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Sharon Maintains Military Stranglehold On Palestinians
THE TV news pictures told the story. Palestinian women grieving for their dead and missing relatives amidst the rubble of Jenin refugee camp; this cut to footage of an Israeli tank commander triumphantly punching the air as a column of tanks pulled to the outskirts of the town.
Three weeks of occupation of Palestinian areas by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has left a trail of death and destruction. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has said "this stage of operation Defensive Shield" is concluded.
For Palestinians, Jenin will symbolise both a terrible massacre of innocent civilians and also a heroic last stand against the Israeli onslaught.
No amount of denial and propaganda by the Israeli state can hide the IDF war crimes in Jenin. After all, this "anti-terrorist operation" was sanctioned by a prime minister who 20 years earlier was responsible for the massacre of 2,000 Palestinians in Lebanon's refugee camps.
SHimon Peres the 'liberal' foreign secretary in Sharon's coalition government has said: "Israel has nothing to hide regarding the operation in Jenin. The IDF did its utmost to prevent harm to innocents."
But Israel's acceptance of a 'fact finding' mission into Jenin came only after the US administration watered down a United Nations (UN) proposal from a number of Arab countries for a international committee of inquiry.
Even so, Sharon has vetoed three UN personnel, including human rights commissioner Mary Robinson, as being biased. Clearly Sharon has indeed something to hide.
Colin Powell, the US secretary of state whose recent diplomatic tour of the Middle East failed to obtain a ceasefire from Sharon let alone restart the 'peace process', welcomed the pull back of troops.
Two weeks ago George Bush said "enough is enough" while calling for an Israeli withdrawal. But the US - although initially concerned at the political fallout in the region - especially its fear of 'moderate' Arab regimes being overthrown by mass movements opposed to Israel and imperialism, and the increase in opposition to its plans to attack Iraq - remains a firm backer of Sharon.
George Bush and his 'lieutenant' Tony Blair have threatened to invade Iraq because they say Saddam Hussein is in breach of UN resolutions. Yet Israeli governments have, as a matter of routine, ignored UN resolutions calling for withdrawal of the occupied territories for more than 30 years.
To Palestinians the IDF pull-back to the outskirts of towns and cities on the West Bank is simply an enlargement of their prison. Moreover, the IDF remains surrounding Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah and in Bethlehem where the siege of the Church of the Nativity continues.
Sharon is intent on humiliating the beleaguered Palestinian president. He is keeping him under house arrest by insisting that Arafat hands over alleged terrorists holed up in the compound. Sharon has previously made clear that he regards Arafat as the 'chief terrorist' and has offered him 'a one-way ticket' out of the region.
The idea that collectively punishing the Palestinian population and destroying the Palestinian Authority infrastructure will halt the suicide bombings within Israel is false, as the bombings in Haifa and Jerusalem have shown.
And even if sealing off Israel's borders proper by a ring of armour has temporarily halted bombings by Hamas, al Aqsa and other militias, Sharon's 'war on terrorism' is creating a new generation of young Palestinians prepared to become 'martyrs' for their national rights.
What is becoming clearer is that a 'viable Palestinian state' is impossible under the existing capitalist relations in the region. Only mass movements of workers, together with the urban and rural poor, by overthrowing capitalism and imperialism in the region and establishing a voluntary federation of socialist states can guarantee a Palestinian state, a socialist Israel, and democratic rights for all.
The Israeli working class can play a critical and indispensable part in such a revolutionary struggle. Currently, the insecurity and fear of bombings together with a lack of a mass political alternative is tying Israeli workers to the reactionary policies of the Israeli state.
Yet economically and socially there remains much anger and hostility to Sharon's capitalist policies of privatisations, budget cuts and the record levels of unemployment. This opposition has resulted in strikes and protests in the recent period. Sharon's new 5% war levy on salaries and $2.3 billion of cuts in public spending (apart from defence) can deepen this opposition.
Socialists in Israel, affiliated to the CWI, as well as expressing solidarity with the struggle for Palestinian national rights are fighting for a mass workers' party based on a socialist programme.
Also from Maavak Sozialisti the Socialist Party's counterpart in Israel: www.maavak.org.il
And from the Committee for a Workers' International: www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 26 April 2002: