Jets Against the People

Revolutionary Worker #1105, June 3, 2001, posted at

Since the start of the current clashes in Palestine last September, Israel's occupation forces have carried out one escalation after another in their attacks on the Palestinian people. Israeli soldiers have used automatic rifles against Palestinian youth who express their rage at the occupiers by throwing rocks. Israeli bullets have killed hundreds and injured thousands--sometimes hitting people not even involved in the protests. The troops have fired at ambulances that come to take the wounded to hospitals.

The Israeli military has used tanks, gunboats, and artillery to bombard Palestinian towns and refugee camps. Their bulldozers have torn up Palestinian fruit and olive orchards and flattened people's houses. Israeli military helicopters have fired missiles into buildings and targeted Palestinian officials for assassination in the streets.

On May 18, Israel's war against the Palestinian people reached a new level of high-tech brutality and savagery when Israeli F-16 fighter jets swooped down from the sky and bombed the Palestinian towns of Nablus and Ramallah in the West Bank. In Nablus, the Israelis were apparently trying to assassinate a commander of the Islamist group Hamas who was being held at the jail, in retaliation for a suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Netanya earlier in the day. The commander was not injured and escaped in the confusion--but the aerial bombing killed 11 Palestinian police officers. One Palestinian died in the attack on Ramallah.

The use of the highly sophisticated and deadly F-16 warplanes against populated areas sent shockwaves around the world. This was the first time that Israel had used jet fighters against Palestinians since the 1967 war--when the Zionist state attacked neighboring Arab lands and seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and other territory. Even within Israel, there was criticism and questioning about the use of the F-16s. A columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz asked what the next step in the government's "retaliation" against Palestinians would be: "An atomic bomb on Ramallah?" (This rhetorical question was rather chilling since it's widely known that Israel actually has nuclear weapons.) Israeli Premier Sharon and other officials were unapologetic and defended the F-16 attack. Some officials justified the action by saying the use of the high-tech jet fighter would allow the military to be even more "accurate" in their attacks.

The F-16 bombing exposes once again the vicious and ugly nature of the Israeli state. This is an oppressors' state, based on land stolen from the Palestinian people--and it enforces the unjust occupation of Palestinian land through the use of cold-blooded reactionary violence.

But as the great revolutionary Mao Tsetung always emphasized, where there is oppression, there is resistance. The fearless struggle of the Palestinians against a powerful enemy has been inspiring to people around the world. In the face of all that Israel has thrown at them, the Palestinian people have continued their courageous and just fight for their homeland.

On the day after the jet fighter bombings, people gathered in Nablus for the funeral of those killed in the air strike. They marched to the military checkpoint, where youth confronted the Israeli troops and threw stones. The Israeli troops, well-protected as usual with tanks and in their fortified posts, responded in their cowardly way by firing their weapons into the crowd--killing one protester and critically injuring another.

The Bloody Hand of the U.S.

The jet fighter attack also served to highlight the role of the U.S. imperialists in supporting the bloody crimes of the Israeli state. The highly sophisticated killing machine known as the F-16 used by Israel was made and supplied by the U.S. And Israel was following in the footsteps of its U.S. big brother when it launched the F-16 air strikes. From Vietnam to Iraq, the U.S. imperialists are the bloodiest practitioners of mass murder from the air.

The M-16 rifles used by Israeli troops to shoot at rock-throwing youth are also of U.S. origin. The bullets fired by these high-powered rifles shatter inside the bodies of the victims; those who are not killed instantly often suffer catastrophic injuries. The Guardian newspaper of London reported on May 1: "The Nobel prize-winning U.S. group Physicians for Human Rights blames the widespread use of the M-16 automatic rifle for the high rate of crippling Palestinian injuries."

What about the helicopter gunships that Israel uses in operations against Palestinian cities and towns? While Israel has a large military weapons industry, it does not manufacture military helicopters--these are supplied, once again, directly by the U.S. Last October, the U.S. and Israel reached an agreement for new shipments of U.S. military helicopters to Israel--reportedly the largest such deal in a decade. Earlier this year, the Pentagon announced another military deal with Israel worth half a billion dollars--for Apache attack helicopters, the most advanced in the U.S. arsenal.

Overall, the U.S. backs Israel with three billion dollars of military and other forms of aid each year. For the U.S. imperialists, domination of the Middle East is crucial to their position as the world's superpower. There are various elements to the U.S. strategy for maintaining and extending their power in this region--including close ties with reactionary Arab states like Egypt and direct presence of U.S. military forces throughout the area. But the U.S. imperialists have seen--and continue to see--Israel's role as a strategic fortress as a key part of their plans and maneuvers in the Middle East. This is why the Palestinian struggle against the oppressor state of Israel is also a struggle against imperialism.

At times the U.S. government issues mild criticism of Israel for particular actions it takes. After the F-16 attack on Nablus and Ramallah, for example, U.S. officials said they were "concerned" that the air strikes might "escalate the violence." But at most, such criticisms reflect secondary disagreements in policy rather than major rifts in the relationship. And often, the U.S. finds it in its interest to give the impression that Israel is a somewhat out-of-control attack dog, which threatens and bites as its master pretends to pull on the leash.

Israel's Siege of Palestine

While the F-16 attack made major headlines, the day-to-day Israeli brutality against the Palestinians has been steadily intensifying in the recent period. In March, the Israel military dug deep trenches around Ramallah, almost completely sealing off the city. An AFP news report described the situation in another West Bank city that was sealed off by trenches: "Jericho, fabled for the biblical account of the siege in which its walls came tumbling down, has been encircled for two months by a two-meter (six-foot) ditch that has effectively stopped the flow of products and raw materials in and out, beleaguering the local economy."

The trenches are part of the policy of "closure" that Israel has used to carry out a vicious lockdown on the Palestinians in an attempt to break down the resistance. As they gun down and bomb Palestinian protesters in the streets, the Israeli occupiers are also strangling Palestinian communities through military blockades, checkpoints, curfews, and trenches.

Military checkpoints manned by Israeli soldiers prevent Palestinians from even traveling freely between different towns within the occupied West Bank and Gaza. There are documented cases of Palestinians dying of heart attacks and other medical emergencies when they were stopped on their way to hospitals by Israeli troops.

Over 130,000 Palestinian workers who used to commute to jobs inside Israel are being shut out and no longer have a means of livelihood. Overall the unemployment rate has jumped to almost 50 percent. The UN World Food Program recently announced that Palestinians have become among the poorest people in the world; poverty levels have doubled since September.

In the name of "security," Israeli troops have bulldozed hundreds of acres of fruit and olive orchards that are an important part of the Palestinian economy. Some of these orchards go back hundreds of years.

Israeli forces have also bulldozed many homes in the refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis justify this cruel destruction by saying that the land was needed for "security roads" or that the homes were allegedly being used for attacks on Israeli troops and settlers.

In April, Israeli tanks invaded the Khan Younis refugee camp and destroyed a whole neighborhood. The Israelis said they were destroying a sand hill that was being used as a cover by Palestinian gunmen. The residents said the barrier was built to protect children from the Israeli gunfire.

Sara Abu Khreik, one of the Khan Younis residents whose houses were destroyed, told what happened: "We were sleeping in our houses. At around 11:30 p.m., the Israelis started shooting at us with the tanks and machine guns and their big shells. At around 12, we found the tanks and bulldozers coming at us, and they started to demolish the home on top of us. At that moment, we grabbed the children. We had about 30 seconds. The planes were flying overhead, and from every direction the guns were working on us. We left without our scarves, without any covering. It came as a surprise, just like that."

On May 14, the Israeli army, navy, and air force launched major assaults on several Palestinian areas. The Gaza Strip was hit by rockets and missiles fired from attack helicopters and Israeli gunboats off the coast. The heaviest casualties were in the village of Bituniya, outside of Ramallah in the West Bank. An Israeli unit raked a small checkpoint with machine gun fire, killing five security officers who were on guard duty, sleeping, or preparing a meal. The Israeli government later said their troops were after Palestinian gunmen, but "the results of the operation were not as intended."

On May 15, tens of thousands marched throughout the West Bank and Gaza to mark the 53rd anniversary of "Nakbah"--the "catastrophe," when the Palestinian people were dispossessed of their land with the founding of Israel. In Ramallah, thousands marched to the Israeli checkpoint at the north entrance to the town. When several dozen youth marched toward the troops and began throwing stones, the troops began to shoot. Israeli officials later claimed the soldiers were "responding" to gunfire from the Palestinian side--but as usual, the only ones shot were Palestinians (along with one French reporter, who was some distance away from the clash).

New Talk of "Peace"

A few days after the F-16 bombings, the Bush administration announced that it was taking steps to "break the cycle of violence" in the Middle East and work toward resuming the "peace" negotiations between Israel and Yasser Arafat. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the basis for such steps should be the report just issued by a commission headed by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. The Mitchell commission was originally created under the Clinton administration.

The U.S. is promoting the Mitchell report as an "impartial" document, produced by an "international" commission. But according to the Mitchell report, the first step toward resuming "peace" talks is a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians. This by itself makes clear that the Mitchell report is far from "impartial." The word "cease-fire" implies that two opposing forces are on a comparable level militarily. But clearly, there is nothing comparable about Israel, with its huge, modern Israeli military force (backed by U.S. imperialism), and the Palestinians. In the current situation in Palestine, such a cease-fire can only mean a demand that the Palestinian people stop their just resistance against the occupiers.

The Mitchell report says that the goal of a cease-fire and other "confidence-building measures" between Israel and the Palestinian authorities is a return to the "peace" talks. But this is no solution at all for the people of Palestine--even if some details of negotiations are changed from the "Oslo peace process" started by Clinton in 1993. Any "peace process" overseen by the imperialists would have as its basis the protection of the state of Israel--and that can only mean continued injustice and dispossession for the masses of Palestinian people.

In an October 2000 statement titled "Condemn the Israeli Occupiers and Support the Just Struggle of the Palestinian People," the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (CoRIM) pointed to a very different vision of liberation for the Palestinian nation:

"The reality is that the Palestinian national question cannot be solved by the imperialists. The reality is that for more than 50 years the existence of the state of Israel in occupied Palestine has been the lynchpin of the imperialist order in the Middle East--this is why the U.S. subsidizes Israel to the tune of billions of dollars a year. The Palestinian national question cannot be solved by recognizing the legitimacy of the occupiers. And since this is exactly the centerpiece of what Arafat proposes to do by embracing the 'peace process,' this plan offers no solution at all. The occupation is unjust and the Palestinians are absolutely right to fight it. The people of the whole world must support their just struggle....

"The minimum programme for revolutionary change in Palestine can only be the formation of a secular, democratic state for all the people of Palestine regardless of religious belief. We Maoists (revolutionary communists) call for the establishment of such a state throughout the territory of Palestine. That is the only possible realistic solution and it is still the goal. All other programmes are fakes.... It is time to end the bitter cycle of rising up and being betrayed by misleaders and reactionary and capitulationist programmes. Often we revolutionary communists are told that our ideas may be correct in 'theory' but that 'in practice' there is no choice but to bend these truths to the expediency of the moment. This is a wrong view of this ugly and oppressive world and what has to be done to change it. In fact, this is the outlook behind bargaining away the just struggle of the Palestinian masses to the imperialist New World Order. In every way and every day the enemy demonstrates that 'political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.' Without a people's war, it is impossible to liberate the masses of Palestine and the neighboring countries from the clutches of Israel and the reactionary Arab states propped up by U.S. imperialism. People's war is the only possible path to victory and only a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party can lead the masses on this road. Now more than ever the people need their own revolutionary force in the field. The first and immediate step is to lay the foundations of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organization in Palestine and the neighboring countries that can work to defend the independent interests of the proletariat and the oppressed and start the process of building genuine vanguard parties that can lead the people in making revolution. We urge all those who want to play a role in this process to get in touch with the RIM, the embryonic center of the world's Maoists, and join your experience and struggle with that of proletarian fighters all over the world." (The statement is available in its entirety online at


In the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, a group of Palestinians gathered to talk about their struggle. Many had lost their homes when the Israeli military came through with tanks and bulldozers. But one man spoke of their determined spirit of resistance: "You tell Sharon to bring his tanks, his bulldozers, his planes, his missiles. We are not moving."

Israel's economic siege has made the lives of these poor people even harder. But one woman said the shortage of daily necessities was not what was foremost on their mind: "We are not hungry for food. We are hungry for humanity to stand with us for our rights and for freedom. We are hungry to live."

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