Defying all Israeli repression, the Palestinian liberation fighters continue their heroic fight against the Zionist occupation regime. On 16 July, Palestinian fighters, disguised as Israeli soldiers, killed 7 Israelis and wounded 20 others when they smashed a bus at the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel. This, the first fatal attack on Israelis in about a month, was claimed by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The attackers set off roadside bombs near the bus before opening fire with automatic weapons. The following day (17 July), five people, including 2 bombers, were killed and 40 wounded in a double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv – the first attack since the Israeli army reoccupied and closed down the West Bank a month earlier in a vain attempt to prevent the liberation forces from the Palestinian Authority (PA) territory infiltrating into Israel. During the same day an Israeli officer was killed during a manhunt in the West Bank for those involved in the previous day’s attack at the Emmanuel settlement, 3 soldiers were wounded in the same clash in which a Palestinian fighter was also killed
WITH THESE INCIDENTS, THE MYTH, THAT THE REOCCUPATION OF THE PA TERRITORY BY ISRAEL WOULD ELIMINATE SUCH ATTACKS, LIES IN RUINS.
F-16 attack on Gaza
In the same week, in an undercover operation, Israeli soldiers killed 2 Palestinians in Jenin, while in Ramallah 2 children were killed when a pipe bomb left by Israeli forces exploded in a refugee camp. Then, on 22 July, Sheik Salah Shehada, founder of the military wing of Hamas, known as Issadine el-Qassam, together with 14 other people, was brutally murdered in an Israeli air raid. An Israeli F-16 warplane missile destroyed the house of Shehada and reduced 4 other houses to rubble. The dead included 4 children and 4 women. More than 140 others were wounded. Such was the barbarity of this attack on a densely populated civilian area that the Israeli government and army faced widespread criticism – not only abroad but also at home. What is significant is that, to the full knowledge of the Israeli government, the Palestinian resistance was only hours away from declaring a ceasefire. It is thus clear that Israeli authorities are not in the least interested in peace and a negotiated settlement. Every time there is talk of peace, the Israeli government comes up with intolerable preconditions and then, if it looks as though the Palestinians might satisfy even these, the Israeli army of occupation scuttles such plans by outrageous acts of assassination and massacres. At one time, the Sharon government demanded that there could be no negotiations unless these were preceded by a whole week free from violence. Apart from the unreasonableness of such a demand in the prevailing situation, the Israelis frustrated the peaceful response of the liberation fighters by the assassination of important fighters or simply murdering innocent civilians. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that Zionist forces would act in the way they did on 22 July.
A week later, on 28 July, Jewish settlers in Hebron shot dead a 14-year-old Palestinian girl and wounded 9 others in the aftermath of the funeral of an Israeli soldier killed in a roadside ambush. The settler mob took control of a three-storey house and burned down the building next door. Hebron is a standing provocation, where 400 gun-toting settlers live among 100,000 Palestinians; they regularly go on the rampage, shooting, injuring and killing Palestinians, while the Israeli army looks the other way.
Attack in Jerusalem
After the Gaza carnage, the liberation forces had let it be known that painful retribution was on its way. It came on 31 July, when a bomb exploded in a cafeteria at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University at lunchtime, killing 7, including 5 foreigners, and wounding 80. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by Hamas, in retaliation for the murder by Israel of Sheik Salah Shehada, Hamas’ military leader, the previous week. The attack took place despite the fact that the Hebrew University is surrounded by a fence, and students, staff and visitors are routinely searched. It was the worst attack inside Israel in the 6 weeks since the reoccupation of the West Bank Palestinian towns by the Israeli forces. The attack came within 24 hours after a suicide bomber had wounded 5 persons in an attack at a felafel sandwich bar near Jerusalem’s central police headquarters. In a statement, Hamas said:
“If they [the Israeli forces] are going to attack children, they are going to drink from the same poison”
Five attacks in one day
August 4 witnessed 5 attacks by the resistance. In the first, a Palestinian suicide bomber shattered an Israeli bus in northern Israel, killing 9 Israelis and wounding several dozen more. The bus was travelling from Haifa to the northern town of Safed; it was struck as it travelled through rural Galilee, packed with soldiers heading for their bases after a weekend holiday. In all, three soldiers and six civilians died in the attack. Again, Hamas claimed responsibility. Just three hours later a Palestinian fighter opened fire on an Israeli car near the Damascus Gate of the old city in East Jerusalem, killing its occupant. Near Nablus in the West Bank, an Israeli couple were shot dead and two others wounded in an ambush to their car. The 4 August bombing was the second inside Israel in the short space of 5 days. It defied intense Israeli pressure on the Palestinians, the destruction of the homes of the families of bombers, constant curfews, invasions, reoccupation and closures. It has shaken the Israeli army, for their draconian measures had very little, if any effect, on the ability of the resistance to strike back at their occupiers.
Further killings by Israel
Israel has responded with killings everywhere. On 20 August, Israeli special forces shot dead Mohammed Sadat, the brother of the PFLP leader, Ahamad Sadat, who is serving in a Palestinian prison in Jericho under the supervision of US and British officials. In Tulkarm, a Palestinian was killed by Israeli soldiers. While in Gaza, where the resistance shot dead an Israeli soldier near a settlement, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli fire.
During operations over the weekend of 31August/1September, Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 2 children – a boy of 9 and a girl of 10. The children were killed when a missile fired from an Apache helicopter struck a house in the village of Tubas on Saturday 30 August. A second missile hit a car, killing a member of the Al-Aqsa Brigades and two teenage boys. The Israeli army was forced to apologise for the deaths of the children. It was the second time in less than a week that it had to apologise for such appalling killings, for only the previous Thursday, Israeli soldiers killed a mother, her two sons and another relative whom, the soldiers alleged, they mistook for members of the liberation forces approaching a Jewish settlement.
Israel’s total isolation
While continued Israeli suppression of the Palestinian people has the full support of US imperialism, Israel is getting more and more isolated internationally. Its wanton destruction of Palestinian lives and property is arousing disgust among all decent-minded people the world over. Mary Robinson, the UN’s human rights chief, denounced the Israeli actions as the
“reckless killing of civilians”
; Ahmad Maher, the Egyptian foreign minister characterised them as a
Jewish dissent in the US
Relentless Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes, the bombing of civilians, the repression of peaceful protesters, the deportation of Palestinians, the bombing of centres of Palestinian population with warplanes, etc, have spawned a number of Jewish dissident groups in the US, who refuse to go along with the blind support for Israel given by the Jewish lobby. Groups such as Women in Black, International Solidarity Movement, Not in my Name, have sprung up all over the US – causing an unravelling of the support for Israel. These groups gather petitions, raise fund for Palestinian relief, write to their Congressmen, circulate e-mails, insert adverts in newspapers, give support to refuseniks – thus fracturing Jewish American support for Israel.
“I used to be proud of being a Jew. Now I cringe. This is what is left of Jewish ethical tradition”
, says one Jewish academic. These people receive hate mail, threatening messages; their phones are tapped by the FBI and they are under constant surveillance.
The discord has found expression in bumper stickers seen on cars in California, issued by Gush Shalom, an Israeli-based peace group, saying in Hebrew: “The occupation is killing us all”.
Dissent within Israel
Within Israel, there is an increase in the number of reservists who refuse their ID cards requiring them to serve in the occupied territories. Even respectable figures are beginning to question the government strategy which, while accompanied by an unprecedented use of force, is failing to deliver either peace or security. Mr.Amram Mitzha, a former soldier and the present Mayor of Haifa, has begun to successfully articulate this discontent. On 13 August he launched his bid for the leadership of the Israeli Labour Party and for Israeli premiership, saying
“The decision to send in the army and the air force
[to the Palestinian territories]
is not the decision that will lead us to a settlement of our business with the Palestinians”
He indicated clearly his readiness to sit down with Yasser Arafat, by saying that if elected prime minister, he would immediately call on whomever the Palestinians chose as their leader to return to the negotiating table.
Heroic Israeli couple
Some truly heroic Israelis, who have lost their near and dear in this conflict, are, unlike the imperialist ‘left’ in Britain, beginning to see things in their proper light and put the blame for violence where it belongs, namely, the Israeli occupation. The Daily Mirror of 25 June 2002, has this remarkable report:
“A big red ‘Free Palestine’ sticker has a prominent place on the Elhanan family’s front door
“But this is not a Palestinian house in the occupied territories.
“Remarkably, this home is in an affluent Jewish area in Jerusalem and belongs to a couple whose daughter Smadar, 14, was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber.
“Rather than being motivated by revenge and hatred, Nurit Elhanan and her husband Rami, both 52, are fighting for peace.
“They are campaigning for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, calling it a cancer that is feeding terror.
“Nurit, a doctor of language at Israel’s Hebrew University, said: ‘If an Israeli child is killed and the next day a Palestinian child killed, it’s no solution’.
“Our daughter was killed because of the terror of Israeli occupation. Every innocent victim from both sides is a victim of the occupation. The occupation is the cancer feeding Palestinian terror”
One cannot but bow one’s head in salute to such heroic figures as Nurit Elhanan and her husband Rami. It is they who represent the best in world Jewry and not bigoted racists such as Sharon and his ilk.
The Israeli economy, partly hit by the global recession, is also suffering under the strain of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. While the Israeli economy grew by 6% in 2000, it contracted by 0.5% in 2001. Per capita GDP is expected to record an unprecedented 6% decline this year. Unemployment has gone up from the pre-Intifada 8.8% in the second half of 2000 to 10.6% today. Further, the attacks by the resistance are keeping Israelis away from the shopping centres. Super Sol, a leading Israeli retail chain, has reported a 9.6% drop in same-store sales and a plunge of operating profits to the tune of 55%, while the central bureau of statistics reported a drop of 11% of durable consumer goods imports in the first half of 2002.
Arrests and show trials
As options close in on Israel, one after the other, blinded by the dead-end philosophy of Zionism, her rulers respond to every difficulty with more of the same, to wit, further repression, more detentions, more confiscation of land, more closures and curfews, widespread use of torture, attacks on civilian centres of population, and trials of Palestinian political leaders in an effort to criminalise all Palestinian resistance. Even the slightest expression of sympathy for the cause of Palestinian resistance and statehood is punished. In this context, one cannot help mentioning the recent arrest of a prominent priest over his alleged support for “terrorist” organisations. Archimandrite Atallah Hanna of the Greek Orthodox Church has been questioned by the Israeli police for six hours about his visits to “enemy” countries, such as Lebanon and Syria, as well as his encounters with leaders of resistance groups. But the affair goes deeper than meets the eye. The Zionist authorities are meddling in the internal affairs of the Orthodox Church in order to gain control of the large Greek Orthodox landholdings in the region. Taking advantage of the conflict that Father Hanna’s refusal to denounce Palestinian violence (he has said that the
“Palestinian resistance is not terror; it is legitimate”
) has caused within the Orthodox Church, Israel is putting pressure on Patriarch Ireneus to secure leases on church land in Israel and Jerusalem. After questioning, although Father Hanna was released, his Israeli passport – he is an Israeli Arab from Galilee – and his honorary Vatican passport were confiscated.
Much more importantly, Marwan Barghouti, the popular leader of the Intifada, who was illegally seized in an Israeli commando raid in Ramallah on 15 April, after weeks of questioning and torture, was produced before a Tel Aviv Court on 14 August on charges of murder, conspiracy to murder and terrorism. Handcuffed, and addressing a packed court, Mr.Barghouti defiantly shouted in Hebrew:
“The Intifada will win”
. Since then, he has been again produced before the Court on 5 September. Asked to enter a plea he has refused to recognise the authority of the Zionist court to try him. There are actually two trials taking place simultaneously. While the Zionist authorities are trying to use the trial to establish a link between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the actions of the resistance in an effort to criminalise the PA, for his part Mr.Barghouti has risen to the challenge and seized the occasion to put the criminality of occupation itself on trial.
“Peace will be achieved by ending the occupation”
, said Mr.Barghouti in this fascistic court, adding
“No peace, no security with occupation”
. We have not the slightest doubt that the Zionist authorities will be no more successful in their efforts to criminalise Mr.Barghouti, and by extension the Palestinian struggle for national liberation, than were the Nazis in their attempt to criminalise Georgi Dimitroff and the communist movement.
Further, the Zionist occupiers of Palestine have now begun to resort to internal exile by expelling relatives of martyred bombers from the West Bank and deporting them to Gaza. In a yet new demonstration of barbarity, of Nazi-like determination to inflict collective punishment, the Israeli army arrested 21 people for the ‘crime’ of being relatives of suicide bombers. Their houses have been blown up and some of them are to be deported. Between 1967 and 1992, contrary to international law, Israel deported 1,522 Palestinians. This practice, which was stopped for a decade under heavy international pressure, has now been resumed.
Palestinian victory inevitable
The intensifying Zionist brutality testifies to the moral bankruptcy and military impotence of the settler regime, for no amount of torture, killings, and show trials, no amount of curfews, invasions and re-occupations, and no amount of economic blockades, checkpoints, fences, ditches, walls and cutting up of the Palestinian territories into Bantustans will save Zionism and the victory of the Palestinian national liberation struggle is as certain as the dawn breaking after a dark night.