WHAT WE THINK
April 23, 2004 | Page 3
"A HISTORIC and courageous act." Last week, George W. Bush used these words to describe Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to unilaterally withdraw Israeli forces from Gaza and close down a few settlements.
In exchange for leaving behind the headaches of imposing Israel's will on Gaza, Sharon won Bush's stamp of approval for a series of demands that Israel had long sought--U.S. rejection of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to land taken from them, and Washington's acceptance of the push to annex large portions of the West Bank where Israel has illegal settlements.
No wonder Sharon was grinning as he stood next to Bush during the carefully staged Washington ceremony last week--looking as satisfied as a cat that was presented by his master with a mouse that has long eluded him.
The scheme that Bush approved is in blatant violation of a raft of United Nations resolutions. That was one of the excuses that the U.S. government used to launch its war on Iraq last year.
But no voice in the Washington establishment pointed out the discrepancy. In fact, almost no one in the mainstream media even questioned whether Bush had any business effectively giving away Palestinian land to Israel, without any negotiations with the Palestinians who lived on that land for hundreds of years.
Then, a few days after Sharon's visit to Washington, Israel assassinated Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the second leader of Hamas in as many months. But U.S. officials did nothing more than urge Israel to "consider carefully the consequences of its actions." As if anyone in Washington believed that the consequence of the U.S. veto last month of a UN resolution condemning Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin wouldn't be more murders.
Sharon's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is even less than meets the eye. Israel will continue to insist on control over Gaza's airspace, seaports and border crossings--and reserve the right to carry out military strikes against targets inside Gaza.
Sharon even wants an appraisal of Israeli assets left behind in the withdrawal--and says that Israel "reserves the right" to demand compensation. What incredible arrogance! Israel has never paid compensation to the millions of Palestinians it has dispossessed. But it's capable of demanding compensation for the relics of its occupying force!
In reality, Sharon wants to make Gaza a massive prison colony--in the words of one Israeli official, "our Alcatraz." This description is especially fitting when you consider that Gaza's 7,500 Israeli settlers live in one-third of Gaza--while 1.2 million Palestinians are crowded into the rest of the area, making it perhaps the most densely populated place on Earth.
Even the Financial Times--a mouthpiece of global capitalism--worried that Bush's wholesale endorsement of Sharon's agenda would backfire in Palestine, in Iraq and across the whole Middle East. "[T]he Israeli solution is likely to sow the seeds of a potentially more violent future conflict," the newspaper stated in an editorial.
"Fenced off in West Bank enclaves and in an impoverished Gaza Strip and deprived of hope for a fair peace, Palestinian society could become all the more radicalized. The new U.S. attitude will also inflame anti-U.S. sentiment in the wider Muslim and Arab world, which has been urging the Bush administration to adopt a more even-handed policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. It will also make it more difficult for the U.S.'s Middle East allies to help in restoring order to the American occupation of Iraq."
It's no wonder that the Financial Times is linking U.S. aims in Iraq to events in Palestine. People in the Middle East have long seen the U.S. war on Iraq and Israel's war on Palestinians as intimately connected. Now this is plain for all the world to see.
Bush even linked the two at his press conference last week, claiming that Iraq and Palestine are both fronts in the U.S. "war on terror." For Arabs and Muslims, Bush's total embrace of Sharon leaves only one conclusion--that there's no point in negotiations with the U.S. and Israel. Armed resistance may not succeed, but negotiations surely won't.
Why would the U.S. deliberately provoke this kind of anger? Because the U.S. ruling establishment--both its Democratic and Republican wings--has embarked on an unrestrained drive to reshape the Middle East.
It will use any means that it has to, including ones that the U.S. piously denounces when used by others--intimidation, brute force, unrestrained violence and terror. Never has it been clearer that the task of the antiwar movement in the U.S. is to mobilize opposition to all faces of U.S. imperialism--from Iraq to Palestine and around the world.