|PETRAS ESSAYS IN ENGLISH|
July 25, 2002
The Israeli air assault on an apartment complex killing and wounding nearly 200 people including the death of 10 children has a deeper meaning. Despite some ritualistic and hypocritical apologies for the assassination of the Palestinians by some Israeli officials, President Sharon's triumphal views on the killings revealed the real feeling of the Israeli state. Sharon hailed the assault as " one of our major successes", as Palestinians carried coffins containing the body parts of 14 victims and the tiny body of an infant girl.
Sharon and his military commanders defend the dropping of a one-ton bomb on a heavily populated neighborhood in Gaza expecting to cause massive death and injury, and they succeeded. There are several strategic reasons why Sharon chose to bomb Palestinian civilians in Gaza at that time - using the pretext of the presence of Hamas leader Al Salah Shehade. In the first place Sharon and the Israeli regime sought to scuttle a proposal for a cease fire signed by all the Palestinian resistance organizations ( including Hamas, Jihad etc.) and backed by most of the Arab states, even Saudi Arabia. The proposal included a unilateral commitment to cease suicide attacks against Israeli civilians. Sharon chose to bomb Palestinian civilians precisely at that moment to avoid facing the prospect of negotiating - a reciprocal agreement for a cease fire and withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Occupied Territories. Negotiations which proceeded in this direction would undermine Sharon's strategy of driving the Palestinians out of Palestine through the occupation and destruction of their homes, and social and economic infrastructure. For Sharon, as many previous Israeli leaders, war and terror is preferable to dismantling the settlements and recognizing a Palestinian state.
When Sharon speaks of "success" he means that he anticipates that the mass killing and maiming of civilians in Gaza will provoke Palestinian retaliation. It was no accident that Sharon chose Gaza City, one of the best organized and socially conscious cities in the occupied territories. Sharon is counting on the Palestinian resistance's military retaliation to once more present Israel as the "victim" of terrorism and receive favorable coverage in the US media. In other words Sharon is willing to sacrifice a few Jewish victims to Palestinian retaliation in order to sabotage any openings to negotiations and any settlement. Israel's success is measured by the ability to sustain the spiral of violence in Palestine.
The larger purpose of Sharon's terror attack is to undermine the growing programmatic consensus among Arab states ( including even Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan ) and the Palestinian resistance movements. Sharon's violent attack is designed to provoke a military response from the Palestinians, a move which the conservative Arab states will not support. In the context of Palestinian retaliation, Sharon can count on President Bush's support despite Washington's mild criticism of the Israeli massacre.
Sharon's bombing in Gaza is also meant as a test of loyalty for the major pro-Israeli Jewish and fundamentalist Christian organizations in the US. Not a single major Jewish organization backing Israel mouthed any criticism of Sharon's assault. The same is true of the ultra-right fundamentalist Christians. Sharon can count on their unconditional support in unleashing another wave of terror following the inevitable Palestinian retaliation.
Sharon thrives in an ambience of permanent tension and war, where he can exercise his totalitarian will. The bombing of Gaza fed his drive to invade and destroy Palestinian communities in Gaza as earlier he destroyed Jenin and occupied and terrorized the West Bank. Sharon moves with impunity despite occasional Parliamentary criticism or Cabinet resignations because he knows beforehand that, whatever criticism he receives from the White House, he can count on Bush's support in his strategy of ethnic cleansing. Even as Sharon was celebrating his victory, the White House spokesman Ari Fleisher said, "The President is and will always be a great friend of Israel. The President has deep understanding for what Israel (sic) had been going through. The President is the first to defend Israel's right to defend itself." The F-16 fight jet that executed the bombing was a recent gift from Washington to Tel Aviv, knowing in advance its probable use in savaging Palestinians.
Sharon is and always has been a militarist extremist - an Israeli leader with a violent hatred of the Palestinians and particularly their resistance movements and leaders. Through his military and political assaults on Palestinians he has provoked reprisals, which he has used to arouse intense support among a broad sector of Israeli society and overseas Jewish organizations. His psychopathic behavior finds a favorable terrain today in the Bush Administration's "War on Terrorism". The recent US Air Force's massacre of scores of Afghan villagers and their justification in Washington resonates with Sharon's approval of the bombing of Gaza City. Washington military expansion, its new military bases in Central Asia, the Balkans and in Latin America are larger versions of Sharon's militarization of the Occupied Territories. Washington's division of the world between empire or terrorists is reflected in Sharon's division between Greater Israel and terrorists. And the Israeli lobby in the US united Israel and the US against "the terrorists" - Palestinians and the rest of the rebellious Third World.
No one believes that the bombing of Gaza was an "intelligence failure" or an "error" - because even Sharon publicly states it was planned and executed under his leadership. Sharon's claim that the purpose was to execute a Hamas leader is lacking in credulity. The purpose was more strategic: to set the stage for the massive military assault on Gaza ( following Palestinian retaliation ) and to drive the Palestinians in the Sinai desert and unite "Greater Israel_ . The negotiating posture of Shimon Peres is complementary to Sharon's military solution. Releasing confiscated Palestinian funds sustains Arafat and his entourage while Sharon destroys the Palestinian resistance and terrorizes the community. The Palestinian resistance, as it has learned repeatedly during this Intifada, can only rely on itself in its struggle against Sharon's "Final Solution". Is it surprising that in a situation where all peaceful overtures evoke greater state violence, and with their backs to the barren desert and in the midst of the desolate ruins of their communities, that young uprooted Palestinians will respond to terror with terror?