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Fax to US Ambassador

17 April 2002

Ambassador Charles Swindells,
US Embassy, Wellington
Fax: 04 471 2380

17 April 2002

Dear Mr. Swindells,

I write to you because I am deeply worried by your government's unconditional support for Israeli policies in the Middle East, which I believe, are pushing the region towards all out war. I am an Engineer, not a political analyst. My letter is not elegant or concise, but it comes from my heart.

1) Illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

The Israeli policy of creeping settlement in the occupied territories is a slow form of ethnic cleansing. As each settlement is built, "security" roads are built to connect it to other settlements. Palestinian buildings that are in the way, or close enough to be a "security risk", are bulldozed. Palestinian agriculture is strangled as the new Israeli artesian wells lower the water table, while Palestinians are not allowed to drill deeper as their wells dry up. Palestinian lorries full of fruit and vegetables are kept waiting at check points, sometimes for a whole day, so the produce is spoiled before it gets to market. All this has been going on since long before the Intifadas. Every year the Palestinians lose more of their land and are more impoverished.

Why do the Israelis take all this land? It can't be to improve their security because each new settlement needs more soldiers to guard it. The settlement policy is being driven by an extremist Zionist minority within Israel. Their philosophy, that because some of their forbears lived in historic Israel 2000 years ago, they are justified in displacing the indigenous Palestinians, is morally bankrupt, and it threatens the stability of the Middle East. The world is already over-populated. Many countries could say that they are short of land. Hitler started the second world war because he believed that the German race needed "Lebens-raum"(living space). Indonesia invaded East Timor, and China invaded Tibet for the same reason. If you believe that you are "entitled" to invade another peoples' land, and squash them down, impoverish them, and have total control of their land and their natural resources, then what you are saying is "I am of a superior race and these people I am invading are of an inferior race". Zionism is another face of racism, and it needs to be confronted as such. We hear almost daily demands from President Bush, that Chairman Arafat should denounce suicide bombers and lock up militants. Fair enough, but why does he not, at the same time, demand that Prime Minister Sharon denounce Zionism and lock up the settlers?

2) The Israeli response to violence, and an alternative.

The Israeli position seems to be that the only possible response to Palestinian violence is a much higher level of violence as a punishment. Thus stone throwing is met with rifle fire, rifle fire and suicide bombing is met with tanks, helicopter gun ships and jet fighters.

Any death of, or injury to innocent Palestinians, destruction of their houses and businesses, and suppression of their civil rights is apparently of no concern to the Israeli government.

Well, I was living in England when the IRA were bombing pubs, shopping centres and offices in Northern Ireland and mainland Britain. There were people in Britain at the time who advocated punitive attacks on the Catholic population in Northern Ireland for aiding or sheltering the IRA, and sending in the SAS to assassinate militants.

To their credit, successive British governments never lost sight of the fact that the Catholics, even though many of them supported independence from Britain, were just as much citizens of the U.K. as anybody else. The lunatic fringe were told that punishing the whole RC population for the offences of the minority was unacceptable, and assassination was not an option either. People would have to be patient and wait for careful police work to eventually track down the offenders and bring them to justice.

Conservative and Labour politicians alike, displayed real leadership and courage at that time in sticking to the rule of law, when after each atrocity, the tabloid newspapers were baying for blood, and castigating the government for not doing something decisive. (There was a lapse from this high standard when internment was introduced, but it was abandoned under pressure from civil rights activists and because it was apparent that the injustice of the policy was actually increasing the flow of volunteers to join the IRA).

The most recent major atrocity in Northern Ireland was at Omagh in 1998. Twenty nine people died when a car bomb blew up in the city centre.(Similar casualties to the suicide bombing at Netanya in March 2002). Did the British government send helicopter gunships to blow up the Sinn Fein offices with guided missiles; did they send tanks into Roman Catholic housing estates? No they did not.

Even more important, the British government did not suspend the "peace process" negotiations that were going on, aimed at achieving a political solution in Northern Ireland. In Omagh and Netanya, we have quite similar atrocities, but the response of the respective governments could not be more different and, it has to be said, the prospects for lasting peace could not be more different.

3) Terrorists or freedom fighters?

I find the idea of blowing up civilians in cold blood, totally horrific. Unfortunately, President Bush's demand that Chairman Arafat condemn suicide bombing, is greatly undermined by three things:

a) He is not even handed. He doesn't condemn the illegal Israeli settlement programme that is the root cause of Palestinian violence;

b) Israel's settlement programme would collapse without American financial aid, so America is seen by much of the world as directly participating in Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people;

c) Inconsistency. At the height of the IRA bombing campaign, American citizens were supplying much of the money that the IRA needed to buy explosives and weapons, through an organisation called Noraid. I am sure that they justified their support for IRA violence by believing that the IRA were freedom fighters, not terrorists. The American government presumably saw the IRA in the same light, when they refused the British government's request that they shut down Noraid.

In Nicaragua, the CIA recruited, trained, armed and funded the Contras, who killed thousands of civilians in their campaign to overthrow the Sandinistan government. Were the Contras terrorists or freedom fighters? President Bush should not be surprised when Arab countries continue to provide support for Hamas; they are only choosing to do what America does, not what it says.

So what of the future? Left to themselves, there is virtually no hope that Sharon and Arafat could ever agree to a peace settlement. Arafat is compromised in Sharon's eyes by his association with Hamas. Sharon is compromised in Arafat's eyes by his association with the massacres at Sabra and Shatilla, and his open hostility to every part of the Oslo accord. Both of them are prisoners of the extremists among their supporters. If Sharon makes any concessions to the Palestinians, the Zionists will collapse his coalition, and if Arafat makes any concessions to Israel, the militants will similarly cease any cooperation with him.

I hope President Bush will have the courage to be even-handed in his dealings in the Middle East, giving as much weight to the rights of the Palestinians to live in peace and prosperity and have self-determination, as to the same rights for the Israelis. I believe he can push the Israeli government to start the process of evacuating all the illegal settlements, and to accept an international peacekeeping force to keep the two peoples apart and prevent suicide bombings. Once the first settlement is evacuated, the Palestinians will see that they can achieve justice without violence, and the Saudi peace plan can be implemented to guarantee Israel's security. I know that this is will meet with enormous resistance from the Israeli government, but their recent policy has been a total failure as far as protecting their population is concerned. Can they refuse to cooperate if President Bush makes the continuation of any financial or military aid from America conditional on that cooperation?

If no start is made on a programme to evacuate all the illegal settlements, then I fear that the violence will continue and increase. No doubt the Israeli government will put most of the male Palestinian population in concentration camps, or forcibly deport them to Jordan and Egypt. Egypt and Jordan could well tear up their peace treaties with Israel, and moderate Arab governments that are not seen to be doing enough to support the Palestinians, could be overthrown and replaced by radical regimes. Another Arab-Israeli war could start, and as Israel has nuclear weapons, the prospect is appalling.

Please pass this letter on to your government, with my best wishes that they will find a path to peace and justice in this difficult situation.

Yours sincerely, Patrick Mulholland

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