The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Faced with a rising revolt, Israel unleashes F16s on the Palestinian population

Jun 11, 2001

On May 18, for the first time since 1967, Israel sent F16 bombers against Palestinian targets. The jet fighters fired missiles on major population centers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the cities of Nablus, Ramallah and Gaza, killing 11, wounding dozens and turning many buildings into rubble.

The Israeli government said these air strikes were in retaliation for a suicide bombing which happened earlier that day in the Israeli town of Netanya: a 21yearold Palestinian detonated explosives strapped to his body in front of a shopping mall, killing five people besides himself, and wounding dozens of others.

The rise of revolt ... and repression

Since the suicide bomber was from the West Bank town of Tulkarm, the Israeli army made sure to send some helicopter gunships to that town, too, to punish the townspeople. And then came the usual collective punishment measures against all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, such as the customary closure of borders, keeping tens of thousands of people from going to work. This time, the Israeli army even closed the only highway in the Gaza Strip or rather, that half of it which is used by Palestinians. After the latest wave of the Palestinian uprising began last September, the Israeli army built a concrete divider down the center of this highway to keep the Palestinian population of Gaza, numbering over one million, apart from the Jewish settlers there, the full 5,000 of them!

It is such extremely unbearable, humiliating conditions that unify the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza against Israel. The rage of a population deprived of land, livelihood and a future keeps this newest wave of the Palestinian uprising, the "Second Intifada," alive and on the rise. (The first Intifada, the uprising in the Israelioccupied West Bank and Gaza Strip from 1987 to 1993, forced Israel to negotiate an agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization of Yasser Arafat, establishing the Palestinian Authority.)

Since the beginning of the Second Intifada last September, Israel has resorted to all of the repressive measures in its repertoire: military occupation, firing on unarmed protesters, the arrest and assassination of Palestinian militants, the shelling and bombing of neighborhoods, the flattening of entire neighborhoods with bulldozers, and now the F16s.

So far, however, these repressive measures seem only to have strengthened the uprising, which is carried on mainly by a very young population. For example, practically the entire city of Nablus turned out for the funerals of 11 policemen killed in the F16 raid which hit their police station. Young men shouted slogans, volunteering themselves for new suicide bombings. Other slogans were directed not only against Israel but also against the U.S. for supplying Israel with its stateoftheart weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. discovers the settlement problem

The continuing revolt of the Palestinian population has led the U.S. to seek a new round of cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. And this time, the U.S. has adopted a language which is unusually critical of Israel. The recent "Mitchell Report" on the IsraeliPalestinian conflict put the responsibility for the escalation of the violence primarily on the Israeli government. It not only called on Israel to immediately stop military confrontations but also to freeze the construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories something the U.S. had never suggested before.

The question of the settlements is certainly a key issue, to say the least. Since its inception, the state of Israel has used Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories as a means of grabbing land. No matter what political party was in power, all Israeli governments expanded these settlements and, through incentives and subsidies, actively encouraged Israelis to move into them. This policy didn't change in the least after the 1993 Oslo agreement between Israel and the PLO. Israel continued to build settlements in areas it had officially agreed to eventually cede to Palestinian control.

Since the Oslo Accord, the number of settler houses and apartments grew by 52%, swelling the settler population in the West Bank and Gaza from 115,000 in 1993 to 200,000 in 2000. This doesn't include the 180,000 settlers in occupied East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians want to establish the capital of their future state. There, new settlements and roads to these settlements are being designed in such a way that they would separate East Jerusalem from the West Bank. In general, these settlements, with the heavily armed Israeli army outposts protecting them, would turn a future Palestinian state into one where the population is confined in separate pockets of land, unable to freely move between different parts of what is supposed to be one and the same country.

This is not a new problem. If the U.S. now suddenly recognizes it, however, it's because of the Second Intifada. This massive popular revolt certainly threatens other areas of the Middle East, destabilizing the whole region which is so important to the U.S. government and corporations, not only because of oil but also strategically. So the U.S. wants Israel to make some concessions not only symbolic ones but ones that really matter to Palestinian people, such as freezing the settlements, even if only temporarily.

None other than the CIA chief himself

But at the same time, the U.S. wants to make sure the uprising is suppressed effectively something Israel alone has proved incapable of again and again, no matter how much it increases the use of brute force. So, once again, the U.S. is trying to get the Palestinian police forces to actively cooperate with Israel. This is not such an easy task since the Palestinian police chiefs in the West Bank and Gaza were both targets of Israeli assassination attempts within the last two months, and one of them was wounded!

That's why none other that the very head of the CIA, George Tenet, was dispatched last week to Israel to bring together Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs. The CIA has been involved for several years in this threeway cooperation to police the Palestinian population and control the intifada that is, of course, until Israeli troops attacked the Palestinian police chiefs. The U.S. is obviously sending in a highprofile official like Tenet in an effort to convince the Palestinians that it's safe for them to be around the Israelis again!

The way out for the Palestinian people

In the end, however, no combination of concessions proposed by the U.S. and Israel can answer the demands of the Palestinian population simply because the goal of these governments is to maintain the very conditions which have deprived the Palestinian people of a future.

So for the Palestinian people, the solution lies only in their ability to maintain and take further their revolt. The suicide bombings (to which the mass media always chooses to devote much publicity) and the Palestinian population's support for them may show the resolve and defiance of a people against far superior military forces. But they offer no way out for the Palestinians –all the more so because they are directed against the poorest layers of the Israeli population. Such individual acts of terrorism cannot break the stalemate of revolt, military repression and temporary concessions.

What has trapped the Palestinian people in poverty, unemployment and a lack of prospects is not only the Israeli state but a whole political and economic setup. The purpose of this setup is for big corporations, based above all in the U.S., to extract as much profit as possible from that part of the world. That's why the Palestinian workers and poor can break this vicious cycle only if they can lead their uprising towards destroying that whole setup and replacing it with one that will allow them to pursue their own aspirations: a decent, humane existence for all working people, including Israeli workers.