Robert Fisk: This terrible conflict is the last colonial war


Robert Fisk: This terrible conflict is the last colonial war



'Arafat used to make the same expressions of grief

when his gunmen

murdered innocent Lebanese'



04 December 2001





http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=108161



Can Ariel Sharon control his own people? Can he

control his army? Can 

he

stop them from killing children, leaving booby traps

in orchards or 

firing

tank shells into refugee camps? Can Sharon stop his

rabble of an army 

from

destroying hundreds of Palestinian refugee homes in

Gaza? Can Sharon

"crack down" on Jewish settlers and prevent them from

stealing more 

land

from Palestinians? Can he stop his secret-service

killers from 

murdering

their Palestinian enemies  or carrying out " targeted

killings", as the

BBC was still gutlessly calling these executions

yesterday in its 

effort

to avoid Israeli criticism.



It is, of course, forbidden to ask these questions. So

let's "legalise"

them. The Palestinian suicide bombings in Jerusalem

and Haifa are

disgusting, evil, revolting, unforgivable. I saw the

immediate 

aftermath

of the Pizzeria suicide bombing in Jerusalem last

August: Israeli women

and children, ripped apart by explosives that had

nails packed around 

them

designed to ensure that those who survived were

scarred for life.



I remember Yasser Arafat's grovelling message of

condolence, and I 

thought

to myself  like any Israeli, I guess  that I didn't

believe a word of 

it.

In fact, I don't believe a word of it. Arafat used to

make the same

eloquent expressions of grief when his gunmen murdered

innocent 

Lebanese

during that country's civil war. Bullshit, I used to

think. And I still

do.



But there was a clue to the real problem only hours

after the latest

bloodbath in Israel. Colin Powell, the US Secretary of

State, was being

questioned with characteristic obsequiousness on CNN

about his reaction 

to

the slaughter. Nothing, he said, could justify such

"terrorism", and he

went on to refer to the plight of the Palestinians,

who suffer "50 per

cent unemployment". I sat up at that point.

Unemployment? Is that what 

Mr

Powell thought this was about.



And my mind went back to his speech at Louisberg

University on 20 

November

when he launched  or so we were supposed to believe 

his Middle-East

initiative. "Palestinians must..." was the theme:

Palestinians must 

"end

the violence"; Palestinians must "arrest, prosecute

and punish the

perpetrators of terrorist acts"; Palestinians "need to

understand that,

however legitimate their claims"  note the word

"however"  "they cannot

be... addressed by violence"; Palestinians "must

realise that violence 

has

had a terrible impact on Israel". Only when General

Powell told his

audience that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and

Gaza must end, 

did

it become clear that Israel was occupying Palestine

rather than the 

other

way round.



The reality is that the Palestinian/Israeli conflict

is the last 

colonial

war. The French thought that they were fighting the

last battle of this

kind. They had long ago conquered Algeria. They set up

their farms and

settlements in the most beautiful land in North

Africa. And when the

Algerians demanded independence, they called them

"terrorists" and they

shot down their demonstrators and they tortured their

guerrilla enemies

and they murdered  in "targeted killings"  their

antagonists.



In just the same way, we are responding to the latest

massacre in 

Israel

according to the rules of the State Department, CNN,

the BBC and 

Downing

Street. Arafat has got to come alive, to get real, to

perform his duty 

as

the West's policeman in the Middle East. President

Mubarak does it in

Egypt; King Abdullah does it in Jordan; King Fahd does

it in Saudi 

Arabia.

They control their people for us. It is their duty.

They must fulfil 

their

moral obligations, without any reference to history or

to the pain and 

the

suffering of their people.



So let me tell a little story. A few hours before I

wrote this article

exactly four hours after the last suicide bomber had

destroyed himself 

and

his innocent victims in Haifa  I visited a grotty,

fly-blown hospital 

in

Quetta, the Pakistani border city where Afghan victims

of American 

bombing

raids are brought for treatment. Surrounded by an army

of flies in bed 

No

12, Mahmat  most Afghans have no family names  told me

his story. There

were no CNN cameras, no BBC reporters in this hospital

to film the

patient. Nor will there be. Mahmat had been asleep in

his home in the

village of Kazikarez six days ago when an bomb from an

American B-52 

fell

on his village. He was asleep in one room, his wife

with the children. 

His

son Nourali died, as did Jaber  aged 10  Janaan,

eight, Salamo, six,

Twayir, four, and Palwasha  the only girl  two.



"The plane flies so high that we cannot hear them and

the mud roof fell 

on

them," Mahmat said. His wife Rukia  whom he permitted

me to see  lay in

the next room (bed No 13). She did not know that her

children were 

dead.

She was 25 and looked 45. A cloth dignified her

forehead. Her children

like so many Afghan innocents in this frightful War

for civilisation  

were

victims whom Mr Bush and Mr Blair will never

acknowledge. And watching

Mahmat plead for money  the American bomb had blasted

away his clothes 

and

he was naked beneath the hospital blanket  I could see

something 

terrible:

he and the angry cousin beside him and the uncle and

the wife's brother 

in

the hospital attacking America for the murders that

they had inflicted 

on

their family...



One day, I suspect, Mahmat's relatives may be angry

enough to take 

their

revenge on the United States, in which case they will

be terrorists, 

men

of violence. We may even ask if their leaders could

control them. They 

are

not bin Ladens, Mahmat's family said that  "We are

neither Taliban nor

Arab"  but, frankly, could we blame them if they

decided to strike at 

the

United States for the bloody and terrible crime done

to their family. 

Can

the United States stop bombing villages? Can

Washington persuade its

special forces to protect prisoners? Can the Americans

control their 

own

people?






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