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Sharon Escalates War Against Palestinians
"THE STATE of Israel is at war", declared Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Not that anyone could be in any doubt as Israeli Defence Force (IDF) tanks rolled back into the Palestinian areas of the West Bank. 20,000 IDF reservists have also been mobilised for the occupation.
Earlier, IDF tanks and troops smashed their way into Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah, forcing the beleaguered Palestinian President and his entourage into a few rooms without food, water, and electricity. Sharon has bombastically called Arafat "an enemy of the free world". He is also considering exiling him.
As the IDF noose tightened around Arafat's neck, thousands of Palestinians were rounded up, blindfolded and handcuffed and taken for interrogation by Israeli troops. There have also been execution-style shootings of Palestinian police by IDF troops.
By unambiguously declaring a "war against terror" Sharon is going all-out to destroy the Palestinian Authority structures and render Arafat "an irrelevancy". Not that this will stop the suicide bomb attacks within Israel as the destruction of the Metza caf in Haifa which killed 14 Israelis shows.
On the contrary, by further weakening Arafat's authority the leadership of the 18-month intifada (uprising) could pass into the hands of the Al-Aqsa/Tanzeem guerrillas and those Islamist groups allied to Hamas. These groups can only gain recruits from IDF reprisals that collectively punish Palestinians for the suicide bombings. These 'punishments' have subsequently driven young Palestinian men and women to sacrifice themselves for their national rights.
The Israeli invasion and the Palestinian bombings come only days after the Arab League summit in Beirut, Lebanon, agreed a Saudi Arabian-sponsored 'peace plan'. It also follows the visit by US president George Bush's special envoy - general Anthony Zinni - to broker a new ceasefire. The US has also backed a United Nations security council resolution which calls for a ceasefire and a resumption of the collapsed 'peace process'.
None of this diplomacy has made a jot of difference to the fighting on the ground. George Bush who has backed Sharon's military responses cannot now easily put the genie back in the bottle. It was Bush whose "war on terrorism" against the Taliban/Al Qa'ida regime in Afghanistan gave the green light to Sharon to pursue his war against the Palestinians.
The US administration would prefer that Sharon eased the IDF siege in order to facilitate getting some 'moderate' Arab regimes to support the next phase of the Bush's war, i.e. the invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein.
Even Tony Blair - who uncritically supports US imperialism and who has recently despatched more British troops to pacify Afghanistan - is getting cold feet about a US-led invasion force of Iraq as domestic opposition to this war grows.
The Israel/Palestine war could spill over into a wider regional conflict - a real fear of US imperialism. In recent days IDF troops have exchanged artillery fire with Hizbollah guerrillas operating in southern Lebanon.
In many Arab and Muslim countries there have been angry demonstrations and protests against both Israel and the US.
Sharon hopes that by militarily re-occupying Palestinian areas and through mass arrests he can disarm "the terrorist networks". But this repression is unlikely to dampen down Palestinian demands for their own state.
Moreover, the continuing annexation of territory by Jewish settlers, the refusal by Israel to allow the right of return of Palestinian refugees, the economic stranglehold and the daily humiliation and harassment of Palestinians at IDF checkpoints, is providing an ever growing reservoir of volunteers for the intifada.
However, while armed resistance to the IDF occupation is justified, suicide bombings by Palestinians of ordinary Israelis in Israel is proving counter-productive. Moreover, such attacks, by producing a climate of fear and revenge among Israeli Jews, can only play into the hands of the reactionary Israeli ruling class.
But despite the bombings and the strong Israeli culture of military service, 360 Israeli refuseniks have signed a letter refusing to serve in the IDF beyond the 'Green Line' - the pre-June 1967 border. So far, 14 have served or are serving jail terms.
Also, during the period of the intifada there has been a series of strikes and industrial struggles by Israeli trade unionists against the government's neo-liberal policies of privatisation and against the bosses' attempts to offload the current economic recession onto the backs of the workers through higher unemployment.
The economic, social and political interests of the Israeli working class are irreconcilable with those of the Israeli capitalists.
Alongside a mass struggle of Palestinians under their own, democratic control, the Israeli working class have a critical role to play in ending oppression and guaranteeing Palestinian national rights by establishing a workers' government.
A socialist government in Israel and a socialist Palestinian state - as part of a voluntary socialist confederation of states in the region - and an international struggle for socialist change, could utilise resources to end the region's endemic poverty and reconcile the democratic rights of all, thereby ending wars and conflict.
That is why it is an urgent task of socialists to build genuine workers' parties throughout the Middle East based on a consistent socialist and internationalist programme.
Despite the political difficulties arising from the current phase of the Israel/Palestine war, Socialists of Maavak Sozialisti in Israel are fighting for this programme of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI).
More information see 19 March CWI statement - Carnage brings Middle East to brink of war. www.socialistworld.net (A shorter version is available in April's Socialism Today
Maavak Sozialisti website: www.maavak.org.il
Eyewitness Report By Socialist From Ramallah.
ON 3 APRIL 4,000 people, Palestinians and Jews, took part in a demo at A-ram junction - the 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 on the front (the organisers' decision).
Many came to a demo for the first time in their life and many others came for the first time after 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.
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 have 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. But it will not be based on the discredited pro-Oslo organisations like Peace Now, which did not take part in the demo.
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.