Socialist Worker

The road map points to more suffering

Matthew Cookson on why Palestinians won't get peace

Issue No. 1850

THIRTEEN Palestinians were murdered by Israeli tanks and troops in a single day in Gaza last week. The dead included a two year old child. Yet the British media did not care about these victims. Instead they devoted pages to the suicide bombing by a pro-Palestinian British citizen that killed three people.

Bush and Blair's roadmap for peace will do nothing to end the injustice and suffering of the Palestinian people. They had been stung into action by the mass support for the Palestinians that was raised in the global protests against Bush and Blair's war on Iraq. But the road map is a con.

It is overwhelmingly weighted in Israel's favour. Israel can already occupy Palestinian towns, send in troops and tanks on military incursions, impose checkpoints and close cities at will. The road map demands nothing less than Palestinians' surrender. Israel grabbed 78 percent of the land of Palestine in 1948. They are only prepared to negotiate now what happens to the remaining 22 percent.

They only want the Palestinians to get half of that for their 'independent' state. Israel's population is five million. There are eight million Palestinians. Yet over half of these are forced to live as refugees - one million in the Gaza Strip, one and a half million in the West Bank. The rest live across the world, mainly in the Middle East.

Israel wants a weak Palestinian state. It demands that state represses its own population and crushes the second intifada, or uprising, which broke out in September 2000 against Israeli occupation. The Palestinians have to undertake an immediate ceasefire in the road map's first phase.

If this does not happen then Palestinians will have not met the agreement. Yet time and again the Israelis have provoked the Palestinians by attacking their homes and slaughtering families. This is a ready-made excuse for the Israelis to renege on their part of the deal. They are supposed to 'take all necessary steps to normalise Palestinian life, withdraw from Palestinian areas occupied since September 2000 and freeze all settlement activities'.

As Said Ghazali wrote in the Independent last week, 'The roadmap is no more than an entrance ticket to the dance hall where the Israelis will play the same old tunes against 'terror'.'

The following stage two is meant to lead to the creation of a Palestinian state with provisional borders. Again this is reliant on 'a Palestinian leadership acting decisively against terror'. The third phase will reach a final agreement by 2005 'ending the conflict'. The problem with the road map is it ignores the reason for the conflict in the first place.

Israel was created in 1948 when Israeli settlers drove 750,000 Palestinians out of their homes. They became refugees in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel then invaded these areas in 1967 and occupied them. It has controlled them ever since. Over 400,000 settlers, many from Britain and the US, now live in Arab East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has spent his life oppressing the Palestinians. He has backed the settlers as they have grabbed Palestinian land and killed Arabs. Yet the Palestinians are presented as the aggressors.

Israel is the most militarised state in the world. It is bristling with tanks, F16 fighter jets, airships, nuclear weapons and other US-supplied weaponry. Israel has killed over 2,400 Palestinians since the intifada began. The Palestinians have rocks and home-made bombs to fight back. The Israeli settlements have the purpose of creating 'facts on the ground', ensuring that an independent Palestine cannot be created.

The Israeli state is building a 'security fence' around the West Bank, dividing the Palestinians from Israel and Jordan. This way Israel will claim another 10 percent of Palestinian land.

It is also building a number of routes through the West Bank that only settlers and the Israeli military can use. Bush's road map does not affect them. Israel will continue to politically, militarily and economically dominate the new Palestinian state. Israeli troops will control the roads between the different cantons of Palestine.

The five million Palestinian refugees will have no right to return to their homes inside Israel. After the last Gulf War in 1991 George Bush Sr promised the Palestinians their own state. The Oslo peace process was supposed to bring this about. This came after the first Intifada against Israeli oppression that began in 1987. One-sided negotiations offered a weak and divided Palestinian Authority that was expected to oppress its own people

The number of Israeli settlers in Palestinian areas doubled during the peace process. Life got worse for ordinary people. The peace process fell apart in 2000. Israel has stepped up its repression of Palestinians since. The road map could swing even more favourably towards Israel. Israel has made it clear that it sees the roadmap as 'open to further negotiations'. Bush, and the right wing hawks around him, see Israel as an integral part of continuing US dominance of the Middle East.

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What Socialists Say
Sat 10 May 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1850
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