Robert Fisk: Bush is doing nothing to stop Israel's immoral civil war

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Three score and five in a day? That was the regular casualty figure during the Lebanese civil war, the average cull of lives in another conflict in which America called for "restraint'', another war in which Israel could blast down apartment blocks with impunity while pursuing its war against "terror''.

We still forget what happened then. In June of 1982, Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners were executed by the Israelis and secretly buried in Sidon; Israeli jets bombed Palestinian hospitals. Yes, a PLO anti-aircraft gun was positioned on the roof of a hospital in Sidon but the Israelis went ahead and destroyed the hospital anyway – and all the patients inside it. The Palestinians murdered prisoners – let's not have any romanticism here – and the Palestinians tortured and executed Arabs who were working as Israeli collaborators. But 41 in a day was a Lebanese day.

So what we have now in the occupied territories and Israel is also a civil war; a Muslim-Jewish war, a shameful, revolting struggle that mirrors, more and more, the Algerian war of independence of 1954-62. There, too, guerrilla destruction turned into assassination, murder into reprisal slaughter, and massacre into mass killing. Only last Christmas, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, told the French President, Jacques Chirac, that the Israelis were "like you in Algeria'', the only difference being that "we [the Israelis] will stay''.

And there you have it. Israel, in Mr Sharon's own words, is fighting a colonial war. Not the "war against terror'', which he tries to mimic in miniature with the United States, but a war to colonise Arab land with colonies for Jews and Jews only, as the colonised (the "terrorists'', of course) rise up against them.

But why should the Israelis worry? The United States will do nothing to stop them. The American press made much of US Secretary of State Colin Powell's criticism of Mr Sharon. But read what Mr Powell actually said: he asked whether Sharon's military policy – of killing more Palestinians – would work. One of his spokesmen, speaking two days ago, announced that "we had to make clear to him [Sharon] there is simply no evidence that approach will succeed''.

Mr Powell and his minions were not attacking Mr Sharon because the Israeli policy was immoral. It was the military ineffectiveness of killing Palestinians, not the abuse of human rights that this embodies, to which the Americans took objection.

Yes, of course, the Palestinians have crimes to answer for. Who decided that Israeli civilians should pay the price for the war against occupation, as Hanan Ashrawi has bravely asked? Who gave them the right to slaughter Israeli kids in pizza parlours? But Israel is America's ally and President Bush is doing nothing to end this monstrous war.