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Gaza: Sharon's Scorched Earth Policy
UNDER THE grotesque misnomer "Operation Rainbow", the Israeli regime sent its soldiers on an horrific killing spree in the refugee camp Rafah in the Gaza strip.
After the deaths of 13 soldiers in its mid-May incursion in the strip, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) stepped up its onslaught, creating scenes of complete devastation and terrible suffering in the name of destroying arms-smuggling tunnels at the Egyptian border and widening their corridor of control.
In the space of a week 57 Palestinians were killed, including ten young people, when tank missiles hit a 3,000-strong peaceful demonstration against the IDF invasion.
Hundreds more have been injured. Bulldozers churned up houses and streets cutting off electricity, telephones and access to water. Even a zoo - the only one in the Gaza strip - was deliberately destroyed and animals killed.
Many houses were demolished with no warning in an area set back from the border, where residents had believed themselves to be safe. This barbaric action forced the house occupants, including the elderly, disabled and very young, into desperate attempts to escape with their lives, having had to abandon all their possessions.
In some neighbourhoods, IDF loudspeakers ordered all males over the age of 16 to assemble nearby, then some who responded were shot at as they walked along the broken streets. Others were shot when slipping out to get emergency supplies of water or medicine. Many men have been detained for interrogation, yet very little has been found in the way of tunnels and arms caches.
These events sent shock waves around the world, of a level not seen in relation to Israel-Palestine since the days of the ferocious IDF onslaught on the West Bank town of Jenin in April 2002.
An outcry internationally, and from peace activists and some others in Israel, has led to the intensity of the 'operation' being reduced and IDF statements saying that fewer houses than planned would be demolished. But the brutal offensive is still continuing, in a drive by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to be seen to be avenging the IDF deaths.
He is also attempting to gain support from the right wing in Israel for his planned 'disengagement' from parts of the occupied territories, and to distract attention from a number of other issues.
These issues include continued economic problems. Although there has been a small economic upturn recently, it is not benefiting the poorest in society. They also include a possible decision by the Attorney General to indict Sharon on bribery charges, which would force his removal from office.
Pressure on Sharon to continue to woo the hardline right follows condemnation of his disengagement plan in a referendum of his Likud party on 2 May.
This layer of Likudniks is trying to cling on to the historic desire of much of the Israeli capitalist class for a 'greater Israel' encompassing the entire West Bank and Gaza strip.
An increasing view in Israel that a 'separation' with some of the Palestinian areas is the only viable way forward - as reflected in Sharon's proposals - is a major defeat for the ideologists in the settler movement and their supporters.
Increased brutality in the Gaza strip is part of Sharon's attempt to resurrect his plan in a modified form, after the referendum defeat. Just as he had authorised the assassinations of the top two Hamas leaders before the referendum, to refute the idea that a withdrawal would be a victory for Palestinian militias such as Hamas, again he is trying to use military might to win over sections of the right.
However, attempts to crush the Palestinian militias prior to withdrawal will not succeed in ending attacks against the Israeli occupation. Although 'disengagement' would be a setback for the Israeli right, it would also be a massive blow to the Palestinians, increasing further their will to fight.
Sharon's proposals, which were endorsed by US President Bush, include the strengthening of West Bank Jewish settlements close to Israel and the completion of a 450-mile long 'security' wall. The Palestinians would be restricted to poverty-stricken enclaves without freedom to travel and with no prospect of their own state.
The nightmare situation for the Palestinians, the growing insecurity and poverty facing workers in Israel and the inability of all international capitalist institutions to come up with any workable way forward, graphically confirm the point that the socialist has always argued: that the problems will never be solved on the basis of capitalism.
Only by building the necessary forces for a socialist Palestine alongside a socialist Israel, in a socialist confederation of the Middle East, will the basis be laid for satisfying the aspirations of both the repressed Palestinians and the Israeli Jews.
In The Socialist 29 May 2004:
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