U.S.-Israel Sow the Wind

Against the Current, No. 96, January/February 2002

A Statement by the ATC Editors

THE ISRAELI STATE’s most ferocious attempt since 1982 to finally destroy the existing leadership of the Palestinian movement marks an ominous new stage in a degenerating crisis.

Ariel Sharon’s objective: to destroy the Palestinian Authority (PA) under Yaser Arafat—whether by forcing him into an intra-Palestinian civil war that neither the PA nor its Islamist opponents can win, or by subjecting Arafat to such extreme personal humiliation that his leadership authority collapses.

This time, unless there is rapid and decisive international intervention, there is every likelihood that this campaign will succeed.  The United States government has overtly endorsed Israel’s labelling the PA as “an entity harboring terrorism,” putting Arafat on the level of the Taliban leadership.

On December 11, in an unexpected and extraordinarily blind act of follow-the-leader, the European Union called upon Arafat to “end the Intifada,” something that Arafat cannot possibly manage whether or not he may wish to do so.

Immediately after Israel’s assassination of the military leader of the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas, correspondent Alex Fishman wrote in the Israeli daily paper Yediot Ahranot that a violent explosion would result, because that killing had destroyed a recently concluded agreement between Hamas and the PA to end military operations inside Israel.

He also pointed out that the deaths of five Gaza children blown to bits walking to school was an inevitable, even if accidental, consequence of the Israeli army placing roadside bombs aimed at killing militants.

Just as Fishman predicted, the Hamas suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa went off the next weekend.  Sharon’s response—destroying Arafat’s helicopters, airport and security offices, even while demanding that Arafat crush the Islamic movement—is aimed less at “stopping terror” than at finishing off the PA once and for all.

Ever since the ill-fated Oslo accords, the Palestinian Authority has been trapped between co-managing the continuing Israeli occupation and trying to resist it. Its promises to achieve peace and dignity for the Palestinian people, in a viable independent state, have come to nothing.  But the United States (and Europe) have seen the PA as a valuable buffer between the occupation and an increasingly bitter and angry Palestinian population.

Throughout this period U.S. policy has underwritten Israel’s step-by-step expansion of settlements, the gradual destruction of the Palestinian economy, and village-by-village ethnic cleansing.  It may be the Sharon government’s hope, in the context of an expanding U.S. “war on global terrorism,” that the United States might now allow a previously unacceptable expansion of killing and population removal.

Worst of all, opinion polls show that a majority of Jewish Israelis endorse their government’s assassination policies—and in response, a majority of Palestinians support suicide bombings—even though the same polls clearly show that the very same Israelis and Palestinians do not expect these horrible acts to bring security or independence.

Arafat’s failures as a leader of a national movement are beside the point.  Right now, if the United States and Europe allow Sharon’s offensive to succeed, they and the world will reap the whirlwind.

from ATC 96 (January/February 2002)