Socialist Worker

A year of the intifada battle

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 1769

FRIDAY 28 September saw the first anniversary of the new intifada-the uprising by Palestinians against Israeli domination of their lands. During that year Israeli troops or settlers have murdered over 700 Palestinians. Despite this, a poll last week showed that 85 percent of Palestinians want the intifada to continue.

A ceasefire was drawn up last week. But it was broken by Israel almost before the ink was dry. As the ceasefire began, Israeli troops and tanks once more began an incursion into the territory of the Palestinian Authority. Since the 'truce' Israeli troops have killed 17 Palestinians. Supporters of Israel have blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the year-long uprising.

They say that Arafat and the Palestinian people should have accepted the deal that was being negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians as the intifada broke out. But the intifada occurred because of remorseless Israeli pressure and because, for the vast majority of Palestinians, life had got worse during the peace process.

The US-brokered deal was another attempt to sanctify the seizure of Palestinian land and control over the Palestinian people. In 1947 the United Nations drew up a partition plan for what was then Palestine. This plan gave the Zionist Jewish settlers, mainly from Europe, more land than they already owned.

But this wasn't enough for them, and in 1948 Jewish terror groups drove 750,000 Palestinians from their land and created the state of Israel. The official Israeli line has always been that they had come to 'a land without people'. But they forced the people out by massacres and the threat of massacres.

This is still so embarrassing for Israel that its government was enraged when British foreign secretary Jack Straw used the word 'Palestine' last week. Straw is a long-time supporter of Israel, yet he was treated almost as a non-person by the Israelis for his use of the dreaded word. In 1967 Israel invaded the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the areas where the majority of Palestinian refugees had fled to in 1948.

Israel instituted a reign of terror over these areas, now known as the Occupied Territories. Israel took water, used Arabs as a cheap labour force, took land from Palestinians, allowed extremist right wing settlers to live throughout the area, and made illegal any kind of opposition to their rule.

The first intifada exploded in 1987 against this oppression. The intifada continued for two years despite increased repression against the Palestinians. The level of the revolt forced Israel to finally negotiate with the official leadership of the Palestinian struggle, Yasser Arafat and the PLO. This peace process was to supposedly give the Palestinians a state of their own. But it became a set of negotiations where Israel extracted massive compromises from the Palestinians.

The new Palestinian Authority would control just 17 percent of the West Bank and 60 percent of the Gaza Strip. The rest-the roads, resources and huge areas of land-would remain under the control of the Israeli army that had illegally occupied it for nearly 35 years. There would be no right to return to their former homes in Israel for the four million Palestinian refugees scattered throughout the Middle East.

The number of Israeli settlers living in the Occupied Territories has doubled since the signing of the peace deal in 1993. There are now around 400,000 Jewish settlers on Palestinian land.

The Palestinian state would effectively be a Bantustan, the name given to the 'homeland' states in apartheid South Africa where black people were dumped on barren land, left in poverty and expected to provide labour for the cities.

A year ago the Palestinians' bitterness erupted. Ariel Sharon, the man responsible for the slaughter of 2,000 defenceless Palestinian refugees in Beirut in 1982, visited Temple Mount, one of the holiest Muslim sites in Jerusalem, to show his superiority over Arabs. The horrific image of Mohammed Al-Doura, a 12 year old boy shot dead by Israeli troops while cowering in his father's arms two days into the intifada, has come to represent all that people are fighting against.

Israel, now ruled by Ariel Sharon, has continued its barbarous repression of the Palestinians. It used the tragedy at the World Trade Centre to invade Palestinian areas four times in the aftermath.

The leaders of the world, intent on a new war in Afghanistan, are terrified of the effect the intifada will have across the Middle East. In the region millions of people identify with the struggle of the Palestinians, and are disgusted with their rulers' deals with Israel and the US, which has backed Israel as its 'watchdog' in the region.

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What Socialists Say
Mon 1 Oct 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1769
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