Upon entering Ramallah a few days after the tanks had pulled out of the center of the city, I saw the scars of a viciously coordinated month-long military occupation and destruction of the economic and political infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and non-governmental organizations everywhere.

Ramallah is a showcase of the Israeli Defense Forces’(IDF) violation of international laws: targeting civilians, jounalists and medical personnel, denial of humanitarian and medical aid, and the almost total destruction of the service and information infrastructure. The World Bank estimates $3-5 million will be necessary to rebuild the West Bank.

This West Bank city of 70,000, the center for the PA administration of human services, was under siege by the IDF for a month. The Ministries of Education, Finance, Health and Security were targeted by tanks and helicopters, along with the compound of President Yasir Arafat.

Saleh Soubani, of the Ministry of Finance, told the World, “The aim of attacking these Palestinian institutions is clear. They wanted to destroy the infrastructure of a [future] Palestinian state.”

Soubani described the events the night the IDF broke into the Ministry of Education. He was sleeping with two others in the ministry because it was impossible to go home, due to the military checkpoints. The IDF spent 10 hours reading files, stealing the hard drives, with their data, and the computers’ memory chips, in the financial, supply, examination and educational planning departments.

Using Soubani and the janitor as human shields, the IDF entered each office, stealing exam records, graduation certificates, checks, bank statements and other financial documents. The IDF also took the ministry’s main server with its comprehensive database built up over nine years of PA rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Within hours of the tanks’ withdrawal, people filled the streets to sweep and clear the debris from bombed buildings and vehicles as well as spray-painting over the defaced walls and billboards where IDF soldiers had left graffitti attacking Arafat and saying “We’ll be back!”

After Arafat was allowed to leave his embattled compound, he toured Ramallah to see the destruction and called for the establishment of a Palestinian Committee on Israeli Crimes in Palestianian Areas.

With the cancellation of the United Nations Jenin fact-finding commission, the U.S. National Council of Churches and other peace and solidarity groups have stepped up their calls for an independent investigation.

This week an emergency session of the U.N. General Assembly was called on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis while Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with U.S. President George Bush in Washington AP reported unidentified Israeli officials as saying that Arafat if not removed should be only allowed a symbolic position. If not, Israel would not negotiated with the Palestinians.

Palestinian and Israeli people continue to be killed in terrorist acts and by the IDF in the occupied areas. The PA said, in response to the May 7 bombing in Rishon Letzion, Israel, which caused the end of Sharon’s U.S. trip, that it “is aimed at supporting Sharon’s claim it is impossible to make peace with the Palestinian people.”

The PA continued, “The leadership declares clearly its rejection and condenmation of these attacks and considers the groups that launch them to be working against the interests of the Palestinian people.” They also said that such attacks allow the Israeli government to escalate the military attacks in the occupied areas.

Public opinion polls continue to show that 68 percent of people in the U.S. believe that the U.S. should recognize Palestine as an independent state, 58 percent believe the occupation should end immediately, with Latinos and African Americans polling at 68 percent. Sixty percent of Americans favor the cutting of aid to Israel until the invasion of Palestinian lands ends.

Legislative actions on Capitol Hill stood in stark contrast to public opinion. Initiated by the ultra-right leadership, the Senate and House overwhelmingly passed resolutions of strong support for the Sharon government’s military actions, with the House version calling for an increase in foreign aid. Many say that the Republican Party leadership has its sights set on winning over the Jewish voters who have shown historically strong support for the economic and social justice issues reflected by the Democratic Party.

But 50 representitives voted either no or present in protest. “At its root, the crisis between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a political problem requiring a political solution, not a military one,” said Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.)

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) also spoke against the lopsided nature of the resolutions. “Where are the demands that Israel withdraw from Palestinian lands and cooperate in the establishment of a Palestinian state? Where is the denunciation of the destruction of homes and water lines and roads and basic infrastructure in Jenin and Nablus and elsewhere in the West Bank? Where is the expression of support for humanitarian and reconstruction aid to the innocent Palestinian victims of Israel’s incursion into the West Bank?”

The author can be contacted at jleblanc@pww.org

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