Israel’s prime minister Ehud Olmert is being lauded for accepting a ceasefire with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
While Palestinians will welcome a respite in the continuing bombardment, shooting and economic siege that has made their lives unbearable, the deal offers nothing of substance.
Hamas has been offering a long-term ceasefire, for the last five years. But its offers were repeatedly spurned. Instead Israel unleashed waves of attacks on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The Israelis’ condition for making this ceasefire permanent is Palestinian surrender. Olmert demands that Palestinians release an Israeli soldier they hold captive, recognise the state of Israel and abandon any effective struggle for an independent homeland.
The Israelis are also demanding that the Palestinians form a government headed by the discredited Mahmoud Abbas. In effect this will nullify the elections that gave the Hamas movement a mandate to form a government.
In return Olmert has offered “dialogue” on releasing some Palestinian prisoners. But none of the longstanding demands of the Palestinians—the right of return for refugees and an independent state—are up for discussion.
Putin’s greater crimes
THE DEATH of Alexander Litvinenko—the former KGB spy poisoned with a rare, radioactive substance—casts light on two murky worlds.
The first is the secret world of spooks and spies in Russia. Litvinenko had made many sensational claims about the actions of the state security apparatus surrounding Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The most believable are that the Kremlin was implicated in both the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who exposed human rights abuses in the republic of Chechnya, and the bombing of Moscow apartment blocks in 1999, which was blamed on Chechen separatists.
The second world exposed by the poisoning is that of the Russian oligarchs—including Litvinenko’s patron Boris Berezovsky. Moscow is now home to more dollar billionaires than New York, most of them having enriched themselves by grabbing old state enterprises.
The greatest crimes of the Russian state and the oligarchs are committed against the people of Russia and Chechnya. Up to a quarter of a million civilians have died as a result of the dirty war on Chechnya. In Russia itself the neoliberal free-for-all led to over three million “excess deaths” in the 1990s alone. The Litvinenko poisoning is a tiny fragment of this far greater tragedy.
2007: chance for resistance
The new year could see the coming together of a local government workers’ strike over pensions, and a civil service workers’ strike over job cuts and other issues. It would be a powerful blow against Tony Blair, hastening his demise.
Every activist must demand, pressure and organise to make sure the fight happens and that the union leaders do not back down. Earlier this year a chance for victory was thrown away.
Every serious struggle today raises the necessity of a rank and file that is politically immune to pressures from Labour ministers to hold back struggle. We must work to build it.