During the first year of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, sparked on 29 September 2000, 560 Palestinians — 472 of them civilians, including 140 children — were killed by the Israeli army and settlers. According to the Red Crescent Society, more than 15,000 Palestinians were also wounded, and 25 people died at border check points while being denied passage to hospitals. The Palestinian economy has been strangled and GDP is declining. Homes are routinely destroyed. Movement is severely curtailed: curfews are the rule rather than the exception in many parts of the fragmented Palestinian Authority (PA)-controlled territories. This systematic Israeli terror is perpetrated with U.S. aid and approval.
After many years of brutal war against the Palestinian people, Israel has now launched an all-out assault on the PA and its leader, Yasser Arafat. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon used September 11 as a cover to escalate the brutality, launching fierce air strikes aimed at PA targets and enforcing strict military closures. The apartheid state of Israel believes that the PA can serve no further purpose in quelling popular revolt. Ironically, the usefulness of the PA under Arafat is also being questioned by many Palestinians. Many in Palestine refuse to be corralled into a “peace process” which does not address the fundamental issues of territory, autonomy and the right of return for refugees.
Increased repression will not stop desperate young Palestinians from becoming suicide bombers. But giving them genuine hope of achieving a just solution for the long-suffering Palestinian people will. To achieve lasting peace, it is necessary to create a secular state, where both Palestinians and Jews can live together as equals. Husam Khader, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for the City of Nablus and radical leader of Fateh, recently called for the formation of a new political party. New leadership — if it campaigns for a secular, socialist Palestine — could harness the defiant spirit of the Palestinian people and anti-Zionist Jews to win justice, equality and ultimately peace in the Middle East.