Saturday, December 8, 2007

Israel's Iron Heel

Ellen Cantarow, a Jew who has reported for The Village Voice, Mother Jones and Inquiry from Israel and the West Bank from 1979 to 1989, followed the operation: "[A]mbulances shot at and stopped from arriving at their destinations; hospitals invaded and medical personnel prevented at gunpoint from carrying out their responsibilities; people bleeding to death while soldiers block, at gunpoint and in tanks, their safe passage to medical relief; corpses rotting in hospital corridors; relatives forbidden to carry out decent burials (one group of the slain had to be buried in a Ramallah parking lot); civilians shot if they venture out their doors; massive looting and vandalizing of homes; cultural institutions invaded and files destroyed; electrical systems for water pumps destroyed so that whole urban areas have their water supplies cut off; internationals and Palestinian press members wounded by Israeli gun-fire.... six Nablus field hospitals with scores of people in serious-to-critical condition, doctors forced to operate with minimal equipment."

If it seemed the IDF (Israeli army) had borrowed from the Nazis, they had. Haaretz, the liberal Israeli newspaper, reported that a top commander in the occupied territories had recommended the German army's methods of operating in the Warsaw Ghetto as a model for the IDF to follow.

And then came Jenin. It's hard to know exactly what happened in Jenin, one of those refugee camps crammed with thousands of Palestinians living in concrete blocks. Israeli troops didn't allow the media into Jenin. But stories of what happened during the 10-day siege leaked out. The elderly lured out of the camp with promises of water, only to be arrested and strapped to Israeli tanks to be used as human shields.

Israel's Iron Heel
by Stephen Gowans
April 22, 2002

While Zionists and many Jews cheered the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, for the Arabs who fled their homes in what became Israel, it was a disaster. They were never allowed to return. UN Resolutions demanding Israel respect the right of return guaranteed under international law were ignored, the Zionist state shielded from censure and sanctions by a United States prepared to exercise its Security Council veto. Today, any Jew can immigrate to Israel. Arabs who fled what became Israel can't. But some can gaze upon their former homes, or what might have been their homes, from squalid, crowded refugee camps only miles from where they, or their parents, or grandparents once lived, exiled for who they are, never to return for the demographic threat they are.

While diaspora Palestinians continue to demand they be allowed to return to their homes, commentators dismiss the demand as unreasonable. It would change the ethnic face of Israel, they say, threatening the ascendant place of Jews in the country's political and social structure. Palestinians are expected to live with their dispossession, quashing their demands for justice in the face of the indifference -- if not open hostility -- of the two powers in whose hands their fate resides: Israel and the United States.



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