Monday, November 07, 2005

Poisoned Honey

Mohammed's latest, which appeared in Morgenbladet on 5 November.

Despite the so-called disengagement, the Israeli war against Palestine has moved into a new phase. In addition to targeted killings of Palestinian militant leaders in the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli Army is tormenting the entire population in Gaza with sound concussion grenades. The F16s circle, followed by explosions so loud that if one is detonated from a plane over Beit Hamoun in north Gaza, it can be heard all the way down in south Gaza. This is a new hardship for Gazans, one the Israelis would not use while Israeli families slept in the illegal settlements. Certainly, the settlers must not suffer nightmares and broken windows. Now that the settlements are empty, though, the Israeli army is apparently quite willing to send Palestinian children to the hospital with hysteria and other stress-induced illnesses.

Along with these attacks, the same F-16s have dropped leaflets throughout North Gaza urging citizens to "ensure their safety" by collaborating with the Israeli Security Services and giving the names and whereabouts of resistance fighters planning to fire homemade mortars across the border into Israel. This is not the first time the occupying forces have urged Palestinians to become informers, but it is especially bitter this year as another Eid celebration will be marred by national as well as personal losses. Last year, during what is meant to be the most festive time of the year, Palestinians were mourning the death of Yassir Arafat. Now, they watch in horror as many leaders of the Islamic Jihad die in missile strikes and other "extrajudicial assassinations," as the occupation forces call them. In the most recent killing in north Gaza, Islamic Jihad leader Shadi Muhannah's car was bombed as he returned from evening prayers. The street was crowded, since Friday prayers are especially well-attended during the holy month of Ramadan, and six bystanders, including four boys under 18, were killed.

To add an extra note of irony, the Israeli Security Services, so concerned for the innocent civilians of Gaza, list a mobile phone number in their leaflets, urging them "not to hesitate" to inform on armed militants. "For your safety," they add, "keep away from areas where mortars are being fired. . . . Everyone can help protect himself and his children from the harm caused by resistance fighters who intend to fire homemade rockets. Don't be reluctant. . ." the leaflet continues before giving the phone number. Almost as an afterthought, the unsigned text ends, "For your personal safety, call from a location where no one knows you." In the West Bank town of Tulkarem, the Israeli soldiers who invaded the area also handed out similar leaflets. In Gaza, Islamic Jihad quickly issued its own broadsheet warning people against turning informer, since throughout the Intifada, the Palestinian Authority has been quick to arrest, and frequently execute, any collaborators they discovered.

Continuing the psychological warfare, thousands of cell phone users in the northern West Bank and the Gaza Strip heard two recorded messages. One said: "The Israeli Defense Force is working to protect you by getting the terrorists out of your midst." The other: "The Israeli Defense Force cautions you against harming its security. For your own safety, do not offer shelter to the terrorists among you." The Palestinian Minister of Communications Sabri Saidam said that the Palestinian Telecommunications Network played no part whatsoever in disseminating these messages. He accused Bazek, an Israeli company, of allowing the Israeli authorities to penetrate the Palestinian phone network.

Tawfiq Abu Khussa, spokesman of the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior and National Security, said about the leaflet drop, "Basically, this tactic indicates a failed policy. This is not the first time they've used it. It didn't work in the past, it won't work now—it will never help the Israeli Army. What would help would be to stop the occupation, stop the arrests, the killings, the incursions. There are attacks because the fighters are resisting the occupation. End the occupation and the resistance will end. The attacks will stop when the citizens see real hope for peace and security through the political process, through re-starting the peace talks. They will never see hope, and never know security while Israel is attacking us."

Citizens in Gaza echoed Abu Khussa's sentiments. Without exception, they were unimpressed by the Israeli Army's professed concern for their safety. A typical response was that of Umm-Ibrahim Hamad, 46, a housewife and mother from northern Gaza. "Why should we call the same army that is killing us?" she asked. "What do they think we are?"

A reasonable question. The Israelis' paper leaflets stating their "concern" count for little against the missiles launched against a car traveling down a crowded Gaza street, killing and injuring those simply walking by. With its leaflets and phone messages, the Israeli army is trying to offer honey, but the people of Palestine know it is poisoned, and prefer to go hungry.

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