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Occupied Arab World

US intervenes again to try to protect the Zionist state

Naeem-ul Haq

The US made a hasty return to its Middle East imbroglio this month, when CIA director George Tenet returned to the region to act as a mediator for “security co-ordination” between Israel and Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. He held his first meetings with representatives of both sides on June 8, before preparing a six-week plan for ending the Palestinian intifada which he was due to present to both sides on June 11 (as Crescent went to press).

The US’s renewed concern for the situation in the region is reflected also by the decision of UN secretary general Kofi Annan to travel to the region. Speaking on June 8, he said that he had been in almost daily contact with American, European and Russian officials about the Middle East situation, and would leave for the region on June 12 to visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Ghazzah.

Tenet’s return to the region was greeted by demonstrations and protests in Palestinian town, during which his effigy was burnt represents a sharp change of tack on the US’s part. President George W. Bush came to office at a time when the intifada was already well underway, and he had seen Bill Clinton’s failure to get to terms with the issue. At a time when the zionists’ had determined to defeat the Palestinians by sheer force and brutality, shown by their election of the arch-hawk and war-criminal Ariel Sharon as president, Bush evidently felt that it would be best to leave them to it and return to the situation once the Israelis had flexed their ample military muscle and taught the Palestinians a lesson.

The role of Senator George Mitchell in preparing a report, published last month, that effectively whitewashed the Israelis’ responsibility for the up-surge was clearly a part of that strategy. Although the Mitchell Report came across as being even-handed, in demanding that the zionists end expansion of settlements in the West Bank, this was a fig-leaf for the fact that the report did not recognise the Israelis’ provocation as being responsible for the intifada in the first place, or their responsibility for most of the deaths.

By demanding that Arafat end Palestinian violence, the Mitchell Report effectively accepted the zionist claim that the violence was primarily Palestinian and the zionists’ role was only to ensure ‘security’. The demand that Arafat arrest Palestinian mujahideen was not matched by demands that Israel discipline its soldiers and settlers for their atrocities, let alone place them in ‘preventative detention’; and the demands that Arafat stop the Palestinian media from reporting the intifada — which the zionists regard as incitement — was not matched by similar demands that the zionist press be muzzled.

The American change of tactics was prompted by a Palestinian martyrdom operation on June 1, in which 20 Israelis were killed in a nightclub in Netanya. Several of the dead were off-duty soldiers or military reservists, although Israeli and Western reports focused instead on the deaths of a number of teenage girls. The attack, carried out by a Palestinian from Jordan, was the largest single operation of the intifada to date, and shocked both Arafat and Sharon into responses designed to try to wind the intifada down.

Arafat used the attack, and the possibility of a massive Israeli response, as a pretext to declare a unilateral ceasefire on June 9. Sharon, showing uncharacteristic restraint that was perhaps a sign that the martyrdom operation had forced the Israelis to recognise that they could not defeat the Palestinians by brute force, used Arafat’s ceasefire declaration as a pretext to hold back from military action.

Both parties also immediately entered into behind-the-scenes dealings of which the Tenet initiative was only a part. The CIA’s role in the peace process was formalised in the Wye River Agreement of 1988, as training Arafat’s security apparatus and co-ordinating co-operation between it and the Israeli forces. In practice, this meant that the PA forces were expected to do the zionists’ dirty work for them.

This is clearly what the PA’s role is expected to be again. The zionists have long demanded that Arafat crack down on Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other jihad groups, but while Arafat has ordered the arrests of some leaders on specific occasions and charges, he has been reluctant to undertake a general crackdown, knowing that he would meet massive resistance, and that his leadership of the Palestinians would be threatened.

Palestinians, in the mean time, rejected the ceasefire that Arafat called on June 2. Speaking on June 5, as Palestinians marked the anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Shaikh Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, said: “If I accept a cease-fire it would be like raising a white flag... they must remove their settlers from our land. Our land must be returned and our people are determined to win liberation.”

The Palestinians, of course, are not the only ones to have rejected any ceasefire. Three Palestinian women — three generations of the same family — were killed by Israeli gunfire on June 9, and the next day a Palestinian died in hospital several days after being injured by Israeli gunfire in Ghazzah.

On June 5 Ashraf Bardaweel, a Palestinian activist, was critically injured when his car was bombed near Tulkarm, in an Israeli assassination attempt.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 30, No. 8

Rabi' al-Awwal 24, 14222001-06-16

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