Illegal settlement in the West Bank continues

Throughout the Intifada, illegal Zionist settlements in Jerusalem and on the West Bank have continued to expand in defiance of the 1993 Oslo peace accords. About 40% of the West Bank is now taken up by Israeli infrastructure. This includes settlements, outposts, network of roads, roadblocks, checkpoints, military bases, nature reserves, closed military areas and the Apartheid Wall.

Today, about 450,000 Israeli settlers live in the Occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem – 57% in East Jerusalem. Between 1987 and 2007 the settler population increased by 150%, a rate of growth three times that of the Israeli population and twice that of the 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank. There are 149 settlements, nine industrial sites and over 100 outposts, of which 60% have been established since 2001.


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Palestine: Seven years of repression and resistance

The seventh anniversary of the start of the second Intifada on 29 September 2000 sees the Palestinian movement at one of its lowest ebbs ever, with Fatah openly acting as an agent of imperialism and Hamas, its anti-imperialist wing, isolated internationally. Imperialism has always been determined to deny the Palestinian people their right to national self-determination, all the more so since the invasion of Iraq. The reason for this is the strategic importance of the Middle East for imperialism. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

The Palestinian people’s struggle has always had the potential to detonate a wider revolutionary struggle for democratic rights across the Middle East: it has become the symbol and hope of all the poor and oppressed in the region. A victory for the revolutionary struggle of the Palestinians would be catastrophic for the interests of imperialism and act as a beacon of hope for the oppressed millions of the Middle East. For this reason imperialism and its Zionist henchmen have taken every step to prevent it.


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Israel’s squeeze on Gaza

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel has cut supplies of diesel to Gaza by more than 40% since 28 October, and supplies of industrial gasoline, vital for Gaza’s power plant, by about 9%. This is the latest step in an ever-tightening economic blockade of Gaza. Its economy is now on the brink of collapse. Of the estimated 5,000 small industrial workshops in Gaza, 95% are now closed, and 80% of the population are dependent on food aid from UN agencies. The situation is made worse by the decision of the PA in the West Bank to stop the payment of wages in the next fiscal year to 17,000 PA employees in Gaza.

The main border crossings from Gaza have been effectively closed since June, with Israel stopping medical supplies and preventing the exit of severely ill Palestinians for medical treatment. According to the head of UNRWA: ‘Restrictions imposed by the occupying power result in Gaza’s hospitals being deprived of necessary medical equipment and supplies (91 drugs are now at zero stocks in Gaza, including many for children in the primary health care centres). At the same time, the closure of the Erez and Rafah crossings result in many seriously ill people being denied the opportunity to seek medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank or Egypt.’


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Apartheid Wall: construction continues apace

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 56.5% of the 721 km Apartheid Wall on the West Bank had already been built by May 2007, with work continuing on a further 10%. When complete, the Wall will annex between 47% and 60% of the West Bank, corralling over 92 Palestinian villages and communities with a population of almost half a million into Bantustans, ghettos and ‘military zones’. The Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will be forced to live on 12% of Mandate Palestine

Over the last few months the Zionists’ JCB and Caterpillar bulldozers have continued building the Wall around Ma’ale Adoumim city settlement, which will completely separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. In the Salfit district, the most fertile area of the West Bank, almost all the Wall is complete, isolating more than 70% of the district’s land. Construction has also continued around the Gush ’Etzium settlement bloc which will sever the last route between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, isolating the majority of Bethlehem’s agricultural land.


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Palestine: Abbas acts for imperialism

In the run-up to the US-organised Middle East Peace Conference in Annapolis at the end of November, the open collaboration between Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and his Fatah-dominated government with Israel and the forces of imperialism continues to gather momentum. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

In the West Bank the PA government has signed up to a US-funded ‘security plan’ centred on Nablus, which has as its aim the disarming and dismantling of all the resistance forces there. In a speech marking Palestine National Day on 15 November, Abbas called for the toppling of the Hamas government in Gaza. This effectively gives the green light to an Israeli invasion of Gaza as they are the only military force capable of answering Abbas’s call. On 23 November, the Arab League lent a spurious credibility to the Annapolis conference by agreeing to send representatives.


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Palestine: Gazans break the blockade

On 23 January, Hamas militants blasted a huge hole in the border fence between Gaza and Egypt, allowing tens of thousands of Palestinians to break the intensified Zionist blockade and stock up with essential provisions. As Palestinians celebrated the victory, however, the US insisted that Egypt move immediately to seal the border once more. The Mubarak government meekly submitted to this flagrant US interference and started to erect a barbed wire barrier on 25 January. They failed. Thousands of Palestinians confronted Egyptian riot police, who could not contain them as Hamas fighters used a bulldozer to make further holes in the border fence. BOB SHEPHERD reports.


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Palestine: resistance puts pressure on Abbas

Despite the appalling slaughter of over 120 Palestinians during the first week of March, the Zionists remain unable to destroy the resistance of the people of Gaza. Rockets continue to be fired into Israel; ominously from the standpoint of imperialism, demonstrations in support of the beleaguered people took place in the West Bank and in Israel itself. The Zionists are no nearer to destroying the democratically-elected Hamas government, and nor are Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah allies able to extend their writ beyond the West Bank. Instead there is now talk of a possible cease-fire. Bob Shepherd reports.

Last November’s Annapolis peace conference was supposedly the start of a process to end the ‘Palestinian– Israeli conflict’ and establish a viable Palestinian state by the end of 2008. They said all the Palestinians had to do to make this vision a reality was to reject Hamas and its resistance to the Israeli occupation. The imperialists would help by delivering some real economic benefits to the Palestinian people on the West Bank and so bolster the position of Abbas and his illegitimate, unelected government. The ‘benefits’ of Abbas’s collaboration with imperialism and Israel could then be contrasted to the supposed ‘failures’ of Hamas’s resistance strategy in Gaza.


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Palestine: 60 years after the Nakba, Palestinian resistance continues

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’.


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Hizbullah prisoner swap points the way for Palestinian resistance

On 16 July Hizbullah agreed a prisoner swap which saw Israel forced to release five Lebanese political prisoners and the remains of 199 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters in return for the remains of the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbullah in 2006. Bob Shepherd reports.

The prisoner swap sealed a political victory for Hizbullah and confirmed the defeat Israel suffered in 2006. Israel was forced to release Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese fighter accused of killing three Israelis in 1979. Meanwhile Hamas and the Palestinian resistance are demanding the release of up to 450 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in Gaza in 2006.

Hizbullah General Secretary Nasrallah stated: ‘The main element that made us reach [our goal] is steadfastness and victory in the face of the 2006 aggression, and the enemy’s failure to reach any of its goals...If we had been defeated in July 2006, Samir and the martyrs would not have been returned today...the period of defeat is over and the time of victory has arrived’. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri acknowledged  that this was a major victory for the resistance and for Hizbullah.


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Labour targets anti-Zionists

On 21 March, Minister for Communities Hazel Blears suspended contact with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), alleging that its deputy general secretary, Dr Daud Abdullah, had endorsed a Hamas call for attacks on foreign troops, which might include British troops, if they try to intercept arms smuggled into Gaza. Blears’ stand is consistent with Labour’s new anti-terrorist strategy Contest 2 which seeks to confront those who reject ‘our shared values’. In a letter to The Guardian, Blears claims without evidence that the declaration advocates ‘attacks on Jewish communities all around the world’. She has insisted that Daud either stand down or be dismissed from his post before the government resumes contact with the MCB. Not surprisingly the MCB refuses to comply: it would lose all credibility within the Muslim community if it capitulated to such crude threats.


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As a deluge of reports appear about Israeli war crimes during the December-January invasion of Gaza, one fact cannot be forgotten: the Palestinian people remain undefeated. Despite the Israeli atrocities and despite the continued siege of Gaza, there has been no rejection of the Hamas government in Gaza. On the other hand, the Palestine Authority under Mahmoud Abbas has been completely discredited by its collusion with the Zionists and imperialism. In Britain, the Labour Party, which completely supported the Zionist onslaught, is now trying to isolate those who support the Palestinian people by threatening to cut links with the Muslim Council of Britain, while police are rounding up protesters from the January demonstrations in London against the attack on Gaza. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

On 19 March, Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, reported to the UN Human Rights Council that Israel’s military onslaught on Gaza ‘would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law’. He described the assault as ‘an inhuman form of warfare that kills, maims and inflicts mental harm’. A series of reports, testimonies and revelations and the many accounts given by Palestinians in Gaza of the atrocities committed by Israeli forces during the onslaught confirm his report.


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Palestine: Break Gaza blockade

The six-month long ceasefire agreed between Israel and Hamas on 19 June reached its halfway mark on 19 September. The benefit of a ceasefire agreement for Hamas and the people of Gaza was supposed to be the opening of the border crossings between Gaza and Israel and the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. In reality, Israel has continually closed the border crossings it controls whilst Egypt, following instructions from its imperialist paymasters, has refused to permanently open the Rafah crossing. Bob Shepherd reports.


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Palestine: Gaza under siege

As the six-month ceasefire in Gaza entered its final month before a planned renegotiation on 19 December, living conditions for the inhabitants of Gaza reached a terrible new low. On the night of 4 November Israeli forces entered the Gaza Strip and killed six fighters from Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades. In retaliation the Qassam Brigades and other resistance groups fired up to 50 rockets into Israel. Israel immediately shut all Gaza border crossings, turning what was already a desperate situation for the people there into an impending ‘humanitarian disaster’, according to John Ging, the director of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) operations in Gaza.

On 13 November Ging said ‘We cannot describe the situation in the Gaza Strip except as a terrible and terrifying one. There are 750,000 refugees who depend on what we offer them in food supplies. Israel is preventing us from distributing these supplies.’ On 17 November Israel allowed a limited number of trucks carrying supplies for UNRWA to cross into Gaza and then immediately resealed the borders. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, declared on 18 November ‘By function of this blockade 1.5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months... only a full lifting of the blockade followed by a strong humanitarian response will be adequate to relieve the massive humanitarian suffering evident in Gaza today’.


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BBC lies and distortions

Napoleon once remarked that he would give three regiments for a newspaper. Management of the media during war is part of psychological operations; intended to maximise the scope of military actions and their effectiveness. In The Art of War Sun Tzu observed that ‘Military force is based upon deception.’ Thus for Israeli war planners the criminal is presented as the victim and the aggressor as the defender. Reviewing their latest operations, the Israeli military will be satisfied that the media in the major imperialist countries was successfully managed, the BBC being a prime example. This portends future slaughter.

The attack was planned months ago together with the supporting media campaign and the public relations staff carefully selected and rehearsed. All international journalists were banned from going into Gaza for the duration of the assault. Like the BBC’s Michael Sergeant, they were held in Jerusalem or, like the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, they were embedded with Israeli forces in Israel close to Gaza. Subsequently they relied on the Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre for reports which re-cycled Israeli Defence Ministry briefings. Schools, mosques and hospitals became ‘Hamas infrastructure’ and ‘Hamas leader killed in air strike’ (BBC website) was the illegal murder of 16 Palestinians, including 11 children. Ten houses were destroyed in the attack. Israeli control of information included the confiscation of all their troops’ mobile phones; during the 2006 invasion of Lebanon Israeli soldiers phoned home for help and to describe what was happening.


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Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia condemn Israeli attack on Gaza

The expulsion by the Venezuelan and Bolivian governments of their respective Israeli ambassadors over the attack on Gaza was a vital act of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

The Cuban government issued a statement of condemnation within hours of the Israeli attack starting, describing it as ‘criminal’. The statement pointed out that the attack ‘is occurring in the midst of the illegal blockade imposed for the last 18 months by the Israeli government on the Gaza Strip and directed at annihilating the Palestinian population, including children, women and the elderly, and forcing them to surrender out of hunger and sickness.’ The statement urged ‘the international community to condemn the massacre and to request an immediate end for the attacks against the Palestinian civil population. Cuba reiterates its unswerving solidarity and support for the heroic and long-suffering Palestinian people.’


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Britain: new forces threaten old alliances

There was a huge outburst of anger across Britain at Israel’s attack on Gaza. Demonstrations on 3 January were unprecedented in their spread throughout the country. A week later, upwards of 50,000 marched in London, 10,000 in Edinburgh, and 5,000 in Birmingham. In some cities, there were several protests a week; on 17 January there were further protests across the country.

On 23 January, protestors entered the EDO arms factory near Brighton, which manufactures components for Israeli F15 and F16 aircraft and Hellfire missiles, and ‘decommissioned’ the equipment they found. Six were arrested. Seventeen universities and BBC buildings in London, Man chester and Glasgow were occupied.


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Palestinian resistance in Israel

As the Zionist onslaught on Gaza started, for the first time since the 1948 Nakba, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel from the Galilee in the north, to Jaffa, and the Negev in the south, took to the streets of their towns, cities and villages in solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in Gaza. In the first week after the war, more than 150,000 demonstrated in the Palestinian city of Sakhneen. In the following week, over 100,000 demonstrated in different cities.


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Britain supplies the weapons that kill Palestinian children

In November 2008 Labour government Business Secretary Lord Mandelson told a City of London Mansion House audience he wanted closer ties with our ‘firm friend’ Israel. The target was bilateral trade worth £3 billion a year by 2012, up from £2.3 billion in 2007. British exports to Israel have averaged about £1.8 billion and imports £1.25 billion a year since 1997. Imported goods from Israel rose from £839 million in 1997 to £1.04 billion in 2007. Israel’s major trade partners are the US, Britain and Germany. The EU is Israel’s largest export market and second main source of imports after the US. Israel is part of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership intended to promote free trade across the EU’s southern periphery.


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Labour friends of Zionism

labour friends of israel
Stav Shaffir addressing the LFI conference in Brighton, as shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and Israeli ambassador to Britain Mark Regev look on

Throughout the war Labour was determined to show that it supported Israel whatever the opinions of the majority of people in the country. Although on 29 December Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was ‘appalled’ by the violence, two days later he was clearly laying the blame on Hamas:

‘I call on Gazan militants to cease all rocket attacks on Israel immediately. These attacks are designed to cause random destruction and to undermine the prospects of peace talks led by President Abbas. I understand the Israeli government’s sense of obligation to its population.’


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Israel’s terror weapons

FRFI 207 February / March 2009

From early on during the onslaught on Gaza it became evident that the Israelis were using munitions whose purpose was to create the maximum harm to civilians. Two such were DIME munitions and white phosphorus.

DIME – Dense Inert Metal Explosive
DIME bombs produce a powerful and lethal blast within a radius of 5-10 metres, spraying a superheated powder of Heavy Metal Tungsten Alloy (HMTA). Scientific studies have found that HMTA is chemically toxic, damages the immune system and rapidly causes cancer. DIME was developed for use in urban conflicts at the US Air Force Research Laboratory. The people of Gaza suffered injuries consistent with the use of DIME in July 2006 from munitions launched by Israeli drones.


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The savage Israeli onslaught on Gaza, ‘Operation Cast Lead’, which left 1,300 Palestinians dead including 280 children, and over 50,000 homeless, was a calculated act to break the resistance of the Palestinian people.

For three weeks, while horrific pictures filled our TV screens, imperialist politicians repeated the mantra that Hamas must stop launching rockets into southern Israel, and refused to do anything to stop the slaughter, or in the case of the US, condoned it. No wonder that following the ceasefire on 20 January, Hamas leader Khalid Mishaal condemned the EU, declaring ‘Shame on you, it is a crime that you failed to stop the aggression on us and then stop us using the weapons of resistance. This is a disgrace to Europe.’ Israel had targeted schools, hospitals, medical workers, mosques and UN buildings, and used white phosphorus shells and experimental DIME weapons in its onslaught. BOB SHEPHERD reports.


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Who speaks for the Palestinian people?


The savage Zionist onslaught on Gaza was yet another step towards Israel’s ultimate aim of destroying the Palestinian people. The issue was never Hamas rocket attacks, it was to complete the subjugation of the Gazan population. In this the Zionists failed. The Palestinian struggle for national liberation is one that communists and anti-imperialists throughout the world must support, for whilst the Palestinian people resist, imperialist control of the Middle East will always be under threat.


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