Palestine: Occupation and Resistance
Revolutionary Worker #1077, November 6, 2000, posted at http://rwor.org
Beit Jalla is a Palestinian town in the West Bank, next to Bethlehem. As in other Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Beit Jalla's residents are mostly poor--and are living in the shadows of the vicious Israeli occupiers.
On October 22, some gunshots reportedly were fired from Beit Jalla into Gilo, an Israeli area in Jerusalem. The shots left a few bullet holes in some of the Gilo buildings, but there were no casualties. Then the Israeli troops entered the scene. Their helicopter gunships fired rockets into Beit Jalla, setting off explosions. The attack continued the next day when Israeli tanks positioned in Gilo hit Beit Jalla with several rounds of shells and long bursts of heavy machine-gun fire. Several people were injured when a shell landed near an ambulance. One tank round destroyed a children's bedroom just after the parents had moved the kids to another part of the house. Other buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged.
The local Israeli military commander warned, "Every house from which there is firing will simply be destroyed. Every vehicle from which there is firing will be destroyed."
This assault on Beit Jalla is typical of the Israeli actions in the past few weeks. Every act of resistance on the part of the Palestinians has been met with a massive military response by the Israeli occupiers. Israeli troops have fired rubber bullets and live ammunition at rock-throwing youth. Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships have "retaliated" against small-arms fire with rockets and shells. Israeli soldiers often shoot dum-dum bullets--ammunition that explodes inside the body.
Some Palestinians killed by Israeli bullets did not even have a rock in their hands--like 11-year-old Mohammed al-Durrah, shot as he and his father walked back to their home in Gaza. Among those injured are a six-month-old child and a two-year-old kid.
Israeli troops and armed settlers have attacked ambulances carrying wounded Palestinians. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported on October 24, "Live ammunition, rubber bullets, and/or stones thrown by Israeli settlers in 63 separate attacks have hit to date 34 ambulances. Forty emergency medical technicians have been injured, and one killed." In many cases, Israeli military checkpoints have refused to let ambulances through.
As of October 28, more than 130 Palestinians have been killed and at least 4,000 injured by Israeli troops and settlers since the end of September. A United Nations investigation found that about 40 percent of the Palestinians injured by the Israeli forces were under the age of 18 and that at least half of the injuries resulted from the use of live ammunition. The report said that Israeli forces "appear to have indiscriminately used excessive force in cases where there was no imminent threat to their lives."
These are ugly actions of an occupying army. The rulers of Israel hope that by using overwhelming firepower--and by threatening to unleash even greater military violence--they can put out the fires of resistance among the Palestinian people. The deadly methods of the Israeli army reflect their unjust mission: carrying out the interests of a settler state whose very foundation rests on the dispossession and domination of the oppressed Palestinian nation.
Behind the Israeli occupiers are their main backers, the U.S. The weapons used by the Israeli troops against the Palestinians are stamped "Made in the USA" or are paid for by the U.S. imperialists. The U.S. sends over $3 billion a year in military and economic aid to Israel. On October 3, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported the latest U.S. military transfer to Israel--an agreement to provide 35 Blackhawk military helicopters and spare parts costing $525 million. The Ha'aretz said this was "the largest purchase of military helicopters by the Israeli Air Force in a decade." And the Jerusalem Post described the Blackhawks as "the newest and most advanced multi-mission attack helicopters in the U.S. inventory."
Blaming the Victims for the Israeli Brutality
During the current upsurge in Palestine, U.S. President Clinton has been constantly calling for a "cease-fire" and a "stop to the violence." But when Clinton and other U.S. officials talk of a "cease-fire," they are not demanding that the Israeli army--the side that has the overwhelming firepower--stop their attacks on the Palestinian people. Instead, they are blaming the Palestinians and holding them responsible for the savage violence they are subjected to at the hands of the Israeli forces.
Poor and oppressed people in the U.S. know what it's like to be victimized by the violence of the official enforcers--and then be told that it's "their fault." How many police murders have been declared "justified"--because the victims supposedly "brought it upon themselves" by "acting suspicious," by running away from cops, or by carrying objects like wallets that cops supposedly mistook for guns? In the Middle East, the U.S. is blaming the whole Palestinian nation for "provoking" the Israeli military.
On October 16, Clinton conducted a "summit" at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. At the end of the summit, Clinton announced that the participants had agreed to take steps to "minimize the violence."
What exactly was discussed and agreed to behind closed doors at the summit is unclear. But one revealing aspect of the summit was that the CIA played a major role--with CIA Director George Tenet himself in attendance. Under a 1998 agreement in the U.S.-directed "peace process," the CIA was assigned a direct role in the "security arrangements" between Israel and Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Under the agreement, Arafat was supposed to step up efforts to combat "terrorism" and "weapons trafficking"--which, in reality, meant that Arafat was supposed to increase the crackdown on Palestinian opposition to Israel and the "peace process." And the CIA--notorious for crimes and intrigues around the world--was given the task of monitoring these "arrangements."
The U.S. Master and the Israeli Attack Dog
The clashes have continued since the Sharm summit. And the U.S. has continued to hold the Palestinians responsible for the bloodshed caused by the Israeli military. A White House official quoted by the New York Times said, "The clear thrust of the call [out of the summit] was that we need to see more progress on getting the Palestinian security forces to stop the violence." And Clinton--while saying he hoped to see the "peace process" resume--declared, "I do think Chairman Arafat can dramatically reduce the level of violence."
Such statements point to the reality behind the "peace process" that the U.S. has overseen since the early 1990s. In the wake of the war against Iraq and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. moved to strengthen its position in the Middle East--a region that the U.S. must dominate in order to stay the top imperialist power in the world. This move by the U.S. has involved different factors, including more direct presence of U.S. military forces in some parts of the region. But the key to the U.S. plans for the Middle East continues to be--as it has been for many decades--the existence of the state of Israel in occupied Palestine.
As the October 16, 2000, statement from the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (CoRIM) pointed out, "Israel is a dog on an American leash. Its job is to lash out violently against the masses of Palestine as well as the neighbouring countries and the whole region in order to protect U.S. imperialist interests." (The entire statement is available in RW #1076 or online at rwor.org)
Behind all the talk and promises about a "lasting solution" is the actual purpose of the "peace process": to gain stability for Israel--and its imperialist backers--by stamping out Palestinian resistance. But these plans now threaten to blow up in the faces of the U.S. imperialists. The fake promises of the "peace process" and the reality of continuing life under occupation have given rise to a renewed upsurge of mass resistance among the Palestinian people. And all around the Middle East, the events of recent weeks have intensified the masses' support for the Palestinian struggle and opposition to the U.S. and its Israeli attack dog.
On October 24, tens of thousands of people in Jordan marched toward the border with the West Bank, demanding an end to Jordan's diplomatic and economic ties to Israel and condemning U.S. backing of Israel. The marchers clashed with Jordanian police, who tear-gassed and beat the protesters. On the same day, the Jordanian king was attending a ceremony at the Clinton White House to sign a new trade pact with the U.S. The trade pact is aimed at helping to stabilize the pro-U.S. regime in Jordan. But now the U.S. imperialists worry that developments in Palestine could touch off increased instability and anti-government opposition in the countries around the region.
Apartheid Under Israeli Occupation
Less than a week after the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, Barak said that Israel is starting to lay the groundwork for a "unilateral separation" of the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza if the Palestinians do not "stop the violence." Essentially, this is a threat to create huge concentration camps to imprison the three million Palestinians in various enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza Strip--surrounded by the Israeli military, armed settlements, and border walls.
This is a cold-blooded threat from the Israeli occupiers. But the "peace process" has already forced the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza into an apartheid-like situation. The "autonomous" areas--which supposedly would become a Palestinian "state" at some future point--are small, separate pieces of territory broken up by land under open Israeli control, Israeli settlements which act as armed fortresses, and "security roads" that link the settlements to each other and to Israel. The Israelis can easily carry out "closure" of the Palestinian areas--preventing any movement and strangling the people economically. In fact, Israel has set up such "closures" in recent weeks as a form of "collective punishment" against the Palestinians.
The Israeli occupation of Palestine is fundamentally and thoroughly unjust--and this is made even clearer by the bloody actions of the Israeli forces in the recent weeks. The Palestinian people have justice on their side. It is right for Palestinians to defend themselves against the brutal occupiers and to struggle for liberation.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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