WASHINGTON – With the toll of dead and wounded Palestinians and Israelis rising, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan told Israel March 12, “You must end the illegal occupation” of Palestine. It was the first time Annan had spoken so bluntly, spurred by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s brutal two-week military assault on the Palestinian people.

The U.N. Security Council for the first time approved a resolution referring to a Palestinian state. In the resolution, the council affirmed “a vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders.”

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) sent 20,000 troops equipped with an armada of tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, missiles and helicopter gunships, most of it supplied by the U.S., against the lightly defended towns and villages of the West Bank and Gaza.

In the past two weeks, the IDF has killed well over 100 Palestinians in the most ferocious attack since Israel occupied Arab lands in the 1967 war.

The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) announced demonstrations in Washington and Los Angeles March 30 to protest the bloodbath.

Marvin Winfield, an ADC organizer who is helping mobilize for the demonstrations, told the World, “There is a sense of emergency. Many people feel the strong need to do something to protest the bloodshed. I don’t believe the Bush administration is really serious about the war on terrorism as long as it refuses to support the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Bush had sent retired Marine General Anthony Zinni to Israel on the pretext of resuming the peace process. But peace forces charge that the administration postponed Zinni’s arrival to give Sharon time to “finish off” the Palestinians. Others charged that Bush shifted from his position of giving Sharon a free hand only in order to ease growing Arab opposition during Vice President Richard Cheney’s 12-day trip to the region. A plan by the Saudis to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and establish two states, Israel and Palestine, has won widspread support throughout the Arab world.

“The escalating violence between Palestinians and Israelis is disastrous for both people,” the ADC’s call for the March 30 demonstrations said. “We invite all people of good will to join with the ADC and the Arab-American community in a day of support for the Palestinian people in their determination to end the Israeli occupation.”

The way to peace, the statement added, “has long been recognized by an international consensus as embraced in international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions.” It includes “land for peace,” “two peoples and two states,” a “shared Jerusalem” and the right of the Palestinians to return to Palestine and reclaim their homes and land.

The ADC statement continued, “The United States is not a neutral party to this conflict. Israel uses billions in annual U.S. financial aid to maintain the occupation, build settlements, demolish homes and dispossess and oppress the Palestinians.”

Josh Ruevner, leader of Jews for Israeli and Palestinian Peace (JIPP), told the World his group is now organizing a national conference in Washington D.C. April 26-29 of Jewish activists. “We support a two state solution,” he said. “Israel must end its occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in order to allow the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.”

Sharon, he said, acts as if he is “addicted to the thrill and power of military occupation. The United States acts as the drug pusher, peddling weapons and diplomatic support to enable Israel to perpetuate this occupation.”

Ruevner was one of a dozen Americans of Jewish background who sat down in front of Israeli tanks outside Ramallah last December to protest the occupation. He later met with Palestinain President Yasir Arafat.

Cheney was in the Middle East further destabilizing the region by pleading for Arab support of the administation’s plan to attack Iraq. Jordan’s King Abdullah II expressed concern on the “repercussions of any possible strike on Iraq and the dangers of that on the stability and security of the region.”

Abdullah told Cheney U.S. differences with Iraq should be resolved “through dialogue and peaceful means.”

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