Palestine: Unending Zionist terror

The latest round of terror against the Palestinian people which led to the 14 May massacre of at least 60 Palestinians as they protested against the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem shows once again that the Zionist state will always use maximum force to deal with any Palestinian resistance. Israeli snipers shot over 1,300 Palestinians with live ammunition on the day; over a six-week period, they killed at least 112 unarmed protesters and injured thousands more. Thirteen of the dead and over 2,000 of the injured are children, including an eight-month-old baby. Wesam Khaled reports.

Dubbed the ‘Great March of Return’, the protests began on 30 March, Palestinian Land Day, when over 30,000 Palestinians marched to the border between Gaza and Israel to demand an end to the brutal Israeli siege on Gaza and their right to return to the land they were expelled from when Israel was created in 1948. 22 Palestinians were shot dead during this first protest alone.

The move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv signified the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The US decision contravened previous agreements to leave the status of the city until final negotiations between Israel and Palestine. The opening, which was attended by President Trump’s daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, featured a recorded address from the President. The White House referred to the ceremony as a ‘historic event’ and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared it a ‘glorious day’.

14 May was selected for the date of the embassy move because it marked the 70th anniversary of Israel’s ‘Independence Day’, when Israel declared its statehood in the land of historic Palestine. But what Israel celebrates as its ‘Independence Day’ means the complete opposite for the Palestinians: 15 May is commemorated by Palestinians as the anniversary of the Nakba, the Arabic word for ‘catastrophe’, when 750,000 Palestinians were expelled by Zionist militias in 1948 and over 500 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed in the land that would become Israel. Israel’s ‘independence’ could not have been achieved without this catastrophe for the Palestinians, as the Zionist ideology on which Israel is built required a Jewish-majority population on a land that was already inhabited by Palestinians. Those Palestinians who were expelled were scattered around the remaining Palestinian territories and nearby Arab states and never allowed to return. While Israeli law permits Jewish people from anywhere in the world to apply to migrate to Israel simply by virtue of their being Jewish, Palestinian refugees who have a direct historic link to the land are denied their right to return.

Fighting for the right of return

Over two-thirds of the population of the Gaza Strip is made up of such refugees or their descendants; Gazans marching to the borders of Israel are marching for the right to return to the same land from which they were expelled in 1948. They are also marching for an end to the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip and the humanitarian catastrophe that has resulted from it. For 12 years Israel has enforced a brutal blockade against Gaza, severely restricting the movement of people and goods by air, land and sea. This isolation has devastated Gaza’s economy and infrastructure. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with an unemployment rate of 40%; for youths the rate is 60%. 80% of people live below the poverty line. Water in Gaza is almost totally undrinkable, beaches and fishing grounds overflow with raw sewage, medical supplies are scarce and power outages lasting 12 hours a day threaten the ability of hospitals to function. Aid workers say a cholera outbreak is imminent. In February, a collective of charitable organisations in Gaza said that more than 1,000 Palestinians had died directly as a result of the 12-year siege, and the United Nations warned that the territory was nearing total economic collapse. It is in the context of this desperation, along with the historic injustice and dispossession of the Palestinian people, that Gaza has erupted in protest.

Meanwhile, emboldened by a Trump administration eager to lend its support to the most hardline Israeli demands, Israel has put the most blatant of its racist characteristics on display. Israeli citizens have come to the boundary with Gaza to watch and cheer as soldiers shoot at protesters. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said ‘there are no innocent people in Gaza’; a spokesperson from the ruling Likud Party said of the protesters that ‘all 30,000 are legitimate targets,’ and Netanyahu declared that the soldiers were doing ‘holy work.’ After an Israeli human rights activist was recorded calling Israeli soldiers near the Gaza fence ‘terrorists’, an Israeli talk-show host fantasised on air about her being raped and murdered.

Gazans have not been the only targets of recent Israeli aggression; on 10 May Israel carried out its most extensive airstrikes on Syria in decades in response to what it claims were Iranian attacks on its positions in the Syrian Golan Heights, which Israel illegally occupies. This was a lie: the airstrikes preceded what was an Iranian response. On 21 May, Netanyahu applauded US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s newly unveiled proposals for ‘the strongest sanctions in history’ against Iran; he has constantly threatened war on the Iranian state.

However, not all of Israel’s allies have shared US imperialism’s unhesitating declarations of support for this latest round of Israeli militarism. Following talks with Turkish President Erdogan on 15 May, Theresa May urged Israel to use greater restraint in its dealings with protesters in Gaza, and on 18 May the British ambassador to Turkey, Dominick Chilcott, described the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem as ‘a mistake’. Such mild calls for restraint by Britain do not come out of any concern for the wellbeing of the Palestinians suffering under Israeli violence; Israel has massacred thousands of Palestinians over recent years, including over 2000 in just seven weeks in ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in 2014, of whom over 500 were children. Such massacres have never pushed Britain to end its support for Israel, and neither will the shooting of unarmed protesters now. On the contrary, Britain’s call for ‘restraint’ comes from its concern that such flagrant acts of aggression will spark outrage and opposition across the Middle East and at home, threatening the stability of its other interests in the region and particularly its relations with Turkey.

The May government would prefer Israel to employ quieter, more insidious methods of oppressing the Palestinians; that they are oppressed is not the issue. Hence its constant attempts to lay the blame for the massacre on the Hamas government in Gaza. In any case, Britain’s material support for Israel will be unaffected; since the 2014 massacre Britain has sold £320m worth of arms to Israel. Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry managed to face both ways: she condemned the ‘brutal, lethal and utterly unjustified actions’ of the Israeli military. However, later on the same evening the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), of which Thornberry is a member, tweeted ‘Hamas must accept responsibility for these events’. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn’s lame call for a ‘review’ of British arms sales to Israel is unlikely to materialise, especially if there is no movement on the ground to give it teeth.

Palestinian Authority – agent of occupation

Another important source of support for the Israeli occupation is that which it receives from the Palestinian Authority (PA). Controlled by the bourgeois-nationalist Fatah party, the PA is the quasi-governmental authority in the Palestinian West Bank, established by agreement with Israel and retaining limited control over security and finances in the territory. Led by Mahmoud Abbas, the PA finds its main base of support among the Palestinian comprador bourgeoisie, which has been working hand-in-hand with the Israeli occupation to crush any Palestinian resistance that could potentially grow beyond its control. The PA has carried out political arrests of members of other Palestinian factions in the West Bank opposed to its collaboration with Israel, including Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Islamic Jihad. Many of these are handed over to Israel and end up in Israeli prisons. On 23 April, a Hamas MP accused the PA of carrying out pre-emptive political detentions of activists to prevent the Great March of Return spreading to the West Bank. Security collaboration with the PA is so vital to the Israeli occupation that a US threat to withhold aid from the PA earlier this year was met with opposition by Israeli officials.

In return for its services to the occupation, the PA hopes to win a Palestinian state on the West Bank through negotiations with Israel. A capital in Jerusalem would be a vital component to such a Palestinian state if it is to gain any acceptance with the Palestinian people, which is why the US Embassy move met with the PA’s strong verbal opposition. There is no such PA opposition to the suffering of the people of Gaza, which is controlled by its rival, Hamas. In fact, the PA is itself willing to contribute to that suffering to further its interests. In 2017, it slashed the pay of PA employees in Gaza by 40% in an attempt to pressure Hamas into entering into negotiations, and in March 2018 the PA threatened to cut the whole of its approximately $100m budget to Gaza if Hamas refused to hand over complete control of the Gaza Strip.

The PA wants to pressure Hamas, along with the people of Gaza as a whole, to capitulate to its narrow bourgeois aims. Hamas nearly delivered on this with the move towards reconciliation in October of last year; however, the people of Gaza would never and could never accept an agreement on the basis of these aims, and the reconciliation fell apart earlier this year. While the bourgeoisie in the West Bank may see hope in the possibility of a Palestinian state, no such hope can be seen for the Gaza Strip, tiny, isolated, and overpopulated as it is. And while the PA has indicated its willingness to sacrifice the Palestinian right of return in exchange for an independent statelet, the people of Gaza, themselves overwhelmingly refugees, will not be won over to such a capitulation. All the PA will ever get from its compromises are a number of non-contiguous ghettoes on the West Bank surrounded by ever-expanding Israeli settlements.

Israel and the PA hope that by imposing brutal measures on the people of Gaza they can push them to overthrow Hamas and accept the Fatah-led process of capitulation to the so-called peace process. On 16 May, Khaled Barakat, international secretary of the Campaign to Free Ahmed Sa’adat, described ‘the dirty role of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah who have been punishing our people in Gaza in an attempt to create an internal explosion of the Strip and divide and disarm the resistance’. However, so long as Hamas continues to support the Palestinian resistance this will not happen. Palestinians in Gaza know that it is Israel, not Hamas, that is the cause of their suffering, and that the only way out of the inhumane conditions imposed on them is to cast off the shackles of Zionism and the Israeli siege. Israel’s brutality has not undermined Palestinian resolve, as demonstrated by the perseverance of the Great March of Return in the face of Israeli violence. It is the responsibility of communists in Britain to build a movement in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance against Zionist brutality and its imperialist backers in Britain.

Victory to the Palestinian people!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 264 June/July 2018


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