[News] Robin Hood Meet Mr. Sharon

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Fri Feb 27 17:04:57 EST 2004

The following appeared in the Golbe and Mail

Robin Hood, meet Mr. Sharon

Friday, February 27, 2004 - Page A19

Call it Operation Robin Hood. On Wednesday, Israeli troops invaded the 
Palestinian city of Ramallah. Aided by two computer experts they had 
detained the night before, the Israelis entered two branches of the Arab 
Bank and a branch of the Cairo Amman bank and emptied their vaults. Just 
like real thieves, the soldiers were professional. The first thing they did 
was cover the security cameras. They corralled the staff into tiny rooms 
and began the process of unloading the cash from the vaults. They also 
entered the computers and downloaded the data.

Why label it Robin Hood? Not just because the merry troops wore green 
fatigues. Rather it was because of the statement made immediately after the 
heist by Israel's Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz. The loot, as much as 
$9-million (U.S.), he said, will be spent on "humanitarian goals in 
Palestinian society," like health services, food and "improving the 
infrastructure at crossing points and checkpoints."

So there you have it, the army of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle 
East, is stealing from two well-respected Jordanian banks in order to 
improve the conditions at the checkpoints. How much more benevolent can the 
Israeli occupation be?

As a Palestinian businessman commented, perhaps the banks should erect 
plaques at the new improved checkpoints: "Sponsored by the Arab Bank," or 
"Sponsored by the Cairo Amman Bank."

This Israeli heist is not simply a matter of trying to update Israel's list 
of so-called terrorists, nor should it be seen as part of what they call 
the war on terror. While allies of Israel might see it as the failure of 
confidence and communications between the Palestinians and Israel, many 
Palestinians see this as yet another clear sign of the absence of a 
rationale for the continuation of the Palestinian National Authority.

Ever since the Israeli army decided to cancel the understanding it had 
regarding areas of the West Bank under Palestinian security, a vacuum has 
existed. Israeli soldiers and security forces come and go as they please. 
The problem is that the Israeli security forces don't stay; nor do they 
turn over the security powers to the Palestinians when they leave.

The result: In the past few weeks numerous cases of lawlessness have swept 
the area. Journalists and media organizations have been attacked by unknown 
assailants, and unarmed Palestinian police have been unable to do anything 
to stop it. When the television station where I work was attacked a few 
weeks ago, we asked the Palestinian police to take fingerprints. They 
laughed and said that their laboratory had been destroyed by the Israelis.

The Israelis seem to have the best of both worlds. They can come in to 
arrest, demolish and to steal whenever they want, without having any of the 
responsibilities towards the occupied people. The Palestinian Authority is 
left to pay the salaries of government employees and to receive the wrath 
of their own public without having any powers.

The situation can't continue forever. But rather than waiting for Israel to 
decide whether it wants to stay in the Palestinians' cities and take over 
the responsibilities of occupation, or to leave them without ever 
returning, the Palestinian Authority should act. It must have the courage 
to throw in the keys and remove the pretence that it has any role in the 
lives of Palestinians.

Daoud Kuttab is director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds 
University in Ramallah.

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