Revolutionary Worker #1119, September 23, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
September 2001 marks one year since right-wing Israeli leader Ariel Sharon made a deliberately provocative visit to Haram al-Sharif, a site in central Jerusalem that is of major importance in Islamic beliefs. A thousand Israeli troops and police guarded Sharon--who became the head of Israel's government several months later.
Sharon is deeply hated by the Palestinians and other Arab people. They remember his central role in Israel's brutal invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s and the massacre of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. Sharon's visit to Haram al-Sharif was an arrogant declaration of Israel's intention to keep a tight grip over all of Jerusalem, which the Palestinian people consider the political and cultural center of their nation.
Thousands of Palestinians flowed into the streets in protest. The day after Sharon's visit, Israeli troops in Jerusalem fired live ammunition at Palestinian protesters, killing six and injuring over 200.
In the year since then, Israel--with the biggest and most powerful military in the region, thanks to massive U.S. backing--has carried out a savage and relentless offensive in an attempt to extinguish the resistance of the Palestinian people.
In the U.S. media, the bitter struggle over Palestine is often described as a "cycle of violence"--as if there were no question of right and wrong involved. The truth is: Palestine has been stolen, at gunpoint, from the Palestinians. The state of Israel was established in 1948, with the support of the U.S. and other major powers, on this stolen land. This oppressor state was born in ethnic cleansing--hundreds of Palestinian villages were wiped off the map, and more than 800,000 Palestinians were driven into exile in Jordan, Lebanon, and other parts of the world. Israel continued to expand through wars of aggression--and it is still expanding today, with every new Israeli settlement that goes up on land in the West Bank.
The Palestinian people aspire to be free of the colonial occupiers and to recover their lost land, and their cause is deeply just. This is the defining point of the conflict in Palestine--understandable to people all over the world.
Since the current clashes began a year ago, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed, and many thousands seriously wounded. Israeli soldiers are using automatic rifles against Palestinian youth who face off against the occupiers by throwing rocks. Israeli gunfire has hit people who are not even involved in protests, including ambulance crews trying to rescue the wounded.
Day or night, Palestinians in towns and refugee camps throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip face the constant threat of bombs and shells coming down from the sky--fired by Israeli tanks, jets, helicopters, gunboats, and artillery.
Palestinians have seen Israeli military bulldozers reduce their homes to rubble and uproot their fruit and olive orchards. Some of these orchards are hundreds of years old, and they are an important part of the Palestinian livelihood.
Israel uses its overwhelming military power to break up the Palestinian areas into small fragments--much like the way South Africa's apartheid rulers forced black people into "tribal homelands." Palestinian life is atomized and strangled by rings of roadblocks, checkpoints and trenches. Israel's policy of "internal closure" has shut down universities and crushed the Palestinian economy. For ordinary Palestinians, a trip to visit a friend or see a doctor is a harrowing and humiliating experience of searches and harassment at the hands of the occupying soldiers.
In an undisguised campaign of assassinations, the Israeli armed forces have targeted dozens of Palestinian political figures--and anyone who happens to be near them. Rockets from jets and choppers, tank shells, and covert squads of assassins are used to kill people on Israel's hit list. Other Palestinian officials are threatened with becoming the next target if they don't cooperate to the satisfaction of the Israeli government. On September 15, Israeli military helicopters hovering above the West Bank city of Ramallah fired two missiles into a building and killed Abu Ali Mustafa, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He was the highest ranking Palestinian official killed by Israeli forces in the past year.
The week of September 10 saw a new escalation of Israeli military action in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In a wide offensive, Israeli tanks and troops invaded four Palestinian cities and attacked other towns and refugee camps. At least 15 Palestinians were killed and many wounded during these raids.
The attacks followed the pattern that the Israelis have adopted for such operations. The Israeli forces surround and lay siege to the cities during the day--and then, using high-tech night-vision equipment, they invade under cover of darkness to minimize the resistance from the people.
One of the cities attacked during the week was Jericho, near the border with Jordan. Jericho was the first area turned over to the Palestinian Authority under the U.S.-directed "peace process." The events of the past year have clearly exposed the false promise that imperialist "peace" negotiations would eventually give Palestinians real autonomy and statehood.
In a cold-blooded remark, Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer openly said that Israel finds it easier to intensify attacks on Palestinians right now because of world attention on the events in New York City. "It is a fact that we have killed 14 Palestinians in Jenin, Kabatyeh and Tammun, with the world remaining absolutely silent," he said. He said that the situation was "a disaster for Arafat."
U.S. Hand Behind the Occupiers
For the Palestinian people, the Israeli state and its troops are the daily face of occupation. But ordinary Palestinians--from 11-year-olds braving Israeli tanks to older folks who have spent more than 50 years of their lives as refugees--all understand that there is a bigger power behind Israel. The Israeli state could not survive on Palestinian soil for a day without the backing of the imperialist powers--especially the U.S.
U.S. troops are not directly in Palestine, but the Palestinian people see evidence of the U.S. hand every day. Although Israel has a huge weapons industry of its own, the highly sophisticated killing machine known as the F-16--used by Israel to bomb West Bank cities--is made and supplied by the U.S.
The helicopter gunships that bring death from the air also come directly from the U.S. The U.S. and Israel signed several helicopter deals during the past year, including a $500 million agreement for Apache attack choppers, the most advanced in the U.S. arsenal.
The M-16 rifles used by Israeli soldiers to shoot at rock-throwing youth are also of U.S. origin. These high-powered rifles fire bullets that shatter inside the bodies of the victims. Those who are not killed instantly often suffer catastrophic injuries. The group Physicians for Human Rights has blamed the Israeli use of M-16 rifles for the high rate of Palestinians suffering permanently disabling injuries.
Overall, the U.S. backs Israel with three billion dollars of military and other forms of aid each year.
Behind this massive support for Israel is the fact that, for the U.S. imperialists, domination of the whole Middle East region is crucial to their position as the world's superpower. Their strategy for maintaining and extending their position in the region includes keeping close ties with reactionary Arab states and the direct presence of U.S. military forces. But the U.S. imperialists see Israel as their strategic fortress, central to their plans and maneuvers in the region.
When the people of Palestine confront the hated occupiers--and the tanks, jets, and other deadly weapons that the occupiers possess--what they see is: "Made in the USA."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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