Bullying, as we know, goes well beyond the playground and our tiny island. It is almost `traditional`, in some sections of our society, that like tomcats men can mark their territory, regard it as theirs for life and fight tooth and nail to keep it.

But is it just a local tradition or is it a global problem? On the local scene the bullying is somewhat contained except, perhaps, for the appropriation of vast parts of our countryside by the hunters; otherwise it seems to effect only a small section of our society, although the repercussions are detrimental to the nation as a whole.

However, globally the bullying and accompanying violence are far more serious and have graver far-reaching effects. I shall, therefore, deal with our relatively minor problems first.

What set me off on my train of thought was an article about festa kiosks by Jennifer Baker on The Malta Independent`s front page on Friday. Apparently, that is where one of our `battlefields` is sited - the festa kiosks, not The Malta Independent.

It seems that although Zurrieq council took the trouble to regularise the provision of sites for festa kiosks by providing a site map with numbered spaces and allocated spots to each kiosk, some of the kiosk owners who `were there first` would have none of it. They had sprayed their patch and therefore it was theirs `by rights`.

Likened by one kiosk owner to the mafia, these guys get pretty tough and end up getting their way using the "might is right" approach. According to the report, the police "would like to help..." but they said "bad habits are hard to break in Malta".

Bad habits indeed. And I do no think the police spokesperson was talking about the `bad habit` of non-enforcement.

Complaints were also made about non-enforcement by the health authorities on hygiene, the use of petrol generators - which go against permit requirements - and the lack of safe access to utilities provided by Enemalta.

It seems that like the regulations on fireworks the authorities seem to turn a blind eye at festa time. All in all a pretty bad state of affairs.

But festa time is not the only time that bullies get their own way. A trendy ploy is to threaten Government with their vote - everyone and his tomcat are jumping on that particular bandwagon.

The hunting lobby is the most vociferous and they have now been joined by boathouse owners - not to be confused with the boat owners, quite a different kettle of fish, who are the latest to join the fray. Most of the latter are not inveterate bullies, although I am sure they are not all mani pulite.

The hunting lobby only cares that the `sport` practised by its members carries on unhampered. The fact that local families and tourists are virtually prohibited from certain areas which form part of our beautiful heritage by RTOs and worse, and that they are depriving the rest of the community at large of some of nature`s most beautiful creatures does not concern them.

They just have their hides and traps dotted all over the place and that has now become their territory and woe betide anyone who dares venture there. Their understanding of preserving protected birds is to stuff and display them to show off their machismo.

As to the boathouses - a misnomer if ever there was one - they no longer fulfil the function of housing a boat, when they did that they at least looked quaint and they were practical. Now cobbled into shanty holiday homes, they are just an eyesore. But again like the tomcat, the owner refuses to budge from what he now regards as his territory. What`s more, he is now demanding cream.

I could go on and on about the local bullies, but I am concentrating on the territorial bullies today. Besides, it is time to move on to Goliath.

Giants versus little people

The Jews have suffered much and, excepting the rich and powerful among them, they still suffer from racist prejudice. But that does not give them the right to oppress another race and act high and mighty and think they are the only ones to have a God-given right to use violence.

The Israelis are behaving arrogantly and despite America`s reactions that Sharon has now gone too far, he would never have made his move unless he was sure of US backing in the first place.

There is a lot of Jewish money in America and power is wielded in the US by the Israelis. There is no doubt they are the Goliath to Palestine`s David.

I was baffled to hear on CNN the phrase "violence is being used as a weapon by terrorists". As though the tanks being used by the Israelis are not weapons of violence!

What kind of desperation drives a young person to act as a human bomb? It is only people who have grown up with the concept that their lives are disposable and who can see no future except violence who can do it.

Looking at the carnage of innocent civilians after the latest suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem, I was reminded of the Battle of Algiers.

Terrorist bombs were the only weapons the Algerians had against the French oppressors; as always, history repeats itself, although the Algerians did not usually blow themselves up.

The Palestinians have no tanks. The pictures we are used to seeing on our screens are Palestinian children and women throwing stones at the tanks.

The point I am trying to make is that all violence is abhorrent, but we must keep things in perspective. We cannot accept tanks demolishing homes with people inside them and get all sactimonious about suicide bombers. None of it is acceptable.

Terrorism does not exist for its own sake it is a reaction to oppression. Therefore it is right that Sharon says there "cannot be peace with terror". But terror, like violence, is not the prerogative of terrorists.

Of course the Israelis have the right to defend themselves but the ferocity of the Israeli army`s operations in the West Bank has shocked public opinion and increased concern within the UN Security Council.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson, Yaffa Ben Ari, justified her country`s continuing war on Palestine on BBC yesterday by saying that "the (last) attack proves how legitimate our defensive operation is".

However, it seems to escape the Israeli government that the rest of the world thinks they are trying to crack a nut with a sledgehammer. And that there will be more suicide bombers if the violence against the Palestinians continues.

Violence begets violence and it does not lead to peace. Joshua Hammer of Newsweek magazine, talking to NBC yesterday evening, spoke of the rage and despair at the scale of destruction being wrought by the Israeli army.

He also spoke of Israeli tanks obliterating Palestinian homes with people inside them in Jenin and that the army was refusing access to the Red Cross, other aid workers and journalists.

He said there were no booby traps or shooting from the Palestinians so he could not understand why the Israeli army were not letting the aid workers and journalists in.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said that "the wanton disregard for human rights and humanitarian law is something we cannot accept", adding that "violence was an affront to mankind`s concience".

The human rights situation is "so appalling" that a force to create a secure environment can no longer be deferred, said Mr Annan

We cannot just watch in horror. Let us hope action will be taken immediately to stop the carnage.


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