A question for the anti-war movement
Does Israel plan to expel all Palestinians?
By Richard Becker
There are some in the anti-war movement who advocate
separating out the Palestinian struggle and focusing only on
opposing a new U.S. war against Iraq. They argue that the
Palestinian-Israeli struggle is too controversial, and
addressing the issue will lead to a narrowing of support for
the anti-war movement.
One can isolate the U.S. war on Iraq from the U.S.-Israeli
war against the Palestinian people only by mutilating reality
and ignoring what the Bush cabal is trying to accomplish in the
Washington wants to conquer Iraq, turn it into a virtual
colony and take control of its rich oil resources. But that's
not all. The U.S. rulers aim to subjugate and reshape the
entire region to fit neatly into their expanding empire.
This broader U.S. objective can only be achieved by
destroying all opposition in the area. At the top of their hit
list is the Palestinian resistance, which, despite heavy losses
suffered in decades of struggle against overwhelming odds,
remains strong and defiant. The Hizbollah movement that forced
the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 is also on
the list, as are the governments of Syria and Libya.
Because the Palestinian cause is so central to the overall
struggle in the region, defeating the Palestinians would be a
great victory for imperialism and a big setback for the Arab
people as a whole.
The Bush administration has given more than a green light to
the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon--an infamous war
criminal and mass murderer--to carry out this assignment. The
U.S. has supplied the F-16 fighter-bombers, Cobra helicopters
and even the M-16 rifles to the Israeli army. Just as
important, the U.S. has provided the political and diplomatic
cover for Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian
Now the Bush administration is contemplating a grant of an
astounding $14 billion in new military and economic aid to
Israel, a country of just 6 million people. It is only thanks
to the more than $100 billion in U.S. aid over the past three
decades that Israel is today ranked as the fourth-leading
military power in the world.
Despite all the repression--the tens of thousands of
Palestinians killed since the establishment of the state of
Israel in 1948, the hundreds of thousands beaten, tortured and
imprisoned, the dispossession of the Palestinians from more
than 90 percent of their homeland--the resistance has not been
Sharon's transfer option: expulsion in slow
How have the Palestinians been able to persevere under the
extremely unfavorable conditions they face? Fundamentally, it
is because the struggle is so deeply rooted in the
It is no exaggeration to say that the Palestinian resistance
and the Palestinian people are one and the same.
The conclusion drawn by Tel Aviv and Washington from this
reality is that the only way to destroy the Palestinian
resistance is to destroy Palestinian society as a whole. And
that is exactly what the Sharon regime, with the backing of
Bush, Powell & Co., are attempting to carry out.
In 1948, to make way for the state of Israel as an
exclusively Jewish state, 780,000 Arabs were expelled from the
cities, towns and farms of Palestine in what is known as
Al-Nakba, or the catastrophe. None of the expelled has ever
been allowed to return, nor have they received a penny in
compensation for their lost homes, lands and other expropriated
With U.S. backing, Israel has ignored United Nations
resolutions calling for the Palestinian right to return. A
second mass expulsion, of hundreds of thousands more
Palestinians, took place following Israel's seizure of the West
Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war.
Today, about 3.4 million Palestinians live in the West Bank
and Gaza and 1.2 million live inside the 1948 borders of
Israel. The Palestinian and Jewish populations inside historic
Palestine are now roughly equal.
A new wholesale expulsion of Palestinians, such as took
place in 1948, would likely trigger a massive social explosion
in the Arab world and beyond. What the Israeli government is
now attempting, through a combination of extremely harsh
repression and economic strangulation, might be termed
expulsion in slow motion.
Taayush, an organization of Palestinian and Jewish activists
in Israel, described the policy in this way:
"Transfer isn't necessarily a dramatic moment, a moment when
people are expelled and flee their towns or villages. It is not
necessarily a planned and well-organized move with buses and
trucks loaded with people, such as happened in Qalqilyah in
1967. Transfer is a deeper process, a creeping process that is
hidden from view.
"The main component of the process is the gradual
undermining of the infrastructure of the civilian Palestinian
populations living in the territories: its continuing
strangulation under closures and sieges that prevent people
from getting to work or school, from receiving medical
services, and from allowing the passage of water trucks and
ambulances, which sends the Palestinians back to the age of
donkey and cart. Taken together, these measures undermine the
hold of the Palestinian population on its land." (Haaretz
newspaper, Nov. 15, 2002)
Gamla, a fascist Israeli organization made up of former
military officers and settlers, has drawn up a plan for
expelling the entire Palestinian population from the West Bank,
Gaza, and inside the 1948 Israeli borders in 3-5 years.
The Israeli army has completely re-occupied the cities and
towns of the West Bank, cutting off virtually all economic
activity. An article in the Dec. 30 Los Angeles Times, entitled
"Palestinian Towns Wobbling on Last Legs," by Tracy Wilkinson,
describes the impact of the Israeli tactics on Deir Istiya, a
village of 4,000 people:
"Across the West Bank, villages and towns like this one are
dying a slow death. More than two years of closures, curfews
and the pressure of Israeli army tanks have ruined the
livelihood, the economy, the agriculture, the education and in
some cases, the health of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian
men, women and children.
"In Deir Istiya, hardly an adult male today has work. Barter
has replaced commerce. The single clinic is overrun with
patients but undersupplied with medicine. Children sometimes
don't have enough to eat, and signs of malnutrition have crept
into a population that was once relatively healthy.
"Dr. Yasser Qasin of Deir Istiya told the Times that births
are down from 87 babies last year to 57 this year, nearly all
delivered at home. If you want to take your wife to the
hospital to deliver, it's impossible now, due to army
All roads in and out of Deir Istiya have been destroyed or
blocked by the Israeli army. Many of the villagers, the Times
story notes, have chosen not to plant crops this year, because
there is no possibility of getting their harvest to market. In
addition, the people of Deir Istiya and several neighboring
villages had trouble harvesting this season because of attacks
from Jewish settlers who claimed the groves were often used by
terrorists as firing positions.
In fact, it is the settlers, armed by the Israeli military
and illegally occupying Palestinian land, who are the real
terrorists. The settlers have carried out hundreds of recorded
attacks on Palestinian farmers and other villagers attempting
to do their work. While the U.S. corporate media focuses
sympathetic attention on settler casualties, it pays almost no
attention to the Palestinian victims of routine settler
The deliberate destruction of the Palestinian economy,
health and education systems is part of an integrated strategy
that also includes assassination (targeted killings) and mass
arrest and imprisonment. Since the second Intifada (Uprising)
began 27 months ago, more than 2,000 Palestinians have been
killed and 30,000 wounded. In the same period, 690 Israelis
have been killed. More than 5,500 Palestinians have been
imprisoned, many held without specific charges and jailed for
The assassinations and mass imprisonments aim to destroy the
infrastructure of the Palestinian resistance organizations. The
Israeli program as a whole is meant to persuade the
Palestinians to leave en masse.
Sharon and the other Israeli leaders aspire to fulfill what
the goals of the political Zionist movement have been since its
origin a century ago: to turn all of historic Palestine into an
exclusively Jewish state. A central tenet of the Zionist
ideology is expressed in the racist slogan, "A land without
people for a people without a land."
The U.S. leaders--Bush now and Clinton before him as
well--want to pacify the entire region, which requires the
elimination of the Palestinian resistance movement.
The U.S. and Israeli interests thus neatly converge in
seeking the destruction of not only the Palestinian movement,
but of the Palestinians as a people.
Under the Genocide Convention adopted by the UN General
Assembly in 1948, genocide means any of the following acts
committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a
national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a)
Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or
mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately
inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring
about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
Clearly, the U.S. and Israeli policy toward the Palestinians
meets this definition.
Despite all the hardship and extreme violence inflicted on
them, the Palestinian people are continuing their struggle for
self-determination and liberation. The Palestinian resistance
has been a major obstacle to the U.S. war drive in the Middle
Today, the anti-war movement here and around the world must
stand with the Palestinians and their just cause.
Reprinted from the Jan. 9, 2003, issue of
Workers World newspaper
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