Middle East Crisis: A race against time

AS US president Bill Clinton hosts yet another round of ceasefire talks with Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat, the death toll continues to mount in the Palestinian areas. MANDY RABIN of Maavak Sozialisti (CWI, Israel) speaks to The Socialist about the uprising and the need for a socialist solution.

Middle East Crisis: A race against time

The visit of right-wing Likud leader, Ariel Sharon, to Temple Mount on 30 September triggered the latest Palestinian uprising but what were the fundamental causes?

AFTER SEVEN years of the Oslo peace process Palestinians have gained nothing. In fact their situation has got worse in many respects – poverty and unemployment have increased.

In the West Bank and Gaza there are little islands of Palestinian control imprisoned by the Israeli army who control the roads and access between Palestinian towns.

The high-level negotiations between Arafat, Clinton and Barak are completely removed from the situation on the ground where you have a very different, quite horrific, reality.

For example, a 13-year-old Palestinian during his summer holiday went to the checkpoint at Gaza to sell soft drinks. An army jeep pulled up, a soldier got out, beat him up breaking his arm and then left him. The boy’s father demanded the Israeli soldiers take him to hospital; now the family are faced with a huge bill for the ambulance and stay in hospital. The soldier concerned was never charged.

The poverty, the lack of freedom, the humiliation and frustration that the Palestinians suffer, are linked to the realisation that Oslo has brought them nothing. Added to this is the example of the Hizbollah in the Lebanon, who are seen by many Palestinians as having waged a heroic armed struggle to push the Israeli army out of the Lebanon.

Why was the Oslo ‘peace process’ flawed?

YOU HAVE to ask – who designed Oslo and for what purpose? It wasn’t the Palestinian masses. They want a genuine independent homeland where they can live in dignity.

The people who designed Oslo were the US government and the Israeli ruling class. Arafat’s clique were pressured by imperialism into accepting it.

US imperialism and Israeli capitalism want stability in the region for easy access to oil supplies and to exploit local markets, labour and natural resources. The idea of Oslo was to stop the Intifada [uprising] and to repress Palestinians by other means, ie to use the Palestinian Authority as a puppet regime on behalf of the Israeli ruling class and US imperialism.

Can Barak and Arafat – under the pressure of US imperialism – end the violence and restart the ‘peace process’?

THE UPRISING was not Arafat-initiated, therefore, his ability to stop it is limited. Arafat’s support in the territories is shaky as is Barak’s within Israel.

Palestinians are really angry and embittered at the corruption of Arafat’s ruling elite who have got rich on Western aid while the masses are still rotting in the refugee camps – Oslo has been a sell out.

Palestinian youth feel they have nothing to lose and believe in a mass struggle – even to the death – to achieve a state. Their attitude is that they’re not going to make the mistake again of calling off the struggle, like the earlier Intifada, just for open-ended negotiations.

For the first time since 1976 Israeli Palestinians have also been killed. How will this affect the prospects for working-class struggles in Israel?

PALESTINIANS LIVING in Israel feel very alienated and betrayed. They have suffered the brunt of the economic repression and unemployment and feel that the government has turned a blind eye to their suffering. So the state’s response to the recent protests – including the killing of 13 Israeli Palestinians – has reinforced that alienation.

However, it hasn’t completely cut across the class issues. Just recently there were massive floods which affected the poorer areas in Tel Aviv and a four-year-old Jewish boy was drowned. There was joint demonstration of Jews and Palestinians protesting at the negligence of the city council who failed to invest in the infrastructure.

What is the programme of Maavak Sozialisti? And, can the small forces of socialism in Israel make any difference to realising such a programme?

IN THE current conflict it’s ordinary working-class people who are paying the price, not Barak or Arafat.

We’re fighting for a socialist Israel alongside a socialist Palestine as part of a socialist confederation of the Middle East. The capitalists have failed to bring peace. Only the struggles of Jewish workers and Palestinian workers to overthrow capitalism and struggle for socialism can bring genuine peace and security to the region.

We have to explain to Israeli workers that they can never have peace and security as long as the Palestinians don’t have independence and are leading a miserable life.

Also, Palestinians should adopt a strategy to try and break, along class lines, Israeli workers from the Israeli state. The Israeli ruling class is deeply unpopular and there are huge class divisions in Israel.

Lastly, how can socialists elsewhere assist your struggles?

FIRSTLY, BY producing and circulating material explaining our position on the national question, the failure of Oslo and the socialist solution. But also, importantly, to make contact with Palestinians in different parts of the world trying to explain our position.

It’s a race against time to build the forces of socialism to avoid a bloodbath in the Middle East.