Israel – No peace without an end to occupation Israel – No peace without an end to occupation
According to Chinese legend there was a man dying of thirst. The only drink he had to hand was a goblet filled with poison. He was bound to die if he drank it, and equally bound to die if he did not. Israeli Zionism finds itself in the same predicament. It loses if it does not suppress the Palestinian struggle for national liberation and self-determination. If, on the other hand, it resorts, as it has done for more than five decades, to brutal and barbaric measures, far from exterminating the struggle of the Palestinian people for liberation from the jackboot of Zionist occupation, these measures merely serve to strengthen Palestinian resistance to occupation.
Sharon Government’s Failure
In February, the Israeli electorate voted Ariel Sharon – the notorious war criminal and butcher of Sabra and Shatila notoriety – into office in the vain hope that he would be able to put an end to the Al-Aqsa Intifada and bring security to Israel. The results are just the opposite of those intended by the Israeli electorate, which continues to be under the spell of delusions engendered by Zionism, namely, that Palestine belongs to the Jews and Palestinians have no right to live there; and that, therefore, it is the birthright of the Jews to clear Palestine of the Palestinians. Within just three months of the butcher Sharon assuming the office of prime minister of Israel, the Israeli population has begun to discover that his government can no more put an end to the Palestinian uprising than could any number of previous Israeli regimes. Despite all attempts to squash it, the conflagration of the Intifiada continues its sweep, defying tougher Israeli military actions, raids into Palestinian-controlled territry, demolition of houses, burning of crops, uprooting of olive groves, terrorist attacks by settler thugs, state-sponsored assassinations of a number of leading figures in the Palestinian resistance, suffocating economic and military blockades, and attacks by tanks, Apache helicopters and F-16 warplanes, supplied with loving tender care by US imperialism to its Zionist surrogate. Here is a brief survey of the Israeli suppression and Palestinian resistance over the past two months (since the last issue of
), during which the heroic Palestinian people have responded to every act of counter-revolutionary violence by the Zionist colonial settler regime by revolutionary violence, which has struck panic into the Zionist camp and sent shivers down the spine of its chief protagonist – US imperialism.
Israeli Suppression and Palestinian Resistance
reported that in the first week of May a settler from Ofra was shot dead by armed Palestinians, while 40 school pupils narrowly escaped injury when a bomb exploded close to their bullet-proof bus, and five youngsters in their teens were injured by mortars fired at their Gaza settlement. “
As sobering is the realisation,”
that Ariel Sharon, the hardliner elected prime minister in February on a pledge to combat violence unswervingly, has not brought them
(Ralph Atkins, ‘Sharon loses lustre among settlers’,
, 5 May 2001).
Already there is widespread disappointment among settlers, for Sharon is “…
not providing answers even for the rightwing settlers, whose hatred of Palestinians is often visceral
). Faced with the relentless resistance of the Palestinian people, Sharon’s cabinet colleagues, who are, impossible to believe, even more nutty and fascistic than him, have been driven by desperation and despondency to advocate the most wild schemes for dealing with the Palestinian uprising. Thus, Avigdon Lieberman, the minister responsible for infrastructure, on 4 May called for the Israeli army to invade (as if it has not already done so) areas fully controlled by the Palestinians for 48 hours and
“completely destroy their military infrastructure, all their police buildings, warehouses, security facilities … so that not one stone is left on top of another. Disassemble everything. Two days and we’re out”
(quoted in the
Financial Times, op cit.
This gentleman must be insane and have broken all connection with reality if he thinks his proposed escapade would put an end to one of the most virile national liberation movements of our times.
On 7 May, a four-month-old Palestinian baby girl was killed by Israeli tank fire in the Gaza Strip. Such was the outcry caused by this outrageous act that Sharon was obliged to apologise and state that Israel would “
make every effort to try and avoid tragic cases”
such as this. Sharon’s apology is meaningless in view of the continued Israeli occupation and settlements, which are the real cause of all the misery and tragic deaths and suffering on both sides, especially on the Palestinian side, which, as a victim of aggression and occupation, bears a disproportionate part of the cost of this conflict. In the words of the famous Palestinian lawmaker, Hanan Ashrawi, “
the best apology would be for Israel to withdraw as an occupying power”
and stop attacking Palestinians.
Two days later two Israeli schoolboys were found beaten to death in a West Bank cave. Sickening though it may be for decent people to hear of such an atrocity, it is important to realise that in view of the crimes of Zionism – the expulsion of nearly a million Palestinians (now grown to 4 million) from their homes and land at gunpoint, the occupation of four-fifths of palestine, refusal to vacate the remaining one-fifth, the wholesale repression of the entire Palestinian population – the Palestinians are surely justified in attempting to expel the foreign conquerors who have so abused, humiliated and oppressed the victims of their conquest. And if the Zionists could commit in cold blood the heinous crimes of which they are undoubtedly guilty, is it to be surprised at if the insurgent Palestinians, to borrow Marx’s words written in another but similar context
“should be guilty, in the fury of revolt and conflict, of the crimes and cruelties alleged against them?
Investigation of Tortures in India
The Israeli army regularly goes on the rampage, killing mostly unarmed Palestinians. A significant minority of its victims are the youth. Since the beginning of the second Intifada (at the end of September 2000), approximately 550 Palestinians and 111 Israelis have been killed. According to B’tselem, the Israeli human rights group, of the 550 Palestinians killed, 101 were under the age of 18, including 20 under the age of 14. During the same period, 4 Israelis under the age of 18 have been killed, including a 10-month old baby.
Be that as it may, on 10 May, one day after the killing of the two Israeli schoolboys, Israel launched missile attacks on targets in Gaza City, allegedly in retaliation for a bomb that killed two migrant Romanian labourers on the border with the Gaza Strip. Four days later, the Israeli army killed in cold blood five Palestinian policemen in Ramallah – four of whom had been asleep. Yassir Arafat, the head of the Palestinian authority, quite correctly condemned the Israeli actions as “
a dirty, immoral operation and not a military one”
, adding that “
Israel must know that it will be harshly judged over this crime”
(quoted in the
Financial Times, op cit
). The cold-blooded killing of the policemen was a calculated act fully consistent with the Israeli army’s policy of assassinating Palestinian officials and members of the Palestinian security forces.
The killing of the police officers, found dead in a ditch, provided a grim background to the demonstrations of 15 May – the anniversary of Nakba (the great catastrophe), which marked the creation of the state of Israel, the subsequent displacement of nearly a million Palestinians from their homes and eventually the conquest and occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Increasing Israeli oppression and the rising Palestinian resistance has seen to it that the anniversary of the Nakba has merged with the rising tide of the Palestinian national revolutionary struggle, thus creating a mighty current which is bound to overwhelm the Zionist oppressors and torturers of the Palestinian people. The Nakba was marked on the same day as the funerals of the five policemen assassinated by the Israeli army the previous day. In evidence everywhere was the anger of the masses, who burned Israeli flags and car tyres at demonstrations across the West Bank and Gaza. At several places angry Palestnians clashed with the Zionist army of occupation. By the end of the day, four more Palestinians had been killed and 200 inured, five of them critically. This year’s Nakba day provided clear evidence of the extent to which the uprising has radicalised the Palestinian masses, who can no longer be pacified by anything short of liberation. According to Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian centre for policy and survey research in Ramallah, the “…
public has become very radicalised. We’re seeing support for violence going up 77 or 80 per cent among Palestinians… Trust in Israel is zero. Palestinians are back believing that Israel doesn’t want to end the occupation” (Financial Times,
16 May 2001).
At noon on 15 May, at the end of three minutes of wailing sirens, Chairman Arafat’s message, broadcast from loudspeakers attached to poles, proclaimed that the “
blind military might
” of Israel would “
not impose surrender on our people”,
adding that he looked forward to the day when the Palestinian flag was unfurled above “
the minarets and churches of Jerusalem”.
Less than an hour later, Palestinian youths began to gather on the checkpoints outside Ramallah, waving Palestinian flags, hurling stones at the Israeli army and exchanging gunfire with Israeli soldiers.
The Nakba anniversary this year coincided with trouble for Israel on two other fronts. On Monday 14 May a bomb exploded in a café used by Israeli soldiers in Majdal Shams in the Golan, Syrian territory illegally occupied by Israel since 1967. The Golan explosion in turn came only hours after the Lebanese resistance movement, Hizbollah, fired two anti-tank missiles at an Israeli position in Sheba, where Hizbollah has killed three Israeli soliders and captured another three since last October.
On Friday 18 May the liberation forces struck back with a suicide bomb attack on a shopping centre in Netanya, on the Mediterranean coast, in which six people, including the bomber, were killed and 100 injured. The same day, Israel responded by attacking targets in the towns of Nablus and Ramallah with F-16 warplanes, killing 12 Palestinians. The following day, Israeli helicopter gunships attacked targets in the towns of Jenin and Tulkaram, in which 30 Palestinians were injured.
The attacks, far from providing security to Israel, managed only to increase Israel’s international isolation and stiffen the resolve of the Palestinian people to intensify their struggle for national liberation. The following day, eight foreign ministers from the most powerful Arab states, meeting in Cairo at Arafat’s request, also decided to put an end to all contacts with Israel “
so long as the aggression and blockade against the Palestinian people and its national authority continue.”
Not only did Israel’s barbaric use of warplanes attract international condemnation, but within Israel too it was severely criticised as self defeating and an act of supreme stupidity by sections of the influential media. The
stated that the
“uncontrolled use of force weakens Israel’s claims”
, the most popular Israeli daily, characterised the air strikes as an act of
which negated any diplomatic sympathy that might have come Israel’s way from the suicide attack in Netanya.
another newspaper, in its front-page commentary, asked the question: “
What would happen after a terror attack in which, God forbid, 20 people were killed? An atomic bomb on Ramallah?”
21 May 2001).
Even Ehud Olmert, mayor of Jerusalem and a member of Sharon’s Likud Party, went on record to say that he would probably not have recommended the unleashing of warplanes. There was general agreement among thinking Israeli analysts that the decision to use such massive force was merely a reflection of the bankruptcy of the Sharon government’s policy of using armed might to restore some credibility to Israeli deterrence. In other words, the Sharon government has no more a solution for the problem of Israeli security than did its predecessors. And this for the reason that there will be no security for Israeli citizens as long as Israel continues to occupy and subjugate another people and deny them their legitimate rights – in violation of all norms of international law and UN Resolutions (including Resolution 194 on the right of return of the refugees), let alone considerations of humanitarianism.
Resistance Stands Defiant
The liberation forces, for their part, responded to the Israeli attack with defiant contempt, saying they would retaliate
. There were emotional scenes in Nablus on Saturday 19 May at the funerals of the policemen killed in the F-16 warplane attack the previous day. The coffins of the victims were paraded on military jeeps, amidst large crowds numbering several tens of thousands including women and children.
“Even if those 11 killed were 11,000, we would continue the struggle with stones and guns. We will not surrender”,
declared Mahum Al-Alul, the governor. A sea of mourners filled the streets. “
A million martyrs will march toward Jerusalem
“, chanted the crowd to the accompaniment of dozens of gunmen firing into the air. Still others shouted: “
Brigades, brigades, take revenge
“, alluding to the Izzedine al Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas. The procession was led by police pick-up trucks carrying the flag-draped bodies, which were given a send-off and a burial befitting fallen heroes.
Ramallah, the other target in the air strikes, witnessed a crowd of about 2,000 people who had come for the funeral of a member of Force 17, the elite bodyguard of Mr Arafat. Even the funeral processions and mournings are not exempt from Zionist brutality. So the day ended with three more Palestinian deaths – one in Nablus, the second at a checkpoint near Jenin, the third being a farmer shot dead in a field near Gaza.
Alarmed by the strength of the rising resistance and the rising tide of the Palestinian struggle for national liberation, which threatens increasingly to blow apart the uneasy imperialist-inspired status quo in the Middle East, the new US administration, which had adopted a hands-off policy and thus given the green light to the government of that notorious war criminal and butcher, Ariel Sharon, in the hope that the massive use of force by Israel would help put down the Palestinian uprising, has had to change tack and endorse, within hours of its release, the Mitchell Report which, among other things, calls for a total freeze of Zionist settlements, including a bar on their natural growth. While the Palestinian leadership, with some reservations, accepted the recommendations of the Mitchell Report, Sharon’s initial response was to reject the Mitchell findings on the pretext that freezing settlements would be tantamount to rewarding the Palestinians for their uprising. In the face of such obduracy and unreaon, the Palestinians have little option other than to carry on their struggle and literally force some sense into the skulls of the ruling Zionist circles (more on settlements later).
Not surprisingly, then, two car bombs exploded in Jerusalem on Sunday 27 May, within hours before William Burns, the new US State Department Middle East envoy, was due to meet Yassir Arafat in Ramallah. The first of these bombs exploded just after midnight, causing widespread panic among young Israelis who packed into nearby cafés. The PFLP claimed responsibility for it, while Islamic Jihad said that it had carried out the second attack at about 9 a.m. Ehud Olmert, Jerusalem’s mayor, was quoted by the Israeli media as saying that “
700,000 people in Jerusalem are living under siege”,
such is the extent to which the Zionist establishment is rattled.
Settlements – a mode of ethnic cleansing
In a move clearly designed to put paid to any idea of reaching a settlement with the Palestinian people, Natan Sharansky, Israel’s housing and construction minister, vowed to press ahead with plans to construct more on the settlements in the West Bank, claiming that the plan to build 700 new houses had been approved by the previous Barak government. The resistance movement’s answer was to shoot dead three settlers in the West Bank.
Settlements have become a point of bitter contention because the Palestinians, driven from large parts of their country, have nowhere else to go. The settlements are in total violation of international law. Further, under the Oslo Accord, settlement activity should have been frozen. As a matter of fact, the opposite of that has happened, with the settlement population expanding from 115,000 in 1993 to 200,000 at present. The Palestinian population is constantly under threat from the Israeli army, which regularly razes large areas of vegetation, destroys trees, and demolishes houses to create buffer zones around the Jewish settlements. The Palestinians are also under constant threat from settlers who, armed to the teeth, frequently go on the rampage, killing Palestinians and destroying their property. Take Hebron, for instance. It has a Palestinian population of 120,000. Under Oslo, Israel agreed to withdraw from most of the town but in fact retained control over 20% of it in order to ‘protect’ the Jewsh enclave of 440 settlers who live in the narrow streets of the old kasbah. They are the fruitiest of them all, even by the standards of the settlers, constantly provoking tensions with attacks against their Arab neighbours. One may gauge their mental make-up from the fact that they frequently characterise their Israeli army protectors as Nazis, for no other reason than that occasionally the army prevents them from raiding neighbouring Arab territory. It was in Hebron that, even before the Israeli withdrawal, the mad Zionist Baruch Goldstein gunned down 29 Muslim worshippers inside the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The settlers honoured this mass murderer by building a shrine to him.
Besides the loss of further territory, the settlements constitute a daily disruption and humiliation of living under occupation. The Peace Now Campaign estimates that under Israeli “
” eventually settlements will cover half the territory of the West Bank. Zionism has all along planned to expel all Palestinians from historic Palestine. As early as 1941, Zionist leaders such as David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann contemplated “
the transfer of Arabs out of an eventual Jewish state to make room for immigrants
” from Europe (see Mark Mazower in the
of 25 May 2001). Every Israeli government since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 has done its utmost to put this plan into effect. No wonder, then, that the Palestinian fighters for liberation regard the settlers as legitimate targets. Israel’s shameful record in this regard has come under scrutiny even at the hands of some Israeli historians, who have questioned the Zionist myth that the 1948 war of independence was a glorious victory for the Jewish David over the Arab Goliath. The research of these Jewish historians points to the conclusion that the atrocities committed against Arab civilians, far from being the random excesses of trigger-happy troops in the field, were part of a plan on the part of the Zionist leadership for “
permanent demographic engineering”
[i.e., ethnic cleansing].
Alarmed by such findings, which undermine the moral basis of the founding of Israel, last month the Israeli minister of education, Limor Livnat, stating that schools were part of the internal security of the state of Israel, announced that Israeli children would from now on (as if they were not hitherto) be required to receive a Jewish-Zionist education, that is, they will be required to receive a grilling in blatant lies and myths surrounding the establishment, and the subsequent conduct, of the Israeli state.
The Zionist establishment, in particular the Sharon government, is alarmed at, and feels threatened by, the dispassionate findings of these Israeli historians, for these findings are highly unpalatable to it. In fact it dubs them an erosion of “
basic patriotic values
“. This futile attempt to re-assert Zionist myths (i.e.,
“basic patriotic values”
in Zionist terminology) is doubly important as the Israeli government has every intention of continuing the dirty work begun in 1948, which it regards as unfinished. “
It is impossible to say that we have completed the work and now we can rest on our laurels.”
Shorn of all euphemism, it means there must be more settlements, and further expropriation and expulsion of the Palestinian people.
This Zionist delusion, however, is in violent discord with reality and the dénouement will be just the opposite of that intended by the deranged Zionist establishment. While the latter vainly attempts to embellish Israel’s formative victory, Israeli Arabs have joined ranks with their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza in marking 1948 as the Nakba – the great catastrophe. What better proof could there be of the deep chasm dividing Israel society than this
“diametrically opposed contest of historical memory
By its denial of the facts, of Palestinian suffering, of the injustice done to the latter, of the need to recognise this injustice, of the need to come to terms with the national rights of the Palestinian people, and by its attempts to reassert and reinforce Zionist myths, the Sharon government and the rest of the settler colonialist establishment reveal not only their total moral degeneration and utter inhumanity, but also their political bankruptcy. Along this road lies not only further suffering for the Palestinian people, but also a disaster for the Israeli state. To that extent one cannot but cheer from the sidelines, as this unpleasant gentry hurtles toward the abyss. That this is so is recognised even by sections of the bourgeois intelligentsia. Mark Mazower, Professor of history at Birkbeck College, London, writing in connection with the Sharon government’s proposals to impart Jewish-Zionist education, concludes his article (referred to above) with the following perceptive observation:
Still committed to a form of settler colonialism, still in thrall to a mystique of the land that can be justified not in political but in theological terms only, its very actions show the war of 1948 in a new light. Unable to offer a weary electorate the promise of glorious wars to come, it is trying at least to preserve the country’s pride in the struggles of the past. And in refusing to acknowledge the facts of history, it reveals the poverty of its policies for the future.”
(‘Sharon should surrender to history’,
25 May 2001).
Tel Aviv attack drives home the message
The message sent by the Sharon government’s housing and construction minister was not lost on the liberation forces. First, they struck on 25 May, with two car bomb explosions in Hadera, central Israel. The explosion killed the two bombers and injured 65 Israelis, causing mayhem. Faced with total unreason and bellicosity on the Zionist side, the liberation forces struck again – this time in Tel Aviv. On the night of Friday 1 June, a young Palestinian freedom fighter blew himself and 20 Israelis up in a suicide bomb attack at the entrance to the Dolphin nightclub. This, the single most deadly attack on an Israeli target in the 8 months of the present Intifada, has struck panic and a sense of confusion and hopelessness among the Israeli population at large. Only recently , the Israelis asserted that they had succeeded in containing the impact of the Palestinian uprising within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. That claim had already been shown to be hollow by the mid-May attack in Natanya, but the bomb that sruck in the heart of Tel Aviv, totally
“shattered the feeling among residents of Israel’s biggest metropolis that they were immune to the worst of the conflict”
4 June 2001).
In the past, notwithstanding many bomb explosions inside Israel, most casualties have been in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. All the signs are that this will not be so in the coming months and years. In the words of the military wing of one of the liberation groups,
“If Palestinian civilians in Nablus, Ramallah and Al-Khalil (Hebron) are not safe, Jewish civilians in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Natanya are not going to be safe either. We are not children of a lesser God”.
“we have an inalienable right to resist our oppressors, we can’t just let them kill our children, destroy our homes and lay siege to our towns. We have to fight back. Any people, any nation in our situation would do the same… they want to impose on us their apartheid and occupation. Would any people in the world accept apartheid and military occupation by a foreign power?”.
Those whom the Israelis and their imperialist masters denounce as terrorists are revered by the Palestinian people as heroes and fighters for democracy and liberation. They are quite correctly treated in the fashion of the members of the Resistance against Nazi Germany in the occupied countries during the Second World War. Said Houtari, who blew himself and twenty Israelis up outside a Tel Aviv nightclub, has become an instant hero and a martyr, inspiring Palestinian youth to rise to the occasion and fight for Palestinian liberation. His father, Hassan Houtari, praised his son’s action on Abu Dhabi television and proudly declared:
“If I had 20 more children I would send them to commit suicide in Israel and kill Israelis.”
Such love for freedom, such seething hatred for the colonialist occupation regime, such self-sacrificing heroism! No force on earth can vanquish a people who are imbued with sentiments of such nobility.
Curiously the message seems at last to have been understood by those it was aimed at. The Sharon government, which had unleashed its warplanes on Ramallah and Nablus in such haste following the suicide attack in Natanya, has been forced to exercise what for it is an unprecedented degree of restraint following the Tel Aviv nightclub attack. Sharon told members of the parliamentary wing of his Likud Party:
“The government’s stance requires that we act responsibly. We need to see the whole of the problem: the security problems and the very complicated political problems”,
“restraint is also a component of force”
, 2 June 2001).
This sudden change in tactics on the part of the Israeli government is the product of a combination of factors. First, and foremost, while the Zionist authorities are running out of military options (what can they do more than what was done by the F-16 warplanes on May 18?), the resistance movement is getting better organised, with the ability to strike at the very heart of Israeli society and centres of population. The Tel Aviv nightclub attack has given proof that the use of massive firepower to quell the uprising against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip notwithstanding, Israel’s security remains a mirage. Second, international opinion has become drastically unfavourable to Israel. Even US imperialism and sections of the Israeli media, let alone criticism elsewhere, were obliged publicly to disapprove of Israel’s use of warplanes in the wake of the Natanya attack. Even the Sharon government understands only too well that it is impossible for it to undertake a major military campign without public support at home and US imperialist support abroad.
The sobering effects of the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people for national liberation are not confined to the Israeli government. Slowly, but surely, the realisation is beginning to dawn on ordinary Israelis that at the very least Israel must vacate the settlements if there is to be any chance of reaching a settlement with the Palestinians. According to the
of 4 June, before the Intifada less than 30% of Israelis supported the evacuation of all settlements in the occupied territories; now 40% favour the dismantlement of all Jewish settlements “
if this was the last link to a permanent peace deal”
referring to one of those 40%, a 16-year old high school student named Raquel, says that the
“…shock of the bombing had reinforced her opinion that Israel should leave the occupied territories immediately.
‘I would give up my home if it could save the life of a Jewish or Arab child’, she said. ‘There will not be real peace. But perhaps this could quiet things down significantly’.
Ground reality mocks CIA-arranged cease fire
Following the Tel Aviv bomb explosion, typically, US imperialism and the imperialist countries of the EU put tremendous pressure on Yassir Arafat to declare a ceasefire, instead of putting pressure on the Israeli government to get out of the occupied territories in compliance with the various resolutions of the UN. Arafat eventually relented and called for a ceasefire. George Tenet, as well as European security officials, are deeply involved in getting the Israeli and Palestinian sides to restore security co-operation and give practical shape to the ceasefire between the two sides. In view of the daily breaches by Israeli settlers and the army, the stifling economic blockade, which even prevents fuel and medical supplies reaching the occupied territories, and the continued settlement activity, the ceasefire is nothing short of a mockery. In addition, with the backing of its imperialist patrons, Israel insists that Arafat arrest the Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters who were released last October. But how can Arafat comply with demands that pit him against his own people and leave the latter in a situation far worse than that which prevailed before the Intifada? Since the end of last September, nearly 550 Palestinians have died at the hands of the Israeli army of occupation and the Zionist settler thugs. Approximately 20,000 have been injured, hundreds very badly. How is it possible for Arafat to tell his people that the Intifada is to end without the achievement of its minimum goals? Sharon and his imperialist backers may wish to legitimise the occupation while guaranteeing Israel’s security, but these are not aims to which any Palestinian leadership, be it the most pusillanimous, could subscribe. Any leadership that did so would be unceremoniously kicked out.
In fact, by bringing undue pressure to bear on Yassir Arafat, by targeting Palestinian security buildings, by assassinating Palestinian police and intelligence officers, and by blockading the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli government has merely helped to strengthen those sections of the liberation movement over which Yassir Arafat has no direct control. For the Palestinian Authority to be able to exercise real control over all the groups – including even the Fatah – it has to show some real results in the form of Israeli concessions on the question of a freeze on settlements as a prelude to their removal. In other words, an agreement to put an end to occupation. Without such an agreement all ceasefires will in the end break down.
If Arafat’s Palestinian Authority is under pressure, under no less pressure is the government of Ariel Sharon, who was elected in February on a promise to quell the Intifada and bring security to Israel. But his ability to bring security is in serious doubt. In fact, since he was elected in February, there has been a marked escalation of the conflict. The Tel Aviv nightclub bomb further intensified the pressure on him.
The day after the bombing, an angry crowd gathered in front of the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv – some calling for the return of Benjamin Netanyahu – the same gentleman that the Israeli electorate had kicked out in favour of Ehud Barak, who in turn was shown to door to make way for Sharon. In the end, it does not matter who sits in the Israeli prime minister’s office. No military response can prove successful without tackling the basic problem – that of the national rights of the Palestinian people.
Presently, the Sharon administration shows little sign of coming to grips with this basic problem. In fact, this notorious mass murderer even had the audacity, while appearing on a television programme on 5 June, to call the PLO leader a
– the two epithets which could, without the least exaggeration and violation of truth, be most justly applied to the execrable Mr Sharon.
“Arafat? You must understand we speak about a murderer, and a pathological liar”.
Correctly describing Sharon’s comments as
Ahmad Abdul Rahman, Palestinian cabinet secretary, demanded that:
“If Israel wants peace it should silence this raven that caws day and night against the leader of the Palestinian people.”
Notwithstanding the ceasefire and the efforts of US imperialism to cobble up some arrangement, with the aim of pacifying the Palestinian people without conceding their fundamental rights, continued violence on the ground continues to set the scene. Following clashes with some Palestinian youths, a mob of Zionist settler thugs went on the rampage close to the Jewish settlement of Shiloh on the West Bank, destroying crops and other property. The Israeli army used rubber bullets, stun grenades and live ammunition to break up a demonstration at Bir Zeit University.
Daily gun battles rage between the two sides
On Sunday 10 June, three Palestinians were killed by Israeli tank shells in the southern Gaza Strip. The three Bedouin women, aged 17, 55 and 65, died as shells hit their tent near a Jewish settlement, furnishing further evidence that the ceasefire declared by Israel on 22 May was a publicity fraud. Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator, characterising these killings as “
“reflect the true intentions”
of the Sharon government, went on to say that he was not optimistic about the chances of peace
“because what is happening on the ground is a total war of intimidation, humiliation and collective punishment against the Palestinians”
(quoted in the
of 11 June 2001).
On Monday 16 June, two Israelis were killed near the northern West Bank town of Tulkarm, following which Israel further tightened its blockade. Since the ceasefire, brokered by the CIA chief, George Tenet, three weeks ago, fifteen Palestinians and nine Israelis have been killed. The former include three Palestinians assassinated by Israeli forces in a helicopter attack on Sunday 1 July. The following day, the Israeli army killed a Palestinian taxi driver on the West Bank suspecting him of planting explosives on the roadside. The offending parcel merely contained groceries.
Under pressure from US imperialism, the Israeli government, while grudgingly agreeing to give some consideration to the implementation to the Mitchell report, has demanded that there be seven violence-free days, followed by a six-week ‘cooling off’ period before the coming into effect of ‘confidence building measures’. At the same time, it has done everything – including the assassination of Palestinians – to promote its purpose of frustrating the bringing about of a violence-free week, desirous only of pursuing its war on the Palestinian people unhindered by any constraints. Pushed to the limits of endurance, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, following the helicopter assassinations of their members on 1 July, formally declared an end to the ceasefire and vowed to step up the fight against Israeli occupation and oppression. Headed by the war criminal, Sharon, the Zionist occupiers and torturers of the Palestinian people are waging a war of extermination against the latter. They, and their imperialist masters, sould not be surprised if their challenge is accepted by their victims and returned with interest. Extreme Zionist oppression has brought in its train extremely heroic resistance, which will doubtless break the chains of Palestinian slavery and subjugation. Yet again the laws of history will emerge stronger than the laws of artillery. The just struggle of the Palestinian people for liberation shall emerge victorious.