Saturday, August 30, 2003

I wrote recently that Hamas hadn't taken responsibility for the most recent bus bombing in Israel, but actually they did, sort of. I get the distinct impression that one part of Hamas was surprised at what another part had done. The bombing was said to be in retaliation for the targeted assassination by Israel of Muhammad Seeder, head of the military wing of Hamas in Hebron. Islamic Jihad initially took responsibility for the bus bombing, and hours later, Hamas also took responsibility (after initially saying it wasn't involved, as it was 'committed to the truce'). The bus bomber was a Hamas member, and a very atypical suicide bomber (older, more educated, with a family), who claimed he did it in retaliation for the assassination of Muhammad Seeder (who was a friend of his). Under the terms of the hudna as Hamas defined it, they were allowed to retaliate for direct attacks on their members, and in fact had already killed Israelis in retaliation for targeted assassinations on Hamas members. The only difference in this attack was the number of Israelis killed. Israel's response to the bus bombing was to kill a member of the political wing, and not the military wing, of Hamas. They admitted that they did so because the military members of Hamas had gone into hiding, and Ismail Abu Shanab was an available target (although you can't help but wonder that the target was also chosen because he was a moderate who advocated peace and a two-state solution). The assassination of Ismail Abu Shanab was a deliberate escalation by Sharon of the conflict, and he had to know it would result in the end of the cease-fire. The disgusting American media generally portrays the situation in the Palestine as consisting of a series of deliberate unprovoked attacks by Palestinian militants on innocent Israeli citizens. The bus bombing was described as a breach of the calm, while the facts are that during the period of the cease-fire Israeli soldiers had killed or injured a considerable number of Palestinians. Almost all of these killings received no response from the Palestinians, and therefore Palestinian militant groups regarded themselves as exhibiting restraint. The only counterattacks were when members of a Palestinian resistance group were specifically targeted for assassination by Sharon. Even without Sharon's intentional scuppering of the hudna, it was bound to fail as:

  1. it didn't benefit Sharon and the right-wing Zionists, who want as much terrorism from the Palestinians as possible to justify their continued program of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from the Palestine; and

  2. it didn't benefit the Palestinians, who had to stop the intifada while watching Sharon continue to build the apartheid separation wall while gleefully increasing the size and number of the illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories.

While all this 'peace' has been going on, just what have the Israelis been up to?:

  1. They continue to build the apartheid separation wall. Despite some lukewarm musings from the Bush Administration that American money wouldn't be used to build it, American money continues to flow without any real restrictions on how it is used. Sharon said that good fences make good neighbors, but would a fence make a good neighbor if you build your fence through the middle of your neighbor's living room? Even someone as stupid as George Bush has realized that the point of the wall's location is to make a Palestinian state impossible. The Israelis seem to have determined the location based precisely on how much anguish it can provide to the daily lives of the Palestinians. The point of the wall is to make life for Palestinians so intolerable that they will 'voluntarily' decide to leave. An American witness to the Palestinian suffering on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, retired Ohio University professor Jim Coady, said:

    "They are essentially building giant prisons for the Palestinians. They really don't want to look at these Palestinians . . . You should see it. It's unbelievable."

    and, referring to the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to stop the bombings:

    "Oh, definitely - they're trying. They were ready to have a cease-fire. What's damaging them right now is, the Israelis aren't doing anything but pro-forma stuff. They're still building the wall, they're still building the settlements."

    Rather than build it along the 'Green Line' which separates Israel from the Occupied Territories, Sharon is building it mostly on Palestinian land, separating people from their farms and generally using the wall to create a de facto annexation by Israel of even more of the Occupied Territories. They have actually gone so far as to use it as an excuse to destroy Palestinian homes and businesses. As Shareef Omar writes:

    "Israeli officials have justified the wall's construction as necessary for security. However, if it were for security, it would follow the Green Line. Building it four miles inside the Green Line means only one thing: The Israelis are confiscating more Palestinian land and water."

    Sharon thus exemplifies every anti-Semitic stereotype of the grasping Jew, unable to do anything without managing to steal something in the process. Shylock lives, and his name is Ariel Sharon (although Shylock is a much more sympathetic character than Sharon could ever be).

  2. The Israelis passed a law prohibiting Palestinians who marry Israelis from becoming citizens or residents of Israel, thus formalizing an existing Israeli policy. This is intended specifically to affect the marriage of Israeli Arabs to Arabs from the Occupied Territories, and is eerily similar to the Nuremberg Race Laws passed by the Nazis regarding citizenship and marriage rights of German Jews. Israeli Arabs who are married to Palestinians will now have to leave Israel in order to remain with their families. From the age of twelve, their children will be subject to the same prohibition, and will be denied citizenship or residency and forced to move out of Israel (amazing, isn't it?). It only applies to Palestinians: anyone else who marries an Israeli is eligible for Israeli citizenship. The irony is immense: the law singles out the descendents of those who were actually living on the land before the State of Israel was created for special second-class status. It is just another part of the increasing legalization of the de facto discrimination against Palestinians in Israel (it parallels the issue of land ownership, where a similarly racist law wasn't passed as the racism was deemed to be enforceable by administrative, rather than legal, methods). It is so offensively and obviously racist that even the ADL has complained about it.

  3. As I mentioned above, the Israelis continue to kill and injure Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and actions by the IDF, no matter how vile, are almost never punished. The restraint shown by the Palestinian militants in keeping the hudna as long as they did, given the constant provocation, is quite remarkable. The killing of Palestinians is completely invisible to the disgusting American media, who depict the entire conflict as a series of completely unprovoked attacks by Palestinians against innocent Israeli civilians, all as part of the evil Palestinian goal to drive the Israelis into the sea. If the American public were ever shown even a tiny part of the truth about what they are paying for (and on one calculation, support of the Zionists has cost the American taxpayers $3 trillion over the years, for which they have bought themselves a lifetime of terrorist attacks), American support for the Israeli state would end immediately, and Israel would soon disappear. Truth to Zionism is like kryptonite to Superman.

  4. The illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories continue to expand. The most outrageous expansion is slated to occur in the Gaza Strip, and offends both the letter and the spirit of the 'road map'. Although Sharon has staged a few violent removals of some uninhabited trailers which were there specifically so their removal could be shown on American television, the process of increasing the size of the settlements so that peace will always be impossible continues. I've always felt the whole settlement issue is the single greatest proof of the essential mendacity of the Israeli position. Since they are supposed to be turning over the land to the Palestinians, why would they expand any settlement? They continue to play this bad faith game of playing lip service to the concept that the Palestinians are entitled to the land at some point in the future when there is no more terrorism, while simultaneously creating the 'facts on the ground' which make peace impossible. In fact, the hudna, like the Oslo Accords before it, has just been used as a method of obtaining relative quiet to continue the rather obvious plan to slowly ethnically cleanse the Occupied Territories of Palestinians. Squeezed out by increasing numbers of settlements of increasing size, with crazed settler violence making Palestinian life nearby impossible, the plan is to force the Palestinians to decide to leave (remarkably following the Zionist myth that the Palestinians voluntarily left in 1947). The Zionist plan is like a ratchet, taking every chance to expand settlements when the Palestinians are relatively quiescent, and then never giving up an inch in the times of violence when the most noticeable settlement expansions have to be temporarily slowed.

  5. Israel has allowed Jews and tourists into the area of the Al-Aqsa mosque, a deliberately provocative move. In fact, it was Sharon's little walk in the same area which provoked the most recent intifada. This is exactly the kind of Israeli action that is liable to provoke terrorist attacks and incite anger throughout the Muslim world, and the American failure to do anything about it shows how bogus the entire American war on terror actually is.

  6. People are starting to notice that Sharon has a pattern of doing something which he knows will provoke a suicide bombing whenever he needs some outrage for his domestic political problems. He knows that he can create an almost immediate suicide bombing if he uses targeted assassination to kill the leader of a Palestinian resistance group. Since he obviously does this on purpose, it is odd that the Israelis seem not to blame him for all the Israeli civilian deaths that have resulted. The issue is abundantly clear in the assassination of Ismail Abu Shanab, which was intended to end the hudna at least in part in order to draw attention away from the massive personal corruption problems that Sharon faces.

  7. Besides the big increase in targeted assassinations, the Israelis have taken the excuse of the end of the hudna to accomplish a number of goals:

    • to reenter towns in the Occupied Territories temporarily vacated to appease the Americans as part of the 'road map', and continue the violent repression of the Palestinian people, including the terrorism of the checkpoints;

    • to have the Americans freeze Hamas bank accounts used to provide charitable relief to destitute Palestinians, thus creating more suffering (hundreds of Palestinians relying on welfare payments were unable to pick up their monthly support payments as the Palestinian Monetary Authority, under pressure from the Americans, had closed down the bank accounts on which the payments were drawn);

    • to insist that the Americans reduce funding to the Palestinian Authority - funding used for specific development and relief programs - until the Palestinian Authority ends terrorism, a rather amusing demand since Israeli emasculation of the Palestinian Authority has made it incapable of stopping any terrorism.

I think it is funny that 'progressives' in countries like Britain, the United States and Canada are advocating that these three countries switch to some form of proportional voting system (of course, whatever such system you criticize is depicted as being different from their particular favorite, as there appear to be many to choose from). In other words, they seem to feel that an Israeli system, where one-insane-issue parties can hold the whole system up to blackmail if their hobby-horse issue isn't implemented - exactly what goes on in Israel and is responsible for the continued power of Sharon whose sole political gift is as a political horse trader - is preferable to the much derided 'first-past-the-post' system that exists in the main Anglo-American democracies. These 'progressives' are just looking for a method that will alow them to use a corporatist system to haggle for their own hobby-horses, and should be resisted at all costs, unless of course everyone wants to be like Israel.