- Created: Thursday, 30 April 2009 14:37
- Written by Yehya Ayesh
No matter how brutal and inhumane the occupation becomes, and no matter what it does, we are staying here: we will never leave. The defiance of the Palestinian people in the face of an increasingly barbaric occupation has been a beacon to the working class and oppressed of the world. Whilst the Palestinian people remain undefeated, imperialism’s rule over the Middle East remains under constant threat. Hence its increasingly desperate attempts to crush the Intifada by building up the enemy within – President Abbas and his bourgeois Fatah allies – and by giving free licence to the Zionists to deploy whatever blitzkrieg tactics it sees fit to kill, maim and destroy a risen people. Bob Shepherd, Fiona Donovan and Yehya Ayesh report.
GAZA: Zionist barbarism and Palestinian defiance
Imperialism and Zionism equals barbarism. That is the only conclusion to draw from the slaughter that took place in November in Gaza. Between 1 and 15 November, the Zionist invasion and occupation of the town of Beit Hanoun in the north of Gaza killed 83 Palestinians. 54 of the dead were civilians, including 20 children; 264 Palestinians, including 76 children, were wounded, many maimed, disfigured and disabled for life.
Justifying this, the Zionists said they were trying to stop Palestinian rocket attacks. However, not one Israeli had been killed by these weapons in 2006 prior to the invasion. The only purpose of the massacre was to try yet again to force the Palestinian people to give up their resistance and bow down before imperialism. Two incidents stand out. On 3 November in response to calls put out on local radio and TV stations, a demonstration of unarmed women gathered around a mosque to defend resistance fighters who were trapped inside. The Zionists opened fire on the women, killing two and wounding ten. The second took place in the early morning of 8 November when Israeli tank shells ripped into at least seven houses in the town killing 20 people, including nine children, and wounding 58. The local hospital director stated that some of the wounded were ‘horribly disfigured’ from the shelling. The Zionists claimed the shelling was a ‘technical mistake’ as if it was normal to be able to direct tank fire into civilian areas. Overall, since the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on 25 June the Zionists have massacred: 434 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, 82 of them children, and wounded 1,456, including 424 children.
On 18 October an Italian TV documentary revealed that Israel has been using experimental weapons in Gaza. The investigation came after doctors in Gaza reported inexplicable wounds and devastating injuries following recent Israeli attacks. Tests revealed that the injuries were likely to be the result of a new weapon dropped by unmanned drones. The weapon shares the characteristics of Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) developed by the US military. This is a carbon shell that splinters on impact. Its explosion emits a blast of tungsten gas that burns and destroys everything within a four metre radius. Victims who live are either sprayed with fragments of hot shrapnel invisible to X-rays and which cause severe burns, or with a hot metal powder which has caused at least 62 victims to have one or both of their lower limbs amputated. This new weapon is clearly being ‘battle tested’ for the US military by its Israeli allies using the Palestinians as guinea pigs.
It was no surprise when on 11 November the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution put by Qatar condemning the Israeli military action. John Bolton the US Ambassador said: ‘the text did not display an even-handed characterisation of the events in Gaza and was politically motivated’. Britain abstained using the pretext that the resolution was ‘not balanced’. With such hypocritical phrases imperialism defends the slaughter of the oppressed.
It has been left to the Palestinian people to find new ways of combating Zionist terror tactics, one of which they used for the first time in mid-November. The Zionists have a system of calling Palestinians by phone to tell them to leave their home immediately as it is about to be destroyed by missiles fired from F16 fighter bombers. However, in the space of two days this policy of collective punishment was successfully challenged three times by the mass mobilisation of Palestinians in Gaza.
On 19 November Ahmed Baroud, a Popular Resistance Committees commander in Jabalia refugee camp, received one of these calls. Instead of fleeing he called people to come to his house to protect it. Up to 1,000 people, including Prime Minister Hanniya, surrounded his house, gathering on its roof and so preventing the air attack from happening. The next day the home of a Hamas militant in Beit Lahia was surrounded by hundreds of people in response to an Israeli phone call threatening to blow it up. Later that same day 800 people formed a human shield around the home of another militant in a Gaza City suburb stopping yet another Israeli air strike.
Hamas recognised the significance of these actions and called on the Palestinian masses and resistance factions to ‘develop mechanisms of popular participation in such heroic acts that will, ultimately, foil the Israeli policy of shelling Palestinian homes’.
WEST BANK: No end to settlement expansion
While the world looks on, Israel is not only using its war machinery against the Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, but it is also busily continuing to create ‘facts on the ground’ in the West Bank.
Creating ‘facts on the ground’ has been a very successful strategy for the Zionists to gain legitimacy for their racist state. During the so-called ‘peace process’, which institutionalised the conquest of Palestinian land and expansion of settlements, Israel continued to build new settlements on stolen Palestinian land. The number of Israeli settlements doubled in the West Bank, and whilst 8,500 settlers were withdrawn from Gaza in 2005, twice as many settlers moved into the West Bank.
This process continues. Construction is Israel’s second biggest industry after arms manufacturing. Huge and specially modified trucks are carving great highways across the West Bank, cutting through Bedouin villages to join together ever-multiplying settlements. Meanwhile Palestinian people are being held prisoners in their towns and cities, cut off by checkpoints, an electronic fence and a huge concrete wall from their land and their families, from clinics, hospitals, schools and universities.
Armed Israeli soldiers dictate entry into and exit from the main Palestinian population centres in the West Bank. Palestinians have to hold a special permit to leave their cities, even to visit other parts of the West Bank, with hundreds of checkpoints ensuring total restriction of movement. Applying for permits is a slow and difficult procedure that is subject to change, and they are rarely granted. As a Palestinian taxi driver put it ‘a child born in Nablus today could live and die without seeing or knowing any other Palestinian city’. Even those who are granted a permit, such as students at Al Najah University in Nablus who live in the outlying villages, have to spend hours every day to get through Israeli checkpoints and may even be turned back according to the whims of occupation soldiers.
In East Jerusalem, Palestinian villages are suffocating in the midst of large Israeli settlements. For example, Beit Safafa, an Arab village that lies between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, is surrounded by five Israeli settlements, which are all connected by main roads. At one point a three-lane carriageway cuts Beit Safafa in two. Until recently there was no pedestrian crossing, bridge or tunnel to join the two sides of the village. It took the death of two Palestinian children before the Israeli authorities built a small roundabout to make it possible to cross the busy settler road. In addition, most Palestinian villages in East Jerusalem are not signposted and have no traffic signals. Where signposts do exist, they give the Palestinian villages alien Hebrewised names.
To the south and west of Beit Safafa lies the huge Israeli settlement of Gilo, which resembles a modern European city. Last year, on the road to Bethlehem from Jerusalem there was a big Israeli checkpoint known as Gilo checkpoint. All traffic going into the West Bank to Bethlehem or coming from the West Bank to Jerusalem had to pass through this checkpoint, and many from the West Bank were denied entry. Today, it has gone. The road lies clear until the approach to Bethlehem where Israel’s massive nine-metre high concrete Apartheid Wall appears. The only way in is through a gate in the Wall, a sliding sheet of thick metal like the sealed lid of a toxic container: it is a massive new permanent checkpoint like a border crossing. Inside Bethlehem, what was the main road to Jerusalem has been cut in two by a section of the Wall. Huge settlements flank Bethlehem; these are connected to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv by a highway that cuts through the mountain.
The northwest section of the Wall around Bethlehem is isolating the city from Jerusalem and cuts in deeply to annex land to the Gilo and Har Gilo settlements. The Wall continues to the northeast of Beit Sahoor, Al Khalis and Al Nomaan villages to annex Har Homa settlement and secures its expansion on Al Nomaan lands. From the other side, the Wall will continue from northwest to southwest of Al Khadir, trapping the Palestinians who live there. In total, 71,000 dunums (1,000m2) of land are being seized in the Bethlehem district and the Apartheid Wall reaches into the heart of the city, in order to annex Rachel’s Tomb. Checkpoints, the Wall and the fenced-in settler-only highways will secure the complete ghettoisation of Bethlehem.
In the southeast of Jerusalem the Occupation has already started building the new settlements in Mount Scopus and in eastern Abu Dis. Infrastructure is also being developed for the ‘Noof Zahav’ settlement in the heart of Mount Scopus. This settlement, in conjunction with the Wall, will slice the village of Sawahra into four separate parts. Jewish settlers no longer need to maliciously attack Palestinian farmers trying to collect their olive harvests. The fruit is being left to rot on the trees because farmers from Sawahra can no longer reach their groves.
The most notorious project oversees the expansion of Ma’aleh Adumim, one of the biggest Zionist settlements, and secures its contiguity with colonies across Jerusalem. In order to form one enormous settler bloc, over 4,000 housing units will be built on 12,000 dunums of land stolen from various Palestinian villages. Boasting tourist amenities, universities, hotels and a system of settler roads, the bloc will include a new police headquarters for the West Bank. About 75% of the plan’s total area is earmarked for a park that will surround all these developments. The current built-up area of Ma’aleh Adumim covers only 15% of what is planned: an area of at least 53 square kilometers (larger than Tel Aviv) stretching from Jerusalem to Jericho.
To the north of Jerusalem stands another huge section of concrete wall and another large and very permanent looking border crossing. This is Qalandiya checkpoint. All Jerusalemites wishing to go to Ramallah or beyond in the West Bank must pass through Qalandiya. More importantly, all those Palestinians from the West Bank wishing to go to Jerusalem, or south to Bethlehem or Hebron (also part of the West Bank) must also go through this checkpoint. A huge structure of repression and control, the checkpoint of Qalandiya consists of a series of racist harassment schemes, a maze of corridors and loudspeaker commands given by invisible Occupation forces. The few Palestinians permitted to visit Jerusalem are caged-in between the metal doors at the will of the Occupation, screened and controlled before they reach their capital.
East Jerusalem’s colonisation is almost complete. Once the Wall is finished it will total 181km. It will leave the majority of the 190,000 Palestinians in and around Jerusalem facing two options: live under siege in Jerusalem’s ghetto neighbourhoods, or go into exile – either into what remains of the West Bank, or abroad. With exile will come the permanent loss of the right to live in or even visit the capital.
ABBAS: The enemy within
For nearly a year now imperialsim has been trying to destroy the Hamas government. Since its election in January 2006, the EU and the US have imposed a financial blockade in an effort to get the people to turn against their elected representatives. Throughout this period Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has proved a willing tool in their efforts.
Ostensibly Abbas has been working with Hamas to form a government of national unity. However, at the same time he has fomented discontent amongst PA employees who have not been paid for months because there has been no money. At the end of September his Fatah allies escalated demonstrations by PA employees in Gaza, supporting them with armed detachments of PA security forces to confront Hamas supporters. In the subsequent fighting, nine Palestinians were killed. At the same time, in the West Bank, Fatah organised demonstrations that set fire to Hamas and government offices in Ramallah. Rumours of a Fatah coup were in the air and Abbas was openly talking about dissolving the government, stating ‘I will use my constitutional authority in the PA bye-law at the proper time’.
As part of this process, Condoleezza Rice met with him at the beginning of October and announced that the US would help ‘improve’ Abbas’s security forces. This involved a grant of $20 million to Abbas’s office for training and associated tasks. There is now a US military camp in Jericho where members of the PA Presidential Guard are being trained under the supervision of General Keith Dayton, the US security coordinator for the Occupied Territories. Meanwhile Abbas told a press conference: ‘Today we say that any government to be formed has to be fully committed to all the commitments of the Palestinian Authority towards the Arab world and the international community and has to honour all kinds of agreements that were signed in the past between the Palestine Authority and the Arab parties’. In other words, it has to honour previous compromises.
In addition, the US has allocated $42 million to fund a programme for Palestinian groups and individuals it deems capable of ‘democracy building’. The US spokesperson in Jerusalem stated that the programme aims to ‘enhance civil society and democratic institutions and provide assistance to media outlets’; an official US report says it also supports the creation of ‘democratic alternatives to authoritarian or radical Islamist political options’.
The US is not alone in building up Fatah’s military capability: Israel has also allowed shipments of arms to pass through its checkpoints for Abbas. In mid-November, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister agreed to supply the PA with 1,000 M-16 rifles: ‘I approved the shipment because we are running out of time and we need Mahmoud Abbas’s help in the PA at this point in time’.
However, the slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun has changed the situation for the moment and forced Abbas to be more conciliatory. On 18 November he met with the Hamas Prime Minister Hanniya and the proposed head of the new unity government, Professor Mohammed Eid Shubair. Hamas and Fatah representatives met to negotiate the distribution of ministerial portfolios. Discussions continue but whatever their outcome, it is clear that there is no long-term future for a government that includes both anti- and pro-imperialist forces. As we go to press a ceasefire has been agreed in Gaza; it is not possible at this time to say what this represents.
LEBANON: Imperialists foment civil war
On 21 November, unknown forces assassinated Pierre Gemayel, a leader of the fascist Christian Phalange party in Beirut. Immediately the imperialists, along with their puppet March 14 Forces government accused Syria, just as they had when Rafik Al Hariri was assassinated in February 2005. This will stoke up sectarian tensions across Lebanon in advance of mass demonstration called by Hizbullah to support its demand for a new government.
Hizbullah has been calling for a National Unity government since its victory in the war with Israel. At the time it had only two ministers which clearly did not reflect its strength and support. At present, the majority of ministers are from the March 14 Forces and are pro-imperialist and anti-Syrian. Hizbullah is supported by the Christian-based Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) led by Michael Aoun which has no ministers at all. Both Hizbullah and the FPM are calling for an end to the confessional electoral system where parliamentary seats and ministers are decided by a formula based on religious affiliation.
On 11 November the two Hizbullah ministers and three Amal ministers resigned. They were followed on 13 November by the resignation of another minister, an ally of the President. Hizbullah has called for demonstrations aimed at forcing the government of Fouad Siniora either to resign in favour of a National Unity government or hold new parliamentary elections. Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said that the protests, when called, could last for weeks ‘until we impose via our peaceful, civilised and democratic means, the downfall of the illegitimate, unconstitutional government, the government of (US Ambassador) Feltman’.
Imperialism is concerned at the prospect of Hizbullah increasing its influence in Lebanon and the US has issued a statement hypocritically condemning ‘any attempt to destabilise Lebanon’s democratically-elected government through such tactics as manufactured demonstrations and violence, or by physically threatening its leaders’ which ‘would at the very least be a clear violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty’. Meanwhile Israel has withdrawn its forces from Lebanon apart from an area in Ghajar, a village on the border between Lebanon and the Golan Heights. It still occupies the Shebaa Farms. The death toll continues to rise from the cluster bombs dropped by Israel; they have killed over 150 people between the ceasefire and the beginning of November, many of them children, according to the UN Mine Action Centre. There could be up to a million cluster bomblets scattered in the south of the country.
FRFI 194 December 2006 / January 2007