Socialist Worker

Backed by the West: Israel murders children

Issue No. 1777

Five boys from the same family torn to pieces. A Palestinian leader and two aides killed by a helicopter gunship. A murdered taxi driver. A 13 year old boy and a 15 year old shot dead. Political offices and security posts blown up in the Gaza Strip.

That is the grim toll of just four days of Israeli military action against the Palestinians at the end of last week. The five boys were all members of the same extended family. They were blown up by a booby-trapped device left by Israeli soldiers near their refugee camp of Khan Yunis.

The explosion was so powerful that body parts were scattered in the sand dunes and sycamore trees on the path they took to school. 'Both of my boys were good boys,' said Naim Al Astal, the father of two of them. 'The older used to take Akram's hand and keep an eye on him. That is why we had them at the same school, so Mohammed could look out for Akram.'

Israeli troops then opened fire on protesters leaving the boys' funeral, killing a 15 year old. Within days of those deaths in Khan Yunis, an Israeli helicopter blew up Mahmoud Abu Hanoun, a leader of the Palestinian Hamas group, and two others. Hours later Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinian buildings and shot a 13 year old boy dead in Bethlehem.

These and many more are the victims of a brutal colonial war conducted by the West's main ally in the Middle East, the Israeli state.


Sharon's war crimes

Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has used the US-led war on Afghanistan to order a ferocious intensification of the war against the Palestinians. He stepped up attacks at the weekend in anticipation of the arrival of a special envoy from the US, who Israeli hardliners claim might have a glimmer of sympathy for the Palestinians.

The US is in no way weakening its support for Israel. But even the words of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is trying to maintain the support of Arab leaders for the US 'war on terrorism', are too much for the Israeli government.

Sharon faces a renewed inquiry into his role in the slaughter of over 2,000 Palestinian refugees in Beirut in 1982. The US state has ignored that war crime for 19 years. It is turning a blind eye to Israeli atrocities today.

Instead it calls for the Palestinians to cease resisting the brutal Israeli occupation, an occupation which can continue only because of US arms and military aid.


They call this a war for democracy

1. NATO secretary general Lord George Robertson says that NATO 'has come to see the Russian response to the scourge of terrorism in Chechnya with different eyes'. Since Russia invaded Chechnya for the second time in October 1999, 40,000 civilians have been killed and 400,000 left homeless.

2. US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld stresses that the US's partnership with the brutal regime in Uzbekistan is for the long term. Rumsfeld's comments came as the French newspaper Le Monde revealed that Uzbek poet Ioussouf Djoumaev had been tortured for putting poems on a 'subversive' internet site. Le Monde adds, 'Between 7,000 and 10,000 political prisoners have been condemned to heavy sentences in Uzbek jails for offences as trivial as wearing a beard or lending money to a 'suspected Islamist'.'


Blunkett's assault on our liberties

The government bulldozed its 'anti-terror' bill through the House of Commons this week. It will mean a ferocious assault on liberties and rights. Just 21 Labour MPs rebelled on Monday against the part of the bill which creates a new offence of 'incitement to religious hatred'. There were similarly small votes against other parts of the bill last week.

The bill will give the government power to jail someone indefinitely, without charge or trial, if the home secretary believes they are a foreign terrorist. It will also speed up extradition between European states. This means that, for example, someone wanted by the Italian authorities after the protest in Genoa last July could be bundled out of Britain almost instantly.

The bill also gives police more powers to remove masks from demonstrators. The measures in the bill are so vicious that they require the government to abolish parts of the Human Rights Act.

Brian Sedgemore, Labour MP for Hackney South, told the House of Commons that 'not since the panic and hysteria that overcame the British establishment in the aftermath of the French Revolution has this house seen such draconian legislation'.

It took hundreds of years of struggle to force the authorities to concede the rights to have a trial and not to be imprisoned without a proper process. New Labour is sweeping these away.


The drug barons

The US and Britain tried to claim early in the war on Afghanistan that the Taliban were solely responsible for opium production. But the United Nations' own drugs agency admitted that a ban on growing the poppy in Taliban-controlled areas last year resulted in a 94 percent decline in production.

The Northern Alliance tripled production in the areas it controlled. The main producing area became the valleys of Badakhshan, controlled by the Northern Alliance. Afghan peasants feel they have little option but to grow the crop. They can get £6,000 for a hectare of opium and just £34 for wheat.


The military defeat of the Taliban in most of Afghanistan has not removed the threat of food shortages which could hit millions of people. Aid agency Oxfam said last week that it was 'worried by increasingly pessimistic reports from staff inside Afghanistan of large areas of the country now riven by factionalism, war, looting, banditry and fear'.


Charade in Bonn

The world's media descended on Bonn this week to cover the talks between the rival Afghan warlords. Another meeting was taking place thousands of miles away of people who have a far greater say in the fate of Afghanistan.

Representatives of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and of the bureaucracy of the United Nations met in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, to discuss Afghanistan's economic future. The World Bank has always tied any aid to demands for neo-liberal policies of privatisation, cutting welfare spending and giving free rein to multinationals.


The main Afghan warlords are staying in Afghanistan to grab as much territory as possible before haggling over the spoils.

But their underlings in Bonn have a record as terrible as that of their masters. The UN has invited Haji Abdul Qadeer to the meeting. When he ran Jalalabad he ordered women to wear the burqa in 1995, a year before the Taliban took the city.

DEMONSTRATE IN BRUSSELS, 13-14 DECEMBER

AGAINST JOB AND WELFARE CUTS Thursday 13 December Backed by European trade unions and Britain's TUC

AGAINST WAR Friday 14 December Backed by over 150 organisations including ATTAC, Globalise Resistance, Stop the War Coalition

Info and transport details from the TUC (020 7467 1357/22, www.tuc.org.uk) or Globalise Resistance (020 8980 3005, www.resist.org.uk)


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News
Sat 1 Dec 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1777
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