By GERRY FOLEY
Claims by the Israeli military on Jan. 3 that they had intercepted an alleged illegal shipment of 50 tons of military equipment destined for the Palestinian Authority highlight the momentum toward a general war by Israel against the Palestinian people and possibly a new war with one or a combination of the Arab states.
It is a stark reminder that despite the U.S. victory in Afghanistan, the possibilities for an uncontrollable conflagration in the region have not been removed.
In fact, the Palestinian Intifada is as much of a target in the U.S. “war against terror” as al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and a far more important one (as well as one less easily dealt with by U.S. military technology). The U.S. supported the Israeli denunciations, demanding that the Palestinian Authority account for the arms shipment.
The Israeli policy is to impel the Palestinian Authority into confrontation with the Palestinian people by demanding that it assume the job of crushing the Intifada. The PA leader, Yassir Arafat, has allowed himself to be pushed a considerable way in that direction, actually ordering arrests of militants and having his police open fire on crowds protesting these actions.
A civil war among Palestinians was only headed off by a tactical decision of the more militant groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to agree to observe a de facto truce in their fight against Israel in the name of maintaining Palestinian national unity.
However, Arafat’s attacks on his own people have not been enough to gain any collaboration from the Israelis. They have chosen a policy of deliberately undermining his authority, preventing him from even moving about the territory nominally under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
In fact, the Jan. 5 issue of the Zionist Jerusalem Post featured an article based on a alleged interview with an unnamed “senior European diplomat” arguing against allowing Arafat to carry out any more diplomatic missions. The line was that action that gives any dignity to Arafat as a representative of his people would lead to increasing attacks against the Jewish population of the Israeli state.
The implications were clear. Arafat has no useful function except as a catspaw for Israeli repression. Accordingly, he cannot be allowed to do anything that might put himself in a position to represent their aspirations. Of course, unless he cannot gain some credibility as the leader of an operation to gain something for the Palestinians through negotiations, he cannot get the political support necessary to attack the militants.
The fact that the Israeli rulers put Arafat in such a position shows that they have no interest in a negotiated settlement, not even one so heavily in their favor as the Oslo Peace Accords. They are simply out to crush the Palestinian people and they are preparing for war for that purpose.
U.S. policy is somewhat more complicated because its interests in the region are more complicated. But fundamentally it has the same objective as the Israelis. It is determined to smash any movement that might threaten the stability of the Zionist state or undermine its position as the strongest military power in the region.
The United States needs to be able to maneuver with the conservative political forces in the Arab and Muslim countries. But that is only a tactical need, which will be eventually dropped in favor of brute force, just as the Zionist rulers dropped their policy of negotiating with the sell-out bourgeois nationalist Palestinian leadership.
The U.S. ultimately needs to crush any resistance to its economic and political dominance of the Middle East and to consolidate the Zionist state as its greatest fortress and military base in the region.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on U.S. civilians offered Washington a pretext to escalate its attacks against those forces hostile to U.S. domination of the Middle East. Its victory in the Afghan war has strengthened its position for that. But despite short term successes, it runs greater and greater risks.
In the long run, not even U.S. imperialism and its allies have the power and resources to crush the resistance of the Middle Eastern peoples. But in the meantime, they threaten to promote a spiral of violence that will mean vastly greater suffering for the already desperate peoples of the region.