Victory to the Intifada!
The so-called road map, drafted by the quartet – the US, EU, Russia and the UN – published on 30 April 2003, led to the Aqaba Summit between George W Bush, Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counter-part Mahmoud Abbas, the then Palestinian prime minister. This Summit endorsed the two-state solution as a means of resolving the long-running Palestinian/Israeli conflict and laid down a precise timetable for the creation of a Palestinian state (for details see Lalkar July/August 2003). That timetable has become irrelevant as the road map is now as dead as a doornail.
The truth is that on the Israeli and US side, the road map was never intended by them as a means to a just solution, but merely as an instrument for provoking a civil war among the Palestinians with the ultimate aim of defeating the latter’s struggle for national liberation. However, in that its aim, the road map has failed singularly. The Palestinians did not fall into that trap and have emerged from the ordeal intact and stronger for all the heavy price they continue to pay in the pursuit of their resistance against Zionist settler colonialism. In this article, we briefly describe the events since the Aqaba Summit – the continued Israeli repression and the heroic Palestinian resistance.
29 June Ceasefire
In defiance of the Aqaba Agreement, the Zionist killing machine continued its grisly work, to which the Palestinians responded appropriately. Within the three weeks between 4 June and 27 June, 47 Palestinians and 27 Israelis were killed. The continued fierce resistance by the Palestinians forced the Zionist authorities to sign a ceasefire deal with the Palestinian Authority (PA). On the weekend of 28-29 June, Islamic Jihad (IJ) Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (AMB) announced a ceasefire. Following this announcement, the Israeli forces withdrew from the north of Gaza on 29 June, thus enabling the road linking the north and the south of Gaza to be opened for the first time in two years. In flagrant breach of the ceasefire agreement, Zionism continued with its usual policy of shooting, killing and imprisonment of Palestinians. Land grabs, settlement activity and the construction of the apartheid wall continued unabated. In a provocative action aimed at scuppering the ceasefire, at the beginning of August, the Zionist army of occupation killed four Palestinians, including two Hamas members in an attack on Askar refugee camp close to Nablus on the West Bank (WB). The resistance answered this provocation with two suicide bombings on 12 August in which two people were killed and 13 injured. The first of these attacks was at a shopping precinct at Rosh Ha’Ayin, six miles east of Tel Aviv; the second at the WB settlement of Ariel. Nevertheless Hamas, which claimed responsibility for the second of these attacks, reconfirmed its commitment to the three-month ceasefire. AMB claimed responsibility for the Rosh Ha’Ayin bombing. These two bombings were the first major attacks on Israeli targets since the 29 June Hudna (ceasefire). With the Palestinian side refusing to be provoked into ending the ceasefire, Zionist authorities reverted to their campaign of assassination, with the murder in Hebron of Mohamed Sidar of the IJ on 14 August.
End of Ceasefire
In response, on 19 August, a Hebron teacher, Raed Mesk, made an unauthorised suicide attack in Jerusalem, killing 21. The attack provided the Zionists with a pretext. The following day (20 August) they launched a helicopter missile attack on a car in the Gaza, killing Hamas political leader Ismael Abu Shanab and his two associates. A day later (21 August), the resistance declared the ceasefire at an end. Shanab, an engineering lecturer, who lived openly, teaching at the City’s university, was very popular among his people, 100,000 of whom thronged his funeral. The remaining 10 days of August witnessed eight Zionist assassination attempts, in which Palestinians were killed and scores injured. With the assassination of Shanab, the Zionists who had taken the fateful decision to target political as well as military leaders of the Palestinian people, sent a clear signal that the road map was dead – and with it the premiership of Mahmoud Abbas (Abus Mazen), who was so closely involved in it.
Not surprisingly, on 6 September Abbas resigned his premiership. A mere three hours later, the Zionists made an unsuccessful attempt at assassinating Sheikh Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, prompting two suicide attacks on 9 September by Hamas. In the first attack 7 Israeli soldiers were killed when a Palestinian fighter managed to evade a high-level security alert in Israel and exploded a bomb at a crowded bus stop outside a military base near Tel Aviv. 30 others were injured in the blast at the Tzrifuin base at Rishon Letzion as Israeli soldiers going off duty waited for buses or attempted to hitch rides. In the second attack on a café in Jerusalem, 8 Israelis were killed. Six Palestinians were also killed on the same day. The attacks forced Sharon to cut short his visit to India. On 10 September Israeli aircraft fired missiles at the Gaza City home of Mahmoud al-Zahar, a political leader of Hamas, who escaped with minor injuries while his son and bodyguard were killed. One of Mr Qurei’s first acts following his acceptance of the premiership (see later) was to issue a statement condemning the Israeli raid as a “cowardly Israeli assassination attempt on brother Mahmoud al-Zahar”.
In the second week of September, Israel’s security cabinet denounced Yassir Arafat as “an obstacle to peace” and declared its intention to remove him, with Ehud Olmert (deputy prime minister) publicly stating that killing Arafat was “definitely one of the options open” for his government. A week later, speaking from his battle-scarred headquarters in Ramallah, Arafat declared that he was not afraid of death. “I am a Palestinian soldier … I will use my gun to defend not only myself but also every Palestinian child, woman and man and to defend the Palestinian existence”, adding “is there anyone in Palestine who does not dream of martyrdom?”
Meanwhile, on 7 September Arafat appointed Ahmed Qurei to the position of prime minister, which the latter accepted on 10 September. The replacement of Abbas by Qurei (known as Abu Ala) represents a victory for president Arafat, two years after the Israeli government declared him “irrelevant” and 18 months after Bush urged the Palestinian people to find a new leadership. Mr Qurei, who was sworn in on 4 November, chairs a national security council which determines security policy and is to be consulted on any negotiations Qurei conducts with the Israelis. His 24-member cabinet had been authorised by the Palestinian parliament to seek renewed negotiations with Israel and implement the road map. Furthermore, the appointment of Qurei forced the US to accept the inevitable by implicitly indicating its willingness to deal with the new Palestinian prime minister provided he showed commitment to the road map, which according to the US and Israel boils down to a crackdown on the armed resistance and the resultant liquidation of the Intifada and the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation. Richard Boucher, US state department spokesman, stated after Mr Qurei’s appointment that: “Whoever becomes the new Palestinian prime minister, we’re looking to see if he has the commitment, authority and resources to move forward on the road map. At this juncture that means principally … taking control of the security situation and acting against groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad”.
On 18 September, Israeli troops raided a refugee camp in Gaza, in the process killing Abu Swerah, a Hamas leader. The resistance hit back with a suicide attack in Haifa at the beginning of October which killed 21. The Israeli army’s response was to re-enter the southern Gaza strip and kill 15 people, injure many more, demolish several houses and buildings, and render 1,500 homeless – all in the course of just one week. On 19 October, the AMB shot dead three Israelis in an attack north of the WB city of Ramallah “in response to the Zionist massacres against our people”. The AMB statement added that “there will be more operations against occupation soldiers until they leave our land”. On the same day, the resistance launched eight rockets from Gaza into southern Israel. The following day, Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians in air raids on Gaza, lasting 12 hours. On 18 November, two Israeli soldiers were killed near Bethlehem by a member of the resistance, with an assault rifle hidden in a prayer mat. On Christmas Day, Israelis launched an attack on Gaza with helicopter gunships, killing a member of the resistance and four others. Within an hour, three Israeli soldiers and a civilian were killed at a crowded bus stop in Tel Aviv. It was the first suicide bombing inside Israel since October 4, for which the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility. In its statement, the PFLP said: “This is the first operation in a series of retaliations. We swear to make an earthquake in the Zionist entity”. On 14 January, Reem al-Reyashi, a 22-year-old mother of two, killed 3 Israeli soldiers and a civilian, wounding another 7, in a suicide bomb attack at Erez, the main border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in the first such attack since 25 December. Hamas and the AMB claimed joint responsibility for the bombing and pledged to escalate the struggle to counter Israeli operations that have claimed the lives of scores of Palestinians over the past few months.
Every time there is a lull in violence, the Israeli authorities come up with new provocations through their raids on Palestinian areas, which inevitably cause great loss of Palestinian lives and property. Thus it was on 28 January 2004. In a sickening repetition of their usual Nazi-style operations, Israeli troops killed at least eight Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in one of the bloodiest raids of recent months. The resistance answered this provocation with a fitting retaliation the following day when a Palestinian fighter from Bethlehem blew himself up aboard a bus in neighbouring Jerusalem (a 15 minute drive away from Bethlehem), killing 10 people. The explosion took place at the end of the morning rush hour about 100 yards from the official residence of Ariel Sharon. This was the first suicide bombing inside Israel since 25 December and the first in Jerusalem for nearly 5 months. Although the bombing cast a shadow over it, nevertheless the prisoner swap between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement took place as planned on 29 January. This exchange included 400 Palestinians and some Lebanese in return for the release of the Israeli businessman, Elhanan Tannenbaum, the remains of three Israeli soldiers abducted on the Lebanese border in 2000 and 29 other detainees, most of them Lebanese.
On 1 February, Israeli troops killed a Palestinian belonging to the military wing of Fatah, in a raid on a house in Jericho, which coincided with the first day of Eid al-Adha, an important festival in the Muslim calendar.
During the whole of 2003, nearly 900 Palestinians were killed. Nearly 40 were militant members of the resistance who fell victim to Zionist targeted assassinations. According to the Arab Human Development Report 2003 published by UNDP, of 2,405 Palestinians killed from the beginning of the present Intifada up to April 2003, 85% have been civilian and 20% children.
A report by Amnesty International released on 8 September noted that during the three years of the Intifada, the Israeli army had killed more than 2,100 civilians, including 380 children, “in mostly excessive and indiscriminate uses of force, unlawful killings and assassinations”. The report emphasised Israel’s “consistent violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”. These violations included arbitrary expropriation of natural resources, the establishment of Israeli settlements on occupied territories, ever-increasing resort to punishment of Palestinians through closures, blockades, checkpoints, curfews and a raft of other restrictions.
Collapse of Palestinian economy
As a result of the above cruelties practised by Israel upon the Palestinian people, unemployment in the occupied territories has soared to more than 55% of the labour force, with 60% of the population living under the poverty line and a phenomenal increase in malnutrition and illnesses. Over the past 10 years, international donors have given more than $6 billion and kept the PA afloat. 3.2 million Palestinians live in the WB and Gaza. In 2004, the PA faces a budget gap of $700 million. Separately, UNWRA provides for 1.5 million refugees in Palestinian territories. It was originally set up by the UN General Assembly in 1949 to provide for 800,000 Palestinian victims of Israeli expulsions; their number has now grown to more than 4 million, eking out a miserable existence in refugee camps spread across the WB, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Donors, especially the EU, have begun to question the purpose of their massive aid effort, for it is merely serving to finance Israeli occupation of the WB and the Gaza. Why should they be picking up the tab for most of the expenditure that Israel, as the occupying power, would otherwise be required to meet under the provisions of the fourth Geneva Convention? Presently, not only does Israel escape the burden of this expenditure but in addition is guilty of the wholesale destruction of the infrastructure built with funds supplied by the donors. Such has been the disastrous effect of Israeli actions on the PA, especially since the beginning of the Intifada, that the focus of foreign aid has shifted from being developmental to humanitarian assistance. According to the World Bank, if in 2000 there was $7 of development aid for every dollar of humanitarian assistance, by 2002 there was $5 of humanitarian emergency assistance for each dollar of development aid. During the same period, foreign assistance increased from $549 million a year to $1,026 million as donors responded to the crisis driven by the catastrophic collapse of the Palestinian economy solely as a result of the actions of the Zionist colonial authority. As a result, some 60% of the population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day and 55% of the workforce are unemployed. What keeps them going are 125,000 PA employees, whose salaries account for 50% of the wages generated in the WB (see Financial Times, 25 November 2003). In this situation, if the donors pull the rug, large portions of the Palestinian population would stare starvation in the face. Yet the imperialist backers of Zionism, with all their nauseating rhetoric about human rights, look the other way, refusing to subject Israel to the condemnation she justly deserves as one of the most brutal and bestial colonial powers ever known to history.
Palestinian resistance and Zionist despair
All the Zionist murderous activity described above was aimed, not at a compromise settlement, but at delivering a crushing blow to the Intifada, putting an end to Palestinian aspirations for statehood and forcing them to accept Israeli colonial occupation as their eternal fate. All the same, in the face of demolitions, invasions, mass murder, torture and imprisonment, including dreadful concentrations camps such as Facility 1391, a Nazi-style torture chamber, which has been exposed only very recently, the Palestinian resistance continues its onward and irresistible march. All the Zionist might and brutality are powerless in the face of Palestinian resistance, perseverance and heroism, forcing the likes of the Zionist Gideon Levy to cry in despair: “What hasn’t Israel tried? Liquidations, demolition of homes, roadblocks everywhere, a terrifying security barrier – but none of these actions has been victorious over terrorism [a colonialist and imperialist expression to characterise all resistance – Lalkar]”.
All the signs are that it is the Zionist camp which finds itself in the grip of a grave political, moral and economic crisis. Leading Israeli figures are, through their utterances, giving expression to the despair and the pessimism which grips Israeli society, the doubts that permeate it, as it is forced, thanks to the Palestinian resistance, to confront the question of the viability of the Zionist colonial enterprise. The Financial Times of 23 January 2003 reported David Grossman, a famous Israeli novelist, as telling Ha’aretz newspaper that: “What frightens me most is that I am no longer confident of Israel’s existence. I think everyone who lives here also lives the alternative, that may be Israel will cease to be”.
Writing in the Guardian of 15 September 2003, Avraham Burg, a senior Israeli Labour Party MP and former speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, gives expression to the despondency of the Israeli society in the following words: “the Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice … we live in a thunderously failed reality”. Going on to describe the demoralising and dehumanising effects of the brutal occupation and subjugation of Palestine on Israeli society, he says: “We have grown accustomed to ignoring the suffering of the women at the roadblocks. No wonder we don’t hear the cries of the abused woman living next door, or the single mother struggling to support her children in dignity. We don’t even bother to count the women murdered by their husbands”.
The Israeli government, whose popularity continues to decline, faces near mutinous conditions in the army by officers who have come to the realisation that there is no military solution to the conflict. Ariel Sharon, Israeli prime minister, has come in for criticism from his own chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, for his uncompromising attitude and hard-line policies towards the Palestinians, which are, he says, driving the latter to extremism and bitter hatred of the Israelis. Four former heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, have stated that the government’s policies are leading to a catastrophe. These four former spooks made their unprecedented attack on Israeli government policies through interviews to the Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli daily. Yaakov Peri, head of Shin Bet from 1995 to 1998, said: “we are heading downhill towards near catastrophe. If nothing happens and we go on living by the sword, we will continue to wallow in the mud and destroy ourselves”.
Ami Ayalon, also a former Shin Bet chief, said: “we are heading towards a situation in which Israel will not be a democracy and home to the Jewish people”, in a clear, if racist, reference to demographic trends that point in the direction of the Palestinian population outnumbering the Israeli Jews between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river in a mater of a decade.
Avraham Shalom, who headed the agency from 1980 to 1986, criticised the apartheid wall being constructed by Israel for expropriating WB territory and thus making impossible the creation of a viable Palestinian state. “We have to admit”, he said, “there is another side and it has feelings and suffering and we are behaving disgracefully”.
Carmi Gillon, who left Shin Bet in 1996, said that the government was guilty of shortsightedness. “It is dealing solely with the question of how to prevent the next terrorist attack”, he stated. “It [ignores] the question of how we get out of the mess we find ourselves in today”.
Israeli reservists in increasing number are refusing to serve in the occupied territories and have formed an organisation called the Courage to Refuse. The Israeli authorities are so alarmed by this development that they have taken to prosecuting the refuseniks. Five Israeli conscripts were sentenced to one year in prison on 4 January 2004 because they refused to serve in what they correctly described as an “army of occupation” in the Palestinian territories. The 3 military court judges stated that the tough sentence was meant to serve as a warning and as a deterrent to others who might be thinking of refusing to serve in the army for political reasons. But the five young reservists and their families remained defiant, saying that they had “opened the debate” and that the sentence was indicative of “a very aggressive reaction from the army and that they are afraid”.
In December 2003, thirteen reservists from Israel’s elite military commando unit shocked the Israeli military and civilian establishment alike by saying categorically that they would no longer serve in the occupied territories. Their refusal echoed that of 27 reserve pilots, who stated that they would not execute missions against Palestinian fighters in which civilians could be casualties.
On 16 January, Israeli reservists who refused to serve in the occupied territories demonstrated for peace at the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. It was the first joint demonstration by reservist pilots, elite commandos and infantry soldiers, who signed letters affirming their refusal to serve in the WB and Gaza. Nearly 600 reservists, organised in “Courage to Refuse”, have refused to serve and, as a result, many of them have been given short prison sentences. Soon after the verdict of the Israeli military court, in a symbolic gesture, Lt Col Eitan Ronel, a retired army officer, turned in his badge of rank in protest against the “immoral conduct” of the Israeli Defence Forces.
According to a recent public opinion poll, 30% of the Israeli youth support the conscientious objectors.
On 26 December 2003, Gil Naamati, an Israeli peace protester, was shot and seriously wounded by the Israeli army. The demonstrators were attempting to cut through a gate in Israel’s apartheid wall. The Israeli soldiers involved in the incident, while claiming that they were following orders from their commanders, displayed their racism by saying that they were unaware that their targets were Israelis. David Grossman, the Israeli novelist told Yedioth Ahronoth: “For a number of years now the fingers of IDF [Israel Defence Forces] troops have been light, too light, on the trigger when dealing with Palestinians.
“It was only a matter of time until it would begin to trickle inward and produce a similar pattern of action against Israeli demonstrators as well” (quoted in Financial Times, 29 December 2003).
Ofer Shelan, in an editorial in the same daily, said that pending the outcome of an internal inquiry launched by the army into the incident, “It would not be premature to say that this entire incident is rife with signs of bestiality, which is the product of the ongoing occupation and the war in the territories on the IDF and on the Israeli mindset in general” (quoted in ibid).
Had the victim been a Palestinian, Mr Shelan added, the incident would in all probability not have merited a single line in the paper.
What is happening in Israel is a perfect illustration of Marx’s observation that no nation can be free if it oppresses another nation.
Israeli economy in trouble
In addition to the problems in the military field, the Israeli government is under pressure from the business lobby, which has warned Sharon that without a return to peace there will be no economic stability and hence no revival of investment. The Israeli economy has been in recession for three years, during each of which it shrank by 1 per cent; the shekel, the Israeli currency, has lost 4 per cent of its value against the dollar; unemployment stands at 11 per cent; tax receipts in 2003 were down by 8 per cent as against the previous year; per capita income has fallen by 6 per cent; and high taxation to fund the war and social security payments, which gobble up 29 per cent of the budget, have created a fiscal deficit amounting to 6 per cent of the GDP. This grave economic situation requires budgetary discipline – a mixture of higher taxes and steep spending cuts in the social security and defence budget. Besides, budgetary discipline, ‘reforms’ and a reduction of the budget deficit to 2.5 to 3 per cent of the GDP, are Washington’s conditions for the $9 billion (Euro 7 billion, £5 billion) in loan guarantees given last year, which enable Israel to raise capital at lower interest rates through international bond issues. The 2004 state budget, which was passed by the Israeli parliament on 7 January 2004, contains savage cuts, in addition to cuts of Shekel 11billion (nearly $3 billion) pushed through in 2003, which at the time provoked widespread strikes and protests against the slashing of public sector and welfare benefits. The Knesset also legislated to raise the retirement age of men from 65 to 67 and of women from 60 to 62. Israel cannot keep on increasing its defence and social security expenditure, both of which are essential for its incessant war against the Palestinians, and at the same time practise budgetary discipline. The Israeli per capita income of $17,000 a year is a form of bribe to lure Jews from all over the world to this Zionist hellhole of a ghetto called Israel. Attack their living standards, there will be a stampede for the exit.
Losing the battle for Public Opinion
Israel is fast losing the battle for public opinion in the imperialist countries, which was its best asset. Through a mixture of sympathy for the Jews of Europe, who were exterminated in their millions by the Nazis, and ignorance of the circumstances surrounding the creation of Israel and the brutal methods used by Zionism to expel the Palestinians from their land, public opinion in the centres of imperialism overwhelmingly supported the Zionists. But no more. On 3 November 2003, the results of an opinion poll requested by the European Commission, revealed clearly that the majority (59%) of Europeans regarded Israel as the biggest threat to world peace. The Zionist government, in characteristic racist fashion, dismissed the result as yet another example of Europe’s anti-semitism. But this Zionist trick, whereby aggressors are turned into victims and victims into aggressors, has worn threadbare. No longer are people intimidated by the threat of being labelled anti-semitic for attacking the Zionist state and its brutal occupation. They are increasingly of the opinion that the Zionists have no right whatever to the land of Palestine, which has been stolen from its lawful owners at gunpoint by the colonialist Zionist hordes with the full backing of imperialism, especially Anglo-American imperialism. In holding such an opinion, they are doing no more than agreeing with David Ben Gurion, one of the founders, and the first prime minister, of Israel, who told Nahum Goldman, who had pleaded for years for an agreement with the Arabs, “I don’t understand your optimism. If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us. We came from Israel 2,000 years ago and what is it to them? Our God is not their God. There has been anti-semitism, Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz – but that was not their fault. They see one thing – we came here and stole their country” (quoted in Nahum Goldman, The Jewish Paradox, London 1978).
In this cynical and frank admission are summed up all the arguments against the creation of the state of Israel and the gross injustice on which it is built. Indeed it is a veritable call to the Palestinians “never [to] make terms with Israel”.
Israel is a racist state. And there is no greater giveaway of this racism than statements of the type made in an article by Dennis Ross and David Makovsky in the Financial Times of 14 October 2003, in which they said “If Israel is to remain Jewish and democratic, it needs to ensure a Jewish majority, not absorb areas that can undermine that majority”. Why, one may ask, in order to be democratic does Israel have to be exclusively or predominantly Jewish? In the final analysis, statements of this type are only a thinly disguised call for ethnic cleansing and forcible expulsion of the Palestinians for the second time – precisely the sort of calls openly made by the truly nutty and fascistic sections of the Zionist establishment, such as Uzi Cohen, a Likud MP, and the Zionist historian Benny Morris, who call for the “transfer” of Palestinians to Jordan or elsewhere. Transport minister Avigdor Lieberman advocates that Palestinian prisoners should be drowned in the Dead Sea – without a word of criticism either from his cabinet colleagues or from the spokesmen of the leading imperialist countries for all their prattle about human rights. Still others are calling for the imposition on the Palestinian population of Israel of a policy of draconian birth control measures. A certain Dr Yitzhak Ravid from Israel’s Armament Development Authority, while calling for such birth control, complained that delivery rooms in the Saroka hospital in Be’er Sheva had effectively become “… a factory for the production of a backward population”. How is this any different from the Nazi theory of a master race and subject races!
This racism and the ghetto mentality of Israeli society is a product of the desire to hold on to Israel’s colonial conquest at the cost of the victims of this conquest. Until the Israelis confront this plain truth they will get no peace.
Sharon’s failure to liquidate resistance
Sharon was voted into office by the Israeli electorate because he promised that he would bring peace and security to the Israelis. Three years on peace and security are even more scarce than before. And this because the Sharon administration, just like its predecessors, stubbornly refuses to see any connection between peace and security, on the one hand, and the justice of the cause of the Palestinians for national liberation, on the other hand. It has only one response to Palestinian resistance – repression, more repression and further repression. The Israeli armed forces are one of a handful in the world who are engaged in a permanent war against the people they are responsible for. All the might of the Israeli army and air force has failed to suppress Palestinian resistance and bring peace for the Israelis. This has given rise to much opposition and various unofficial initiatives aimed at dialogue with the Palestinians. One of these, called the People’s Voice plan, drawn up by Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian academic, and Ami Aylon, a former Shin Bet chief, claims to have the backing of 200,000 signatures. A better known initiative goes under the name of Geneva Accord, co-authored by Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli justice minister, and Yassar Abed Rabbo. Launched on 1st December 2003 in Geneva with great fanfare in the presence of dignitaries from several countries, it has the blessing of the Quartet, but is rejected by the Israeli government and Palestinians alike. Israel displayed its contempt for the initiative by raiding Ramallah on the same day, killing three Palestinians. In Jerusalem they killed a boy of nine and demolished a four-storey building where an alleged suspect was hiding.
The Geneva Accord is heavily loaded in favour of Israel. While calling for a two-state solution (with a demilitarised Palestinian state) and a Jerusalem split into two capitals, it allows Israel to keep settlements adjacent to the WB. Israel would withdraw to pre-1967 borders, but 75% of Jewish settlers would remain inside Palestinian areas and under Israel’s protection. In exchange for keeping some settlements, Israel would give up an area of the Negev desert next to the Gaza Strip. While retaining control over the Western wall, Israel would cede sovereignty over al-Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount to the Jews). The Palestinians would give up the right of return for the 3.6 million refugees and their descendants forcibly expelled in 1948. In return for all the above, the Palestinians would recognise Israel, end the Intifada and disarm the resistance.
Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan
Unjust and totally unacceptable to the Palestinians as this plan is, it is opposed by the Sharon government as giving away too much to the Palestinians. So Sharon has come up with his own plan – that of unilateral disengagement by Israel through withdrawal from some of the territories but keeping control of half of the WB. In his speech to the Herziya security conference on 18 December 2003, Sharon threatened to take unilateral action to disengage Israel from the occupied territories if the Palestinian leadership failed to implement the “road map” – a sick joke, since Israel has done everything in its power to frustrate the “road map”. His unilateral action involves Israel abandoning a few settlements, relocating to defensible positions, and leaving the Palestinians cloistered behind the 435-mile apartheid wall, which will make deep cuts into Palestinian territory and enclose the Palestinians inside into a mere 44% of the WB, or just 9% of historic Palestine. The apartheid wall, while ostensibly built to keep out suicide bombers, but actually designed to keep the major settlements under permanent Israeli occupation, will cause untold suffering to 400,000 Palestinians, utterly disrupting their lives to the point of eviction from their homes. When completed it will encircle dozens of Palestinian towns and villages, divide families (as it already does in some places) and cut residents off from their farms, businesses, employment, schools, hospitals and other social services. In other words, the wall is an instrument for a de facto annexation of further Palestinian land and, as such, a death blow to the chances for a negotiated settlement. It is as a part of this plan for annexation that Sharon has proposed the evacuation of all settlements from the Gaza Strip, where 7,576 colonists live in fortified enclaves among 1.3 million Palestinians but using 40% of a land “scarcely bigger than Martha’s Vineyard” (Financial Times, 4 February 2004). In addition to being morally indefensible, these settlements are physically undefendable. Thus it is no great generosity on the part of the Sharon government in cutting its losses, evacuating Gaza and moving to consolidate its position on the WB.
While Sharon was busy talking in the Knesset about disengagement from Gaza, Zionist soldiers on the same day (11 February) killed 12 Palestinians and injured 50 in the Shijaia district of Gaza City, another Palestinian being killed in an Israeli raid on the Rafah refugee camp, close to the Egyptian border.
However, the Palestinians well understand this gambit and will not fall for it. They will not accept the Bantustans Sharon is engaged in constructing as a part of his unilateral disengagement plan. On 10 January, the PLO responded to Sharon’s plan by insisting on its right to unilaterally declare a state in the WB if Israel went ahead with its threat to strengthen its hold on part of the territories. The above statement followed a warning, a few days earlier, by Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian prime minister, to the effect that the Palestinians would switch their strategy in favour of a bi-national state if Israel attempted to box them into a small corner of the occupied territories. In view of the opposition to the Sharon plan from the Palestinians, Jewish settlers, let alone international opinion, it is most unlikely that Sharon’s fantasies would ever become a reality. On Sunday, 11 February, 120,000 settlers demonstrated in Tel Aviv against Sharon’s unilateral plan. Even Shimon Peres, leader of the opposition Labour Party, which did so much, just like Likud, to help build settlements, felt constrained to oppose the Sharon scheme in the Knesset on 12 February in these words: “Don’t think that you can give the Palestinians 42 per cent [of the West Bank], put a fence around them and then you will achieve quiet”. Spot on, Mr Peres! But, above all, it is the Palestinian resistance which will put paid to the present-day delirious fantasies of the Sharon government, as it has seen off dozens of similar fantasies in the past. Time is on the side of the Palestinians and the clock is relentlessly ticking against the Zionists. The Palestinians have learned through bitter experience that peaceful methods on their part do not persuade the Zionists to give up their brutal colonialist ways. They have learned to answer Zionist bullets with bullets – Zionist counter-revolutionary violence with revolutionary violence. People in the imperialist countries, even some disgraceful souls who call themselves socialists, fatuously condemn Palestinian violence, in particular that which takes the form of suicide bombing. Let us answer this stupid condemnation of Palestinian violence with the defiant words of Marwan Barghouti, uttered on 30 September 2003 from the rostrum of a Zionist kangaroo court, before which he was put on trial on bogus charges after being kidnapped. Defending the right of the Palestinian people to wage armed struggle for liberation from their oppressors and occupiers, he said: “People ask me why don’t the Palestinian people have a peaceful Intifada? We did this in the first Intifada for seven years.
“The Palestinians didn’t use arms and during that period, 25,400 Palestinians were killed and 50,000 were wounded. During that Intifada less than 54 Israelis were killed. Did that mean that the Israelis didn’t open fire? Didn’t shoot? Didn’t wound? Didn’t murder? No, they continued and they killed and they did everything”.
Palestinians have every right to wage this armed struggle. The proletariat in the imperialist countries is duty-bound to support the Palestinians in their heroic struggle for national liberation. It is especially incumbent on the proletariat of Britain and the US – the two countries whose ruling classes are mainly responsible for the misery and subjugation of the Palestinian people through the creation and maintenance of the colonial Zionist state of Israel – to render unstinting and unreserved support to the armed liberation struggle of the Palestinian people.
Victory to the Intifada!