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Background to Israel's crackdown
"All we've gotten is more bloodshed"

February 1, 2002 | Page 5

FOR 15 months, Israeli forces have hammered Palestinians fighting for justice and freedom. The new Palestinian uprising--or Intifada--was sparked by Ariel Sharon himself, who made a visit to a Muslim holy site with 1,000 armed security guards before he became Israel's prime minister.

But the roots of the Palestinian resistance go much deeper. In 1993, Yasser Arafat announced that he had signed a peace agreement with Israel known as the Oslo accords. The deal created a Palestinian Authority (PA) run by Arafat--and was supposed to lead to further negotiations and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

But the only state that the Israeli government seemed willing to contemplate wasn't really a state at all, but a maze of disconnected towns and villages crisscrossed by Israeli settlements, highways and security checkpoints--the Israeli version of the bantustans under South Africa's apartheid regime.

And Israel's right wing has fought even the smallest concessions to Palestinians. Eight years after Oslo, the living conditions of most Palestinians are worse than ever.

And since September 11, Israel's vicious repression has intensified dramatically. Today, Arafat finds himself under increasing pressure--both from Israel and from Palestinians.

HAKIM HUSIEN, an activist with the Palestine Aid Society, talked to Socialist Worker's ERIC RUDER about the latest round of Israeli violence--and what it will mean for the future.

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WHAT'S BEHIND Israel's new escalation of violence that began with the occupation of the West Bank village of Tulkarem?

ISRAEL CAN do that anytime. The military leader of Fatah was assassinated by Israelis in the city of Tulkarem. In retaliation, a Palestinian killed four Israelis.

After that, the Israelis not only reoccupied Tulkarem, but they also went into Nablus and killed four people from Hamas. They decapitated them. We don't get these images in the American media, but on satellite media, which I saw, they showed limbs all over the place. They were cut up into pieces and burned--the heads in one place, the limbs in another. Israel has covered up this atrocity.

In Tulkarem, they arrested 30 people. They don't go in just to show they can--they go in and do something.

WHAT HAPPENS to the people they arrest?

THE ISRAELIS arrest people who can organize the Palestinian resistance. They go after the leadership of the Palestinian movement. They don't release them. We still have people in jail from the 1987 Intifada.

The Israelis think that by arresting the leadership, they can quell the Intifada. They're mistaken in that--they haven't learned that lesson.

Jails, for Palestinians, have ironically played a big role in building up a new leadership. People meet each other in jail and learn about the struggle from other prisoners. And whenever leaders are imprisoned, young cadres step up and take their place.

WHAT ROLE does Arafat play now?

IN THE post-September 11 world, anything that Arafat can deliver to Palestinians can be packaged as a victory. That's how Arafat explained signing the Oslo agreements. He said that all the Arab countries have forsaken us, and this is the best we can do.

He'll use that logic to force his concessions down the throat of the Palestinian population. Israel can invade and occupy any town that it wants. If Arafat can limit Israeli incursions, but give up the right of return or Jerusalem, he will try to say that this is a victory.

If the Israelis want to get Arafat, they can get him. And the Palestinians can't defend Arafat if the Israelis want to get him. But Arafat still has a role to play for the Israelis, or he would already be gone. He has the credibility among Palestinians that's needed to get them to accept concessions to Israel.

What amazes me is that with all this going on--with all these attacks and occupations--there are still meetings between the Palestinians and the Israelis. They call them "security meetings." Israeli soldiers are killing people and occupying cities--and yet the PA has security meetings with them. That tells you something.

You have to remember what Arafat represents within the Palestinian community. Arafat represents the bourgeoisie that is willing to coexist with the existing Israeli order. After signing the Oslo agreements, he promised an economic miracle--like Singapore, with economic growth, rising wages and a better standard of living.

And instead, all the Palestinians have received is poverty, more bloodshed, more unemployment, a worsening economic situation and more detentions.

Arafat doesn't look forward to building a socialist alternative to the Palestinian question--one secular democratic state where the working class will rule.

Will Sharon be tried for war crimes?

THE LAST time that Israel fought an all-out war to exterminate the Palestinian resistance, it ended with a horrific massacre. More than 2,000 unarmed Palestinian men, women and children were slaughtered in the Lebanese refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982.

The massacre was the closing chapter in Israel's bloody invasion of Lebanon, which was aimed at decimating the Palestine Liberation Organization.

And who was the Israeli defense minister in charge of the Lebanon war? None other than Ariel Sharon, now Israel's prime minister. A later Israeli inquiry into the massacre found that Sharon was "personally responsible," and he was forced to resign.

Sharon could face more embarrassment today--if a Belgian court decides to bring war crimes charges against him because of Sabra and Shatila.

That indictment looked certain last week when Elie Hobeika--the Lebanese militia leader who oversaw the massacre at the behest of the Israelis--decided to testify against Sharon in Belgium. Two days later, Hobeika was assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut.

While millions of Palestinians felt Hobeika got what he deserved, the irony is that his killers were almost certainly his onetime Israeli friends. Hobeika's killing is no doubt a relief to Sharon, but he could still be indicted--possibly in secret, so that Belgium could demand his arrest if he travels in countries that have extradition treaties with it.

In other words, the U.S. government could be asked to collar Israel's prime minister. But don't hold your breath.

The U.S. government has never been shy about supporting war criminals--as long as they take orders from Washington.

Northwestern University, February 4
No to Netanyahu!

WHEN FORMER Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech at Northwestern University February 4, he won't be the only one with something to say. Activists from around the Chicago area will turn out to protest Netanyahu's appearance--and especially the idea that he has the right to speak on the topic of "Defeating Terrorism."

As prime minister, Netanyahu repeatedly broke promises made to Palestinians during "peace" negotiations. He sent Israeli assassins to kill a Palestinian leader in Jordan--though his killers botched the job.

In refusing to negotiate on the question of Israeli settlements, Netanyahu once said: "We are making a constant effort to preserve the maximum, including territories I would fight for even if they had no security value."

Stand up for justice in Palestine--and join the protest against Netanyahu!

Meet at 5:30 p.m. at the arch (corner of Chicago and Sheridan) at Northwestern University in Evanston. For more information, call 312-458-9920.

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