Behold! A Palestinian state is being born

Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada, nearly 900 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army and Zionist settlers, and 25,000 injured. During the same period 263 Israelis have died and 800 injured. Of those killed on the Palestinian side, 150 were under the age of 18, as compared to 31 Israeli minors killed over the same period. There appears to be no end to the cycle of killings and counter-killings, with each Israeli outrage provoking stiff and heroic resistance on the part of the occupied Palestinian people. The continued occupation, growth of settlements in the occupied territories in defiance of international law and UN resolutions, economic blockades, racial discrimination, collective punishment and many other humiliations and cruelties practised by the Zionist occupiers on their Palestinian victims, far from stamping out the Palestinian struggle for national self-determination, have, on the contrary, only served to intensify it to unprecedented heights.

In an effort to extinguish the raging inferno of the Intifada, the Sharon government, in characteristic Nazi fashion and with sadistic brutality, has unleashed on the Palestinian people all the force at its command – from fighter planes and attack helicopters to tanks and artillery fire. It has attacked its victims from the air, sea and land. It has meted out collective punishment to them through demolition of their homes and the uprooting of their crops. It has murdered more than 100 Palestinian leaders in cold blood. And yet the Intifada refuses to fade away. Nay, in continues to grow and gain strength in response to every outrage. Here is a brief, and far from exhaustive, description of the acts of Zionist brigandage, and Palestinian resistance, since the beginning of November last year.

During the two weeks following the execution of the racist Israeli minister, Ze’evi in mid-October by the armed wing of the PFLP, Israeli forces killed 50 Palestinians. On 4 November, a member of the resistance attacked a Jerusalem bus, in the process killing 2 Israelis before being shot dead. This attack by the liberation forces took place despite the fact that the Israeli army remained in 3-week occupation of the five Palestinian towns (following Rehavam Ze’evi’s execution) with the specific purpose of preventing such attacks, unable to stop a determined gunman from managing to get through the security cordon.

November 6 witnessed a clash between the Israeli army and the resistance, which left 3 Palestinians and an Israeli solider dead. On November 12, a twelve-year old Palestinian youth died of wounds received three days previously. On the same day Israeli soldiers intruded into Tal, near Nablus, and murdered Mohamed Rehau, a Hamas militant, and abducted 40 others. On 15 November, Israelis attacked a village near Bethlehem and abducted 8 Palestinians. A relative calm in the fighting between the occupying forces and the resistance was brought to a sudden halt with the gruesome deaths of five Palestinian children when on 22 November an unexploded Israeli shell blew up in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, sending shock waves throughout the Palestinian territories. The following day, the Israelis murdered Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, a senior Hamas military leader, in a helicopter attack on his car near Nablus on the West Bank. Two of his comrades were also killed in the raid. While Hamas vowed revenge, tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets calling for retaliation. A day later, Saturday 24 November, Hamas killed an Israeli soldier in a mortar attack – the first fatal Palestinian mortar attack since the start of the latest Intifada. Israel responded by helicopter and missile attacks, firing at least 20 missiles into Gaza and using tanks and bulldozers to demolish houses.

On 27 November the liberation forces struck back, with a Palestinian fighter spraying bullets into a bus station and a market place, killing two Israelis and injuring dozens in the Israeli town of Afula, just north of the West Bank town of Jenin. Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Brigades of Fatah jointly claimed responsibility for the attack. Two days later (29 November), three Israelis were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a bus. The blast near the town of Hadera was the first such attack inside Israel since the events of 11 September in the US – marking the end of an Understanding between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the radical Palestinian groups, which had refrained from suicide attacks inside Israel since September 11.

Thus, when Anthony Zini, a retired US marine general, and William Burns, Assistant Secretary of State, arrived in the region on 26 November, the area was at boiling point. Within 48 hours of the arrival of Zini and Burns, seven Israelis were killed and fifty wounded. In a triple-bombing attack, the resistance killed ten Israelis and wounded 130 on the night of Saturday 15 December in west Jerusalem’s busy commercial district.

The resistance kept up the pressure when, the following day, it attacked a bus in the northern port of Haifa, killing 15 Israelis. The attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa were the resistance movement’s way of answering Israeli’s assassination of the Hamas leader Mohamed Abu Hanoud. In a perverse and twisted interpretation of the events, Zalman Shoval, an aide to Ariel Sharon, said that the “Jerusalem and Haifa bombings constitute our September 11”! The US president, Bush, who seems to delight in every single atrocity perpetrated by his Zionist stooges on the Palestinian people, was moved to characterise the acts of the liberation forces as “hideous murders” and to demand that Arafat “immediately find and arrest those responsible”.

December 3 witnessed fierce strikes by Israeli forces against Gaza to the accompaniment of calls by the fruitier sections of Sharon’s government and party for physical liquidation of Yasser Arafat, Designation of the PA as an enemy entity and its dismantling, and the reoccupation by Israel of the PA autonomous areas. In the course of these strikes Israeli helicopters attacked Arafat’s Gaza headquarters with rockets, destroying a helipad, a hangar and two helicopters, as well as injuring 17 people. Within hours of the air attacks, armoured vehicles entered Gaza International Airport by way of a deliberate provocation. Throwing away even the pretence of an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, US imperialism gave its unqualified support to the Israeli strikes, with Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, declaring that “President Bush believes that Israel has the right to defend itself.”

The Bush administration, while refusing to condemn the Israeli attacks and accompanying violations of PA territory, and characterising the butcher Sharon as a “democratically elected leader”, called upon Arafat to arrest and imprison leading members of the military wing of the resistance. In the words of Fleisher: “President Bush thinks it is very important that the Palestinian jails not only have bars on the front, but no longer have revolving doors at the back”.

While conducting a veritable campaign of terror against the entire Palestinian nation, Sharon, in a television address to the Israelis, had the sickening audacity to accuse Arafat of adopting a “strategy of terror” and planning to destroy Israel. While its terror machine continued its work with war planes bombing Palestinian targets and bulldozers demolishing Palestinian homes, Israel added Force 17, Yasser Arafat’s security body, and Tanzim, the military wing of Fatah, to its list of ‘terrorist’ organisations. During the December 3-4 carnage, which saw the heaviest Israeli onslaught on the West Bank and Gaza since the beginning of the latest revolt of the Palestinian people against Zionist occupation, Israeli planes pounded eight security installations belong to the PA – four in Gaza and four in the West Bank, killing 2 and wounding 80 – mostly children. In Ramallah, Israeli missiles hit targets dangerously close to Mr Arafat’s headquarters.

Under attack from Israel and extreme pressure from the US and the EU, Mr Arafat declared a state of emergency, designated as ‘outlaws’ those responsible for organising suicide attacks against targets in Israel, and rounded up 150 fighters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The action, quite understandably, aroused anger and opposition among the Palestinian masses, who regard the armed militants as heroes for carrying the fight into Israel. The PA police who went to make arrests at the Deheisheh refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem faced a hostile crowd barring the way. Even the Telegraph, one of the most reactionary and pro-Zionist organs, was obliged to make this observation:

“In places such as Deheisheh, where Palestinians who lost their homes on the founding of the state of Israel in 1948 have lived in squalor for two generations, people have little time to debate the morality of blowing up Israeli teenagers. For them it is a question of revenge for the deaths of dozens of Palestinians, including five children killed by an Israeli booby-trap in Gaza last month.

“The police chief remarked gloomily: ‘We arrest only those who incite bomb attacks. If we arrested all the supporters of such attacks, it would amount to two thirds of the population'” (4 December 2001).

The truth is that Palestinian jailers have far greater respect for the armed fighters than they have for their prison superiors. Furthermore, Israeli actions make it impossible for Mr Arafat to comply, even if he wanted to, with Israeli demands. On the one hand, the Israeli military is engaged in destroying every symbol of Palestinian statehood and doing everything possible to remove Arafat, undermine the PA and heap daily humiliation on the Palestinian people, on the other hand, it is calling on the same Mr Arafat and the selfsame PA to arrest the very people who constitute the only pledge and guarantee of future liberated Palestine. In these circumstances, for the PA to involve itself in the mass arrests of the selfless fighters for the cause of the Palestinian liberation struggle is to risk starting a civil war – pitting Palestinian against Palestinian – precisely the outcome that Israeli Zionism and US imperialism alike would love to see realised.

On 9 December, in an overnight Israeli raid on the West Bank village of Anabta, four Palestinians were shot dead. The following day, two Palestinian children were killed in an Israeli helicopter attack on a civilian car in the crowded market of Hebron. The intended target of this attack is thought to be Mohammed Sidr, an Islamic Jihad leader. On 11 December, Israeli troops killed two Palestinians in Tulkarm, while another Palestinian fell victim to a helicopter attack close to the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza.

On 12 December, the resistance responded to the continuing Israeli attacks by an armed assault on an Israeli bus in the West Bank, in which 10 Israelis were killed and several dozens wounded. In this raid, near the Zionist settlement of Emmanuel, guns, bombs and grenades were used, with the Israeli army rescue teams coming under fire as the approached the scene. The responsibility for this attack was claimed by Hamas as well as the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ brigade, which is linked to Mr Arafat’s Fatah organisation.

Predictably, the Palestinian raid was followed by a bloody Israeli retaliation, which saw PA installations targeted by F-16 war planes. Four Palestinians were killed in missile attacks by helicopter gunships. On 13 December, Israel’s security cabinet took the decision to break off all ties with Arafat, declaring him to be ‘irrelevant’, and to launch military operations in PA areas for the purpose of arresting members of the resistance and confiscating weapons. During these incursions, five Palestinians were killed and dozens of others injured, while 50 Palestinians were arrested. On the weekend of 15-16 December, 13 Palestinians were killed in intensified Israeli military incursions and air strikes into Palestinian territories.

Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front, General Zini, whose visit was doomed from the start, left the Middle East on 13 December, with the US blaming Palestinian violence for his recall. At the same time, on Saturday 15 December, the US vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution which called for “all concerned to establish a monitoring mechanism” with a view to easing conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. The resolution condemned Palestinian attacks, executions without trial, excessive use of force and the destruction of property. Notwithstanding the underlying basis of the resolution, which equated the violence of the Israeli occupiers and oppressors with the just resistance and violence of the oppressed and occupied Palestinian people, the US exercised its veto on the dishonest excuse that it lacked balance and was aimed at politically isolating poor old Israel!

All the same, under extreme pressure, Yasser Arafat declared a unilateral ceasefire on 16 December. In a television address to the Palestinian people, he called for “the complete and immediate cessation of all military activities, especially suicide attacks” and outlawed those who carried on such activities. Ignoring Arafat’s ceasefire call, the Israeli killing machine continued its daily grisly work. Within 24 hours of Arafat’s address, the Israeli army had murdered a Hamas militant in Hebron, a policeman in Nablus and a teenage boy in the Gaza Strip. During the four weeks following Arafat’s call for a ceasefire, the Israelis killed 22 Palestinians – half of them children – on Sunday 30 December alone. Six Palestinians were killed in clashes in the Gaza Strip, which sent a clear signal that the Israeli authorities had no desire to respond to reduced levels of Palestinian revolutionary violence. The second half of December, following Mr Arafat’s ceasefire call, was accompanied, according even to the Israeli army, by a reduction of Palestinian attacks from 18 a day before Mr Arafat’s speech to 11 a day after it. While a total of 37 Israelis were killed in the first half of December, only one was killed in the second. On the Palestinian side, more than 70 ere killed in December, though the majority of these were in the first half amid daily clashes.

As for imperialism and Zionism, far from satisfying their demands, Arafat’s address merely whetted their appetite and became the occasion for further unreasonable demands. A White House spokesman declared:

“Chairman Arafat spoke constructive words, but what is important is that they be followed by concrete action. That’s what will be measured and that’s what the president will wait and see”. Sharon demanded an absolutely violence-free week (a condition impossible to fulfil given the Israeli outrages which provoke legitimate Palestinian resistance) and the arrest and extradition to Israel of the PFLP fighters responsible for the execution on 17 October of the Israeli minister Ze’evi.

The arrival of Christmas, allegedly the season of goodwill, was characterised by a singular lack of goodwill on the part of Zionism, with the Israeli authorities issuing an order banning Yasser Arafat from attending midnight mass at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. The Israeli order turned into a public relations disaster for the Sharon government. Speaking to the front row, draped in a black and white Koffiyeh and marked with a placard which said “His Excellency, Yasser Arafat, President of the State of Palestine”, Bishop Sabbah, Latin Patriarch and senior Roman Catholic clergyman in the Holy Land, condemned the Israeli order. As these images were flashed on television screens the world over, even Yisrael Meir Lau, Israel’s Chief Rabbi, was obliged impotently to observe:

“It has given Mr Arafat a public relations coup, and on the religious issue.”

In a late-night televised address to the Palestinian people, Mr Arafat, who had earlier declared his determination to attend the midnight mass, conceded his inability to attend, saying “The Israeli tanks, the barriers and the rifles of the oppressors have prevented me from sharing with you our annual celebration on this divine and blessed occasion.”

In view of the continuing Israeli provocations and repression, it was with the greatest of reluctance and reservations, and for the sole purpose of maintaining Palestinian unity and averting a civil war, that all the constituents of the movement for the liberation of Palestine had agreed to comply with Arafat’s ceasefire call. This gesture by the liberation movement did little to stop Israeli incursions into PA territory, the abduction of dozens of militants, the demolition of Palestinian houses.

Amid continuing violence on the Israeli side, and the observance of the ceasefire by the liberation movement, General Zinni arrived in the Middle East on 3 January 2002 for a four-day visit, with a view to implementing the Tenet plan of June 2001 for Israeli-Palestinian security co-operation, in order to prepare the ground for the implementation of the Mitchell plan of April 2001.

To coincide with this visit, and to abort the Zinni mission, providentially Israel seized a vessel in the Red Sea with 50 tons of arms aboard allegedly bound for Palestinian territory, claiming the weapons aboard the Karine-A were of Iranian origin and that members of the crew were directly linked to the PA. The news of this seizure all but eclipsed the first day of Zinni’s visit. Right under Zinni’s nose, the Israeli aggression continued remorselessly, with the Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopters thrusting into PA territory south of Nablus and placing the village of Tel under curfew, killing one Palestinian and arresting two others.

Sharon made much of the Karine-A cargo, branding Arafat a ‘liar’ and a ‘terrorist’, reminding one of the devil in Turgenev, whose motto was: condemn those sins in others that you possess yourself most. To back Sharon up, the top US officials said on 10 January that there were clear links between the arms seized by Israel and members of the PA, and that there was “compelling evidence” of the involvement of Iran and Hizbollah, the Iranian-backed resistance movement which fought an 18-year guerrilla war against Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and forced Israel to beat a humiliating retreat. Even if the Israeli and US assertions were to be correct, a Palestinian attempt to acquire a mere 50 tons of small arms is pretty paltry when compared with the lethal armoury, including warplanes, military helicopters, missiles and tanks delivered almost on a weekly basis by US imperialism to its Zionist puppets.

Bush, the chief executive of US imperialism, which has supplied such vast amounts of lethal weaponry to Israel, with cynical hypocrisy expressed his exasperation with the Palestinian leader in the following terms:

“I can’t be any more clear in my position, and that is that he must do everything in his power to fight terror”, adding that “obviously, we were at first surprised and then extremely disappointed when the ‘Karine-A’ showed up, loaded with weapons, weapons that could’ve only been intended for one thing, which was to terrorise”. These words were spoken to reporters after an hour-long meeting between the heads of government of the two most terrorist states in the world, namely the US and Israel. It was the fourth meeting between Bush and Sharon since the latter became prime minister of Israel.

In the light of US imperialism’s continued support for the Israeli occupation and for their oppression of the Palestinian people, and the ceaseless attempts by US imperialism to characterise all Palestinian resistance as ‘terrorism’, his feigned concern for the economic plight of the Palestinian population is nothing short of hypocritical cant. With stomach-churning insincerity he declared: “I am deeply concerned about the plight of the average Palestinian. I worry about stories and pictures I see of people going hungry and children not being educated and deep concerns … etched on the faces of moms and dads who happen to be Palestinian” (quoted in the Guardian Weekly of 14-20 February 2002).

If Mr Bush were genuinely concerned, there is one very simple thing he can do, that is, order Israel to get out of the occupied territories.

The Israeli diplomatic and propaganda offensive following the seizure of Karine-A was accompanied by increased aggression against Palestinian territories.

On 10 January, in overnight incursions into PA-controlled areas of Gaza, Israeli troops flattened 73 homes in the Rafah refugee camp, rendering 600 Palestinians, half of them children, homeless to fend for themselves in conditions of a bitterly cold winter.

This comes on top of the 70 properties already flattened since the start of the Intifada, during which Rafah has been subjected to a terrible ordeal by the Israeli army of occupation, which has killed 80 of its residents, of which 2 dozen were children, and wounded more than 1,100 – a tenth of them seriously. Israel claimed, as though it needed an excuse, that its actions were a response to a Palestinian attack on an Israeli military post the previous night, which left four Israeli soldiers, as well as the Palestinian attackers, dead. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. At the same time Islamic Jihad declared an end to its previous agreement with the PA to desist from attacking Israeli targets.

Three days later, on 13 January, Israel blew up a Palestinian naval base in Gaza City’s small harbour and a patrol boat which was docked there. The following day, 14 January, Israeli bulldozers entered Asawiyah, an Arab village east of Jerusalem, and demolished five houses. Washington’s only response to continuing Israeli brutality and aggression was a mild rebuke. Richard Boucher, the US State Department spokesman said: “Steps such as the displacement of people through the demolition of homes or property like those that occurred in Jerusalem earlier today are provocative.”

Meanwhile, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, linked to Fatah, also abandoned the ceasefire after Raed al-Karmi, a Fatah militant, was killed, almost certainly by the Israeli army, in a roadside explosion near the West Bank town of Tulkarm. Literally within hours, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the death of an Israeli in a drive-by shooting near Nablus. The Brigades also accepted responsibility for the deaths of 2 Israeli settlers in separate incidents on 15 January.

On the same day, in a serious development that could harm the cause of the national liberation struggle of the Palestinian people, Ahmed Saadat, the Secretary-General of the PFLP, the second-biggest section of the PLO, was arrested by PA security forces after coming out of hiding to meet PA intelligence chiefs. The PFLP spokesman, Maher al-Taher, warned that the arrest of Mr Saadat was a dangerous development that threatened to put the PA in direct opposition to all Palestinian factions. “The Authority should know”, he said, “that what it did will put it in full confrontation with all the national and Islamist factions without exception.”

Fed up with the unilateral ceasefire, which brought them no relief either from Israeli attacks or any advance in the peace process, the liberation forces decided to put an end to this charade, with the fatal blow to this crumbling ceasefire being delivered on 17 January when 6 Israelis were killed and 20 wounded following a grenade attack on a crowded party in northern Israel. It took place in Hadera, a town on Israel’s Mediterranean coast only a few miles from the border with the West Bank. It was the biggest attack inside Israel since the first week of December when 35 Israeli lives had been claimed in a weekend of suicide bombings. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.

Two days later (19 January), Israeli forces destroyed the headquarters of the Palestinian Broadcasting Authority.

In an ominous development, which is giving nightmares to the Zionist authorities, Shahnaz al-Amouri, from Al-Najah University in Nablus, was killed on 27 January when a bomb carried by her exploded in the heart of Jerusalem, killing one Israeli and injuring 100 others. The explosion took place on Jaffa Street, which has come to be known as the ‘street of bombers’ because of the ten previous attacks which have killed nearly 100 Israelis and injured several hundreds. The explosion created familiar scenes of pandemonium followed by a gloomy mood of bewilderment, adding to the increasing sense of insecurity among the Israelis, who blame the Israeli security forces for failing to protect them, being unable or unwilling as yet to grasp the real cause – namely, the occupation of one people by another, and the inevitable resistance that such occupation must produce on the part of the oppressed.

It was the first attack by a female Palestinian in more than 16 months of the Intifada and spells big trouble for Israel. One senior Israeli officer commented on this development thus:

“This is big trouble. We are already stretched and, if we are facing women as well as men, it will make it much more difficult for us.

“If women are now prepared to do this, the potential for recruitment is much higher than we suspected. It may take some time to work out how to deal with this” (quoted in the Daily Telegraph of 28 January 2002).

In further trouble for Israel, a crowd of 70 people broke into a Palestinian jail in Bethlehem and freed six militants, one of which is on Israel’s ‘most wanted’ list.

In the face of overwhelming odds, the resistance continues to engage in heroic battle with the occupation regime, employing increasingly intelligent methods of guerrilla warfare against an enemy armed to the teeth with the most sophisticated weaponry produced with the aid of the latest in modern science and technology. On 10 February, Hamas militants killed two Israeli women soldiers in the southern Israeli town of Be’ersheva, and for the first time fired their Kassem-2 rockets that landed in farmland near the Gaza Strip. With a range of five miles, and capable of delivering a 5 kilogram warhead, these rockets could hit targets in Jerusalem or population centres on the narrow coastal strip of Israel. The Fatah movement has similar rockets with an identical range. These are known as Aqsa-1 and 2.

No wonder then that the Israeli authorities went berserk, with Israeli aircraft raiding Gaza for the third time in less than 24 hours on 11 February.

In a sign of their enhanced skill and capacity to fight their enemy, on the night of 14 February the liberation forces blew up an Israeli tank for the first time, killing its 3-man crew. This successful attack, while boosting Palestinian morale, punched a gaping hole in Israel’s image of invincibility, for the Merkava-3 is one of the most sophisticated and best-protected tanks in the world – a prized symbol of Israel’s regional superiority, but to the Palestinians a hated symbol of occupation. The 100 kg of explosives which blew up this tank, ripping through its underbelly and blowing off its turret, was planted on a main road in Gaza by the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza – a coalition of liberation forces, including Hamas and section of Fatah, to avenge 5 Palestinian deaths earlier in the week. Palestinians also greeted with delight the death of Lt Col Eyal Weiss, Commander of Duvdevan, one of the most feared Israeli special forces units. He was killed on 15 February during a raid on the village of Saida in the northern West Bank, when apparently the wall of a home belonging to a militant Palestinian collapsed on him while being demolished by Israeli bulldozers. The Palestinian owner too was killed during the operation.

Five days later, on 19 February, the Palestinian resistance delivered one of its most devastating blows against the Israeli army, in which 6 Israeli soldiers were killed – bringing the total number of Israeli soldiers killed during the course of that single week to 14. In retaliatory ground, sea and air strikes, the Israelis killed 18 Palestinians. The Israeli strikes included the naval bombardment of Mr Arafat’s presidential compound in Gaza. Missiles aimed at PA installations in the West Bank town of Ramallah landed close to the building where Mr Arafat has been under siege by Israeli tanks since the beginning of December last year. Mr Arafat reacted defiantly to the latest, and heaviest, Israeli onslaught on the PA, saying: “The tanks and missiles and the planes do not terrify us. We are not scared of the soldiers, the bombardment of our headquarters or prisons

The victims of the Israeli strikes were mostly members of the Palestinian security forces, though some civilians were also killed.

What is clear is that the Palestinian resistance, far from crumbling in the face of the Zionist assault, which has inflicted colossal damage to Palestinian lives, property and living standards, has grown stronger, while Israeli morale is beginning to wane. Whereas only a couple of months ago it might have seemed that Mr Arafat and his PA were under siege, now it is Sharon and his fellow nutters in the Israeli coalition who are decidedly under siege. They have run out of all possible meaningful options. They strike harder and harder at Palestinian targets for no good reason other than that they don’t know what else to do. In doing so, not only do they provoke greater Palestinian resistance and invite unprecedentedly daring and intelligent strikes by the armed wing of the Palestinian liberation movement, but also they deepen the wedge between the two camps in the Israeli government and Israeli society – between those who are clamouring for an invasion of the West Bank and Gaza, the destruction of the PA, elimination of Yasser Arafat and the wholesale expulsion of the Palestinian population from the occupied territories, and those who are convinced of the futility of military action and are demanding a withdrawal from the occupied territories.

The confidence of the latter group has been boosted by the sizeable grassroots group, which is growing by the day, of army reservists who have refused service in the occupied territories – a refusal which is tantamount to rebellion. The reservists, whose ranks are reliably reported to have swelled to 550 from the original 52, have received sympathy at the highest level from the most unexpected quarters, including from Ami Ayalon, former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency. He told Israel’s Channel 1 television station that “it was clearly illegal to shoot at an unarmed teenager”. A year earlier Mr Ayalon correctly characterised the condition of the Palestinians as being akin to ‘apartheid’, adding that they ought not to be expected to be content to live in a ‘Bantustan’.

The rebellious reservists have opened a website in the name of Ariel Shatil, who was incarcerated at his base for 19 days last October for his refusal to fire a heavy machine gun at a civilian area in Gaza. In their declaration, the original 52 said: “We know that the territories are not Israel, and that all settlements are bound to be evacuated in the end” (quoted in the Financial Times of 2 February 2002).

The Council for Peace and Security, a grouping of 1,000 former Israeli generals, officers and security personnel, have weighed into the scales and initiated a campaign for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank, claiming that Sharon is strategically bankrupt.

“Ariel Sharon’s strategic plan remains a mystery, and even astrologers have not figured it yet”, said Shaul Givoli, director of the Council and a former Israeli army general. He added: “He [Sharon] promised peace and security but, for over a year, everything he does just exacerbates the situation. Sooner or later, reality will force him to reach our position.”

Although at the moment many Israelis express their support for even tougher attacks on the PA, and show little sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinians, whom they blame for the conflict, nevertheless the tactics of the resistance, accompanied by the use of short-range rockets, the destruction of an Israeli tank and the killing of 14 soldiers in just one week, have revived memories of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the guerrilla war that arose in response to Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon – which finally drove her forces out of Lebanon on June 1999. As in the Lebanon, the present conflict offers Israel no military solution – the only difference is that it is taking place in what Israel regards as her own territory. To take advantage of the demoralisation and disarray in the Zionist camp, in their recent attacks the liberation forces have concentrated on the occupied territories and focused more on military targets than earlier. This cannot fail to leave its make on Israeli society. Increasing numbers of soldiers and their mothers are bound to swell the ranks of those wanting to put an end to dying in the occupied territories.

The view that Israel can simply bomb its way to peace, security and prosperity for the Israelis, while Palestinians suffer the humiliation of occupation, eking out a miserable existence in hundreds of bantustans into which the Zionist ruling circles want to carve up the occupied territories, has increasingly few takers. Paz Melamed, writing in the right-wing daily tabloid Ma’ariv, observed recently:

“The government and a majority of Israelis let themselves be fooled by assuming that we would be able to live more securely by totally defeating and killing more and more Palestinians.”

He added: “With violence and the use of ever-increasing military force, with the permanent and growing inhuman oppression of another people, terror cannot be defeated and uprooted. To the contrary, such a policy creates ever more violent resistance. The perpetration of the policy of violence and conquest will not strengthen Israel’s security, nor will it create a basis for a true and stable peace.”

Daniel Friedmann of the daily Yediot Aharnot remarked: “The least that should be inevitably done is to give up the whole idea of rule over another people. What is needed is a clear-cut stop to the Jewish settling on Palestinian soil and a readiness to evacuate most of the existing settlements in occupied Palestine in the framework of a peaceful solution.”

This view is by no means confined to intelligent and sober Israeli commentators. Writing in the Financial Times of 15 February, Henry Siegman, senior fellow and director of the US/Middle East Project at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote thus:

“To believe that Israeli counter-violence will end terrorism is folly. It is, instead, a prescription for the ‘Lebanonisation’ of the occupied territories and of Israel’s own heartland. How much more blood needs to flow in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, not to speak of Ramallah, Nablus and Gaza, before it at last registers with Israeli and US policy makers that efforts to end the violence that are based solely on revenge killings only inflame and accelerate terrorism? Every Israeli reprisal attack brings new cohorts of recruits into Hamas’s ranks.”

He adds perceptively: “… if revenge killings are the only Israeli response, the country is on the road to self destruction. Palestinians who have lived in misery and deprivation for more than half a century and have little to lose are likely to outlast Israelis who are accustomed to the comforts of advanced western societies.”

He says that if sections of Israeli public continue to support Sharon’s self-destructive path, it is only because they are of the view that there is no alternative. But, says Mr Siegman, there is an alternative and it always did exist. Israel, he argues, in place of the vague ‘confidence-building’ or ‘incrementalism’, must offer the Palestinians a viable statehood. He goes on to say:

“For such an alternative to be credible, it must include an Israeli commitment to return to political negotiations as soon as terrorism abates, without imposing the impossible conditions that Mr Sharon has insisted on until now; an immediate halt to settlement construction; and an acceptance of the principle of Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza to essentially the pre-1967 borders”.

It would appear that the EU too is veering to this view, which envisages a Palestinian state on the territories captured by Israel in the war of 1967.

If the US administration and Israel do not see the writing on the wall, reality will shortly bring them to their senses. Meanwhile, while unleashing untold misery on the Palestinian people, Israel will continue on its self-destructive path. It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Events are fast overtaking the putrescent heads of government in Washington and Tel Aviv. The unity of the liberation forces, the strength and virility of the Palestinian struggle for national self-determination, are sweeping all before it and destroying the imperialist and Zionist plans for putting an end to the Intifada as a prelude to the reduction of Palestine into about 200 bantustans, cut off from each other and the rest of the world. A Palestinian state is being born, which neither US imperialism nor Israeli Zionism, albeit armed with the latest killing machines and the new ‘action plan’ approved by the Israeli security cabinet, can stop.