Jun 26, 2006
On June 9, the Israeli army shot a rocket onto a Gaza beach, killing eight people and wounding 35. Houda Ghaliya, ten years old, lost her parents and three brothers and sisters. On June 13, nine Palestinian civilians were killed and 32 wounded by an Israeli bombing of one of Gaza’s main streets. Two rockets were fired, one on a car supposedly carrying Palestinian militants which missed its target; the other rocket went into a crowd.
Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he “regretted the death of innocent civilians” and that an investigation was taking place to evaluate the “possible responsibility” of the Israeli army in the massacre on the Gaza beach. Investigation? No, it was simply a whitewash. The Israeli army demonstrated it was a Palestinian mine that killed the family on the Gaza beach on June 13. Olmert himself admitted that it was an Israeli rocket that killed the nine people on the beach, and again deplored the civilian deaths. But he added that the army “is not a danger to civilians.”
What hogwash! Not only has the Israeli army occupied all or part of the Palestinian territories for 40 years, but it has the power of life or death over the population. Everything is done under the pretext of combating Palestinian terrorism. Yes, the Palestinian side has carried out some small attacks. They have fired homemade rockets, with a short range and little power, onto Israeli territory located near Gaza.
On the other hand, Israeli military operations have assassinated militants and Palestinian leaders. They have murdered civilians, including entire families. Such massacres occurred on April 10, May 20 and June 9. The population in the Gaza territory, which Israel pulled out of last September, has been under a permanent threat of being bombing. The territory is surrounded by the Israeli army which decides everything that goes in and out, people and goods.
Israel has support from all the Western powers for its policy of cordoning off Palestine. Using the pretext of the Islamic Hamas Party’s election victory, these powers suspended all financial aid. Government employees haven’t been paid for four months, the economy is blockaded, hospitals have no medicine, etc.
Supported by the great powers, Olmert can continue the policy begun by Sharon and all his predecessors. Israel creates the de facto situation on the ground that allows it to unilaterally decide new borders, for example, by annexing new territory. Further, Olmert very hypocritically declared, “If the discussions with Abbas (the president of the Palestinian Authority) don’t succeed, Israel will take its destiny in hand.” But it’s precisely Israel which, by its entire policy of terror, makes discussions with Abbas or with any Palestinian government impossible. Not only have the years of occupation and repression resulted in bringing the Islamic Hamas Party into power, but provocations like the bombing of families on the beach only reinforce the partisans of a hardline policy inside Hamas.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and the leader of Fatah, the current minority party in the Palestinian parliament, is trying to organize a referendum which would permit him to open discussions with Israel. The Palestinian government and the Hamas ministers are opposed to it, arguing that they have been elected and they are the only ones able to legitimately decide the country’s affairs. The opposition between Hamas and Fatah becomes more acute every day. Each has its militias and its bastions, and armed confrontations have already led to some twenty deaths.
There is a real possibility that a civil war could break out between the Palestinian factions. If it did, it would not only be a catastrophe for Palestinians, in particular in Gaza, the most isolated, the poorest and the most overpopulated territory, but it would further strengthen Olmert’s position and that of the State of Israel, giving them still freer hands to annex new territories. Moreover, Olmert himself may set off this war between Palestinian parties by pursuing his policy of terror, economic strangulation and scorn for the Palestinian population.
A majority of Israeli voters brought Olmert to power after Sharon, because his party, Kadima, and the Labor Party promised to put an end to the war and the occupation of Palestinian territories and to establish “secure and recognized borders” for Israel. Instead, Olmert proposes only to continue to build the wall of separation started by Sharon. The Israeli population pays a price for this policy, not only economically but morally. And it would lead to an even bigger catastrophe. The sustained tension among Palestinians, and between Palestinians and Israelis, can only turn against Israel itself. The population of Israel must fight to force Israeli leaders to respect the rights of the Palestinians.