Public meeting in New York City, Saturday, November 2:
Communists and the World Struggle against Imperialism Today
Palestinians protest after
deadly Israeli copter raid
Palestinians mobilize to condemn Israeli assault in Ramallah on West Bank. Top: at Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon. Bottom: students in Gaza City.
BY PATRICK O’NEILL
Thousands of Palestinians mobilized in the Gaza Strip on September 24, just hours after an Apache helicopter fired on a group of Palestinians, killing nine. The attack came during a 1:00 a.m. raid on alleged weapons factories.
Several days earlier the Israeli siege and bombardment of Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat’s offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah sparked an outpouring by the city’s Palestinian residents. As bulldozers leveled structures in the compound and officers barked orders for those inside the building to surrender, thousands of Palestinians converged on Ramallah’s central square.
Confronted by Israeli troops who fired tear gas and rubber bullets, killing two, Palestinian youth defended themselves with stones. "We’re waiting for them," said one young man. "We’re not afraid."
Similar protests took place in Tulkarm and Nablus, in each of which one Palestinian was killed, and Qalqilya, Jenin, and other towns in the West Bank, in defiance of Israeli troops and the curfews they enforce. In Gaza City, members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations marched alongside Arafat supporters to condemn the Israeli action.
The Gaza raids on alleged weapons-producing plants, conducted roughly every second night, involve columns of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and often a brigade of soldiers. Army officers explain that this is an effort to step up both their display and use of force, following the losses they suffered in fighting in the Jenin refugee camp in April. There, Palestinians fought back effectively against the Israeli drive to pulverize the town center and terrorize its residents.
"It is better to display Israel’s quantitative and qualitative superiority," reported the Ha’aretz newspaper, summarizing the Israeli Defense Forces officers’ thinking, "so that no one will think of messing with us."
U.S. president Bush criticized the Israeli siege in Ramallah, describing the Israeli actions as "not helpful."
Bush’s September 24 comment followed Washington’s abstention on a UN Security Council resolution that called for Tel Aviv to pull back from the blockade of the Palestinian Authority compound. Sponsored by European Union officials, the resolution also condemned Palestinian "terrorism."
Four days earlier, reported Ha’aretz, U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the Congressional Armed Services Committee that Israel "must refrain from responding if it is attacked by Iraq." Rumsfeld made the comment during testimony urging broad support for a US. war on Baghdad.
The daily noted, "this is the first public comment by a senior U.S. official regarding a possible U.S. response to an Iraqi attack on Israel.... Sources in Washington predicted...that the U.S. will do all in its power to prevent Israel from taking action, by launching intense attacks against Iraq missile launchers and through military assistance."
Rumsfeld calls for ‘restraint’
Rumsfeld urged Tel Aviv to act with the "restraint" he said it had exhibited during the 1990–91 Gulf War, when Iraqi Scud missiles landed on Israeli soil. In fact, during that conflict U.S. commanders declined to give their Israeli counterparts the friend-or-foe codes necessary for their planes to carry out retaliatory raids.
Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, said that this time the Israeli pilots have already been given the relevant codes by U.S. officers, according to the September 24 U.S. Today.
The Israeli government of Ariel Sharon has made no bones about its support for the U.S. policy toward Baghdad. "It is a world interest, but especially an American interest to attack Iraq," said Deputy Defense Minister and Labor Party member Weizman Shiry in late August.
Deputy Interior Minister Gideon Ezra said that a U.S. invasion would deal "a psychological blow" to the Palestinians and would "help Israel impose a new order, sans Arafat, in the Palestinian territories," reported the Christian Science Monitor. "The more aggressive the attack is, the more it will help Israel against the Palestinians," he said. "The understanding would be that what is good to do in Iraq, is also good for here."
Government officials have repeatedly stated that Israeli will use its armed forces if attacked.
"The Americans prefer that we not retaliate, but they don’t understand that if we are hit, we have to retaliate," said one.
The Jordanian regime has expressed concern about the impact of a war on the already explosive situation in the occupied territories, and especially of the effect of any move by Tel Aviv to take advantage of the fighting to mount a renewed push against the Palestinians.
"The concern is that Sharon will push Palestinians over the border from the West Bank in order to increase the Jewishness of the West Bank"--already honeycombed with Israeli settlements--said Mustafa Hamarneh, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. Jordan’s population is majority Palestinian.