Palestine: More peace talks leading nowhere

On 19 July US Secretary of State John Kerry declared, ‘I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.’ This required yet another climb down by the supine pro-imperialist leadership of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) whose public position since the end of the last talks in 2010 was no further negotiations without a complete suspension of Zionist settlement construction. New settlement building is taking place all the time, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was reported in the Israeli paper Haaretz as boasting to his Cabinet, ‘I pulled the Palestinians down from the tree of preconditions; I didn’t agree to a further freeze of building in the territories; I refused the release of 120 prisoners before the talks began; and the 1967 borders are not mentioned.’

In contrast the PA has agreed that for the duration of the negotiations it will not join any international organisations, in particular the International Criminal Court, where as an observing member of the UN, it could bring charges against Israel for war crimes. Abbas and the PA agreement to hold talks with Israel is a stab in the back for all Palestinians. All resistance forces, Islamic and national, have condemned Abbas, Fatah and the PA. Islamic Jihad declared, ‘There is national Palestinian consensus to refuse negotiations, but the PA responds to American pressures and blackmail’ while the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said that any return to negotiations is ‘committing political suicide providing a cover for the government of occupation, ultra-extremism and settlements ...’

Ethnic cleansing of the Bedouin people

On 15 July demonstrations took place across Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel against the Prawer Plan, Israeli racist legislation legitimising the destruction of 35 ‘unrecognised’ Bedouin villages in the Negev (Naqab) desert in the south of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of up to 70,000 Bedouin from there. The ethnic cleansing policies Israel has long implemented against Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, labelling Palestinian homes as ‘unrecognised’ then demolishing them to clear areas for Zionist settlement, are being turned against the Arab Bedouin population.

The villages in the Negev, many of which pre-date the establishment of the state of Israel, have never had access to any state infrastructure. They are not connected to water supplies, electricity, sewage or the road network and have no state education or health facilities. By labelling these villages as ‘unrecognised’, Israel is trying to force the Bedouin from their traditional lands to increase commercial farming and to build a number of new Israeli/Jewish settlements in their place.

On 15 July, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee representing Arabs within Israel called a general strike against the Prawer Plan and organising 15 demonstrations within Israel. Demonstrations took place in Jaffa, Sakhin and Galilee in the north of Israel and in Beersheba, the largest city in the Negev. Demonstrators carried Palestinian flags and were attacked by the Israeli police, with up to 20 arrested in Beersheba. In a positive development, demonstrations against the Prawer Plan also took place in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The PFLP issued a statement emphasising the importance of all Palestinian people standing together, ‘the Prawer Plan is just one more aspect of the Nakba, part and parcel of the policy of displacement and land theft that began with the entry of Zionism into Palestine and the establishment of the racist Zionist entity over the land of Palestine’. To illustrate what the intentions of Israel are, the day after the protests took place Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of Araqib for the 53rd time since July 2010. But after the Israeli army had left, the villagers once more began rebuilding their homes and animal shelters.

While the Zionists try to ethnically cleanse the Bedouin in the Negev, just across the Green Line in the West Bank they are forcing Palestinian families from their homes in ‘unrecognised’ villages in the hills south of Hebron. As freelance journalist Jonathan Cook wrote: ‘Were it not for the razor wire, giant concrete blocks, steel gates, watchtower and standard-issue surly teenage soldier, it would be impossible to tell at what point the barren uplands of Israel’s eastern Negev give way to the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank. The military checkpoint of Shani vaguely marks the formal demarcation between Israel and occupied Palestinian territory, but in practical terms the distinction is meaningless. On either side of the Green Line, Israel is in charge.’

Just as Palestinian villages in the West Bank have been subjected to years of racist attacks from Zionist settlers, so the Bedouin are now also being attacked by racist settlers. On the night of 20 July armed settlers attacked the Bedouin village of Rakhama damaging property, attacking livestock and verbally assaulting villagers.

Alongside this ethnic cleansing, Israel has engaged in a massive programme of settlement construction in the occupied territories. The Israeli group Peace Now reports that settlement construction in the West Bank during the first quarter of 2013 was at a seven-year high with 865 housing units started, triple that for the same quarter of 2012. However, Netanyahu’s government’s promotion of settlement construction took a public blow when the European Union on 16 July issued a Commission Notice stating that from 2014 EU grants could not be used to fund projects based in territory occupied by Israel since 1967. The Notice was clear that these territories comprised the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and West Bank including East Jerusalem. For the first time in a long while, an international body with economic clout seemed to be taking real action against Israel’s gobbling up of Palestinian territory.

Solidarity with the Palestinian people demands that we continue to campaign on the streets for a complete economic, cultural and sporting boycott of Israel.

End British imperialist support for Israel!

Bob Shepherd

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013


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