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No excuse for it

Israel tries to starve out Palestinians

Published Apr 27, 2006 9:34 AM

The Tel Aviv government says that, because Hamas has a majority in the Palestinian Authority (PA), Israel has no choice but to “act unilaterally” and can “have nothing to do” with the PA. Don’t be fooled. The Hamas electoral sweep is not the reason for the latest Israeli belligerence toward the Palestinian people. It is just the latest excuse.

“Unilateral actions” by Israel against the Palestinian people are not new. These actions began a decade ago and intensified when the Palestinian Intifada began in 2000. What Israel calls “unilateral actions” are acts of war. This war against the Pales tinian people has continued, no matter which group had a majority in the Palestinian Authority or who led the PA.

Israel’s latest cries of outrage concern the refusal of many in the PA to condemn an April 17 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv claimed by the Islamic Jihad. In a twist of logic, Israel says it is holding the PA responsible for the bombing, even though Islamic Jihad is not part of the Palestinian government. Atef Adwan, a Hamas minister in the PA’s cabinet, called this a “pretext to act against the Palestinian institutions and act against the people of Palestine.”

Israel is a settler state, built on the very bones of Palestinians. Israel has never recognized Palestine’s right to exist or the Palestinian people’s right to sovereignty and independence. Yet Israel is refusing to talk to the Hamas-dominated PA because Hamas does not “recognize Israel’s right to exist.” This too is a pretext.

Yassir Arafat, who headed the PA until his death in 2004, signed the Camp David Accords in 1993, recognizing “the right of the state of Israel to exist” in exchange for Israel recognizing “the Palestine Liber ation Organization as the representative of the Palestinian people.” Yet the Israeli government soon refused to talk to Arafat and actually held him prisoner in his Ramallah headquarters for the last three years of his life, repeatedly bombing that building.

During that period, Israel began an unprecedented assault on Palestinian civilians, leaders, businesses and the PA infrastructure itself, attempting to thwart any and all forms of Palestinian sovereignty. Between September 2000 and March 2004 alone, economic losses due to Israeli bombings, border closings, curfews, arbitrary arrests and delays at the hundreds of Israeli checkpoints forced 69 percent of Palestinian firms to shut down or reduce production, resulting in a 51 percent reduction in the GNP. Today, 75 percent of Palestinians live in poverty, trying to survive on less than $2 a day, according to the Palestine Monitor.

Now, citing Hamas’s presence in the PA as its excuse, Tel Aviv is refusing to give to the Palestinian Authority the roughly $50 million Israel collects monthly in tariffs on goods imported by Palestinians.

The Bush administration and the European Union are joining this effort to strangle the Palestinian people by withholding funds that amount to some $600 million a year.

The result is that the Palestinian Authority cannot pay the salaries of its 164,000 employees.

Hamas has called this a “silent genocide against millions of men, women and children” in the occupied Palestinian territories, “and a punishment of the Palestinian people for electing Hamas.”

This war on the Palestinians would not be possible without Washington’s support. While pretending to be “evenhanded,” the Bush administration bankrolls the killing of Palestinians and the strangling of their economy by giving Israel $5 billion a year and supplying it with the latest U.S. weapons.

Despite the latest state terror directed against them, the people of Palestine remain determined to continue their struggle for self-determination, sovereignty and independence. Their heroic and difficult struggle deserves worldwide support. Progressives here can give strategic assistance to this just fight by demanding that the U.S. stop all aid to Israel.