Israel’s latest outrages in Gaza have produced a rare but tiny hint of
American disapproval. For the first time since the Israeli assault on West
Bank cities two years ago, the United States has abstained on a critical UN
resolution rather than vetoing it. Colin Powell, the secretary of state,
said Israel’s actions “have caused a problem and worsened the situation”.
James Cunningham, representing the US at the UN, said the Israeli behaviour
has “not enhanced Israeli security”.

But if Israeli forces pull back shortly, as many Israeli commentators
assume, it will not be because the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is
listening to Washington. It is more likely to be out of fear that more
Israeli soldiers will die. Thirteen have been killed by the Palestinians’
armed resistance in the Gaza Strip over the last three weeks. In spite of
the Israeli army’s vastly superior fire-power and its ruthless willingness
to use it even in crowded city streets, it cannot avoid casualties on its
own side.

The Israeli propaganda machine is trying to blur the circumstances
surrounding the deaths of Palestinians during the Gaza incursions as well
as the nature of the struggle. Avi Pazner, a government spokesman, says:
“This is a fight against terrorism. We are extremely careful not to hurt or
damage in any way the civilian populations. We target the terrorists.”

Israel’s UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, bizarrely links the issue of Gaza to
that of missiles, as though this wretched and poverty-stricken corner of
the illegally occupied territories is on a par with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq
and the notorious 45-minute claim.

Using the argument that Israel’s army had gone in to root out workshops
making rockets, he declared: “The whole of Gaza, and Rafah in particular,
is on the verge of becoming a missile base aimed at Israel’s cities and
civilians. What would the international community have Israel do? Just sit
back and wait for this horrific scenario to materialize…?


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