By Jon Pattee
Senior English Editor – Albawaba.com
As the US girds for a new war, Palestinians are already marking a year of resistance to terrorism: In this case, Israel’s state-sponsored terror campaign to maintain its military occupation of lands conquered in 1967.
But the Palestinians are paying a heavy price for trying to throw off the daily humiliations of the occupation and establish an independent country. They face religious fanaticism of the same kind which the US claims to be confronting in the person of Osama bin Laden. In the case of Palestine, the extremists are Jewish fundamentalists who trace their ownership of the conquered land back to covenants with God – and who are willing to kill for their beliefs.
As Palestinians observe the Intifada’s first anniversary on Friday, they will be without some 635 of their family members, who have been killed by Israeli forces armed with US-made Apache attack helicopters, Hellfire missiles and F-16 fighter-bombers. Another 15,000 Palestinians are recovering from their wounds or lie crippled, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
Israelis, meanwhile, will be mourning 169 dead – a not insignificant number, despite the outlandishly skewed casualty ratio of around four to one.
Regardless of the mounting death toll, the Intifada shows few or no signs of winding down as it rolls into its second year, in a reprise of an earlier uprising that lasted from 1987 to 1991. In that period, Israeli forces killed over 1,000 Palestinians.
This time, as last time, Palestinian children are suffering heavy casualties. Israeli soldiers and armed settlers killed around 200 Palestinians under the age of 16 in the first Intifada. In the current uprising, Amnesty International reported as early as this spring that nearly 100 Palestinian children had been killed.
This is in spite of the fact that, as non-governmental organization (NGO) workers in the Occupied Territories point out, only a tiny percentage of all children participate in Intifada demonstrations. The death toll lends credence to Human Rights Watch claims that Israeli soldiers have been shooting to kill in situations where their own lives are in no immediate danger.
The forces that shaped the latest Intifada can be traced directly to the previous one. The 1993 Oslo peace accords, which granted limited autonomy to fragments of the conquered 1967 territories, were by most accounts badly flawed.
One among several key failures of the accords was an inability to secure a halt to Israel’s illegal “settlement” of Palestinian-owned land, which soared into the tens of thousands of people in the 1990s despite supposed guarantees to the contrary. Another was the lack of a resolution of Israel’s military occupation of Jerusalem.
It is therefore unsurprising, in some ways, that the timeline of the latest Intifada begins at the heart of Jerusalem – the Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, built centuries ago on the same spot that Israelis believe once held their most important house of worship.
In the days leading up to the eruption of the Al Aqsa Intifada, it was precisely its gains in occupied Jerusalem that Israel was mostly unwilling to relinquish, reigniting old frustrations among Palestinian negotiators and public alike.
Timeline of events in the latest Intifada against Israeli occupation:
September 28: Israel's hawkish opposition leader Ariel Sharon angers Palestinians by visiting the Al Aqsa Mosque compound with a crowd of armed escorts. Tens of police and several Palestinians are injured in the protests that follow, which also reflect discontent with the daily humiliations and economic hardships of the occupation.
September 29: Israeli security forces kill six Palestinians and wound close to 200 in clashes around Al Aqsa.
September 30: Protests erupt in West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Mohammad Ad Durrah, 12, is shot dead in his father’s arms by Israeli soldiers in a televised killing that outrages viewers worldwide. Some 13 other Palestinians are killed.
October 1: First of many ceasefires collapses, as the death toll continues to climb.
October 4: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat fly to France to meet US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and French President Jacques Chirac. Both sides order military forces away from the flashpoint areas, but seven more people die.
October 6: Israel seals the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in the first set of blockades that eventually strangle the Palestinian economy.
October 7: On the Lebanese border, the Hizbollah Islamist resistance group captures three Israeli soldiers. Barak issues a 48-hour ultimatum to Arafat - stop the violence or Israeli troops will respond with full force. Four Palestinians are killed. The UN Security Council passes a resolution condemning Israel's "excessive use of force." The US abstains.
October 12: Two Israeli soldiers are killed by a mob in Ramallah after being arrested by Palestinian police. Israel responds to televised footage of the killings with massive retaliatory strikes on Ramallah and Arafat's headquarters in the Gaza Strip.
October 14: US President Bill Clinton announces an emergency peace summit, with Egypt as the venue.
October 17: Barak and Arafat agree to a ceasefire and pullback of Israeli forces at the summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, directed by Clinton.
October 22: Top leaders emerge from an emergency Arab Summit with a statement that declares a halt to all regional economic cooperation with Israel, and stresses their support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and the placing of all holy places under the Palestinian sovereignty.
November 6: Sharon calls on his Likud Party and its allies to topple the Barak government, to prevent the prime minister from reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians.
November 7: Former US senator George Mitchell is asked by President Clinton to chair a fact-finding commission to look into the causes of recent “violence” between Israelis and Palestinians.
November 8: Arafat sets off to visit President Clinton, and to push for an international force to monitor the spiraling conflict.
November 9: Israeli helicopters fire rockets at car, killing local Palestinian leader Hussein Abayat, the first of a series of Israeli “targeted killings” of suspected Palestinian militants that will eventually amount to dozens of assassinations.
November 22: A car bomb explodes in the northern Israeli town of Hadera, killing two people and wounding 35. Barak says that Israel will "settle accounts" with the bombers.
December 23: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators meet in Washington.
January 1: Israeli soldiers shoot dead top Palestinian official Thabet Thabet outside his home in the West Bank - the latest in a spate of officially sanctioned assassinations. Army chiefs call Thabet a militant, directing armed operations, but other Israelis claim he was a peace activist with many Jewish contacts.
January 20: Clinton leaves office, having tried to secure a Mideast peace settlement into the final days of his administration.
January 27: Peace talks in Egyptian resort of Taba end with no agreement.
February 4: Barak makes a last desperate plea for Israel's 20 percent Arab minority to support him in an upcoming election in which he faces Sharon, while apologizing for the fact that Israeli police gunned down a dozen Arab Israelis in protests in the early stages of the Intifada.
February 6: Sharon defeats Barak by wide margin in special election.
March 5: Sharon takes office with national unity government, including Barak's moderate Labor Party.
March 28: Arab Summit in Amman calls for reactivation of Arab boycott of Israel, pledges millions to support Palestinian Authority, and asks the UN to intervene to protect the Palestinian population from Israeli attacks.
April 17: Israeli presented with Egyptian-Jordanian peace initiative, under which Israel would announce a freeze on construction in Jewish settlements. Both sides would strive to conclude a peace treaty during six months of negotiations and agree that progress made in previous negotiations would be preserved. Israel expresses reservations.
May 18: Palestinian suicide bomber blows himself up at a mall in the seacoast city of Netanya, killing himself and five Israelis.
May 18: Israeli F-16 warplanes hit Palestinian police posts in West Bank and Gaza, killing 10 Palestinians.
May 21: International commission headed by Mitchell submits report calling for end to violence, cooling-off period, confidence-building measures and resumption of peace talks. Both sides accept report, but with different interpretations. US Secretary of State Colin Powell endorses Mitchell Report.
May 22: Sharon declares unilateral ceasefire; Palestinians dismiss it as a publicity stunt.
June 1: Palestinian suicide bomber kills himself and 22 other people, mostly Israeli teenagers, outside disco in Tel Aviv.
June 2: Arafat declares support for ceasefire, staving off planned Israeli retaliation.
June 13: CIA director George Tenet negotiates ceasefire framework. Violence is reduced, but the truce does not take hold, and the US continues to ignore ongoing Palestinians pleas for international observers to monitor ceasefire violations.
June 26: Powell travels to the Middle East June 26-30 on a mission is to shore up the CIA-brokered ceasefire and press for progress on other recommendations for peace proposed by the Mitchell Report.
July 17: Israel kills four Palestinians in helicopter raid in Bethlehem.
August 9: At least 13 Israelis killed in suicide bombing in Jerusalem pizza restaurant.
August 27: Israeli Radio reports the assassination of Abu Ali Mustapha, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), in an Israeli missile attack on an office building in the center of Ramallah.
September 11: Terrorist hijackers fly passenger planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, killing an estimated 6,000 people.
September 12: Israeli armored columns, backed up by US-made Apache attacks helicopters and F-16 fighter-bombers, invade the West Bank town of Jenin, in the latest in a string of incursions into Palestinian-controlled territory.
September 26: Israeli tanks roll into the town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, killing five people and wounding 31, in what Palestinian officials call an effort to “bury” truce talks between Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
September 27: On the eve of the Intifada’s first anniversary, Israeli troops kill seven Palestinians and make an incursion into Rafah. Settlers in the Jordan Valley, supported by the army, bulldoze a vast area of Palestinian farms.
As this timeline has taken shape in September, it has become apparent that the Bush administration, in a bid to consolidate a broad anti-terrorist coalition including Arab and Muslim states, is pressuring Sharon to sit down for serious talks with the Palestinians.
But the latest wave of attacks and incursions into Palestinian territory, as well as Sharon’s fiery rhetoric, indicate that Israel is anything but eager to lay down its arms.
In that case, Palestinians and Israelis may witness not just the second anniversary of the Intifada, but many others.
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