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Source of the latest violence
Israel escalates its bloody war

By Eric Ruder | September 5, 2003 | Page 7

ISRAELI FORCES had carried out a string of six assassinations of Palestinians in 12 days and were threatening to invade Gaza with a brigade of 3,000 soldiers as Socialist Worker went to press. In the wake of this violence, at least 14 Palestinians were dead--including an 8-year-old girl shot in the chest--and dozens were wounded.

In one attack, missiles launched from an Israeli helicopter missed a car carrying three supposed militants from the Hamas group in northern Gaza City--but killed a 65-year-old man riding in a donkey cart and wounded 20 others, including four children.

The latest escalation of violence wrecked a two-month-old cease-fire and drove the conflict to the brink of an all-out war. In the wake of several Palestinian suicide bombings, such as the August 19 attack on a bus in Jerusalem that killed 21 Israelis, Israeli officials claim that they have no choice but to step up their campaign of house demolitions and extrajudicial killings--because Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has failed to "uproot the terror infrastructure."

What garbage! Even senior officials of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) are questioning the logic of assassinating the leaders of militant Palestinian organizations. "Based on the evidence from the past few years, Israel's actions are of incomparably greater significance for ending these [suicide bombings] than those of Prime Minister Abbas and what little remains of his decimated security services," wrote Steve Niva, a professor of Middle East Studies at Evergreen State College.

"A nearly certain predictor for a suicide bombing is when Israel assassinates a senior commander or political leader of a militant group, especially when it does so during or in the negotiations for a truce by these groups on attacks on Israelis. Given this striking pattern, it was no surprise that four out of the five recent suicide bombings came within a week of Israel's recent assassinations or attempted assassinations of such high-level militant commanders.

"Moreover, one could argue that Sharon had already undertaken nearly every action possible short of a high-level assassination to undermine Palestinian support for the cease-fire and President Bush's road map process. In addition to mass arrests and low-level killings, he had refused to dismantle Israeli settler outposts, end the siege and blockades of Palestinian cities and towns, release a significant number of Palestinian prisoners or cease building a separation wall deep within the West Bank.

"The only conclusion one can draw is that either Sharon thought it so important to kill these high-level militant leaders at this time despite the bloody consequences for Israeli civilians, or that he took these actions precisely because he sought a violent Palestinian response. It appears that the only thing more threatening for Ariel Sharon's government than Palestinian terrorism is a Palestinian cease-fire."

Another consequence of Israel's offensive is the political isolation of Abbas. Israel and its allies in Washington put intense pressure on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to appoint Abbas as prime minister--because they hoped he would be so politically impotent that they could force him to do their bidding.

Abbas' only chance of success depended upon his ability to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners and get Israel's state of siege loosened. But when Israel dragged its feet on this--while still demanding that Abbas disarm Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a measure that would have been sure to ignite a Palestinian civil war--what little support Abbas once had drained away. In response, Arafat--who was effectively sidelined when the U.S. and Israel won Abbas' appointment--has made a new bid for political control and increased military influence, by appointing his loyalist Jibril Rajoub to the position of national security adviser.

But Israel's terror directed at Hamas--including the assassination of Ismail Abu Shanab, a senior figure in Hamas and a moderate who has been a consistent advocate of dialogue--raised the Islamist group's stature most of all. It's now clear to Palestinians that if Israel won't even be satisfied with a willing collaborator like Abbas, there's little alternative to resistance.

Suicide bombings may bring an inevitable clampdown--but the only other option appears to be complete surrender. No amount of Israeli repression can end Palestinian resistance--because Palestinians are fighting for the return of their land and their homes, stolen over five decades of Israel's colonial rule of Palestine. Only a secular state with democratic rights for both Jews and Palestinians will bring an end to the violence.

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