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Year 2005 No. 38, March 15, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

No to the Interference of the Big Powers in the Middle East!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

No to the Interference of the Big Powers in the Middle East!

Israel Continues Settlement Expansion in Occupied Palestinian Territories

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No to the Interference of the Big Powers in the Middle East!

Earlier this month, both the Prime Minister and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, added their voices to calls, led by the US, for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Both were speaking after the US and France issued a joint statement on March 1, demanding the "full and immediate" implementation of UN Security Resolution 1559, which was co-sponsored by France and the US last year.

Syria has been singled out by the US, and the other big powers, as a country that allegedly harbours "terrorists", and which is therefore a threat to "democracy" in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. At the same time, with absolutely no evidence, there have been attempts to implicate Syria in the recent assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, a charge that Syria has strenuously denied. As for Lebanon, the US has also demanded the disarming of the patriotic resistance organisation, Hezbollah, and hinted that an international force might be despatched to Lebanon "to stabilise the situation should that become necessary".

The threats and pressure exerted by the big powers and their allies come at a time when Lebanon is preparing for parliamentary elections in May and when every effort is being made to present the view that following the elections in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, "democracy" is sweeping through the Middle East. It was a theme that Tony Blair reiterated in an interview in the Guardian when he spoke of a "ripple of change" in the region. He also stressed that the Syrian government had to "take the chance" it was being offered to comply with the demands of the big powers.

In an interview for BBC Radio 4, Jack Straw argued that the withdrawal of Syrian troops, which first entered Lebanon in response to the destabilisation and invasion of that country by Israel and the ensuing civil war, would lead to what he called "real democracy". He explained, "You can only have democracy if the government, which is elected, has complete control over the territory of that country," and accused Syria of "ventriloquising" the government of Lebanon. It does not seem to have dawned on the Foreign Secretary that exactly the same charge could, with even more justification, be levelled at the Anglo-American forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and at all the big powers in regard to many other countries too. Jack Straw also made a great fuss about the so-called "velvet revolution" which he suggested was taking place in Lebanon, on the spurious grounds that some people had demonstrated for a Syrian withdrawal. But that was before the massive demonstrations of hundreds of thousands protested at the interference of the US and the other big powers in Lebanon and applauded Syria’s role in the country.

The US, Britain and the other big powers are attempting to turn truth on its head in relation to the situation in the Middle East. In the early 20th century it was Britain and France, the leading imperialist powers, who created all the fundamental problems throughout this region. In more recent times it has been the state terrorism of Zionist Israel, with its US imperialist backers, and the other big powers that has destabilised the whole region, persecuted the Palestinian people and denied them a homeland. While a great fuss is made about Syrian forces, which have been invited into Lebanon by the government of that country, there is a deafening silence with regard to the Israeli state that has illegally invaded and still occupies Palestinian and Syrian territory, in breach of international law and countless UN resolutions.

The US is pursing its "mission" to export what it refers to as "democracy" throughout the world, and at this time particularly in this region. In this endeavour its is supported by Britain and the other big powers, who all have their own economic and strategic interests and who base their actions on the same eurocentric notion that "western" or "representative democracy" is the only "real democracy", that "might is right" and that all must adopt those political and economic arrangements which are decreed by the big powers or suffer the consequences. However, the demonstrations in Beirut this week, as well as the continuing resistance in Iraq and elsewhere, show that the people of the world are not prepared to do the bidding of the US, Britain and the other big powers. At the same time, the interventionist and hegemonic hand of these powers is to be seen stirring up conflict and destabilisation.

The working class and people must get further organised to stay the hand of these warmongers, and to demand that Britain end all intervention and interference throughout the Middle East, which is blocking the solution of all problems in the region.

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Israel Continues Settlement Expansion in Occupied Palestinian Territories

The Israeli government, despite the understandings reached at Sharm Al Sheikh summit with the Palestinian Authority, declared that West Bank settlements are an inseparable part of Israel and is continuing its illegal settlement expansion. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told foreign reporters on February 15 that his so-called disengagement plan would solidify Israel's grip on the main settlements in the West Bank, which he said "will be part of the Jewish state in the future".

Sharon was speaking hours after Israeli Housing Minister Isaac Herzog said that settlers who would be evacuated from the Gaza Strip could resettle in the West Bank. "I cannot prevent an individual who wants to use his compensation to buy a house in Gush Etzion from doing so," he said. Herzog was referring to the Gush Etzion settlement, which lies 20 km south of Jerusalem where about 15,000 settlers live. It is among several illegal settlements which Sharon regards as "strategic assets". Israel also plans to build a new settlement named "Geva'ot" near Bethlehem as an expansion of Gush Etzion, Israeli officials told Reuters. 

With this settlement activitiy, Israel continues to defy various UN resolutions, as well as the "Road Map" plan of the Quartet -- comprised of the United Nations, US, European Union and Russia -- which calls for a freeze on all settlement activity. However, no action is taken on this open defiance. Sharon further told reporters that expansion and annexation of settlements in the West Bank was given the green light by US President George W. Bush in April 2004. He was referring to Bush's statement that Israel could expect to keep some of the West Bank land in any future peace accord, adding it was "unrealistic" not to recognise the "facts on the ground". This is to cover up that these "facts on the ground" were created by the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land since 1967 and its continued settlement expansion.

On February 25, Yediot Ahronoth reported that Israel plans to build more than 6,000 homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank this year. Responding to the report, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz's office said in a statement he had approved building permits for "a limited number of housing units" in settlements but gave no figures. The newspaper said a third of the new Israeli homes planned this year in the West Bank would be built just outside Jerusalem in Ma'ale Adumim, Israel's largest settlement, which has a population of 30,000. According to the website of the Israel Lands Administration, the agency marketed 1,783 new housing units in the West Bank in 2004 and 1,225 in 2003.

According to 2003 figures reported by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there are about 421,500 Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements in the West Bank and some 7,600 in the Gaza Strip in a total of 342 occupation sites. The total number of formal settlements in the Palestinian territories totalled 172 in 2003 with 155 in the West Bank and 17 in the Gaza Strip.

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