Palestine – National unity alone can advance the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation
Hamas Election Victory
In January 2006, the Palestinian Authority (PA) held parliamentary elections, which had long been demanded by US imperialism as proof of the democratic credentials of the Palestinian political leadership. The results stunned Israeli zionism and its chief backer US imperialism, for they produced a lightening victory for Hamas which gained 44 per cent of the vote and 76 seats in a parliament of 132.
In voting massively for Hamas, the Palestinian electorate clearly gave its endorsement for the armed resistance against Israeli occupation spearheaded by Hamas over the half decade prior to these elections. At the same time, the massive mandate for Hamas served as a clear manifestation of the Palestinian people’s rejection of the so-called peace process, which was reaching nowhere, and under the guise of which Israeli zionism, with the full support of US and EU imperialism, continued to expand settlements, subject the Palestinian population to economic blockades, military invasions, aerial bombardments, targeted assassinations of their leaders, turning all Palestinian territories (West Bank and the Gaza) into one hell of a prison – all in an effort to break the resistance of the Palestinian people.
Efforts to bring down Hamas Government
Although Hamas secured an absolute majority and with it the entitlement to form a government of its own, it tried its best, in the national interests of the Palestinian people, to form a government which would include Fatah representatives. However, Fatah, under pressure from imperialism, refused to cooperate. In the circumstances, Hamas had no option but to form a government, which it did in March 2006 with Ismail Haniya as prime minister. No sooner had a Hamas-led government been formed than the US and the EU severed all connections with it. While the US and the EU, in addition to the diplomatic boycott of the Hamas government, cut off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of budgetary aid to the PA, Israel refused to release nearly $1billion of tax and customs revenues which it owed to the PA. All this was done in an effort to bring down the Hamas government through the rope of starvation. The imperialist pretext for this inhuman and brutal treatment of the government led by Hamas was that the latter refused to meet the three conditions laid down by the so-called Quartet (the UN, US, EU and Russia), namely, the recognition of Israel, the recognition of all previous agreements and the renunciation of violence. But these demands were always unreal, as they required in the words of a later leading article in the
“… Palestinian capitulation to Israel’s final goals before negotiations began – without demanding Israel stop its creeping occupation of the West Bank”,
“… full recognition of an Israeli state in continual expansion is not a serious demand before a final agreement on borders”
(Editorial, ‘Mideast Opportunity’
, Financial Times,
21 March 2007).
Abbas’s threat of new elections
The diplomatic isolation and the economic blockade imposed by imperialism created tremendous difficulties for the Hamas government, hampering its ability to govern and pay public sector employees, prompting strikes and protests by government employees and security force personnel predominantly linked to Fatah. The Hamas government, through skill and determination, managed to weather the formidable obstacles put in its way and survived. Faced with the failure of its schemes, imperialism put pressure on Abbas to hold new elections, for in the imperialist understanding of democracy if an election does not produce the kind of ‘correct’ result expected of it, then such an election must be followed by others until the ‘truly democratic’ verdict is pronounced by the electorate. We have seen all this before – from Yugoslavia through Georgia to the Ukraine – all of which exposed the sham of democracy imperialist style. Responding to US arm-twisting, on 16 December 2006 Mahmoud Abbas announced that new elections would be held. Hamas denounced this decision as an attempted coup d’Ã©tat and made clear its determination to frustrate the holding of such an illegal election. Abbas’s decision was a desperate gamble, which was neither likely to ease the horrible plight of the Palestinian people nor lead to a meaningful revival of the peace process with Israel. Far from ending the deadlock between Hamas and Fatah it created fertile conditions for shoot outs between the two sides on the streets of Gaza.
During this difficult period, unprecedented in the history of the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas behaved with great responsibility and restraint, even in the face of such provocations as the torching of the parliament building in Ramallah on two occasions by forces loyal to Abbas. One day before Abbas called for new elections, the convoy of Ismail Haniya, the prime minister, as he returned to Gaza from a regional fundraising trip, came under attack, which killed his bodyguard and injured his son. Haniya was clearly the target of this attack which was, according to reliable sources, organised by Mohammed Dahlan, a Fatah strongman in Gaza and loyal to Mr Abbas. Following this, low level civil strife erupted between the two sides, which was prevented from exploding into a full blown civil war largely because of the restraint shown by the Hamas government.
By the beginning of February this year, the two sides met in Saudi Arabia and under Saudi mediation struck, on 8 February, the Mecca Accord to form a national unity government. On 15 March, such a government was formed, with Hamas agreeing to the portfolios of finance, foreign affairs and the interior being given to the independents. Imperialism, totally ignoring the Mecca Accord and the government of national unity, continued its boycott of the Palestinian government and persisted that the Hamas-led government must accept the three notorious demands as a precondition for the establishment of diplomatic and commercial ties, and the restoration of aid, between the PA, on the one hand, and the US and the EU, on the other.
Hamas victorious in Gaza
Meanwhile, the US pumped considerable amounts of money and armaments to the supporters of Abbas in an effort to confront and defeat Hamas in open armed combat. To add fuel to the fire, Abbas appointed Mohammed Dahlan, a most corrupt Fatah member and an open and unashamed agent of US imperialism and Israeli zionism, to the Palestinian National Security Council. While Hamas continued to call for unity, collective resistance against the Israeli occupation and a joint approach in dealing with Israel and the US, Dahlan intensified efforts to subdue Hamas in Gaza.
Following a series of provocations, escalation of the conflict by supporters of Mr Abbas, notably Dahlan, matters came to a head by the second week of June. When push came to shove, the security forces associated with Abbas and Dahlan suffered a lightening defeat in Gaza. This brought to an end the fighting, chaos and lawlessness which had permeated Gaza for several weeks. Road blocks have been removed, people have started venturing out of their houses, and life has returned to normal insofar as that is possible under the heel of Israeli occupation. By 14 June, Hamas had managed to bring calm and security to Gaza.
It is thus clear that imperialist/zionist attempts, through starvation of the Palestinian people, diplomatic isolation of the Hamas government and material support for Abbas, instead of isolating Hamas or forcing it to back down, have only served to strengthen it and help it rout the followers of Abbas in Gaza. These attempts have also deepened divisions within Fatah. In the wake of the Hamas victory, Khalid Abu Hilal, a spokesman for the interior ministry of the PA, proclaimed himself the new head of Fatah in Gaza, saying that he had formed an emergency committee with the Hamas Military wing
“to protect the good Fatah people”
and not those associated with “
such as Mohammed Dahlan.
Hamas has been magnanimous in victory. Four Fatah defendants accused of killing Hamas members in the recent fighting were brought before the families of the victims in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya and released thereafter. A Hamas statement said:
“After the Gaza Strip was cleansed of the mutinous gangs and traitors … Hamas announces a general amnesty for the four who were involved in murder and security chaos in northern Gaza”.
Emergency government and imperialist backing for it
Following the Hamas victory, prime minister Haniya urged talks with Fatah. He said:
“I still stress that the door is open to restructure Palestinian relations on the basis of national values”.
His calls for talks and reconciliation fell on deaf ears, for within minutes of Haniya’s appeal Mahmoud Abbas (who was elected president of the PA in 2005 and into whose election the US pumped $20million) dismissed the Hamas-led government and declared a state of emergency. Three days later, Abbas named Salam Fayyad, the former PA finance minister, as the new prime minister, thus marking an end to the national unity government that the two parties (Hamas and Fatah) had formed in March after agreeing to a programme designed to end their strife.
While Hamas dismissed the action of Abbas as illegal and insisted that prime minister Haniya remained the head of the government, the Quartet (composed of the UN, US, Russia and the EU) for its part predictably backed Abbas’s illegal move. The US and the EU moved with indecent speed to extend full diplomatic support, and resume financial aid, to the PA after the formation of an emergency government excluding Hamas. Israel too indicated its willingness to release funds, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, which belong to the PA and which it has been withholding in an effort to starve the Palestinians into submission. Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, informed EU foreign ministers that her government was willing to release the funds collected by Israel in taxes and customs on behalf of the PA because, she said, now was “
an opportunity to work with the new government
“, adding that the
“… strategy is to make a clear distinction between the moderates and extremists
The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said that she had called Salam Fayyad to tell him that
“the US would resume full assistance to the Palestinian government and normal government-to-government contacts
“. She told reporters that the US would, with immediate effect, lift financial restrictions on the Palestinian government and resume normal economic and commercial relations. She also let it be known that the Bush administration would work with the Congress for the release of $86million that had been earmarked to help Mahmoud Abbas to strengthen his security forces.
Several EU foreign ministers have indicated that they favour resuming aid to the PA – aid which was abruptly and brutally cut off following the formation of the Hamas government in March 2006.
Thus it is clear that the US, the EU, and Israel are continuing with the totally failed and discredited policy of isolating Hamas by bolstering Abbas through economic and diplomatic support – all in an attempt to divide the Palestinian people and put an end to their resistance against the occupation of their homeland. This latest attempt is just as doomed to failure as was the earlier one, which resulted in the total control of Gaza by Hamas. The new attempt, to stand any chance of getting off the drawing board, would require the open support of the followers of Abbas – a support which would expose and totally discredit the latter in the eyes of the Palestinian people and cause them to desert Fatah in droves and bolster the ranks of Hamas. Even such an impeccable organ of British finance capital as the
has no difficulty in seeing where the US, EU and Israeli attempts are headed. Describing the West’s attitude toward Palestine as
” and correctly characterising the US and European response to the recent events in Palestine as
“… an attempt to micromanage and pick sides”,
in a leading article the
of 19 June concludes: “
The harsh reality is that the Middle East will never be stable until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. The more Hamas supporters are isolated, the more radical they will become – and the less likely the prospect of peace. That is the danger of a western policy that deepens the divide between Palestinians rather than reconciles them”
(Editorial, ‘Beware of backing Abbas to the hilt’).
With all the miseries that it heaps on the Palestinian people, the continuation of the conflict poses an extremely serious danger – a danger which the zionist reactionary fools and their even more reactionary and foolish imperialist backers fail to see – to the very existence of this hideous monstrosity that goes by the name of the state of Israel.
Israel and US imperialism block all avenues to peace
Anyone with even the most meagre knowledge of the Palestine question can see that it is not the Palestinians who can be blamed for the continued conflict there. Zionism has relentlessly got on with the colonisation of Palestine while hypocritically talking about peace and blaming the Palestinian leadership for lack of progress. In the days of the late Yasser Arafat, it was asserted by Israel with full US backing that there was no one it could negotiate with for, so the claim went, Arafat was an obstacle to a negotiated settlement. Yet, his demise and replacement by the moderate Mr Abbas made no difference, with Israel refusing all meaningful negotiations. Now every blame is being dumped on the doorstep of Hamas. It is clear, however, that Israel and the US are bent upon frustrating all avenues to the resolution of this conflict except through the total defeat of the Palestinian resistance, something which will never happen. While supporting the new emergency government illegally appointed by Abbas, US president Bush and Israeli prime minister Olmert agreed during their meeting in Washington on 19 June that now was not the time for an immediate resumption of the peace talks. It is perfectly clear then that their support for Abbas, far from facilitating the resolution of the Palestinian conflict through peace negotiations, is solely aimed at dividing, weakening and defeating the Palestinians by stoking up civil war among them.
In 2002, the Arab League offered peace and recognition of Israel in return for Israel returning the Syrian Golan Heights, the establishment of a state of Palestine on the territories captured by Israel in the June 1967 war, with east Jerusalem as its capital, and the
” of the rights of Palestinians expelled from their homes at gun point by zionist murderous gangs at the time of the establishment of Israel. This same plan was re-presented at the Arab League’s Conference in Riyadh on 28-29 March this year. On both occasions Israel and the US ignored with contempt the Arab League’s very moderate proposal. The US has backed every act of occupation and aggrandisement, every outrage and act of barbarity, by Israel. In April 2002, the Bush administration backed Israel’s reoccupation of the West Bank and allowed it to smash Palestine’s nascent national institutions. On 16 April 2004, Bush endorsed a letter for Sharon recognising Israel’s right to keep settlements in the West Bank – a second Balfour Declaration. The US attitude and actions in regard to Palestine, its acquiescence in Israel’s land grab on the West Bank and east Jerusalem, combined with its predatory war against and occupation of Iraq with all the resultant brutality and abuse, and its full backing for the wanton destruction of Lebanon by Israel in last year’s Israeli war of aggression against the people of Lebanon, have made the US the most hated country in the Middle East in particular and the world in general.
Former Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party and favourite to be Israel’s prime minister after the next election, in an interview with the
(24 May 2007), flatly rejected the Arab League’s peace plan and instead argued in favour of
“some king of federation or confederation between Jordan and the Palestinians”
as a means of enhancing the prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He further called upon Palestinians to
“… renounce here and now the demand for the flooding of Israel with millions of Palestinian refugees”.
The right of return of the Palestinians expelled from their homes, a right enshrined in a UN resolution, said Netanyahu,
“… cannot be a subject for negotiations
“. And yet, these are the people who, with the full backing of imperialism, demand
“the Palestinians honour existing agreements
Continued land grabs and colonisation
Israel’s land grab and colonisation of the West Bank has continued unabated during the four decades of occupation. To coincide with the fortieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, the United Nation’s Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs has published a new map of the West Bank which provides the most comprehensive picture of a territory in which 2.5 million Palestinian are practically imprisoned in dozens of enclaves cut off by Israeli roads, settlement fences, the apartheid wall and military zones. Consequent upon Israeli military and civilian infrastructure, 40 per cent of the West Bank has been rendered off limits to the Palestinians, while the rest of it, including main centres such as Jericho and Nablus, have been split into isolated spots, with movement between them restricted by 450 roadblocks and 70 manned checkpoints. Whereas 260,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, just under that number have settled in east Jerusalem, with the biggest growth in settlements coming after the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s.
On 10 May 2007, the Israeli newspaper
reported that the Jerusalem municipality was planning to build three new Jewish neighbourhoods that would connect the city’s disputed eastern sector with the West Bank settlement blocs. Palestinians, who claim all of east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, have greeted the plan to build more than 20,000 apartments with outrage as all the three proposed neighbourhoods lie on land seized by Israel in the 1967 war.
Even the World Bank, hardly a friend of the Palestinian people, in a report released on 9 May 2007, criticised Israeli colonisation and cantonisation of the West Bank and the restrictions on the Palestinians who, according to its report, are confined to barely 50 per cent of the West Bank, thanks to Israeli settlements, administrative controls, the separation wall and army roadblocks.
Alvaro de Soto, the UN’s outgoing Middle East envoy, has felt obliged to accuse the US of imposing a one-sided, pro-Israeli agenda on diplomacy in the region and urged UN secretary-general, Ban ki-Moon, to seriously consider pulling the UN out of the Quartet. In his trenchant confidential report, intended for internal UN consumption, Mr de Soto, who quit his Jerusalem-based post in May, stated that the boycott of the Hamas government, forced through by the US, had devastating consequences for the Palestinian population. Relying on a
“small clique of Palestinian interlocutors who tell them what they want to hear”,
Washington decided that Hamas could be confronted and overthrown by its internal rivals. In this report, Mr de Soto makes reference to a meeting at which Elliot Abrams, US deputy national security adviser, and David Welch, assistant secretary of state, exerted pressure through
” concerning Congress’s ability to curb UN funding. He said that the result of the Quartet’s policy had been to
“take all pressure off Israel. With all focus on the failings of Hamas, the Israeli settlement enterprises and barrier construction has continued unabated
Mr de Soto’s report concludes with this advice:
“Absent a change in policy … the
should take a long, hard look at UN Middle East diplomacy. … In particular the question of the UN role in the Quartet needs to be reviewed
” (Harvey Morris, ‘UN’s Mideast envoy criticises US for its pro-Israeli agenda’,
, 14 June 2007).
Zionist state on the road to destruction
In the light of the foregoing, it is clear that Israel has no intention of vacating the West Bank; that it has every intention of intensifying and deepening its colonisation of the whole of Palestine; that instead of easing restrictions on the victims of its occupation, it is determined to make their lives even more miserable; and that in all its actions it enjoys the full support of US imperialism – its chief backer – which shares with it the belief that the Palestinian people will buckle and give up if only their living conditions are made miserable beyond endurance. Their actions and thinking clearly reveal that the leading lights of US imperialism and Israeli zionism, like reactionaries throughout history, are fools – lifting a rock only to drop it on their own feet. Israeli leaders are very fond of asserting that the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. This cynical assertion is far more applicable to Israeli zionists and their US imperialist backers, for by missing the opportunity to grasp the two-state solution, so generously offered to them by the Palestinians, they are creating the conditions for a one-state solution, and with it the end to the whole racist idea of an ethnically cleansed Jewish state. Roll on the day.
As Israelis mark the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War, which they thought had given them control over the whole of Palestine and brought them nearer than ever to the goal of an Eretz Israel, there is actually not that much for them to celebrate. As a matter of fact, for all its military might Israel is at its weakest today. The continued Palestinian resistance against occupation, combined with the bloody defeat Israel suffered at the hands of Hizbollah in its war of aggression against Lebanon last year, have served to reveal the limits of Israeli might and its inherent weakness. In the aftermath of that war, which was devastating for Israel, Dan Halutz, the then Israeli chief of staff, was forced to resign, while Olmert and his administration find themselves entirely rudderless, demoralised and covered in ignominy – mired in several corruption and sex scandals. Most probably the next Israeli election will bring Likud and Netanyahu into office, but the solution to Israel’s basic problem – securing peace while continuing the occupation of Palestine and the brutal suppression of the Palestinian people – will be no nearer than when Netanyahu was last in occupation of the prime minister’s office. Israel is heading, at an accelerating pace, for self-ruin and destruction.
As for the Palestinians, they need to step back from the brink of civil war and take the road of national unity. Any other course would do great harm to their cause. Deep within themselves they must be longing nostalgically for the days of Yasser Arafat, under whose wise and courageous leadership they were able to see through the imperialist and zionist schemes and present a united front.