Apr 15, 2002
How many Palestinians did the Israeli military kill in the first two weeks of its invasion of the West Bank? No one knows. Taking a page from how the U.S. tightly controls the news coverage of its own military operations by the supposed free press, the Israeli military banned journalists from any district where it was carrying out its operations.
But the stories which have filtered out through aid workers in the West Bank are truly horrific. They tell of Israeli death squads, massacres and mass graves, indiscriminate killing of civilian men, women and children. They tell of the Israeli army using U.S.-supplied F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopter gun ships, heavy tanks and troop transports to carry out coordinated attacks on cities, towns and villages, blasting, shelling and bombing their way through, sometimes sending captive Palestinian men ahead of them at gunpoint as human shields. They tell of homes flattened by D9 bulldozers, often with their occupants in them. They tell of bodies rotting for days, the wounded moaning unattended, while the Israeli military prevented ambulances or U.N. emergency aid convoys from entering the war-torn areas. Everywhere, they say, there is the stench of rotting corpses, the stench of death. They tell of the Israeli military taking 4185 Palestinian prisoners to Tel Aviv or to the “Russian camp,” that is, its main torture centers, to undoubtedly be tortured – or worse.
The fiercest fighting was in the tightly packed Jenin refugee camp, which measured one kilometer by one kilometer and housed 15,000 Palestinians. Today, after the Israeli slaughter, the camp no longer exists. In taking the camp, the Israeli military killed at least 500 people, most of them civilians, and in the process, completely destroyed the camp.
Who knows what the outcome of this military operation will be. Certainly, the Israeli escalation during the last 18 months of the present conflict, this latest Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, has destroyed so much of the cities and towns, it has rendered much of the West Bank practically uninhabitable. For most people, there is no housing, drinkable water, electricity, food, medical care, jobs – that is, no way to live. Perhaps the Israeli army can force the Palestinians to continue to live under the most unspeakable conditions, in little more than concentration camps, under the permanent guard of the Israeli military or other mercenaries working for them. Or perhaps the Israeli government will take the next step, and force masses of Palestinians out of the occupied territories all together, that is, it will carry out mass ethnic cleansing.
Throughout its history, the state of Israel has the distinction of winning, often in a completely overwhelming fashion, all of its wars against the Palestinians and the other people of its region. But the victories, the piles of bodies of those it slaughtered, have not brought the Israeli population either peace or security. It has brought them only more war, more death and destruction. It has only turned the country itself into more and more of a besieged garrison state.
As the Israeli state, with massive U.S. aid, drives the Palestinian population into increasingly dire circumstances, it only produces a more implacable foe.
This, the Israeli population pays for and will continue to pay for – as long as they support the murderous policies of their own state. As long as the Israeli people accept to be the hangmen and prison guards of an entire people, the Israeli people become in turn, the targets of millions of people who have nothing more to lose.
The interests of the Israeli people are not served by Sharon’s war. The only hope in the current situation is that more and more Israelis break with his policies and refuse to follow him into the impasse where he leads them.