An Israeli view from Arafat's compound

Lutfi M. Hussein lutfi.hussein at ASU.EDU
Fri Apr 5 20:47:15 UTC 2002

Jordan Times
Friday-Saturday, April 5-6, 2002

An Israeli view from Arafat's compound
By Neta Golan and Ian Urbina

IT IS not Israeli actions which have surprised the international peace
observers currently holed up within Arafat's presidential compound. It is the
inaction of the international community that most shocks us. Inside the
pockmarked building surrounded by Israeli tanks and snipers, there is one
question on everyone's mind: how many international laws does Israel need to
break before the UN demands a full and immediate withdrawal?
The list of violations is reaching unprecedented levels, even for a conflict
with a long history of ugly behaviour on both sides. International law
absolutely forbids the building of the settlements, but 34 new settlements have

been constructed in this year alone. Collective punishment is illegal. But
Israel has now escalated from interrupting food shipments to completely
shutting off water to the Palestinian city of Ramallah, endangering the lives
of 120,000 people. The shelling of innocuous Palestinian civilian structures
such as power plants, schools and sewage facilities is occurring at an alarming

rate. Unarmed civilians are being killed practically on daily basis.

There are also growing reports of Israeli troops raiding hospitals and firing
on ambulances and journalists. These are grave breaches of international
convention. The recent experience of American newspaper correspondent, Anthony
Shadid, is hardly uncommon. First he was shot while in a zone under full
Israeli control. The area was quiet and there was no crossfire in which to be
caught. Shadid was wearing the required signs on his back and front indicating
that he was with the official press as he walked away from an interview in our
building. Soon after Shadid arrived to the hospital, Israeli troops raided it
with machineguns drawn. He was subsequently transferred for further medical
treatment, and his ambulance came under fire by Israeli soldiers manning a

Israel is making a mockery of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the founding legal
document of international human rights law, and by its tacit acceptance, the UN

is severely eroding its credibility in the region and beyond.

Those of us inside the presidential compound need help desperately. But not
half as much as those on the outside who are facing the full brunt of the mass
round-ups and house-to-house raids. The situation cannot deteriorate much
further. Medical supplies have run out. Food is scarce.

Pressure from abroad is essential, even when only on a person-by-person basis.
Boycotts and letter writing work. The presence of international “human shields”

throughout the occupied territories has been very important in limiting the
indiscriminate nature of Israeli military actions. But nothing short of a UN
demand for a full withdrawal to the 1967 UN recognised borders will succeed in
restoring calm and opening the way for peace negotiations. Only then can there
be discussion of the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees. Simply
pulling the troops out of the recently invaded regions will not suffice.

It is not just the Palestinians and foreigners within the compound who have
been calling for a full withdrawal. Even sectors within the Israeli military
have put forward this option as the only chance for peace and security for the
Israeli people. In a formal “Letter of Refusal” to Sharon, several hundred
Israeli soldiers, most with combat experience, advocated a full withdrawal and
have stated their unwillingness to serve in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. But
Sharon does not want to listen. And in the meantime, we in the compound are
left, not without fear, wondering whether the international community will
allow the permanent expansion of the already illegal occupation and the exile
if not assassination of the Palestinian leader.

Neta Golan, an Israeli, is among the 40 international peace observers occupying

Yasser Arafat's besieged office. Ian Urbina is associate editor of Middle East
Report, a foreign policy magazine in Washington, DC. They contributed this
article to The Jordan Times.

Lutfi M. Hussein
Department of English
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-0302, USA
Email: lutfi.hussein at

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