President George Bush has made his long-awaited speech on the situation in Palestine. He said no more than a few sentences about the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and the continued theft of more land to build more Jewish-only settlements. Nothing was said about Israel's war plans or the escalation of Israeli violence that has included a wave of assassinations, 24-hour curfews, checkpoints, massive arrests and the destruction of all equipment and buildings needed in the major cities of the West Bank, such as Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah.
All we heard was Bush's insistence that the Palestinians stop resorting to “terror” and change their leadership before peace negotiations resume. Bush demanded that Palestinians embrace “democratic values” like “free markets” as a condition for anyone to consider their claims to statehood. In exchange for abandoning their right to self-defense and reorganizing Palestinian institutions to suit Washington, there was the offer of a “temporary” statehood, which would look exactly like the failed Oslo Accords of 1993. On the issues of land and control, the Camp David offer of the 1970's is actually better than the Bush proposal.
At the same time, newspapers throughout the world, including the July 5 New York Times, are leaking information concerning the Bush administration's plans for a major strike against Iraq. So, while attacking the Palestinian people and their fight for liberation, Bush has his mind set on destroying Iraq and killing more Iraqis.
Bush's arrogant words and hypocritical assessments were lauded in Israel, as Ariel Sharon, Israel's Prime Minister, sent tanks into a Palestinian market, killing 5 children and saying that he was provoked by the “terrorist Palestinians” that Bush described.
Most Arab leaders, including the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, also praised the speech, although Arafat said he would rather sign the peace plan drawn up by Bill Clinton 18 months ago. That plan that was completely unacceptable to the Palestinian people, in part because it did not include a right for Palestinian refugees to return to their original homes and land.
But Arab rulers praising Bush are not representative of the masses of Arabs, who are inspired by the Palestinian struggle and are angry about their own governments' refusal to act in solidarity with the Intifada, the Arabic name for the Palestinians' uprising.
There is growing outrage over Arafat and his security operatives' jailing of Palestinian patriots. Acting under pressure from the U.S. and Israel, they have jailed national leaders such as Ahmed Sa'adat of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one of the largest liberation organization, enjoying widespread popular support.
There is a growing call for the release of over 8,000 Palestinians from Israeli jails, where Amnesty International reports that there are strong indications that these political prisoners are being tortured by the Israeli military. People everywhere, including some governments, are strongly criticizing Israel for its killing of over 1800 Palestinians in the last 21 months. Most of the world knows the truth, and supports the Palestinian farmers and workers in their fight against Israel's military power.
As the conflict continues, there will be more consolidation of support for the Palestinians, including delegations from all over the world going to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They will help publicize the brutal violence of the Israeli government.
People in the U.S. are starting to realize that our tax money, over $4 billion per year, is sent to Israel to destroy the Palestinians and keep the system of oppression and poverty in place. There have been more campaigns launched against U.S. businesses and institutions that back Israel, especially in Minneapolis, Berkeley, and New York. In Chicago, campaigns are starting against Boeing, the Jewel supermarket chain, university stock portfolios and the new Illinois state budget. A nationwide rally for the Right of Return is planned for Chicago in September of this year.
Around the world, support for the Palestinians is growing. We in the United States must continue to do our part.