By GERRY FOLEY
As they anticipate a U.S. strike against Iraq and thereby against Arab nationalism, the Zionist rulers continue to step up their pressure on the Palestinian population. (The Israeli minister of defense, Benjamin Ben Elizer, says that he expects the U.S. assault on Iraq to begin between mid-November and mid-December.)
The Israeli press has reported that U.S. pressure on Sharon to end the military siege of Yasser Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah was stronger than expected. Obviously, as the United States is pressing its right-wing Arab allies, such as the Saudi absolute monarchy, to collaborate with its attack on a neighboring Arab nation, the pictures in the world press of Israeli tanks surrounding the shattered center of the Palestinian Authority was a serious embarrassment.
The backing off of the Israeli military from Arafat’s door in September was seen generally by Palestinians as a victory, sweet because of its rarity. But it was only a small one and there is no reason to think it was lasting. The Zionists keep squeezing.
The latest assault on Arafat’s headquarters was another attempt to hold the entire Palestinian leadership responsible for any attack on Israel, regardless of which group sponsored it. This is the crown of Israel’s policy of collective reprisal, the cumulative effect of which is nearing genocidal proportions.
One indication was the UN health agency report released on Sept. 27. It was presented to the UN by the president of the World Health Organization, Gro Harlem Brundtland. Some of her remarks were summarized in the Sept. 27 issue of the liberal Zionist daily Haaretz, such as the following:
“She noted that delays at Israeli military checkpoints prevented the proper cold storage of vaccines, and cited UN figures showing the number of women attending postnatal clinics had dropped by 52 percent. Palestinians living in rural areas were often unable to reach hospital, she said.”
Brundtlund also pointed to a deterioration of the Palestinian diet, owing to severe shortages of high protein foods such as meat and fish and the resulting price increases that put them out of the reach of most Palestinians
Malnourishment is on the increase. A USAID report said that almost half of Palestinian children under the age of five and women of child-bearing age were anemic. Nine percent of children were suffering from wasting and 13 percent suffered from stunted growth.
An article in the Aug. 9 issue of the London Guardian noted a USAID report that one in 10 children in the Gaza Strip were suffering from acute malnutrition, putting that giant prison on a par with Chad or Nigeria.
Brundtlund went onto say, according to Haaretz’s summary: “Children also were particularly at risk from drinking water polluted after pipelines and the sewage network was destroyed in several areas. Curfews and checkpoints hampered efforts by Palestinian workers to repair pipelines and clean the water supply.”
The Israeli representative to the UN, Yaakov Levy, retorted that these problems were all the Palestinians’ own fault: “The reason for difficulties in delivering health services and for the necessity to effect closures and some limitations on freedom of movement are not the ones mentioned in [the report] but one: the continued campaign of violence initiated and perpetrated by the Palestinian Authority against Israelis.”
On Oct. 3, Haaretz reported a statement from the UNICEF representative for the region, Pierre Poupard, that the Israeli assaults on Palestinian communities were preventing a fourth of Palestinian children from attending school. In addition, 580 schools have been closed as a result of incursions by the Israeli army into certain areas-mainly Tulkarm, Jenin, Hebron, and Nablus.
In a cynical article in the Oct. 2 Haaretz, Amira Hass argued that the conflict over Arafat and his headquarters was only a sideshow, that the main conflict was over the land, and in that conflict Israel was winning all the battles:
“The struggle is waged on three main fronts. First, within the context of a security and separation fence (whose route is being designated according to the demands of settlers), West Bank Palestinians will lose tens of thousands of dunams of fertile agricultural land, as well as land awaiting development. Formally demarcated land that will be lost to the fence amounts ‘only’ to several hundred dunams. But access to thousands of dunams that are of high value to their owners and to the Palestinian economy will be blocked.”
The second front was commercial restrictions: “In addition to being unable to work their lands, Palestinians living in the shadow of the separation fence will face stringent restrictions on their ability to market their goods-such limitations have already been in effect for two years in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The right to market goods is the second front in the struggle over land, and the limitations squeeze the incomes and the futures of 60 percent of Palestinians who live in villages.”
The third front was building restrictions: “Two weeks ago, for example, IDF [Israeli Defense Force] troops and the civil administration demolished 34 housing units in a residential neighborhood built by the Palestinian workers’ association at a village near Ramallah. … A work stoppage order was issued a year ago but the demolition, Palestinians say, was done without advance warning and without the residents having a chance to seek legal recourse.”
These reports make it clear that the Zionists are slowly squeezing the life out of the entire Palestinian community. In this context, it is not surprising that the London Guardian has been reviewing the history of Zionist and imperialist plans for ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from the land claimed by the Zionists.