by Crescent International (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 30, No. 22, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1422)
Israel went on the offensive, both militarily and in propaganda terms, on January 9 after a Hamas operation inside 1948 Palestine (Israel) in which 4 Israeli soldiers were killed and two Hamas activists martyred. Israeli soldiers responded by demolishing 73 homes in nearby Ghazzah, according to the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), making 123 families — adding up to more than 800 people — homeless.
As usual, the Israelis reported the incident falsely, officials saying only that they had destroyed a few unoccupied buildings that were being used by criminals, and the demolitions had nothing to do with the attack. Soldiers at the scene, however, confirmed that the demolitions were in retaliation for the Hamas operation, and reporters confirmed that the buildings had been homes.
Western reports of the demolitions also accused Hamas of breaking a three-week ceasefire, and said that the operation came after a relatively peaceful period. This would be true only if Israeli lives alone were what counted: while there had been no Palestinian operations in the period since Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced a cessation of operations on December 21, nearly 30 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops or settlers.
In one particularly brutal incident, three Palestinian teenage boys were kidnapped near a settlement on December 30, and their bodies were returned to their families four days later. Initial Israeli reports gave conflicting accounts of the boys having been arrested during an attack on the settlement, or while planting a bomb, but this proved untrue.
Medical examination found multiple injuries, indicating that the boys had been tortured before being killed, and further examination showed that many of their internal organs had been removed. Speaking in parliament, Israel’s minister said that he could not deny that they had been taken for medical purposes, raising the possibility that the boys had been kidnapped specifically for that reason.
Meanwhile, the whole Palestinian population was continuing to suffer the usual and now-routine torture of the Israelis’ economic closure and deliberate harassment, with few men able to work, movements being restricted, troops being brutal at roadblocks, hospitals and schools being closed at will, and civilians being subject to random arrest, interrogation and imprisonment.
While the Palestinians were suffering as usual, the West and the Israelis were maintaining diplomatic and political pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to increase their persecution of the popular Islamic groups that have driven the intifada. On December 9, PA officials confirmed that they had been asked to freeze the bank accounts and assets of all charitable groups doing social or educational work, in case they had links with Islamic activists. If the PA agrees with the Israeli request — and officials indicated that they would — it will create even greater problems for the beleaguered Palestinian people.
All this is irrelevant to the West, however. US special envoy General Anthony Zinni was in the region again earlier this month, meeting both Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and PA leader Yasser Arafat on January 6. His supposed object was to monitor the level of tension with a view to resuming talks towards a peace settlement, but his visit was overshadowed by controversy over the ship that the Israelis claim to have captured at sea, and which they claim was carrying arms to Palestine for use against Israel. The timing of the seizure was particularly convenient for the Israelis, as coverage of their claims dominated the period of Zinni’s visit, instead of the media watching him note the continuing violence against Palestinians.
Shortly after the Hamas operation on January 9, Islamic Jihad confirmed that they were ending the suspension of operations that they had announced last month. In view of the Israelis’ continued operations, and their determination not to reduce their oppression of the Palestinians in any way, the Islamic movements have no choice. Despite their efforts, however, the Palestinians’prospects look as bleak as ever.