PALESTINE: Smash Operation ‘Determined Path’

No sooner had Israel finished its operation ‘Defensive Shield’ in April, wreaking massive destruction on Palestinian towns and a veritable holocaust in Jenin, declaring that it had destroyed the infrastructure of terror (i.e., Palestinian resistance to occupation), than the liberation forces struck back. Hot on the heels of the most extensive Israeli offensive against the West Bank since 1967, on 7th May a suicide bomb ripped through a billiard hall in Rishon Letzion, near Tel Aviv, killing 15 Israelis, thus belying Israeli claims to have stamped out all resistance to their occupation and demonstrating yet again that, far from achieving peace, increased Israeli military repression will produce nothing but intensified Palestinian resistance.

On 19th May, another suicide bomber, belonging to the PFLP and disguised as an Israeli soldier, struck at a market in the coastal town of Natanya, killing himself, three Israelis and wounding 35 others. 27th May witnessed a suicide bomber blasting a hole through Israeli security, killing himself and two Israelis at a shopping mall in Petah Tikra, a town on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. The bombing, claimed by the Al Aqsa Brigades, wounded dozens more. The following day, a Palestinian gunman killed 3 Israelis and wounded two others at a seminary in the Zionist settlement of Itmar near Nablus. These attacks during May, which claimed the lives of nearly two dozen Israelis and wounded many more, have demonstrated the ability of the Palestinian liberation movement to hit back at their oppressors and occupiers despite tight Israeli security, daily Zionist military incursions into the Palestinian Authority (PA) territories and the arrest and detention in Israeli concentration camps of hundreds of Palestinian youth.

Resistance Continues

Since then the resistance have kept up steady pressure on Israel. On 5th June, in the deadliest of blows delivered by the liberation movement since the April Israeli invasion of PA areas, a bomber drove his car, packed with explosives, and exploded it next to an Israeli bus crowded with soldiers and civilians. In this incident at Megiddo Junction in northern Israel, next to a jail in which Israel holds Palestinian patriots in detention, 13 Israeli soldiers and 4 civilians were killed. The resistance had timed this action to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the 1967 War in which Israel had captured the so-called occupied territories, namely, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for this car bombing, in a statement to the Hizbollah television which referred to the anniversary of the fall of Jerusalem to the Zionist army, said: “we will continue to smash Sharon’s defensive wall and the Zionist entity will enjoy no safety or stability while it occupies our land, Palestine”.

Following the above attack by the liberation movement, Israeli tanks, bulldozers and sappers demolished much of what remained of the Mukataa, Arafat’s already shell-shattered compound in Ramallah “to focus on the PA’s direct administrative responsibility for its policy of terror”, stated the Israeli defence ministry even though the PA had issued a statement condemning the attack. This is how the Financial Times described the destruction of the remnants of Yasser Arafat’s headquarters by the undeterred by the Israeli army:

“Tanks that entered the compound in the early hours blasted the offices and sleeping quarters of Palestinian security and intelligence units before engineers moved in to demolish them.

“By dawn, three reinforced concrete buildings in the southern half of the compound lay in a crumpled heap. Shells had hit the main block where Mr Arafat has his rooms and offices, one damaging his bedroom. Another struck the VIP reception room where visiting foreign officials give briefings to the press” (7th June 2002). Yasser Arafat, who emerged from a five-month Israeli siege only on 2nd May, defiantly denounced this “fascism and blatant racism” of the Sharon Government.

Undeterred by overwhelming Israeli force and the limitless Zionist ability to commit the most heinous atrocities, on 18th June, the liberation fighters blasted and blew apart a packed Israeli bus near Jerusalem during the rush hour, killing 19 and wounding 40 others. On 19th June, a Palestinian bomber killed 7 and wounded 20 Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem. The following day (20th June), five settlers were killed at a Zionist settlement in the northern part of the West Bank. In this attack, claimed by the PFLP, two Palestinian fighters penetrated the enclave of Itmar near Nablus. Thus the most draconian Israeli security, with its check points and road blocks, is powerless in the face of determined and heroic Palestinian resistance, which shows the utter futility of the April occupation of the West Bank by Israel and of the Jenin holocaust.

Further Israeli repression

As usual Israel has responded to Palestinian acts of resistance with more brutal force, further killings of innocent Palestinian men, women and children, more state terrorism and assassinations of Palestinian fighters, still greater destruction of Palestinian homes and PA infrastructure, re-invasion of all the major Palestinian towns, save Jericho, and the imposition of ever-longer curfews, which imprison more than 2 million Palestinians for most of the time and bring all economic activity to a juddering halt with the sole purpose of meting out collective punishment to the entire Palestinian people in a manner reminiscent of the Hitlerites of Nazi Germany. In Hebron the Israeli army blew up in two huge explosions the headquarters of the PA but found no trace of the 15 most wanted Palestinian fighters believed by Israel to be hiding there.

The latest Israeli occupation of the PA towns is causing a humanitarian disaster, with Israel taking control of security but completely ignoring the needs of the population and refusing to perform the civilian functions of the PA administration which it has all but destroyed. More than that. The Israeli authorities are putting every obstacle in the way of the aid agencies supplying food and other necessities to the Palestinian population, 1.8 million of whom (more than 50% of the West Bank population) are dependent on foreign food aid. Excessive and bloody-minded deliberate delays at checkpoints, restrictions on local staff and harassment of Palestinian aid workers, who are banned from moving in and out of territories, are hampering the work of the international aid agencies and raising the latter’s operational costs to unprecedented levels by forcing them to bring in foreign staff at far higher costs than local workers. The unemployed, and those who cannot reach work because of Israeli restrictions, no account for 78% of the work force of the West Bank, such is the misery imposed by the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian people.

Closures imposed by the Israeli army have had the effect of splitting the occupied territories into approximately 200 separate entities. Since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada nearly two years ago, the West Bank has been closed on average for two days out of every three. During the last six months, it has been closed practically every day. The disruption of normal economic activity due to these closures, combined with the wanton destruction inflicted by the Israeli army, is costing the Palestinian economy between $2.4bn to $3.2bn a year. Real incomes have dropped by more than half, with well over half the Palestinian population living below the poverty line. As if this were not enough, Israel refuses to hand over $350 million a year it owes in taxes to the PA on the flimsy excuse that the latter will use the money for the purposes of terrorism. Yes indeed, feeding every Palestinian child is indeed dangerous, for when he grows up he is bound to turn into a liberation fighter against the hated Zinist colonial apartheid regime of occupation. Better therefore to starve him to death early in life. This is the bandit’s logic that guides Israeli policy.

For all that, notwithstanding all the cruelty and hardship which it visits on the gallant Palestinian people, the latest Israeli offensive, code-named ‘Determined Path’ will prove no more effective in subduing the occupied and colonial Palestinian people than did its predecessor – operation ‘Defensive Shield’. The Israeli authorities appear to have got a sinking feeling that they will not be successful in their efforts to secure peace for their citizens while continuing the subjugation of the Palestinian people. Precisely for this reason, Israel has begun the construction of a new 15 foot high electronic security wall in Jerusalem that will eventually stretch 50 kilometres in an attempt to protect Jerusalem against Palestinian attacks. That the building of this security wall will in the end prove just as futile is beside the point.

What is important is that it amounts to a tacit admission that Israeli Zionism is impotent in the face of Palestinian resistance. If physical separation of the Israelis and Palestinians is seen by Zionism as the only solution, is it not another way of admitting that only an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and the creation of an independent state of Palestine, can provide the way out of the present bloody mess created by Zionism with the full material, military, financial and diplomatic support of imperialism, principally US imperialism?

Bush administration and a Palestinian state

Having been forced, on the one hand, by the colossal Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation, and on the other hand, by the need to line up a string of client Arab states for its intended large-scale attack on Iraq, the Bush administration was compelled to declare itself in favour of the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. However, its idea of such a viable state is that a future state of Palestine must be subservient to the US and must have a leadership acceptable to the US administration. Not surprisingly, then, in his long-delayed speech of 24th June, George W.Bush, this red-necked bible-thumping corporate fraudster turned President, thanks to the notorious vote-rigging in Florida, demanded that the Palestinians must have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements. If that happens, he, George W.Bush expected Israel to respond and to work towards a final status agreement based on UN Resolution 242. If the pre-conditions laid down by him were to be fulfilled, the US, he said, will support “the creation of a Palestinian state whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement”.

Speaking soon after Sharon had threatened massive action in Gaza against Hamas after killing 4 of its members in an Israeli helicopter gunship attack in the territory, as Israeli tanks laid siege to Arafat’s headquarters and swept through Ramallah for the 11th time in fewer than eleven months, Bush said not a word about the Israeli terror unleashed on the Palestinian people on a daily basis. Instead, perversely, he called on the people “… to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror …” and to build “a practising democracy, based on tolerance and liberty”. In other words, in the eyes of this Texan gangster, while Ariel Sharon, the butcher of Sabra and Shatila, the destroyer of Lebanon, and the daily practitioner of terror on the Palestinians, is a practising democrat, Arafat, elected by his people to lead their liberation struggle, is “compromised by terror”.

Forgetting the liberation struggle of the American colonies and the methods employed by the colonists under the leadership of Washington against Britain’s colonial rule, Bush said that a Palestinian state “will never be created by terror”. Would it not be truer to say that it is only through the armed liberation struggle (terror if it pleases Bush and such other reactionaries) that a Palestinian state will, nay, is, being born. When the American bourgeoisie was young and revolutionary, it could, through Thomas Jefferson, frankly declare that “from time to time the tree of liberty must be watered with blood”. Now, however, since its future lies in the past, the reactionary imperialist bourgeoisie of the US, like its counterparts in Europe and Japan, has nothing but hatred of all revolutionary violence, while itself practising counter-revolutionary violence on a global scale – from bombing wedding parties in Afghanistan to daily attacks on Iraq and supplying Zionist surrogates with every weapon to use against the Palestinian and other Arab peoples.

This leader of the most corrupt administration even by US standards, stuffed full of former business executives who practised fraud on a massive scale while occupying important positions in large US corporations, as is being made clear each week as one scandal follows another, as one Enron succeeds another, called upon the Palestinian people to “confront corruption”! Would it not be better for Mr Bush to start confronting corruption within his own administration and, above all, cast a glance at his own and his vice-president’s involvement in corporate corruption?

Coming closer to the truth, he went on to say that “true reform will require entirely new political and economic institutions, based on democracy, market economics and action against terrorism”.

Shorn of euphemism, the Palestinian people must commit themselves to capitalism, end all resistance to occupation and elect into office a leadership acceptable and subservient to US imperialism. Only then can they count on help from the US, the EU, the World Bank, the IMF, all of whom we are told, “are willing to oversee reforms in Palestinian finances, encouraging [don’t laugh, for it isn’t a joke] transparency and independent auditing”. Why not enlist the services of these worthy bodies to oversee the introduction of transparency and independent auditing into corporate America?

Deliberately insulting the Palestinian people and blaming them for the ills of the occupation regime, Bush went on to say:

“I can understand the deep anger and anguish of the Israeli people. You’ve lived too long with fear and funerals, having to avoid markets and public transportation, and forced to put armed guards in kindergarten classrooms. The Palestinian Authority has rejected your offer out of hand, and trafficked with terrorists. You have the right to a normal life; you have a right to security; and I deeply believe that you need a reformed, responsible Palestinian partner to achieve that security”.

Saying that “either nations are with us or against us in the war on terror”, Bush went on to demand of the Arab regimes in the area to condemn suicide bombings, not to give publicity to the Palestinian liberation struggle, to stop the flow of funds to liberation organisations, to close down the offices of these organisations and “oppose regimes that promote terror, like Iraq”.

As for Israel, Bush gave a gentle brotherly warning that “Permanent occupation threatens Israel’s identity and democracy [which has never existed for the Palestinians inside or outside of the occupied territories – Lalkar]. A stable, peaceful Palestinian state is necessary to achieve the security that Israel longs for. So I challenge Israel to take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable, credible Palestinian state” and he made a plea for Israel to withdraw her forces “fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000” and to stop “settlement activity in the occupied territories”.

Palestinian Authority’s response to Bush

The Palestinians have already given their answer to the Bush speech by promising the continued prosecution of their liberation struggle hand-in-hand with the announcement of new elections. On the same day as Bush’s speech, Arafat called on the Palestinian people to participate in the most extensive electoral exercise in Palestinian history. He issued a decree ordering parliamentary and presidential elections in January 2003 and local government elections in March – his riposte to the chief executive of US imperialism bent upon writing him out of the script. The following day (25 June), talking outside his besieged Ramallah headquarters, on being asked about his early retirement, he pointedly remarked: “This is what my people will decide. They are the only ones who can determine this”. This reply was nothing short of a well-deserved slap across George W.Bush’s face.

Yasser Arafat is quite correctly determined to doggedly fight Bush’s diktat with a thumping electoral mandate from his people. Bush will be no more successful in giving the Palestinian leader a premature burial than have been his predecessors or Israeli Zionism.

Yasser Arafat and the PLO were expelled from Beirut in 1982, finished for ever in the eyes of US imperialism and Israeli Zionism alike. And yet they staged a triumphal return to Gaza in 1994. In fact, the Bush administration is going to be horrified to death as the results of its insistence on Palestinian democracy unfold in the coming months. Not only will Yasser Arafat be returned with a bigger than ever mandate, parliamentary elections will doubtless attract more radical candidates. Already, Mr Arafat has turned the tables on his enemies by demanding the evacuation of Israeli troops so that campaigning and elections can take place. He has even requested international observers and demanded that 200,000 Palestinians living in annexed East Jerusalem be allowed to participate in these elections. It seems most unlikely that the Zionist rulers of Israel will show the slightest interest in, let along permit, this pursuit of honest governments.

Palestinian demands are extremely reasonable, for how can elections be held when, thanks to Israeli destruction, there is no properly functioning PA and when, in addition to Israeli reoccupation, the 40% of the West Bank which the PA partially controlled is currently divided into eight non-contiguous ghettos, 120 checkpoints and 226 enclaves – with control of movement exclusively exercised by the Israeli army of occupation. In these conditions, say the Palestinians, elections are about “as feasible as a state on the moon” (The Economist, 29 June 2002). In these tormented fragments of territory where all movement is blocked, the struggle for sheer survival is the principal concern of the people.

Such is US imperialism’s love of democracy that its National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, has threatened the withdrawal of the meagre US aid to the PA if Mr Arafat is re-elected.

A united front between Imperialism and the ‘left’

In view of the fact that the Palestinian people and their leadership face unprecedented pressure and brute unmitigated force from the camp of imperialism and its Zionist agents in the Middle East, it is not unreasonable to expect that people who call themselves socialists, even Marxist-Leninists, in the imperialist countries, would be willing to render moral, political and material support to national revolutionary struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination. What we get instead are the attacks by this shameless ‘left’ on the Palestinian national liberation struggle and the leadership of this, one of the most important liberation movements of our day. It is as though a united front has been formed between imperialism and this sorry excuse for a ‘left’ in the centres of imperialism. We shall just take two examples in this issue.

First, there are the unadulterated Trotskyists of the so-called CPGB, although, of course, they claim to be adherents of Leninism for the benefit of the gullible Simple Simons in various sectarian outfits, including their own. Second, the gentry from the RCG (Revolutionary Communist Group) who have been attempting for years to cease being Trotskyists and become Leninists, without ever quite succeeding in these endeavours – a bit like the curate’s egg they are Leninists in parts. While mouthing revolutionary phrases, they are forever engaged in denigrating and undermining revolutionary movements and belittling the leadership of these movements. Whereas the RCG does it in a subtle and sophisticated manner, the Trotskyists claiming to be the CPGB are open and unashamed advocates of counter-revolution everywhere, for whom socialist construction in the USSR, as indeed elsewhere, was a sure sign of “counter revolution”. We here confine ourselves to the question of Palestine.

Weekly Workers Trots

Writing in their organ, the Weekly Worker (WW) of 24th January of this year, and in an effort to spread demoralisation among the supporters of the liberation struggle in Palestine, they assert that “Despite all the heroic endeavour, the plain fact is that the Palestinians’ second intifada is doomed to failure unless it can win the Israeli working class to its side”. They denounce the secular Fatah, for allegedly it wants “to impose a settlement from above” (whatever this means), and the Islamicists because of their use of “terror tactics in support of a reactionary political programme”, adding that “… indiscriminate suicide attacks on Israeli civilians are reactionary” as they only serve to “rally Israeli working people around the chauvinism of Sharon and Likud”.

Referring to the April Israeli invasions of the PA territories and the crimes committed by the Israeli army, the WW of 25th April says that this is merely a “foretaste of what could be in store for the Palestinians if the Zionist right is able to consolidate and carry out its programme of massive ethnic cleansing and slaughter of the Palestinians” by way of a “final solution to the Palestinian question in pursuit of the goal of Eretz Yisrael (Greater Israel). Such a dreadful possibility is brought closer by the activities of the far right among the Palestinians, principally Hamas, whose programme of suicide bombings of Israeli civilians only helps the ultra-reactionary Zionist right to maintain its grip on the Jewish population by posing as the only people who can defend them against annihilation”.

Every one of the assertions above is plainly incorrect and counter-revolutionary to boot. It would be nice indeed if the Palestinian people and the Israeli working class could forge a common front against imperialism and its Zionist stooges, just as it would have been nice if the black masses in South Africa and Zimbabwe had been able to forge a similar front with the white working class of those countries.

Notwithstanding participation of outstanding white individuals in the liberation movement in South Africa, notwithstanding some support given by a few Israeli citizens to the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people, no common front between whites and black in South Africa was ever forged, and no such front between Israeli Jews and Palestinians has been effected thus far. And this for the simple reason that whites in South Africa lived on the land stolen from the blacks, just as Israeli Jews live on land stolen from Palestinians at gun point; that just like the South African whites, the Jew of Israel enjoy a far higher standard of living than the Arabs, something which can only be guaranteed on the basis of the preservation of the gains of the theft, which in turn depends entirely on imperialist material, financial, military and diplomatic support for the theocratic state of Israel. US imperialism funds Israel to the tune of $3bn a year – an investment which is worth every cent; for Israel acts as the armed agent of US imperialism in a sea of “hostile Arabism”. Israel is for the US an unsinkable aircraft carrier; it is imperialism’s dagger pointed at the heart of the Arab people’s national-democratic and anti-imperialist liberation struggle; it is the most effective instrument for safeguarding imperialist oil interests in the Middle East. In return the Israeli masses are ensured of a standard of life comparable to that in the imperialist countries. In short, by the very logic of their position the Israeli masses, who from the moment of their birth are taught to hate every Palestinian, find themselves in the suffocating embrace of Zionism and its imperialist masters.

It is not the suicide bombing which forces the Israeli masses into the embrace of Zionism – they are already in the embrace. On the contrary, it is the fact that the Israeli masses have thus far rallied round the Zionist project, expelled the Palestinian people out of their homes and property, are busy colonising the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are serving as soldiers and reservists for the purposes of waging an all out war against the Palestinian people, which has forced the Palestinian liberation movement to adopt new tactics. Bereft of an army, an air force or a navy, deprived of sophisticated weaponry and facing a formidable enemy which is supported to the hilt by imperialism, the Palestinian people have adopted the only effective weapon available to them. New situations always produce new forms of struggle. Weak people, always and everywhere, adopt the forms of struggle that most guarantee the success of that struggle. One cannot remain a Marxist and yet make a fetish of the forms of struggle. The purpose of warfare in this form of struggle is to wear down the will of the enemy to win. That the Palestinians are wearing down the will of Zionism to win can only be doubted by either those who know nothing about the development of the revolutionary struggle in Palestine/Israel, or those who are straightforward cowardly agents of the imperialist bourgeoisie in the working-class movement.

If Israeli Zionism has so far not succeeded in ethnic cleansing on an even more massive scale than is presently the case, it is not for lack of will or trying. It is not just the Zionist right, as the incurably reactionary correspondents of the WW assert, which seeks the “final solution” to the Palestinian question through the wholesale expulsion of the Palestinian population from the historic territory of Palestine. No, that is the ardent wish of every Zionist – right and ‘left’. In fact, most ethnic cleansing has been done in Palestine under the tender loving care of the Israeli Labour governments, right from Ben Gurion’s government onwards. There is no need to scare people with stories of what will happen to the Palestinians if the Zionist right consolidated itself. What has prevented mass expulsion is the resistance put up by the Palestinian people. The April genocide was intended by the Sharon government to force the Palestinians to flee Palestine, but the attempt failed for the Palestinian people have learned bitter lessons from their experience in 1948.

Far from further rallying the Israeli masses around Zionism, the tactics of the liberation movement, its heroic endeavour and new forms of struggle, are beginning to spread panic in the Zionist camp and cause dissension within it. By making the lives of the Israeli population intolerable, by undermining the security and peace of the average Israeli, the liberation movement is bringing to the Israelis the realisation that there will be no peace for them if they continue to oppress, subjugate, torment and terrorise the Palestinian people. Far from its success being dependent on the support of the Israeli working class, it is the success of the Intifada which, by weakening and undermining Zionism, will lay the real foundation for bringing the Israeli working class closer to the Palestinian people and pave the way for their reconciliation. Let it be said in passing that suicide bombers are no new phenomenon. Britain used them extensively during the Second World War. Britain’s pilots were suicide bombers in fying machines, half of whom never returned from their bombing missions in Germany. FRFI and the PA Having dealt with the snivelling Trots of the WW, let us now pass on to the semi-Trotskyists of the RCG. In their bi-monthly organ, FRFI (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!), they regularly denounce Yasser Arafat as the “true friend” of imperialism and Zionism, who is ever ready to cut a deal in the interests of imperialism and Zionism but unable to do so because of the resistance of the masses. Writing in the June/July 2002 issue of FRFI, Robert Clough, who is doubtless the most Trotskyist-minded member of his group, says that following the first Intifada, which lasted from 1987-91, the Palestinian people were “defeated, not militarily, but because their inept leadership accepted the 1993 Oslo peace agreement”, following which a “corrupt Palestinian Authority policed the agreement brutally torturing and murdering opponents” – all for the pleasure of putting into effect the “neo-colonial” agreement. Yet, we are told a few sentences further on that Arafat had to reject what Barak, with Clinton’s support, offered the Palestinians in July 2000 “for fear of an explosion at home”, which “came anyway on 28th September 2000”. Thus, on the one hand, the inept Arafat was single-handedly able to defeat the Intifada and put his signature to a neo-colonial deal at Oslo with impunity, but, the same Arafat dared not accept what Barak offered (which was certainly more than that offered at Oslo “for fear of an explosion at home”. While the corrupt PA could allegedly torture and murder the opponents of Oslo for seven years, it somehow lost the nerve to accept that which was offered it by Barak. Make sense of it, if you can, reader. It makes no sense to us.

The truth, which is beyond the grasp of the best Trotskyist brains (and it must be admitted that Robert Clough is certainly one of the best Trotskyist brains in Britain), is that Oslo was a compromise – even a humiliating compromise – forced on the Palestinian people by the change in the balance of forces, in the Middle East and the wider world, following the Iraqi defeat in the Gulf War and the collapse of the USSR and other East European socialist countries. At the same time it was a compromise forced on Zionism as well, for the latter was compelled, for the first time, to recognise the very existence of the Palestinian people and of a Palestinian problem. Be that as it may, the Oslo Accords were only a part of an evolving complex process, in which armed and diplomatic struggle sometimes changed places and at other times came together, whereby negotiations went hand in hand with continued warfare. It was possible, back in 1993, to criticise the Oslo Accords. A decade later, with the knowledge of hindsiht, criticism of the Oslo agreements is downright reactionary, for the Oslo agreements have served to weaken Zionism and help to push forward the Palestinian struggle on to a far higher plane than was the case prior to 1993.

In the same article, Robert Clough, while informing us that the Zionists “have failed to crush the Second Intifada because its unity has remained unbroken”, in the very next paragraph, referring to the April invasions of the PA by the Israeli army, goes on to assert that the “Zionists have undoubtedly inflicted a serious defeat on the resistance”. Notwithstanding their public bravado, even the Zionist leaders of Israel would not privately agree with Robert Clough’s assessment, for if indeed the Zionists have inflicted a serious defeat, why are they having to repeat the invasion of the PA areas in the operation ‘Determined Path’ so soon after the alleged complete success of operation ‘Defensive Wall’? Ordinary people possessed of ordinary logic will be hard put to understand Mr.Clough’s way of arguing in which each succeeding sentence contradicts a preceding sentence and in which each succeeding argument annihilates a preceding argument. Being scared by his own unwarranted assertions, and giving free rein to his boundless Trotskyist pessimism, he goes on to say that “Sharon is now in a position to repeat the ethnic cleansing of 1948 … with the support of leading US reactionaries. … This is no longer the fantasy of a deranged minority”. One thing is certain, this kind of cheerful optimism has always been the fantasy of deranged Trotskyism, albeit covered under a hail of phrases about world revolution. And to cover his own defeatism, the gallant Mr.Clough begins his capitulatory assertions with a casual slur that “Yasser Arafat has secured a meaningless freedom”, the implication yet again being that Mr.Arafat has somehow done a secret deal whereby he has saved his skin by selling out the Palestinian struggle. Let us have a little modesty from you, comrade Clough. Only people safe in the tranquillity of a yuppy apartment in Islington, who have never known greater danger than getting out of their lodgings to go to work every morning, can have the temerity to cast aspersions on the courage, steadfastness and integrity of a person who has risked his life and led his people’s struggle in exceptionally difficult circumstances for four long decades, who prefers to work, live and sleep in siege a few metres from Israeli guns than accept the one-way ticket out of Palestine which Sharon, with the full support of the Bush administration, has offered him.

The problem with Robert Clough is his characteristic Trotskyist proclivity to get carried away by his own phrases and his extreme forgetfulness of what he has written elsewhere on the same page, which enables him to assert with great aplomb just the opposite of that which he asserted earlier. Here is just one example. In the same issue of FRFI, from which we have cited earlier, in an article entitled ‘Arafat and the Palestinian people’, co-authored by Robert Clough and Andrew Orphaneudakis, the opening paragraph carries the innuendo that Arafat had secured his freedom from Israeli siege at heavy cost to the Palestinian people. Then follows a list of charges against him, in particular the handing over of 6 Palestinians “into joint British/US custody”. Most of the rest of the article is devoted to listing the alleged crimes of Mr.Arafat and the PA, and how isolated he is from his people. Then we come to the final two paragraphs, which deal with the question of new elections and the clean up of the PA demanded by the Sharon government and the Bush administration. To get out of their self-inflicted difficulties, the authors approvingly reproduce a statement of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) to the effect that US imperialism and Zionism are “using the slogans of democracy to cover their real aim – that is to have a leadership and an Authority that is more ready to follow their diktats”. What does this statement of DFLP mean? It can only mean that either the PA and its leadership are not inclined to follow the diktats of imperialism and Zionism at all or not to an extent sufficient to satisfy them. And, presumably, in approvingly quoting the DFLP statement our authors have signed up to it as well. That this is so is made clear by the authors in the final paragraph of their article, in which they correctly denounce the imperialist and Zionist attempts to meddle in the internal affairs of the PA as “a new attack on the Intifada, an attempt to sow divisions” – an attempt which “will be resisted”.

This being so, it knocks down at one blow the entire edifice, so painstakingly constructed by Robert Clough, of a corrupt and murderous PA headed by a leadership in the pocket of imperialism and its Zionist stooges, ready at a moment’s notice to do the latter’s bidding and betray the struggle of the Palestinian people. Either one thing or the other. Either the PA and its leadership are what Robert Clough portrays them to be most of the time, namely, ridden with corruption and possessed of incurable renegacy, in which case their removal would be a godsend. Or they are the genuine representatives of their people, who provide leadership of their people’s struggle in very difficult circumstances, in which case an attack on them is an “attack on the Intifada, an attempt to sow divisions”.

We are firmly of the latter view. All outside interference in the internal affairs of the Palestinian liberation movement, all outside attacks on the PA and its leadership, whether they emanate from imperialism, Zionism, or self-styled socialists in the centres of imperialism, have always been, as they are now, an attack on the Intifada and an attempt to sow divisions, which must be firmly resisted.

Palestinian struggle forging ahead

Contrary to the assertions of Zionism and the pessimism which characterises portions of the ‘left’ in imperialist countries, the heroic liberation struggle of the Palestinian people is forging ahead, causing dissension within Israeli society and the imperialist camp while bringing ever closer unity between various sections of the liberation movement, as well as between them and the Palestinian people at large, and winning ever-wider support on a global scale, including among the working class of the US and Europe.

Zionists are split between those who want no settlement with the Palestinian people and those who see no alternative to conceding an independent State of Palestine. While the ruling Likud Party passed, on 12th May, a resolution with near unanimity against a Palestinian state under any circumstances, even Sharon found himself opposing this resolution, and in doing so was booed out of Tel Aviv’s Mann Stadium. A day earlier (11th May), 100,000 Israelis demonstrated calling for an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. According to polls, 63% of the Israelis now favour a Palestinian state. Yossi Beilin, a former deputy foreign minister, launched in the first week of June a new peace movement, Shahar (Dawn), advocating a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and the removal of settlements.

Let alone the Arab world, major imperialist countries have been the scene of huge demonstrations in support of the liberation struggle of the Palestinian people. London, Paris, Rome, Berlin and several other European capitals have been regularly thronged by tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators demanding a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Even Washington played host to a 100,000 strong gathering in support of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination on 20th April. The Bush administration has been dragged into giving at least verbal support to a Palestinian state – the first time a US administration has ever done so.

There are divisions within the imperialist camp on the question of the PA and its leadership. While Sharon and Bush say that Arafat is “irrelevant”, the EU says that if Arafat is re-elected, it will have no option but to treat him as a partner in negotiations.

Meanwhile the continued Israeli invasions and repression, with their sieges and curfews, are arousing the Palestinian people to further acts of heroism which are bound to smash the operation ‘Determined Path’.