by Hedy Epstein
Before I arouse the wrath of those who do not agree with my views on the Israeli/Palestinian situation, let me say that I wish Prime Minister Sharon full recovery and peace of mind.
As Mr. Sharon now lies in his hospital bed, writers all over the world are busy preparing articles remembering this man. No matter what happens, Sharon will be remembered. Remembered by whom? Remembered for what? Therein lies the difference. Some will remember him as a great soldier; as architect of the Likud Party, and more recently as the founder of a new political party – Kadima; as the father of the settlements; as the man who unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, and, and, and……
Still others will remember and laud him as a “Man of Peace.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Sharon’s goal and the Israeli government’s goal under Sharon’s leadership has not been peace, but pacification. What is the difference between peace and pacification? Peace is the absence of violence, destruction and war. Pacification, according to my Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is “the act of being subdued to a submissive state; the act of bringing under control.” Peace, according to the same dictionary, is “a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity.”
A true peacemaker does not build a 25 foot high wall (twice the height of the infamous Berlin Wall) which in most places does not separate Israelis from Palestinians for the alleged purpose of security for Israel, but separates Palestinians from Palestinians. If Israel truly believes a wall is necessary to provide security for its people, Israel has every right to do so, but should build it on its own land, along the 1967 borders, and not encroach on Palestinian land, and in the process destroy Palestinian homes, olive groves and hothouses, preventing Palestinians from contact with families, friends, reaching places of work, hospitals, schools and water resources — in other words, destroying the economic and social life of Palestinians, reducing them to live in Bantustan-like situations, reminiscent of life in South Africa, not so long ago. The land that has been, and continues to be lost to the construction of the wall, is some of the very best Palestinian farmland. The International Court of Justice nearly unanimously declared the current path of the wall illegal. Even the Israeli Supreme Court declared in the summer of 2004 that the wall needs to be relocated in some areas to abate the hardship it causes the Palestinians. Reluctantly, this happened in a few places, but in the process, more Palestinian land was confiscated.
Much has been made of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza a few months ago. But little is said about Israel’s continued administrative control over Gaza, meaning control over land, air and sea access; about ongoing, frequent machine gun, tank and rocket fire by Israel in response to some home-made rockets or stones being thrown at Israeli tanks by Palestinians. While the withdrawal from Gaza was hailed by the media, construction of new settlements and addition to existing ones in the West Bank was carried out with a great furor. Just like the wall, they are another land grab, illegal and in violation of international law and the Geneva Convention.
What about the many checkpoints and roadblocks? They are but another method of humiliating and harassing Palestinians and all of this with the approval and direction of Sharon, the so called “Man of Peace.” There is only one good name for all of this, “pacification,” the act of subduing Palestinians into a submissive state, of bringing them under control.
And lastly, much of this has been and continues to be paid for by American tax dollars.
Hedy Epstein is a Holocaust survivor and a Board member of Deir Yassin Remembered. She has visited Palestine three times between December 2003 and August 2005, witnessing much of what she describes above.