WE ARE going to help the US arm Israel. That was the message from the government this week. New Labour caused outrage by admitting it is bypassing its own arms embargo on Israel by selling military equipment via the US. Vital component parts for US F-16 fighter jets, which are used against the Palestinian people, are made in Britain.
One senior government figure said that there was a 'clear understanding' that the planes could be used in the Occupied Territories. Israeli Merkava tanks have cooling systems made by Airtechnology Group, based in Surrey, Ashraf, Mohammed and Omar are Palestinians from the West Bank.
Socialist Worker spoke to them about how the weapons are used, and about life for Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
Ashraf: 'The Palestinian people are imprisoned in their cities and in their houses for the third week now. Tanks are everywhere. The Israeli troops only lift the curfews for two to four hours every four days. If this continues people won't be able to buy basic needs-they can't work and have no incomes.
Even when there is no curfew the occupation still continues. Palestinians cannot go outside the city. We need to pass through Israeli checkpoints. A whole nation is being humiliated every day. Old men and women who can barely walk are made to wait hours. Israeli soldiers refused to let a pregnant Palestinian woman through a checkpoint at Bethlehem even though she was having a miscarriage.
They refused to let an ambulance through to her even though it was only four metres away. She and her baby died. These are war crimes. Everyday life is completely dead in Palestine. Children cannot go to school, the universities are closed, and unemployment is rising massively. The Israeli war is a war on civilians.
There are snipers on many roofs, and if a Palestinian looks out of his or her window for even a moment they will shoot at you. No Palestinian had any hopes for George Bush's speech two weeks ago. Palestinians are living in poverty and misery in the Gaza Strip. There is 60 percent unemployment, and people demonstrate for bread and milk. But Bush says he understands the pain of the Israelis! He defends them while millions of Palestinians can't get bread to feed their children.
Bush calls for us to get rid of Arafat. The Palestinians need change, but not the change that the US and Israel wants. Israeli settlements have been built throughout the West Bank. This is not by chance. They disconnect Palestinian areas from one another. The settlements are usually built on top of hills, on the edge of Palestinian towns. They steal our water.
Israelis have four times as much water as Palestinians. There are pipes that lead down to Palestinian areas. These pipes carry the sewage down, bringing diseases. Bush and the Israelis talk about the suicide bombers as terrorists, but what can you expect from a people humiliated every day? We have nothing-no weapons to fight back with except our bodies. Give people F-16 fighter jets and other weapons to fight Israel and they wouldn't blow themselves up.
The Palestinian resistance will continue-we have nothing left to lose. The huge demonstrations in Britain and other places for the Palestinians have a great impact. Solidarity with the Palestinians is solidarity with yourself. It means you are against all oppression.'
Omar: 'When the Palestinians see big demonstrations in Britain and around the world on TV they become very happy. They realise they are not isolated. The Israelis have entered our towns and destroyed most of our civil and social institutions. They enter hospitals and arrest injured Palestinians. Their tanks destroy our cars.
In Jenin the Israelis lifted the curfew for three hours, and Palestinians went to shop at the market. The Israeli soldiers started shooting at the people without reason. They killed three children-one of them a little girl, her blood mixed with the bread she was clutching. It was shown on TV. The Palestinian people support the resistance against Israel as the only solution for our people.
We have had years of useless negotiations with the Israelis and the US. Israel will not give us our rights, including an independent state. Only a strong struggle will force the Israeli government to give Palestinians their rights. This is not a struggle between two equal sides. There is a big difference between the violence of the occupier and the violence of the occupied.'
Mohammed: 'We have problems with Yasser Arafat, but our major conflict is with the Israeli racist government. Palestinians are giving their bodies to the new generation. It is not an abstract action. It has its roots in the situation Palestinians face every day.
Living under Israeli oppression has made young men and women go and blow themselves up.'
'THE DIFFERENCE between the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and those inside Israel is a blue card. This is our identity card. We feel a citizen just once every four years when we vote. The situation is very bad for us. Unemployment is high. Of the 20 poorest areas, 19 are Palestinian. Most of our young people don't finish school.
There are a lot of laws against the Arab population. We have 20 percent of the population but don't have the power of 20 percent. In every Arab area there is an Israeli army camp. Before Israel was created in 1948, 80 percent of land was Arab. After 1948 it was only 4 percent. Motorways are being built which will cross Israel from north to south. They will cut right through Arab land.
This and the wall around the West Bank means we will only have 0.9 percent of our own land.'
YOUSEF, a Palestinian who lives in Israel
'The people live under complete oppression'
Kim Harrison and Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko are students at Sheffield University. They have just returned from Nablus in Palestine.
Kim: 'We met a 25 year old ambulance driver who hadn't seen his family for eight months. They live 20 kilometres away. He has to live in the ambulance station. The Israeli tanks fire shells intermittently every night so that people can't get to sleep. I saw a seven year old boy with shell shock.
An Israeli study has shown that 70 percent of Palestinian children have post-traumatic stress syndrome. There were pictures everywhere of the people who the Israelis killed when they invaded in April. The damage is so random. The Israelis see every Palestinian as a terrorist.
The Israelis had locked a number of families into their houses and kept them in there for all the time we were there. All people want is to get out of their houses, work and live. The people have no freedom. They are living under complete oppression. A good day for them is just to get through it alive.'
Joseph: 'A friend of mine saw a young boy teargassed to death in Jenin. The daily grind of people's lives is so horrible. Children learn to listen out for the tanks. It's normal for them to have friends who die. Even though people aren't supposed to go out of their houses there are small acts of resistance.
As we drove into Nablus we saw loads of white flags flying in the air-Palestinian children had come out to fly them.'