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Israel / Palestine: Who Can Live Like This? Who Can Die Like This?
THE WORSENING situation in the West Bank has horrified millions of people around the world.
This "major assault" was implemented even before the ill-fated Saudi "peace plan" and US envoy Zinni's attempt to enforce a ceasefire in the region got off the ground. All the major cities in the West Bank (Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah) are the latest venues for brutal military force, assassinations and the attempted crushing of an entire people by the Israeli regime.
The Israeli army (Israeli Defence Force - IDF) has used anti-aircraft weaponry to pummel buildings. Electricity and water supply infrastructure has been destroyed. House-to-house searches have led to the assassination in cold blood of young, Palestinian policemen and random killings of other Palestinian civilians. Thousands have been rounded up.
"Who can live like this? Who can die like this?" asks Dr Atari from Ramallah Hospital.
The Israel/Palestine war is igniting mass social discontent throughout the Middle East, threatening to topple many of the region's pro-US regimes. In countries such as Egypt and Jordan, run by semi-dictatorships, thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators have taken to the streets clashing with riot police.
In Arab and Muslim countries there have been many demonstrations condemning both the Israeli government and the US administration.
This huge anger threatens to undermine the pro-Western regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Oil prices are rising as a result of Sharon's war and the growing instability threatens the world economy. Iran and Iraq have threatened to force OPEC to interrupt oil supplies to the US and the West. As a result of these pressures, the US administration has been forced to intervene with the latest speech by US President George Bush.
US administration's belated intervention
"ENOUGH IS enough" said Bush referring to the mounting violence in Israel and the occupied territories and calling for a cease-fire but it is too little too late. Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon has continued to extend the siege and occupation of Palestinian areas.
Bush's intervention follows weeks of silence while Israeli tanks and troops rampaged through the West Bank. Only when the war threatened to spiral out of control, thereby scuppering his plans to invade Iraq, did he call for a halt to Israel's military incursions.
The delay in delivering a policy statement on the Middle East is due to the splits in his cabinet.
However, it appears that secretary of state Colin Powell has won the upper hand for now by arguing that by backing Sharon, isolating Arafat and ignoring Arab opinion it could jeopardise US imperialism's regional strategic interests.
Feeling the ground shifting below his feet, Bush is clearly concerned that the next phase of US imperialism's 'war on terrorism' is coming unstuck. This explains why Bush now calls for an Israeli withdrawal (to Israel's pre-1967 border as demanded by UN resolutions 242 and 338), an end to settlements and has reiterated his backing for a Palestinian state.
Needless to say Bush put most emphasis on condemning Yasser Arafat for failing to halt the Palestinian suicide bombers and issued warnings to Syria and Iran (who back the Hizbollah guerrillas operating in southern Lebanon) to "stay out" of the conflict.
Bush has dispatched secretary of state, Colin Powell, to broker a ceasefire and restart the failed Oslo 'peace process'. But while the beleaguered Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, clutched at the opportunity of a ceasefire, Sharon seems determined to militarily dismantle the Palestinian Authority which he describes as the "terrorist entity".
The rapid daily change in events in the Middle East and the impact it has on the international situation have been analysed in detail in statements from the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), the international socialist organisation which the Socialist Party is affiliated to.
The full text of these statements and other material carried on these pages can be viewed at the CWI website at wwwsocialistworld.net.
The CWI is campaigning for:
The immediate withdrawal of all Israeli forces from all Occupied Territories - the Gaza and West Bank. Stop the aggression against the Palestinians.
- A mass struggle throughout the region against imperialism and capitalism - the root cause of the conflict.
- The right of Palestinians to resist the Israeli occupying forces. For a mass struggle to fight for genuine national and social liberation. For the establishment of popular, democratically controlled grass-roots committees to provide leadership to the struggle. The right of these committees to provide democratically controlled armed defence.
- The mobilisation of workers and youth internationally to aid the Palestinians' struggle for democratic, national and social rights and for a socialist solution in the Middle East.
- An end to Sharon's war of reoccupation and his reactionary, capitalist government, An end to the use of Israeli soldiers as cannon fodder by the Israeli ruling class and army generals. For the right of all conscript soldiers and reservists to refuse to serve in the Occupied-Territories.
- A united struggle by Israeli Jews and Israeli Palestinian workers, youth and community activists against Sharon's aggression and the occupation. End institutionalised racism and discrimination towards Israeli Palestinians. For a struggle of the Israeli working class - both Jewish and Palestinian - to overthrow capitalism.
- A struggle by the masses of the Arab states against the corrupt, reactionary, capitalist ruling Arab elites. For a socialist Middle East.
Middle East at War
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Eye-witness: A-Ram protest - a pointer to the future
THE POSSIBILITIES for a united struggle between Israeli Jews and Palestinians against the occupation were shown during the demonstration organised at the A-ram military checkpoint outside Ramallah last week.
Thousands of Israeli Jews and Palestinians jointly took part in this courageous and radical demonstration, including members of Maavak Sotzialisti ('Socialist Struggle'), the CWI section in Israel.
Protesters included many young people who had never before participated in political protest as our Eyewitness report from a Socialist in Ramallah explains:
ON 3 APRIL 4,000 people, Palestinians and Jews, took part in a demo at A-ram junction - the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) checkpoint at the entrance to Ramallah. The event, organised by radical women's organisations, was meant to be a quiet parade followed by trucks of supplies.
The checkpoint divides a Palestinian neighbourhood in two, and many residents from the Israeli side of the checkpoint joined the parade.
The parade was stopped by the IDF immediately when we got to the checkpoint and became a peaceful demo, with only women allowed to be at the front (the organisers' decision).
Many came to a demo for the first time in their lives and many others came for the first time in more than 20 years.
In one-on-one conversations we realised that in spite of the war, many Palestinians do not have illusions in the capitalist regime of Arafat. Some of them have been unemployed for years.
A Palestinian demonstrator told me: "I am unemployed for two years now. I have a wounded boy at home and I cannot give my kids a feeling of security. We must live here together, but the leaderships cannot give us a peaceful life, only the simple people can bring peace. It must come from below. Individual terror sends the Jewish masses to the hands of the nationalists".
As this conversation ended I went as far to the front as was allowed for men. In a minute I saw people running from the front - that was the end of the peaceful part.
State brutality and repression
THE IDF started attacking the demo with shock grenades and tear gas. The demo regrouped a few hundred metres from the checkpoint.
When everybody thought the attack was over, it started once again, and this time a big force of the Israeli police joined the army. Soon 4,000 people were running.
Another police force was waiting in the next junction ready with gas grenades and clubs, so the demonstrators ran directly into the gas. Almost all of the protesters had already been hurt when the police started breaking up the demo with clubs.
More than 20 demonstrators were wounded. A Palestinian demonstrator showed us the blood on his trousers and told us what the police had done to his friend: "They pushed him on the road and started beating him with clubs." The police stopped the medical services from getting help to the wounded demonstrators for two hours.
In spite of the repression, this demo may be the beginning of a serious protest movement against the war.
The war will bring a growth of this movement and provide opportunities for socialists to offer the solution of a socialist Israel alongside a socialist Palestine as a part of a socialist federation of the Middle East.
This solution can only be achieved by a mass struggle of the Jewish and Palestinian workers.
The comrades of Maavak Sozialisti will keep fighting against the occupation and offering a socialist alternative and strategy for the anti-war movement.
Israeli socialists' statement
MEMBERS OF Maavak Sotzialisti, the Israeli section of the CWI, call and actively campaign for the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli army from all of the occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Extracts from a statement by Maavak Sotzialisti ('Socialist Struggle')
We support unconditionally the Palestinians' right to self-determination and an independent state, including the right to resist the Israeli occupying forces with arms.
We explain to Jewish workers and youth that Sharon's capitalist "national unity" government cannot bring them security anymore than it can provide decent jobs and living conditions.
We also explain to reserve and regular soldiers alike that they should not die in vain in this war against the Palestinian masses, which will only increase suicide attacks against Israeli civilians.
This is why we support the more than 1,000 Israelis who have refused to serve in the occupied territories.
At the same time, we believe that the tactic of suicide attacks against Israeli citizens is counterproductive and does not serve the cause of Palestinian freedom, since it drives Israeli workers and youth to the arms of rightwing reactionaries like Sharon.
We call on the Palestinian masses to form grassroots popular committees in order to democratically control their struggle for national and social liberation and to appeal to Israeli soldiers and workers to join them in toppling all of the rotten capitalist regimes in the Middle East.
We will continue to fight against this war of re-occupation, this reactionary government and the millionaires that it represents, and for the masses of the region achieving the only solution to war, oppression and poverty - an independent, socialist Palestine alongside a socialist Israel as part of a voluntary socialist federation of the Middle East.
The Socialist Alternative to War and Oppression
SHARON'S BLOODY war of reoccupation in the West Bank and Gaza has destroyed whatever hopes lingered for the 'peace process' in the Middle East.
Many working people around the world will now be asking if there can ever be a lasting solution to the Palestine / Israel question.
Socialists believe there is an alternative to war and national oppression, but this can only come about as part of a united struggle by the working class of the region against capitalism and imperialism, as the history of the conflict has amply illustrated.
The modern state of Israel was created in 1948, when Jews fled the Nazi Holocaust and persecution to a new 'homeland' in what was then Palestine. The right wing Zionist leaders carried out the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, using brutal paramilitary methods and 'terrorism'.
Initially, socialists opposed the formation of the Israeli state, pointing out that it would only be realised through the oppression of other peoples. Furthermore, as Leon Trotsky prophetically pointed out, it would be a "bloody trap" for the Israeli Jews themselves. The Israeli ruling class promised a "land of milk and honey" for its people but have only delivered decades of crisis and wars and, in recent years, also economic decline.
One of the main reasons Israel has been able to survive is because of enormous economic and military aid from US imperialism, which sees Israel as its key client state in the strategically vital region.
Socialists call for the expulsion of imperialism out of the region, and for the right of self-determination of Palestinians. However, how can these demands be won?
Capitalist states - no solution
WE BELIEVE that it is incorrect to call for the replacement of the Israeli state by a 'secular democratic Palestinian state, with rights for Israeli Jews', as the PLO leadership used to, and unfortunately many on the Left internationally continue to do (and they do not always pay any reference to the rights of Jews).
The development over decades of a national consciousness amongst the Jewish population of Israel is a concrete fact that has to be taken into account. On the basis of capitalism, the Israeli population, with the back-up of its large armed forces, would fight to the bitter end to prevent the liquidation of their 'homeland'. Israeli Jews fear they would be outnumbered and oppressed in a Palestinian state.
On the other hand, to say to the long suffering Palestinians that they should accept minority status within a 'democratic Israel' is equally rejected. Given that a supposedly 'independent' Palestinian Authority has meant an actual increase in poverty and oppression, what chance would Palestinians have of justice and equality as a minority within the borders of a capitalist Israel?
A socialist confederation of the Middle East
SOCIALISTS THEREFORE call for an independent socialist Palestine and a socialist Israel as part of a wider voluntary socialist confederation in the region.
This is not some abstract option, but the only practical solution that corresponds to concrete conditions and the consciousness of the Palestinians and Israeli Jews. In fact, the majority of the population in the West Bank and Gaza now supports the idea of a separate Palestinian state.
However, on the basis of capitalism the goal of a genuine independent Palestine will never be fully recognised, as the sorry and short life of the Palestinian Authority (PA) has shown. The Israeli ruling class and US imperialism do not want the creation of a truly independent Palestinian state, as they fear it would act as a radical rallying point for the poor and exploited throughout the Middle East.
The corrupt and despotic ruling elites in the Arab states, despite their fake support for Palestinian rights, also fear the establishment of an independent Palestine, seeing in it the beginning of the end of their rule.
The struggle for a socialist Palestinian state and a socialist Israel allows socialist activists to win the ear of both Israeli and Palestinian working people and forge the unity of the oppressed throughout the region. This demand exposes the reality that there is no capitalist solution and points to the conclusion that workers and youth need to build a class alternative to the bosses' parties.
On the basis of building socialism - a society based on need not profits - Israeli and Palestinian workers can decide democratically, and without a hint of coercion or compulsion, the exact character and borders of a future society. The most contentious and sensitive issues, such as refugees, water and land rights, and the status of Jerusalem, can then be resolved.
Resources would be equally shared, as part of a planned economy, controlled and run by the working class. A socialist federation would see the free movement of peoples. A dramatic rise in living standards, including a massive house-building programme, would transform the issue of the right of Palestinian refugees to return. Jerusalem, today a disputed city, would probably be agreed as a 'shared capital city'.
Only such a programme, allied to a common struggle on the economic and class issues, can offer a way out of the present grim cycle of wars and national hatreds.
In The Socialist 12 April 2002: