Home Statement issued at the Balfour Day protest in front of the the Israeli Consulate on Nov. 1st and 2nd, 2003

Why Do We Assemble Here In Protest?

In the first two weeks of October, a full scale Israeli military invasion of refugee camps in Rafah left 2,000 Palestinians homeless, more than 15 dead, and scores of people injured. The Israeli army destroyed three apartment buildings in Gaza last week, destroying 144 homes in one blow.

At the beginning of October, the Israeli Occupation Forces declared the area between the new Apartheid Wall and the Green Line a 'closed military zone'--closed to all but Israelis. More than 12,000 indigenous Palestinians living in this portion of the West Bank, whose families have lived there for centuries, and many thousands more who depend on this land as farmers, face a growing threat of expulsion. By the second week of October, the Israelis had already begun implementing this order by forcing some 40 farmers from their land in Jayyus. During this same period of escalated killing, home demolition, and land dispossession against Palestinians, Israel announced the creation of 900 new homes for Jewish settlers.

These developments represent the latest wave in a long history of Israeli aggression aimed at killing or driving out the indigenous Palestinian people to make way for colonial settlement. This policy has been constant throughout all Israeli government administrations, whether Labor or Likud, whether undertaken through a process of de facto land seizure and military conquest or through a process of 'negotiation.'

Today, 86 years to the day after Lord Balfour expressed British colonial support for a Zionist state on Palestinian land, and in the midst of the latest crisis in an unbroken history of violent colonization since that time, leaders from the Israeli Labor Party and the US Democratic Party are speaking at a special conference here at the Park Plaza Hotel, which houses the Israeli Consulate. Under the title, "Israel's Road to Peace: the Role of American Jews," the event is being promoted as a "peace conference." Saturday's program will culminate with speeches by Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank and Israeli Labor Member of Knesset Amram Mitzna. Sunday's program will include visits by major representatives of the Democratic Party, including Steve Grossman, former president of the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Mitzna is perhaps the foremost representative of the Israeli "peace camp" within the Labor Party. As Israeli Defense Forces military commander over the West Bank under Yitzhak Rabin during the First Intifada, Mitzna in 1987 and 1988 carried out Rabin's command to "break the bones" of the Palestinians. His infamous "iron fist" policy against the non-violent uprising involved the following measures: a deliberate shoot-to-kill policy against unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, including children; mass detentions without trial; beatings and torture; and, most famous of all, a systematic policy of crushing the bones of the hands and arms of Palestinian young men and boys for throwing stones at occupying tanks.

Far from renouncing these policies, Mitzna claimed them for his resumé during his bid for Prime Minister in the last Israeli election. His repeated statements that "terrorism"--the word consistently used by Israelis for any form of Palestinian resistance--"must be met with an iron fist" are a clear reference to his former policy during the First Intifada. He was also clear in calling for the creation of the "separation barrier"--the Israeli Apartheid Wall--that has meant enormous intentional destruction of Palestinian land, dispossession of farmers, and stealing of water supplies in the most fertile regions of the West Bank.

Mitzna claims to support the creation of a Palestinian state and the withdrawal of settlers from the West Bank and Gaza. But the truth of this claim must be judged both from his own statements and from his recent participation in the secret "Geneva Accord" negotiations between Israelis and members of the Palestinian Authority: his vision of a Palestinian State consists of a demilitarized Palestinian government, with power only to administer local civil affairs. Israel would retain control of air-space, of water and other natural resources, of strategic military posts within Palestinian territory, and would retain the power to re-enter militarily at any time. In addition, the settlement blocs in Greater Jerusalem--the area with the highest concentration of Israeli settlers in all of Palestine--would be retained, effectively cutting the West Bank into isolated cantons. In exchange for this "state," the Palestinians would officially renounce all claims to the right of return for refugees--a right guaranteed by international law--and all claims under numerous UN resolutions in support of the Palestinian people.

Israel's "Road to Peace" is a road which ends in a system of reservations for the native people--like those in the United States--that shrink over time to fit the needs of increased settlement.

Barney Frank represents a similar "peace camp" within the US Democratic Party. At an AIPAC dinner in May of last year, a little more than a month after Israel committed the massacre of the people of Jenin Refugee Camp, he gave a speech in which he complimented Israel for its commitment to democracy and human rights. Eric Giesser, the regional coordinator for AIPAC and the man who arranged the event, praised Frank as "a good friend to Israel." This "friendship" is crucial, since US support for Israel--bi-partisan and in both houses of Congress--is the major force maintaining the Israeli system of occupation and apartheid.

Today's event is being billed as a peace conference, but its real aim is to shore up support for Israel during a period when the brutality of Israeli military aggression in Palestine has increasingly revealed the racist and genocidal character of the colonial-settler regime.

We stand in solidarity with the right of the Palestinian people to resist colonization and to reclaim their native land. We believe in a single, unified, democratic Palestine in all of historic Palestine, where all religions would be welcome, with equal rights for everyone.

Addendum on Mitzna and the Geneva Accord

In the October 13 issue of Haaretz, Amram Mitzna described the Geneva Accord negotiations to his Israeli audience:

"It was a war, without casualties. We sweat, but not in uniform. We conducted battles for Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and Gush Etzion. We fought for the permanent borders of the state of Israel, for the very existence of the state and its character, and we reached many achievements.

For the first time in history, the Palestinians explicitly and officially recognized the state of Israel as the state of the Jewish people forever. They gave up the right of return to the state of Israel and a solid, stable Jewish majority was guaranteed. The Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter and David's Tower will all remain in our hands.

The suffocating ring was lifted from over Jerusalem and the entire ring of settlements around it-Givat Ze'ev, old and new Givon, Ma'ale Adumim, Gush Etzion, Neve Yaacov, Pisgat Ze'ev, French Hill, Ramot, Gilo and Armon Hanatziv will be part of the expanded city, forever. None of the settlers in those areas will have to leave their homes."

Despite the peace rhetoric that has been used in the United States to promote the Geneva Accord and Mitzna as its foremost spokesman, it's clear from Mitzna's own presentation that the negotiation process is simply an extension of a colonial war fought to gain and consolidate territory. Like the peace treaties forced upon indigenous people of the United States, its achievement is to compel the native people to give their consent on paper to the theft of their land and to sign away their nominal rights.

The piece is worth reading for the light it sheds on Israel's use of "peace negotiations" as a tactic against Palestinian resistance. Mitzna again, criticizing Sharon's policies:

"For three years the prime minister brainwashed the public on the grounds that only force will bring victory.

He and his colleagues made the public believe that there truly is "nobody to talk to," that "the IDF can win" and that if we use more force, the Palestinians will break.

They told the citizens that if we are strong, the terror will end. But the situation only worsened. The assassinations became the government's only policy and instead of eradicating terror threaten to wipe out all that remains of the country.

The terror is intensifying, the economy continues to collapse, and society to break down, and the demographic reality threatens the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. But none of that has made the government change course and try a different tack."

It's clear from these comments that the impetus for negotiation is the remarkable success of the Second Intifada in challenging the continued existence of the Israeli Apartheid state and the failure of the tactics chosen by the Sharon government to quell the insurrection. In promoting negotiations, Mitzna and others in the Labour Party are reaching for Israel's favored weapon against sustained Palestinian resistance: as in the entire process leading up to Oslo, peace negotiations are simply "a different tack" for suppressing an Intifada that will not yield to the "iron fist."

The lesson Mitzna learned from the First Intifada is simply this: When the stick fails, use the carrot.