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Palestinian anger erupts
THE FALTERING Middle East 'peace process' appeared to be unravelling as Palestinians, some armed, some with rocks, fought heavily armed Israeli troops in the Gaza and occupied West Bank territories.
Over 50 people, mainly Palestinians, including boys, have been killed so far and hundreds wounded as the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) deployed heavy weapons, including helicopter gunships and tanks, around Gaza City and other Palestinian Authority-controlled towns.
This is the biggest Palestinian uprising in four years, more widespread than the Intifada struggle of the 1980s.
The bloodshed has provoked a defiant response from the one million Arabs living in Israel with rioting throughout the country. The deputy mayor in the Israeli Arab town of Um al-Fahm was shot dead by police, five other Israeli Arabs have been killed. The Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon have called for a continuation of the struggle by Palestinians.
Tentative ceasefires between the Israeli government of Ehud Barak and President Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority have failed to halt the violence. Both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority blame each other for the continuing violence.
In an attempt to halt the fighting, US President Clinton promised an inquiry as well as suggesting joint Israeli/Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem to revive the stalled peace talks but with little immediate success.
The flashpoint to the fighting was Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the Moslem holy site of Haram as-Sharif (the Dome of the Rock or Temple Mount as known to Jews). Sharon is leader of the right-wing Likud party and is hated by Palestinians. He was responsible, along with other members of prime minister Begin's government, for the massacre of 2,000 Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982.
This week's outpouring of Palestinian anger was more than just loathing of Sharon. It represents their frustration at the failure of the 'peace process' to make any meaningful changes to their lives. Palestinians lack their own state and most remain in desperately poor enclaves surrounded by Israeli settlements backed by the IDF.
Israel ceded just 13% of occupied land under earlier peace negotiations, but Palestinians ended up merely exchanging control by Israel for the autocratic rule of Arafat's PA.
His officials enjoy a sumptuous existence, channelling outside monies to fund their wealthy lifestyles while most Palestinians live in slums. A ruthless police force stamp on democratic rights, such as press freedom and independent trade unions.
Moreover, other issues such as the right of Palestinian refugees scattered throughout the Middle East to return, the continuing occupation of historically Palestinian-owned land by Jewish settlers and in particular the sovereignty of Jerusalem to both Israelis and Palestinians, still dog any 'final settlement' of the peace process.
These outstanding issues led to talks between Barak and Arafat collapsing at last July's Camp David conference.
Clinton is desperate to try and resolve the outstanding 'peace' issues, hoping to secure stability for US imperialism in that region. But as the Socialist Party has consistently argued since Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo peace accord seven years ago, this deal would not secure a lasting settlement.
On the contrary, on a capitalist basis - whereby two ruling classes want to control and exploit their respective populations, land and resources - a scaling down of military hostilities can't resolve the underlying social and economic problems. The current fighting merely underlines this fundamental contradiction.
Given the deep divisions between both nationalities, the Socialist Party advocates a socialist Israel and a socialist Palestine with Jerusalem as an open city and the capital of both, and a socialist federation of the entire region.
In The Socialist 6 October 2000: