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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 Middle East.

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 territory.

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 crushed.

Sharon's transfer option: expulsion in slow motion

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 population.

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 property.

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 roadblocks."

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 violence.

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 indefinite terms.

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 East.

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
This article is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License.
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