BY ROHAN PEARCE
The commemorations for the innocent people killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York received saturation television coverage across the globe. However, Israel's atrocities committed against the Palestinian people have received scant attention. Since September 2000, more than 1740 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army and armed settlers. More than 20,000 have been wounded.
On September 28, 2000, the second intifada erupted. The Palestinian people's anger at the daily human rights abuses committed by Israel's occupation forces boiled over into a mass uprising. The spark was the visit by Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to East Jerusalem's Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount, accompanied by 1000 armed guards.
Sharon's provocation triggered massive Palestinian protests in Jerusalem, during which six unarmed protesters were killed by soldiers. Two years later, Palestinians are still paying the price for the "crime" of resisting Israel's illegal occupation of their lands.
By 2001, "closures" (which prevent Palestinians travelling between the Occupied Territories and Israel) and the loss of Palestinians' jobs within Israel resulted in an average unemployment rate in the West Bank of 57%.
According to the Palestine Monitor web site, by the second year of the intifada 53% of Palestinians were living below the poverty line.
Since the 9/11 attacks on the US, Sharon has hypocritically portrayed his assault on the Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories as part of US President George Bush's open-ended "war on terrorism". Entire neighbourhoods have been reduced to rubble by Israel's tanks, bombs and bulldozers.
Breaching UN resolutions
In his efforts to justify an attack on Iraq, Bush claimed Saddam Hussein's was in breach of 16 Security Council resolutions. He asked the UN General Assembly on September 12: "Are Security Council resolutions to be honoured and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?"
Yet, Israel has repeatedly ignored more than a dozen UN resolutions. For 35 years, Israel has "cast aside without consequence" Security Council resolution 242, which calls on Israel to withdraw from the territories it invaded in 1967.
In his September 12 speech, Bush told the UN that in 1991, after the first Gulf War, "the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections".
Contrary to Bush's accusations, the Iraqi regime did largely comply with the UN's "rigorous inspections". It did not follow the example of Israel's regime, which refused to allow a UN team into the country to investigate war crimes by Israel's military in the Jenin refugee camp.
Bush claimed that Iraq "would be able" to build a nuclear weapon within a year if Saddam Hussein achieved the almost impossible and obtained fissile material. Yet for almost two decades, Washington has been fully aware that Israel has been developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.
In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli employee of the Dimona Nuclear Power Plant, revealed details of Israel's development of nuclear weapons to Britain's Sunday Times. For this "crime", he was kidnapped by Israeli agents in Rome and sentenced to 18 years in prison; for the first 11 years he was held in solitary confinement. He is due for release in 2004.
It is also widely known that Israel helped apartheid South Africa develop six nuclear weapons, as well as long-range missiles, in the late 1980s. Israel is estimated to have around 200 nuclear weapons.
Bush has refused to criticise the Israeli government's persistent trampling of international law, besides a few minor rebukes over tactical differences.
Key US ally
Since its establishment in 1948 particularly after Israel's rulers proved their worth for US imperialism with the 1956 invasion of Egypt and the war against Egypt, Syria and Jordan in 1967 Israel has been US imperialism's key ally and partner in the strategic, oil-rich Middle East.
A measure of Israel's status is the US government's 2002 allocation of US$2.04 billion in military aid to it, as well as additional $720 million in financial assistance.
The Palestinian insurgency is creating problems for both Israel and the US. For Sharon's government, the intifada threatens Israel's existence as a religious-apartheid state. His government's most dramatic attempts to crush the uprising this year, Operation Defensive Shield and Operation Determined Path, have drawn widespread international criticism, stirred a limited revival of the Israeli peace movement and caused divisions within Israel's ruling class over how to defeat the intifada.
Washington's blatant backing of Sharon's butchery in Palestine is fuelling anti-US sentiment across the Arab world and complicating its drive to attack Iraq. Pro-US Arab regimes fear that they will be swept away by their angry masses if they assist US forces to attack Iraq. This in turn has caused division within the US elite who fear that a unilateral US assault on Iraq will undermine "regional stability" i.e., US hegemony of the area.
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, caught between the uprising and his attempts to compromise with imperialism, has been forced to maintain a degree of belligerence towards Israel so that the PA does not become totally discredited among Palestinians.
By December 2001, Arafat's support in the Occupied Territories had dropped to 36% (down from 44% in 1994) and the support for his Fatah faction was just 28%, down from 45% in 1993. This trend continued in 2002, although with Arafat's personal prestige revived during Israel's siege of his compound.
A Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research poll conducted in August found that 34% of Palestinians would vote for Arafat in elections in January. The poll also found that support for Fatah had dropped to 26% (Fatah's lowest result in a PCRS poll), while support for militant Islamic organisations, such as Hamas, rose from 25% in December to 27%.
Arafat's inability to control the intifada led the Sharon government to reject him as a "negotiating partner", a stance since backed by the Bush regime.
Sharon's expulsion policy
In the absence of a Palestinian leadership which is both pliant to Israel's needs and credible among Palestinians, Sharon's strategy is heading increasingly towards ethnic cleansing and rendering "everyday life" impossible for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The banal sounding concept of "transfer" the idea of completing the expulsion of Palestinians from "historic Israel" that began before Israel's founding in 1948 is gaining increasing support in Israel.
In March, a poll conducted by the Ma'ariv newspaper showed that about a third of Israelis supported such a plan. A similar poll conducted by Israel's leading Russian-language newspaper, Vesti, indicated that 37% of Russian immigrants support the proposal.
The implementation of such a plan would not be out of character for Sharon, who told Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci in 1982 that Palestinians "have a homeland it is the Palestine that is called Jordan". The brutal actions of the Israeli government and its military this year have done nothing to discourage the belief that Sharon may move further in that direction.
From Green Left Weekly, September 18, 2002.
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