Sharon’s re-election: green light for ethnic cleansing

FRFI 171 February / March 2003

Sharon’s re-election was no surprise. He may have failed to fulfil his boast to crush the Intifada within 100 days; the Israeli economy may have been grinding to a halt, with 10% unemployment and cuts in social welfare to the old, sick and poor; but when it came to a choice between two former generals – Israeli Labour leader Avram Mitzna and Sharon himself – the Israeli electorate opted for the one who promised to continue pulverising the Palestinian people. The response from the craven Palestinian Authority was to plead for the incoming government to return to the negotiating table.

During the 48 hours leading up to the election on 28 January the entire West Bank and Gaza were locked down in a show of Israeli force. During the election campaign itself the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) attempted to ban two parties supported by Palestinians living in Israel including the National Democratic Assembly Party (Balad) which had two Knesset members, one of them Azmi Bishara. Bishara is on trial for alleged sedition and incitement to violence for statements he made in support of Palestinian resistance at the June 2001 funeral of Syrian President Assad. The CEC also approved the candidacy of Baruch Marvel, former leader of the ultra-racist Kach movement. As the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharanot said on 7 January: ‘The message (from the CEC) has already been sent. For the Jewish political system, Arab representatives are illegitimate.’ Such naked discrimination, however, risked upsetting key Zionist allies such as the US and Britain, so the Supreme Court overturned the bans. Nevertheless, Sharon’s Likud party romped home with 37 Knesset seats out of 120, whilst Labour slumped from 26 to 19. Sharon is now trying to get Labour to support a National Unity government to help relations with the US. However, with or without Labour, it will be a government of war against the Palestinian people.

The interim government headed by Sharon following his dissolution of the Knesset at the beginning of last November signalled what is to come. Israeli forces murdered dozens of children over the period – a fact not reported in the Western media whose obsession is with the latest suicide operation, rather than accurate reporting of the oppression of the Palestinian people. In November, the Zionists killed 44 Palestinians, 12 of them children; in December there were another 63, including 11 children; in January, 70 Palestinians were killed, including nine children.

Some of those killed include:
• Nada Madhi, 11, from Rafah,
shot dead in her home on 19 December;
• Hanin Sitta, 12, also from Rafah, shot dead as she walked back home from school on 21 December;
• Abdul Al Najjar, a 16-year-old mentally disabled boy, killed in a failed assassination attempt in Khan Younis on 12 January;
• Mohye Hamza, 17, shot dead when Israeli soldiers fired on children throwing stones in Tulkarm in the early hours of 15 January;
• Hazzaa’ Shadid, 16, shot dead a few hours later also in Tulkarm, also when Israeli soldiers opened fire on a group of stone throwers;
• Ali Talab Aziz, 7, shot dead in Rafah by an Israeli soldier who fired at him from a tank; his five-year-old brother was seriously injured;
• Three children aged 14 and 15 shot in the head at close range in North Gaza; the Israeli army claimed they were armed with knives.

By the end of December over 2,100 Palestinians had been killed since the start of the Intifada. After a six-week lull, the suicide attack of 5 January in Tel Aviv which killed 23 was indicative of the anger and desperation of the Palestinian people: their suffering is of no significance to the imperialist and Zionist media.

Meanwhile the Zionist army stepped up preparations to completely destroy the infrastructure and economy of the Gaza strip. On 7 December last year, tanks and helicopter gunships killed ten in an attack on al-Buriej in Gaza. From early January, regular invasions targeted workshops and the few factories that still functioned. On 11 January an armoured force invaded Khan Younis killing two and demolishing 30 family businesses. Two weeks later on 25 January, they destroyed four bridges and a dozen houses in Beit Hanoun and blew up 14 houses in Rafah. The following day a Zionist force of 50 tanks and armoured personnel carriers invaded Al Zaytoun, killing 12 Palestinians, injuring 40 more, six critically. Troops dynamited 17 workshops and damaged 15 more. The Israeli excuse was that these were used to manufacture weapons. But they have blown up dozens and produced no evidence to support their claim. All this is the prelude to the kind of onslaught that took place on the West Bank last year, and which Shaul Mofaz, Israeli army Chief of Staff at the time, promised Gaza as interim Defence Minister days before the election.

Full or partial curfews remain in place on the major cities of the West Bank. They too are subject to a constant blitzkrieg: on 21 and 22 January, bulldozers demolished 62 shops in Nazlat Eissa village in Tulkarm, whilst on the day of the Israeli general election an armoured column stormed into Jenin killing four. An entire village, Al Daba near Qalqilya will be razed shortly. Each week dozens of houses both in Gaza and the West Bank are being dynamited or demolished because they belong to the families of members of the resistance; hundreds are made homeless as a consequence. Such collective punishment is illegal under the Geneva Convention.

In the face of this the subservience of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been staggering. Every suicide operation is followed by ritualistic denunciation. On every possible occasion Arafat and his lieutenants plead to be able to return to the utterly discredited Oslo peace process. On the day of Sharon’s election, in the midst of all the slaughter, Arafat yet again offered a general truce ‘in all the areas’. He asked for no conditions in what effectively was a call to surrender. At the same time the PA was trying to impose its authority on the forces of the resistance in a round of talks in late January in Cairo. According to one Fatah official, the goal was ‘to produce a document on which we all agree and with which we comply, which deals with the political situation, the type of resistance to be taken against Israeli occupation, as well as the domestic situation, including the participation of all factions in the decision-making process’. The resistance was represented by Hamas, Jihad, sections of Fatah, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. With the PA delegation being led by Mahmoud Abbas, a vocal opponent of the Intifada and someone tipped as the US favourite to displace Arafat, any agreement was always unlikely. The talks quickly broke down, with Hamas alleging that ‘an effort was made to compel Hamas to recognise the Zionist entity within the 1967 borders and to raise a white flag at a time when the Israeli army was committing a massacre in Gaza’. Hamas has offered a cessation of all attacks in Israel if the Zionists stop its onslaught on Palestinian civilians. More recently it has proposed a ceasefire if the Israeli army pulled back to its pre- September 2002 positions. This of course the Zionists reject out of hand. However, as Sharon enters his second term as prime minister, there is no sign that he will be able to crush the Intifada within 1,000 days let alone the hundred he promised two years ago.
Robert Clough


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