Palestine: A Cry for Justice

Revolutionary Worker #1075, October 22, 2000,

After two weeks of murderous attacks against the Palestinian people, Israel carried out a new escalation on October 12 when military helicopters fired rockets at Palestinian areas in Gaza City and the West Bank town of Ramallah. The bombings destroyed a number of buildings that housed offices of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority, several Palestinian police stations, a TV/radio station, and Palestinian Coast Guard ships.

This Israeli military action reportedly killed four Palestinians in Gaza and wounded several dozen people. As of October 14, nearly 100 Palestinians have been killed and about 3,000 injured by Israeli forces since September 28.

The Israeli government declared that the October 12 rocket attacks were a "limited" retaliation for the death of two Israeli soldiers earlier that day in Ramallah. According to news accounts, the two soldiers had driven into the middle of a funeral procession for a Palestinian man killed by Israeli troops. The Palestinian police took the soldiers to a local station, which was then surrounded by hundreds of angry people. Several protesters entered the station and attacked the two soldiers; one soldier was killed there, and the other died later.

Israeli officials claimed that the two soldiers had driven into Ramallah "by mistake" on their way to join their unit. (Some Palestinian accounts allege that the two were undercover agents of Israeli units that are known for assassinating Palestinians.) Israel portrayed the soldiers as "innocent victims" and the Palestinians as a "lynch mob." The photos from the incident were blasted onto the front pages of Israeli newspapers--and the U.S. press. The message from the Israelis was that they were the ones under attack--and that anything they did in response was justified. The people of the world are supposed to forget about the many savage acts of the Israeli forces in recent days: the use of live ammunition against rock-throwing youth, the close-range firing of rubber-coated bullets at demonstrators, the shooting of 12-year-old Mohammad al-Durrah as his father desperately tried to shield him from Israeli gunfire.

The Israeli response to the Ramallah incident is an example of the ugly occupier logic behind Israel's vicious actions. Whether the two soldiers actually entered Ramallah by mistake or there was something else going on, the fact is that they intruded into the midst of people in mourning for a man killed by Israeli forces. Over the previous days, the people of Ramallah--and in other Palestinian areas--had been under the fire of heavily-armed Israeli forces and had seen neighbors, friends, and family shot down in cold blood. The presence of the Israeli soldiers at the funeral must have been seen as a deep insult, on top of all the brutality the people had been subjected to. The people responded with righteous fury and struck back at the soldiers with whatever was on hand.

Israel then turned the incident on its head, claiming that what the people in Ramallah did was a "crime" that must be punished. This sort of outrageous logic has been used repeatedly to justify heavy Israeli attacks on unarmed protesters or lightly armed Palestinian police and militia. Meanwhile, Israeli officials claim they want to avoid clashes--but are being "provoked" into military action by the Palestinians. They claim that Arafat could put an end to the conflict by simply ordering his forces and the people to stop fighting.

But if the Israeli state really wanted to avoid confrontation, why doesn't it just pull its armed forces out from the Palestinian areas? Rather than shooting at rock-throwing youth, why don't the Israeli army and police simply move away? If Israel really thinks Arafat could "turn off" the clashes by issuing a public declaration, why have the Israeli forces bombed the Palestinian broadcast station, surrounded Palestinian towns with tanks and troops, and made communication and travel between Palestinian areas difficult if not impossible?

Instead of pulling back, the Israeli forces have been running amok, firing their weapons at any sign of opposition from the Palestinians. This is precisely because they are a reactionary occupying army. Their mission is to enforce an unjust occupation over an oppressed people and to wipe out fires of resistance. The Israeli government is attempting to put the blame for the death of the two soldiers on the Palestinian people. But the blood is really on the hands of the Israeli occupiers.

There is a complex mix of class and political forces among the Palestinians. Before the recent clashes, Arafat and the established Palestinian leadership had been involved in U.S.-directed negotiations with Israel--and he may now be trying to ride the tiger of mass resistance toward his goal of a Palestinian mini-state. There are Islamist and other forces who have opposed the terms of such an agreement with Israel--although they do not present a revolutionary alternative. And sections of the masses are influenced to various degrees by these different political forces.

But the recent events in Palestine have brought to the foreground a basic dividing line of right and wrong, of justice and injustice. The brutality of the Israeli army are the actions of an unjust army which is backed by the imperialist powers, especially the U.S. It is totally just for the Palestinian people to defend themselves, by any means necessary, against these bloody occupiers. People around the world need to understand this fundamental question of justice and injustice--and stand firmly on the side of the oppressed Palestinian people.

The Imperialist Interests of the "Honest Broker"

The clashes of recent weeks have brought the U.S.-led "peace process" to a crisis point. And the U.S. government has been scrambling to get talks going again. Two days after the Ramallah incident and the Israeli rocket attacks, U.S. President Clinton announced that he will go to Egypt on October 17 to attend a summit meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Barak and Arafat.

Whether the U.S. can get the "peace process" back on track again, any time soon, is in question at this point. What is clear is that even if the "peace process" is restarted, and even if Israel and Arafat reach some agreement, this will not resolve the basic problem: the dispossession of the Palestinian people and their continued oppression as a nation under Israeli occupation.

The U.S. "peace process" is an attempt to deal with the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation--without granting genuine liberation to the Palestinian people. For the U.S. rulers, Israel remains central to their ability to dominate the Middle East. With an agreement between Israel and Arafat, backed by the reactionary Arab regimes in the region, the U.S. hopes to stabilize Israel's position as a bloated military outpost for imperialist interests. And through an establishment of a negotiated Palestinian "state," the U.S. aims to contain and suppress the struggle of the Palestinian people. The U.S. and other powers also spin visions of economic "enclaves" and "export zones" where Palestinian workers can be drawn into the global capitalist economy and exploited in sweatshops.

How can the Palestinian people really be free if they are surrounded by a hostile oppressor state armed to the teeth by U.S. imperialism--while the people themselves are disarmed? How can the Palestinian nation be truly independent when Israel has tight control over water resources and other economic lifelines?

The U.S. "peace process" is intended to ensure the survival of Israel--and the existence of this Zionist state is based fundamentally on the dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people. As long as this situation exists, the struggle of the Palestinian people will be like an active volcano--at times relatively quiet, but repeatedly and powerfully exploding on the landscape of the Middle East.

Chickens Coming Home to Roost for the U.S.

On October 12, the U.S. was suddenly faced with another crisis in a different part of the region--an explosion in Aden, Yemen which blasted a hole in a U.S. warship and killed 17 Navy sailors. As of Oct. 14, no one has claimed responsibility for the action.

The U.S. warship was refueling in Aden, on the way to joining the military blockade of Iraq. Since the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. has been stepping up direct military presence in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf--through increasing its forces there and establishing new bases. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. imperialists saw the need and the opportunity to fill the "power vacuum" in this region--an area they must dominate in order to remain the top dog world power. And they are worried about the stability of the current order, as long-time heads of pro-U.S. regimes such as King Hussein of Jordan pass from the scene.

The military presence in Yemen is part of these moves by the U.S. The Yemeni government had refused to join in the U.S.-led war on Iraq. More recently, the U.S. has made efforts to bring the Yemeni regime closer--including with the establishment of a U.S. Navy refueling port at Aden. But this has led to the rise of anti-U.S. protests in Yemen--and such anti-U.S. sentiments can be seen all around the Middle East.

In the wake of the Aden explosion, the U.S. has been doing their usual bully routine--claiming that they are a "victim" of an unprovoked attack while threatening massive retaliation against whoever they claim is "responsible." After explosions hit U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, the U.S. accused Islamist leader Osama bin-Ladin and launched Cruise missiles against several targets. One missile attack destroyed an important medicine factory in Sudan--which had no connection with bin-Ladin.

If the U.S. imperialists really want to identify the "culprit" for the Aden explosion, they should look in the mirror. Events such as the attack on the warship in Yemen are cases of "chickens coming home to roost." There is deep and widespread hatred among the people throughout this region for the U.S. and its many crimes--including the massive bombings and economic sanctions that have killed so many Iraqi people, and the backing of the killer state of Israel.

In Palestine and all over the Middle East, the U.S. wants to impose an imperialist "peace." But this "peace" only means suffering and oppression for the vast majority of people. And it will mean continued resistance in various forms against the U.S. monster.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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