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Military readies plan for invasion
Israel drives toward war

by ERIC RUDER | August 3, 2001 | Page 16

IN THE biggest troop movements since the Palestinian Intifada began 10 months ago, the Israeli military last month deployed forces around the West Bank as a "warning" to Palestinians.

The maneuvers coincided with media reports that top Israeli generals had drawn up a plan to invade and retake areas now controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA). "Estimated Israeli casualties would be in their hundreds; Palestinian losses would be in their thousands," wrote Jane's Foreign Report, citing a source that had seen the plan.

The goal would be to kill Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his close circle of advisers--or at least force them into exile. "The 40,000-strong Palestinian armed forces would be disarmed and either dead or held in detention camps," Jane's reported.

Prime Minster Ariel Sharon denies that Israel has plans for an invasion--and insists that his government will follow a "policy of restraint."

But Sharon's "restraint" is war by another name. "Under [Sharon's] strategy, Israeli troops and security operatives have assassinated leading Palestinian militants, engaged in daily battles with Palestinian gunmen, shot and killed stone-throwing teenagers and bulldozed Palestinian houses built without permits," the Washington Post summarized last month.

Meanwhile, Israel's right-wing settler fanatics are upping the stakes. At the end of July, three dozen settlers tried to march on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem--one of Islam's holiest sites--to lay the cornerstone of what they vowed would be a new Jewish temple in place of the mosque.

When Palestinians inside the grounds responded by throwing rocks, hundreds of heavily armed Israeli police stormed the mosque, firing rubber bullets and tossing stun grenades. At least a dozen Palestinians were injured, and 28 were arrested.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grabbed headlines last month by criticizing Sharon for failing to crack down with the full might of the Israeli military. But incidents like the assault on the al-Aqsa mosque show that this accusation is absurd. "Netanyahu is vying with Sharon to commit even greater atrocities," said Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi.

For Sharon, abandoning the fig leaf of "restraint" and declaring an all-out war against the PA would carry risks.

For one, a full-scale invasion could produce a tide of uprisings across the Middle East. While Arab leaders have shown that they want to come to terms with Israel, the mass of the population of the Middle East backs the Palestinian struggle for self-determination--and could take action if Israel invades.

This is something that the U.S. government fears. It has supported Israel without hesitation for decades. But the U.S. also wants to preserve stability in the oil-rich Middle East.

Even without an all-out invasion, Sharon's government will continue its barbaric strategy of trying to silence resistance by strangling Palestinians economically.

More than 2 million Palestinians--65 percent of Palestinian households in the West Bank and Gaza--survive on a median income that's more than 20 percent below the poverty line. In the 10 months since the beginning of the Intifada, median income dropped by 50 percent in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

These desperate conditions, combined with the growing threat of an Israeli military assault, are bound to produce more confrontation. "These reinforcements, tanks and military units are pushing the fragile situation to the edge of explosion," said PA advisor Ahmed Abdel-Rahman.

Israel: The apartheid state

Socialist Worker's ANTHONY ARNOVE and AHMED SHAWKI visited Israel and the Occupied Territories last month. In our next issue, they'll describe what they saw, plus outline the background to the crisis in the Middle East--in a special four-page supplement. Here, we print a brief excerpt of their report.

PEOPLE AROUND the world look back on apartheid South Africa with horror and disgust. But you don't have to go to the history books to find out what apartheid is like. You only need to visit Palestine.

Since the Oslo peace accords were signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993, the U.S. has acted as if Palestinians all but had their own state.

But try to visit the land that Palestinians supposedly control, and you realize what a lie that is.

Even the small amount of historic Palestine that is now controlled by the Palestinian Authority is broken into numerous bantustans. While politicians talk about peace, Israeli settlements expand rapidly.

One settlement that we drove by, Ariel, has a university with 6,500 students, a modern sports complex and high-speed Internet access. Meanwhile, Palestinians living nearby face terrible poverty.

Since the beginning of the second Intifada last fall, Israel has sealed its borders to Palestinians--and replaced Palestinian workers with indentured slaves brought in from Thailand, Singapore and other poor countries.

The Occupied Territories are literally under a state of siege. But everywhere we went in Palestine, people were clear: They won't give up their struggle for freedom and justice.

Some day, people will look back on the U.S.'s political, military and economic backing of Israel the same way that they look back on its open support for apartheid in South Africa. We have to work to make sure that day is soon.

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