Sister Mary reflects on Ariel Sharon's latest speech

 Here in Jerusalem we have watched a week of escalating violence throughout Israel and Palestine. And both peoples tuned in to hear Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policy in regard to the situation here, as he addressed the Israelis on Thursday night. Both were troubled by what they heard. The Israeli press reported that there was nothing new in his speech, except for the construction of a 'buffer zone', a concrete wall nine feet high running from the area of Gilboa in the north to Hebron in the south. That's about 300 kilometres of a Berlin style wall, which of course will be built on Palestinian lands after the land is confiscated for that purpose. Some Israelis are reminded of Sharon's unsuccessful buffer zones in South Lebanon, which claimed the lives of over a thousand members of the Israeli Occupation Forces there. I found myself wondering about all the Israeli settlements that are in the West Bank and Gaza; they will be on the wrong side of the wall. The Prime Minister said: "There is on other way." Last month an Israeli newspaper had a lengthy article about how the checkpoints that the Israeli government have set up on all the roads near the West Bank are of no real value for security. The article pointed out that they are only places to show who is in control; places of wasted time and humiliation for the Palestinians trying to pass through them. This week the Israeli Occupation Force at those checkpoints discovered just how insecure they are - six Israeli soldiers lost their lives there. Buffer zones will be no better. The day prior to Prime Minister Sharon's TV appearance, the Palestine Monitor publication stated that anyone who tries to avoid checkpoints by using by-pass roads will be shot. One can only expect the death toll to rise. In response to the speech, Israelis have said that it sounded like a 'hollow election speech' and showed that Sharon, who was elected on his promise to bring security to Israel, has only brought more insecurity and death. The conclusion of many was that he simply does not have a 'clean-cut plan', except his plan to force the elected leader of the Palestinians, President Arafat, out of office. This plan allows Sharon the freedom of not having to deal with the issue of negotiations, the issue of justice and the issue of peace. An American response to the speech came in terms of the 'wild west'; Sharon called for "the circling of the wagons", but this time it was in the form of a huge concrete wall. The lucky Israelis, Romanians or Philippinos who work for the concrete factory will not have to worry about their jobs during this time of economic slowdown. A Palestinian woman who listened to the Prime Minister Thursday night reflected that they, the Israelis, are afraid now. It's true, many more Israelis are fearful. The man who promised them security has only brought increased insecurity into their daily lives due to his steadily increasing the violence against Palestinians. But what I never cease to be amazed at, is the ability of the Palestinians to adjust to whatever curtailment of freedom, whatever humiliation or destruction is forced upon them. They have survived these past 16 months; and even though their leader is not allowed to leave his compound (which has been bombed twice this week), even though family and friends have died in the atrocities of these months, even though they have been out of work or not allowed through the checkpoints to get to work, even though their homes or sources of livelihood have been destroyed, all this seems to have made them more resilient and more unified. For ages as the Jews have considered themselves sons of Abraham through Isaac, the Arabs have considered themselves sons of Abraham through Ishmael. Both had their desert experiences and both survived. Sr Mary is an Ursuline nun working in Jerusalem

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