The Guardian April 30, 2003


Iraqi war fuels increased Israeli brutality

by Hans Lebrecht

The US war in Iraq is fueling even more brutality towards the Palestinians 
by the far-right Israeli Government. On April 13, the Israeli army stepped 
up its attacks on Palestinians when F-16 fighter jets and helicopter 
gunships killed four children and two pregnant women.

Israelis and Palestinians, with flags waving and chanting, "USA get out 
from Iraq  Israel out from Palestine", marched on April 12 through Haifa 
to the main gate of the city's port, where the US Navy is anchored.

The vast majority of the demonstration was Arab and Jewish working-class 
youth, students, academics and others.

It was called by the Haifa Peace Forum, a coalition of all major peace 
movements, including the Communist Party-led Israel Hadash Front. The 
demonstration ended with a rally blocking the port's main gate.

The day before, thousands demonstrated in solidarity with officers and 
soldiers who, for reasons of conscience, refuse to serve in the occupied 
territories. These soldiers and officers object to taking part in the 
brutal oppression of the Palestinian people. Some are pacifists who refuse 
army service altogether.

The government is prosecuting some of these objectors in military 
tribunals. Five out of more than 200 former 12th grade pupils, who signed a 
letter to the Prime Minister and army chief-of-staff stating that they are 
not willing to serve in the occupation army, are standing trial now before 
such tribunals.

This is after they have already served many months in military prisons. The 
five asked to do civil service instead of army conscription duties.

During the last 12 months, about 200 conscientious objectors have been 
detained. Twenty-one young men and two women have been incarcerated for 
refusing to serve in the occupied territories.

At the moment, 12 are behind bars in military prisons. In most of the other 
cases, commanders respect the "refuseniks" objections and do not send them 
to occupied Palestine.

In other developments, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has sent some of his 
closest advisors to Washington DC. Their task is to encourage the White 
House not only to let Israel amend the so-called "road-map" peace plan 
according to its "security needs", but to influence President Bush to 
continue the war against Syria and Iran.

But in a PR ploy, Sharon told the Ha'aretz daily newspaper that he was 
prepared "to carry out very painful steps", such as dismantling some of the 
settlements and to consider Israeli recognition of a limited Palestinian 
state.

"I do not think that we have to rule over another people and run their 
lives forever," Sharon stated. His said rule over the Palestinians was 
taking a toll on the Israeli public, raising ethical and economic problems, 
as well as growing criticism in the international arena.

He added, however, his regular pre-condition for any change: "I made no 
concessions in the past, and I will make no concession now, or in the 
future, with regard to anything which is related to the security of 
Israel."

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People's Weekly World, paper of Communist Party USA

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