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Bush, Kerry stab Palestinians in back

Endorse Israeli land grab, assassinations

By Deirdre Griswold

The people of not only the Middle East but of the world were shocked when President George W. Bush on April 14 came out flatly in support of the latest expansionist moves by Israel against the Palestinians--and when the so-called "opposition" party inside the U.S., the Democrats, endorsed them too. This bipartisan move means just one thing: more blood and suffering in the region.

As though to prove this, on April 18 Israel launched a missile into the Pales tinian area of Gaza that killed Abdel Aziz Rantissi, the top leader of the militant organization Hamas, and two of his aides. Rantissi had only recently replaced Sheik Ahmed Yassin, who himself was assassinated by Israel in a similar missile strike.

Gaza was engulfed in huge demonstrations vowing retaliation for the assassination. When Israel sent in tanks two days later, five more Palestinians were killed--three of them teenagers who had resisted this invasion with nothing but stones.

For many years, and especially since the beginning of the Intifada, or uprising, of the Palestinian people to regain their land and national rights, the U.S. has pretended to be an "honest broker" trying to effect a compromise between the two sides.

At the same time, however, it was arming Israel to the teeth and bolstering its economy with billions in aid. Israel has been a strategic ally of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, a nuclear-armed military power which has many times attacked Arab countries that in any way challenged U.S.-British domination of the region and its rich oil resources.

The pretense of neutrality was abandoned when Bush, with Israel's hawkish prime minister Ariel Sharon at his side, endorsed Sharon's plan to permanently hold onto large Jewish settlements in the West Bank, thus violating all United Nations resolutions on this subject. At the same time, the U.S. president rejected the Palestinians' right of return to their homeland.

All this was, in words at least, a big departure from the past, when U.S. presidents talked of "road maps" and "peace plans" that would supposedly bring about a negotiated settlement. So how did the Democrats respond to this shift? On April 18, the day that Rantissi was assassinated, soon-to-be-candidate John Kerry totally endorsed Bush's move on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press." And former president Bill Clinton, speaking at the Waldorf-Astoria on April 19, called Sharon's plan "a good thing."

The Israeli state calls itself democratic, but bars Palestinian immigration while allowing Jews from anywhere in the world to come and live there. Palestinians who were forcibly expelled from their homes, and their descendants, have been trying to come back ever since Israel was founded on their land in 1948.

Sharon today is making no pretense of negotiating with the Palestinians. He refuses to recognize any Palestinian authority not selected by Israel. On his return from Washington, Sharon--a recognized war criminal for the 1982 massacres at Sabra and Shatila--triumphantly told Israel's largest newspaper, "They [the Palestinians] were dealt a lethal blow."

Of course, there is a political cover for this. Sharon is supposed to have stood up to his far-right wing by also saying that Israel would pull its troops out of the Gaza Strip, where they have been since the 1963 war with Egypt. A small number of Jewish settlers there would have to leave along with Israeli troops. But even Israel's far-right parties have now endorsed this plan.

And why not? Israelis have not exactly been flocking to Gaza. An arid strip of land bordering Egypt where 1.3 million Palestinians live, Gaza has one of the highest population densities in the world. The inhabitants are mostly Palestinian refugees living in deplorable camps where there are no jobs and no prospect of building a viable economy.

Israel isn't giving up anything. The New York Times of April 18 reported that "for some time after a withdrawal, Israel wants to retain military control of Gaza's border with Egypt, its airport, airspace and coastline." And Israel reserves the right to re-invade Gaza, a hotbed of Palestinian resistance, at any time.

In return, it has gotten U.S. endorsement for grabbing valuable land from Palestinians in the West Bank and is keeping an apartheid wall in place that cuts off Palestinian territory equivalent in area to the state of Rhode Island.

The anger in the Arab world over all this is volcanic. Even long-time U.S. allies like King Abdullah of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt have expressed shock. Abdullah canceled a scheduled meeting with Bush, bypassing Wash ington to fly directly home after a visit to California. These heads of state have to publicly distance themselves from both Israel and the U.S. or face incalculable repercussions at home.

The Palestinian struggle for self-determination, along with the resistance in Iraq to the U.S. military occupation there, are natural and justified responses by peoples who have been oppressed and robbed by the arrogant imperialist powers dominating the world. Until this is rectified, these struggles will continue.

Reprinted from the April 29, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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