Living Under the Guns of an Occupying Army

Israeli War on Palestine

Revolutionary Worker #1080, November 27, 2000, posted at

Olives have long been an important part of life for the Palestinian people. Some of the olive groves farmed by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip date back hundreds of years. "Olive trees have roots in the ground like the Palestinian people," said one Palestinian olive farmer recently. Today, olives account for a quarter of the Palestinian agricultural output.

This is the time of the year for the olive harvest--they must be picked now or they will be lost. But since September the olive farmers, and the Palestinian people as a whole, have been under the siege of the Israeli war machine. Israeli troops and settlers have killed several Palestinians while they worked in their olive groves. Israel has tightened military blockades around Palestinian areas, making normal economic activity, such as transporting agricultural products and supplies, difficult or impossible.

And the Israeli army has bulldozed several hundred acres of olive trees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In Beit Sahur, West Bank, the Israeli troops uprooted 80 trees in a grove that Miriam Sababa planted over 50 years ago. Her family has not told Miriam--now 80 years old and unable to walk because of a stroke--what happened to her trees. Her son said, "We're afraid it will kill her. They're her soul. Her life was put into them." In the Gaza Strip, a small area where the people are very poor, the Israelis have destroyed 250 acres of olive trees in recent weeks.

The Israeli government claims that the cruel bulldozing of olive trees is a "defensive measure" for "security"--to prevent the groves from being using as a cover for firing guns at Israeli troops and settlers. This is the way oppressors down through history have justified their violence against the people. As an old Chinese saying goes: The emperor can burn down a hundred villages, but the people can not even light a candle. The Israelis have resorted to this oppressor's logic to justify each new escalation in their war against the Palestinians.

The Israelis arrogantly claim the "right" to fire shells at Palestinians from the safety of their heavy tanks, to fire missiles from their high-tech combat helicopters, to fire machine guns from the fortified military posts. But when Palestinians throw stones or fire a few gunshots, that--according to the Israelis--is cause for vicious military retaliation and punitive measures.

These Israeli military actions have led to over 200 Palestinian deaths so far, from the end of September to mid-November. Thousands have been injured. Israeli officials claim that their troops only use lethal force as a last resort. But a November 7 report issued by Physicians for Human Rights said, "Some 50 percent of the fatal injuries in Gaza were to the head, with around 26 percent of the 1,134 injured in Gaza and the West Bank sustaining injuries to the head or neck.... Our conclusion is that the soldiers are aiming for the heads of the civilians."

A recent comment by Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak reveals the Israeli leadership's monstrous mentality. Speaking on radio, Barak said, "If we thought that instead of 200 dead over there, that 2,000 dead would end this whole issue and that at once everything would end, then we would use much more force. But the opposite is true, and the state of Israel would then be in a much more complicated situation." In Barak's own words, the only reason he and other leaders have not ordered troops to kill even more Palestinians is because of fears of negative effects on the interests of the Israeli state. Aside from this concern, Palestinian lives are worth nothing to these cold-blooded murderers.

Israeli Hit Squad Strikes

On November 11, an Israeli military Apache helicopter (supplied by the U.S.) flew over the town of Beit Sahur and fired three laser-guided missiles at a van. Killed in the attack was Hussein Obaiyat, a Palestinian militia leader who was in the van. Shrapnel from the explosion also killed two women who just happened to be nearby on the street. The Israelis reportedly tracked Obaiyat's movements through a drone spy plane and informants on the ground.

The Israelis accused Obaiyat of responsibility for gunshots fired from the town of Beit Jala into the Israeli neighborhood of Gilo in Jerusalem and declared that this was the reason for his assassination. The gunshots at Gilo have damaged some buildings but have not caused any Israeli casualties. The Israeli military, however, has used the shootings as justification for tank and helicopter gunship attacks on Beit Jala, and now a calculated hit of a Palestinian official.

Imagine if a team of Palestinian commandos had tracked down a high-level Israeli military officer and assassinated him in an Israeli city, while killing nearby pedestrians. The Israeli government no doubt would make loud charges of "terrorism" and carry out quick and violent retaliation against the Palestinians. But the Israelis call their assassination of Obaiyat--along with the "collateral damage," the killing of two bystanders--a "legitimate military operation."

Aside from Israeli hypocrisy, the Obaiyat assassination also reveals something about the basic power relations behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel is an oppressive settler-colonial state backed by imperialist powers--especially the U.S., which gives Israel two to three billion dollars each year in aid. Those funds have allowed Israel to build up a huge military equipped with modern high-tech weapons (including nuclear bombs). A central mission of this military is to maintain the Israeli state's domination over the Palestinian people and the occupation of Palestinian land. The Palestinian Authority headed by Yasser Arafat has a police force armed with small weapons, and there are various militia groups. But obviously, these forces are vastly outgunned by the imperialist-backed military of the Israeli state.

Israel Tightens Stranglehold

While continuing the brutal military attacks, Israel has also intensified other aspects of their war on the Palestinian people. In October, the Israeli government began blocking Palestinian day laborers from going to jobs inside Israel. There are about 120,000 Palestinian workers "legal" and "illegal"--who work in construction and other low-paying manual labor jobs in Israel. These workers' earnings make up a significant part of the Palestinian economy. So Israel's "border closure" has meant much hardship for Palestinians, especially in Gaza where there is little other opportunity for work.

In early November, Israel further tightened the stranglehold by restricting movement between Palestinian areas in the West Bank. The "peace process" directed by the U.S. in the past ten years has assigned several isolated pieces of territory in the West Bank and Gaza to Palestinian control. Under the U.S. plan, these areas were to eventually become a Palestinian "state."

But the recent developments clearly show that such a "state" is in reality a giant prison for the millions of Palestinian people. The Israeli move to tighten the military blockades around Palestinian areas is like a massive prison lockdown to suppress and punish rebellious prisoners.

A Palestinian economist points out that the current clashes reveal the great degree of control Israel exercises over the Palestinian economy. Israel controls 80 percent of Palestinian trade and all Palestinian sea and land routes to the outside world. In addition, "They control 100 percent of our electricity, and they have their hand on our water taps."

The roots of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict lie in the relations of inequality, domination, and oppression. It is rooted in the violent dispossession of the Palestinian people and occupation of their land by the Israeli state. It is important for people around the world--especially here in the U.S., Israel's main imperialist backer--to understand this basic truth. Based on that understanding, people must oppose the Israeli occupiers and their deeply unjust actions--and support the just and righteous struggle of the Palestinian people.

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