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Israeli military storms into Palestinian city in latest offensive
Terror in Hebron

by ERIC RUDER | August 31, 2001 | Page 7

ISRAEL'S AGGRESSION against the 11-month-old Palestinian Intifada has reached a new peak.

Israeli tanks, armored personnel carriers and military jeeps stormed Palestinian-ruled areas of Hebron August 24, with soldiers demolishing two buildings and engaging in a fierce exchange of gunfire for several hours before retreating.

It was the deepest incursion so far into Palestinian-controlled areas. But the invasion of Hebron was only the latest in a string of operations into areas of the West Bank and Gaza controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

These attacks have brought Israel, step by step, closer to the plan that its generals have openly promoted for months--an all-out assault to wipe out the PA and place all of the West Bank and Gaza under military control.

Israel's right-wingers believe this is the only way to stop Palestinian "violence." But to see the source of Palestinian resistance, you need look no further than Hebron itself.

The city is home to 120,000 Palestinians--and 400 Israeli settlers who have established a compound in the heart of Hebron. The settlers' presence has been a constant pretext for Israeli checkpoints, closures and other measures against Palestinians in the area.

In an ominous sign, President Bush bluntly blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the violence--just as Israel threatened more invasions. "If the Palestinians are interested in a dialogue, then I would strongly urge Mr. Arafat to put 100 percent effort into stopping the terrorist activity," said Bush.

Bush's charge against Arafat followed a successful U.S. effort to squelch a United Nations (UN) resolution proposed by Palestinian representatives that would have criticized Israel and called for international monitors of the conflict.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the UN James Cunningham said the U.S. supported recommendations of an international commission headed by former Sen. George Mitchell as a "road map" to settle the conflict.

But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has already made it clear that he won't even consider the most important proposal of the Mitchell commission--an end to the construction and growth of Israeli settlements.

Nevertheless, right-wing pundits in the U.S. ignored Israel's responsibility for the conflict--instead calling for the outright destruction of the PA. National Journal editor Michael Kelly called on Israel to "escalate the violence," while Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer called for "a lightning and massive attack on every element of Arafat's police state infrastructure." Columnist George Will went further, calling for "a short destroy other physical infrastructure useful to the Palestinian Authority, including all newspaper and broadcasting facilities."

Of course, these hacks conveniently ignore the systematic humiliation of Palestinians throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories. "How can anyone wonder why young Palestinian men are driven to violence when they watch Israeli soldiers harass and spit on their relatives at checkpoints?" wrote Ziad Asali, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

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"Their families will be wiped out"

ISRAELI PUBLIC Security Minister Gideon Ezra doesn't even flinch when it comes to killing innocent civilians.

In an interview with Ha'aretz newspaper, Ezra explained how the Israeli military tries to "discourage" Palestinians who might commit violence by launching "a strike against those who are dear to them. And I'm not talking about house demolitions, house demolitions barely move them--but the close family, there is no doubt that will have an impact on them."

When the shocked reporter asked for clarification, Ezra continued: "The suicide bomber should know that his family will be wiped out, and that's better than him going out, and nobody will get killed, and there will be peace."

But this barbaric attitude runs right through Israel's military apparatus in the West Bank. Consider the story of Ibrahim Zaul, a 15-year-old boy who was taken to an Israeli police station earlier this year. For eight or nine hours, he was blindfolded, spat on, cursed and threatened with death, beaten with truncheons and rifle butts until he screamed, doused with freezing water, and forced to stand upright with a heavy weight hung from his neck.

Asked about growing reports of police torture, Lt. Col. Olivier Rafowicz had little sympathy. "It's a balance between security necessities and letting people go about their normal lives and movements," said Rafowicz. "It can happen that there are some mistakes."

This disregard for basic human rights is shocking, yet predictable--given Israel's brutal project of uprooting Palestinians from their land. "All colonial wars have the same inner logic," said Uri Avnery, an Israeli opponent of the repression. "When you're occupiers subjugating another people, you need some moral reason for it, and the reason is that they are an inferior race."

"It's like the old American South. If the brutal sheriff is the hero and the inferior people are seen as becoming uppity...then it's okay to be brutal toward them."

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