Revolutionary Worker #1151, May 19, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
To be Palestinian in the Gaza Strip means living in a huge prison of over a million people-- surrounded by "security fences" and under the gun of those who have stolen and occupied your land.
It means trying to survive in one of the poorest and most crowded areas on Earth--your sources of water, ability to make a living, and routine travel within this small space all under the tight control of the arrogant occupiers.
It means facing the constant threat of the Israeli army rampaging through your refugee camp, bulldozing homes into the ground or shooting down brave kids who throw stones at the enemy tanks.
In the first week of May, the Palestinian people in Gaza stood in the crosshairs of the Israeli army. Israeli tanks and troops massed just outside the Gaza Strip, threatening to launch a deadly assault.
Once again, the Israeli government declares that it is acting in self-defense, provoked by suicide bombings. But the whole world saw the vicious, vengeful acts carried out by the Israeli army in the West Bank these past weeks in the name of self-defense. Thousands of people rounded up and sent to military jails, hundreds killed. Whole cities and towns put under curfew for days on end. People shut in their homes while the tanks tore up roads and destroyed water and electricity lines.
And in Jenin refugee camp, the Israeli army kept medical help and anyone else out for a week as they flattened blocks of houses into heaps of rubble. The whole story of the Israeli atrocities at Jenin may never come to light, because Israel, with U.S. help, was able to sabotage a UN fact-finding mission.
The Israeli offensive in the West Bank aimed to bludgeon Palestinian society and infrastructure, and to deliver a message that the fate of the Palestinian people is in the hands of Israel and its U.S. imperialist backers.
After brutalizing and wrecking the West Bank, Ariel Sharon and the Israeli government are aiming their tanks, guns, and attack helicopters--all supplied or paid for by the U.S.--at the people of Gaza.
As we go to press, there are some media reports that the Israeli government may delay a large-scale military assault against Gaza or carry out a smaller operation than the one in the West Bank. CNN reported the Israeli defense minister as saying that the Sharon government should "give peace a chance"--referring to the moves by the U.S. to restart "peace talks." Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres talked of a "careful and measured" military operation. Such "limited" actions by Israel reportedly might involve air strikes, rockets, and quick attacks from the sea. Any Israeli military assault in Gaza--where people live in densely populated refugee camps and towns--will likely result in heavy Palestinian casualties and much destruction.
Publicly, U.S. officials denied that they are sending Sharon any specific signal about possible military actions in Gaza. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said that Bush had given Sharon neither a red light nor a green light for an attack on Gaza: "Israel does not ask the United States for lights of any shade or color, and the United States does not give Israel any lights." This is a ridiculous claim.
Since the end of 2000, Israel, led by butcher-general Sharon, has received a big green light from the U.S. government to brutalize the Palestinian people. Israeli troops have demolished Palestinian homes, chopped down century-old olive groves, and assassinated Palestinian officials.
Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell took a slow week to get from Washington to Jerusalem on a so-called peace mission. Everyone took this as a green light from the U.S. for Israeli tanks to continue pounding Palestinian towns in the West Bank.
And while in Washington for talks with Bush in early May, Sharon publically thanked the U.S. government for help in squashing the UN investigation of what the Israeli military did in Jenin. Wasn't the U.S. backing for Israel's Jenin cover-up yet another green light for Israeli brutality, a signal that the U.S. will protect Israel from charges of war crimes?
What Israel might do in Gaza in the coming days and weeks is not yet clear. But whatever "light" that the U.S. gives to Sharon and Israel is based on the U.S. moves to calm the tensions in the region and to proceed with their overall plans to restructure the world--including their plans for a new war of aggression against Iraq.
For now, at least, the U.S. maneuvers involve leaving Yasser Arafat as the head of the Palestinian Authority--while putting pressure on Arafat and the Authority to "reform." Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, warned, "The Palestinian leadership that is there now, the Authority, is not the kind of leadership that can lead to the kind of Palestinian state that we need. It has got to reform."
Rice's statement reveals what Bush really means when he talks of his "vision of a Palestinian state": Any Palestinian state must be in line with U.S. imperialist needs . Such a state must not threaten the "security" of Israel, the U.S.'s armed fortress in the Middle East. This U.S.- approved Palestinian state must not empower the Palestinian masses--instead, it must keep the people ghettoized, disarmed, and surrounded.
And the U.S. imperialists demand: To be even allowed to participate in "peace talks" and discussions about a future state, the Palestinian Authority leadership must "reform" according to standards set by the U.S. And if Arafat fails to "perform" as demanded by the U.S.? The Israeli offensive in the West Bank, the threatened assault on Gaza, the U.S. Congress vote expressing full backing for Israel's military action--the U.S. intends these and other developments as warnings that even more extreme "solutions" might be in store.
The U.S. demands that Arafat act more ruthlessly and decisively as the warden over the Palestinian people, "cracking down" on any armed resistance to Israeli occupation. Arafat has had to perform a series of steps in order to prove his compliance. To end the siege of his compound at Ramallah, for example, Arafat agreed to send six men wanted by Israel, including the leader of the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine, to a jail in Jericho monitored by U.S. and British security officials. Following the recent suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Arafat ordered wide-scale arrests of members of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas and issued a statement in Arabic against such actions.
U.S. officials said these steps were "positive"--but that Arafat must "do more." Meanwhile, the U.S. is taking steps to tighten control over the workings of the Palestinian Authority--including its finances and its police forces.
The Bush administration announced it is sending George Tenet, director of the CIA, to oversee the "rebuilding" of the Palestinian police. As part of their recent offensive in the West Bank, the Israeli military destroyed Palestinian police stations and killed or arrested many of the Palestinian Authority security forces, including top officials.
Now the rebuilding of the Palestinian police has been put in the hands of the CIA--notorious for coup plots, assassinations, and other imperialist intrigues around the world. Clearly, this police force is not a protector of the people but an instrument of suppression for reactionary interests.
In the Gaza Strip, people have been preparing for weeks for the expected Israeli invasion.
The people know well how murderous and cruel the occupiers can be. They've seen their homes demolished, their youth shot in cold blood, and people beaten simply for not being subservient enough at checkpoints. They saw the horrors and atrocities carried out by the Israeli army in the West Bank.
Barricades of earth and sandbags have gone up throughout Gaza. People are stocking up on supplies of food and other necessities in anticipation of extended curfews. The fighters in the refugee camps vow that they will draw the enemy troops in deep and inflict heavy casualties.
In the face of all that the Israeli occupiers and the U.S. imperialists have thrown at them, the oppressed people of Palestine remain defiant, their spirit of resistance alive.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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