The Irrelevant, the Invisible, and the Impossible
By Dr. Hanan Ashrawi
December 19, 2001

It was no mean feat for Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and his extremist government to label Palestinian president Yasser Arafat "irrelevant."

Such a flight of fancy demands a mindset of supreme arrogance, willful ignorance, irresponsible political escapism, dedicated disregard of the facts, blind determination to maintain a state of crisis and insecurity, obsessive obstruction of any political options, deliberate derailment of any chances of peace-to name but a few.

Claiming to lead the "only democracy" in the region, the Israeli government gives itself the right to "dismiss" the elected leader of the Palestinian people with the utmost of "chutzpah."

Worse yet, its arrogance of power finds no "better" expression than to freely hand out "seals of approval" or "thumbs down" verdicts on the Palestinian leadership-existent or potentially "alternative."

In its desperate search for a tailor-made leadership to fit Israeli specifications, Sharon's government ignores the most basic lesson on the source of legitimacy of any leadership: It's the people, stupid.

With petty and childish petulance, Sharon has decided to close his eyes and ears (but not his mouth) and boycott the Palestinian president.

To his amazement, one presumes, Arafat did not oblige by making himself instantly invisible.

Rather, it is Sharon that remains blind, or has blinded himself to the reality of his own culpability and the cruelty of his military occupation as well as to the real requirements of peace.

So, if Arafat is "invisible" to Sharon, why should he repeatedly and bombastically demand "deeds and not words" from his "invisible" counterpart?

If Arafat is "irrelevant," why is Sharon indulging in his daily pastime of Arafat bashing in the form of such refrains as, "he hasn't made a strategic decision to stop the violence and terrorism"?

How does one then gauge Sharon's "relevance," having totally unraveled the modest achievements of the peace process, blocked any chances of genuine dialogue and negotiations, inflicted untold pain and suffering on the captive Palestinian people, dragged the Israeli people towards more lethal extremism and conflict, destroyed the Israeli economy, and revived the obsolete language of absolutism, militarization, and hatred?

If perpetual conflict and suffering are the objectives, then Sharon and his policies are relevant indeed.

If the objective is the replacement of this disastrous confrontation and occupation with a just peace and good neighborly relations, then Sharon and his ilk are objectively irrelevant to this agenda.

Ultimately, it is up to the Israeli people to pass their verdict before it is too late and Sharon succeeds in invalidating the peace agenda in the course of his "delegitimization" of the Palestine leadership, people, and cause.

Perhaps it suits Sharon's version of archaic political and military fundamentalism to "turn a blind eye" to the opportunities offered by the Palestinians and their current leadership to extricate both peoples from the morass of hostility and mutual suffering.

That might explain the "impossible" preconditions and insurmountable obstacles that the inventive minds of his political/military advisers keep churning out at the drop of a missile.

The travesty of "seven days of absolute quiet" has already been exposed as the evil creation of a twisted mind bent on imposing impossible conditions in order to avoid the possibility of peace.

Perhaps if Sharon is held responsible for the behavior of every single member of his army, let alone every Israeli citizen, and is held personally accountable while the Israeli people are collectively and inhumanly punished, then it might begin to dawn upon him how ludicrous and pompously vacuous his preconditions and proclamations really are.

Then again, it might not.

For Sharon is not only bent on repeating the mistakes of the past, constantly demonstrating that incremental awareness is not a human attribute that we can take for granted. He is also unwavering in his blind pursuit of a "mission impossible" of his own creation, but true to his own historical "record."

The Palestinian people cannot be defeated by military brutality and escalation, nor will they abandon their quest for freedom and dignity to accommodate Sharon's scheme of a greater Israel.

The Palestinian people not only will not abandon their elected leadership, but also will not manufacture a "made-to-order" substitute leadership to accommodate his preferences.

At the most elementary level, we shall neither disappear (no matter what blindfolds he chooses), nor shall we self-negate.

On the question of "relevance," we remain the key to peace, hence to the security of Israel and the whole region.

We are also the very visible people who, on the receiving end of the occupation's continued military assaults and strangulation, still remain the source of legitimacy for Israel.

Ultimately, we are the people with whom the Israeli government and people will have to make peace once they rid themselves of Sharon's "impossible" agenda.