Zionists step up land grab

Four years after the start of the present Intifada, the Zionists are stepping up their land grab in the West Bank. At the same time, they are attempting to expel Bedouin farmers from land they have cultivated for generations in the Negev to make room for more immigrants and settlers that will move out of Gaza. The death toll of Palestinians continues to rise against a back-drop of Zionist sabre-rattling against Syria and Iran. The prospect of military strikes against these countries is very real, as Robert Clough reports.

Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan may still face opposition in his Likud party and the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), but it now has the tacit support of the Israeli Labour Party, and it will happen. The 7,000 or so Gaza settlers will be offered substantial compensation to vacate the land they stole – up to £280,000, with a bonus if they move early. In the meantime, huge land grabs are underway on the West Bank. On 8 September, Israel’s Agriculture Minister Israel Katz announced the seizure of 8,000 acres of land to expand settlements in the Jordan valley. Sharon is now seeking US approval to allow the annexation of the Ariel settlement bloc, Ma’ali Adomim bloc (east of Jerusalem) and Gush Etzion north of Hebron. This would be up to 25% of the West Bank. The annexation of the Ma’ali Adomim bloc which lies between Jericho and Jerusalem would cut off Hebron and Bethlehem regions from Ramallah. Bulldozers are now destroying farms and orchards in the southern West Bank, particularly around Hebron, to build the separation wall.

Whilst Sharon’s adviser Dov Weisglass held talks with Colin Powell on 13 September on the annexation plans, moves are being made to clear the Negev, two-thirds of Israeli land mass, of its remaining Bedouin inhabitants to make way for displaced Gaza settlers. 1,000 residents of Atir have been told to leave the village ‘vacant, without person, object or animal in the area’. They are not to be offered alternative accommodation since the Zionists claim under a 1965 planning law that they seized the land illegally - though they have farmed the area for generations. This is part of the Negev Development Plan: $200m set aside to remove the last Bedouin farming communities, 70,000 people in all, from their land (see FRFI 173 for the background).

Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan has exposed the treacherous role of various factions of the Palestinian Authority (PA). In the last issue of FRFI we reported on demonstrations in Gaza against PA corruption, and on Ahmed Qureia’s resignation as prime minister. Now it is evident that that demonstrations were orchestrated by Mohamed Dahlan, long a US and Zionist favourite within the ranks of the PA and Fatah. Dahlan proclaimed Sharon’s plan as a victory for the Palestinian people, a withdrawal like ‘the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon’ in order to justify his collaboration with it. His attempt to jump on the anti-corruption bandwagon and launch a bid for power failed when Qureia withdrew his resignation. The irony was not lost on many Palestinians: Dahlan has made himself a millionaire by holding a monopoly on petrol imports from Israel into Gaza, a monopoly acquired from his former role as head of Gazan security forces.

Meanwhile, Fatah and PA leaders who had pinned their hopes on the Israeli ‘peace camp’ signatories of the Geneva Accords (FRFI 176) as a serious opposition to Sharon were to be disappointment. More than half the Israeli signatories of the Accords refused to sign a PA statement demanding an end to the occupation as a whole and an end to construction of the separation wall. Instead they argued that the Gaza disengagement plan was a ‘dramatic shift in Likud’s position’ and that the separation wall was a ‘preventive measure against Palestinian attacks’. This reaction was proof yet again that Israeli Labour Zionists have no significant differences with Sharon and his Likud party.

Throughout, the slaughter of the Palestinian people continued with the usual news blackout in the western media. The Hamas suicide attacks in Beersheba on 31 August drew forth an almost unanimous comment that the bombings had ended ‘a period of calm’ or a ‘lull’ in violence since the last suicide attack on 14 March in Ashdod. In this period:

• 436 Palestinians had been killed – as many as the number of Israelis killed in suicide attacks over the past four years;
• 73 of the dead were children;
• 71 had died in illegal assassinations, 23 of them civilian bystanders;
• 2,220 Palestinians had been seriously injured

During that time, 30 Israelis were killed and 57 injured, almost all of them soldiers and settlers in the occupied territories, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Yet this was of no importance for the racist press which showed once again that they care not a jot about the deaths of Palestinians. The Zionists did not wait long before striking back, killing 14 Hamas supporters on 7 September in Gaza, and six fighters and four civilians a week later in attacks on Jenin and Nablus. Nearly 60 Palestinians including a dozen children had been killed in the first three weeks of September – yet once again the racist press had lost interest.

More ominously, after the Beersheba attack and the deaths of Hamas fighters in Gaza, Israeli defence minister Shaul Mofaz declared that the ‘terrorist headquarters’ were not in Gaza but in Damascus. Colin Powell echoed this when he told the UN Security Council that Syria was ‘partially accountable’ for the Beersheba attack since it continued to allow Hamas leaders to live in the country. With the likely reference of Iran to the UN Security Council for its alleged nuclear weapons programme, the green light is being given to the Zionists for pre-emptive strikes against either country. The consequence will be a conflagration which will engulf the entire region.

Palestinian prisoners hunger-strike victory

On 3 September, Palestinian prisoners held by the Zionist occupation forces called off their hunger strike, which had lasted nineteen days. There are 7,500 Palestinian prisoners and detainees at present. 4,000 started the hunger-strike on 15 August in protest at their appalling treatment which continually breaches the Fourth Geneva Convention. Key demands included an end to torture, which is endemic; the institution of basic family visiting rights; adequate sanitation and health care; an end to the policy of solitary confinement and an end to the arbitrary fining of prisoners for alleged misdemeanours.

Mass mobilisations took place in both the West Bank and Gaza in support of the prisoners’ actions. Relatives joined in the hunger strike: the mother of one prisoner, Aisha Al Zabeen, died after 13 days. Although the Zionist prison authorities refused to enter into negotiations with the prisoners, they had no choice when it was evident that the hunger-strikers were determined to pursue their demands. Faced with losing control of the prisons and detention centres, the Israeli Prison Service backed down and met the principle demands of the hunger-strike. Time now will tell whether it honours its agreements.

Four years of the Intifada

28 September 2004 marks four years of the current Palestinian Intifada which started when six demonstrators were shot dead on 28 September 2000 protesting against Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Haram Al Sharif in Jerusalem the previous day. In these four years:

• 3,590 Palestinians had been killed by the end of September 2004;
• Over 400 of those killed have been children aged 15 or younger;
• 110 adults and 33 newborn babies have died because of denial of medical access through roadblocks or because of total closures;
• 42,022 have been wounded since the start of the Intifada. These injuries are caused by live ammunition, shrapnel from tank shells and missiles, tear gas and so-called rubber bullets, which are in fact metal bullets coated in rubber. 3,000 of those injured will be left permanently disabled including 700 children.
• 6,757 houses have been demolished in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since the start of the Intifada with 59,107 partly demolished or damaged.
• The ‘Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions’ (ICAHD) reports
that more than 40,000 Palestinians have lost their homes due to house demolitions over the last four years. In Rafah in the Gaza Strip, 1,500 homes have been demolished making 15,000 Palestinians homeless.
• Up to the beginning of February 2004 the Israelis had demolished 282 schools, closed nine down and turned three, in Hebron, into military bases.
• Israeli forces have uprooted 1.1 million trees, mainly olive and fruit trees. This has forced Palestinian farmers off the land and into poverty. They have also razed 68,011 dunums of Palestinian farmland (17,000 acres or more than 25 square miles).
• The curfews and checkpoints imposed by the occupying Israeli forces have destroyed the Palestinian economy. There has been a 51% drop in the GNP since the start of the Intifada.
• Unemployment rates for Gaza are now 67% and for the West Bank 48%. 75% of Palestinians now live in poverty on less than $2 a day, the international level of poverty. In Gaza the figure is 84.6%, in the West Bank 57.8%.

Betar UK loses charity status

Betar, the rabid Zionist group that has been staging counter-protests against the London Victory to the Intifada pickets of Marks and Spencer has had its charitable status withdrawn by the Charity Commission. On 13 January, the Council for Arab-British Understanding complained to the Commission that Betar UK had circulated Robert Kilroy-Silk’s infamous racist diatribe against Arab people. The Council followed this up with a further complaint about racist anti-Arab comments on the Betar website. On 5 August, the Charity Commission issued a statement that they found ‘that the activities of the charity [Betar] appeared to be in furtherance of a political purpose rather than [a] charitable purpose’. It also found that Betar had not filed accounts for the past four years with the Commission, nor did it have properly appointed trustees. It announced that it would be investigating whether Betar ever had a charitable purpose.

On 6 August, Betar issued a statement saying that it had ‘voluntarily requested to be removed from the register of charities’. However, at the end of September, its website still claimed it was a registered charity in a desperate appeal for donations. Whilst its charitable status might be fraudulent, our opposition to Betar is because of its virulent racism and Zionism. It is not surprising that it has circulated Kilroy-Silk’s opinions – they live in the same gutter.

FRFI 181 October / November 2004


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