Actions speak loudest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2001, 12:00am

Empty words have gone far enough in the Middle East. It is time for tough action and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat must prove his mettle and bring an end to violence that has claimed far too many innocent lives.

The wave of weekend bomb attacks in Israel was the last straw. The cry of 'terrorism' is ringing louder than ever and the suicide bombings by Palestinian Hamas guerillas could not have been more ill-judged. The broken and bloody bodies of Israeli teenagers was a sickening enough sight; the fact such young lives were targeted was repulsive.

Put simply, an attack against innocent people is terrorism and Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda group know the consequences of that. Similarly, Afghanistan's ousted rulers, the Taleban, although not a terrorist group itself, harboured al-Qaeda members and suffered along with them.

The Palestinian question, though, cannot be handled so simplistically. The events in New York and Washington on September 11 were black-and-white issues that have brought a clear response. But bombs will not solve the centuries-old divisions between Arabs and Jews, which can only be dealt with through mediation at the highest international level. The US, by sending high-ranking envoys to the region in the past week, was at least setting its sights anew on getting mediation back on track.

But dissimilarities or not, Mr Arafat has seen the groundswell in opinion against acts of terrorism and cannot secretly condone them to radical Palestinians while at the same time condemning them to an international audience. He can round up a few dozen alleged extremists and say he is doing his best, but stamping out extremism is the only way he can truly show he means what he says.

If Mr Arafat is unable to meet the world's demands, he must admit failure. This may involve him stepping aside, as Israel says, and allowing a leader capable of controlling the extreme elements to take over. Or it may involve him calling for international assistance to subdue what he and his police cannot.

Whichever way, the cycle of violence must end now.


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