As we go into print, the Al-Aqsa Intifada, which broke out on September 28 last year, following the provocative visit of Ariel Sharon, the notorious war criminal, to the historic Muslim sanctuary of Haram al-Sharif accompanied by the 2000-strong Israeli police force, is seven months old. During these seven months, 500 people, of whom 400 were Palestinians, have died, and 20,000 have been injured. Far from subsiding, the Palestinian resistance to Zionist settler occupation and oppression has grown in strength. Defying nazi-style collective punishment, economic strangulation, forced closures, regular bombardment of the centres of Palestinian population, state terrorism and state-sponsored assassination of prominent Palestinians by Israeli death squads, the bulldozing of hundreds of Palestinian houses, the uprooting of nearly 25,000 Palestinian-owned olive trees (all of which actions amount to an attempt at ethnic cleansing by another name), lobbing of stun grenades by the Israeli army at a peaceful women’s demonstration and a children’s nursery (as happened in mid-March), firing from tanks and helicopter gunships, the killing of the very old and the very young by the rampaging Israeli army using live ammunition as well as rubber bullets – braving all these atrocities hurled at them, the Palestinian people continue to put up heroic resistance, which has justly earned them the admiration and support of progressive humankind throughout the world. The daily confrontations and shoot-outs between the Palestinian resistance, on the one hand, and the Israeli army and Zionist settlers, on the other, continue unabated with accelerating tempo. The Israeli electorate voted Sharon into power in the belief that the new administration would bring peace and security to Israel. Instead, as anyone with the least foresight and understanding of the laws of history could have foretold, it has brought increased suppression and misery for the Palestinians and fast dwindling security for the Israelis. Hardly a day goes by without attacks by the Palestinian resistance and fascistic reprisals by the Israeli army. Here are just a few examples.
Sickening Israeli atrocities and Palestinian response
On 27th March two bombs exploded in Jerusalem. The first of these bombs, planted in a car, exploded during the morning rush hour in the Talpoit industrial district, injuring the driver of a passing bus and two others. In the second explosion, at lunchtime, a suicide bomber blew himself up and wounded 22 others. On 28th March the Israeli army launched helicopter missile strikes against Yassir Arafat’s elite Force-17 inside Palestinian territory in the West Bank town of Ramallah and the Gaza Strip, on the pretext that the unit bore responsibility for bombings inside Israel. In the week following this attack, Israel ambushed and kidnapped five members of Force-17, again within Palestinian controlled territory, close to Ramallah. Trouble broke out in Bethlehem, where an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper on 2 April, following assassination of a member of the Islamic Jihad movement in an Israeli helicopter missile attack on his car in the Gaza Strip. According to eyewitnesses three missiles hit the car in which Mohammed Abdelal was travelling. His was the first such assassination since the election of Sharon a month earlier, although more than 20 assassinations of Palestinian National Liberation fighters were carried out during the premiership of Ehud Barak.
In the first week of April, the Israeli army demolished 19 Palestinian houses, one of these being the Shawarmeh house. Destroyed in 1998 and 1999, and rebuilt each time, the Israeli army bulldozed it again, giving the Shawarmeh family 10 minutes to clear out. On 5 April, shedding all sense of honour and decency, Israeli soldiers fired on a convoy carrying three Palestinian security officials back to Gaza from talks in Israel aimed at renewing security co-operation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Not without reason, Amin al-Hindi, Palestinian intelligence chief, stated that the shooting was an attempt to assassinate him and his colleagues. The incident left two bodyguards injured. In Jenin – a West Bank town – Palestinian security officers reported that a member of Islamic Jihad had been killed when a bomb exploded in a booby-trapped telephone box. Even a body like the UN Commission on Human Rights, in a draft report, published towards the end of March, has accused Israel of using excessive and disproportionate force from the start of the Intifada, adding that targeted shooting of individuals was a breach of humanitarian law which would attract international criminal responsibility. This can only mean that the Israeli army was guilty of war crimes.
The 2nd week in April witnessed renewed clashes in the Gaza, where Israeli helicopters fired missiles on Force-17 installations on the night of 10 April, with the exchange of mortar fire near the Zionist settlement of Netzarim. In an attack on Palestine naval police headquarters in Gaza a Palestinian officer was killed and seven others injured, while a missile damaged a police headquarters at a Gaza refugee camp, in which 10 people were injured.
Zionism goes berserk
In the face of the determined Palestinian resistance, and unable to quell this resistance, the Zionist rulers have gone berserk. Losing all sense of proportion, they are attacking in all directions, which can only bring their downfall nearer. In a dangerous escalation of the conflict, on 11 April, the Israeli army entered the city of Khan Yunis and demolished 25 Palestinian houses. During the Easter weekend, Israel sent tanks and bulldozers for the second time in a week into the Palestinian controlled territory in the Gaza strip – this time it was Rafa’s turn, which sparked a fierce gun battle. By the time the Israeli forces left Rafa, several houses had been destroyed and 35 Palestinians injured. One boy had one of his legs blown off by a tank shell. This was the first time the Israelis launched a ground attack on territory which, under the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians, is under the complete and exclusive control of President Arafat’s government. By taking the war into the Palestinian-controlled areas, the Zionist rulers have blatantly pronounced a death sentence on the Oslo Accords and at the same time invited the Palestinian resistance to extend its campaign to Israeli cities – an invitation which the resistance seems to have accepted willingly. On Saturday April 14, two bombs exploded in the Central City of Kfar Saba. On Monday 16th April, the resistance launched five mortar shells against Sederot, Ariel Sharon’s hometown. The shells landed on a suburb of Sederot, close to a junction used every night by Sharon to reach his farm. Israel retaliated by fierce air, land and sea strikes against Palestinian security installations in the Gaza strip.
US imperialism backs Zionist settler repression
With the onset of the new Bush administration, US imperialism has shed even the pretence of being a neutral interlocutor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it is now openly encouraging Israeli acts of brigandage and flouting by Israel of the Oslo Accords, of which the US is the guarantor.
While refusing to meet Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, the US President Bush hosted war criminal Sharon on 20th March at a White House lunch. After lunch, Sharon said that he had had a
“very constructive and frank discussion”
with Mr Bush. The latter in turn said that he had told Sharon that the US would not try “
to force peace”
but will stay engaged and act as a facilitator. For all the violence and oppression perpetrated by Zionism against the Palestinian people, Bush blamed the Palestinians for the continued conflict and asked them to cease their resistance to occupation. The Bush-Sharon meeting took place at the same time as fighting arose in Palestine, where Israeli forces had just sanctioned 3,000 new houses to be built at a Jewish settlement on occupied territory. Yet, the State Department officials reported, the question of settlements was not raised during Sharon’s meeting with the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. One week after his meeting with Sharon, during his second formal press conference since assuming office, President Bush, with the logic of an imperialist gangster said:
“the signal I am sending to the Palestinians is to stop the violence. I can’t make it any more clear. And I hope that Chairman Arafat hears it loud and clear…”
While hitting Palestinians hard, the Zionist jokers and their senile imperialist masters expect the Palestinians to turn the other cheek. No gentlemen, this will never happen. The Palestinians, taking their cue from their oppressors, will hit back and hit very hard and teach Zionism and imperialism alike a lesson they will never forget. Having been given the green light by Bush, Sharon has intensified military attacks on the Palestinians, including in areas under the exclusive control of the PA. During the Easter weekend, in a further extension of the conflict, Israeli warplanes attacked targets in Lebanon following the killing of an Israeli soldier by the Hizbollah, the Lebanese resistance movement, in the Shebaa farms, Lebanese territory which Israel continues to occupy illegally. In a further attack on a Syrian radar position deep in Lebanon, the Israelis killed three Syrian soldiers and wounded another five.
Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad, so goes an old saying. All the Israeli attacks against the Palestinians, the Lebanese, and the Syrian forces in Lebanon, while intended by the Zionists to bring security and peace to Israel, will only serve to disturb its peace, imperil its security and, finally, bring about the downfall of the Israeli state and irreparably damage the interests of its imperialist patrons, in particular those of US imperialism, whose crimes against the Palestinian and other peoples (not to speak of its crimes against people in other parts of the world) are increasingly being revealed in all their lurid grotesqueness, and whose duplicity, double standards and hypocritical talk about humanitarianism, liberty, democracy, national self determination and the rule of law are being exposed for the humbug they are and always have been.
Just struggle of the Palestinian people
It is often claimed by the Zionist rulers and their liberal supporters that their violence and oppression is merely a response to Palestinian attacks. Following Bush, the Sunday
, a despicable ‘liberal’ imperialist organ, blaming Yassir Arafat for the suffering of the Palestinian people, for no other reason than that he refused to be bludgeoned by Bill Clinton, the previous US President, into accepting an unacceptable deal offered to him, calls on him to “
take the biggest gamble of his long career – and regaining the moral high ground – by calling an end to the violence on the Palestinian side
” (‘It’s Arafat’s Call’,
Obviously, if the Palestinians meekly accepted the lot allotted to them by Zionism and imperialism, peace would doubtless prevail – a peace of the graveyard. This imperialist ‘liberal’ chatter ignores the fact that the real cause of violence is the forcible colonisation by Zionism of Palestine and the subjugation of the Palestinian people. As long as that occupation persists, so will the resistance to it. Everyone knows that Palestine was conquered by fire and sword, that the Palestinian people have been treated in a barbarous fashion, subjected to medieval torture, killed in their tens of thousands, with the aid of the latest killing machines, exploited in a thousand ways and often deprived of the means of earning a livelihood at all. Their oppressors will not see reason. Palestinians have tried all their persuasive and reasoning powers to no avail. There is only one way open to them if they want to achieve their liberation, that is, protracted armed struggle to defeat their occupiers, torturers, exploiters. If Zionism conquered Palestine by fire and sword, only with fire and sword can the Palestinian people liberate from the clutches of Zionism and it imperialist paymasters. The Palestinian people have learned that lesson and are busy putting it into practice. Theirs is just struggle. Their victory is as inevitable as is the downfall of Zionism. No force on earth can stop it. The latest witness in proof of our statement comes in the form of widespread draft dodging by young Israeli reservists.
Palestinian resistance to the regime of occupation is undermining the morale of the Israeli army and of the Israeli population at large. The
of 1 April reported that Israel had jailed 600 reservists in a desperate attempt to put an end to a growing rebellion against military service in the occupied territories, where the
has claimed the lives of several reservists and
“shows signs of spiralling out of control”.
According to the
while 2,500 reservists have gone absent without leave, thousands of others have become
“grey conscientious objectors”,
which is to say that they have fabricated medical or personal reasons so as to avoid being called up for duty. Every male Israeli is legally required to do three years of national service between the ages of 18 and 21, followed by an obligation to do reserve duty – normally about 30 days- until the age of between 40 and 50. Such reservists form the 400,000-strong army which supplements the regular force of 200,000 conscripts and professional soldiers.
The majority of the reservists, says the
have little, if any, sympathy with the settlers, who justify the occupation on religious and obscurantist grounds, to which the reservists have moral and political objections. As a result they are refusing to serve, and the number of those so refusing has increased sharply with the intensification of the
Quite a few reservists have been killed and the settlements are increasingly coming under regular mortar attack for the first time. Clashes in Hebron and a number of bomb blasts have only served to emphasise the risks faced by the reservists.
A reservist tank commander and a leader of Yesh Gvuel (which means ‘there is a limit’), Mr Ishai Menuchem, is reported as saying:
The reservists do not care about the territories. Many are in their thirties and forties, they have families and care more about their businesses or studies. So they are not willing to pay the price and risk their lives for something they don’t believe in. This is a big problem for the army because it will affect their operations. The army needs to understand that fewer and fewer people are willing to do their dirty work in the territories”
1 April 2001).
The issue is divisive and tearing Israeli society apart. The problem has become acute as reservists are being brought in with increasing frequency to replace regular soldiers who are due for a rest following a four-month tour of duty. Far from solving the crisis, the jailing of the reservists may serve to exacerbate it by uniting opposition to draft and provoking ever-greater numbers to avoid service. One Israeli battalion commander says:
This may lead to terrible crisis. More draft dodgers means fewer soldiers for missions. The workload will increase, not to mention the level of danger. I do not want my men to feel like suckers”
The Israeli army is inundated with thousands of petitions from parents who do not want their sons to be sent into the occupied territories to do their national service. Ruth Hillier, whose teenage son is a conscientious objector, has petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court in an endeavour to prevent her son being drafted:
We are shaking their tree and the army is worried because it knows this case could open the floodgates. The youth in Israel is saying no but the political establishment is not listening. It is time that we started looking at a very different type of army – a professional army that can operate in a professional way”
The whole point is that, whatever the composition of the army, be it professional or reservist, in view of the dirty work of oppressing and terrorising another people that it is engaged in, work which is devoid of all soldiering honour, it is bound, as time goes on, to lead to disintegration through demoralisation in the face of determined resistance by a people who have been pushed into a corner, and who are fighting for their very existence. US imperialists discovered it in Korea and Vietnam. Israeli Zionism, refusing to learn from history, is being taught this bitter lesson by daily practice in the occupied territories. In the end, Mistress Reality will have a sobering effect. Zionism will have to beat a humiliating retreat from the occupied territories, just as it was forced to do from south Lebanon. Of that there can be no doubt.