Socialist Worker

Israel's strategy of terror against the Palestinians

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2133

Egyptian authorities cracked down on pro-Palestinian protests in Cairo last week (Pic: Nasser Nouri)

Egyptian authorities cracked down on pro-Palestinian protests in Cairo last week (Pic: Nasser Nouri)

When it comes to war Israel has a single, simple strategy. Trap millions of people between tanks and warplanes. Cut off all food, water and electricity. Then systematically bring buildings down on their heads.

This is the murderous aim of Israel's ground invasion and air campaign against the Palestinians in Gaza. Israel does not distinguish between 'militants' and 'civilians' among Palestinians – their target is an entire people.

Massacre and state terror as tactics of war have been the meat and bones of Israeli military thinking ever since the foundation of the state in 1948.

Israeli generals think that if you starve and kill enough people, at some point the resistance will agree to save lives by surrendering.

Sometimes this strategy works – as in Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon – but sometimes it does not, as Israel discovered when it invaded Lebanon again in 2006.

It was the actions of ordinary people that made the difference between victory and defeat. In 1982 the Palestinians and Lebanese were trapped in Beirut as Israeli forces and allied militias encircled the city.


In contrast during the 2006 war, over one million mainly Shia Lebanese managed to escape from the Israeli juggernaut to find refuge in Christian, Druze and Sunni areas of Lebanon.

This meant that resistance forces headed by Hizbollah were free to inflict a punishing military lesson on Israel's invading army. In the final days of the war, the Shia refugees returned to their homes in huge numbers, sweeping away the remaining Israeli troops.

Israel's intentions in Gaza are becoming clearer as the ground war progresses. It has sliced the Gaza Strip into three and surrounded Gaza City. From there it hopes to start on the systematic destruction of the city.

These are the tactics the Israelis used to destroy Beirut in 1982. The only relief from the onslaught came when Palestinian fighters and their allies agreed to abandon the city.

Just like today, the Israelis demonised the Palestinians as 'terrorists, terrorists, terrorists'. Just like today, the 'international community' made noises about a ceasefire, but took no action.

Israel's current assault on Gaza is part of the wider 'war on terror' – a war to crush any resistance to US imperialism and its allies in the Middle East.

This war has been going badly. The US and its allies have found themselves dragged into an endless war and are now caught in the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our rulers hoped these invasions would consolidate their power. Instead it has exposed their limits. Now they are desperately searching for a victory in Palestine to mark the last, bloody days of George Bush's administration.

Israel aims to deliver that victory by crushing Palestinian resistance and handing over the smouldering remains of Gaza to Mahmoud Abbas, the corrupt president of the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas is collaborating in the destruction of his own people in the vain hope that the US will make good on its pledge of a 'viable Palestinian state'.

Israel has no intention of honouring any such promise. Nevertheless Abbas has taken this opportunity to crush all dissent in the West Bank.

The defeat in Lebanon still hangs over Israel. Its generals declare that they have 'learnt the lessons' of that war. For that they have Egypt's dictator Hosni Mubarak to thank.

Mubarak has sealed Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip to block any Palestinians fleeing the carnage. He has halted attempts by ordinary Egyptians to rush emergency supplies into the Palestinian territory. He has even told Egyptian troops to fire on Palestinians attempting to cross the border to safety.


All this triggered an unprecedented wave of mass protests in Egypt that has spread from the capital Cairo to smaller towns and cities.

The most notable was the huge demonstration on Friday of last week in Arish, the largest city in the Sinai region. Tens of thousands took to the streets chanting 'Hosni Mubarak – you bring us shame!'

Arish is about 37 miles from the border with Gaza. It became a lifeline for Gaza when Palestinians stormed the border with Egypt in January last year. People in the city helped Palestinians grab much needed supplies and temporarily break the Israeli blockade.

The Mubarak regime is now facing a whirlwind of anger from every corner of the country. He has been able to quell the protest for now with his usual brand of mass arrests and vicious repression.

But the scale and nature of these demonstrations has deepened the crisis of a regime that has been rocked by two years of strikes and protests.

The anger against Egypt has found its expression across the Arab world. In Beirut demonstrators surrounded the Egyptian embassy, burning tyres and clashing with riot police before trying to storm the US embassy.

In Yemen the Egyptian embassy was briefly occupied by demonstrators. Similar protests took place in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other oil rich states before being battered off the streets.

Israel can take comfort in the power of the mass destruction its military can wreak. It can be assured of help from the West and its Arab allies. But any Israeli 'victory' over the Palestinians will be short-lived.

Their 'victory' over Lebanon in 1982 gave birth to the Lebanese resistance movement Hizbollah. It is the only force in the region to have militarily humiliated Israel, in 2000 and again in 2006.

As the war on Gaza enters another bloody phase only one thing is certain – the retribution from ordinary people in the Middle East on the corrupt regimes and their Western backers will be immeasurable.

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