by Brendan Lalor
To develop a sense of how Israel’s violence toward Palestinians, and how continued U.S. support for Israel, are perceived in the Arab world, watch a few episodes of LinkTV’s MOSAIC, a daily digest of Middle East news broadcasts. Many Americans fail to see the relationship between Israel’s violent occupation of Palestinian territory and the U.S.’s violent occupation of Iraq. In fact, the same tax payers support both expressions of destructive hubris. Witness Israeli policy’s disregard for Palestinian civilians who live under the Israeli-imposed apartheid system (and compare U.S. policy’s disregard for Iraqi civilians over recent decades, especially since 1991). A glance at recent news and headlines can only reinforce Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s antipathy to peace. Witness recent reports of Israeli forces’ Wednesday attack on unarmed Palestinian demonstrators protesting the Israeli invasion of the refugee camp in Rafah (and compare U.S. forces’ attacks on and treatment of Iraqis since March, 2003).
- 22 Bodies, Most of them School Children [Reuters, May 19]
- Brother and sister gunned down as they collected washing [Ireland-OnLine, May 18]
- Israel defies world outcry, expands Gaza raid [MSNBC, May 20]
- Israelis massacre kids [The Sun, May 20]
RAFAH, Gaza Strip – Israeli forces opened fire on a protest march in a besieged Gaza refugee camp, killing at least 10 Palestinians and raising the death toll to 33 in Israel’s bloodiest raid in Gaza in years.
Israeli media said at least 22 bodies, most of them school children, had been counted after the strike in the Rafah camp, which some witnesses said was carried out by helicopter gunships and others blamed on firing by tanks.
For better contextualization, it is worth quoting the World Socialist Web Site report (20 May) at a little length:
The mass killing came on the second day of a full-scale Israeli invasion of the Tel Sultan neighborhood of the refugee camp, which lies close to the border between southern Gaza and Egypt. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) moved into Tel Sultan in the early morning hours of Tuesday, May 18 in what may be the biggest Israeli army operation in Gaza since the 1967 Six Day War.
Employing scores of armored bulldozers, tanks, helicopter gunships and a large infantry force, the Israelis imposed a reign of terror on the densely populated and impoverished neighborhood. An estimated 37 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed by the IDF since the invasion began early Tuesday. The United Nations estimates that 1,600 Palestinians have been left homeless and 100 Palestinian houses have been destroyed by the Israeli military since the weekend.
The IDF imposed a 24-hour curfew, cut off water and electricity to the besieged area, and posted snipers to shoot down any residents who attempted to emerge from their homes. As part of their perversely named ?Operation Rainbow,? Israeli soldiers ordered by loudspeaker all males over 16 to gather in one place or risk demolition of family homes. There were reports of Israeli soldiers using Palestinians as human shields in house-to-house searches for militants. Israeli forces also blocked ambulances from entering the besieged neighborhood.
Why did Israel perpetrate these murders? It appears Sharon’s “logic” is this: he wants to purge Palestinians as part of his plan to prepare for a secure dismantling of Israeli settlements in Gaza. In other words, he needs to control more territory (now) in order to control less (in the future). It’s a paradoxical logic: In order to implement concessions to the inhabitants of Gaza, he must first murder them. (Compare the U.S. occupation of Iraq.)
In the eyes of the Arab world, this violence is rightly seen as U.S.-approved and/or even U.S.-supported. Another headline:
- Palestinian parliament accuses Bush of encouraging Israeli ‘massacres’ [AFX UK Focus]
“These Israeli massacres against our people in Rafah and elsewhere would not be taking place without the US administration’s alignment with the position of the Sharon government and President Bush’s support for his policies,” [the Palestinian parliament] said in a statement.
What was the Bush Administration’s response to this outrage? Once again, as nearly the entire world condemned the killings, the U.S. fumbled. George W. Bush’s Wednesday statement failed to criticize Israel; a later statement urged “restraint”; in a statement the day before, he said Israel had ?every right to defend itself from terror.? In a concession to the outraged world, the US State Department said it
opposed ?the demolition of homes of innocent Palestinians,? and the US abstained, rather than vetoing, a UN Security Counsel resolution calling on Israel to stop demolishing homes in southern Gaza. The resolution passed by a 14-0 vote.
In mid-April, the Bush Administration praised Sharon as a man of peace and called his plan to pull out of Gaza brave. This plan also violates UN resolutions, as it calls for maintaining illegal settlements in the West Bank, establishing a “security barrier” that will cut off Palestinians from “farms, schools and hospitals,” and denies Palestinians the ?right of return? to their homes in Israel.
This unjust “solution,” celebrated by the U.S., is not likely to generate a lasting peace. One hopes the force behind the massive mid-May Israeli peace demonstration in Tel Aviv will find a powerful political expression in the region and topple Sharonesque politicians.