Palestinian state within sight
In the last (September-October) issue of Lalkar, we stated the following in connection with the murder of PFLP leader, Abu Ali Mustafa, by the Israeli state: “With Mustafa’s assassination, the Zionist establishment will have no one but itself to blame if the Palestinian resistance decides, as it may well do, to target senior Israeli politicians for retribution”.
Since the beginning of the latest Intifada just over a year ago, Israel has assassinated 70 leaders of the resistance to occupation, under its policy – which has gained it world notoriety – of ‘targeted killings’. The assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa, the highest ranking Palestinian to be cold-bloodedly murdered by the Zionist occupation forces, was an outrage and a provocation which the resistance could not let go unanswered. It thus comes as no surprise that on the morning (7 a.m. local time) of Wednesday 17 October, Rehavam Zeevi, a former Israeli general, and tourism minister in the current Sharon government, was gunned down at the entrance to his room in the Hyatt Hotel on the fringes of east Jerusalem by a unit of the armed wing of the PFLP in revenge for Israeli assassination of the latter’s leader on 27 August.
The elimination of Zeevi, the highest-ranking Israeli to be killed by the Palestinian resistance, sent shockwaves throughout Israeli society and shook the Zionist establishment to its foundations. Sharon vowed all-out war on ‘Palestinian terrorism’, characterised Yasser Arafat as a Palestinian Bin Laden, and threatened to label the Palestinian Authority a ‘terror entity’ unless it arrested those responsible for Zeevi’s killing and handed them over to the Israeli authorities. “From today”, he said, “everything has changed”, promising to carry out a “war to the bitter end against terrorists”. Like all colonial establishments, the settler colonial rulers of Israel have developed tunnel vision that tells them any resistance to their occupation and its accompanying brutality is terrorism pure an simple. They are unable, or unwilling, to view resistance as a normal consequence of the regime of occupation, oppression, deprivation and humiliation that they have inflicted on their victims.
Quite correctly, the Palestinian resistance sees things in a different light and is determined to carry out attacks to prevent its Zionist enemy from terrorising the Palestinian people. Far from perpetrating terrorism, the Palestinian people are resisting terrorism in a legitimate war of national liberation. In striking at Zeevi, the liberation forces not only gave notice of their determination to answer in kind Zionist state terrorism with its openly proclaimed policy of assassinating leaders of Palestinian resistance, they also shocked the Israeli authorities by their professionalism and the meticulous planning involved in carrying out the attack right under the noses of the Israeli security services. “It was not like the careless suicide attacks… This was the work of professionals”, acknowledged Israeli security experts.
In assassinating Zeevi, the liberation forces eliminated someone who was a nasty piece of work even by Zionist standards. He routinely characterised the Palestinians as ‘lice’ and ‘a cancer’ and advocated the policy of ‘transfer’, i.e., their forcible removal from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to make way for further Jewish settlements. “They [the Palestinians] should all be sent to Mecca”, he stated. One may judge the man from the fact that two days before he was killed, he, along with six other ultra-nationalists, had resigned from Sharon’s coalition government saying that Sharon was (don’t laugh!) “soft on terrorism” and “undermining Israeli security” by withdrawing Israeli troops from two Palestinian neighbourhoods in the divided city of Hebron. Zeevi knew that the Israeli government was under strong pressure from the US (which, following the 11 September events in New York and Washington, is busy building its coalition for its dirty war of aggression against Afghanistan and does not want Israeli obduracy to stand in the way of its plans and larger interests) to agree to a new peace initiative with the Palestinians. Notwithstanding his reputation for truculence, Sharon cannot but be obedient and obeisant in his dealings with the chief executive of US imperialism, whose colony Israel is and without whose material, military, financial, diplomatic and political support it cannot last six months. Since 1967 the Israeli government has received $92 billion in US aid. Israel is also the recipient to the tune of $2.5 billion a year of F-16 warplanes, Apache helicopters, Abrams tanks, missiles, the latest in military electronic technology and other instrumets of warfare and terror, which have so frequently been used against the poorly-armed Palestinians. Even the butcher of Sabra and Shatila knows that in the absence of such support Israel does not stand even a snowball’s chance in hell of survival. This being the case, in the final analysis Israel cannot behave recalcitrantly towards the US. Zeevi could not bring himself round to understanding this simple truth and characterised Sharon’s attempts to accommodate US demands as capitulation to international pressure and Palestinian violence. He and his supporters “watched in discomfort as Arafat toured foreign capitals to embrace the western strategy for a peaceful solution. The diplomacy left Zeevi at odds with Sharon, who he accused of bowing to American pressure” (Sunday Times, 21 October 2001).
Be that as it may, the Israeli state’s response to the assassination of Zeevi was quite in keeping with its character. Within 24 hours of Zeevi’s killing, the Israeli army invaded seven areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank – Bethlehem, Ramallah, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Jenin, Beit Jala and Beit Rima. During the first week of these conditions, 50 Palestinians, including 5 women and 6 children, were butchered by the Israeli army. Eight of these were killed on Saturday 20 October during incursions into Tulkarm and Qalqilya. While the Israeli killing machine continued its remorseless work, ambulances and journalists were prevented from reaching the scene of its gruesome activity. On entering Beit Rima, the Israeli army killed 9 Palestinians and wounded another 10, including 3 policemen.
Far from achieving their intended goal of liquidating Palestinian resistance, the Israeli actions are only stiffening the resolve of the Palestinian people to fight against the hated Zionist occupation regime. These incursions achieve little for Israel, yet Israel reacts in this way because, as an occupying alien power, its policy is bankrupt. It has to be seen to act. In the words of Martin Kramer, a Middle East expert at Tel Aviv University:
“For an Israeli politician, not responding to Palestinian terrorism [‘resistance’ would be the correct expression] is the equivalent of throwing yourself on your sword” (quoted in the Financial Times of 4 October 2001). The truth is that until the rulers of Israel come to terms with the national rights of the Palestinian people, they will continue to throw themselves on their swords if they respond to Palestinian resistance and equally if they do not.
It would be wrong to think, though, that Israeli incursions have been prompted by the assassination of Zeevi. No, these incursions have become routine since the invasion of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip on 11 April and the incursion into Beit Jala on 11 May. Since the invasions of Rafah, Gaza City, Deir Al Balah and Khan Yunis the Gaza Strip, and of Hebron, Jenin, Ramallah, Tulkarm, Jericho, Qalqilya and other places in the West Bank – in total violation of international law and the Oslo Accords alike – these incursions have become a regular feature. They are accompanied by large-scale killings of Palestinians, demolition of their houses, police stations and other buildings, as well as the kidnapping of their leaders and the uprooting of their crops and fruit trees.
This is how Edward Said, the famous Palestinian writer, in a recent article in the Al-Ahram weekly (Cairo), painted a picture of the life of Palestinians under Israeli occupation and the crimes of Zionism and its chief sponsor, US imperialism:
“Equipped with the latest in American-built (and freely given) air power, helicopter gun ships, uncountable tanks and missiles, and a superb navy as well as a state of the art intelligence service”, writes Said, “Israel is a nuclear power abusing a people without any armour or artillery, no airforce (its one pathetic airfield in Gaza is controlled by Israel) or navy or army, none of the institutions of the modern state”.
Reminding the world of the “destruction of Palestinian society of 1948 and the expulsion of 68 per cent of its native people, of whom 4.5 million remain refugees today”, he goes on to make the following damning indictment of Zionism:
“The fantastically cruel confinement of 1.3 million people jammed like so many human sardines into the Gaza strip, plus the nearly two million Palestinian residents of the West Bank, has no parallel in the annals of apartheid or colonialism. F-16 jets … are used against Palestinian towns and villages.
“All entrances and exists to the territories are controlled by Israel (Gaza is completely surrounded by a barbed wire fence), which also controls the entire water supply. Divided into about 63 non-contiguous cantons, completely encircled and besieged by Israeli troops, punctuated by 140 settlements … with their own road network banned to ‘non-Jews’ as the Arabs are referred to … “Palestinians under the occupation have now been reduced to 60 per cent unemployment and a poverty rate of 60 per cent (half the people of Gaza live on less than $2 a day); they cannot travel from one place to the next; they must endure long lines at Israeli checkpoints that detain and humiliate the elderly, the sick, the student and the cleric for hours on end; 150,000 of their olive trees have been punitively uprooted; 2,000 of their houses demolished; acres of their land destroyed or expropriated for military settlement purposes”.
Between the beginning of the Intifada at the end of last September and early August this year, 600 Palestinians had fallen victim to Zionist terror – four times the number of Israelis killed. By the end of September the number of Palestinians killed had risen to 700 and presently (end of October), this figure has climbed to 800. In the first week of September, Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians; the Gaza Intelligence head, Colonel Taiseer Khatab, was blown to bits in an Israeli car bomb attack; 9 Palestinians were killed and 50 injured by Israeli forces in the town of Jenin; 13 September saw the killing of 4 more Palestinians. And so it goes on.
Every agreement, every truce, that Israel signs with the PA is broken by Israel even before the ink on it is dry. Just as the 13 June ceasefire between Israel and the PA, brokered by George Tenet, CIA director, was in tatters soon thereafter, thanks to Israeli violations, likewise the truce agreed between Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and Chairman Arafat at the end of September, honoured as it was by Israeli breach rather than Israeli observance, soon lay in ruins. Nick Cohen, writing in the Observer of 7 October, paints the following correct picture of the Israeli army’s actions:
“Last week the Israeli officer corps degenerated into clique of banana-republic colonels. They disobeyed judges and politicians by declaring the West Bank a ‘closed military zone’ where villages could be bulldozed and unarmed children shot. The Foreign Ministry accused the military of conspiring to subvert the fragile truce. Shimon Peres, the Foreign Minister, denied a sensational but credible report that he believed the army’s chief of staff was planning to ‘liquidate Arafat’.
“The colonists on the West Bank and Gaza, who the soldiers are protecting, know the Lord is with them. They cite Deuteronomy, which tells the Jews: ‘For ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein’. They did not add that anyone else who crossed the Jordan after 70 AD has no right to be there – a doctrine which would allow the Welsh to invade Surrey.”
However, none of this brutality has stopped the onward march of the Palestinian struggle for liberation and national self-determination. At the beginning of September, the liberation forces struck at several places. On 4 September, a suicide bomb attack in a busy Jerusalem street left 13 Israelis wounded. According to the Financial Times of 5 September, it was the fifth explosion in the city in two days. 5 Israelis were killed on Sunday 9 September, of whom 2 were shot dead in the West Bank and 2 at a bustling railway station in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya when a suicide bomber blew himself up. Ominously for Israel, this was the first time that an Israeli Arab (Muhammad Hubaishi of 48 years of age) has taken part in such resistance activity. 20% of Israel’s 6 million population is Palestinian, and if it were to become seriously involved in the struggle against the Zionist settler regime, the latter would be in serious trouble, to say the least. On 1 October there was a bomb attack in Jerusalem, and the following day the resistance forces attacked a settlement in the Gaza Strip, which left 2 Israelis dead and 15 injured. Israel responded on 3 October by invading a Palestinian-controlled area of Gaza, killing 6 Palestinians. On 4 October, as Sibir airlines flight 1812 from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk crashed into the Black Sea with up to 78 on board, a Palestinian gunman had shot dead 3 Israelis at a busy station in the northern Israeli town of Afula. Although the news has been hushed up, all the indications are that the plane crash was the result of sabotage rather than of a mistake by the Ukrainian air force during a military exercise at the time. As these lines are being written, the news has come through that 5 Israelis have been shot dead (October 28). Of these 5, one was an Israeli soldier shot dead in a drive-by shooting inside Israel near the coastal town of Hadera. Later, 2 Palestinian fighters from the Islamic Jihad movement drove into Hadera, sprayed gunfire at a bus stop and killed 4 women, and were in turn shot dead by the Israeli police.
Notwithstanding the firepower it commands, the fact that it has the fourth strongest army in the world, Israeli Zionism is unable to subdue the Palestinian people. The Israelis are in a state of despair. Their shock, grief and anger at the killing of Zeevi has given way to fear, uncertainty and demoralilsation. They do not know where to turn. Only yesterday, they elected Sharon, who promised to end the Intifada within 100 days of coming into office. Now that the Intifada contnues to rage, they are for Netanyahu – the same gentleman they kicked out in favour of Barak, who in turn was shown the door to make way for Sharon. The Israeli people will continue to flounder from pillar to post until they come to grasp the simple truth that they will never enjoy the blessings of peace until the Palestinians have peace too, free from Israeli occupation in a state of their own, and until the injustices done to Palestinians are rectified.
On 4 October, Yubi Edelstein, Israeli deputy minister for immigration absorption, said that “People are looking for some way out of the situation. The feeling is that we can’t really continue living in this kind of atmosphere where you go to a party and don’t know if you will come home alive”. There is a very simple way out, Mr Edelstein. Recognise the national rights of the Palestinians forcible expelled from their homes to eke out a wretched existence in refugee camps, accept a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. Once you do that, you as well as the Palestinians will have peace and won’t have to worry if you will return home after a night out.
Whether the Zionist establishment likes it or not, the Palestinian state is on its way. Palestinian resistance and the events of 11 September in the US have combined to accelerate the process towards the establishment of precisely such a state. Much to the fury of the Zionist lobby in the US, George W Bush, keen to gain Arab support for his ‘crusade against international terrorism’, that is, US imperialism’s barbarous war against the Afghans and other people, has been forced to say that:
“… The idea of a Palestinian state has always been a part of a vision, so long as the right of Israel to exist is respected.” And his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, on 2 October, stated:
“In the context of a negotiated settlement between the parties in the Middle East, the United States believes that the Palestinian people should live peacefully and securely in their own state, just as the Israelis should be able to live peacefully and securely in their state.”
In a rare public disagreement with the US administration, the Israeli lobby condemned support for a Palestinian state as tantamount to an attempt to undermine ‘America’s war against terrorism’. “Those who are urging the president to meet with PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat … and announce support for a Palestinian state at this time are undermining America’s war against terrorism”, said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in a statement on 2 October. The reaction to the White House statements in Israel was more muted, with Israeli foreign ministry officials saying that Israel had long envisaged the creation of a Palestinian state, and that even Sharon has recently acknowledged the inevitability of such a state.
Zionism will come round to that position, for it knows that the interests of US imperialism are far higher than those of its colonial client – Israel. According to a Latin saying, fate leads the willing and drags the unwilling. All the forces – ranging from Palestinian resistance and the wider Arab people’s struggle to the interests of US imperialism – are converging to make the emergence in the very near future of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem a dead certainty. Nothing can stop this. If Zionism does not go along with this inevitability, it will be dragged into it kicking and screaming.