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Middle East: ‘Palestine is like a prison’

This article is over 20 years, 9 months old
This Sunday is the third anniversary of the start of the Palestinian intifada. Socialist Worker spoke to Palestinians living in the West Bank
Issue 1870

MOHAMMED ‘IN A small city called Hebron there are 500 Israeli soldiers protecting a small number of extremist Israeli settlers. The Palestinians are forced to stay in their homes. The Israelis are putting all the Palestinians under curfew. It lasts all day.

There are hundreds of checkpoints throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel is killing people daily. Yesterday in the Khalandiya refugee camp between Jerusalem and Ramallah, Israel killed a 13 year old boy. His one mistake was he got too close to the apartheid wall that the Israelis are building round the West Bank.

Every day we are losing kids, women, old people, sons, daughters. Palestinians have a terrible unemployment rate. People can’t find jobs. If they do, they are on low salaries. Prices are increasing.

The intifada began because Palestinians refused to live under this situation. Israel is putting three million people in a big jail, the biggest in the world. The US road map plan is about Israel delivering the minimum possible for the Palestinians to make the situation quiet. Israel refused to implement it. Palestinians need liberation. We will not stop our intifada until we have freedom.’

ASHRAP ‘THE ISRAELI closures mean people cannot move. People face humiliation every day at Israeli checkpoints. People have to walk over hills to get to work. I did this every day for two years. It is very risky, as the Israelis have soldiers in high places who shoot people.

If anyone needs to go to hospital it is difficult for an ambulance to reach them. People die. Palestinians living in different cities cannot see each other. It has become a joke, that it is like living in different countries. Israel’s latest invention is the separation wall around the West Bank. It will divide Palestinians from each other.

Palestine is like a big prison, with all these small prisons inside. The situation in the Middle East is very angry after the occupation of Iraq. People oppose the US and Israeli attempts to impose a new leader on us. That’s why people who opposed Arafat joined demonstrations supporting him. The intifada shows the Palestinians’ spirit of resistance, our refusal to accept the occupation.

When you see Israeli F-16s hitting Palestinian villages and cities every day, how can you condemn suicide bombers as ‘terrorists’? Give the Palestinians F-16s and they will fight with them. Give us Apache helicopters.

Israel has the most technologically advanced US and British tanks. What are the Palestinians supposed to do? Suicide bombing is something you need to understand in context. It is not terrorism but a mechanism of resistance. It comes from a people who are living in a shit situation with nothing to lose. When a Palestinian kid dies no one mentions it. When an Israeli dies it is an earthquake around the world.

What is happening in Palestine is part of the international movement. People should show solidarity with those resisting imperialism.’

‘We are in for many more years of turmoil’

‘AT LEAST since World War Two, American strategic interests in the Middle East have been, first, to ensure supplies of oil and, second, to guarantee at enormous cost the strength and domination of Israel over its neighbours. Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires-that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate.

Several generations of Americans have come to see the Arab world mainly as a dangerous place, where terrorism and religious fanaticism are spawned, and where a gratuitous anti-Americanism is inculcated in the young by evil clerics who are anti-democratic and virulently anti-Semitic.

Israel and the US regard Arafat as an obstacle to the settlement they wish to impose on the Palestinians, a settlement that would obliterate Palestinian demands. Never mind that Arafat-who I have criticised for years-is still universally regarded as the legitimate Palestinian leader.

Underlying this perspective is a longstanding view that denies Arabs their right to national self determination because they are considered incapable of logic, unable to tell the truth and fundamentally murderous. Since Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, there has been an uninterrupted imperial presence based on these premisses throughout the Arab world. We are in for many more years of turmoil and misery in the Middle East, where one of the main problems is, to put it plainly, US power.’


Dr Ilan Pappe, a prominent Israeli anti-Zionist, spoke to Socialist Worker

THE INTIFADA has brought both societies to the verge of another clash. This exposes the real issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It is the outburst of an almost fatal illness that has been treated with aspirins. People have to confront the real issues. There are three levels to this.

The first is that all the peace processes, including Oslo, were attempts to circumvent the heart of the matter-the Palestinian refugees. The second intifada broke out because there was no tangible solution for the refugees. The second is, what is Israel going to do in its treatment of the Occupied Territories?

It wants to avoid a full and unconditional withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. It wants to avoid a comprehensive Palestinian state. It can’t get away with this.

Its talk of peace raises hopes-especially that of those living under occupation. But the powers, the US and Israel, don’t mean it. When people understand they have been misled, something triggers a tide of frustration that turns into an uprising.

This time it was Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The first intifada it was a road accident. The third level is new-the spilling over of the uprising into Israel itself. This irreversibly changed relations between Jews and Palestinians.

Israel is a semi-apartheid state. It discriminates against the Palestinians living within it. The new generation do not want to tolerate this. It could lead to terrible bloodshed, but could also lead Israelis to rethink the whole ideology of the Jewish state.

I think the coming months are going to be more of the same, and much worse. But there is light at the end of the tunnel-in Britain and the US. Bush and Blair have had it after their war on Iraq. Their end will affect the Middle East.

It will take more than a US peace initiative and soft pressure on Israel. To topple Israel we need the same strategy that dismantled apartheid in South Africa.

Three years of the intifada

September 2000

Israeli war criminal Ariel Sharon desecrates the Muslim Al-Aqsa holy site in Jerusalem by marching in with 1,000 security guards to demonstrate Israeli superiority. Triggers the intifada. Thousands of Palestinians take to the streets. Israel launches a brutal clampdown. Israeli soldiers kill 12 year old Mohammed Al Doura.

October 2000 Israel imposes the most severe restrictions on movement throughout the Occupied Territories since 1967. Palestinians living in Israel launch a general strike and protest. Israeli soldiers kill 141 Palestinians.

December 2000 Israel has killed 332 Palestinians in three months.

January 2001 First Palestinian suicide bombing since the beginning of the intifada.

February 2001 Ariel Sharon elected prime minister of Israel.

April-August 2001 Israel kills 235 Palestinians.

September 2001 Israel uses excuse of 11 September to launch incursions into Palestinian areas. Rate of killing of Palestinians doubles.

October 2001 Israel reoccupies five Palestinian towns after the assassination of an extremist cabinet minister.

February-March 2002 Sharon launches attacks against Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank. Israeli troops kill 180 Palestinians in two weeks.

March-May 2002 Israeli tanks invade most of the major towns in the West Bank. Almost 260 Palestinians killed. Jenin refugee camp under siege-‘horrific beyond belief’, says UN special envoy. Israel puts Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat under siege in his Ramallah compound.

June 2002 Israeli launches another invasion of the West Bank. Completely reoccupies Palestinian areas.

September 2002-March 2003 Israel kills 515 Palestinians.

May 2003 US ‘road map for peace’ officially launched. Within hours Israel launches incursion into Gaza, killing 13 Palestinians. US and Israel say Arafat must go. Mahmoud Abbas made Palestinian prime minister.

September 2003 Israel has killed at least 2,168 Palestinians since the intifada. Mahmoud Abbas resigns as prime minister. Israeli leaders threaten to kill or exile Yasser Arafat.


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