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ISRAEL/PALESTINE
Israel's "might makes right" policy
Piling brutality on brutality

By Eric Ruder | October 24, 2003 | Page 5

ISRAEL'S STEPPED-UP war on Palestinians continues with a relentless fury. Earlier this week, Israeli helicopters and jets carried out five air strikes in Gaza City, killing 11 peole and wouunding more than 90 others, including many children.

Israel has also mobilized thousands of army reservists and sent them into the Occupied Territories of Gaza and the West Bank--citing "intelligence" that Palestinian militants were planning more attacks on Israeli targets. This follows a savage weeklong incursion by Israeli bulldozers and tanks into Rafah, a refugee camp in southern Gaza.

Israeli forces killed at least 10 people and injured 80 more in the process of demolishing more than 100 homes and leaving 2,000 Palestinians homeless. "The army had come during the night, leaving a city stripped bare, the broken bones of houses like twisted bodies reaching up to heaven," writes Laura Gordon, an American Jew who was an eyewitness to the Israeli military's brutality in Rafah.

"The real dead had been carried out on stretchers, mostly after lying on the street for hours between tanks and the fearful closed doors of curfew, while the ambulances negotiated with the army to gain access...The army used some kind of nerve gas for the first time in Rafah, leaving people in convulsions for days."

Israel's cold-blooded violations of international law are now commonplace, say human rights groups. "[I]nvestigations by Amnesty International and other organizations, including Israeli NGOs, have shown a recurring pattern of destruction of homes and property as a collective punishment, to punish local residents for attacks by Palestinian armed groups," according to an Amnesty International press release. "Such wanton destruction is unlawful and constitutes a war crime."

But these war crimes don't trouble Israeli officials--nor their sponsors in Washington. "We understand Israel's need to defend itself," said U.S. State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher after the Rafah assault.

Of course, the U.S. doesn't "understand" the right of Palestinians to resist Israel's onslaught--even though international law guarantees the right of resistance, armed or otherwise, to any people living under foreign occupation. Even when Palestinians strike military targets--like last weekend's Palestinian ambush of an Israeli convoy in the West Bank such that left three Israeli soldiers dead--such attacks are denounced as "terrorism" by the U.S.

Again and again, officials from Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) have appealed to the U.S. as a neutral broker in negotiations with Israel--a strategy that has disarmed the PA politically and eroded its support among Palestinians. And again and again, the U.S. government has offered tepid criticism of various Israeli provocations, only to run diplomatic interference for Israel when the diplomats try to make the same criticisms in United Nations (UN) resolutions.

Take Israel's so-called "separation wall." The U.S. has criticized Israel for its construction of this monstrous barrier, while vetoing a UN resolution condemning it. The wall is nothing more than a barbaric new strategy to seize more Palestinian land and confine the Palestinians to 10 percent of historic Palestine.

And its construction typifies the racism and ethnic cleansing at the heart of Israel's colonial project. New military orders have created a seemingly new category of Palestinian residents in West Bank areas enclosed on the Israeli side of the barrier.

The upshot of these orders, says Israeli journalist Amira Hass, "give the Israeli authorities broad, frightening powers to throw Palestinians out of their homes, off their lands and away from their families. This is the reality that arises from these new regulations: The area is open to any Israeli who wants to settle and work there.

"According to the new regulations, an Israeli is someone who also has the right to be so according to the Law of Return--in other words, any Jew in the world is allowed to settle in those areas, plus others who are allowed to become citizens on the basis of the Law of Return. The area is closed to all Palestinians who want to reside, settle and work in the area, except for those exceptions that the army and its lawyers designate as being allowed to do so."

But Israel is Washington's most loyal ally in the region, making it "worthy" of U.S. support no matter how atrocious it becomes. As Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper spelled out half a century ago, "[S]trengthening Israel helps the Western powers maintain equilibrium and stability in the Middle East. Israel is to become the watchdog.

"There is no fear that Israel will undertake any aggressive policy towards the Arab states when this would explicitly contradict the wishes of the U.S. and Britain. But if for any reason the Western powers should sometimes prefer to close their eyes, Israel could be relied upon to punish one or several neighboring states whose discourtesy to the West went beyond the bounds of the permissible." This is precisely what Israel's strike deep in Syrian territory in early October accomplished-- "punishment" of an Arab state on behalf of the U.S., carried out by Israel.

But all occupations breed resistance. From Iraq to Palestine, activists in the U.S. must stand up to oppose them.

Israel's apartheid state would crumble without the massive annual infusion of money and arms supplied by the U.S. We need to speak out for the right of the Palestinians to resist Israel's brutal war.

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