THE HORROR of ethnic cleansing was shown on TV screens across the world last week. But there were no shrieks of outrage from George Bush and Tony Blair. That's because their ally, Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon, was carrying out that policy in Palestine.
Palestinian refugees were forced to flee their homes in Rafah in the Gaza Strip before Israeli bulldozers destroyed the houses. US-supplied tanks and airplanes gunned down peaceful protesters. Israeli forces sealed off the city on the border with Egypt last week claiming it was fighting "terrorists" and looking for tunnels used to smuggle weapons in from Egypt.
Its real agenda is to leave the Palestinians weak and humiliated before any kind of Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Gaza Strip. The attack had terrible echoes of 1948 when Israeli settlers ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and declared the state of Israel.
Some 900,000 of the Gaza Strip's 1.3 million residents are refugees, or the descendants of refugees. The last two weeks' tragedy can be laid at the door of George Bush and his ever-willing executioner Sharon.
Bush gave Sharon the green light to do whatever he wanted when last month Bush approved Sharon's plans for the Palestinians. Said Zoroub, the mayor of Rafah, told Socialist Worker, "In five days Israel has killed more than 48 people and injured more than 300. The Israelis have demolished the infrastructure of roads. They have destroyed 2,300 houses in Gaza in the last three years. We expect another 500 to 1,000 houses will have been destroyed in Rafah. All this is the decision of Bush and Sharon. They are the same thing. The Israelis are dealing with people like they are animals, not human beings. It seems that human rights laws do not enter the West Bank and Gaza Strip."
Ali Barhoum, the city manager of Rafah municipality, told Socialist Worker, "I live in the Brazil camp. Israel occupied it. I am now living in my brother's flat. Is it safer? We don't know yet. The majority of people have left the Brazil camp. The Israelis have been there for three days. Many houses have been demolished. There is no figure yet of how many. The Tel Sultan area was completely closed for six days. No one was allowed to pass in. Some 30,000 people live in the place. It is two kilometres from the border with Egypt. It is unbelievable when Israel says there are tunnels there. We don't expect anything from George Bush. Condoleezza Rice promised Israel cooperation with its plan. This is the first time Israel has done this to Rafah. The people are crying, but there is no answer from the international community. People are very angry. In Tel Sultan they refused international aid. They said they didn't need it, they needed the area of Tel Sultan to be open. Sharon's plan is to dominate everything. He wants us to go back 50 years. People are suffering from occupation. We have housing, human resources, education. Sharon wants to destroy all this, to keep people weak and suffering."
Sharon wants to remove all 7,500 Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip but retain control of the borders of the area. In exchange he wants to permanently annex Israeli illegal settlements in the Palestinian West Bank and Jerusalem. Sharon's right wing party rejected this in a referendum. Many of them desire a Greater Israel controlling the whole of Gaza and the West Bank, preferably without its Palestinian inhabitants.
Sharon wants to show his party he is still hard on the Palestinians. Israel assassinated Sheikh Yassin and Abdel Al-Rantisi, leaders of the radical Hamas group in Gaza in March and April. Israel is demolishing houses to widen the "security strip" it will still control along the Egyptian border.
It has begun to construct new security fences along settler roads in Gaza, showing it intends to continue to occupy Gaza. Bush backs Israel because it is in the US's interests to have a stable, friendly state in the oil-rich Middle East.
The US muttered criticisms of Israel's incursion into Rafah last week. It even allowed a United Nations Security Council motion to be passed condemning its key ally's actions. But Bush's real views were on show last week. While Israel was murdering Palestinians Bush was speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the main pro-Israel group in the US.
Bush said, "By defending the freedom and prosperity and security of Israel, you're also serving the cause of America." He received several ovations and chants of "Four more years".
The last two weeks are a continuation of the cruel charade that the official peace process can bring the Palestinians justice and a future. The plans of Bush and Sharon, backed up by Blair, only offer the Palestinians more of the scenes we have seen in Rafah.