Israel: a racist settler state

The decision of the Israeli Cabinet on 23 November 2014 to place a Jewish Nation Bill before the Israeli parliament has confirmed once more the racist core of the Zionist project. If approved, it will legalise the de facto position of Palestinian people living in Israel as second-class citizens. Full citizenship will only be open to Jewish people; the Bill would also downgrade the status of Arabic as the second official language. The Bill comes in the wake of intensifying Israeli repression against Palestinian communities over the past few months stretching across the West Bank, Jerusalem and into Israel itself. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

The proposed Bill has been accompanied by a proposal to take away rights such as National Insurance from Palestinian citizens who are arrested for ‘inciting violence’ or for throwing stones. Another one, approved by the Cabinet, is to increase the prison sentence for Palestinians found guilty of throwing stones at Israeli settlers to 20 years. The racist repressive nature of the Israeli state is becoming more and more open with calls to expel Palestinians now part of the political mainstream.

A combination of religious provocation, settler violence and an officially-sanctioned shoot-to-kill policy has led to an explosion of Palestinian anger and resistance on the streets. In both Jerusalem and Galilee, Israeli forces have used a shoot-to-kill policy which is so transparent that it has been condemned by Amnesty and other international human rights groups. Alongside continuing attempts to force Palestinians out of East Jerusalem, the Zionist state has also been engaged in provocations against Palestinian worshippers in the Haram Al Sharif or Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem. Haram Al Sharif is a unifying national symbol for all Palestinians as well as being the third most important religious site for Muslims across the world.

Protected by Israeli security forces, Zionist religious fanatics have been forcing their way more and more often into the Haram Al Sharif compound. The compound includes both the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Claiming that the compound is the site of two Jewish temples built thousands of years ago, the fanatics want to demolish the mosque and build a further temple on the site. Palestinian opposition to these invasions of their religious sites has been met with rubber bullets and tear gas injuring 36 people in just four days at the beginning of October. Israeli forces also imposed restrictions on Palestinian worshippers entering the compound, based on age and gender; these were lifted under US pressure on 14 November. There are outright bans on some Jewish holidays preventing Palestinians from entering the compound to pray at Al Aqsa mosque. Connected to this is a drive to increase Jewish settlements in Palestinian districts of East Jerusalem which border the compound, especially in the district of Silwan where Zionist settlers have recently occupied two sets of buildings with over 35 apartments which they had bought from absentee landlords.

Daily demonstrations against Israel’s actions in Jerusalem have been taking place in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank with Israeli forces using tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators. On 16 October Israeli forces shot dead a 13-year-old Palestinian boy near Ramallah, and then on 24 October a 14-year-old boy in a nearby district, bringing the number of Palestinian dead in 2014 on the West Bank to 45, including 12 children.

Palestinians have responded with a mixture of anger and desperation to the ongoing repression in Jerusalem. On 22 October a young man from Silwan drove his car into passengers getting off the rail system in the city killing a young child in the process. Israeli police shot him dead almost immediately, ensuring no trial would determine whether the act was deliberate or not. This didn’t prevent Israeli officials calling it a ‘terror attack’. On 29 October, Yehuda Glick, one of the leaders of the Zionist religious organisation The Temple Mount Faithful, who are at the forefront of calling for the building of a third temple, was shot and wounded as he left a conference in Jerusalem on the building of a Temple on the ruins of Al Aqsa. His alleged attacker was summarily shot dead by Israeli forces. On 5 November another Palestinian was executed after driving his car into a crowd of train passengers. Following this incident the Israeli Public Services Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, openly advocated a shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinians, ‘The action of the Border police officer who chased the terrorist and quickly killed him is the right and professional action, and that is the way I would want these actions to end’.

Late in the night of 7 November in Kafr Kana, Galilee, the police took Aharonovitch’s advice and shot dead a young unarmed Palestinian who had been protesting at his cousin’s arrest. Local people came out demonstrating their opposition to the murderous actions of the Israeli police and a general strike took place across Galilee and Negev the next day. The response of Netanyahu was to order the Interior Minister to investigate whether it was possible to remove the citizenship of those arrested in the protests, and to urge the Palestinians demonstrators ‘to move to the Palestinian Authority or to Gaza…Israel will not put any obstacles in your way’.

Israeli pressure on the 1.5 million-strong Palestinian minority within Israel has been increasing with attacks on mosques and churches taking place in Galilee and other areas. There are also concerted efforts to disenfranchise Palestinians within Israel by trying to ban the Islamic Movement, which does not take part in the electoral process, and by increasing the threshold for parties to enter the Knesset which will make it much more difficult for Arab-based parties to get MPs.

The scale of Israeli repression is now intense: over 200 Palestinians were arrested in East Jerusalem during the first three weeks of November, and nearly double that number across the West Bank. On 17 November the hanged body of a Palestinian bus driver was found in Jerusalem. Israeli authorities attempted to pass it off as a suicide, but his family said the body had bruises on it which suggested he had been tortured and then hanged. On 18 November members of the PFLP in an unofficial operation entered a Jewish religious establishment built on the site of Deir Yassin and killed five people including two police officers. They declared that the action was in response to the ‘ongoing racist policies and crimes of the occupation’ which includes ‘taking unprecedented measures against Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem on a daily basis’.

End British support for Israel!
Boycott Israel!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 242 December 2014/January 2015

Palestine - Zionists renege on ceasefire agreement

protest in Ramallah on the West Bank in July against the Israel onslaught on Gaza

As we go to press, Israel has already reneged on the terms of a ceasefire agreement it signed with Palestinian representatives on 26 August. Under the terms of the agreement, Israel was supposed to reopen its border crossings to allow building material into Gaza for the massive reconstruction needed. This has not happened. The fishing limit for Gaza fishermen was to be extended to six miles; the Union of Gaza Fishermen stated that Israeli gunboats had ‘been firing at fishermen every day since the ceasefire agreement was signed’. The Zionists are doing what they always do when faced with a setback: delay and obstruct. They now want to restrict the scope of a second round of talks to security questions rather than topics decided on in the first round such as the opening up of a seaport and airport for Gaza and prisoner release. Bob Shepherd reports.

On 26 August, after 50 days of bombarding Gaza by land, sea and air, Israel agreed a permanent ceasefire with Hamas and the Palestinian resistance. The onslaught on Gaza has left nearly 2,200 Palestinians dead and over 11,000 injured. Despite the carnage, the Zionists failed to achieve any of their shifting war aims. They had not been able to stop the rocket attacks, there is no evidence that they had located or destroyed the network of defensive tunnels which, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu, spread like a spider’s web under Israel itself, and they had not been able to destroy the military infrastructure of the resistance in Gaza. Most importantly, the Zionists had been unable to shift the balance of Palestinian power away from Hamas and the resistance towards Mahmoud Abbas and his pro-imperialist Palestinian Authority (PA).

Among the nearly 2,200 Palestinian dead were 581 children; of those injured 3,400 were children, 1,000 of whom will be left with permanent disabilities. The onslaught has created around 1,500 orphans. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) around 18,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged leaving more than 108,000 people homeless. At the height of the blitzkrieg over 500,000 people were forced to flee their homes and move into UN shelters or other accommodation where tens of thousands remain. Shelter Cluster, an NGO associated with the UN, predicted it would take 20 years to rebuild Gaza even if there were no blockade.

Gaza’s power plant was bombed and put out of action on 29 July, leaving Gaza with only six hours’ electricity a day. Water and sewage networks were targeted so that only 10% of the population has a daily water supply and then only for six hours a day. 50% of Gaza’s population can only get water once every four days. According to the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, 161 mosques were destroyed or damaged, as were eight hospitals – six of which were put out of action – 46 NGO offices and 50 fishing boats. The Ministry of Education has reported 26 schools destroyed and 122 damaged. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation calculates that about 42,000 acres of Gaza farmland has been contaminated with explosive remnants, and half of Gaza’s poultry stock has been lost.

In the days leading up to the ceasefire Israel targeted high-rise blocks in Gaza City, destroying the 16-storey Little Italy complex and the 15-storey Basha Tower; these were home to middle class families and contained many shops and offices. In Rafah, a major shopping centre built in 1998 with Norwegian and Dutch backing was destroyed just days before the truce.

The Zionists targeted UNRWA centres to which they had instructed Palestinians to flee; direct hits were recorded on six UNRWA-administered schools. The UN Secretary General issued a statement after the shelling of its Jabalia School on 29 July which killed 15 people condemning that act and describing it as ‘a serious violation of international law’. The statement read: ‘Last night children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a designated UN shelter in Gaza’, and continued:

‘Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school, in which 3,300 people had sought refuge…The precise location of the Jabalia Elementary Girls School and the fact that it was housing thousands of internally displaced people was communicated to the Israeli army 17 times, to ensure its protection.’

Among the clinical facilities hit were rehabilitation centres for the disabled. Sawsan Al Khalili, the secretary of the General Federation for the Disabled said, ‘The occupation targeted nine institutions concerned with the affairs of the disabled in the Gaza Strip and some of them are completely destroyed now, including Al Wafa Hospital for Rehabilitation.’

Both the US and British governments defended the Israeli onslaught. Any minor criticism they made of its ferocity was qualified by asserting Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas rocket attacks. This was also the position taken by Labour Party leader Ed Miliband who said:

‘I have seen for myself the fear in Israel from the unjustified and appalling rocket attacks launched by Hamas from Gaza. I defend Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks.’

Miliband opposed Israel’s land invasion, not through any sympathy for the position of the Palestinian people, but because it might add fuel to the resistance:

‘as a party we oppose the further escalation of violence we have seen with Israel’s invasion of Gaza…we know what happens next. More loss of life, more Palestinian suffering, more hatred and more recruits to the ranks of terrorist groups like Hamas.’

Israel remains an important ally for imperialism in the Middle East. However it needed to be brought back under control so that the US and Britain could persuade Arab states to join their coalition against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria. In addition, the massive protests and world-wide condemnation led by Latin American countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela had rocked the imperialists. They had to force the Zionists to stand back.

The ceasefire agreement and the Palestinian Authority

The ceasefire agreement which would allow reconstruction material, food, medical aid and other humanitarian supplies into Gaza was brokered by the Egyptian military dictatorship of General Al Sisi, another imperialist ally. A conference scheduled for the end of September to consider questions such as the rebuilding of Gaza airport and a new seaport together with the release of prisoners has been postponed until the end of October. Israel is intent on delaying any second round of talks for as long as possible, and continuing its blockade of Gaza. Netanyahu has declared that talks will be solely about Israel’s security interests and the disarming of the Palestinian resistance:

‘When Gaza is demilitarised and abandons the goal of destroying Israel, we are open to considering anything…The real issue is whether we can ensure Israel’s vital security interests, and enable the reconstruction of Gaza and humanitarian assistance under our security requirements. That, I think, will be the focus of what will be discussed, and certainly the focus of our current policies.’

Although Egypt is allowing foreign passport holders and some selected individuals to pass through the Rafah crossing, it refuses to open it fully unless PA security forces take control of the Gaza side. This is an attempt to promote the position of the collaborationists and undermine that of Hamas. With the formation of a new Palestinian National Unity Government on 3 June, the PA is now theoretically in charge of both West Bank and Gaza security, and the Egyptians seek to exploit this. During July, PA security forces broke up demonstrations on the West Bank in support of Gaza. It was only in August following the massive displays of support across the world for Gaza that the PA allowed such demonstrations to take place; these were attacked by Zionist troops who killed dozens of protestors.

The attempt to isolate and defeat the Palestinian resistance forces has failed, while the status of Abbas and the PA has fallen to new lows. The fact that the Zionists could not achieve their aims, combined with its significant military losses – 66 soldiers killed and over 500 injured – is seen by many Palestinians as a justification of resistance. As Jamil Mizher, member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and leader of its branch in Gaza states,

‘One of the most important achievements of our people in the recent Zionist aggression is the failure of the occupation to achieve any of its stated goals, such as ending the firing of rockets – resistance factions launched missiles until the last minute; failing to disarm the resistance; failing to destroy the tunnels; failing to undermine Palestinian national unity. This comes in addition to the popular embrace of the resistance…it is resistance, unity and steadfastness of our people that can achieve victory over this criminal enemy…The path of Oslo, negotiations and security coordination must be left forever.’

Repression and settlement expansion in the West Bank

Five days into the ceasefire Israel announced the confiscation of the single largest bundle of Palestinian land for over 30 years in the West Bank. Around 1,000 acres of privately-owned Palestinian land south of Bethlehem has been stolen for settlement expansion. This is in addition to the announcement in mid-June of plans for the construction of over 1,470 new settler homes across the West Bank. According to the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, Israel has demolished 359 Palestinian buildings in the West Bank so far this year.

At the beginning of September Israel published its ‘Nwemia plans’ which, according to UNRWA, could see up to 12,000 Palestinian Bedouins forcibly evicted from their homes in the West Bank and transferred to an area near Jericho by a massive refuse dump. The threatened Bedouin communities are originally refugees from the Negev in southern Israel; they oppose their eviction and are demanding their right to return to live in their ancestral home. Then on 23 September in a raid on Hebron, Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinians they claimed were connected with the disappearance of the three young Israeli settlers in June. A Hamas spokesperson condemned the role of the PA in the killings saying, ‘this assassination couldn’t have succeeded without security co-ordination in the West Bank’.

The Zionists want to send a message to the Palestinians that Israel will continue to do as it wishes, knowing that it will face no real opposition from Abbas and the PA. The difference now is that the resistance in Gaza is pointing out a new path for the youth in the West Bank. As a spokesperson for the prisoners’ rights group Adameer said: ‘Israel thinks they will be able to suppress resistance but it has the opposite effect. It will encourage Palestinians to continue protesting.’

Victory to the Palestinian People!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 241 October/November 2014

50 days of terror: Israel’s onslaught on Gaza

 PFLP mass march and military rally in Gaza

On 26 August, after 50 days of bombarding Gaza by land, sea and air, Israel agreed a permanent ceasefire with Hamas and the Palestinian resistance. The onslaught on Gaza had become a massacre, leaving over 2,100 Palestinians dead and over 11,000 injured. Despite the carnage, the Zionists had failed to achieve their shifting war aims. They had not been able to stop the rocket attacks, there is no evidence that they had located or destroyed the network of defensive tunnels which, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu, spread like a spider’s web under Israel itself, and they had certainly not been able to destroy the military infrastructure of the resistance in Gaza. Most importantly, the Zionists had been unable to shift the balance of Palestinian power away from Hamas and the resistance towards Mahmoud Abbas and his pliant pro-imperialist Palestinian Authority (PA).

Read more ...

Solidarity with the Shenstone 9

On 5 August a group of activists from London Palestine Action (LPA) occupied the roof and chained shut the doors of a weapons factory in Shenstone, north of Birmingham. The factory is owned by Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Engines, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military company and the world’s largest producer of drones. Drones produced by Elbit Systems have been used in the massacre in Gaza, and the Shenstone factory produced engines that were exported to Israel in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The occupation lasted until the evening of 6 August, shutting down production for two days.

The activists occupied the factory in opposition to British imperialist support for Israel and to demand an end to Britain arming the Zionist state.. One of the largest investors in Elbit Systems is Barclays Bank, which is not only one of the leading investors in the global arms trade, but also the high street bank with the largest direct investments in Israel. Just as Barclays profited from the apartheid regime in South Africa, so today it profits from Israeli apartheid.

During the occupation there were multiple solidarity protests outside the factory. The police sought to intimidate those protesting in support of the LPA activists on the roof and also attempted to stop Russia Today live-streaming the protest. After police negotiators had agreed for an 18.30 BBC live-feed for protesters to send a message out on television, police climbers arrested the activists who remained on the roof during the broadcast. They were taken to Stafford police station where nine of them were charged with aggravated trespass and will attend Stafford Court on 20 August.

The brave action of those involved in the occupation is an example of the new forces that are driving the Palestinian solidarity movement forward. An independent, democratic and sustained movement prepared to take part in militant solidarity actions is now required to help achieve the aims of the LPA activists who sought to stop Britain from arming Israel. The Revolutionary Communist Group encourages all supporters and readers to show solidarity with the arrested demonstrators and to picket the court in solidarity with the Shenstone 9. We also call upon supporters to take to the streets in support of the people of Palestine and help build a militant, democratic movement that seeks to end British imperialist support for Israel.


Victoria Smith

On the streets (and in M&S) in support of Gaza

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

19 July, Manchester: Marks & Spencer invaded by protesters

FRFI has always stood in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for national liberation and has held numerous pickets, public meetings and film showings since the start of the second Intifada in September 2000. From the start of the current onslaught on Gaza, FRFI has been joining with others in mobilising support across the country for the people of Gaza.

On the national march to the Israeli embassy in London on 19 July, FRFI supporters ran an open mic on a mobile sound system throughout the march, allowing anybody who wished to speak to do so. In Manchester, successive Saturdays have seen FRFI mobilise 2-300 people for rolling pickets of stores selling Israeli goods. On 19 July protesters took over a Barclays Bank in the centre of the city, and then stormed into Marks & Spencer at the bottom of Market Street to occupy its second floor. In Liverpool, FRFI joined with others determined to see some real action for Gaza and organised a 150-strong march and rolling picket down Church Street. Newcastle FRFI has worked with others in the Palestine Action Group (PAG), set up in 2009 by FRFI and independent activists frustrated by the inactivity of the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), organising a 100-strong protest in the city centre both inside and outside shops and banks that support Israel. A week later, PAG overturned police restrictions on a protest against the BBC, to demonstrate immediately outside the entrance to the building.

Because the British ruling class depends on Israel to protect its interests in the Middle East, mass direct action is needed to break the link with Zionism– moral appeals and passive vigils will never be enough. We need to target the critical links between British capitalism and the Israeli state: banks like HSBC, which underwrites the Israeli state budget; Barclays, which profits from arms sales to Israel; and companies like M&S, which sells £250m of Israeli goods each year.

Labour politicians have been challenged over the party’s support for Israel. In Glasgow on 19 July, Anas Sarawar, Labour MP and deputy leader of the party in Scotland, was on the platform at a Stop the War demonstration, where he was met with boos and shouts of ‘hypocrite!’ from the crowd, and eventually forced off the platform to chants of ‘Off, off, off!’.

New forces are driving the movement forward, and are bypassing local PSC groups if they are not prepared to lead militant solidarity actions. On 12 July an independently-organised mobilisation across Lancashire and West Yorkshire brought around 4,000 people to converge on the BBC in Manchester in a ‘Drive for Justice’, and many smaller actions have been taking place across Britain. The task now is to organise all those who see the need for an independent, democratic and sustained movement. FRFI is committed to that and we have shown that our approach brings results – join us!

22 July, at the BBC in Newcastle

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