Q&A with Abunimah

Minneapolis, Minn.: Don’t suicide bombers prevent any prospect peace process from being successful?

Islam forbids suicide — then why do suicide bombers commit this act in the name of religion?

Ali Abunimah: I think that all violence against innocent civilians diminishes the prospects of peace, and this is certainly true of suicide bombings like the one we just saw. Such bombings are horrific and need to stop. What we need to add however is that most of the violence directed against innocent civilians has come from Israel. While several hundred innocent Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, five times as many innocent Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. Israel says that this is merely an “accident” and that it is acting in self-defense. Every human rights group that has examined Israel’s actions, however, has found very deliberate targeting of civilians, wanton and deliberate use of force, and other grave abuses, such as torture. We will never know the full truth of what happened in Jenin because Israel blocked the UN Security Council-mandated inquiry, but both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found evidence of Israeli war crimes. All of this Israeli violence which is designed to maintain Israel’s military occupation of 3.5 million Palestinians is what is provoking and producing the violence. As long as Israeli chooses violence as its only way of addressing the Palestinians, then there will always be some Palestinians who choose violence in response. The only way to break this devastating cycle is a political process that quickly ends Israel’s occupation and gives the Palestinians their freedom.

New York City: What were the actual terms of Barak’s offer, and the negotiations after that (taba, I think). Do you think Sharon would be willing to pursue negotiaions where Barak left off if Arafat would agree to start there?

Ali Abunimah: What Barak offered at Camp David was a formula for continued Israeli
military occupation under the name of a “state.”

The proposal would have meant no territorial contiguity for the
Palestinian state, no control of its external borders, limited
control of its own water resources, and no full Israeli withdrawal
from occupied territory.

In addition, the Barak plan would have included continued Israeli
military control over large segments of the West Bank, including
almost all of the Jordan Valley; codified the right of Israeli
forces to be deployed in the Palestinian state at short notice;
meant the continued presence of fortified Israeli settlements and
Jewish-only roads in the heart of the Palestinian state; and
required nearly 4 million Palestinian refugees to relinquish their
fundamental human rights in exchange for compensation to be paid not
by Israel but by the “international community.”

At best, Palestinians could expect a kind of super-autonomy within a
“Greater Israel”, rather than independence, and the devolution of
some municipal functions in the parts of Jerusalem inhabited by
Palestinians, under continued overall Israeli control.

Despite this offer, Palestinians continued with the negotiations in
Washington, and then in Taba until January 2001, when Ehud Barak
broke them off. It has always been the position of the Palestinian
Authority that they are ready to immediately continue negotiations
from where they left off, but Israel has refused this. It is very
clear that Sharon, who has vowed never to dismantle a single Israeli
colony, and who has accelerated the pace of construction in the
occupied territories is even less interested than ending the
occupation than Barak was.

I have written a longer analysis of what happened at Camp David and
afterwards, with more documentation which you can read