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WHAT WE THINK
Washington politicians line up to justify Sharon's slaughter
Cheering on Israel's war

April 19, 2002 | Page 3

WHEN LEBANESE fascist militias massacred up to 2,000 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in 1982, an Israeli inquiry found Ariel Sharon, who had led Israel's invasion of Lebanon, to be "indirectly responsible."

Twenty years later, Sharon is directly responsible for another massacre of Palestinians--this time in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. And George W. Bush shares the responsibility--more than "indirectly." By declaring again and again in the opening days of Sharon's West Bank onslaught that Israel has a right to "defend itself," the U.S. gave a green light for this butchery.

Bush then said that he would send Secretary of State Colin Powell to Israel to push for a withdrawal. Powell spent a week meandering around the Mediterranean--giving Sharon time to "crush the life out of the Palestinian Authority," as the Economist magazine put it.

When Powell finally arrived, Sharon bluntly refused to pull back. So Powell turned his fire on…Yasser Arafat, demanding that the Palestinian leader condemn suicide bombings--once again--before Powell would even meet with him.

After extracting this concession and holding a brief meeting in Arafat's besieged headquarters, Powell immediately welcomed Sharon's call for a Middle East peace conference that could exclude Arafat.

How could anyone take seriously U.S. claims to be a "broker of peace" after all this? But just to make sure, pro-Israeli U.S. politicians organized a rally of tens of thousands Monday in Washington to cheer on Israel's war on Palestinians.

The keynote speaker was former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dispatched by Sharon to argue that Israel's crackdown was part of the U.S. "war on terror." "Americans know that Arafat is nothing more than Osama bin Laden with good P.R.," Netanyahu said to cheers. Earlier, he told the Washington Post, "Pressure on Israel to restrain itself only has the effect of drawing this thing out."

U.S. politicians took their cue from Netanyahu--Democrats as well as Republicans. "We will stand with Israel, we will stand for freedom," House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) declared at the rally. So after giving Bush a blank check ever since September 11, the Democrats are finally criticizing the White House--for "restraining" Israel's mass killing of Palestinians!

If there is any disagreement at all among the Washington establishment, it's because of fears that U.S. support for Israel's attacks are alienating Arab allies in key oil-producing countries--and undermining support for Washington's planned war on Iraq.

That's the crux of the debate in the White House. Should the U.S. sponsor a new "peace process" between Israel and a shattered Palestinian Authority before attacking Iraq? Or does it embrace Sharon's war and move ahead with its own?

Despite the differences on strategy, the goal is the same: Use U.S. military and economic power to impose Washington's will in the Middle East and the world over. Many Arabs must die either way--whether Israeli or American troops pull the trigger.

That's why those who call for Washington to "do more for peace" in the Middle East are wrong. Whether or not the U.S. finally tightens the leash on Sharon, the aim of Palestinian self-determination requires a movement that not only confronts Israel, but also its main sponsor--U.S. imperialism.

We can start by countering the mountain of lies in the media that excuse every Israeli atrocity. We must further demand that the U.S. stop supplying the F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters used to slaughter Palestinians--and we must campaign to end all U.S. aid for Israel.

Most of all, we need to speak out in defense of the Palestinian people and their right to determine their own future--and do our utmost to build solidarity with them.

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