Attempts at undermining Hamas government
The election of 25 January in the Palestinian territories brought Hamas into office. This election was judged by the Carter Centre, which monitored all three Palestinian elections, as “honest, fair and peaceful, with the results accepted by winners and losers”. But no sooner had Hamas won them than all the hypocritical lovers of democracy – from the US to the EU and Israel – cried foul and began in earnest to undermine the Palestinian authority (PA) led by Hamas. What reason can there be for it? The reason lies in the ruling Hamas movement’s refusal to play by Israel’s old rules, which rules all but eliminated the prospect of a viable Palestinian state. Hamas had made it clear that Palestinians will not recognise Israel unless and until Israel recognises Palestinian national rights; further, that Israel must vacate the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (WB) and accept the principle that no changes can be made to the pre-1967 borders without prior Palestinian agreement – a principle not only enshrined in UN Resolution 242 but also in the Road Map that Israel and its imperialist backers, the US and the EU, feign to accept. Nothing short of this will constitute acceptance by Israel of Palestinian national rights.
The new Israeli government, led by Ehud Olmert, has refused to deal with the PA’s Hamas-led government so long as it refuses to recognise Israel. The US and EU have followed suit and blocked all funding to the PA in a measure of collective punishment to undermine the Hamas government by starving the Palestinian people. Israel has blocked tax transfers to the PA, collected by Israel on behalf of the PA and amounting to $50 million a month – almost equal to the amount of the package being presently worked out by the EU allegedly to help avert “a humanitarian crisis”. Two Israeli banks which supply shekels to the PA, which has no currency of its own, have severed ties with their Palestinian counterpart, while other banks have been coerced by the US and EU bloodsuckers into not handling transfers of funds to the Palestinian territories for fear of being subjected to the so-called anti-terror legislation, particularly in the US.
Hamas’ popularity increasing
If the freezing of aid was intended, as it surely was, to isolate and discredit Hamas, it has failed dismally to achieve that purpose. So far, few Palestinians are blaming Hamas for their dreadful plight even though it is Hamas’ alleged refusal to recognise Israel, etc., which is supposed to have triggered the present crisis. Hamas is right to insist that Palestinian steadfastness will prevail. “They have misunderstood the Arab mentality”, said Khalil Abu Leila, a Hamas leader in Gaza, referring to the economic and political pressure brought to bear upon Hamas by the US, the EU and Israel. He went on: “As long as the pressure increases on Hamas, the more popular it will become. If it accepts conditions, its popularity will decrease”. The daily Israeli shelling that booms almost constantly from the northern Gaza Strip only helps reinforce the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and their support for the Hamas government. Even the Financial Times in its leading article of 11 May 2006 was compelled to describe the US and EU policy as an “immoral weapon … against occupied people”, not only “illegal under international law”, but also a “…sterile and destructive policy that has done nothing to dent popular support for the Islamist radicals or shift them away from their rejection of the state of Israel but has added significantly to the groundswell of anti-western bitterness among all Arabs.” Referring to Israel’s intensified land grab, the Financial Times concludes with this sane, if obvious, conclusion:
“The challenge of the quartet [US, EU, UN and Russia] is not just to bring Hamas to the table but to stop Israel’s creation of ‘facts on the ground’. There will never be security for Israel, much less justice for the Palestinians, if this creeping land grab is allowed to stand.”
Israel’s refusal to recognise Palestinian national rights
In a choreographed display of unity, the imperialist hyenas of the US and the EU chant the mantra that, before they will have any dealings with it, Hamas must recognise Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence (equating all violence with ‘terrorism’) and accept all previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements. These insolent demands are a distraction, for they serve to avert attention from the really important questions, which are: Does Israel recognise the national rights of the Palestinian people, especially their right to a state of their own with east Jerusalem as its capital? Will Israel renounce the use of violence in its dealings with the forcibly occupied and cruelly oppressed Palestinian people? Will Israel faithfully carry out its previous agreements with the Palestinians (including the Oslo Accords and the Road Map?), as well as the UN Resolutions calling upon Israel to vacate the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war and recognise the right of return of the refugees (and their descendants) expelled from their homes at gunpoint by Zionist terrorists?
In a remarkably lucid and excellent article, departing from the usual nauseating drivel written by members of our mercenary journalist fraternity, Henry Siegman, who is a senior fellow on the Middle East at the US’s Council on Foreign Relations and visiting professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, has this pertinent observation to make on the question under consideration: “…Israel exists and Hamas’s recognition or non-recognition neither adds to nor detracts from that irrefutable fact. But 40 years after the 1967 war, a Palestinian state does not exist. The politically consequential question, therefore, is whether Israel recognises a Palestinian right to statehood, not the reverse”. He goes on to say that, judging by the criterion of practice, “… Israel does not recognise a Palestinian right to statehood in the West Bank and Gaza. The position of Ehud Olmert’s government is that Israel’s right to annex at will any parts of Palestinian territory east of the 1967 borders supersedes any Palestinian rights. This is implicit in the Israeli government’s decision that a Palestinian government that even wishes to place on the agenda of a peace negotiation the territorial changes made unilaterally by Israel in the West Bank, or the question of the Palestinian refugees, cannot be a partner for peace.” (Quoted in the Financial Times of 8 June 2006).
More land grabs
Israel continues to thicken its existing settlements and extend their territorial boundaries for yet further expansions, even though such activity is barred under UN Resolutions, the Geneva Conventions, the Oslo Accords and the Road Map. Since the Oslo Accords, the number of settlers (all illegal) has doubled. Israel has constructed the huge apartheid wall located entirely on Palestinian territory with deep incursions to encompass settlements and grab more land. The wall is so constructed as to surround a truncated Palestine, while a network of exclusive highways will cut across the remnants of Palestine to connect Israel with the Jordan Valley.
Besides, this separation barrier slices off water resources on to the side of Israel, which already monopolises about 75% of Palestinian water in a region characterised by infrequent rainfall and where water is a strategic asset. Dependent on agriculture, hemmed in by Jewish settlements and starved of water supplies, the Palestinian territories are forever teetering on the verge of economic ruin, while pollution and inadequate waste disposal pose a variety of health and sanitation problems. It is hardly a coincidence that the route of the apartheid wall matches that of the water resources, the latter being conveniently located on the Israeli side.
On 4 May, Olmert took over as prime minister at the head of a 4-party coalition, vowing to fix Israel’s borders by the end of his 4-year term – with or without Palestinian agreement. On his recent visits to the US and several EU capitals, he received endorsement for his plans, under which Israel will be left in control of major West Bank settlements, where most of the settlers live. In his first visit to the White House (23 May) since becoming prime minister, Olmert met Bush and received praise for his “bold ideas”, that is, for blatant confiscation of Palestinian territories which, even under Bush’s Road Map, are supposedly the subject of negotiation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Being the incurable racists that they are, the Zionists have been forced to give up their mad and impossible dream of a Greater Israel between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean and the number of Palestinians in that area will soon outnumber the Jews. So Sharon and Olmert, both champions and architects of the illegal settlements, redefined their goal, under which Israel will keep the maximum of territory with the minimum of (Palestinian) population – as much of the geography with as little of the demography as possible. While this plan envisages the evacuation of some 70,000 Jewish settlers, this represents a mere seventh of the total number of illegal settlers on the West Bank. At the same time, this evacuation will be accompanied by an annexation of nearly half of the 22% of historic Palestine on which the independent Palestinian state is supposed to be established. Such a land grab, if it comes to pass, will leave the Palestinians with three discontiguous cantons:
“The achievements of the settlement movement in main concentrations will forever be an integral part of the sovereign state of Israel, along with Jerusalem, our united capital,” Olmert told the Israeli parliament only recently. In practice, it means the large settlement blocs of Ariel, Maale Adumin and Gush Etzim, along with the whole of Jerusalem, would remain in Israeli hands, while the Israeli army would retain and tighten its control over the West Bank, including the Jordan valley. And yet these Zionist thieves complain of there being no Palestinian negotiating partner. The Zionists are not only thieves who have stolen the Palestinian people’s country at gunpoint, they are also, like all colonial powers, very stupid thieves. The Palestinians, owing to their historical circumstances, offered the thieves 78% of their stolen property if only their victims could keep just 22%. Unable to appreciate their luck, the thieves are intent upon grabbing most of the 22% as well. In doing that, history is bound to judge, they are jeopardising the rest of their loot too. Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad, so runs the popular adage. The Zionist rulers of Israel, and their imperialist supporters, are precisely such mad people. May they carry on along this comfortable path to ruin and self-destruction. This prospect correctly alarms the Financial Times and compels it to observe that Israel’s plan would bring into existence a Palestinian state run by “…Hamas and bankrolled by Iran … a scenario that would not only jeopardise Israel’s security but would also exacerbate Washington’s already compromised ability to fight actual and potential fires in Iraq and Iran” (25 May 2006).
Gaza – a vast prison
Much has been made in the imperialist circles of the evacuation of settlers by Israel from Gaza. The truth is that since this evacuation, Gaza has been turned into a vast prison camp and subjugated to siege, while it has no access to air, sea or the West Bank, its economic and commercial life has been brought to a standstill, bringing hardship and near starvation conditions to its people. On top of this it is subjected to daily artillery and aerial bombardment. This state of affairs compelled no less a person than Jimmy Carter, former US president, to admit that the “…pre-eminent obstacle to peace is Israel’s colonisation of Palestine” (‘Walls that divide’, Times of India, 13 March 2006). Jimmy Carter may be a slow learner, but at least, unlike most other imperialist statesmen, he is a learner.
Zionist rhetoric about a negotiated peace
With cynical dishonesty, the Zionist leadership has tried to propagate the myth that while Israel would like to negotiate a peace settlement with the Palestinians, it cannot do so because of the absence of a Palestinian partner with whom to negotiate. The truth, however, is that Israel does not want a negotiated settlement acceptable to both sides, no matter who leads the Palestinians. Successive Israeli governments have made that clear. In particular, former Israeli prime minister Sharon made it brutally clear. He refused to negotiate with the Arafat-led PA on the pretext that Arafat sponsored ‘terrorism’. Following Arafat’s demise, the super-moderate Mahmoud Abbas took over as the PA president without causing any change of heart on Israel’s part. And now, with Hamas in the driving seat, the same old dishonest arguments are being wheeled out by the Israeli government with the full backing of US and EU imperialism. Israel will not recognise a Palestinian negotiating partner unless such a partner be willing to accept the delineation of the frontiers of the Israeli state as unilaterally decided by Israel. As no Palestinian leader, however moderate, could go along with that, Israel will never accept any Palestinian negotiating partner. In any case, Israel needs no negotiating partner to vacate the whole of the West Bank, including Arab Jerusalem, any more than it needed one to vacate Gaza. Under international law, it is incumbent upon Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied since 1967. It requires no Palestinian partners to leave these territories – all that is lacking is the will on Israel’s part to leave. While pretending to want a negotiated settlement, Israel is unilaterally fixing its borders through the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem, the annexation of land within the so-called security barrier walling off Palestinian towns, and closing the Jordan valley to the Palestinians.
Slaughter of innocents
It is precisely because of these outrageous actions of Israel that the Palestinians voted for Hamas. In voting for Hamas, the Palestinians have registered their resistance to the occupation. And, in doing so, they have endangered no peace process if for no other reason than that there is no peace process in existence which can be endangered. The peace process has been dead for several years.
While indulging in rhetoric about peace, the Israeli state continues its slaughter of Palestinian people on an almost daily basis. Since the evacuation of Gaza, the Israeli army has subjected the population of this tiny enclave to regular bombardment, firing more than 5,000 shells into it. In the face of this continuing barbarity, the heroic Palestinian people continue to put up brave and fierce resistance. Ignoring the ceasefire that Hamas observed for nearly 18 months, Israel has continued to murder innocent Palestinians, on occasion wiping out entire families going about their daily business – as, for instance, on 9 June, when the entire Ghalia family, save one 10-year old girl, were butchered while picnicking on the beach, by an Israeli missile. The whole world witnessed in horror the harrowing footage of this young girl screaming for her dead family in the shrapnel-strewn wreckage of a Gaza beach. Following this Israeli massacre, the military wing of Hamas, deeming it pointless to go on observing the one-sided ceasefire, declared it to be over and resumed military actions against Israel, firing volleys of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. On the weekend of 10-11 June, Hamas fired at least 17 rockets, targeting the southern Israeli town of Sderot, home of Amir Peretz, Israel’s defence minister. “We have decided to turn Sderot into a ghost town”, declared the military wing of Hamas in a statement.
Hamas is refusing, unlike Mahmoud Abbas, to go along with ritual condemnation of the use of revolutionary violence by the Palestinian resistance to counter the counter-revolutionary massive violence of the Zionist racist state. Thus, for instance, when a suicide bomber belonging to Islamic Jihad struck on 17 April, killing 9 people and injuring 60 others in Tel Aviv, the PA’s Hamas-led government characterised it as a legitimate response to Israeli aggression. “The Israeli occupation bears responsibility for the continuation of its aggression”, stated Sami Abu Zuhiri, a Hamas spokesman. He added: “Our people are in a state of self defence and they have every right to use all means to defend themselves.” Be it noted that during the 2 weeks immediately preceding the Tel Aviv bombing, Israeli forces had killed at least 18 Palestinians.
In the latest stand off between the resistance and the Israeli state, in a joint operation on 25 June, a group of 7 or 8 armed Palestinians belonging to three organisations, including the armed wing of Hamas, entered Israel through a tunnel underneath the fence that surrounds Gaza, and attacked an Israeli watchtower, a tank and another vehicle. In the ensuing fighting, two of the four-strong tank crew were killed and the gunner, a 19-year old Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, who holds French citizenship, was taken prisoner. Two of the attackers also died in the fighting. The attack came in the wake of two weeks during which Israeli strikes on Gaza killed at least 14 Palestinians. Israel has demanded the immediate release of Corporal Shalit. The Palestinians in turn have demanded the release of at least some of the more than 10,000 Palestinians who have for years been languishing in Israeli dungeons and concentration camps, where they are routinely tortured, and brutalised. Unable to secure the immediate release of this prisoner of war, Corporal Shilat, Israel has moved its army and tanks into Gaza and destroyed the only power plant supplying electricity to the area, thus endangering the lives and health of this overcrowded place. They have also arrested about 60 prominent leaders of Hamas including 38 ministers and members of the Palestinian Parliament. The whole world can now see Israeli arrogance, might and racism on display, which regard the wellbeing of one Israeli soldier (a foreign fighter to be precise) more important than the lives of millions of Palestinians eking out a miserable existence in the Palestinian territories, which are nothing but a huge concentration camp for incarcerating the subjugated, occupied and oppressed Palestinian people.
Need for unity
Now, as never before, the Palestinian people need to close ranks and achieve greater unity in the face of their common enemy, instead of tearing each other apart through the exercise of a futile and divisive referendum over a document apparently agreed upon by prominent Palestinian prisoners, including Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti and some important Hamas prisoners. Already Olmert has dismissed the referendum proposed by Mahmoud Abbas, and fiercely opposed by Hamas, as meaningless, while the US and EU say that the prisoners’ document falls far short of the demands of the ‘international community’ – which demands amount to the total and abject surrender of the Palestinian people and acceptance by them of the denial of their right to resist and struggle for national liberation from the clutches of Zionist colonialism. For the problem is not whether Hamas recognises the right of Israel to exist, but whether or not Israel and the handful of imperialist bloodsuckers (the ‘international community’ in imperialist-speak) recognise the national rights of the Palestinian people. Even if (and it is a big if) the referendum proposed by Mr Abbas passed by a large majority, or indeed even if Hamas were to sign up to it, Israel would not accept it as a basis for negotiations (as the prisoners’ document stands for the continued resistance to Israeli occupation and for the right of return of the refugees and their descendants expelled at gunpoint by Israeli terror gangs) and would go ahead with the unilateral delineation of its frontiers.
On 11 June, Hamas vowed to block the staging of such a referendum. In his letter of 9 June, and during a 3-hour meeting late on Saturday night of 10 June, prime minister Ismail Hamiya urged the PA president, Mr Abbas, to abandon the referendum as a divisive mechanism at a time of crisis, when the Palestinians need the greatest of unity. Instead he suggested the continuation of dialogue to reach an acceptable agreement. It is to be hoped that Mr Hamiya’s sensible suggestion will be accepted by Mr Abbas and his followers. Any other course will simply play into the hands of Zionism and imperialism.
That the efforts to isolate and undermine the Hamas government are bound to fail is obvious to anyone in the least perceptive. Efraim Halevy, a highly respected Israeli security expert, a hawk who headed Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, under 5 prime ministers and served as Ariel Sharon’s national security adviser, as long ago as September 2003 stated that “…there will be no way around Hamas being a partner in the Palestinian government,” adding, and this at a time when Hamas enjoyed the support of only a fifth of the Palestinian population, that “Anyone who thinks it is possible to ignore such a central element of Palestinian society is simply mistaken.” This is much more true today, when Hamas enjoys majority support. His views came as a shock to members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations when Mr Halevy addressed them recently in New York.
No public sympathy for Israel
Through the brutality of its occupation, the savage treatment of the Palestinian people, its total denial of the rights of Palestinian people and its wars of aggression against Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, with their wholesale bombardment of the centres of population in Lebanon and the massacre of thousands of innocent men, women and children in Sabra and Shatila, Israel has at long last (not a day too early) come to lose what was once its greatest asset, namely, the sympathy it enjoyed among the peoples of Europe. In the 1960’s Israel enjoyed overwhelming sympathy because of its carefully cultivated image of victimhood and the growing public acknowledgement of the Holocaust – so much so that even the inauguration of illegal settlements following the 6-day war and the invasion of Lebanon appeared not to shift opinion in the west against Israel. Today everything is different. Israel’s occupation and savage repression of the Palestinians, once known only to an informed minority, are under daily global scrutiny, thanks to the heroic Palestinian resistance combined with instant transmission of information through computer terminals and satellite dishes.
In an exceptionally lucid article in the Financial Times of 23 May, Tony Judt, director of the Remarque Institute at New York University, gives the following account of the complete transformation in the international view of Israel:
“The universal shorthand symbol for Israel, reproduced in political cartoons, is the Star of David emblazoned on a tank. Today, the universal victims, the emblematic persecuted minority, are not Jews but Palestinians. This shift … has redefined Israel forever. Israel’s long cultivated persecution mania no longer elicits sympathy. The country’s national narrative of macho victimhood appears to many now as simply bizarre: a collective cognitive dysfunction … As for the charge that criticism of Israel is implicitly anti-Semitic, that is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling assertion. Israel’s reckless behaviour, and its insistent identification of all criticism with anti-Seminism, is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in western Europe and much of Asia” (‘Why Israel cannot always rely on America’s helping hand’).
Israel’s bleak future
Mr Judt traces this transformation back to the June 1967 war, observing the Israel’s victory in that war,, and its occupation of the conquered territories “…have been the Jewish state’s very own nakba: a moral and political catastrophe”, for its brutal occupation has served to expose the reality about Israel “to a watching world”.
Mr Judt adds that Israel has been able thus far to ignore world opinion because of the unquestioning backing of the US. The only country where the media and the politicians of the two major bourgeois parties, the Republicans and Democrats, still echo the claim that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. But, ventures forth Mr Judt, this “…confidence in unconditional US approval may prove to be Israel’s undoing”. And this for the reason that “Israel and the US appear increasingly bound together in a symbiotic embrace, whereby the actions of each party exacerbate their common unpopularity abroad”. If Israel has no option but to look to America, the US, says Mr Judt, “…is a Great Power – and Great Powers have interests that eventually transcend the local obsessions of even the closest client states.” In other words, the US supports Israel for reasons not of sentimentality but of its own material and political interests. When Israel no longer suits these interests, as must happen sooner or later, the US will drop Israel without a twinge of conscience. The catastrophic Iraq war and its effects have, he says, set in motion a sea change in the US’s foreign policy debate, it becoming clear to prominent participants in this debate that in the last few years America has suffered a disastrous loss of influence and its image has become much degraded. It has to do a lot to repair its image, especially in its relations with regions which are vital to its strategic and economic interests. And this repair work “…cannot succeed while US foreign policy is tied by an umbilical cord to the needs and interests of one small Middle Eastern country of little relevance to America’s long-term concerns – a country that is … a strategic burden.” (Ibid., our emphasis).
Mr Judt concludes that “Israel’s future is bleak”, for it is “…on the vulnerable periphery of someone else’s empire…” The time has come, he says, for Israel to conduct a serious “…reappraisal of every illusion under which the country and its elite have nestled.” It must “…acknowledge that it no longer has any special claim on international sympathy or indulgence; that the US will not always be there; that colonies are always doomed unless you are willing to expel or exterminate the indigenous population.” The point is not whether this scenario confronts Israel as an immediate prospect. What is really significant is that this issue is being aired openly by sections of the ruling class in the US and its leading intellects involved in the foreign policy debate being conducted in Washington.
Demoralisation and despair at home
Within Israel itself, there is a significant minority who can no longer go along with the brutality of the Israeli state and the lies to cover up this brutality. Following the massacre of the Ghalia family on a Gaza beach, the Israeli media displayed large photos of its aftermath, with numerous editorials calling for a change of policy, an end to the shelling of Gaza and renewed efforts at negotiating with the Palestinians. David Grossman, a prominent Israeli novelist, wrote in the newspaper Maariv: “The image of the girl on the Gaza beach, whose life was torn to shreds before our very eyes, should pull us out of the hypnotic coma we have been in for years,” adding that the Israeli army “with the fixed movements of a heavy piston”, has been pounding the Palestinians “and ultimately pummelling them deeper into their humiliation and rage and desire for revenge.” He went on to urge Ehud Olmert to talk to the Palestinians, saying that “The disgrace on the Gaza beach is a defeat in a campaign that is far more important than the exchange of blows with the Palestinians – the campaign for our image as a people and as human beings” (quoted in the New York Times of 12 June 2006).
Even Olmert’s own daughter Dana, a progressive academic, participated in a demonstration against the 9 June massacre on the Gaza beach. Several hundred demonstrators marched on the night of Saturday 10 June to the Tel Aviv home of Dan Halutz, Israel’s chief of staff, accusing the army of “war crimes”.
At the diplomatic level too, the Israelis have failed dismally to isolate the Hamas government. Russia and China, both prominent members of the UN Security Council, have invited Hamas delegations to their capitals. Both Moscow and Beijing have ignored the Israeli and western criticism – simply saying that they recognise the Palestinian people’s democratic choice.
On the path to destruction
Thus, it is clear that for all the armed might of the Israeli state, for all the backing it receives from the most powerful imperialist countries and their media, the Zionists are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of humanity at large, while being unable to crush the resistance of the Palestinian people against occupation and their struggle for national liberation The Zionists had a golden chance to negotiate a two-state solution which they have blown well and truly. That being the case, the Palestinian people are bound increasingly to fight for a single secular state of Palestinian for Jews and Arabs. By their actions – stupid and brutal in equal measure – the Zionists have thus not only given up the dream of Eretz Israel but also, it would appear, the dream of a purely Jewish state in Palestine. One cannot fail to have a sneaking admiration for their anti-Zionist achievement.