The Socialist 21 September 2006 |
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End the occupations
How can the Palestinians win national and democratic rights?
A number of journalists have suggested that the
changed situation in the Middle East following the Israel-Hezbollah war
has opened the door to an Israel-Palestine settlement.
They point out that Israel is in a weaker position militarily, the
Palestinians are desperate for change and will soon have a new, more
moderate Hamas-Fatah coalition government and that the Arab regimes are
under great pressure from their populations to aid the Palestinians.
However, in reality there is no settlement on the horizon to end the
nightmare conditions faced by the Palestinians.
In the last three months, over 240 Palestinians have been killed by
Israeli shelling in Gaza and the West Bank, including 48 children.
Palestinian public-sector workers have barely been paid for the last
seven months, because aid and taxes have been withdrawn by the world
capitalist powers and Israel to punish the Palestinians for electing
A World Bank review spelt out the severity of the situation last
week: "Year 2006 will be the worst year throughout the Palestinian
Authority's sad history. The Palestinian economy is on the verge of an
The US and European Union say they will reinstate aid if the planned
Hamas-Fatah coalition renounces violence and recognises Israel and
previous international agreements. However, although Hamas has
authorised pro-Western Fatah leader Mahmood Abbas to negotiate on behalf
of the Palestinian Authority (PA), it is clear there is much haggling
over these issues to come.
The Islamist Hamas has implicitly recognised Israel's existence, but
both Hamas and Fatah are united over the right to armed resistance
against the occupation. A lifting of the aid boycott would alleviate the
present starvation conditions, but would be far from bringing any
resolution to the national conflict.
The withdrawal of Jewish settlers from Gaza one year ago was not part
of a deal towards a Palestinian state, but was a unilateral move by the
Israeli regime to cut off, atomise and isolate Palestinian areas. Its
aim was to ease the military burden of the occupation and attempt to
resolve Israel's demographic problem - the higher Palestinian birth-rate
compared to that of Israeli Jews.
The unilateral plan has only worsened the Palestinians' plight, and
so the second intifada (uprising) continues. The first intifada, which
began in 1987, initially involved the Palestinian masses, but the
hallmark of the second has been individual and group actions, including
rocket attacks and suicide bombings on Israel.
However, violence against Israeli civilians is counter-productive, as
it drives Israeli workers to support brutal retaliation by the Israeli
army, rather than encouraging them into opposition to the occupation.
Only mass, democratic action, led by accountable committees of struggle,
can make real headway in ending the occupation and fighting for a
The Socialist Party supports the Palestinians' struggle for
self-determination and the right to their own state. Some left-wing
organisations argue for a single, secular state encompassing Israel and
the territories. But following the decades of conflict, most
Palestinians view the idea of a shared state with hostility or
suspicion, and it is a non-starter for Israeli Jews.
Israel was founded as a Jewish state on the basis of providing a safe
haven for Jews worldwide. This was a profoundly mistaken strategy -
Israel is increasingly seen as the least safe place for Jews in the
world. However, Israel exists, and with nowhere else to go Israeli
workers feel compelled to defend that state for their own survival.
The Israeli capitalist class has its own reasons for defending its
state - a desire for increased profit and wealth, including economic
superiority over the Palestinian territories and surrounding countries.
It does not want both the security and economic consequences of allowing
an armed Palestinian state on its doorstep. So as well as supporting a
two-state solution, the Socialist Party believes it can only be achieved
by the removal of Israel's capitalist class by Israeli workers, to bring
in a socialist society that has no interest in economic or military
domination over the Palestinians.
A socialist Palestinian state is also essential, as capitalism would
not provide Palestinians with decent living standards. Even in today's
capitalist Israel, with its relatively developed economy, workers are
suffering from poorly paid, casual jobs and severe cuts in the welfare
Socialism in both Palestine and Israel, as part of a socialist
confederation of the Middle East, would provide the conditions for a
permanent end to the national conflict, and decent living standards for
all in the region. Under the democratic control of the working class and
peasantry, the region's resources could be used for the benefit of all,
as part of an overall plan of production.
While capitalist politicians worldwide have no solution to end the
cycles of bloodshed, workers and young people on both sides of the
divide express a strong desire to end it. The intense suffering of the
Palestinians is plain to see, and Israeli workers also face increased
poverty and constant insecurity. Israeli public-sector workers have
periodically fought back with large scale strike action, and at present
tens of thousands of Palestinian public-sector workers are on strike
against non-payment of their wages. Struggles like these are starting to
build the working class solidarity necessary to build alternative