Palestine: repression and resistance

In March, Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas went to Washington for talks about US Secretary of State John Kerry’s ‘peace’ plan. Negotiations between the Israeli occupiers, their US sponsors and the unelected Palestinian leadership, have done nothing to stop illegal Zionist settlements, house demolitions and land grabs, maintaining Israel’s total control of the borders and water and energy supplies to the Occupied Territories. Even the trickle of Palestinian political prisoners released in ‘goodwill gestures’ looks likely to stop, as chief Zionist negotiator Tzipi Livni claims: ‘There was never any automatic commitment to release prisoners unrelated to making progress in negotiations’. Meanwhile, Israel is intensifying its daily war on Palestinians in the West Bank, through murder, detention and terror. Gaza remains blockaded and is regularly bombed, with no US, EU or UN opposition. No wonder ordinary Palestinians are rejecting negotiations and rebuilding resistance. Louis Brehony reports.

War on the West Bank

On 10 March six Palestinians were killed in 24 hours of Israeli assaults on the West Bank and Gaza strip: Raed Zaitar, a judge shot at the Jordan border while trying to visit his hospitalised daughter; Saji Darwish, an 18-year-old student who threw stones at occupying troops near Beitlin village; Fida Mohyeedeen Majadla, shot repeatedly at a roadblock near Tulkarem, and three resistance fighters from the Islamic Jihad group in Gaza, killed as they fought an invasion of Israeli military vehicles. At a funeral for Saji Darwish, classmate Mohamed Taha said, ‘I feel like every Palestinian, sad, because this happens every day and the world does nothing.’

The number of Palestinians shot and killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank reached a five-year high in 2013, with 27 deaths. Many of these killings occurred during raids where occupation troops carried out arrests. 3,799 Palestinians were arrested by Israel in the West Bank in 2013, including an average of 200 children per month. The Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights reported on 17 March that in the first two months of 2014 the Israeli army had increased its detentions of Palestinian children by 80%, with 740 arrests; 465 remained in custody for a week or more.

In the week following the 10 March killings, 100 Palestinians were arrested, including eight former political prisoners and 13 children. Public displays of brutality by occupation troops are common. On 16 March hundreds of young Palestinians marched through the Old City of Jerusalem, carrying books in a symbolic demonstration to defend Palestinian education. Israeli forces responded with horses, batons and stun grenades, attacking and injuring indiscriminately, arresting a young man and breaking up a human chain thrown around the gates of the city. In Hebron, soldiers provide a cover for settlers’ destruction of Palestinian farmland and providing protection for provocative invasions into the city.

As Zionist politicians and military spokespersons claim to target ‘suspected terror activity’ in the West Bank, the most recent arrests showed that the wider Palestinian community was the target. On 13 March, 11 Palestinians arrested in the West Bank and Jerusalem included a 14-year-old boy, an elderly man, a woman visiting her son in an Israeli jail, and a member of Hamas who had served over 13 years as an Israeli prisoner. Palestinians continue to be arrested in cities of historic Palestine now claimed as Israeli. But the lesson of history is that no amount of Israeli terror has kept down the fighting spirit of Palestinians. Despite the PA’s submissiveness to Israel and the imperialists, the towns of Hebron, Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus and increasingly Jerusalem remain centres of resistance.

On 17 March, before a Washington meeting between John Kerry and Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, the Zionists announced the expansion of the Ramot settlement in occupied Jerusalem, with plans for a total of 734 housing units, including 300 allocated for security forces. Nearby, Palestinian homes that lack permits are demolished as Zionist colonisation of East Jerusalem creeps ahead. The fight for Palestinian sovereignty over the Al Aqsa mosque compound is symbolic of the struggle for a free Jerusalem. Israeli troops control the entry and exit points and routinely deny entry to Palestinians, leading to protests and physical resistance. Occupation troops use batons and bullets to beat back protesters. The Arab Organisation for Human Rights reports that there have been over 1,000 break-ins or invasions by settlers into the Al Aqsa mosque compound since February 2013.

Gaza: Egypt coup leaders collaborate with Zionists
The harsh living conditions imposed on the people of Gaza as a consequence of the Israeli blockade are made worse by Zionist military assaults, backed up by Egyptian forces. By 15 March, 18 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza and 100 injured since the start of the year, mostly by live ammunition or shelling. According to the Palestinian Information Centre, the raids target centres of Palestinian resistance, including sites belonging to the Popular Resistance Committees, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Al Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad has ‘broken its silence’ and launched rockets into Israel on 12 March in response to Israel’s killing of three resistance fighters in a raid a day earlier.

The Gaza blockade has been maintained brutally with the collaboration of the Egyptian military regime. On 19 March, as Egyptian officials met their Zionist counterparts in Tel Aviv, it was revealed that Israel supported US government plans to provide Apache helicopters to the Egyptian dictatorship. Egyptian and Israeli naval forces collaborate frequently in attacks on Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza, using machine guns to enforce the blockade. Since the coup on 3 July 2013, Egypt has maintained the shutdown of the Rafah border crossing, opening the border only temporarily to allow selected groups through. Throughout Israel’s recent assault on Gaza, Egypt has tightened its grip – 18 March was the 40th day running that Egypt had kept the Rafah border crossing closed. Five days earlier, a three-month-old baby died as his parents attempted to get him to an Egyptian hospital with liver and heart problems. Two women also died after being refused entry by Israeli and Egyptian forces. Egypt is in charge of brokering a ceasefire. Israel has violated the November 2012 ‘calm’ agreement more than 1,400 times.

EU hypocrisy
A January 2014 EU report on the humanitarian situation in Gaza highlighted the consequences of blockade and the resulting lack of fuel, which ‘has led to up to 16 hours per day of power outages in the coastal enclave of some 1.7 million people.’ It continued: ‘Today, Gaza is facing a dangerous and pressing humanitarian and economic situation including the cessation of imports of construction materials; rising unemployment, rising prices and increased food insecurity.’ Hypocritically, the report laid the blame for the situation entirely at the door of Hamas: ‘If Hamas would completely renounce its use of violence to achieve its objectives, it would have a revolutionary impact on the entire situation in Gaza, which would enable them to promote the very necessary process of reconciliation with Fatah (PLO).’

Palestinian prisoners continue to suffer
Months after Israel was forced to release hunger striker and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) activist Samir Issawi, on 13 March occupation forces arrested three members of his family – his brothers Shadi and Medhat and his sister Shirin; troops also arrested Amjad Al Safadi, a lawyer from Issawiyya in East Jerusalem. Medhat is a DFLP leader and ex-political prisoner, having served 20 years. On 14 March, Israel announced its intention to ‘continue investigating’ the group’s activities while keeping them locked up. At the time of writing they remain imprisoned and demonstrations are taking place calling for their release.

The pattern of arrest-release-arrest is very familiar. In 2013 Thaer Halahle was released after a three-month hunger strike, only to be recaptured by Zionist forces. In March, he was taken to hospital in shackles, suffering from hepatitis, chronic kidney problems and serious weight loss. His father called for solidarity, after deliberate delays in treatment and medical checks. Ismail Arouj was put in ‘administrative detention’ for six months, having previously been detained for five and a half years without trial. His family added that he was arrested immediately after being released from PA custody, showing clear PA collusion with the occupation.

Cameron, negotiations and the boycott
The March visit of Abbas and Netanyahu to Washington came within a week of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s trip to the Middle East. Cameron declared, ‘I’ve got a planeload of innovative British companies coming with me and we’ll be linking them up with Israeli businesses so they can forge new partnerships’. His speech to the Israeli parliament (Knesset), announced his ‘unbreakable’ belief in Israel, and said, ‘Britain opposes boycotts, whether it’s trade unions campaigning for the exclusion of Israelis or universities trying to stifle academic exchange’.

Cameron also met Labour warmonger and ‘Peace Envoy’ Tony Blair, saying, ‘I obviously listen to Tony Blair’s advice...We come from different political parties, different political traditions and there are many things we disagreed about, but we both want a two-state solution and he has got a contribution to help bring that about.’ After upsetting sections of the Palestinian bourgeoisie by spending just three hours with them during his two-day visit, Cameron called for ‘land swaps’ and a ‘shared capital’ in Jerusalem as part of a peace deal. He also dishonestly pledged £6m for Palestinian farming in Area C, part of the West Bank which remains under total Israeli control.

Palestinians continue to protest against the fraudulent negotiations. Salah Al Bardawil, a Hamas leader in Gaza, told Quds Press that 90% of the Palestinian people did not authorise Abbas to negotiate in their name. Despite Abbas’ spokesman Abu Rudeineh protestations that the PA will stick to ‘fundamental Palestinian principles’, there was an admission by Abdullah Abdullah, deputy commissioner for international relations in Abbas’s Fatah party, that ‘we have compromised on every subject’.

Responding to escalating Zionist attacks, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is calling for a ‘comprehensive political and military national strategy,’ an end to ‘security’ collaboration between the PA and Israel, and an end to the negotiations. Following the targeted assassination of young PFLP leader Moataz Washaha in Bir Zeit village on 27 February as occupation forces laid siege to his home, his family members called for an international boycott campaign. His sister Shorouq released a statement:

‘I ask all the world to boycott Israel in its entirety. And I ask the same of all institutions dealing with the Israeli Occupation. Boycott the Occupation... Boycott is an act of resistance.’

Support the boycott!

Victory to the Palestinian resistance!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014


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