Racist repression continues as Israeli coalition collapses

Ariel Sharon’s decision to resign from Likud, the party he formed over 30 years ago, came as no surprise. It followed the election of Amir Peretz as the new leader of the Israeli Labour Party, and Labour’s subsequent withdrawal from Sharon’s coalition government. Without Labour’s support, Sharon could not contain the neo-fascist majority faction within Likud which has been completely opposed to his strategy to defeat the Intifada. This strategy – the withdrawal from Gaza, continued construction of the Apartheid Wall to bring the main settlement blocks into Israel ‘proper’, the division of what is left of the West Bank into small easily controlled ‘cantons’ and recruiting the Palestine Authority (PA) to confront the Intifada – is the only viable way forward for imperialism in Palestine. Sharon has now set up a new party, National Responsibility, to contest the general election that will take place on 28 March. BOB SHEPHERD reports

Peretz, a Moroccan-born immigrant and former leader of the Israeli Histradut trade union federation, is calling for renewed peace talks with the Palestinians on the basis of the US-backed Road Map. He is being portrayed as a radical who will bring justice to the Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Peretz is a Zionist and his positions on the future of Jerusalem, the main Israeli settlement blocks on the West Bank and the Apartheid Wall are no different to Sharon’s. At Labour’s Central Committee meeting of 20 November, Peretz declared that if he were elected Prime Minister he would support the retention of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel. He opposes any return of Palestinian refugees to Israel within the Green Line. Although this was the meeting that agreed the withdrawal of Labour from the government, the next day, Chaim Herzog, a Labour Party Minister, with Peretz’ agreement approved the construction of 350 housing units in Ma’aleh Adumin. As Herzog’s spokesman explained, ‘there is general agreement within Israel that Ma’aleh Adumin will become part of Israel in any future agreement with the Palestinians’.

Peretz’ election as Labour leader has therefore nothing to do with disagreement over Sharon’s expansionist strategy; instead it is a reaction to Sharon’s free market policies. These have led to growing levels of poverty and unemployment for Jewish workers, from a combination of privatisations, cuts in public sector budgets compounded by the effects of the Intifada and the continued funding of the settlements on the West Bank.

Gaza and the West Bank since the withdrawal
Since the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza on 12 September, the Zionists have either closed the border crossings at Rafah, Erez and Karni or severely restricted their operation. This has meant an almost complete lockdown of the whole Gaza Strip throughout the period. Simultaneously, they have also escalated their campaign of terror. On 23 September, Israeli forces launched a missile attack on a Hamas military parade in Jabalya killing 19 Palestinians. Resistance groups responded to this with a barrage of rockets into Israeli territory. The Israeli army reciprocated with an artillery bombardment of areas from where the resistance groups were firing the rockets. On 25 September, another Israeli missile attack destroyed part of a Hamas-run school in Gaza, killing four people and injuring at least 15, including a number of schoolchildren. In October the Israeli airforce began low-altitude night flights at supersonic speeds over Gaza. The resultant sonic booms, which sound like huge explosions, have terrorised young children, even induced miscarriages in pregnant women and are yet another form of collective punishment.

On 16 November, the US brokered a deal between the PA and Israel on border crossings which supposedly guarantees free passage for Palestinian goods into Israel. The US’s purpose was to bolster PA prime minister Abbas’ position against the resistance in advance of the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) elections on 25 January. However, the resistance has condemned the move as it compromises Palestinian sovereignty. It leaves Israel, as before, controlling all movement of both people and goods between Gaza and Israel and in control of the entrance of goods from Egypt to Gaza. The only real change is that Rafah will open for the crossing of people between Gaza and Egypt and for the exit of goods from Gaza into Egypt. The crossing will be run under the auspices of 57 EU monitors. Israel, though, will continue to have the last word on who can cross the border; Israeli and Palestinian security officers will jointly monitor traffic by remote camera. The hollow nature of the deal was exposed the following day when Israel closed the Erez border crossing indefinitely for ‘security reasons’.

On the West Bank the construction of the Apartheid Wall continues apace, as does the expansion of the main colonial-settlement blocks east of Jerusalem. On 17 November, a day after Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz declared that ‘the settlement blocks will continue to be Israel’s eastern border in the future’, the Israeli Land Administration issued building tenders for 13 plots in Ma’aleh Adumim. In building the Wall, Israel is forging ahead with its plans to carve up and ‘cantonise’ the remaining areas of the West Bank. It is in the process of creating a massive new checkpoint to the south of Nablus, which will in effect separate Nablus and Jenin from the rest of the West Bank.

The PA attacks the resistance
The 23 September Jabalya attack was a signal for a concerted PA offensive on Hamas. It claimed that the premature explosion of a Hamas rocket on the parade caused the deaths. Palestinian police chief Ala Husni announced that ‘the role of resistance weapons has ended in the streets. They should go back into storage... Any weapon now on the streets is a criminal weapon’, as Abbas and the PA used the incident to push for resistance disarmament. In mid-September Nabil Amre, a former PA Information Minister, addressed a conference on terrorism in Washington and pleaded for help in confronting Hamas and the resistance: ‘We, Mahmoud Abbas, Mohammed Dahlan and I, understand your need for security. We are your friends and we really want to help you but you have to help us, financially and politically, to enable us to face Hamas and the terrorist forces.’

At the end of September, the Zionists initiated a major attack on Hamas in the West Bank and arrested over 400 activists. The purpose was to help the PA by disrupting Hamas’ organisation in the run up to both local and the PLC elections on 25 January. The raids targeted not just individuals but Islamic charities associated with both Hamas and Islamic Jihad as Israeli forces shut down 15 charity offices and seized records and computers. Meanwhile Sharon declared he would not accept Hamas running in the PLC elections unless it ‘disarmed and renounced its intention to destroy Israel’.

On 2 October PA police and Hamas militants clashed in Gaza City after the police attempted to arrest a leading Hamas member. It ended with three people dead, one a police commander. A PA inquiry into the clash unsurprisingly blamed Hamas. Hamas’ response was to point to the developing alliance between the PA and imperialism against the Palestinian resistance:

‘We in Hamas hold the PA police command responsible for the incidents as the PA police director, Ala Husni, issued shoot to kill orders against Hamas militants... We believe that there was a pre-planned conspiracy against the movement designed by American and Israeli hands, and implemented by local and regional parties so as to hit the infrastructure of the movement and deprive or marginalise it from participating in the Palestinian political and country building process.’

As if to prove the point, a US spokesman praised the PA for confronting Hamas, considering it a ‘positive and encouraging’ step.

The PA is now directly engaged on a day-to-day basis in attacking the resistance and it is co-operating with Israel in these attacks. On 10 November Israeli forces killed a militant from the Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AMB) near the Al Buraij refugee camp in Gaza. Later in the day 20 armoured vehicles invaded Nablus and after a gunfight five Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) militants were arrested. The same day, on Israeli demand, PA security forces arrested a commander of the AMB in the Al Doheisha refugee camp near Bethlehem. It followed the arrest of five other AMB militants by the PA from the camp. On 5 November PA police attacked a student protest rally outside the Muqata’a (PA headquarters) in Ramallah. The demonstrators were demanding the release of a student co-ordinator of the Islamic Bloc at Bir Zeit University who was arrested earlier that week by the PA for organising against Israel on campus. Meanwhile the PA continues to hold the leader of the PFLP, Ahmed Sa’adat, and other PFLP and Islamic Jihad militants in prison in Jericho under British and US supervision. As the PLC elections approach, so the co-operation between the PA and imperialism will become more and more apparent.

Zionists murder children
The recent case of Israeli army Captain ‘R’ highlights once again the racist arrogance and contempt for Palestinian life that permeates all parts of Israeli society.

On 15 November an Israeli military court found Captain ‘R’ ‘not guilty’ of illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming of an officer and perverting the course of justice. At the beginning of October 2004, Captain ‘R’ had emptied the contents of his automatic rifle into the body of a 13-year-old Palestinian girl, Iman Al Hams, near Rafah. An Israeli army lookout had identified her as being young and of no threat, radioing his control, ‘It’s a little girl...A little girl about 10, she’s behind the embankment, scared to death’. This didn’t stop the officer from riddling her body with bullets. After ‘confirming’ the kill, he announced on his radio, ‘This is the commander, anything that’s mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it’s a three-year-old, needs to be killed’.

The Israeli army’s initial investigation found that the captain had not acted ‘unethically’, a decision that was upheld by the findings of the military tribunal. Iman’s father was clear that the army had never intended to punish the captain, ‘They did not charge him with Iman’s murder, only with small offences and now they say he is innocent of these even though he shot my daughter so many times. This was the cold-blooded murder of a girl. The soldier murdered her once and the court has murdered her again. What is the message? They are telling their soldiers to kill Palestinian children’.

Since the Intifada began in September 2000 the Israelis have murdered over 780 Palestinian children. This October they killed nine Palestinian children. On 3 November Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 13-year-old boy in Jenin and five days later a 14-year-old boy in Nablus.
At the end of October, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the face of the map’ at a conference on Zionism. Although this was little more than rhetoric, the response from imperialism and its lackeys was hysterical. Naturally Blair was to the forefront in declaring that he ‘felt a real sense of revulsion’. He clearly feels no such ‘revulsion’ as Israel every day steadily wipes Palestine from the map. Morris Motamed, a Jewish MP in Iran’s parliament, cut through all the hypocrisy: ‘The unequal war and clashes between Israelis equipped with the most advanced weapons and Palestinians with stones in their hands should be taken as the root cause of the public resentment.’

FRFI 188 December 2005 / January 2006