Bill Clinton was attempting to secure a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as Socialist Worker went to press. But many Palestinians are suspicious of a deal.
Mohamed Ashraq, a Palestinian living in the West Bank town of Ramallah, explains why.
'Hebron is a Palestinian city where a few hundred Israeli settlers are living under the protection of a well equipped war machine. The heart of the city has been turned into a graveyard due to the unfriendly presence of the settlers and their protectors. The houses of the Palestinians near the settlers are subjected to a daily heavy bombardment.
A few weeks ago an Israeli soldier ran after a 14 year old boy. When he finally caught the boy he stepped on his neck and shot him in the head. At the end of another normal bloody day a Palestinian worker was passing one of the Israeli checkpoints going back to his home. The soldiers stopped him. One soldier shot him in the foot.
The man was left lying in a pool of his blood holding what remained of his foot. This scene, and similar ones, have become the daily events of Palestinian life. For more than two months the Palestinian people have been living under extreme social and economic conditions, facing all kind of violence by the Israeli army and settlers.
The last two months could be described as an organised war against the Palestinians. The Israelis have used all kinds of weapons to strike the cities, villages and refugee camps. Many houses have been destroyed or half destroyed. All kinds of ammunition, legal and illegal, have been used against the Palestinians. Some 75 percent of the shootings have been to heads and chests, and 35 percent of those shot have been less than 16 years old.
Thousands of Palestinian workers who used to work in Israel are unemployed because they cannot reach their work. In spite of all this the Palestinians have shown an incredible spirit of resistance.
People believed the Palestinians had lost the will to struggle after the first intifada in 1987 and the Oslo peace accords in 1993. But once again the Palestinians have written a new page of their history. With the launch of the new intifada, Palestinians are showing their distrust of the agreements that were signed by the Israelis and the Palestinian leadership. These agreements did not meet the needs of the Palestinians, and hence could never be the cause of a just or lasting peace.
The negotiations of the last seven years have resulted only in the suffocated self controlled areas, and Israeli dominance over almost every aspect of Palestinian life. The latest US suggestions for 'peace' deny the Palestinian refugees their right of return to their homes.
They divide Palestine into cantons that have no geographical continuity. It is a new form of apartheid that will never lead to a full settlement. The Palestinians are like other nations in history facing a colonial project supported by the US and European powers. But we will not be 'the Red Indians of the new century', as Professor Edward Said has said.
The Palestinians and people in the Arab world realise more and more the gap between themselves and their leaders. And it is inevitable that one day there will be an alternative. It can take many years, but what is happening now, on the ground, is a step in a process that will lead the Palestinian people to make their way towards freedom.'
RALLY FOR PALESTINIAN RIGHTS
Tuesday 23 January, 7.30pm Friends Meeting House, Euston Road (opposite Euston station) Speakers; Tony Benn MP, Paul Foot, Elfi Pallis, Dr Ghada Karmi
Tickets £2 waged, £1.50 unwaged
An Israeli-Palestinian just peace-what can we do? Speakers include Linda Grant, Ruth Cohen, Ahmad Khalidi Sunday 14 January, 4pm Yakar, Egerton Road, London NW4 (Hendon Central tube)
Sign this statement
'How much longer must we witness the almost daily ritual of Israeli soldiers killing Palestinians? Over 90 percent of those killed during this new intifada-the total now approaches 300-are Palestinians. A third of the victims are children, many shot in the head like Mohammed al-Durrah, who died in his father's arms, pulverised by Israeli bullets, and who has become such a potent symbol of the conflict.
As Israeli officers have made clear, these are not 'mistakes': Israeli snipers use weapons that are accurate and deadly. We are appalled by the lack of action by Western governments to stop the slaughter.
Over 9,000 Palestinians have been injured since October. Israel is using unprecedented force against those who seek basic rights: access to land and water, employment, freedom from military occupation, and political independence.
The Israeli government believes that it can continue an illegal occupation, ruling by means of brute force. Its talk of peace is belied by an intensified campaign to build settlements on Arab land, to seize water resources, and to construct roads which further fragment territories under limited Palestinian control. Israel's allies among the governments of the United States and Europe are prepared to observe the slaughter impassively. We are not.
We urge others to join us by supporting a major public rally in central London in the new year in support of Palestinian rights.'
Paul Foot, Harold Pinter, Professor Edward Said, Professor Noam Chomsky, Susannah York, Tony Benn MP, Professor Alex Callinicos, Elfi Pallis (former editor of Israeli Mirror), Dr Ghadi Karmi (chair of Palestine Community Association of Britain)