Sharon, Arafat must go

Since the commencement of the current intifada, we have made a clear distinction between unpalatable news and biased news in the highly selective depiction of Israel in the national media. All of us are long-time supporters of the Israeli peace movement, but we are not prepared to serve as apologists for Palestinian terrorism or blind rejectionism.

We are also deeply opposed to the policies of the current Israeli government (Israelis launch massive attack, March 13). Prime Minister Sharon has led the country into a blind alley of tribal violence and bloody vendetta at dreadful cost – now over 1,300 dead. Sharon markets the delusion that he can solve this problem by military means. He has no vision of the future except blood and fire. As with the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, when he deceived Prime Minister Begin, unprincipled risk-taking has characterised his career and the current military adventurism is no exception. Sharon has succeeded in avoiding negotiations that would exert pressure for territorial withdrawal. He has done this with the clear objective of sustaining the settlements and entrenching the occupation. He has adopted this course in the full knowledge that a majority of Israelis have consistently opposed such policies.

Similarly, Yasser Arafat has brought catastrophe to his people in refusing a viable peace proposal formulated by President Clinton during the Taba peace talks in January 2001 and igniting a war of terror against Israel. Through silence and inaction, he has filled the role of godfather to teenage suicide bombers who believed that they were helping their people. Through a staggering display of incompetence and deviousness, he has managed to unite large numbers of Israelis and Palestinians in believing that he is untrustworthy and incapable of finding a way out of the current morass.

We believe that both Sharon and Arafat should go. New leadership less wedded to the past should simultaneously agree to an immediate unconditional ceasefire and resume discussions.

The time has come for both Israelis and Palestinians to break out of the dreadful impasse of violence fashioned by their irreparably failed leaders. We call on all people committed to the peace and wellbeing of both peoples to actively support those elements of moderation who are for working for such a change of leadership and a return to reason.

Prof David Cesarani
University of Southampton

Prof Shalom Lappin
Kings College, London

Dr Colin Shindler
SOAS, London

Guardian 14 March 2002

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