Oct 10, 2005
Not even two weeks after the last Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers supposedly left the Gaza Strip "liberated," the Israeli army again went on a violent offensive against the Palestinian population.
A deadly explosion in Gaza during a military parade organized by Hamas left 19 Palestinians dead. The Palestinian Authority said the cause of the explosion was an accident, but many remained suspicious that the "accident" was an Israeli action. In any case, homemade rockets were fired in reprisal from a border village in Palestine into the Israeli town of Sderot. Six people there were wounded. The Israeli army responded strongly. The government of Ariel Sharon used this incident to justify deploying heavy artillery batteries along the Gaza Strip, organizing air raids and launching missiles that led to the death of four leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Twenty civilians were also wounded. The Israeli military destroyed buildings, including a school, and terrorized the population in the overcrowded neighborhoods and surrounding countryside.
"We don't intend to launch just occasional operations, but rather to maintain an ongoing operation whose objective is to hit the terrorists by every means," insisted Sharon during these attacks. To make his point, he organized the arrest of many hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank, the majority of whom were suspected of being political militants. In particular, the Israelis arrested many Hamas candidates for the upcoming municipal elections that are scheduled in the occupied territories.
No matter what pretext the Israeli government invokes, the conditions in which one and a half million Palestinians live, stacked into the Gaza Strip, keeps this territory a powder keg ready to explode. In the absence of a perspective for a viable Palestinian state, many young Palestinians are influenced by Islamic groups which present themselves as radicals. Hamas and other groups fill a power vacuum left by the weak and despised Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli government continues its policy of expanding the settler colonies in the West Bank. It also unashamedly continues the construction of the "apartheid" wall that encircles areas inhabited by Palestinians. This wall further reduces the physical existence of a Palestinian state to a succession of autonomous "reserves."
The recent increase in Israel's attacks on the Palestinians may be linked to a struggle going on within Sharon's own Likud party. Sharon played the tough guy at the very moment when his party's central committee was trying to decide on a date for presenting next year's candidates. Sharon barely saved his position, with just under 52% of the 3000 members of the party's leading body supporting him. His rival, Netanyahu, who opposed the withdrawal of the settlers from Gaza, made his appeal to the right-wing extremists and ultra-religious groups.
Sharon is no man of peace, even if he did oversee the withdrawal of a few Israeli settlers from Gaza. He proves it by his competition with Netanyahu to see who will take the tougher stance against the Palestinians.
The chief victims of the hypocritical "peace process" are the Palestinians. But if the Israeli majority wants a peaceful settlement of the conflicts, it cannot count on either Sharon or Netanyahu. Nor can it count on the leaders of the Israeli Labor Party who have never presented a policy fundamentally different than that of the right-wing parties, and who give support to Sharon today.