Revolutionary Worker #1158, July 14, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
In a major policy speech on June 24, U.S. President George Bush made a stark and deeply arrogant demand on the Palestinian people: They must remove Yasser Arafat from his position as the officially recognized political leader.
Bush didn't mention Arafat by name in his speech. But it was clear that Bush and the class of imperialist gangsters he represents intended to make a Mafia-like threat. "Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership so that a Palestinian state can be born," Bush proclaimed. In other words, U.S. support for any kind of Palestinian statehood hinges directly on the dumping of Arafat.
Bush did not even bother to make a pretense of calling for "fair" elections. He flatly declared, "I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders."
The U.S. government hasn't taken the step--at least so far--of openly telling the Palestinians which particular individual to elect in place of Arafat. But Bush's speech left no doubt that any "new leaders" must meet with approval of the U.S.
When it suits their purposes, the U.S. imperialists attack leaders of some countries for lacking "legitimacy" because they did not win through elections that are considered "fair" and "democratic"--by the U.S. Bush and his speechwriters could not take this approach with Arafat--they found it convenient to leave out any mention of the fact that Arafat had been elected in 1996 with 87 percent of the vote in the West Bank and Gaza. That election was certified as "legitimate" by international observers, including former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.
But that was then , when the U.S. and Israel hoped that Arafat could be a "partner" in their efforts to impose an oppressors' "peace plan" in the Middle East and extinguish the flames of Palestinian resistance. Now the U.S. has deemed Arafat to be an obstacle to its predatory plans and is moving to move him out of the way--regardless of any election results.
Two days after the June 24 speech, Bush added to the threat against the Palestinian people while attending the summit meeting of the G8--the top imperialist powers of the world--in Calgary, Canada. He declared that if the Palestinians did not follow the demands he made in his speech, the U.S. would cut off funds for international aid that goes to Palestians. Among other things, these funds go toward the operation of the refugee camps where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live in poverty.
A "senior" Bush administration official also told reporters that while "we respect democratic processes" and Palestinians were "free" to reelect Arafat, they should know that "there are consequences" if they did so.
These "consequences" include not only economic strangulation but the further unleashing of U.S.'s savage attack dog, Israel. While blasting the Palestinian people for engaging in or being "compromised" by "terrorism," Bush matter-of-factly stated in his June 24 speech that "Israel will continue to defend herself." These actions by Israel in the name of "self defense" include demolition of people's houses, assassinations of Palestinian officials, the building of "security fences" to close off Palestinian areas, etc.--in short, all the cruel methods of an unjust occupation, aimed at squashing the resistance of the oppressed Palestinian people.
Since the Bush speech, Israeli tanks and troops have--once again--rolled into most of the major Palestinian towns in the West Bank. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are under severe curfews that prevent them from carrying out normal activities like buying food or visiting relatives, except for short and limited times determined by the Israeli military. Palestinians who mistakenly thought the curfew was lifted and stepped out into the streets have been shot and killed by Israeli troops.
Ariel Sharon and other Israeli officials insist that their tanks and troops will remain in the Palestinian towns for a "long time." International human rights groups are warning about the dangerous shortages of food, water and medical care in the Palestinian areas under lockdown. The Israeli military has announced that they will allow needed supplies to reach Palestinian areas except "where there is terror"--which means that Israel will use "anti-terror operations" as justification to cut off supplies to areas where there is continuing struggle against the occupiers.
To these people living under the intolerable conditions of Israeli military occupation, all that Bush and the U.S. ruling class offer is a tenuous promise of a "provisional" state sometime in the indefinite future. Bush said in his speech that the U.S. supports the idea of "a Palestinian state, whose border and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East." So this U.S.-mediated "state"--if it ever comes about--will not even be an actual full-fledged state. It will be like the bantustans under apartheid South Africa--the phony "independent" homelands where black people were forced to live in poverty and under the control of the white racist rulers.
The world is witnessing U.S.-style "democracy" in action in Palestine: The big imperialist superpower bully dictating to an oppressed people what kind of state they can have and who they can choose as leaders and representatives.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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