Palestine: The Point of No Return?

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The liberal media were 'surprised', or 'astonished', when Bush recently endorsed Sharon's latest twist of the knife into the Palestinians.

By the 'agreement', Israel is to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Sharon (who has referred to Gaza as a 'morass') needed the US to endorse this 'bold' move, but on condition that they also give permission to extend, and legitimise, the vast settlements in the West Bank.

Leaving Gaza is a cheap price for Israel to pay for the West Bank 'prize'. Gaza is a virtual prison, with 70 to 80 percent unemployment and unimaginable poverty, and is unsurprisingly a fertile recruiting ground for the resistance. It is of no value to Israel, and is costly to police - checkpoints, fences, walls, armed watchtowers, prisons, tanks, air surveillance and the like. For example one Gaza settlement, with 60 families, requires the 'protection' of an entire Israel Defence Force battalion.

The 7,500 Israeli 'settlers' in Gaza, securely separated from over one million Palestinians, will be resettled in the larger, equally heavily 'protected' West Bank settlements. These will be expanded, taking yet more Palestinian land. All Israeli 'settlements' (which double as military bases) have been strategically built on hilltops, carved out of Palestinian land well inside the 1967 border, and surrounding Palestinian cities. Special roads for these 'settlers' only (and for the military) connect them to each other and to Israel. By every international standard, these 'settlements' are illegal. Since 1967 Israel has intended to 'annex' these vast swathes of land and nearby resources, especially water, and use them to divide Palestine into tiny non-contiguous 'cantons'. Israel may be pressured in the future to recognise these disconnected and ungovernable units (whose entire economy will continue to be under complete Israeli control) as a 'state'. The much-debated 'two-state solution' could arrive at this Bantustan outcome.

No one should be surprised by Bush's latest endorsement of Sharon's plan. The US has given a nod, wink and a nudge - as well as massive aid and weaponry. The US has also vetoed every UN Security Council resolution critical of Israeli policy, including its recent assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza. The recent agreement also nullified Palestinians' long-cherished, and UN-supported, 'right to return' to land taken from them in 1948 and 1967.

But resistance in Palestine is still proud, determined and defiant. Every day villagers in their hundreds, supported by international and Israeli peace activists, are teargassed and shot as they contest the construction of the 'security' wall intended to divide them from each other and from their land.

Support for Palestinians is growing. We urgently need to build a solidarity movement on the scale of those against South African apartheid and the Vietnam War in the past.