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ISRAEL/PALESTINE
Sharon intensifies military attacks

By Eric Ruder | December 13, 2002 | Page 7

WHILE ATTENTION is focused on the U.S. war drive against Iraq, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is steadily increasing the violence against Palestinians to unbearable levels.

In one of a series of military invasions of Palestinian territories, Israeli forces blasted their way into the Bureij refugee camp in Gaza December 6, using 25 tanks and armored personnel carriers and firing four missiles from helicopters. Ten Palestinians and two United Nations workers were killed--and Israeli authorities justified the atrocity in the usual manner.

They claimed that the aim of the massive operation was to kill a militant accused of attacking an Israeli tank six months ago and that they regretted killing civilians. But it's inevitable that massive firepower deployed in densely populated Gaza will kill lots of civilians--and that's the point. As if to prove it, two days later Israeli troops shot to death a Palestinian woman who was walking home after visiting a friend. Her three children--a teenager and two youngsters--were wounded.

Ever since his election as prime minister in February 2001, Sharon has intensified Israel's use of violence in an attempt to shatter the Palestinian will to resist. At every turn, Sharon has attempted to use the U.S. "war on terrorism" as the justification for this escalation--and with elections set for January, he's using it to try to win votes.

Sharon recently declared that al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were behind the attacks in Mombassa, Kenya, against an Israeli jet liner and a tourist hotel with a large Israeli clientele last month. Then, Sharon asserted that al-Qaeda has set up cells in Palestinian-controlled territories--without offering any evidence.

Sharon, of course, knows that Arafat isn't a collaborator with bin Laden. But he's seeking to line up any number of political pretexts for the possible mass expulsion of Palestinians from their land--which has been openly discussed in the Israeli press as a scenario that might accompany a U.S. war on Iraq.

And though this threat is real, the systematic Israeli invasions in the Occupied Territories are already making life almost impossible for growing numbers of Palestinians, according to Toufic Haddad, an editor of the pro-Palestinian magazine Between the Lines. "[C]oncentration upon a 'transferist' approach which is rapid, where Israeli soldiers go to everyone's household and hold them at gunpoint to force them on vans to take them to Jordan, masks the transfers that are happening every day," Toufic told Socialist Worker from his home in Ramallah.

"In Rafah refugee camp, you have more than 400 homes completely destroyed--think about how many people that affects. And how that has meant there's already a form of transfer going on. In a village next to Nablus, there are people who have suffered near daily harassment for the past five years from settlers who have beaten them up in front of their families inside their houses, burned their generator, poisoned their water. And everyone in the village has now left. I expect the kind of transfer that we will see is an escalated version of this rather than trucks popping up in every city to haul people to Jordan."

In fact, this method of "transfer in slow motion"--backed up by violence from the fanatically right-wing settlers who have established compounds littered throughout the West Bank and Gaza--has been dramatically intensified during the last two years.

More than 65 new settlements have sprung up in the last two years--compared with the 44 outposts started over the previous five years combined. "Bands of armed, often violent young settlers, dubbed 'the hilltop boys' by more established settlers, are manning many of the most isolated and vulnerable new outposts," wrote the Washington Post. "In recent months, they have been at the forefront of confrontations with neighboring Arabs, journalists, and on occasion, the Israeli army."

But Israel's state-sponsored terrorism--the daily killings by settlers and the Israeli military and the near-constant military curfew that has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in their homes--hasn't shaken the massive U.S. military and economic commitment to Israel.

The U.S. relies on Israel as a key strategic ally in the Middle East. We have to demand an end to U.S. support for Israel's terror while we oppose the U.S. war for oil against Iraq.

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