Locked Down in Occupied Palestine

Revolutionary Worker #1163, August 18, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org

We are in a situation of total closure... Nobody enters and nobody leaves. There is no movement between the towns and villages.''

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben- Eliezer,
announcing new military measures against Palestinians
in large areas of the West Bank, August 5

For weeks since June, almost all the major Palestinian towns in the West Bank have been under Israeli military curfew. Tanks in the street and troops with fingers on their triggers keep people cooped up in their homes for days on end--unable to go to work, to buy food, to just walk outside like a normal human being.

The Israelis lift the curfew from time to time--only to clamp it down again a short while later. Often the curfew is lifted and reimposed with little or no notice. And those caught outside when the curfew is back in effect become targets for the occupying army.

In early August, the Israeli military began new "security" measures in the West Bank. Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer declared that all travel between the towns of Nablus, Jenin, Qalqiliya, Tulkarem, and Ramallah in the northern part of the West Bank is now banned.

It was already difficult for Palestinians to travel within the West Bank before these latest measures. But people were sometimes able to get around military checkpoints by using dirt roads. The Israeli authorities said that the total ban on travel means the blockades between the towns and villages will be even more strictly enforced, with added checkpoints and more troops stationed at them.

Israeli officials said that exceptions would be made for "humanitarian" cases. But even before the new restrictions, Palestinians found it difficult or impossible to get to hospitals and doctors. Ambulances heading to emergency rooms have been stopped for long delays at military checkpoints. The number of babies delivered at home instead of hospitals has risen rapidly--leading to a sharp increase in dangerous complications and deaths in childbirth.

The curfews and closures mean many Palestinians cannot work--and cannot earn money to buy enough food and other necessities for their families. A recently released study showed an alarming rise in the number of malnourished Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In addition to tighter travel restrictions, Israel is also stepping up demolition of Palestinian homes. The Israeli Supreme Court declared that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) can demolish--without any advance warning--the houses of families of people accused of suicide bombing.

The Israeli troops give the families of accused bombers less than 30 minues to clear out what they can from the house--and then bring the building down with explosives or bulldozers. Often, these Israeli demolition operations also damage the neighboring homes of other families.

The IDF is also banishing family members of alleged suicide bombers to the Gaza Strip. The Gaza, a smaller and poorer area than the West Bank, is surrounded by Israeli fences. If the Palestinians in the West Bank are living in a giant prison house under lockdown, then Gaza is like the "hole"--the segregation unit.

On Aug. 6, Israeli troops in a U.S.-made Apache helicopter hunted down and killed Ali Ajouri. The Israelis accused Ajouri of involvement in two suicide bombings. Two weeks before Ajouri's assassination, Israeli troops destroyed the house that Ajouri once shared with 35 members of his family in the Askar refugee camp near Nablus.

The Israelis also arrested Ajouri's 26-year-old sister, Intizar, and his brother, Kifah, and are threatening to deport them to the Gaza Strip. "Her only crime is that she has a brother," said one of Intizar's lawyers. "They jailed her without charging her with anything."

The massive curfews, house demolitions, and other such actions by the Israeli occupiers are aimed at terrorizing a whole people and squashing their resistance. These are forms of "collective punishment"--which is supposedly illegal under international law. But there are no condemnations from the U.S. of these brutal crimes--no threat to carry out a "regime change" in order to remove a "rogue state." Instead, Bush and the U.S. government place all the blame for what they call "the cycle of violence" on the Palestinians.

The reason behind this outrageous stand is simple: Israel serves as a special armed agent of U.S. interests in the highly strategic Middle East and throughout the rest of the world.

The deadly instruments of Israeli occupation--the Apache helicopters, tanks, guns, and the rest--are all supplied or paid for by the U.S. The Israeli state and economy would quickly collapse without huge and continuous infusions of U.S. aid, which enable large sections of Israeli society to maintain a European standard of living--while Palestinian children go hungry.

While it firmly backs Israel, the U.S. government also claims that it is an "honest broker" in the Middle East and wants to see "peace," even promising an eventual state for the Palestinian people. And central to this peace, the U.S. imperialists say, is the guarantee of "security" for Israel.

But why is it that "security" for Israel is based on subjugating the Palestinian people? Why is it that "peace" on imperialist terms means the continued existence of Israel, which posseses the world's fourth most powerful military, while the Palestinians must cease their just resistance and are promised, at most, a disarmed mini-state?

It is because Israel--founded as an exclusive Zionist state to serve the interests of western imperialism in the region--was built on the basis of driving out the Palestinian Arab people from their lands. For over 50 years the state of Israel has been riding roughshod over the Palestinians and the people of the region. And the ugly history of neo-colonial occupation and brutality continues today.

But still, Israel and its U.S. backers know no peace--because where there is oppression there is resistance. The Palestinian people are continuing their just struggle in the snarling face of the Israeli attack dog. They have refused to accept the humiliation of modern-day apartheid and the injustice of dehumanizing occupation.

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