Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/227/9220
Sharon Declares War On Palestinian Areas
THE ASSASSINATION of Israel's Tourism Minister arch-right-winger Rahavam Zeevi by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has destroyed Western imperialism's current diplomatic attempts to put a lid on the Israeli-Arab conflict.
The PFLP shot dead Zeevi in retaliation for the assassination of its leader Abu Ali Mustafa by an Israeli hit squad last August.
The response from Israeli prime Minister Ariel Sharon has, predictably, been lethal. Within 24 hours Israeli Defence Force (IDF) tanks had rolled into Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled areas on the West Bank killing three Palestinians, including Atef Abayat the head of the Tanzim militia in the Bethlehem area linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah group.
At the time of writing 25 Palestinians, including a ten-year-old child, have died in ferocious gun battles between Palestinian militia and IDF forces.
Ariel Sharon claims his intrusion into PA territory is temporary and that his cabinet's actions are to root out 'terrorism'. He even cites George Bush and Tony Blair's justifications for attacking Afghanistan to justify this occupation.
However, according to the Jerusalem Post, Sharon never had any other strategy in dealing with the Palestinian Authority apart from a military one.
In fact, in order to stop Zeevi's National Union party resigning from his governing coalition, Sharon had earlier promised the slain tourism minister that he would not permit any future meetings between foreign minister Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat.
Only when he came under pressure from George Bush and Tony Blair (anxious to keep Arab and Muslim states in their 'grand coalition against terrorism'), did he withdraw IDF forces from Hebron. That prompted Zeevi's resignation.
The US and British governments must be mortified by these events. Both had publicly committed themselves to kick-starting the collapsed 'peace process' by promising Yasser Arafat a "viable Palestinian state".
In return, Arafat had brutally suppressed Hamas-organised demonstrations of university students in Gaza in support of Osama bin Laden. Now even the prospect of yet another ceasefire attempt looks remote.
Indeed, Sharon's government is demanding that the 20 or so PFLP members rounded up by Arafat's security apparatus be handed over to Israel. An impossible demand since this would mean Arafat signing his own death warrant amongst the Palestinian masses.
After six years of corrupt rule combined with a collapse of living standards and a second year-long intifada (uprising) in which over 500 Palestinians (and over 100 Israelis) have been killed, Arafat's support is crumbling fast.
More measures aimed at cracking down on his Islamist opponents like Hamas and the more secular PFLP can only further undermine his support.
In Israel, Sharon has declared Zeevi's killing as important as the attacks on the USA. Official national ceremonies were held, both public and commercial TV channels went into mourning mode. The extremist whose party had little support when alive was in death suddenly embraced as a national hero by the media.
However, the Israeli government's response does not enjoy universal support amongst ordinary Israeli's. Many hate the government for its ruthless pro-big business policies of cuts in social spending and privatisations.
A Gallup opinion poll taken a day before the assassination said 61% favour the creation of a Palestinian state, although 58% oppose including any part of Jerusalem in the new nation.
Moreover, 36% favour a unilateral withdrawal from the West bank and Gaza, 37% favour maintaining the present situation where the PA has limited control over areas of the West Bank and Gaza. A further 22% want to recapture all the territories from the Palestinians.
Several Labour MKs (Members of the Knesset - Israel's parliament) said their party should leave the coalition if the invasion doesn't end, but Peres and defence minister Ben-eliezer cling on, claiming: "This is not the right time to quit".
Clearly, if a genuine workers' party existed that articulated social and economic justice for Israelis and argued for a socialist resolution of the outstanding national question then a democratic Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel could be possible.
The events of the last week alone demonstrate the impossibility on the basis of capitalism solving the explosive national question in this area of the middle East.
A solution can only be found through the struggle of the working class and the poor of the region fighting for a democratic, socialist Palestine alongside a socialist Israel as part of a socialist confederation of the region.
This would mean fulfilling the national aspirations of the Palestinian masses through the establishment of an independent state and genuine stability and prosperity.
This also necessitates guaranteeing the national rights and answering the security fears of the Israeli Jewish population.
Just as importantly it means ending the poverty and social deprivation that exists throughout the region. This requires the building of a mass movement to overthrow oppressive Israeli capitalism and the reactionary Arab elites that dominate the middle East.
THE POPULAR Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was formed in 1967 after Israeli forces occupied the West Bank during the six-day Arab-Israeli war. Its leader from its inception until 2000 was George Habash.
The PFLP achieved notoriety when it carried out a terrorist attack at Tel Aviv airport in 1972 and again in 1976 when it hijacked an Air France plane to Entebbe in Uganda.
Its ideology was a mixture of Arab nationalism and Stalinism. It denounced the rulers of Arab countries, apart from Libya and Iraq, and at different times it was pro-Moscow and pro-China. During the 1970s it rivalled Yasser Arafat's Fatah group in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for influence.
Today it numbers a few hundred members with its headquarters in Syria. The PFLP opposed the 1993 Oslo 'peace' accords between the PLO and Israel.
In The Socialist 26 October 2001: