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WHAT WE THINK
Israel and the U.S. try to strangle the Palestinian Authority
The drive to crush Hamas

February 24, 2006 | Page 3

ISRAEL AND the U.S. are stepping up efforts to crush a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA).

One day after the seating of a new Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) with a Hamas majority, Israel cut off transfers of $50 million a month in tax and customs receipts collected by Israel on the PA's behalf.

The next day, after Hamas member Ismail Haniya was sworn in as the new Palestinian prime minister, acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that Israel would sever all ties with the PA. "It's clear," Olmert said, "that in light of the Hamas majority in the Palestinian parliament and the [Hamas] representative's task of forming a government, the Palestinian Authority is in practice becoming a terrorist authority."

Olmert's hypocrisy couldn't be plainer. The same day that he angrily attacked the "terrorist authority," Israeli forces launched an air strike to assassinate two Palestinians in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis--and then assassinated two more people in the West Bank town of Nablus.

Plus, as part of a massive army raid on the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank, which began before dawn and lasted all day, Israeli soldiers shot and killed two 17-year-old boys and wounded several others after episodes of stone throwing.

The scale of terror committed by Israel--carried out with missile strikes, heavily armed soldiers and bulldozers--dwarfs the violence used by Palestinians trying to defend their homes and remain on their land.

"Israeli military units have killed far more unarmed innocent Palestinian civilians than all the combined number of Israeli soldiers and women and children killed by all the Palestinian gangs and suicide bombers since the second Intifada began," said Landrum Bolling, the man who served as the U.S. conduit to Yasser Arafat during the Carter and Reagan administrations. "Only, in the case of the Israelis, we call it 'collateral damage' and defend the Israeli military."

Meanwhile, the U.S. government--which never misses an opportunity to claim that it is bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East--was doing its part to undermine Hamas, the decisive winner of the PA's January 25 elections.

To the Bush administration, that election apparently doesn't count as "democracy"--even though the vote was, by all accounts, free and fair--because the winners don't serve U.S. interests.

According to a February 14 New York Times report, the U.S. and Israel planned a coordinated campaign to destabilize the PA by starving the financially strapped government of badly needed revenue--in the hopes of forcing PA President Mahmoud Abbas to call fresh elections in a matter of months.

U.S. officials strenuously denied that there is a plan to oust Hamas. Yet a few days later, the U.S. asked the PA to return $50 million given last year to fund infrastructure projects after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. Almost simultaneously, Israel announced its decision to withhold $50 million in monthly transfers of money that belongs to the PA.

For its part, Hamas announced that it would make up the shortfall by enlisting the support of Arab governments. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice immediately warned Middle Eastern countries not to honor such requests from Hamas. Rice explicitly threatened Iran, which had already agreed to give financial and political support to Hamas and called on other Islamic nations to follow suit.

In addition to trying to strangle the Palestinian economy, the U.S. and Israel are seeking to exploit divisions between the Hamas-controlled PLC and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is a member of Fatah, the party that for years ran the PA and dominated the Palestinian national movement.

Though Abbas insists that Hamas has a democratic right to govern, he did the bidding of the U.S. when he lectured the newly seated PLC about renouncing violence and recognizing Israel. According to the New York Times, Western governments hope to stoke future confrontations between Abbas and Hamas.

"Spreading democracy" has become the all-purpose justification for U.S. imperial adventures around the world. But as the economic, political and military assault on Hamas by the U.S.--and its Middle East watchdog Israel--shows, such claims are a lie.

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