JERUSALEM – Hundreds of Israelis marched on West Jerusalem’s Paris Square last Saturday to protest the war policies of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Carrying banners that read “Stop this Man” and “End Occupation of the Palestinian Territories,” the marchers shouted and sang despite a chilly, windswept rain. Israel’s major mass media were absent, once again shying away from any opposition to the prime minister.

Middle East violence reached ever more dangerous levels after three suicide bombings and a shooting by extremists killed 26 civilians and injured 200 over the Dec. 1-2 weekend.

Sharon retaliated Dec. 3 with a massive military response, including firing nine missiles at the offices of Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat. The strikes killed two Palestinians and injured 150.

Sharon and his cabinet have been putting forward, stronger than ever, the theme that Palestinian “terrorists,” not the illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory, are responsible for the cycle of violence.

Vivid TV pictures of the suicide bombings have been watched daily and nightly in homes throughout Israel.

Missing almost entirely from those TV screens are pictures of murdered Palestinians, destroyed Palestinian neighborhoods, blatant executions of Palestinian activists, blockades of roads needed for food delivery, tanks surrounding villages, and inhumane treatment of Palestinians at Israeli checkpoints.

The Bush administration has given the green light to Israel’s military attacks against the Palestinian people and is using the bombings in Jerusalem as an excuse to clamp down on pro-Palestinian groups in the United States. The heightened drive against Palestinians and their fight for a homeland is in lock-step with President Bush’s “war on terrorism.”

This was also behind the 14-hour “solidarity visit” to West Jerusalem by outgoing New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and incoming Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Voices of common sense are slowly emerging in Israel, however.

Paz Melamed remarked in the normally right-wing daily tabloid Ma’ariv that “the government and a majority of Israelis let themselves be fooled by assuming that we would be able to live more securely by totally defeating and killing more and more Palestinians.”

He added: “With violence and the use of ever-increasing military force, with the permanent and growing inhuman oppression of another people, terror cannot be defeated and uprooted. To the contrary, such a policy creates ever more violent resistance. The perpetration of the policy of violence and conquest will not strengthen Israel’s security, nor will it create a basis for a true and stable peace.”

Daniel Friedmann of the daily Yediot Aharonot remarked, “The least that should be inevitably done is to give up the whole idea of rule over another people. What is needed is a clear-cut stop to the Jewish settling on Palestinian soil and a readiness to evacuate most of the existing settlements in occupied Palestine in the framework of a peaceful solution.”