Cruel new assault on Palestinians
By Eric Ruder | October 17, 2003 | Page 12
THE ISRAELI government launched a bloody new assault in its war on the Palestinians last week. And its defenders in Washington openly endorsed the killing and devastation.
In one of its boldest offensives yet into Gaza, Israeli forces descended on the Rafah refugee camp on the border with Egypt, unleashing helicopters, bulldozers and more than 80 tanks. "The younger children were screaming, so we tried to get away," said Ehad Abu Taha after the raid. "My father tried to go back yesterday, but the Israelis were still there. When we went back today, there was nothing left of my house. There was nothing left of my neighborhood."
Eight Palestinians were killed during the savage assault--including two children, who died when an Israeli helicopter fired a missile into a crowd. The Israeli army said that it went into Rafah after receiving intelligence that Palestinian forces were trying to move anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles into Gaza through tunnels that reach under the border into neighboring Egypt.
In the process of closing three tunnels, more than 100 homes were demolished, leaving about 1,500 people homeless. Israeli officials callously dismissed the scale of the devastation, claiming that only a few buildings had been "deliberately" demolished--and that the rest had been destroyed when Israeli forces "were forced to return fire."
Underlying this transparent lie is the claim, accepted wholesale in Washington, that Israel is justified in attacking if it thinks that Palestinians are "smuggling" weapons from Egypt--as if Palestinians living in an occupied territory have no right to defend themselves in the face of Israel's massive military might.
Israel's dramatic escalation of its war against the Palestinians won the open endorsement of the U.S. government. In recent weeks, the U.S. has vetoed or threatened to veto several United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions that condemn Israel's violations of international law--including its recent threats to assassinate Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and its missile strike against Syria two weeks ago.
Most recently, the U.S. threatened to veto a UN resolution condemning Israel's construction of a massive separation wall that is slicing through Palestinian territory in the West Bank, cutting off farmers from their lands and Palestinian villages from one another. What's more, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week authorized the construction of 600 new homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank--a violation of international law, and the U.S.-backed "road map" to Middle East "peace," which calls for the dismantling of these settlements.
The timing of Sharon's decision is hardly surprising. Earlier this year, Congress approved a $9 billion loan guarantee package to Israel for the next three years--on the condition that $1 would be subtracted from the loan guarantees for every dollar that Israel spends on building settlements.
But the Bush administration--with the unspoken blessing of Congress--failed to report by the September 30 deadline how much should be deducted from the guarantees--effectively turning a blind eye to Israel's violations of the loan terms. With rumors swirling that Arafat has suffered a heart attack or has stomach cancer, Israeli authorities are gloating that their sworn enemy may soon "depart" from the political scene.
But for now, Arafat is still strong enough to shape the Cabinet being assembled by newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, who is now threatening to quit after just a week at his post because of the squabbles with Arafat. The U.S. and Israel are complaining about Arafat's "iron grip" and demanding "political reforms." But what they mean by "reform" is the installation of a weak prime minister, independent of Arafat, who can be pressured to surrender to all of Israel's terms--including disarming the Islamic militant group Hamas, even if such a move sparks a Palestinian civil war.
For years, Israel has portrayed Arafat as the mastermind of every act of resistance to Israel's rule in the Occupied Territories. But the truth is that Israel's occupation itself--its humiliating treatment of Palestinians, its suffocating siege of Palestinian villages, its strangulation of the Palestinian economy, its home demolitions, its land confiscations, its destruction of Palestinian orchards, its assassinations of Palestinian political leaders--is the source of the opposition.
All colonial projects breed resentment, resistance and revolt. And until Palestine has a democratic government that guarantees equal rights to all who live there, the resistance will continue.