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Translation of an article to be published
in Ma'ariv on July 25, 2000
Words That Kill

by Uri Avnery / 23.o7.oo

"All the time we are giving up and get nothing in return!"

Indeed, we are giving up a lot. The next war. New graveyards. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of bereaved families, theirs and ours.

Apart from those, we are not giving up anything. If I am taking by force somebody's property, and then agree to give him back part of it, I am not "giving up" anything. It's the other side that's giving up part of the property I've taken.

"We must not release prisoners with blood on their hands!"

On the eve of Camp David, Barak could have released a great number of Palestinian prisoners, at least those that were sent to prison for things done before Oslo. Barak did not release anybody, and thus poisoned the atmosphere even before the start of the talks. Why did he miss such an important opportunity? He was afraid of the public outcry that would follow, because of the four words: "Blood on their hands".

Mendacious words. I have blood on my hands. Nearly all of the (male) Israeli readers of this article have blood on their hands. We fought for our people. They fought for their people. They are prisoners-of-war. They should have been released immediately after Oslo (as Gush Shalom demanded at the time.) Rabin was afraid. Barak is afraid. Four words have turned into deadly landmines on the road to peace.

"Barak does not budge from his Red Lines."

If you declare "Red Lines" and take pride in not budging from them in the negotiations, you do not negotiate in good faith. Peace means compromise between the red lines of the two sides. Otherwise it's a diktat, an ultimatum delivered by the strong side to the weaker one.

The advertising expert Reuven Wimmer has coined a new geometric law: "Two red lines never meet." The recent uproar about the "Chinese spy plane" has led to another dictum: "The only red lines of Israel are in the American flag". And, indeed, until we achieve peace, Israel's relations with the US are of existential importance. All other red lines are mobile.

"Jerusalem is the soul of the Jewish people."

Empty words. The Torah was given in Sinai, the "Jerusalem Talmud" was written in Galilee, the "Shulchan Aruch" was written in Safed. Herzl detested Jerusalem, and so did all the founding fathers of the modern Hebrew society. The Jews in the Diaspora prayed for Jerusalem, but prayer does not create rights. Jerusalem of the prayers is an abstract idea. Yasser Arafat may be ready to cede to us the "Heavenly Jerusalem", if we give him his part of the earthly one.

"United Jerusalem, eternal Capital of Israel, will remain forever under the sovereignty of Israel."

There is not one word of truth in this mantra. Jerusalem is not united. The Eastern part was conquered by force, and since then it is being governed by a mayor elected by the Western part, who serves as a military governor of the Eastern town. Since 1967, every Israeli knows that when he crosses the invisible border, he enters another town. During the Intifada, very few Israelis dared to do that.

Certainly, in public opinion polls a big majority votes against a compromise in Jerusalem. But I would be allowed to phrase the question, the answer would be quiet different. For example: "Do you want your son to die for Ras-al-Amud, Silwan, Sheikh-Jarakh and other Arab quarters of Jerusalem?" 85% will answer with a clear No. In the end, that's what counts.

"We shall be here and they shall be there."

Barak's favorite slogan. But how does that rhyme with the annexation of "settlement bloc" and "by-pass roads" that cut deep into the territory of the Palestinian state, so that almost no Palestinian will be able to visit his cousin without coming across an Israeli army post? Where is "here" and where is "there"? Not to mention the 200 thousand Palestinians in East Jerusalem, who, according to Barak. will not be "there" but "here"?

"We shall not give Arafat anything if he will not declare that this is the end of the conflict."

We have no conflict with Arafat, but with nine million Palestinians. If most of them will consider the agreement an unjust diktat, it will not endure. The existential interests of Israel demand a peace agreement that will lead to a real reconciliation, one that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians will wholeheartedly accept as a fair and just compromise.

"Barak will bring us an agreement that will not impose on us any significant withdrawal."

Every housewife knows that it is not worthwhile to buy goods that are too cheap. In the flea market things may be cheap, but they will disintegrate within a short time. It's better to buy more expensive goods in a good shop. A cheap peace bought in the flea market - how much will it be worth? How long will it last?

"Barak will achieve peace and security."

Peace and Security are not two different, or even contradictory things.

Peace is security.

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Gush Shalom

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