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U.S. okays Sharon's plan to annex land
Bush back Israel's war on Palestinians

By Eric Ruder | May 14, 2004 | Page 12

"HE WAS a shield for them," said Said Bedwan. Said is the father of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy that Israeli soldiers tied to the hood of their military jeep before they drove into protests in the West Bank village of Biddo.

It was the second time in a month that Israeli troops had used Palestinians as human shields against demonstrators hurling rocks. The use of human shields is considered a war crime under international law. It's also a violation of a 2002 Israeli Supreme Court ruling--made after a Palestinian human shield died during a home incursion.

But that hasn't stopped the Israel Defense Forces. In fact, when three adults--including a rabbi--intervened to protest the treatment of the boy, they were tied to jeeps and used as shields, too. "When I saw him on the hood of the jeep," Said said, "my whole mind went crazy. It's a picture you can't even imagine. He was shivering from fear."

The image of a young, terrified boy surrounded by Israeli soldiers is now seared into the consciousness of millions of Arabs in the Middle East--just as the images of Iraqi prisoners tortured by U.S. soldiers have exposed the real nature of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. But the incident was barely reported in the U.S. media.

Instead, Washington's lapdog press was repeating George W. Bush's praise for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon--and his plan to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza, which Bush called an "historic and courageous" act. Bush also declared last week that it was unrealistic for Palestinians to expect Israel to withdraw all of its settlements from the West Bank.

In other words, the president of the world's only superpower essentially sanctioned Israel's decades-old strategy of creating "facts on the ground" by building illegal settlements in areas it has occupied since 1967. Bush likewise dismissed the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes stolen from them by Israel.

His support for Sharon's plan--which repudiated the U.S.-backed road map calling for a negotiated settlement, rather than one unilaterally imposed by Israel--drew intense criticism around the world. But Washington's approval wasn't good enough for the right wing of Sharon's Likud Party, which opposes conceding any land at all to Palestinians.

The right wingers mobilized to vote down Sharon's withdrawal plan in a Likud Party referendum. Incredibly, this confrontation with Likud's settler fanatics has at least temporarily transformed Sharon into a darling of Israel's "peace" movement, which supports his moves for unilateral withdrawal. This only illustrates how much Israel's so-called "hawks" and "doves" agree on--especially when it comes to crushing all Palestinian resistance.

Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan is built around a simple idea--pull out the 7,500 Israeli settlers from Gaza in order to keep virtually all of the 400,000 settlers in the West Bank. Gaza would be left a virtual prison enclave--surrounded and controlled by Israel.

This makes perfect sense to A.B. Yehoshua, considered one of Israel's finest novelists and a leading intellectual of the Peace Now movement. "After we take out the settlements...all the rules of war would change," he told Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper in March. "We would exercise our full power...

"We won't have to run after this or that terrorist: we would use force against an entire population, use force in a total manner. We would cut off the electricity in Gaza. We would cut off communications in Gaza. We would stop fuel supply to Gaza...It won't be a desirable war, but definitely a purifying one."

Despite the Likud referendum against withdrawal, Sharon has vowed to pursue a revised plan to withdraw from Gaza. Bush--now on the defensive because of the Iraq torture scandal--has maintained his support, but in gentler terms, saying that "all final-status issues must be negotiated between the parties"--and that the U.S. "will not prejudice the outcome of those negotiations."

But Bush also added last week that it's "unrealistic" to expect a Palestinian state by 2005--something that the road map had promised. This continues the same formula that has characterized all "peace" negotiations since the 1993 Oslo accords that were supposed to pave the way for a Palestinian state.

Israeli negotiators produce plans that Palestinians are sure to reject--because if the Palestinians could accept a plan, then it might require Israel to abide by its obligations. Meanwhile, Israeli settlers consume Palestinian land, while the Israeli military uses any example of Palestinian resistance as a pretext to continue its killing spree, its strangulation of the Palestinian economy and its assassination of Palestinian political leaders.

The U.S. government has backed this unrestrained barbarism for decades--both its Republican and Democratic wings. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry may feign criticism of Bush's Iraq policy, but on this question, he is as devoted to Israel as any Republican. Justice for Palestinians will require building a movement in the U.S. to demand an end to U.S. support for Israel's brutality.

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