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West Bank crackdown
Israel's new drive against Palestinians

November 22, 2002 | Page 12

ARIEL SHARON is using a Palestinian attack on Israeli settlers and soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron as an excuse to expand territory held by the right-wing extremists who back him.

The Israeli prime minister, supported by a new right-wing cabinet, last weekend ordered Israeli armed forces to expel thousands of Palestinians from their homes to carve out more territory for 450 Israeli fanatics whose settlement is an armed camp in the heart of Hebron--a city of 120,000 Palestinians.

Sharon justified the move as a response to "terrorism." But the 12 who died in the November 15 attack in Hebron were part of a heavily armed patrol--five cops, three security guards and four soldiers. As Matan Vilnai, a former Israeli general and leading member of the opposition Labor Party, admitted, "It wasn't a massacre, it was a battle."

Israeli settlers in Hebron are the ideological hard core of a movement that seeks annexation of the whole of the Occupied Territories. Many belong to fascist parties that openly call for the "transfer" of Palestinians.

Now Sharon and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) plan to help settlers achieve their goals by implementing a plan to create a corridor linking Hebron with Qiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement about half a mile away. This would require the forcible removal of thousands of Palestinians--and violate a 1997 agreement, made by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to place 80 percent of Hebron under direct Palestinian administration, with Israel controlling the rest.

Netanyahu this month became Israel's foreign minister, after the Labor Party pulled out of Sharon's government. Now Netanyahu and Sharon are competing for leadership of their Likud Party by pandering to settlers on the right.

On November 18, Israeli helicopters and tanks fired rockets at the Palestinian security headquarters in Gaza, destroying much of the installation. At the same time, the IDF imposed a curfew and house-to-house searches in parts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, supposedly in response to a failed hijacking a day earlier.

As the U.S. steps up its drive to war in Iraq, Israeli politicians think they can get away with anything--with the blessing of George W. Bush. That's why it's more important than ever to build solidarity with the Palestinian resistance to Israel's iron fist.

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