Oct 11, 2004
Over 94 Palestinians were killed and many more wounded in the first 12 days after the Israeli army started an offensive in the northern part of the Gaza strip. The death count could go much higher: the Israeli authorities expect the operation called "Days of Repentance" to last a number of weeks.
Several months ago, Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon declared that Israel would pull out of the Gaza strip and that the ultra-religious Jewish settlements in this area would be dismantled. These announcements were, in fact, a recognition that the ongoing strength and persistence of the Palestinian revolt against the Israeli occupiers of their land – the second Intifada – has made it impossible for Israel to achieve its objectives.
Were Sharon's announcements also a decision to try to take Israel out of the bloody quagmire of the last 37 years in the Gaza? These announcements were surely an attempt to gain a free hand to carve up the rest of the occupied territories. Because at the same time, Sharon has continued to build the "Wall of Shame" that divides up the West Bank into pieces, putting the majority of the Palestinian population into ghettos.
Yet inside Israel, the announcement of a progressive retreat from Gaza proved to be too much of a compromise for the nationalist and religious right-wingers. The settlers and their supporters in the government mobilized to oppose Sharon's announcements. They organized demonstrations against Sharon, accusing him of being a traitor to the "sacred land of Israel," which in their eyes includes all of the Palestinian territories.
On the Palestinian side, the Hamas militia then reacted by firing rockets into Jewish settlements, killing two children. Sharon used this excuse to send tanks and helicopters into the Gaza strip. He accused the Palestinian population there of collectively supporting the "terrorists." Sharon acts as if it is not this terrorism of the Israeli state for all these years that serves as Hamas' justification for its actions against the Jewish population. He acts as if the Israeli policy of national oppression of the Palestinians, carried out with the cynical and hypocritical support of the major world powers, can produce any other result than a permanent war between two peoples. It is the Palestinians who pay the biggest price, but it is also ordinary Israelis who fall victim to countless attacks and to much repression – as the subsequent terrorist attack on Israelis in Egypt shows.
Today more than ever – for the interests first of all of the Palestinians but also for the Israeli population – the only way to move out of this bloody impasse is for the Israeli troops and settlers to withdraw completely from all the Palestinian territories.