Israel floods occupied areas with settlers as “peace process” fizzles

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It’s like a magician’s trick. With everyone’s eyes on the “peace process,” what’s really going on in the Mideast is accelerated war, Israel against Palestine — settlement of occupied territory, draconian curfews, blanket bans on travel, discriminatory and excessive taxation, detention without charges, prisoner death by torture, killing of civilians, assassination, “openfire” policy against stone-throwers, deportation, destruction of homes and property, university closures, and repeated bombings of refugee camps.

The biggest rabbit under the peace-process hat is the tripling of settlement activity in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

• Israel has confiscated 35,000 more acres of land since March 1991.

• On February 18 of this year, a West Bank settlement was inaugurated as an Israeli city for the first time.

• New housing for up to 50,000 colonists is under construction in the West Bank and Gaza. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has vowed to populate the territories with Jews “to the end of the horizon,” in keeping with his Zionist view that Jews have the right and the destiny to turn Palestine into an exclusively Jewish enclave.

Israel: usurper of Palestine, poor cousin to the West. Israel’s obsessive drive to forcibly absorb the last fragments of Palestine and to strip the Palestinians of every vestige of national rights is inherent in its nature as a state.

Because it was founded on the dispossession of the Palestinians, Israel will be continue to be surrounded by implacable enemies. Palestinians will never relinquish the fight for self-determination, and their just claim is supported by much of the world.

And the new settlements, like Israel itself, can only be created by physically displacing vast numbers of people. About 750,000 Palestinians live in the 140-square-mile Gaza Strip, one of the world’s most crowded areas.

The Palestinians are challenging the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem with the magnificent and intractable Intifada, to which Zionism responds with ever greater repression.

Israel’s permanent state of hostilities with the Arabs has in turn necessitated a domestic police state in which no one is free, least of all the distantly second-class Arab Israelis. But no matter how rigidly it fortifies itself, this isolated fortress can never be strong enough to shake its economic, military, and political dependence on the capitalist West.

The U.S.: head conjurer of Mideast tricks. Israel was created by world capitalism as a garrison against Arab revolt and a junior partner in maintaining imperialist control of Mideast oil. Its economy would capsize without gargantuan subsidy from the globe-masters who gave it life — the U.S. has handed over $50 billion just in upfront loans and grants over the past 40 years.

But today, the special U.S.-Israeli relationship appears to be in jeopardy. Much of this is shadow-play.

The Zionist regime must freeze new construction in the occupied territories, Washington says, if it wants the U.S. to guarantee $10 billion in loans over the next five years.

But Israel is asking only that the U.S. cosign loans from private banks so that it can get low interest rates and so the banks are insured in case of Israeli default. U.S. refusal to guarantee the loans can be gotten around.

Much more to the point is that the approximately $4 billion that the U.S. now gives Israel in outright aid each year will be delivered as usual.

In the U.S.-Israeli relationship, the tail is not wagging the dog. On the contrary, the danger is that some day the U.S. ruling class may decide that it can protect its interests in the Mideast without Israel’s help. One of the many disturbing surprises of the Gulf war was the ease with which George Bush marshalled the Arab bourgeoisie into his corner so that he could send troops in with impunity.

The possibility of a sundering of U.S.-Israeli tie throws into sharp relief the fact that the real Israel is the opposite of the refuge its founders dreamed of and its immigrants seek. In fact, it is a death trap for the Jews, and will be for as long as its existence depends on the denial of Palestinian national rights. As long as it is allied with the U.S., Israel is a lightning rod for the hostility of oppressed Arabs toward imperialism. Divorced from the U.S., it would be hardly less hated — and incredibly vulnerable.

But there is not much chance of separation soon. The U.S. can not countenance Palestinian self-determination and it must stave off Arab rebellion, and Israel is still its best helpmate.

Zionism seeks strength, security through immigration. With a population of only four million and a low birth rate, the Israeli government considers that the state’s immediate survival depends on immigration. The desire of great numbers of Soviet Jews to relocate fits into Israel’s prayers and plans.

Many of these ex-Soviets have already been plunked down in the occupied territories, where Israel is using them as a human battering ram against Palestine. The Israeli right wing openly characterizes the settlements as a necessary military operation at the same time that it attempts to gain funding for them by portraying them as the height of humanitarianism.

Israeli rulers have nothing to lose and everything to gain by going along with the peace talks. While the diplomats parry and palaver, the Israeli presence in the territories jells.

Solidarity among workers the only path to peace. Opposition to the Israeli takeover of Palestinian land is growing. U.S. Jews are uneasy; Israeli Jews have taken to the streets in mass protests. And for Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, resistance in the form of the Intifada is now, as one Palestinian political analyst put it, “more than an event: it has become a way of life.”

The increasing repugnance against Israeli expansion and terror will be effective when it is harnessed to a viable alternative. The solution that will enable Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews to live side by side in peace is the establishment of a bilateral, integrated, secular, and socialist state with full rights for all.

Farfetched? Something only a magic act could produce? No. The long bloody history of the Mideast shows that every other approach is doomed to fail.

In the short run, a resolution such as the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank could be an improvement. But this would not bring an end to the deadly antagonism between Jew and Arab, as Israel — so powerful but so sick economically — would inevitably prey upon a much weaker, bantustan-like Palestine.

Ultimately, an alliance between the commonly exploited Arab and Jewish working classes is the only thing that can end the infernal stage-managing of Mideast affairs by the capitalists once and for all.

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