Palestine: Resistance the only way forward

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Months of failed negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel came to an end in December as the UN Security Council voted against a resolution on Palestinian statehood. Louis Brehony reports.

The PA plan had called for a peace deal to be reached within 12 months and an Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank (to be replaced by a ‘third party’) by 2017. Despite the weakness of the resolution, which was backed by France, China and Russia, it proved to be too much for Israel’s international sponsors as the US used its veto and Britain abstained. On 31 December, a day after the defeat, the PA signed up to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon confirmed that Palestine will officially become a member on 1 April 2015. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas had held emergency meetings with the Fatah and PLO leaderships in the hours before.

Palestinian membership of the ICC will mean that the PA will be able to pursue Israel for war crimes, at least formally. The US says that the PA’s decision to join is ‘entirely counterproductive’. Canadian foreign minister John Baird said Palestinian negotiators had ‘crossed a red line’. Israel’s response was to freeze tax payments of $127m collected on behalf of the PA, threatening the wages of 160,000 PA employees. Saudi Arabia said it would donate $60m to the PA.

Abbas had threatened before the Security Council vote that ‘if it fails, we will no longer deal with the Israeli government, which will then be forced to assume its responsibilities as an occupier.’ Less than a month later he appeared on the Israeli news channel Ynet to say, ‘I’m willing to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at any time. I’m not ruling out Netanyahu speaking at our parliament or me speaking in front of the Knesset.’

Support for Abbas and the PA is hitting new lows. A survey conducted in the West Bank and Gaza by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) between 3 and 6 December showed 35% of respondents to be ‘satisfied’ with Abbas; before the Israeli bombing of Gaza Abbas’s ratings were nearer 50%. Palestine Chronicle editor Ramzy Baroud writes ‘[The ICC move] is about assuring his survival … He knows nobody is buying into the old game of “back to negotiations” and making threats to quit.’

In November 2014 the PA outlawed the 40,000-strong Union of Civil Servants, saying its strike activities ‘resulted in harm to state properties and to the interests of homeland and citizens’. Its leaders had been arrested and interrogated after a coalition of unions criticised the PA’s intention to effectively get rid of strike pay. The crackdown has led to increased opposition to Abbas’ leadership and has sharpened arguments within Fatah; one of the arrested union leaders Bassam Zakarneh, is a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council. In the two months from 15 November PA security forces arrested 41 students for taking part in campus campaigns.

The PSR survey is revealing about popular views on fighting the Israeli occupation and shows a growing mistrust of both the Western-funded PA and the Hamas government in Gaza – although large numbers still agree with Hamas’s resistance strategies. 30% of those polled in the West Bank say they criticise the PA in the West Bank without fear, rising to 34% for those under Hamas authority. A large majority support resistance as the most effective means of ending occupation and building a Palestinian state: 42% see armed resistance as the priority, 28% want to see more popular non-violent resistance and only 26% believe negotiation is the most effective route to statehood.

The smoke and mirrors of the PA government’s international politicking are completely detached from the daily realities of Palestinian suffering at the hands of the imperialist-backed Israeli occupation state. As Netanyahu scurried to Paris for a photo opportunity (see p12), the Gaza Centre for Press Freedom released a report calling 2014 the ‘worst and bloodiest’ year for journalists in Palestine. Israel committed 295 separate ‘violations of press freedom’ across the 1967 Occupied Territories, including the killings of 17 journalists in Gaza in July-August. By 20 January Israel had issued a total of 89 administrative detention orders so far this year, taking the number of Palestinians imprisoned without charge or trial to around 500. So far, 2015 has seen land bulldozing in Bethlehem, the expulsion of 70 Bedouins in Jericho and continued killings, shootings and arrests. The Palestinian Information Centre says that Gazan fishermen and their boats are now targeted on ‘almost a daily basis’ by Israeli and Egyptian troops. Near the northern Gaza border Israel has shot at farmers, including shooting two men in the feet in separate incidents in January.

On 16 January, a 12-year-old child was shot in the head with a rubber bullet at Aida refugee camp after children took part in a debke dance session. A week before, Sami Al Jaar was shot as he stood on his porch watching demonstrators confronting Israeli police in Rahat in the Naqab (Negev) region. Up to 10,000 attended his funeral where at least 40 were injured by Israeli gunfire and another man was shot dead; the same week two others were shot dead in the West Bank. Arab leaders called for a ‘national strike’ and protests have spread to other cities of pre-1948 Palestine, including Haifa, Yafa and Nazareth.

During the protests George Ghantous, a Haifa-based protest organiser, criticised the Arab leadership for focusing too much on the upcoming Israeli elections and for ‘reacting and not leading. It waits until anger boils over and we pressure it to act, and then tries to calm the situation ... It is time for us in ’48 to be united.’ The Palestinian movement in ‘Israel’ continues to gather strength at a time when protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank seemed to be losing momentum. Whatever the games played by the PA and its imperialist allies, the future is in organised resistance.

Victory to the Palestinian people!

Boycott apartheid Israel!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 243 February/March 2015