Palestinian masses demand reform

As the Palestinian Authority (PA) demonstrated its complete unwillingness to offer any serious resistance to Ariel Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan, Gazans in their thousands have taken to the streets in opposition to Yasser Arafat’s leadership. The PA leadership, including Arafat himself, has been a byword for corruption. Now the working class and oppressed in Gaza have had enough of PA leaders enriching themselves whilst they face appalling poverty in what amounts to no more than a huge prison camp. Robert Clough reports.

Sharon’s disengagement plan will not constitute a complete withdrawal from Gaza – the major settlements in the north will remain. Nor has any final decision been made: in an effort to woo political support from the extreme right-wing of Zionism, Sharon has said that no decision will be made about the first steps until March 2005. Yet with US support he has already been able to manoeuvre Egypt and Jordan into acting as his agents in a process whose purpose is first and foremost to guarantee Israeli security. By the beginning of July, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had agreed with the PA a timetable for PA reform and a new Palestinian ceasefire with a target date of the end of September. Following this, the guerrilla organisations would be disarmed through their co-option into the proposed new security forces; these would then receive training from up to 200 Egyptian police officers. Egypt has also agreed to provide 1,000 police to seal tunnels underneath its border with Gaza, and to arrest anyone found using them.

Egypt’s role as a broker of Zionist interests has aroused intense opposition from the nationalist and Islamic forces, who in a joint statement at the end of June warned both Jordan and Egypt not ‘to take over the Palestinian problem’ and argued that ‘our people expect the Arab nation to act according to the logic of support for the Palestinians and not the logic of “security”’ since this turned things on their head, making the problem the Palestinian people and not the occupation’. However, PA prime minister Ahmed Qureia at the same time publicly praised the quisling role of the Egyptian government, describing it as a ‘safety net’ for the Palestinian people.

By early July, Arafat and Qureia were pitted against each other. Both directly and through Qureia the Egyptians were demanding that Arafat cede control of the security forces in Gaza which were under the control of Ghazi Jabali, an Arafat supporter. On 17 July, Al Aqsa brigade members seized Jabali, demanding that he be sacked for stealing £7m of PA money. Arafat had no choice but to comply. However, he then installed as replacement another loyalist, his cousin Moussa Arafat. Al Aqsa brigades denounced the appointment; in response Moussa Arafat sent his forces to seize control of TV and radio stations in Gaza as well as the main police stations. On the same day, Qureia offered his resignation as prime minister; Arafat rejected it since it would reinforce his political isolation. Continuing demonstrations in Gaza forced Yasser Arafat to capitulate, sacking his cousin on 19 July, 48 hours after making the appointment.

Neither PA faction offers any future for the people of Gaza. Israeli intentions are to cut Gaza loose, permanently separating it from the West Bank and ensuring it is no more than a huge prison camp for Palestinians completely under Zionist control. Arafat and Qureia are like warlords, fighting each other for control over the Gazan people rather than leading them and the mass of the Palestinian people in a struggle for liberation.

Meanwhile there has been no let-up in Zionist terror – although this has been completely unreported in the British press. Between 24 and 30 June, Zionist forces killed 17 Palestinians including two children. The following week, the death toll was again 17; this time six were children, whilst between 8 and 14 July, 13 Palestinians were murdered, including a woman and a child. In the three weeks, dozens were injured, and more than 130 houses were demolished. Amongst those killed was a 70-year-old man in his wheelchair crushed to death when Israeli bulldozers destroyed his house around him despite the protests of his family. Between 1 June and 19 July, 92 Palestinians were killed, and six Israelis. The UN Under-secretary General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast, reporting to the Security Council on 23 June, said that 3,437 Palestinians had died since the start of the Intifada compared to 942 Israelis, In the same period 33,770 Palestinians and 6,008 Israelis have been wounded.

The Israeli army has reported that house demolitions averaged 15 a month in 2002, rose to 45 a month in 2003, and now average nearly 100 a month in 2004. In the middle of June, the Israeli army issued orders for the confiscation of 4,500 acres of Palestinian land to extend the separation wall around the Ariel settlement which lies 20km inside the West Bank. The Israeli war machine grinds on relentlessly as the Zionists attempt to completely destroy the Palestinian people.

This is the backdrop to the petty feuding within the PA leadership. Having abandoned the struggle for national liberation with the 1993 Oslo peace agreement, its members are reduced to fighting each other for the tiny crumbs imperialism is prepared to hand them. The Zionists have meantime manoeuvred so that they negotiate not with the PA but with Egypt and Jordan – the situation that existed back in the 1970s and 1980s. Their common aim is the isolation and defeat of the revolutionary Intifada. Anti-imperialists must stand fast with the risen Palestinian people, and step up their solidarity actions.
Victory to the Palestinian people!

FRFI 180 August / September 2004


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