Socialist Worker

Palestine revolt at injustice

Issue No. 1719

Crisis in the Middle East... Crisis in the Middle East... Crisis in the Midd

Palestine revolt at injustice

TALKS over the Middle East taking place in Egypt produced a fragile deal as Socialist Worker went to press. But any "peace" that does not address the grave injustice Palestinians have suffered will be a sham. Socialist Worker explains the real issues behind the violence in the Middle East.

WESTERN leaders and the world's press screamed outrage at the killing of two Israeli undercover police in Ramallah last week. But why has there not been similar outrage at the killing of Palestinians? Are the lives of Israeli policemen worth more than Palestinian children? Some 93 out of the 100 people killed by Monday of this week were Palestinians shot down by the Israeli army.

Israeli soldiers shot 26 children in cold blood. Western leaders and their press treat the crisis at worst as if it was all the Palestinians' fault, or at best as if both sides were equally to blame for the violence. This is a travesty of what is happening. On the one side is the mighty Israeli state, a nuclear power armed to the teeth by the US.

Israeli soldiers, in alliance with settler militias, have used gunships, rockets, high velocity ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and teargas indiscriminately against Palestinians. On the other side are Palestinians, unarmed or carrying stones dug up from the street, who are fighting for justice against the illegal Israeli occupation of their land.

Israel responded to the killing of the Israeli policemen in Ramallah by bombing civilian areas in Palestinian towns across the West Bank and Gaza. An eyewitness in Ramallah describes what happened in the town: "The Israelis said the undercover military entered Ramallah by mistake. How could they enter by mistake when there are Israeli military checkpoints all round Ramallah? When the people discovered them they were very angry. They did not forget what happened to a Palestinian man, 48 years old, when Israeli settlers burned all his body with an electric iron and took out his eyes. Four military helicopters were in the sky of Ramallah. It was like a war to hear the sound of the rockets in the air. One rocket hit near our area and we felt our home shaking. We were like a computer game for these helicopters. They hit Ramallah nine times. They hit the electrical power unit so there was no electricity. Who has the planes and tanks? The people just have stones. We need all the possible solidarity by all those who believe in justice and humanity."

Theft on a grand scale

Conflict rooted in Israeli state

THE ROOTS of the violence lie in the creation of the Israeli state in 1948. Until the Nazi Holocaust only a tiny minority of Jewish people, called Zionists, settled in Palestine and supported the idea of a "Jewish state". This meant a country set up along ethnic lines excluding everyone except Jews. But after the Holocaust the idea of a Jewish state gained support among Jews and non-Jews alike.

It was seen as "a land without people" for "a people without land". But Palestine was not "a land without people". Palestinians had lived and worked on the land for centuries. Israel could only be created by driving Palestinians out and stealing their land.

The UN's plan for Israel in 1947 gave Jews 55 percent of Palestine. Yet they only made up 30 percent of the population and owned just 6 percent of the land. Even this was not enough for the Zionist settlers. They hounded Palestinians from their homes in a barbaric round of what would today be called "ethnic cleansing".

In the village of Deir Yassin in 1948 the Zionist terror squad, the Irgun, massacred 200-300 Palestinian men, women and children. A witness from the International Red Cross described the scene after the slaughter: "I heard something like a sigh. I looked everywhere and eventually found a little foot, still warm. It was a little girl of ten mutilated by a hand grenade, but still alive; everywhere it was the same horrible sight. There had been 400 people in this village. About 50 had escaped. All the rest had been deliberately massacred in cold blood for, as I observed myself, this gang was disciplined and acted only under orders."

The Israelis used the fear of Deir Yassin to drive Palestinians from their homes, including the populations of large cities like Haifa and Jaffa. Israeli forces went on to destroy 416 Palestinian villages, seizing all the Palestinians' land and assets.

By May 1948 the Israelis occupied 80 percent of Palestine, including 95 percent of decent agricultural land. Around 750,000 Palestinians had been dispossessed and expelled. A further 200,000 Palestinians were driven out when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war.

Israel has systematically pillaged the Occupied Territories, even laying waste to Arab agricultural communities by pumping water from the West Bank to the farms and towns of Israel. Israeli settlers, backed up by the army, terrorise Arabs until they flee the land.

One settler admitted how "we enter a village, shoot a bit at the windows, warn the villagers and return to the settlement. It can happen that we catch a boy who has been throwing stones, take him back with us, beat him a bit and give him over to the army to finish the job". Jews from anywhere in the world can "return" to live in Israel even though they have never set eyes on the place.

Yet Palestinians whose families had lived there for generations, often in desperate conditions in refugee camps, are effectively denied the right to return to their homeland.

A daily nightmare of poverty and despair

PALESTINIANS HAVE suffered massive poverty and persecution since Israel was created. Around 1.2 million Palestinians expelled from Israel live in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza. Children grow up and die in these squalid camps, knowing no life but poverty and despair. There is no sanitation in the shacks and tents that are their homes. They are completely reliant on the "host" country and aid organisations for food and clothes.

Israel controls the movement of every resident in the Occupied Territories who wants to leave or pass through Israel. It has cut Palestinian cities off from one another and denied Arab workers the right to enter Israel.

Palestinians are dependent upon Israel to provide employment. Israeli companies have exploited them as cheap labour for generations. Life for Palestinians has deteriorated even since the beginning of the 1993 peace process. Unemployment has reached 40 percent in some areas, according to a report last year by the charity World Vision.

It said the average income per head in the West Bank and Gaza was �1,050, compared to �1,750 in 1987. In Israel average income per head is �12,000. Amnesty International's latest report says that torture by the Israeli forces is "officially permitted and systematically used". Torture included: tiltul, violent shaking; shabeh, where detainees were shackled to low sloping chairs in contorted positions for extended periods and forced to listen to loud, distorted music; gambez, where detainees were forced to crouch for extended periods; and sleep deprivation. Amnesty says that "members of the security forces who carry out extra-judicial executions or other unlawful killings almost invariably enjoy total immunity". This oppression has forced ordinary Palestinians to fight back time and again.

US brokers settlement

The issues peace deal must solve

US PRESIDENT Clinton pushed through a "peace deal" at the Camp David talks on Tuesday. But it will not bring justice for the Palestinians. Their key grievances remain. In return for limited Palestinian control over parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the millions of Palestinian refugees scattered across the world would have to give up any notion of returning to their homeland. It was another peace deal brokered by the US and heavily balanced in Israel's favour.

The Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 only came about because of the last major upsurge in struggle by the Palestinians, called the Intifada, or uprising, in 1987. An Israeli tank transporter had crashed into Arab cars, killing four passengers. The funeral turned into a demonstration of 10,000 people. Israeli troops then killed a 20 year old man on a further demonstration. His funeral marked the beginning of mass protests against Israeli rule in the Occupied Territories that lasted for two years.

The struggle forced Israel to try to do a deal with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Yet for every concession the Palestinians made during the talks the Israelis demanded more.

The Oslo deal meant the creation of a bantustan-the name given to the supposedly independent statelets in apartheid South Africa which were overshadowed politically and economically by their neighbour. It meant the new Palestinian Authority was created, with Yasser Arafat at its head. But it has very little power. It meant Palestinians would only have full control over 17.2 percent of the West Bank.

Israel would fully control 59 percent of the West Bank and a third of the Gaza strip. The Oslo deal promised an independent Palestinian state by 1998. This has still not been implemented. Many Palestinians are sick of the rotten compromises that the Western powers and Israel demand of Yasser Arafat.

Some have turned in frustration to more militant groups like the Islamic group Hamas. Peace is possible in the Middle East. Jews and Arabs have lived alongside each other before and they could do so again.

Socialists argue that the first step is to support the Palestinians in their struggle against the mighty Israeli state and the imperialist powers, like the US, in the region. Secondly, we argue for a democratic secular state in Palestine for Jews and Arabs where each has equal rights. Ultimately we believe that lasting peace and equality for people in the Middle East could only be achieved by a revolution to overthrow all the corrupt regimes, to end the luxury for a minority while millions are reduced to poverty.

MORE articles on the Middle East crisis: 'America's problem in the Middle East, page 6 'War, peace and anti-capitalism page 9 'The press and Israel, page 11

The US guards its oil supply

THE US's real agenda in the Middle East is to secure the flow of oil for the multinationals. That is why it is not interested in justice for the Palestinians, only in propping up Israel, its watchdog over the oil wealth. It has warships patrolling the Gulf states to enforce these interests.

One of those warships, the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, was the target for the suicide bombing which killed 17 US sailors last week. The US has used its military and economic might to control the huge oilfields in the area since the Second World War.

It wanted an ally the Middle East as competition between the US and its rival superpower, the Soviet Union, for markets and power, grew. While making deals to create client Arab states the US was worried about the tensions that existed between the mass of poor Arabs and their extremely wealthy rulers.

The US finally threw its support into Israel as it saw the growth of a large anti-imperialist movement in the 1950s in the Arab world. Israel has been the US's watchdog in the Middle East ever since. The US has funded Israel to keep the economy stable and create a heavily armed state.

Israel will receive $4.129 billion from the US this year. Of this, $3.12 billion is for military aid and $949 million is for economic aid. The Palestinian Authority will receive only $100 million from the US this year. The US has intervened in the region to ensure that its control of oil is maintained.

It bombed Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War, after Iraq had invaded Kuwait and threatened the stability of the Middle East. Because Iraq had stepped out of line economic sanctions were imposed which have caused over one million Iraqis to die in the last decade.

'His head was shattered'

"THE hospital emergency rooms are still busy trying desperately to save the lives of kids with heads, chests and limbs shattered by live bullets and rockets. Mohammad was shot in his thigh. As two of his friends carried him to the ambulance both were shot. Musa went into deep coma as his jaw, tongue and right side of his head shattered away. The Israeli army opens fire on every demonstration. Settlers close the roads, and attack civilians in their cars and fields. We do not hate the Jews, but we love our land. We will continue to throw stones at the merciless occupying forces, and when stones are over we will throw olive branches, and when they are over we'll throw our dishes and forks, and when they are over we'll throw our bodies."

  • THAMEEN DARBY, medical student, Nablus

Sharon the war criminal

ISRAELI prime minister Ehud Barak has invited right wing opposition leader Ariel Sharon to form a national government. It is an insult to every Palestinian and makes a mockery of the idea that Israel is interested in peace.

Sharon is a mass murderer and war criminal with the blood of thousands of Palestinians on his hands. He was responsible for the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Israel's bombing reduced Beirut, the Lebanese capital, to rubble. It destroyed hospitals, schools, orphanages and civilian areas. Israel demolished, bulldozed or bombed Palestinian camps throughout Lebanon. It killed at least 19,000 people, the vast majority of them civilians. In September 1982 Sharon's Israeli forces surrounded the Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra and Chatila.

He sent right wing Lebanese death squads into the camps. They slaughtered 2,700 men, women and children within hours. One of the murderers justified hacking pregnant women to death by saying, "Pregnant women will give birth to terrorists." Sharon's whole career has been built through butchering Palestinians.

In 1953 he founded the notorious Unit 101 commando squads which raided neighbouring Arab countries, massacring Palestinian villagers. Sharon was a commander in the Israeli occupation of the Sinai dessert after the 1967 war. One account describes how Sharon's forces "drove off some 10,000 farmers and Bedouin, bulldozed or dynamited their houses, pulled them from their tents, destroyed their crops and filled in their wells."

In the early 1980s Sharon became known as "The Bulldozer" for ordering the biggest expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967. In 1982 an Israeli military court heard allegations that Sharon "urged Israeli soldiers to beat Arab schoolchildren in the West Bank." Just two years ago Sharon championed a plan to deploy US Apache combat helicopters to fire rockets into the Palestinian towns of Gaza, Ramallah and Nablus against demonstrators.

Books to read on Palestine

  • The End of the Peace Process by Edward Said �15
  • Fateful Triangle: the United States, Israel and the Palestinians by Noam Chomsky (new edition) �14.99
  • Palestine in Crisis by Graham Usher special price �3.99

Order your copies from Bookmarks, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE. Phone 020 7637 1848

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Sat 21 Oct 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1719
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