WEST BANK, Occupied Territories—Two years ago when the Israeli government began hinting publicly about “withdrawing” its occupation forces from the Gaza Strip, I interviewed everyone under the sun. “What does this mean?” was my question.
The answers were as varied as one Palestinian to the next, but they all indicated that Israel was up to no good.
West Bank human rights activist George S. Rishmawi said, “They are trading the Gaza Strip for the West Bank.” Indeed. The Wall is near completion on the western side, with the east soon to begin. The Israeli government has said that the settlements blockading Jerusalem will never be removed, nor will the other major settlements throughout the West Bank.
Regarding the settlers and military forces leaving the inside of the Gaza Strip, the Gaza City director of the Palestinian Network of NGOs, Amjad Al Shawa, said, “No one is sorry to see them go, however, we know that this does not mean they are really, all of a sudden, going to end the occupation and stop attacking us.” His prediction turned out to be true as well.
The most common response was that Israeli forces would take out the settlers, keep occupying the borders, land and sea, and would then use all of those avenues to destroy the Palestinian population in the Strip, all the while continuing the takeover of the West Bank.
The Israeli forces continually attacked the Strip. July 2006’s “Operation Rain” has injured hundreds using “non-conventional” weapons. The Palestinian Ministry of Health released a report July 9 that stated out of the 249 injured in Gaza from the Israeli assault, the majority “were mostly caused by a new form of shrapnel that leads either to full amputation of limbs or a complete burn of exposed flesh.” The ministry added that the toxicity of the weapons renders its victims “without hope of recovering.”
Dr. Joma’a Al Sakka told Voice of Palestine Radio that it was difficult to diagnose such injuries, as the Israelis had destroyed his lab. While the Ministry of Health has asked the international medical community to send medical personnel to investigate, Dr. Al Sakaa said “no one has lifted a finger.”
Israeli forces use sophisticated killing tactics in the Gaza Strip. In 2004 and before it was tank shells packed with thousands of flechettes, razor-sharp steel darts that shred bodies.
In 2003 it was the razing of much of Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip. Thousands of Palestinians were rendered homeless as the Israelis blew up their houses, row by row, at the border with Egypt. Sewage ran through the alleyways, flooded what was left and was all churned under by Israeli bulldozers. At the same time, with less press, the northern Strip was razed, one olive tree root at a time, the fertile red soil overturned, with lines of people fleeing, nowhere to go.
From the beginning of the intifada in 2000, the Israeli strategy was to shoot to cripple, wounding an astonishing 7,000 Palestinians during the first month alone. Israeli soldiers are taught to shoot for the knees and eyes, to leave devastating injuries. The purpose, as the Jerusalem Post stated at the time, was “to deprive the Palestinians of the massive number of casualties the army maintains Palestinians want in order to win world support and consolidate their fight for independence.”
Now, Israeli attacks are rampant throughout the Strip. Killings in the north, including Jabaliya Refugee Camp, the most densely populated place on earth, are filling the local front pages. But Palestinians can’t get any international press attention.
The Israelis began the reoccupation inside the northern Strip months ago with the “isolation zone” they claimed in the towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia. That area once fed the entire Strip and parts of the West Bank, the “land of milk and honey” itself. Now little remains other than the resistance fighters with their homemade projectiles.
The current picture is part and parcel of the ethnic cleansing. The Israeli excuse for killing entire families, such as that of Dr. Nabil Abu Salami’s, is a captured soldier. However, one must not neglect what an Al Quds daily editorial in July stated about this soldier. “This was a soldier in a tank. He was not coming to give candy and gifts to our children. He was coming to kill them.”
Add that Israeli soldier to the 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners currently in Israeli jails and you have 10,001 political prisoners. Armed resistance forces say they have not given up. They ask for a trade, for the women and children in Israeli prisons to go free.
The Israeli government decided to kill more Palestinians instead. The U.S.-led economic and political blockade is starving people to death, and now it is time to attack Lebanon for Hezbollah and Syria for its support of the democratically elected Palestinian government.
The United States demanded elections and when it didn’t like the result, it imposed the boycott and threatened banks that transferred money to Palestinians. This was in addition to its financial, political and moral support of the Israeli occupation. Hamas won, and that is the current Israeli excuse.
The Israeli point of view is clear. No Palestinian will survive if they fight or offend the occupier by simply trying to live, whether in the West Bank or the devastated and “withdrawn-from” Gaza Strip.