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From The Socialist newspaper, 13 May 2009

Gaza: the nightmare continues

New peace talks will not lead to Palestinian state

THREE MONTHS after Israel's war against Gaza that killed nearly 1,400 people, 314 of them children, and wounded thousands, conditions in the strip remain appalling and are worsening rapidly. The UN estimates that over 4,000 houses were destroyed by the Israeli Defence Force's (IDF) bloody assault and thousands more were badly damaged. Thousands are still huddling in tents.

Niall Mulholland, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)

Despite a pledge of $4.5 billion for reconstruction made at an international donors conference at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last March, repair work to Gaza's war-shattered infrastructure has yet to begin.

The Israeli regime still enforces cruel sanctions, first imposed after Hamas won a majority in elections to the Palestinian Authority in 2006. This means at least 90% of people in Gaza suffer regular power cuts and the rest have no electricity at all. An estimated 100,000 people out of a population of 1.5 million only get running water once in every two or three days.

The previous Israeli government attacked Gaza to try to get re-elected in February's general election and also to try to reassert the Israeli army's military dominance, following its defeat in the 2006 war on Hezbollah in Lebanon.

But the government was replaced by a new right-wing coalition led by Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud party. And whatever the IDF's short term military gains, the slaughter of Gazan men, women and children will not bring peace or security to the people of Israel.

Gaza faces starvation and remains a gigantic prison camp. Israel continues its military assaults despite the so-called ceasefire. This cruel oppression and injustice will inevitably lead to more conflict, in which the working class and poor, Palestinian but also Israeli Jewish, will suffer most.

Although Hamas was militarily weakened by the IDF onslaught, rival Palestinian organisation Fatah has not gained from this, as its leadership is seen as compliant to imperialism. However, Hamas has no alternative strategy that can advance the cause of the Palestinians.

A return to indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and other forces, or renewed suicide bombings in Israel, would be counter-productive in the Palestinians' struggle for liberation.

The Palestinians clearly have a right to armed defence. This would be best conducted through democratically-organised Palestinian defence committees. Mass action, for example against the blockade, would help to push the Palestinian struggle forward and could win the support of Israeli Jewish workers in the process.

Two states

Hopes that the election of US president Barack Obama will lead to a fundamental change were already undermined by his silence during the Gaza war.

The Obama administration now says it will push for a new round of peace talks, eventually leading to a "two state solution". But the right wing Netanyahu government does not recognise the right of Palestinians to statehood and continues to build more Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Under intense US and EU pressure, it is possible the Israeli government will be forced to engage in talks and it could make some secondary concessions. But this will not lead to the creation of a genuine and viable Palestinian state. Indeed, the Palestinians will be asked to make the real 'sacrifices', such as dropping the demand for East Jerusalem to become their capital and for the right of return of refugees, and will be asked to accept some Bantustan-style 'state'.

Under capitalism and imperialism, a genuine 'two state' solution is utopian.

The US as 'peace-broker' is currently involved in daily combat operations from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is also confronting the Iranian regime, causing huge instability and resentment throughout the Muslim and Arab world.

Every important gain made in the history of Palestinian struggle has been the result of active mobilisation of the mass of Palestinian people.

Also, in Israel, united class action would see the working class and poor oppose the national oppression carried out in their name, and lead to a struggle to overthrow the Israeli capitalist class, as part of a struggle to overthrow all the corrupt ruling elites of the Middle East.

The building of mass independent workers' organisations, in the territories, in Israel and across the Middle East, is urgently needed as a first step towards a socialist solution to end the misery endured by Palestinians.

It is these forces, alongside the youth and workers around the world who showed great solidarity with the plight of Palestinians during huge demonstrations against the Gaza war, which will lead the struggle for a real, lasting solution - democratic socialist states across the region, including a socialist Palestine and a socialist Israel.

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