By GERRY FOLEY
International protests and even protests within Israel itself forced the Zionist government to drop, at least temporarily, its threat of deporting the families of suicide bombers to the Gaza strip. (For years it has been standard operating procedure by the Israeli repressive forces to destroy the homes of families with a member accused of participation in a terrorist act).
However, no sooner did the Israeli authorities retreat from their threat of deporting families than they ordered a strike from a fighter bomber that shattered the lives of a number of Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip who were unfortunate enough to live near one of the targeted Palestinian resistance leaders.
At least 18 were killed at the current count and over a hundred wounded on July 22 when an F-16 fired a one-ton missile at a neighborhood in Gaza City, a teaming concentration of Palestinian refugees.
The dead included Saleh Shehadeh, a leader of the Islamist organization Hamas, his wife, his 14-year-old daughter and a number of their neighbors, including nine young children-two babies, aged 18 months and two months, five children aged three to five years, and an 11-year-old. The bodies of three other children were later dug dug out of the ruins. Palestinian eye-witnesses reported a scattering of body parts of very small children as well as of children’s toys.
The Zionist rulers thereby showed in the most dramatic way that they are determined to take collective reprisals without any qualms. The slaughter of the innocents in Gaza City did not deter Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the slightest from celebrating the operation as “one of our major successes.”
This was from a man complicit in the indiscriminate massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila near Beirut at the time of the Israeli occupation in 1982.
In fact, collective reprisals are inherent in the logic of a war against an entire people, as the Nazis demonstrated in their war against the resistance movements in the territories they occupied during World War II.
A giant shooting gallery
The Gaza City strike not only testified to the continuing Israeli policy of collective punishments but it indicated the way they see the Gaza strip, to which they threaten to deport Palestinians charged with terrorism and perhaps even their family members. For them, this small overcrowded desert enclave, where the official unemployment is over 80 percent and where a desperate population has begun to resort to hunger riots, is a giant prison and shooting gallery.
In the densely packed concentrations of refugees in this forbidding desert, any unsuspecting family or families may be blown away at any time by fighter bombers cruising at high altitudes if they happen to live close to somebody targeted for assassination by the Zionist military.
Unlike the West Bank, the Zionists have no interest in most of this land and so they think they can afford to leave it as a killing field.
Even the right-wing Zionist daily Jerusalem Post published an editorial analysis by Arieh O’ Sullivan that expressed doubt about the Israeli military’s claims of surprise at the civilian casualties. “Oh come on!” he asked. “What was the military thinking? That it could send in a fighter bomber and blow up a man’s house and only he would be killed?”
In fact, if the repressors are ruthless enough, they can calculate that “collateral damage” can help isolate the militants by making people afraid of being near them. One of the chiefs of the Zionist right, Tzviki Bar-Hai, a leader of the Jewish settlements council in the Hebron area, was quoted in the July 27 Haaretz as saying, “Anyone who gets near a terrorist, woman or child, should know that he will bear the responsibility.”
O’Sullivan pointed out that the strike in Gaza marked a new escalation in “Israel’s war on terror,” that is, its war against the Palestinian people. In fact, all of Israel’s imperialist allies and even liberals in the Zionist establishment felt compelled to condemn the attack. Shimon Peres, the head of the Israeli Labor Party, said that Israeli civilians would “pay a high price” for it.
In fact, the immediate effect was to rally all the Palestinian forces around the demand for “vengeance.” The one-ton missile also blew away attempts to convince the Palestinian underground organizations to stop suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.
The Israeli authorities could not have been unaware that it would have such an effect. Their action shows that they are not really concerned about preventing attacks on Jewish civilians. Whatever the cost of these attacks in human terms, politically they serve to strengthen the hands of the Zionist hard-liners.
On the other hand, even the Zionist rulers know how to combine the carrot and the stick. The murderous attack in Gaza was followed by promising concessions to the Palestinians, easing the curfews in the West Bank towns, allowing more Palestinians to work in Israel, and turning over more of the Palestinian Authority’s money collected by Israel to the Authority. But such limited easements do little to relieve the economic pressure that the Zionist repression has put on the West Bank and Gaza.
The U.S. government has had its ambassador to Israel warn the Zionist rulers that they must reduce the economic pressure on the Palestinians to avert “a humanitarian disaster.” According to World Bank data given to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, 21 percent of children under five in the territories occupied after the 1967 war are now suffering from “severe malnutrition,” as compared with only 2.5 percent in the year 2000, and 45 percent of all Palestinian children are suffering from anemia.
The World Bank figures also show that 70 percent of Palestinians live on less than two dollars a day, what one Israeli official referred to as “one falafel a day.” (“Falafel” is a patty made of ground chick peas mixed with some herbs and then deep fried. It is also an Israeli slang term equivalent to the U.S. “crap” or the more malodorous term for which that is a common euphemism.)
Israel’s economic decline
The Zionist war against the Palestinians is also becoming more damaging to the Israeli economy itself, in combination with the crisis of the world capitalist economy on which the Zionist state depends. The July 23 issue of Haaretz, the country’s most respected daily, reported that Israeli Treasury Director-General Ohad Marani is predicting that next year unemployment in Israel will reach 300,000. This is in a country of about 6 million people.
Already the Zionist authorities have been trying to clear out a large percentage of the 300,000 foreign workers living in the country, who were brought in to replace Palestinian labor. The government is threatening to deport forcibly 50,000 of them.
In 2000 and 2001, the Israeli Gross Domestic Product fell by 6 percent. While the per capita income was $17,892 in 2000, it is projected to fall to $16,640 by the end of 2002. Moreover, the size of the national debt for 2002 exceeded Gross Domestic Product.
Marani told the press that “one of the economy’s biggest problems is the low rate of workforce participation. For instance, just 84 percent of Israel’s male population is in the workforce, while the OECD average is 92 percent.”
Obviously, the main reason for this problem is that a huge percentage of Israeli men and women are spending a lot of their time in the Zionist army terrorizing Palestinians rather than doing productive work.
The economic as well as the human cost of the Zionist project of building a purely Jewish state in alliance with the imperialists to the detriment of the Palestinians and the dominated countries of the region is rising. Ultimately, it is probably unsustainable, and in any case it is a terrible waste of resources in a desperately poor area.
Even with imperialist support for the Zionist state, the Jewish population faces declining living standards and increasing burdens of militarization. Certainly some of them will begin thinking that there could be a better way of life, better hope, if they can find some way of living together peacefully with the Palestinians.
But that could only be on a basis of equality, in which they would share a common country, a democratic secular Palestine.