Israel: Into the Abyss

By Gordon, Neve | The Nation, September 17, 2001 | Go to article overview

Israel: Into the Abyss


Gordon, Neve, The Nation


Jerusalem

The situation in Israel is now critical, with more than 650 people killed, thousands injured and the violence constantly escalating. It is no surprise that since the second intifada erupted in September last year, the Israeli left has been experiencing a kind of vertigo. Ehud Barak led Israel to the edge of the abyss, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has taken a big stride forward.

Indeed, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the current Israeli government is its complete lack of a political program. During his election campaign, Sharon promised to deliver security and peace. Half a year has passed, and Israel is now further away than ever from attaining either goal, even though Sharon enjoys more than 70 percent public support and has a broad coalition in the Israeli Knesset.

What, one should ask, has Sharon accomplished since taking office? He has attacked Nablus with Apache helicopters and Gaza with F-16 fighter jets, dropping one-ton bombs on buildings in the center of Gaza City. Tank and infantry units have entered Beit Jala and Jenin, and Israeli death squads operate regularly in Tulkarm, Hebron and Ramallah; at least forty-two people have been killed during assassinations. Moreover, Palestinians have been under siege for months, and their economy has all but collapsed, leaving thousands to cope with grinding poverty. The extensive restrictions on freedom of movement have not only prevented Palestinians from reaching hospitals and work but have also cut off access to drinking water in 218 West Bank villages.

The Sharon government has carried out all these actions and many others in order to quell the Palestinian uprising, that is, the Palestinians' struggle for independence. Meanwhile, the United States has reacted with little more than a murmur of protest, often giving Israel a green light to employ disproportionate force. It has actually obstructed many of the attempts to restrain Israeli violence, most recently during the August 20-21 United Nations Security Council meetings.

That the Security Council actually convened in order to discuss Palestinian demands--particularly the request that the UN employ international monitors in the occupied territories--was, in a sense, already an achievement; for five months the United States had succeeded in blocking the issue. But, as is usually the case when the Security Council gathers to deliberate about Israel, the meeting produced no result. "The gravity of events on the ground," US acting UN ambassador James Cunningham explained, "questions the appropriateness and effectiveness of any action" that the UN might take. …

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