to take the ambulance, which was only ten meters away” Dr. Barghouti said. 

The second theme covered by Dr. Barghouti in the press conference was the invasion and the destruction wrecked upon Palestinian institutions, buildings and the population as a whole. 

He considered the latest invasion of Palestinian cities, towns and refugee camps as a part of a systematic operation aimed at inflicting a great deal of destruction upon governmental and non-governmental organizations thereby destroying any potential to establish an independent Palestinian state. 

“This systematic approach is apparent in the attacks undertaken by the Israeli army. In all the areas they invaded, they broke into houses, stole from the people, attacked private property, shot at civilians and used them as human shields, dug up roads, stole and destroyed data, just all-round destruction" Dr. Barghouti added. 

“For ten years, since the beginning of the Oslo process, Palestinians have invested in and developed the areas under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. Hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed in from Palestinians in the Diaspora and international aid and development agencies. Roads were made, buildings sprung up, private schools were established, kindergartens and nurseries were opened, internet cafes abounded, cafes, NGOs, private banks, restaurants and shops ­ all the trappings of city life had been established. The Authority too began to develop, ministries were set up ­ education, health etc. We have a Central Bureau of Statistics.

This is what was attacked. The very essence of what Palestine was developing into ­ the institutions that would one day be the state and civil society institutions of an independent Palestine. The financial aspect of the destruction is difficult ­ and we will need help rebuilding. But it is not just the expense of the hardware and broken glass and destroyed offices that we have to meet. The loss is incalculable in dollar terms, because it has taken us years to build up to this point. It is the human effort and intellectual work that that has gone into the years of research, planning and development to build our future that we have lost, to improve our health system, our education system, to promote private enterprise ­ these are the things that were sabotaged, putting back the efforts for Palestinian independence. 

In addition, Dr. Barghouti talked about the effects of the Israeli invasion on the other aspects of Palestinian life. “The Israeli invasion has paralyzed the social, economic, health and educational aspects. Israel has also attempted to create a security vacuum by targeting the Palestinian security institutions. Moreover, the Israeli army has imposed curfew on some villages for 25 successive days and is attempting to create isolated cantons that are much worse than the apartheid system that was prevailing in South Africa.” 

Dr. Barghouthi also spoke of the Israeli claims that they had withdrawn from Palestinian cities, characterizing these claims as “a big lie because the tanks are still present, and can, and have, reinvade whenever they wish”. 

When discussing the role of the Palestinians in the current crisis Dr. Barghouti stated that “we have to enhance our national unity and not allow Israel to achieve political gains from its attack, or to create newpolitical facts on the ground”. Also, Palestinians have to form national and grass roots revival committees to rebuild what the occupation has demolished and to distribute aid in a fair and transparent way in order to prevent corruption. In this regard, he asked donor countries to announce the amount of funds they would distribute to the Palestinians and the receiving organizations. He called upon Palestinians to enhance the popular, non-violent nature of the Intifada since it is considered as a national liberation movement that aims to end the occupation. He also called for strengthening the Palestinian grass roots organizations and civil society institutions since they constitute the base for the establishment of the Palestinian state. 

Dr. Barghouti praised the steadfastness of Palestinians, saying, “What happened during the last weeks has also shown the limitation of the ability of the Israeli military power to achieve political goals. Israel might have been able to destroy infrastructure, roads and buildings ­ but they have failed, and will continue to fail to destroy Palestinian hopes to be free from the occupation and oppression.” 

He also praised the role of the international solidarity groups who “came here in thousands and at their own expense, with the GIPP, to provide protection for the Palestinians, including the group who managed to break the siege around President Arafat, and managed to stay with him.”