Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Once again, the Palestinians are victimized by the vicissitudes of Israeli electoral politics. Ehud Olmert has an election to win, so it's time to kick the cousins.

The Daily Star:
Israeli occupation forces smashed into a West Bank jail with tanks and bulldozers on Tuesday, pulling out scores of prisoners and guards and seizing a prominent Palestinian prisoner after a siege that killed three Palestinian and ignited protests across the territories. Ahmad Saadat, accused by Israel of involvement in the 2001 killing of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, was among a group of prisoners who surrendered just after nightfall, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.

The coverage of the Israeli siege of the Jericho prison is an excellent miniature of the press coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general. Little or no background is given, Israeli claims of "responding" in "self-defense" are pretty much unquestioned, and the fact that Israel maintains a brutal and dehumanizing (to both parties) illegal forty-year old military occupation is all but unmentioned.

So who was Rehavem Zeevi, the man whose assassination five years ago necessitated invasion and kidnapping by the Israeli military? Zeevi was a stark-raving racist eliminationist. He referred to Palestinians as "lice" and "a cancer." He, and the Moledet Party which he founded, advocated the forcible transfer of Palestinians out of their homeland and into Jordan. In short, he was Hamas' opposite number, though of course instead of relying on suicide bombers to commit murder on his behalf, he had the IDF.

As vile a person Zeevi was, this of course does not justify his assassination, any more than it justifies ongoing extra-judicial murder by the Israeli occupation forces. I wonder, though, if Israel will have the sense to avoid assassinating any Palestinian leaders as they try a Palestinian for assassinating an Israeli leader.

It's important to understand the way in which Israeli electoral politics have consistently adversely affected the peace process and Palestinian human rights. For example, it's widely accepted that Binyamin Netanyahu beat Shimon Peres in the 1996 election because of a wave of suicide bombings by Hamas (the first time that Hamas began employing this tactic). What is not as widely known is that those suicide bombings were themselves in response to a wave of assassinations of Palestinian leaders ordered by Peres. Why would Peres do such a thing at such a moment? Because he needed to shore up his security cred to protect his right flank from the hardliner Netanyahu. We're seeing this same dynamic repeated now, as Olmert tries to protect his right flank from the same Netanyahu.

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