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News ::
30 Aug 2003

By Richard Becker
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Sept. 4, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Richard Becker

Aug. 26--The Black Panther Party used to have an expression about
brutal cops who justified their murderous actions by "masquerading as
the victim of an unprovoked attack." The same description could be
applied to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

A series of unfolding developments over the past two weeks has brought
the U.S.-sponsored and misnamed "road map for peace" close to
termination. Blame for the collapse, according to U.S. officials and
the corporate media, must be assigned exclusively to actions of the
Palestinian side, in particular the bombing of an Israeli bus on Aug.
19 in Jerusalem in which 20 people were killed and more than 80

Predictably, U.S. officials, from the president on down to the
billionaire mayor of New York City, competed in their condemnations of
the Palestinians and pledges of devotion to Israel.

And just as predictably, the politicians and pundits alike mysteriously failed to discern the monotonously familiar pattern of Israeli provocations, including the assassinations of prominent Palestinian leaders, that preceded Aug. 19.

For the big business media here, Palestinian casualties--never mind
that they are significantly higher than those among Israelis--are never sufficient to "derail the peace process." According to them, only Israeli blood flowing can cause a "derailment."

Sharon, like his predecessors, thoroughly understands the racist rules
of this game. Not only does he have a 50-year career of mass murder of
Palestin ians--from Qibya to Gaza to Sabra and Shatila--behind him, but Sharon has no compunctions whatsoever about sacrificing his fellow
Israelis when he considers it politically expedient.

In the course of the struggle, and particularly over the past decade,
the assassination of Palestinian resistance leaders has brought
retaliation inside Israeli population centers. When leaders of the
Hamas (Islamic Resis tance Move ment) or Islamic Jihad organizations
have been assassinated, retaliation has been almost guaranteed.

The Israeli Army prefers to carry out "targeted killings"--as its
spokespersons like to call assassinations--with U.S.-supplied attack
helicopters. Missiles and 1,000-pound bombs are often the weapons of
choice, and crowded city streets are frequently the venue for the
Israeli hits. As a consequence, civilian casualties are often high. The U.S. media at best treats Palestinian civilian casualties as mildly regrettable "collateral damage."

The Palestinian guerrilla forces fighting against Israeli occupation
have no such weapons. They have not received hundreds of billions of
dollars worth of high-tech weaponry from Washington or anywhere else.
So, Palestinian bombs typically are delivered strapped to the body of a person who invariably dies in the operation.


The event that immediately triggered the Aug. 19 Jerusalem bombing was
the assassination five days earlier by Israeli troops of the Hebron
leader of the Islamic Jihad organization, Mohammed Seder. Hebron is a
city of 150,000 Palestinians in the southern West Bank. It has an
Israeli settler population of less than 500, who nevertheless control
more than 20 percent of the city. The Israeli Army frequently imposes
round-the-clock curfews on the Palestinian population of the city.

On Aug. 18, talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators broke off over the issue of the withdrawal of the Israeli Army from West Bank cities. The refusal of the Israeli forces to dismantle roadblocks
surrounding the cities, which effectively isolate them economically and socially even from surrounding villages, was the culmination of a
string of broken Israeli pledges made under the "road map."

Since the Palestinian resistance organizations began observing a
"hudna," or ceasefire, on June 29, the Israeli government has reneged
on virtually all conditions of the agreement. After pulling back from
parts of Gaza and the city of Bethlehem in June, no further Israeli
with drawals have taken place. Palestinian economic activity remains at an all-time low, while poverty and malnutrition, particularly among
children, are at record high levels.

Of the more than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons,
only 336 have been released, most of them individuals whose terms were
nearly over.

Construction of the first phase of a 25-foot "apartheid wall," intended to cut the West Bank in half and annex 58 percent of its territory to Israel, was completed in late July.

And rather than a freeze on settlements, more "outposts"--future
settlements--have been established than dismantled. In early August,
Sharon's government announced the expansion of a major Gaza settlement. In Gaza, 40 percent of the land is allocated for Israeli settlers, who number fewer than 5,000 people. More than 1.25 million Palestinians live in Gaza's vastly overcrowded refugee camps and cities.

Moreover, Israeli incursions and attacks inside Palestinian cities and
camps escalated in August, resulting in numerous casualties.

Now, the Israeli government has announced that the Haram Al-Sharif,
site of the Al-Aksa Mosque, is open for Jewish and Christian
"visitors," while it remains restricted for Muslims. It was Sharon's
"visit" to Al-Aksa, accompanied by 1,500 riot police, that sparked the
beginning of the second Palestinian Uprising (Intifada) on Sept. 28,

The Sharon government clearly intended that the assassination of Seder
in Hebron would end the "road map" process altogether. At the same
time, it would be sure to unleash a response, allowing Israel to put
the onus for the collapse on the Palestinians.

So, after the Jerusalem bombing did occur, Israel sealed the deal with
the assassination-by-missile of one of the top political leaders of
Hamas, Ismail Abu-Shanab, and his bodyguards in Gaza on Aug. 21. Tens
of thousands of people and representatives of all resistance
organizations filled the streets of Gaza City the following day for
Abu-Shanab's funeral. Later, Hamas and Islamic Jihad formally announced an end to the ceasefire.


The "road map" is a U.S. plan to create what one commentator has called a "Palestinian mini-mini-mini state"--in other words, a bantustan, independent in name but in reality a colony--while putting an end to the Palestinian national liberation struggle. The Palestinian movement is seen in Wash ington as a major obstacle to U.S. ruling class plans to restructure the Middle East in the aftermath of its seizure of Iraq.

The Sharon government, highly conscious of Israel's dependence on U.S.
military, economic and diplomatic support, went along with the "road
map" for the time being.

Both the U.S. and Israeli governments had demanded that the
Palestinians create a new government, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, as a
pre-condition for starting negotiations.

And both demanded that Abbas "dismantle" the resistance organizations, all of which are deeply rooted in the population.

That would have required a civil war among the Palestinians, something
that both Washington and Tel Aviv have been most desirous of for the
past decade. But the Palestinian forces, despite different perspectives ranging from Islamic to nationalist to Marxist, have skillfully avoided such a ruinous conflict.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
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allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
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