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Repression And War Is Fuelling Palestinian Anger
The US war on Iraq, the Israeli government's continuing oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories, poverty and unemployment, are all creating an explosive mix of anger amongst Palestinians and Israeli Arabs alike.
ONE YEAR after re-occupation of Palestinian towns in the West Bank, the Israeli army's stranglehold on them continues. On 2 April, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) sealed off roads to the West Bank town of Tulkarem and rounded up between 1,000 and 2,000 men aged 15-40, the entire male population.
They detained them for three days, terrorising and humiliating them, then kept eleven in detention who they suspected of being militia members. Houses in the town were searched and dozens of families forced out of their homes.
Other recent brutal West Bank IDF operations include yet another curfew in Jenin and the killing of three Palestinians in Nablus, Ramallah and Qalquilya. One was a 14 year old boy who was shot in the back as he tried to run from Israeli soldiers.
During recent months there have also been regular IDF incursions into the Gaza strip, with over 80 Palestinians being killed there in March alone. On 3 April, IDF tanks, attack helicopters and bulldozers smashed into Rafah, a Palestinian refugee camp on the border between Gaza and Eqypt, causing further death and destruction. Nearly 2,000 Palestinians have now been killed during this 30-month Intifada (uprising), and over 700 Israelis.
These latest onslaughts are Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's response to two Palestinian suicide attacks on Israeli civilians last month. But far from reducing the likehood of attacks in Israel, they escalate anger and the will to fight of the Palestinians, at a time when Palestinians are also enraged at the US war on Iraq.
Over 5,000 in the Gaza strip demonstrated against war on Iraq in the first week of April. Reflecting the changed situation internationally, they not only condemned Bush, Blair and Sharon, but also carried coffins with the inscriptions "UN Security Council" and "The Arab League" on them.
The US war on Iraq and the divisions between the imperialist powers that preceded it, have further increased Palestinians' scepticism of Israel/Palestine 'peace' initiatives by the major world capitalist powers.
Road to nowhere
US PRESIDENT Bush had said that a 'road map' peace proposal, originally drawn up by the 'quartet' consisting of the US, EU, UN and Russia, would be released when a new Palestinian Prime Minister was in place.
Sharon and Bush want an alternative, more pliable Palestinian leader than Yassar Arafat to negotiate with. To satisfy this demand, the Palestinian Authority (PA) created the post of Prime Minister and Arafat then appointed the US-favoured Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas into the position.
However, at the bidding of Sharon, who is demanding over 100 changes to the road map, the plan was still withheld. And with anti-US feeling presently so high, even the 'moderate' Abbas will find it extremely difficult to promote Bush's latest peace plan.
Despite Sharon's dismissal of the road map, the severity of the economic crisis in Israel may eventually push him towards negotiations with the PA. The Bank of Israel estimates the total economic cost of the Palestinian intifada to be over £2 billion so far.
But Sharon and his right-wing coalition government are determined that no Palestinian state will be on offer, so there is little basis at present for even the US-leaning aspiring capitalists in the Palestinian leadership to re-start talks.
In any case, any 'solution' while capitalism remains in Israel/Palestine will not be able to satisfy the Palestinians' aspirations for a genuine state and decent living standards, nor can it satisfy Israeli Jewish workers' desire for economic and physical security. That is why it is necessary for socialists to argue for a socialist Palestine and a socialist Israel, as part of a socialist confederation of the Middle East.
Huge protests by Israeli Arabs A Hot Land Day
ON SATURDAY 29 March, members of Maavak Sozialisti (the CWI's affiliated organisation in Israel) attended an anti-war march and rally organised by Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, an organisation led by the Communist Party) in Nazareth.
We gave out Arabic leaflets and sold papers and the latest CWI international statement on the war at the lively demo of about 3,000 people, including radical youth dissatisfied with the policies of the CP front.
THE MAIN Land Day event was on Sunday 30 March in Sakhnin, a town in the Galilee. Land Day is the traditional day of protests by Israeli Arabs against discrimination and oppression since 1976, when the Israeli Defence Force killed six protesters on a demonstration opposing land seizures.
Yuval and Ariel, Maavak Sozialisti
Israeli Palestinian workers, farmers and small businessmen went on strike to mark this year's Land Day protests.
Unfortunately, one party, Hadash, opposed the strike in the Follow-up Committee (the main Arab Israeli leadership body). Only later were they forced to change their minds as a result of the mood in the local area.
THE DEMO was huge. 100,000 filled the small town's streets. It started with a march and ended with a rally. The march began with about 200 people but grew steadily along the way.
Unlike the Nazareth demo, this was a protest in which many Arab factions and parties participated. Abnaa El-Balad (a radical left-nationalist organisation) and the Communist Party were the strongest on the demo.
Cars carrying loudspeakers blasted slogans providing a political lead. Young people gathered around these cars according to their political affiliation.
One slogan connected the town of Jenin (see above) and Baghdad. Importantly, the flags on the demonstration were evenly divided between red flags and Palestinian ones.
Only a few demonstrators carried the green flags of the Islamic movement. One Abna El-Balad activist told us that the Islamic movement does not make a special effort to bring people to the Land Day demo.
The atmosphere in short was hot but peaceful (Israeli police cleverly kept out of sight this time). Thousands of our Arabic leaflets and the CWI statement were quickly snapped up, indicating the thirst for socialist ideas.
Netanyahu's Weapon Of Mass Destruction
Workers respond with general strike call
THE ISRAELI government is using the US-led war on Iraq and the fear of Scud missile attacks on Israel as a cover to launch its own weapon of mass destruction - a 11.4 billion Shekel (£1.5 billion) budget cut, the second for 2003.
Faced with the worst recession in the country's history, the ruling class is attempting to make the working class pay for the crisis. Public sector workers face an average 8% wage cut and the workforce will be slashed by 5% this year and by 3% next year.
Media comparisons made between finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his long time mentor, Margaret Thatcher, are completely justified by this frontal assault on organised labour, jobs, wages and living standards.
One of the major items is the breakup, through legislation, of long standing collective wage agreements in the public sector and the end of tenure, as well as steps making it easier for managers to sack any workers, including shop stewards.
After negotiations had reached a dead end, even the timid, right-wing leaders of the Histadrut (Israel's trade union federation) were forced to announce a national labour dispute and subsequently a general strike for 9 April.
Already 100,000 workers, the total workforce in the local authorities, have been on strike since 31 March. 50,000 workers in government ministries and adjoining units started a slowdown on Sunday, and the teachers have held several stoppages (the government plans to sack nearly 7,000 teachers).
In The Socialist 12 April 2003: