- Created: Thursday, 30 April 2009 14:15
- Written by Bob Shepherd
The imperialists were united in their celebration of the 60th anniversary of the formation of the state of Israel. Prime Minister Brown described Israel as ‘one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century’, declaring that ‘Britain will continue to be a true and constant friend of Israel in good times and in bad’. President Bush told the Knesset on 15 May during a special trip to Israel to celebrate the anniversary: ‘I am honoured to stand before one of the world’s great democratic assemblies...My only regret is that one of Israel’s greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon.’ BOB SHEPHERD reports.
Bush’s speech was an open, unambiguous expression of support for Israel with only a passing reference to the fate of the Palestinians. Linking Hamas and Hizbullah with Al Qaida, he declared that Israel was right not to negotiate with Hamas and condemned any international attempts to rebuke Israel: ‘We consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world’. He finished his address with a clear message of support to the Zionists, ‘... you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on the United States of America to be at your side’.
The whole affair was a further humiliation for Palestinian President Abbas with his reliance on the US-sponsored peace process. Abbas said that the speech had ‘irritated’ the Palestinian Authority and he had raised his concerns ‘frankly’ with Bush calling on him ‘to take a neutral stance’! Abbas then more or less admitted that the talks were going nowhere: ‘As for the Israelis, we negotiate with them, yet we do not intend to sell illusions and say the situation has been settled or it will be settled soon’. He added that not a single issue had actually been settled yet. In reality, with the support of imperialism, all issues are being settled in Israel’s favour. Immediately before Bush’s visit the Zionists had announced that 800 new housing units are planned for the Betar Illet settlement on the outskirts of Jerusalem. It is also reported that in the talks the Israelis have used written letters and pledges from the Bush administration that guarantee the incorporation of the settlement blocks into Israel to prevent any discussion on their continuing expansion.
As part of its ongoing and intensifying blockade of Gaza, Israel had restricted the transport of diesel and petrol into the Strip, but since the 9 April attack by the Palestinian resistance on the Nahal Oz border crossing, Israel has imposed a virtual block on the transport of all fuel and cooking gas into Gaza. Limited concessions have been made for the import of industrial diesel for the power plant but this is inadequate to keep it running continuously. The results of this are creating a humanitarian catastrophe; power cuts happen every day as the main power station is continually running out of fuel. This affects hospitals, water supply and sewage disposal. John Ging, Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) operations in Gaza reported on some of the consequences:
‘60,000 cubic meters of raw and partially treated sewage are pumped out to sea every day, simply because the treatment plants have run out of fuel. Fifteen diesel powered water wells have shut down completely, leaving 70,000 people without water in their homes. Gaza’s Public Water Authority now reports that because of the regular power cuts and a lack of diesel for back up generators, 30% of Gazans have running water for only four to eight hours per week, 40% once every four days and the remaining 30% every other day. The sewage at Sheik Redwan in northern Gaza City and Jabalia refugee camp is overflowing into lagoons in residential areas which were designed for storm water. In Jabalia, the amount is three million litres of raw sewage in the last week of April alone.’
The shortage of cooking gas means that people are searching for wood and other combustible items to burn for cooking purposes – an impossible task for a population of 1.5 million. Israel’s complete block on petrol or ordinary diesel has forced more than 90% of cars off the road, including 70% of all ambulances. Donkey-drawn carts are now becoming the only way for most people to travel any distance.
The fuel shortages have also affected UNRWA’s ability to distribute food aid to the 80% of Gazans who now exist below the poverty line. This shortage of food has been made worse by the deliberate destruction of farms in Gaza by the Israeli army. On 17 May Israeli military bulldozers destroyed ten poultry farms, as well as orange groves, almond and olive trees and greenhouses near Rafah. The Ministry of Agriculture estimated the loss at $1.5m.
At the same time that Bush was praising Israeli terrorists, mass demonstrations marking the 60th anniversary of the Nakba took place across Palestine: in the West Bank and Gaza and at Nazareth, inside the 1948 Green Line. The demonstration at Nazareth was brutally attacked by the police force of the ‘mighty democracy’ using tear gas and batons.
Over 50,000 people filled the streets of Ramallah, the largest protest in the West Bank since the start of the second Intifada. The organisers of the demonstration, the National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba, issued a statement which called for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees and the need to, ‘strengthen the popular campaigns in Palestine, the Arab world and internationally, particularly the campaign for boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel, as well as the campaign for an academic and cultural boycott, and the campaign against the Israeli Apartheid Wall’.
End British support for Israel! Boycott Israeli! Boycott M&S!
FRFI 203 June / July 2008