Tony Blair was cheered when he spoke at the Labour conference of taking action over the ‘slums of Gaza’ and stressed that ‘the Palestinians must have justice’. Yet during the war on Afghanistan Blair and Bush have allowed the Israeli state to launch a new and bloody reign of terror against the Palestinians.
Since 11 September Israeli troops have killed 150 Palestinians and launched the biggest military invasion of Palestinian-controlled territory since the beginning of the peace process in the early 1990s. According to Amnesty International, the rate of killing of Palestinians has doubled since 11 September.
Within a week of the attack on the World Trade Centre, Israeli troops had made around 20 military incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas. They also launched missile attacks on Gaza, and used tanks to shell a suburb of Bethlehem. Israel’s defence minister, Benyamin Eliezer, declared, ‘It’s a fact we have killed 14 Palestinians in Jenin, Kabatyeh and Tammun, with the world remaining absolutely silent.’
The US government claims it has ‘restrained’ Israel. But Israel has not been restrained. When the US secured a ceasefire on 27 September Israel broke it within just 12 hours by savagely attacking a Palestinian refugee camp in one of the poorest areas of Gaza. Israeli troops used tanks and bombs from helicopters which killed five people. In the first six days of the ‘ceasefire’ the Israeli army killed 19 Palestinians, including three children.
Then on 18 October Israeli prime minister Sharon launched his biggest invasion and occupation of Palestinian territory. He used the pretext of the assassination of his extreme right wing ally Rehavam Ze’evi. This is despite the fact that in the previous two days the Israeli state had itself assassinated two Palestinian activists.
Israeli troops, using US-built weaponry, attacked six Palestinian towns. They shelled residential areas, destroyed homes, schools, buildings and roads. Palestinian writer Edward Said reports, ‘In the period between18 and 21 October, six Palestinian towns reoccupied by Israeli forces; five more Palestinian activists assassinated plus 21 civilians killed and 160 injured; curfews imposed everywhere.’
Neither George Bush nor Tony Blair condemned Ariel Sharon. Instead they meekly asked Israel to withdraw from the towns. Sharon later admitted that 79 Palestinians were killed during a three-week assault on the towns.
Israeli partially withdrew from four of the towns it occupied, but only to tighten its siege on the outskirts.
The army is still occupying two of the towns and using snatch squads to assassinate Palestinian activists. On 24 October the Israeli army carried out one of its worst massacres. The army surrounded the small Palestinian village of Beit Rima with 30 tanks, while troops went in and opened fire, murdering five people.
The Israeli army blew up people’s homes and blocked ambulances from entering the village for 24 hours. On the very same day the US Senate approved a further $2.76 billion aid to Israel.
Of this some $2.04 billion was earmarked for ‘special military aid’. Sharon is only able to carry out his terror because the US has given a total of over $92 billion in aid, most of it military, to maintain Israel as its watchdog in the oil rich Middle East.
Israel has carried out the role which the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz foresaw in 1951: ‘Israel is to become the watchdog. There is no fear that Israel will undertake any aggressive policy towards the Arab states when this would explicitly contradict the wishes of the US and Britain. But if for any reasons the Western powers should sometimes prefer to close their eyes, Israel could be relied upon to punish one or several neighbouring states whose discourtesy to the West went beyond the bounds of the permissible.’
Bush and Blair have both recently claimed that they favour the creation of a Palestinian state. The real reason is they are terrified that anger at the US and Israel, and support for the Palestinian resistance, will destabilise the whole of the Middle East.
‘A SOLUTION that is just for both Palestinians and Israelis.’ That is how Tony Blair described the US and Britain’s attempts to restart the peace process in his speech to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet last week.
But it was the total lack of willingness of the US and Britain to get a just solution that sparked the new intifada (uprising) in September of last year. Palestinians fought back because they are enraged at the injustice of the Oslo peace accords, brokered by the US in 1993.
That peace process was a fraud. It enshrined Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, with the Palestinian Authority controlling just 17 percent of the West Bank and 60 percent of Gaza.
It did nothing to ensure the right of return to Palestine for the four million refugees. The Israeli government’s repression since the start of the new intifada has tightened the noose further round the neck of the Palestinians. Two million Palestinians, two thirds of the population, are now existing below the poverty line, with 14 percent suffering severe malnutrition.
In the Gaza Strip 81.4 percent of the population is impoverished. Unemployment has soared from 15.3 percent in 2000 to around 60 percent today. Some 50 percent of all households have lost more than half their income over the last year, and 11 percent have lost all of it.
Israel controls all the land, trade, water and roads. The number of Jewish settlers has doubled since the Oslo peace agreement. There are now around 400,000 settlers in the Occupied Territories. Palestinian homes are bulldozed to make way for the settlers .
Israel assigns 80 percent of the water of the Occupied Territories for the personal use of Jewish citizens. Jewish settlers can fill their swimming pools, while Palestinians are rationed and 200,000 households are cut off from the water supply.
As Edward Said puts it, ‘One side possesses a modern military arsenal (unconditionally supplied by the US) while the other is stateless, virtually defenceless, savagely persecuted at will, herded inside 160 cantons, schools closed, life made impossible.’
Israel was created in 1948 through the mass expulsion of Palestinians from land they had lived on for centuries. In 1947 the United Nations agreed to the partition of Palestine and drew up a plan that gave Zionist settlers 57 percent of the land, even though they were only 30 percent of the population.
Then the Zionists launched a reign of terror, to drive out 750,000 Palestinians. At the end the Zionists had grabbed nearly 80 percent of Palestine. Ever since its creation the Israeli state has continued to grab more land from the Palestinians.
In 1967 Israel seized the West Bank, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
THIS E-MAIL from an activist in Bethlehem describes the first 24 hours after the Israeli army invaded the town on 19 October.
‘It started when Israel exploded a car killing three Palestinians from Bethlehem. They were very well known amongst the Bethlehem people. Within hours the Israeli tanks started entering Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour from different directions.
More than 35 tanks and hundreds of soldiers came into those towns shooting anything in front of them that moved. Horror was everywhere. People have no place to run. They stayed home wondering what would happen next. Seven were killed in those 24 hours. One woman was shot inside her house. I knew her. She was my classmate. A youth, 19 years old, from Beit Jala was also killed inside his home. He was Christian.
A 30 year old woman from Husan, the village near us, died at one of the Israeli checkpoints. She was about to give birth. She had a heart problem and needed to be in hospital. The husband was begging the soldiers for mercy without any response from them or any sign of mercy. The woman couldn’t resist any more.
She died in front of the soldiers. They acted as if nothing happened. If a dog was dying they could do something but a Palestinian is for them less than that. Where is everyone in the world? We are targets of terrorism. We are a target of state terror.’
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