By GERRY FOLEY
The combination of President Bush’s much touted Middle East policy speech on June 24, which in effect gave full support to Israel, and Israel’s new assaults on the West Bank and Gaza, in which the Zionist state has openly declared that it intends to reoccupy indefinitely territory formerly ceded to the Palestinian Authority (PA), should have exploded the last illusions that either Israel or the U.S. has any intention of reaching a compromise with the Palestinians.
It is true that the abjectly pro-imperialist regimes in Jordan and Egypt managed to find “hopeful signs” in Bush’s statement, but no Palestinian figures have yet emerged to apply for the positions of “new leaders”-that is, total stooges-that Bush advertised for. However, the U.S. president has said that he is going to try to cut off all foreign contributions to the Palestinian Authority if it does not meet his political conditions.
That is adding a financial vise to the military vise already being applied by the Zionist rulers. Since Israeli repression and attacks have dramatically reduced private sector employment for Palestinians, the PA administration now accounts for 23 percent of Palestinian jobs, and those wages obviously cannot continue to be paid out of the diminishing revenues of the PA itself.
According to a report drawn up under the aegis of Juan Somavia, director general of the International Labor Office, which was published in the Palestinian Jerusalem Times of June 20, 2002, the PA’s revenues have already diminished by 70 percent. Payment of wages now represents more than 90 percent of the Authority’s outlay.
The World Bank has estimated the damage caused by Israeli attacks between October 2000 and December 2001 at $365 million. Palestinian Gross National Income, including the income earned by Palestinian workers in Israel (now reduced by half) has dropped by 18.7 percent in 2001. Employment in the West Bank itself has dropped by about a tenth.
Moreover, the threat of a financial squeeze on the Palestinian Authority coming from the head of the world’s major imperialist power followed a new major escalation of the Israeli assault on the Palestinian communities, in which the Israeli army is cutting the PA to ribbons.
In the first place, the Israelis have effectively reoccupied the West Bank. Some 700,000 Palestinians are under direct Israeli military control and a total of about 2 million live in areas effectively controlled by the Israeli military.
The Israeli army has put the whole of the West Bank in a straitjacket, with curfews in the larger Palestinian cities and innumerable checkpoints around them. This massive repression was given a sharp cutting edge on June 21 when Israeli troops and tanks opened fire on a crowd of shoppers in the Palestinian town of Jenin who were supposed to have been violating the Israeli-imposed curfew.
The Zionist rulers paid a price for this atrocity in terms of their international image. The New York Times published a shocking account of the mourning of a Palestinian family for a small boy who had been blown away because he went to the market to buy a sweet.
The Israeli government claimed that the shooting was a mistake. But there was obviously a deliberate decision to fire on a peaceful crowd of shoppers. The Zionist commanders must have thought that the intimating effect of a random slaughter was worth a little bad publicity.
Less than a week after the Jenin massacre, the Israeli army made another “mistake” in the town of Qalqiliya, opening fire on a crowd of shoppers who were allegedly violating a curfew, critically wounding a nine-year-old boy. If even small children are fired on for venturing out to buy candy or cookies, what fate could be expected by anyone who tried to demonstrate against Zionist outrages?
The Israeli government has said that it is going to reoccupy the land ceded to the Palestinian Authority by the Oslo Accords. But at the same time, it claims that it is not abolishing the PA. The reality seems to be simply that the Israeli government does not want to take over maintaining the social services that had been provided by the PA.
That is, Israel wants to impose an occupation without assuming any responsibility for the population under its effective control. It obviously also wants to maintain its demands on the Palestinian authorities to join in the repression of Palestinian fighters. The Zionist regime has become expert in the science of having its cake and eating it too.
Likewise, while the Israeli government is declaring its intention once again to make a major military strike at the Palestinian resistance in Gaza, it says that it has no desire to reoccupy the area. It retreated from threats of a military occupation in the recent past, undoubtedly because it feared that such an operation would be costly in both political and military terms. But it now seems to think that it can achieve the same effect by subjecting the population of the zone to constant insecurity; that is what “targeted attacks” means.
The Israelis apparently succeeded in killing two leaders of the Islamist organization Hamas by firing missiles from helicopters on June 24. But they killed at least another four Palestinians at the same time. In the present situation, the people of the Gaza strip can never know when and where the missiles are going to hit.
The Gaza strip, mostly a barren desert marked by sand dunes, is being turned into a giant prison under the guns of the Israeli forces. Palestinian unemployment is over 80 percent.
The Israeli government has been exiling Palestinian militants from the West Bank to the strip. Now it is talking about deportation of the families of suicide bombers to the strip, a new escalation of collective punishment.
Those concerned will be shipped to Gaza after their homes on the West Bank are destroyed. Since Palestinians have extended families, the number of people affected could be large.
This new step-up in the Israeli military pressure makes life virtually impossible for the Palestinians. Their only alternative is desperate resistance, or capitulation and flight. The response of the Lebanese newspaper, The Star, the June 25 British Guardian reported, was that Israel “is now contemplating a new round of ethnic cleansing” that could make the “‘original sin’ of 1948 look like child’s play. ”
The June 10 issue of the major Israeli English-language paper, The Jerusalem Post, reported that the World Zionist Organization has opened up a new drive to recruit Jewish immigrants to Israel and that it is recruiting them specifically to settle in the West Bank:
“Ezra Rosenfeld, a spokesman for Judea and Samaria communities says that a group of up to 70 Orth-odox families from Monsey, New York, is considering moving to Kochav Ya’akov, a settlement near Ramallah. ‘In principle, we are trying to encourage Jews to settle in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza. This is part of our ideology,’ Rosenfeld told the Associated Press.”
It is still standard practice in the Israeli press to refer to the West Bank and Gaza as “Judea and Samaria” to identify them as part of “Biblical Israel,” “the land of Zion.”
The entire West Bank, supposedly the territory of a future Palestinian state, is dotted with Zionist settlements connected by roads that only Jews are allowed to use. Although the Oslo accords called for a freeze on these settlements, they have doubled since the signing of the agreement.
The logic is clear. The Palestinians have to be crushed as a people. At best they will be confined in scattered native reservations surrounded by the Israeli military.
But the Zionist authorities obviously hope that they can make life so difficult for them that a large proportion will prefer to emigrate. If not, what sense would the Israeli policies make?
Bush’s support for Israel in these conditions shows that he has no interest in the establishment of any national homeland for the Palestinians, not even in a small part of their historic territory.