The cutting edge of the anti-imperialist democratic revolution of the Arab peoples
A veritable people’s war
At the end of September, the Al-Aqsa Intifada will be one year old. This latest Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, brutality, torture and daily humiliation of the occupying regime, is of a qualitatively different kind from the first Intifada. No longer do the victims of Zionist settler colonialism confine themselves to throwing stones at their heavily armed occupiers. They have learned from their enemies the art of carrying and using guns. What is now taking place is veritable people’s (guerrilla) warfare for the liberation of the Palestinian people. During the past eleven months, the Israeli army has used every dirty trick (from the assassination of leading Palestinians to the demolition of houses, destruction of crops and economic blockades) and every type of weapon (from automatic guns to tanks, helicopter gunships and warplanes), but to no avail.
Far from extinguishing the flames of revolt, Israeli brutality has, on the contrary, served to strengthen the Palestinian resolve to prosecute the uprising against the settler regime with unprecedented determination. Israeli actions, clearly aimed at destroying all Palestinian institutions and national symbols, are merely deepening the radicalisation of the Palestinian masses, who are increasingly prepared to sacrifice their lives in the cause of freedom with a cheerfulness which astonishes their friends and foes alike. Israeli society, on the other hand, beneath the mask of belligerency and bravado about the need to stand firm, is characterised by widespread fear, despair and demoralisation – with everyone being in low spirits.
13th June ceasefire in tatters
Each new act of brutality and murder on the part of the Israeli army and the settler thugs brings in its turn a fitting response from the armed wing of the Palestinian resistance. The 13th June ceasefire, brokered by the CIA Director, George Tenet, already in tatters by the end of June, is well and truly buried. Given the bad faith of Israel and its chief backer, US imperialism, the ceasefire never stood a chance. Under that agreement, while Israel was to have ended the blockade of the occupied territories, cease invading the Palestine Authority (PA) territory and prevent settler attacks on Palestinians, the PA had for its part agreed to restrain and arrest Palestinians involved in armed attacks against Israel. Reluctantly, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and PFLP, agreed to suspend the armed struggle to test Israeli intentions. Not very surprisingly, within days of the ceasefire being agreed, the Zionist occupying forces were back to their old tricks for the simple reason that Israel does not want peace except the peace of the graveyard whereby the Palestinians submit themselves to perpetual occupation and eke out a miserable existence under the jackboot of Zionist colonialism. Naturally the latter prospect is far from appealing to the Palestinian population, who have answered Zionist counter-revolutionary terror with a revolutionary terror that has struck fear among the occupying forces, and spread from the occupied territories to the centres of Israeli population such as Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem. Within just 10 days after the ceasefire agreement, the fighting between the two sides had claimed 8 Palestinians and 6 Israeli lives. In the end, following the 1st July Israeli helicopter attack, in which 3 members of Islamic Jihad were killed near Jenin, and the killing of members of Hamas in a separate incident, Islamic Jihad and Hamas pronounced an end to the truce.
Israeli policy towards the victims of their occupation is nothing short of a succession of outrages and provocations – each one more revolting than the preceding, in view of which the Palestinian resistance has little option but to answer in kind. On 12th July it attacked settlers near Nablus. The Israeli army responded by seizing Palestinian territories for a short time. Two days later these events were repeated in Hebron – the killing by Palestinian gunmen followed by an Israeli army incursion into areas under Palestinian control, triggering a fierce overnight gun battle.
On the same day (14 July), Ehud Olmert, the Mayor of Jerusalem, ordered the demolition of 14 Palestinian houses in the east Jerusalem Shuafat refugee camp – an act which was condemned even by the US State Department as
. Palestinians comprise a third of Jerusalem’s population but have access to 8 per cent of its land. No wonder, then, that such demolitions inflame Palestinian passions and breed such hatred on their part against the Zionist regime. A day later, Israeli bulldozers entered Rafah and destroyed two dozen houses and shops, bringing to 600 the total of such demolitions since the beginning of the Intifada.
Israeli state terrorism & Palestinian response
Not content with the demolition of Palestinian buildings and incursions, which have become increasingly frequent, into the PA territory, the Israeli army has intensified its activity in the field of state terrorism, targeting prominent Palestinian political figures for assassination. On 13 July, Hamas leader Fawwaz Badran was murdered near Hebron. A day later Omar Saadeh, a local Hamas leader, and 3 others were murdered near Bethlehem. Israeli settlers, who are merely an extension of the Israeli army in all but name, gunned to death three Palestinians, including a 3-month-old baby (the youngest victim so far), in a drive-by shooting on 20 July. On 24th July, the Israeli army launched a missile attack from a hill near Nablus on a car, killing its occupant, Salah Darwaza of Hamas. On 16th July a suicide bomber killed 2 Israeli soldiers at a railway station inside Israel. The following day, Israeli helicopters launched a missile attack on the West Bank town of Bethlehem, killing 4 Palestinians and wounding at least 10 others. Two of those killed belonged to Hamas, the other two were family members.
On 31st July, an Israeli attack near Nablus killed 8 Palestinians, including 2 children and 2 prominent Hamas leaders. This massacre brought simmering violence to boiling point the following day as gun battles erupted across the West Bank, including Hebron where a Palestinian was shot dead during an exchange of fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian gunmen. Palestinians fired three mortar rounds at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, wounding an Israeli woman. After the Nablus killings, Abdal-Aziz Rantisi, a Hamas spokesman, warned that “a very painful retaliation is on its way”. The 31st July assassinations marked a turning point in the conflict, clearly suggesting that the Sharon Government is embarked on a total war to the finish and has absolutely no interest in an agreement with the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people, for their part, have accepted the challenge and are delivering some deadly blows against their torturers.
On Sunday 5th August, the liberation forces struck at Israel’s Defence Ministry Compound. The Palestinian attack in the heart of Tel Aviv, which wounded 10 people,
“struck at the core of Israel’s Defence Ministry and military headquarters. The burst of gunfire caught Israeli defence officials and military personnel during their lunch break”
The violence over the weekend of 4-5 August began with an Israeli missile attack on a convoy of Palestinian cars, in which Mr Haleweh, a member of Yasir Arafat’s Force 17, was wounded. The intended target, of course, of this missile strike was the highly popular leader of the Intifada, Mr Marwan Bharghouti, who had been near the convoy. In another attack over the same week-end an Israeli helicopter strike killed a member of Hamas in the West Bank town of Tulkarm. On Saturday night (4 August) fierce gun battles raged on the outskirts of Jerusalem and in nearby Bethlehem. In the words of the
“Bursts of gunfire echoed throughout the city and were punctuated by occasional powerful explosions of Israeli tank fire. The clashes were followed early yesterday by a Palestinian mortar attack on an Israeli army base in the Gaza Strip, and an Israeli missile helicopter strike at a Palestinian security compound nearby.
“In a day filled with violence, an Israeli woman was killed and four more Israelis wounded when Palestinian gunmen fired on their car in the West Bank.
“Also, a Palestinian trying to plant a bomb near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank was shot dead by Israeli troops, the army and Palestinian security officials said”. (6/8/01)
Two days later, Palestinian gunmen killed a settler, followed by an Israeli helicopter gunship attack on Palestinian security buildings. Israeli invasion of PA territory, backed by warplanes, tanks and bulldozers, have become a routine occurrence.
The “very painful retaliation” promised by the Hamas spokesmen after the Nablus killings of 8 Palestinians, came on 9th August when Izz el Din al Masri, a 23-year-old Palestinian walked calmly into Sbarro’s Pizzeria, at the junction of two of Jerusalem’s main shopping streets (King George and Jaffa streets), and detonated the bomb strapped to his body. The blast ripped through the restaurant, killing 16, including the suicide bomber, and wounding 90 other persons. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack and issued the picture of Masri, adding that the attack on the Pizzeria was an answer to Israeli state terrorism in general, and to the Israeli helicopter attack on Hamas activists in Nablus in particular.
Seizure of Orient House and Abu Dis
The Israeli army responded with characteristic use of massive force. At around midnight on 9th August, it unleashed its F-16 warplanes on the West Bank city of Ramallah, destroying a police HQ building. Israeli forces also crossed into the heavily populated Gaza Strip and fired at random. In a highly provocative action, Israeli police also closed down the offices of the PLO in east Jerusalem. The building in the heart of east Jerusalem and known as the Orient House, has over the years achieved the status of a seat of Palestinian power and consequently become a potent symbol of Palestinian statehood and of the Palestinian claim to east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state in the near future. The Orient House has served as a de facto foreign ministry, where, to the irritation of the likes of Sharon, who rightly perceived it as a challenge to Israeli sovereignty over the Holy City, important visiting dignitaries were received by high-ranking Palestinian political figures. How potentially explosive the Israeli action is can be judged from the fact that even the US State Department was obliged, if only for public consumption, to criticise the Israeli move as a
that undermined attempts at a negotiated settlement.
In a related operation, Sharon ordered the army to seize 9 buildings belonging to the PA in the village of Abu Dis, a suburb of Jerusalem. These included the HQ of Mr Arafat’s personal security forces, the offices of the Palestinian Governor of Jerusalem and the hall reserved one day to accommodate a Palestinian parliament. Two days later, the Israeli army seized the Palestinian telecommunications offices.
The Palestinians had fully expected that these 10 buildings in Abu Dis, from which the PA ran a rudimentary municipal government, would one day serve as the basis for their administrative capital in Jerusalem.
Attempts at colonisation of east Jerusalem
Doubtless the Israeli seizure of the Orient House and the 10 buildings in Abu Dis are part of a plan to colonise east Jerusalem with Jewish settlers. Sharon was not far wrong when he candidly declared that the seizures were aimed at hitting the Palestinians
“in their soft underbelly”.
True as that may be, by these very same actions, by hitting the Palestinians where it hurts most, the Israelis are obliging the Palestinians to fight to the finish for they have nowhere to go. The seizure of the Orient House and the buildings in Abu Dis has provoked daily Palestinian demonstrations, which the Palestinians have promised to keep up until they have access to Orient House and the Abu Dis Palestinian buildings. On Monday 13 August, the Palestinians stage a general strike across the occupied territories in protest at the seizure of Orient House on the previous Friday (10th August). It was the biggest strike since 1994 and was observed also in the refugee camps of Syria and Lebanon. Palestinians have pledged to take the Intifada to east Jerusalem to liberate Orient House, which symbolises Palestinian aspirations for an independent Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital.
Sharon for his part has declared that his government would never allow the Palestine Authority (PA) to re-establish itself in Jerusalem and that the properties seized by the Israeli army and police in east Jerusalem would remain in Israeli hands indefinitely. Speaking as another suicide bomber, Mahmoud Nasr of Hamas, struck in a Café in the coastal town of Kiryat Motzkin (near Haifa), injuring 15 people, Sharon said:
“The offices in Orient House will not open again. Ever. We will not leave Abu Dis. That is not an act from which one can step back”
, 13/8/01). Clearer proof of Israeli intent to colonise east Jerusalem than Sharon’s above statement would be hard to find.
Plans for an all out war
The seizure of Palestinian properties in east Jerusalem, the continued expansion of settlements and the frequent invasions, all in complete violation of Geneva Conventions, UN resolutions and the Oslo Accords alike, clearly suggest that Israel has decided to wage an all out war against the Palestinian people and that it is planning a full-scale invasion, whose ramifications would be felt far beyond the borders of Palestine/Israel. Such a hazardous course promises to unsettle the precarious status quo, so elaborately and carefully constructed by imperialism, and engulf and swallow many conservative puppet regimes, without which imperialism can never hope to loot the middle-eastern oil wealth and whose disappearance would at the same time mean the disappearance of a hugely lucrative armaments market. Besides, Israel could never win this war, for the Arab masses, if not the regimes, would resist Israel in a people’s war in which the invading Zionist hordes will be surrounded ring upon ring by hostile populations seething with anger at the outrages committed by imperialism and its chief agent in the Middle East, Zionist settler colonialism, and eager to settle accounts with them. If they dare to embark on such a mad course (and like all reactionaries they are mad enough) they are certain to be consumed by the volcanic eruptions of the Arab people’s struggle which any Zionist aggression is bound to provoke.
Confining ourselves for the moment to just the occupied territories, full-scale Zionist aggression will meet the stiffest of resistance. Palestinians are now more prepared to meet Israeli aggression than ever before.
The Times of 12 August reported that
“In Gaza and Ramallah the Palestinians have been preparing a network of secret underground bunkers with connecting tunnels in case the Israelis move against them and try to dismantle his Palestinian Authority.
“Special Guards are looking after the bunkers, which are similar to those Arafat built in Beirut and hid in during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. He has set up alternative command and communications bunkers in both Gaza and the West Bank.”
Although they will never be able to match Israel in the area of armaments, the Palestinians are not entirely without the sort of weapons they need to wage a protracted people’s war aimed at wearing down the will of their Zionist enemy to resist. Apart from other sources, the Palestinian resistance is getting a goodly supply of its weapons from the Israeli army. The
of 22nd July reported thus on this score:
“Disaffected soldiers in the Israeli army are selling their weapons to Palestinians, who are stockpiling them in anticipation of an imminent Israeli military incursion into the West Bank”.
The weapons thus delivered include M16 assault rifles, handguns and thousands of rounds of ammunition as well as other unspecified weapons. A senior member of Arafat’s Fatah movement has said that
“thanks to the Israelis it is going to be very dangerous for their soldiers if thy set foot in Bethlehem”
. Around the same time as an Israeli soldier was arrested in connection with stolen weapons, dozens of weapons went missing from an army base near Jericho. Accoring to ballistics experts, mortar bombs fired from Beit Jala, an Arab village near Bethlehem, into a Jewish settlement in the middle of July were from an Israeli army weapon. Let the
take up the story again:
“As Palestinians took to the streets in Bethlehem for funerals and rallies, everyone appeared to be carrying a weapon from middle-aged men with holstered pistols to underage teenage fighters with M16 assault rifles slung casually over their shoulders.
“A uniformed policeman in Bethlehem said the Palestinians have not only stockpiled automatic weapons but also mortars and rocket launchers at undisclosed locations. He pointed to the new phenomenon of openly brandished M16 rifles as evidence that Bethlehem is awash with weapons.
‘This place is a bad swamp. The Israelis may discover too late that they have been drawn into a Vietnam nightmare’, he said” (Weapons stolen by Israeli soldiers arm Palestinians,
Meanwhile the Israeli killing machine carries on with its gruesome work with revolting regularity. On 19 August, a Palestinian activist, his son and daughter were killed by Israelis in Gaza. Earlier, Israelis shot dead two civilians in the occupied territories while Israeli helicopters destroyed Palestinian security positions near Khan Yunis in the Gaza. On the same day, Israeli soldiers shot dead an unarmed 38-year-old man at a checkpoint outside Nablus. They also killed a 14-year-old boy who was throwing stones in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip.
The foul murder of Abu Ali Mustafa
In yet another provocation, and a dangerous escalation of the war, Israeli helicopter missiles attacked a building in the heart of Ramallah on 27 Augsut, killing Abu Ali Mustafa, Secretary General of the PFLP – the highest ranking Palestinian political leader to be assassinated by the Israelis. Angered by this outrage, tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets and joined rallies throughout the occupied territories to mourn Abu Ali Mustafa’s murder, express solidarity with the PFLP and pledge to continue the struggle against Israel. On 28 August, more than 50,000 people joined Abu Ali Mustafa’s funeral to pay their homage to the martyred leader. With Mustafa’s assassination, the Zionist establishment will have no one but itself to blame if the Palestinian resistance decides, as it may well do, to target senior Israeli politicians for retribution. The dangers inherent in Israeli actions are recognised even by the despicable Kofi Annan, under whose auspices the UN has become a colonial office of imperialism. Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the Israeli murder of Mustafa, the UN Secretary General showed his disapproval of Israeli actions with these words
: “The Israelis have raised tensions in the region to levels we have not seen in many years”
Following the assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa, fierce gunfights erupted in the area around Beit Jala, a PA-ruled town between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the West Bank. While the funeral of Abu Ali Mustafa was being held, the Israeli army provocatively moved into Biet Jala in an effort to prevent Palestinians from shooting at the Zionist settlement of Gilo in east Jerusalem. The Israeli army’s presence notwithstanding, Palestinian fighters continued to shoot at Gilo throughout the day in a clear demonstration of the futility of Israeli incursion. Three mortar shells fired from Beit Jala landed on Gilo causing damage.
As we go to press, the Israeli forces have vacated Beit Jala, while elsewhere 5 Palestinians and 2 Israelis have been killed. The deaths included a Palestinian who was killed by a Zionist vigilante gunman, an Israeli truck driver, a Palestinian doctor in Hebron and an Israeli shot while dining in a café in a West Bank village. An explosion in Ramallah damaged the house of Qais Sumurac, a leading member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine – the group that claimed responsibility for an attack on an Israeli army base in Gaza on Saturday, 25 August, which claimed the lives of 3 Israeli soldiers.
Shoot to kill with impunity
Since the shoot-to-kill policy is sanctioned at the highest of Israeli political and military levels, it is not surprising that Israel takes no action against its soldiers who kill with gay abandon innocent Palestinians going about their daily lives. According to Mustafa Barghuti of the Union of Palestinan Medical Relief Committees, 89% of the Palestinians killed can be classified as civilians. Of these 32% were children. Further, almost all of those killed were hit in the upper part of the body, which is evidence enough to the effect that the Israeli army shoots to kill.
Usually the British press’s treatment of the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation is full of nauseating lies and half-truths, and loaded with an anti-Palestinian bias. It, therefore, comes as a breath of fresh air that the
, in its Editorial of 10th August, breaking ranks with the rest of the media, stated that
“On the West Bank
[of the river Jordan –
… for many months almost every day has been a Bloody Sunday
[referring to the Bloody Sunday shootings of nationalist by the British army in Ireland]
. Not only does Israeli policy involve targeted assassination of alleged terrorists, but on the streets rank-and-file Israeli soldiers can kill at will – and often do so”.
Instead of shifting the responsibility for suicide bombers onto the shoulders of the PA and Yasir Arafat, as do the unconscionable prostitutes who write the Editorials of
places the blame, no matter how mildly, squarely where it belongs – on the Zionist regime of occupation and torture.
“…Arafat has all but lost control of his own embittered and despairing younger generation. The Palestinians’ behaviour reflects their impotence and sense of hopelessness after more than 30 years of illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Even the Barak Government’s ‘peace proposals’ involved maintaining a network of settlements and strategic roads on the West Bank which would render any sort of economically and socially viable Palestinian society impossible – as they are intended to. Whatever good arguments the Israelis have on their side, their continued policy of settling the West Bank is repugnant to most reasonable people in the West, and has done more than anything else to alienate international sympathy. The Sharon Government is committed to maintaining Israeli hegemony by the sword, however it dresses up its behaviour. Palestinian behaviour reflects despair and emotionalism verging on hysteria. This may make Arafat’s people very difficult to deal with, but is also understandable. What Mr Sharon and his people seem tragically unable to grasp is that if they persisit with their own policies, there will be no shortage of suicide bombers, whether Arafat wills them or not” (Death and Despair in Israel).
The Times of 16 August demands in its leading article that “
Terror must depart from their
The Editorial writers of
, whose wallets are stuffed full of money tainted with the blood of the victims of imperialism and Zionism in the Middle East, ought to direct their demands at the Zionist establishment and demand an end to the occupation and colonisation of Palestine. Once that happens, once Israelis stop oppressing, killing and torturing the Palestinian people, the latter will no longer feel the need to take up arms in self-defence.
Arab Unity being forged in the crucible of struggle
Every time the US President, George W.Bush, opens his mouth on the events in Palestine, it is merely to condemn the Palestinians.
“The Israelis will not negotiate under threat”
, he says while fully expecting the Palestinian side to negotiate under threat. Instead of insisting that Israel put an end to its unlawful occupation, the chief executive of US imperialism, this leader of the ‘free’ world demands that President Arafat
“do a better job”
of ending Palestinian armed resistance to colonial occupation. Instead of cowing the Palestinians, the US stance is helping to forge greater unity – both among the various constituents of the Palestinian liberation struggle and among Arab regimes.
Marwan Barghouti, one of the most prominent members of Mr Arafat’s Fatah movement and most popular leader of the Intifada has openly demanded an end to the regular security cooperation with the Israelis, while advocating the formation of a government of national unity so as to reinvigorate and intensify the struggle against Zionist occupation.
Hassan Nasarallah, the leader of Hizbollah, the Lebanese resistance movement which defeated and expelled the Israeli army from southern Lebanon after a 20 years of guerrilla warfare, has called upon his fighters to be ready to join the Palestinian Intifada against Israeli occupation. Huzmi Mubarak, the Egyptian President, has threatened to move a sizeable portion of the Egyptian army into Sinai (which Israel withdrew from under the terms of the 1979 Peace Agreement with Egypt) if the Israeli forces attempt to destroy the PA through a full-scale invasion.
Syria and Iraq have taken several significant steps in the direction of rapprochement with each other. While on Friday, 10th August, 20 US and British bombers attacked Iraqi targets 70 miles south of Baghdad in an effort to terrorise and isolate the Iraqi regime, the following day Mustafa Mero, the Syrian prime minister, leading a large delegation of ministers and businessmen, landed at Saddam Hussein international airport. Having met the Iraqi leader, Saddam, on Saturday night, Mustafa Mero denounced both the Anglo-American raid against Iraq and the sanctions on that country
. “Any attack on Iraq”
, he declared,
“is an attack on Syria”.
This important visit was preceded by the signing of a free trade agreement between the two countries earlier this year and the reopening of the oil pipeline between them.
the cutting edge of Arab anti-imperialist democratic revolution
Thus, while Israeli brutality and repression is having the effect of rallying forces against the common Zionist enemy, continued Anglo-American aggression against Iraq is helping to forge closer bonds between Arab regimes, who until recently were deadly enemies of each other.
At the same time
“US support for Israel is already embarrassing governments such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt with close ties to Washington
“Saudi officials fear anti-US sentiment will trigger terrorist attacks against US targets.
“In Jordan the government has banned anti-Israeli demonstrations and is likely to postpone elections due this autumn for fear that Islamists and Palestinians – more than half of its population is of Palestinian origin – would score the greatest gains.
“As the gap between public opinion and governments grows in the Arab world, the Intifida is highlighting the region’s broader problems – authoritarian political systems, weak economies and widespread unemployment”.
The continuing Intifida is a daily reminder that there is something fundamentally wrong in the Arab world, so awash with mineral wealth, which instead of being used for the upliftment of the Arab masses, is subjected to daylight robbery by imperialism. The Palestinian masses and their supporters in the wider Arab world are telling, through the eloquent language of the Intifada, their own governments as well as Zionism and its imperialist masters, in particular the US, that things cannot any longer go on in the old way. A society in which the rulers cannot rule in the old way and the ruled are no longer prepared to be ruled in the old way, is surely ripe for revolution. The entire Middle East is ripe for a thorough going people’s democratic and anti-imperialist revolution. The brutality and torture practised by the Zionist colonial regime on the Palestinian people, the support given to this barbaric regime of occupation by decadent, parasitic and moribund imperialism, is only hastening to bring it about. And the Palestinian Intifada is the cutting edge, the most virile and powerful instrument of the revolutionary transformation which the Middle East is undergoing right under our noses.