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Stop Israel's terror
Justice for Palestinians

March 15, 2002 | Page 1

ISRAEL'S WAR on Palestinians reached a level in early March not seen in the 20 years since the full-scale invasion of Lebanon.

Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers led assaults into refugee camps and Palestinian towns throughout the West Bank and Gaza. More than 50 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces last Friday alone, in the bloodiest day so far since the Palestinian uprising began 17 months ago.

On Monday afternoon, Israeli troops invaded the Dheisheh refugee camp in the West Bank--and ordered male residents between the ages of 14 and 50 to assemble. The men were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and spat on, then taken one by one to be "interrogated"--something to be feared since the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled torture "constitutional" during interrogations.

Meanwhile, soldiers conducted house-to-house searches, while women and children helplessly looked on. "The soldiers aren't leaving anything inside intact," said Muna Hamzeh, a Palestinian journalist. "The contents of all closets, cupboards, shelves--everything is being turned on the floor."

One day earlier, 14-year-old Nida Al-Azza was killed in the same camp--shot in the chest by Israeli snipers outside her home. "They're killing our beautiful children," said one woman. "They already took our homes, and now they come after us in our refugee camps."

The Israeli offensive into camps like Balata--with their dense houses and narrow alleys--was bound to produce many civilian casualties. But that's the whole idea. As the Washington Post described Israel's military strategy: "Break the refugee camps, and in so doing, break the will of Palestinians to resist."

An article by Ze'ev Sternhell in Israel's mainstream Ha'aretz newspaper put it even more bluntly: "[Israeli military officials] are no longer ashamed to speak of war when what they are really engaged in is colonial policing, which recalls the takeover by the white police of the poor neighborhoods of the Blacks in South Africa during the apartheid era."

That's the reality of Israel's brutal crackdown. But you'd never know it from the U.S. political establishment--Republican or Democrat.

No U.S. politician has been willing to condemn the brutality of the Israeli government. That's because the U.S. government has long looked to Israel as a faithful--not to mention ferocious--ally in the oil-rich Middle East.

The media made a big deal out of Secretary of State Colin Powell's supposed warning to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stop killing so many Palestinians, delivered in testimony to Congress last week.

"But read what Mr. Powell actually said," wrote Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for Britain's Independent newspaper. "He asked whether Sharon's military policy--of killing more Palestinians--would work. Mr. Powell [was] not attacking Mr. Sharon because the Israeli policy was immoral. It was the military ineffectiveness of killing Palestinians, not the abuse of human rights that this embodies, to which the Americans took objection."

U.S. "peace" envoy Anthony Zinni will bear the same message during his visit to Israel this week. Rather than address the underlying injustice of Israel's brutal occupation of Palestinian land, the daily racist humiliation meted out by Israeli troops, or the crushing poverty faced by most Palestinians, Zinni will stick to a narrow plan for a cease-fire. Meanwhile, the U.S. will continue sending billions to support Israel's terror.

We have to speak out against U.S. support for this brutality--like the 500 people who demonstrated outside the Israeli consulate in Chicago on Monday. Israel's terror has to be stopped. Justice for Palestinians now!

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