Socialist Worker

What is the answer in Palestine?

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 1779

The escalation of violence in the Middle East over the last two weeks has led to calls for the leaders of Israel and Palestine to sit down and resume peace negotiations. The Mirror's front page on Tuesday of last week showed pictures of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Under the headline 'The Playground Of Terror' they were both saying, 'It's all HIS fault, HE started it.' 'Both Sharon and Arafat say they have clean hands, but neither can claim that,' said the Mirror editorial. 'Each has played a central role in the escalating violence tearing their people apart. It is time for real leaders of stature to turn the tide away from violence.'

This even handed approach, seeing both sides as equally to blame, ignores the real roots of the conflict in the region. Israel has carried out systematic mass violence against the Palestinians ever since its birth. Israel was born in blood in 1948 by Zionist terrorists killing hundreds and ethnically cleansing around 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland. The Palestinian people who were driven out of Israel settled in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Israel then invaded and occupied these areas in 1967 and has controlled them, in defiance of international law and United Nations resolutions, ever since. It has brutally repressed Palestinian rights and any form of resistance. The US has backed up Israel as its client state in the oil-rich Middle East, pumping in $92 billion worth of aid since 1967 alone.

Israeli leaders, supported by the US, consistently refused to negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) led by Arafat throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Israel and the US described the PLO as 'terrorists' for leading the challenge to Israeli occupation.

It was only the first Palestinian Intifada or uprising, which began in 1987, that forced the US and Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian leadership. Negotiations were always on Israel and the US's terms. Because of the US's backing Israel is the most economically and militarily powerful state in the Middle East. It used this power to force Arafat to make huge concessions.

In the negotiations the Occupied Territories were no longer seen as areas under illegal Israeli control which they should leave, but areas to be haggled over. Under the original agreement the new Palestinian Authority (PA) would control only 3 percent of the West Bank and 60 percent of Gaza.

By 2000 that had increased to at best 17 percent of the West Bank. Palestinians would be forced to live in enclaves surrounded by Israeli-controlled areas protecting the 400,000 Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories.

Israel would continue to overshadow and dominate a weak Palestinian state. The four million Palestinian refugees would not be given the right to return to their homes in Israel that were stolen from them in 1948. The peace process offered no hope to ordinary Palestinians.

That was rubbed in when Ariel Sharon, now Israel's prime minister, deliberately bought a house in Arab East Jerusalem and insisted on visiting the Dome of the Rock in a move he knew would infuriate every Palestinian.

That, coupled with life getting worse for ordinary Palestinians, and the corruption and repression of the Palestinian Authority, sparked a new intifada in September of last year. Israel has tried vicious repression to put down this new uprising, killing over 900 Palestinians. Around 250 Israelis have been killed. There can be no even-handed equation of two sides in this situation.

Israel is the oppressor, and it is using savage violence to try and crush the resistance of the oppressed. Socialists stand shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed in that conflict. We do not urge them to stop their resistance, but rather we fight to build the widest solidarity possible with that resistance to try and force concessions from the oppressor.

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What Socialists Say
Sat 15 Dec 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1779
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