Reoccupation of PA territory
Ever since the events of 11 September 2001, the Zionist colonialist settler regime of Israel, taking advantage of US imperialism’s predatory wars of aggression, presented as the “war on terrorism”, has intensified its repression of the Palestinian people. In particular, while international attention was focussed on Iraq, the Zionist authorities moved in to reoccupy the territories which were under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) following the Oslo Accords. The occupied territories have witnessed hundreds of incursions. The small area of Gaza was the target of 55 Israeli military incursions in December last year, 77 in January and 91 in February of this year. There have been repeated invasions of Rafah, Jabalya, Beit Lahia, Beit Hanoun, Nasseirat, Khan Younis and other places, with each invasion leaving behind a dozen or so dead and many more injured.
The number of Palestinians killed and maimed by the Israeli army of occupation has risen dramatically. During the two months of January and February alone this year, more than 150 Palestinians were murdered by the Israeli army – 70 of these in January, of which 9 were children. On 11 January, Israeli forces invaded Khan Younis, killed 2 Palestinians and destroyed 30 family businesses. On 25 January, they destroyed 4 bridges, demolished dozens of houses in Beit Hanoun, and blew up 14 houses in Rafah. The following day (26 January), Israeli tanks and armoured carriers thrust their way into Al Zaytoun, killed 12 Palestinians, injured another 40, and dynamited 17 workshops on the spurious pretext that they were manufacturing weapons.
During February and March, the number of Palestinians killed rose from 15 to 30 a week on average. By the end of December, 2,100 Palestinians had been killed since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Presently, the number of Palestinians killed stands at about 2,500. By comparison, the number of Israelis killed is about 760.
In March, supposedly a period of lull in Israeli operations due to consideration of the Anglo-American imperialist war against Iraq, more than 80 Palestinians were murdered by the Israeli army in Gaza alone. Of these 80, eight were killed on 3rd March in the Israeli attack on the Bureij refugee camp in Central Gaza – just one day after the Israeli incursion into Khan Younis, which killed 3 and injured 39. During the attack on Bureij, a pregnant woman died in the wreckage of a house that collapsed after the Israeli army demolished a neighbouring building. Her home was adjacent to one of the 14 houses demolished by Israeli soldiers during this raid. On 6 March, Israeli forces killed 11 and injured 140 Palestinians in the Jabalya refugee camp. All those killed were innocent bystanders, including 3 boys, aged 12, 13 and 14. Such was the outrage caused by the Jabalya raid, that even the White House was obliged to issue a mild rebuke to Israel:
“Clearly there were a number of innocent Palestinians injured in the attack today and that is a source of concern for the president”, said Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman, adding that: “Israel has a right to defend itself. But the president reminds Israel about any actions they take must be done with an eye toward protecting innocent Palestinians”.
On 17 March, Israeli tanks, attack helicopters and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) intruded into the overcrowded Nuseirat refugee camp in Central Gaza, killing seven Palestinians. Three others were killed around the town of Beit Lehiya and several hundred held for questioning.
Rachel Corrie’s Murder
The raids came one day after an Israeli bulldozer crushed to death in cold blood an American peace activist, Rachel Corrie, in the Gaza strip town of Rafah. 23-year old Rachel, a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), had been protesting against a house demolition. Following her murder, several hundred Palestinians staged a symbolic funeral for her. Although American, Rachel Corrie has become a martyr and a symbol of Palestinian resistance – a new heroine for Palestine. Her death is bound to focus attention on the brutality of Israeli occupation in a way that hundreds of Palestinian deaths do not manage in this world of imperialist domination, in which the life of a single person from the heartlands of imperialism is rated higher than those of hundreds from the oppressed nations. A vigil for Rachel Corrie was attended by, among others, representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – groups regarded as terrorists by Rachel’s government. They mingled with representatives of secular organisations and huge numbers of ordinary Palestinians, including children, who came to pay their respects. The children carried a sign saying: “Rachel, we love you as an angel”. A little boy, pointing to a picture of Rachel, said: “She died defending this holy and blessed land”. It is the first time that an American has been adopted as a Palestinian martyr.
“A regrettable accident”, was the response of the Israeli army. “A war crime”, says the ISM.
The activists have compelling photographic evidence to substantiate eye witness claims that Rachel’s death was a deliberate murderous mowing down of an unarmed demonstrator.
The Israeli army was represented at the memorial service for Rachel in the form of an army tank, which pulled up beside the mourners and sprayed them with tear gas. The tank was joined later by Israeli bulldozers and APCs, firing guns and percussion bombs, resulting in the termination of the service. The fascistic insult directed by the Israeli army at Rachel Corrie and her supporters was as pointed as it was dangerous.
On the same night as Corrie’s murder (16 March), 9 Palestinians were killed in Rafah, Gaza strip, including a four-year old girl and a man of 90. A total of nearly 250 people have been killed in Rafah by the Zionist butchers since the beginning of the Intifada.
During April, 61 Palestinians were killed, 13 of them children under the age of 17. On the 2nd of April, 2,000 Palestinians were rounded up for questioning following a raid by Israeli tanks and helicopters on a refugee camp in the West Bank town of Tulkaram. Men between the ages of 14 and 40 were told to gather in a school courtyard or face punishment. Presently, 10,000 Palestinians are languishing in Israeli concentration camps, that is, apart from the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza, which in themselves are the two largest concentration camps in the world.
On 1st May, within hours of the release of the Middle East ‘Road Map’ (of which more later), 15 Palestinians were killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza and the West Bank. Three children, aged two, thirteen and fifteen, were among the 13 people killed by firing after the Israeli forces supported by tanks and helicopters, laid siege to the home of a Hamas leader in the Al-Shajaiya district of Gaza City. Two other Palestinians were shot dead in the West Bank.
Economic and Material Damage
Daily Palestinian income losses are estimated at $7.6 million. Since the start of the Intifada, the overall loss of Palestinian income is reliably estimated at $5.5 billion, not taking into account the material damage to the tune of $750 million. From 11% in the third quarter of 2000, unemployment has shot up to 50% in the West Bank and 70% in the Gaza, with each Palestinian in employment having to support 18 people. Those living below the poverty line in the West Bank account for 55% of its population, whereas in Gaza 70% live below the poverty line of $2 a day. 1.3 million Palestinians rely on UNWRA charity for existence. A quarter of the children in the occupied territories suffer from either chronic or acute malnutrition and 80% from anaemia. One factor preventing the complete collapse of the economy is the existence of the PA, which employs 125,000 persons. Their salaries, funded by foreign donors – the Arab states, the EU and the US – serve as a conduit for putting money into the Palestinian economy. Israel under US pressure has now resumed paying tax receipts, frozen hitherto, due to the PA. Even then, on top of these tax receipts, totalling $324 million a year, the PA needs $535 million in external support to balance its budget. (For some of the figures cited above, see the World Bank’s assessment of the economic impact of the Israeli response to the Intifada, dated 5 March 2003).
In Gaza 1,000 homes and family businesses have been demolished since the start of the Intifada – 250 this year alone.
The Zionist terror tactics this time round, as always, have been designed to crush the resistance of the Palestinian people to Zionist occupation, to snuff out their struggle for national liberation and, through the use of massive force and economic blockades, to either make them flee their homes or to reconcile themselves to a life under permanent occupation in a Palestinian version of Bantustans. The objective of the Israeli authorities is to humiliate and demoralise an entire people, to lead the Palestinian people to internalise “in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people”, in the words of the IDF’s chief of staff, General Moshe Ya’alon.
But this tactic, with its fascistic use of disproportionate force, has failed. Operating in the most difficult of conditions, the Palestinian resistance has continued to deliver some powerful blows against its occupiers and tormentors. Here are a few examples of the actions carried out by the resistance this year. On 24 January, Hamas launched a rocket attack against the Israeli town of Sderot, near the Gaza strip. During the retaliatory raid the following day by Israel, which claimed the lives of 12 Palestinians and injured 40 others in the Zaytoun neighbourhood of Gaza, the resistance defiantly fired four more rockets at Sderot and the area around it. On 15 February, Hamas blew up a Merkava tank, the pride of Israeli occupation armour, killing its crew of four. On 5 March, fifteen Israelis were killed in Haifa as a member of the resistance, Mahmoud Hamdan Kawasme, 20 years, exploded a bomb which blew apart a bus that served the northern port city’s university. As usual, Israeli forces responded by an orgy of revenge killings the following day in the Jabalya refugee camp, murdering 11 Palestinians and injuring another 140.
On 23 April, an Israeli security guard was killed and 13 injured in a suicide attack by the resistance in the town of Kfar Saba. Hours later, the Israeli army killed two Palestinian stone-throwers in a West Bank village near Ramallah. During the week of 19-25 May, the resistance claimed responsibility for suicide attacks that killed 12 Israelis. Nine of these died in bombings in Hebron and Jerusalem during the weekend of 17-18 May, while on 19 May, three Israelis were killed and 30 injured at a shopping mall in the northern Israel town of Afula as the fifth Palestinian suicide bombing in three days struck this town near Jenin in the West Bank. The Jerusalem bombing was the first in six months and claimed the lives of 7 Israelis. Also on 19 May, three Israeli soldiers were injured when a suicide bomber exploded a bomb in the Gaza strip.
Notwithstanding the pessimistic assessments of the Palestinian liberation struggle by the ‘left’ and radical intelligentsia in the centres of imperialism, it is clear that the resistance, far from being cowed down and crushed, is full of vitality and is answering Zionist counter-revolutionary violence with revolutionary violence. It is this vitality and strength of the national liberation struggle of the Palestinian people, which forced a reactionary like George W.Bush, a fundamentalist Christian and the chief executive of US imperialism, with close connections to the oil and armament industries, to not only have a “vision” about the solution to the Palestinian-Zionist conflict, but also to set out, on 24 June 2002, this “vision” in the form of a two-state solution. It is this strength of the Palestinian resistance which obliged the Bush administration, in collaboration with the UN, Russia and the EU (the quartet), to draft in December of last year the so-called Road Map for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. It is precisely this strength which obliged Sharon, on 26 May at a meeting of his Likud Party, to say that Israel could not forever continue to be in “occupation” of 3.5 million Palestinians, a statement which caused a furore in this party.
The Road Map
The Bush administration and Israel have insisted that they will not deal with Yassir Arafat, whom they rightly regard as an obstacle to a Palestinian surrender at the negotiating table. Bush had, therefore, made the publication of the Road Map conditional on ‘reform’ of the PA and the appointment of a Palestinian prime minister acceptable to US imperialism and Israeli Zionism as a negotiating partner. Arafat and the PA, not wishing to isolate themselves in the complicated and difficult situation they find themselves in, have gone along with these unreasonable demands with a view to isolating Israeli Zionism and exposing the hypocrisy and duplicity of US imperialism before the court of world public opinion.
On 10 March, Arafat nominated Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, to be the first Palestinian prime minister. On 29 April, the Palestinian parliament confirmed the appointment of Abbas as prime minister, thus making way for the publication of the Road Map the following day (30 April). These, in a nutshell, are the provisions of the Road Map:
“A final and comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by 2005 … [based on] an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours”.
Phase 1 (to May 2003)
“Unconditional cessation of violence” by both sides, a new Palestinian constitution and elections, and a freeze on Israeli settlement activity.
Phase 2 (June-December 2003)
Following Palestinian elections, an international conference to be held with a view to “possible creation of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders in 2003”.
Phase 3 (2004-2005)
“Consolidation of reform and stabilisation of Palestinian institutions, sustained, effective Palestinian security performance, and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at a permanent status agreement in 2005”.
The Road Map calls upon Israel to freeze all settlement activity but says nothing about the expansion (natural growth in Zionist speak) of these settlements; it calls for the removal of settlements built after March 2001, but says nothing about those built earlier in violation of the Geneva conventions and UN resolutions alike; it says nothing about the status of East Jerusalem, nor about the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel; it calls upon the Arab states to normalise relations with Israel, without obliging the latter to return the territory it captured from them – the Syrian Golan Heights. It does, however, call upon Israel to end its targeted killing of Palestinian fighters, an end to incursions into PA territory, an end to demolitions and killing of civilians, the release of Palestinian prisoners, the easing of the occupation and withdrawal from all occupied Palestinian cities.
On the other hand, it calls upon the PA to crack down on the resistance and to disarm it, with the hope that such an attempt by the PA would spark a civil war among the Palestinians and thus absolve US imperialism and Israeli Zionism from having to implement the Road Map. This is precisely why there was so much delay over the finalisation of the Abbas Cabinet. The US and Israel had indicated that they wanted the former Palestinian security chief of Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, to be in charge of security because of his known commitment to effect a crackdown on the resistance. In the list of Cabinet members finally revealed during the last week of April, Dahlan got the portfolio of state minister for security despite Arafat’s objections – with Mahmoud Abbas retaining charge of the interior ministry. Salam Fayad, a former IMF official, got the finance portfolio.
The resistance, for its part, greeted the announcement of the new Cabinet with a suicide attack against an Israeli target – the bomber belonged to the Fatah organisation of the prime minister and president Arafat. Just as Abbas was being confirmed, two Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in a missile attack on Gaza. Two days later, on 1 May, in the course of attempting to murder Yusuf Abu Hein, a senior Hamas leader, Israeli forces killed 12 Palestinians in Shijaiyah in Gaza.
The following day (2 May), Israeli soldiers in an APC deliberately shot dead James Miller, a British cameraman, in Rafah while he was waving a white flag. The Israelis offered their routine excuse for such cold-blooded murders, to wit, that Miller was caught in crossfire. Earlier on 11 April, also in Rafah, a British member of the ISM, Tom Hurndall, was shot in the head while trying to rescue a young girl from Israeli shooting. Sickeningly, the Israeli army says that Tom was caught in the crossfire. There is compelling eyewitness and photographic evidence to give the lie to the Israeli assertions. Tom Hurndall is now brain-dead.
The cold-blooded murders of a member of ISM, and of the journalist James Miller, add to a pattern of the Israeli army deliberately targeting western peace activists and journalists in an attempt to prevent the world from learning about the murderous Israeli occupation and the accompanying brutality. The Israeli authorities are now asking visitors to sign a declaration that they have no connection with the ISM or any other organisation which aims “to disrupt IDF [Israeli army] operations”. Further they are required to sign a declaration stating: “I am aware of the risks involved and accept that the Government of the State of Israel and its organs cannot be held responsible for death, injury and/or damage/loss of property which may be incurred as a result of military activity”. In other words, the visitors are being asked to sign their own death warrants by giving in advance to the Israeli army the right to kill them with impunity.
Acceptance of the Road Map
Following the confirmation of his Cabinet and the publication of the Road Map, Abbas and the PA indicated their acceptance of the Road Map. The Sharon government expressed reservations and made several objections to the contents of the Road Map. The Zionists, led by the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, organised a campaign in the US, which resulted in a letter sent by 88 Senators (out of a total of 100) and 316 Congressmen (out of 400) outlining their objections to the pressure the Road Map brings to bear on Israel.
The Israeli government had raised 14 objections to the Road Map, including its opposition to the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes; its concerns about the question of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza; the status of Jerusalem until the negotiation of a final settlement; and its insistence that all reference to the Saudi-led Arab initiative calling for the establishment of relations between Arab states and Israel in return for the latter’s withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967 be removed. Further, Israel insisted on a future Palestinian state being demilitarised and its borders and airspace firmly under Israel’s control. The US promised to address Israel’s concerns.
In an effort to galvanise support for the Road Map, US secretary of state, Colin Powell, visited several capitals in the Middle East in the second week of May. His main concern was to see “… rapid, decisive action by the Palestinians to disarm and dismantle terrorist infrastructure”, for, he asserted, “without such action our best efforts will fail”. In their joint statement, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, acknowledging Israel’s “significant concerns” regarding the Road Map stated that “the United States shared the view of the government of Israel that these are real concerns, and will address them fully and seriously in the implementation of the Road Map”. By a combination of soothing public statements and arm-twisting behind the scenes, US imperialism was able to persuade the Zionist authorities to endorse the Road Map, which they duly did at a meeting of the Israeli Cabinet on 25 May by a majority of 12 against 7, with 4 abstentions. It is the first time that an Israeli government has endorsed a plan that clearly calls for the creation of a Palestinian state on territory occupied in the six-day war of 1967. While the Tel Aviv stock exchange closed 7% higher on 25 May as a result of the optimism generated by the Israeli Cabinet’s ‘Yes’ vote, hard core Zionists were furious at the decision of the Israeli Cabinet. A certain Michel Freund, angry at Sharon’s “surrender to terrorism and the abandonment of the Zionist dream”, wrote thus in the Jerusalem Post towards the end of May: “by formally approving the road map .. the sovereign government of the State of Israel has effectively turned its back on the central tenets of Zionism, making a mockery of the Jewish people’s millennial-old [sic] yearnings to return to its land”.
With the acceptance of the Road Map by the Israeli government, the way was clear for Bush to first meet with some Arab flunkies and then stage a summit between himself and the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. On the 3rd of June Hosni Mubarak of Egypt played host to US President Bush, King Abdullah of Jordan, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and King Hamad of Bahrain, as well as Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian Prime Minister, at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. While in Sharm el-Sheikh, Bush called on Israel to “deal with” its settlements so as to clear the way for a self-contained and fully connected Palestinian state. “Israel must deal with the settlements. Israel must make sure there is a continuous territory that the Palestinians can call home”, he said. Colin Powell, Bush’s secretary of state, said that president Bush’s requirement was a Palestinian state that “… can’t be chopped up in so many ways in some form of Bantustan”.
This gathering in turn made way for the meeting the following day between Bush, Sharon and Abbas in the Jordanian port of Aqaba, where the Road Map was formally launched.
Although Arafat was not invited to this three-way meeting on the shores of the Red Sea, he closely monitored events from his headquarters in Ramallah, to which he has been confined for a whole year by Israel’s siege. Referring to Sharon’s promise to remove “unauthorised” settler outposts, Mr Arafat said: “Unfortunately, he has not yet offered anything tangible. What’s the significance of removing a caravan from one location and saying I have removed a settlement?”
On the same day as the Aqaba meeting (4 June), 40,000 settlers and other Israeli right-wingers protested in central Jerusalem to demonstrate their rejection of a Palestinian state. At Aqaba, Bush referred to Israel as a “Jewish” state, thus endorsing Israeli rejection of the demand for the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.
While emphasising that his chief concern was the security of Israel, Sharon said: “A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state”. He went on: “It is in Israel’s interest not to govern the Palestinians, but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state”.
Mahmoud Abbas, failing to mention the right of return, the Jewish settlements or the status of east Jerusalem, and ignoring the suffering of the Palestinian people, considered it apt to emphasise the “suffering of the Jews throughout history”, and called for an end to the “armed” Intifada. No wonder, then that on 6 June Hamas broke off ceasefire talks with Abbas in protest against his speech at Aqaba. Abbas responded on 9 June by saying that he hoped to renew negotiations, that dialogue was the only way and that he would not be pushed into a military confrontation with the resistance.
Sharon’s attempts at sabotage
Although, under US pressure, the Sharon government has accepted the Road Map, it will do everything to frustrate its implementation. Writing in the Israeli daily Ha’artez, Uzi Benzimon observed: “It appears that his [Sharon’s] main focus is to avoid being found guilty by Israeli and international public opinion of thwarting the American initiative while, in fact, his true intention is to do just that”.
Not surprisingly, then, within a day of the Aqaba meeting, an Israeli operation in the West Bank town of Tulkram, which claimed the lives of two Palestinian militants, sparked the latest round of killings and counter-killings. On 8 June, the resistance killed 4 Israeli soldiers at the Gaza border. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades took part in this attack, which showed that the Palestinians were fighting together in “the trench of resistance”, said Mr Rantisi of Hamas. He added that the attack, in which three Palestinian fighters, wearing Israeli army uniforms and under cover of heavy fog, opened fire at the Erez industrial zone near the main crossing point into the Gaza strip, was meant to demonstrate the determination of the Palestinian people never to surrender to US and Israeli pressure. A fifth Israeli soldier was gunned down in an attack by the resistance in the West Bank town of Hebron.
Two days later (10 June), Israel attempted to kill Abdul-Aziz Rantisi, number two in the political leadership of Hamas, by launching a helicopter assault, which killed three Palestinians and injured more than two dozen. According to reliable sources, Hamas was about to announce a ceasefire before this attack. Planning for the Israeli action is most likely to have been under way as Sharon took the podium alongside Bush at the Aqaba meeting. It is thus clear that the Israeli failed attempt on the life of Mr Rantisi was calculated to sabotage the implementation of Israeli obligations under the Road Map and it came close to dealing a death blow to Mahmoud Abbas and the Road Map alike. The White House, clearly appreciating the significance of the Israeli attack, issued a mild rebuke to Israel, saying that the president was “deeply troubled” by the Israeli action.
In the wake of the Israeli failed assassination attempt, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas leader, stated that “Israel should expect that this crime … will not pas without punishment”. “We will continue with our holy war and resistance”, said Mr Rantisi from his hospital bed, “until every last criminal Zionist is evicted from this land”.
The punishment promised by Hamas came quickly as on 11 June the resistance killed 17 Israelis in a suicide attack in central Jerusalem when a bomber dressed as an orthodox Jew exploded a bomb in a crowded bus. 70 other people were injured. In contrast to his mild rebuke to Israel following the attempted assassination of Mr Rantisi by the Israeli forces, the US president condemned the Jerusalem attack by the resistance in the strongest possible terms, warning that “those who love freedom and peace, must deal harshly with Hamas and the killers. For the people in the world who want to see peace in the Middle East, I strongly urge all of you to fight off terror, to cut off money for organisations such as Hamas, to isolate those who hate so much that they are willing to kill to stop peace from going forward”.
The above words are an apt description of Anglo-American imperialism and Israeli Zionism, for they are the biggest killers and terrorists; they are the ones that “hate so much that they are willing to kill” and do kill through their predatory wars and armies of occupation – from Afghanistan to Iraq and the Occupied Territories. Those who want to see peace realised in the Middle East and elsewhere, must fight against the war machines of imperialism – especially Anglo-American imperialism and Israeli Zionism. There will be no peace without fighting against, isolating and defeating, these deadly enemies of all humanity. If the US and Israel are really desirous of peace, there is a very simple solution. Let the Israelis quit the territories occupies in the 6-day war in 1967, remove all settlements, vacate east Jerusalem and recognise the right of return of the Palestinian refugees who were expelled at gunpoint in 1948. The real question is: do they really want peace? The choice is theirs. If they do not, the armed struggle of the Palestinian people will continue at an ever-accelerating pace and force on the Zionists a humiliating retreat of the type with which all colonialist powers, who failed to read the writing on the wall, have had to come to terms.
Israel responded to the Jerusalem attack by the resistance with an air strike on Gaza city, killing 7 Palestinians. Israeli helicopters fired missiles at two cars; among the dead were two senior members of Hamas, including Tito Massoud, a military commander of Hamas. All in all, between the Aqaba meeting (4 June) and 20 June, 27 Israelis and 47 Palestinians had been killed.
On 24 June, Israeli forces detained 160 Palestinians, including women and children, in the West Bank. Those detained join the ranks of 10,000 Palestinians already filling Israeli concentrations camps for Palestinians. The latest arrests came just as the expectations rose that Mahmoud Abbas might be close to achieving an Egyptian sponsored ceasefire deal with Hamas and other resistance organisations. “These arrests are an attempt to sabotage the understanding with Hamas. Israel does not want a ceasefire”, observed Yasser Abed Rabo, Palestinian minister.
In the end, Israel was unable to frustrate the attempts at negotiating a ceasefire, concerning which a deal was clinched on 27 June at a meeting between Muhammed Dahlan, the Palestinian security chief, and Amos Gilad, the Israeli military co-ordinator, at the residence of the US ambassador to Israel. The deal would see the resumption of joint patrols in parts of the Gaza. On the weekend of 28-29 June, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades announced a ceasefire. Following the above deal, on 29 June Israeli forces withdrew from the north of the Gaza strip, thus making it possible for the coastal road linking the north and the south of the territory to open on 30 June for the first time in two years.
The fighting has by no means stopped completely following the ceasefire agreement. On 2 July, Israeli troops killed Mahmoud Shawa, a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in the West Bank city of Qaldilya. The following day, the resistance fired missiles into a Jewish settlement. On the same day, four Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were killed in the Gaza. And on Monday, 7 July, there was a suicide attack by the resistance. Under the terms of the Road Map, the Israelis are obliged to release political prisoners, of which there are an estimated 10,000. So far, the Israelis have released no more than a few hundred; and those released do not include any from the main resistance organisations.
Israel is still continuing its policy of assassinations and is continuing with the construction of its so-called defensive wall, which, when complete, will make deep inroads into the occupied territories so as to ensure the inclusion of Jewish settlements into Israel. The result will be the annexation of 10% of the West Bank to Israel and the transfer of 57 settlements with a 300,000-strong settler population to Israel, besides nearly 400,000 Palestinians without rights of citizenship or residential status. Palestinians are the only people in the world who are denied by their occupiers both the (Israeli) citizenship and a separate state of their own. Many Palestinian villages and townships will be encircled by the wall, with the right of entry and exit of their inhabitants limited to a single checkpoint. The township of QilQilya will suffer this fate. In addition, the Israelis propose to confiscate the western Aquifer, which is a source of half the West Bank’s water supply, as well as the 14 wells which supply a third of QilQilya’s water.
Manoeuvres by parties
Sharon, while talking of “painful concessions”, will in practice do everything within his power to prevent the emergence of a viable Palestinian state through further settlement activity, land expropriation and dispossession of the Palestinian people. In the immediate aftermath of the entry of US troops into Baghdad, Sharon told the Israeli paper Ha’aretz that “a new period of opportunity for Middle East peacemaking which we must not let slip by” had arrived. Sharon, who has always stood for the creation of a “Greater Israel”, extending from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, was expressing his expansionist dreams in barely disguised terms. He and his government will do their best to spin out the negotiations under the Road Map, which they have been forced to accept, partly through the struggle of the resistance to Israeli occupation, and partly through US arm-twisting, which faced with the hatred of the people throughout the Middle East is trying, through the Road Map, to create favourable conditions for the preservation of its interests and the continued domination of the region.
Undoubtedly, it is the hope of Israeli Zionism and US imperialism that, in its endeavour to curb the armed struggle waged by various sections of the Palestinian resistance movement, the PA will instigate a civil war among the Palestinians. During the negotiations, each side will be seeking to gain room for manoeuvre. Sharon’s government will be seeking to appease the US while attempting to maintain the status quo or give away as little as possible. Palestinians, for their part, will be doing their best to isolate Israel while appearing to go along with the US plan.
Undoubtedly, there are dangers. However, in the extremely difficult and complicated situation the Palestinians find themselves in, they are correct in their stance of not ignoring the diplomatic front; they are correct in exploring the possibility of a negotiated settlement. They will succeed in this provided all sections of the movement maintain the greatest unity in the face of Israeli onslaught and US imperialist machinations; provided further that, far from laying down their arms, they remain prepared, if and when that becomes necessary, to substitute for the power of argument at the negotiating table the argument of power in the battlefield.
While wishing the Palestinian people well in their forthcoming ordeals, we in the imperialist countries have a duty to expose the Israeli state for the fascist outfit it really is, as well as the support given to it by imperialism, especially US imperialism; we a have a duty to render unreserved and wholehearted moral, political and material support to the struggle of the Palestinian people for national liberation.
Israel – a fascist state
A state which practises, as Israel does, such a mix of wholesale and indiscriminate repression, selective assassinations as well as massacres, systematic torture, collective punishment, regular and frequent invasions, massive demolitions, which systematically deprives those subject to its occupation regime of their livelihood, can only be characterised as fascistic. The leaders of such as state deserve to be called what they really are – fascists. This must be done by every decent and honest human being, particularly by every decent and honest Jew. It is incumbent upon all of us to follow the trail blazed by the world-famous scientist, Albert Einstein, and many other eminent intellectuals, particularly of Jewish origin, who protested against the visit to the US in 1948 of Menachem Begin on a fund-raising campaign. At the time, Begin was the chief of Irgun Zvai Leumi, one of the two terrorist gangs (the other being the Stern gang) that had carried out the cold-blooded murder of 350 innocent Palestinians in the village of Deir Yassin on 19 April 1948 – a tactic employed by the Zionists at several places, which forced 750,000 Palestinians to flee their homes. Begin was later to become the leader of the very reactionary Herut (‘Freedom’) Party and then the Likud (Unity) before becoming Israel’s prime minister in 1977 and, perversely being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978. In their letter of protest, Albert Einstein and 28 other US intellectuals of Jewish origin, wrote thus to the New York Times:
“Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our time is the emergence in the newly created State of Israel of the ‘Freedom Party’ (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organisation, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organisation in Palestine. … Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions .. the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr Begin and his movement. … Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the fascist state.
“… A shocking example was their behaviour in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. … But the terrorists far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicised it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin. The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character of the Freedom Party. … The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism” (Albert Einstein and 28 other US intellectuals of Jewish origin, New York Times, 4 December 1948)
Ariel Sharon is a direct descendant of, and a criminal in the same mould as, Begin and Yitzhak Shamir (who organised the murder of Count Bernadotte, the UN mediator in Palestine, because he advocated the return of Palestinians to their homes from which they had been forced out by the Zionist terror tactics). Sharon, and his party, Likud, have been involved in massacres of the Palestinian people on a grand scale – from the murder of 75 Palestinians in the Jordanian village of Qibiya, through the massacre of several thousands at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in September 1982, to the ongoing death and destruction of Palestinian lives and property in the territories occupied by the Zionists since the 6-day war of 1967. It is time that Sharon, his party and his government, were subjected by the leaders of public opinion in Europe and America to similar opprobrium, and in the same forthright and trenchant manner, to which Einstein and his fellow intellectuals subjected Begin back in December 1948.
The Road Map is the last chance for a two-state solution, the time for which is running out fast. If the Zionists are stupid enough to throw away this last chance, the Palestinians might be forced to re-evaluate the two-state solution, which is the least of the dangers facing Israel as a theocratic Jewish state. This is possibly the reason which caused Sharon to say that Israel could not keep 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation forever. Under present demographic trends, within a decade there will be an Arab majority in the territory between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea. The one-state solution will spell an end of Israel as a Jewish state. As a matter of fact, so will the two-state solution, provided that the Palestinians are able to enforce the implementation of the UN resolution 194 of 11 December 1948, giving the right of return to the Palestinian refugees. The Zionists are on to a hiding to nothing if they make peace with the Palestinians. And, they are on to a hiding to nothing if they don’t make peace. The Zionist state is bound to end up as a by-word for beastliness and as a historical abortion.
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