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

Catalunya: Solidarity with Palestine! Stop complicity!

In Catalunya, as in Europe and across the world, the movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people is growing. Tens of thousands of people in Barcelona and cities and towns across the Autonomous Community have taken part in protests and actions since the latest slaughter in Gaza began. The strength of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is also increasing, demanding an immediate end to collaboration between the governments of both Catalunya and the Spanish state with the Zionist regime. However, the BDS movement is also exposing the role of the Zionist regime in repression within Europe itself. Solidarity with Palestine must be central to the social movements fighting austerity at home. JOEY SIMONS reports from Barcelona.

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Gaza: Days of rage - ‘Either we live in dignity or we all die’

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

On the night of 7/8 July 2014 Israel launched its latest terrorist onslaught on Palestine. ‘Operation Protective Edge’, a campaign of military terror and collective punishment against the people of Gaza, is aimed at political submission. The Zionist state stepped up its assault when, on the evening of 17 July, it began a ground invasion. Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz declared ‘Despite the fact it will be hard, complicated and costly, we will have to take over Gaza temporarily, for a few weeks, to cut off the strengthening of this terror army.’ As we go to press, however, it is evident that the Zionists are failing to meet their objectives. Bob Shepherd reports.

Israel’s last ground invasion of Gaza took place during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, an operation that killed over 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians. The death toll of the current invasion is rising rapidly: as we go to press, there are over 1,000 dead and 5,000 injured. An estimated 25% of the dead and wounded are children – some 200. Over 120,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in UNRWA buildings and shelters. Israel claims its campaign is to stop Hamas rocket attacks. Britain, the US and their pro-imperialist media corporations are supporting this grotesque parody of the truth.

The destruction of Gaza and the brutal human cost being paid by Palestinians has nothing to do with rocket attacks. The real reason is the recent Hamas–Fatah agreement, and the growing spirit of anti-occupation and anti-racist resistance in Palestinian towns, cities and refugee camps. It is a political campaign of ethnic cleansing. The US plan to negotiate new terms for the occupation is dead and buried. The effort to force Palestinians to support the PA in rejecting resistance has failed. A new uprising is under way.

Israeli bombing campaign and war crimes

Zionist defence minister Moshe Ya’alon said the operation is aimed at hitting Hamas to ‘make it pay a heavy price’. The heavy price is being paid by ordinary Palestinians with Israel reported to have used new DIME shells and gas in attacks on civilians. At dawn on Sunday 20 July Israel began a bombardment of Shujaia, a district in East Gaza City. By midday it was clear they had committed a massacre; at least 60 people were reported dead and 400 wounded. Medical staff and ambulances were only able to enter the area during what was supposed to be a two-hour lull in the bombardment negotiated by the Red Cross; however the lull only lasted for one hour before the Israeli military resumed its murderous assault. Other crimes include:

  • On 8 July the bombing of the home of the Al Kaware family, murdering eight, including six young children. On the same day, nine civilians were killed watching the World Cup in a beach café;
  • On 9 July the murder of eight members of one family, including five children, by an airstrike on Khan Younis refugee camp;
  • On 12 July the bombing of a mosque, a hospital and Gaza’s Centre for Disability Services – killing three young disabled women and injuring more than 10 others;
  • On 16 July the deliberate targeting, shelling and subsequent deaths of four young boys as they played football on the Gaza City beach;

Far from undermining support for the Palestinian resistance though, the brutal onslaught from Israel has increased it. Hounoud Abu Jarad declared after seeing eight members of her family die in a missile attack on her home: ‘Either we live in dignity or we all die…I totally support the resistance; they are our only chance to live in dignity. If this generation of the resistance is not victorious the new generation will carry on the fight. We will never give up after what has happened to us.’

On 15 July, Egypt proposed a ceasefire which was accepted by Israel. However, Hamas observed that accepting its terms would amount to little more than surrender. It had not been consulted over the proposal which had been cooked up by the US administration and transmitted by Middle East peace envoy and war criminal Tony Blair to the Egyptian military dictatorship. The proposal said nothing about ending the Zionist blockade of Gaza, a non-negotiable demand for Hamas and the resistance. However, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas supported the Egyptian offer; in response Hamas leader Fawzi Barhoum said:

‘The occupation has targeted Hamas because until now Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian resistance have consistently supported Palestinian rights and interests, while Abu Mazen (Abbas) has been negotiating with the occupation. The occupation has focused on Hamas and Islamic Jihad to get rid of them, to allow the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen… to spread their wings in Palestine, and it depends on security collaboration with them to cut down Hamas’

The Israeli bombing campaign is targeting hospitals and medical facilities. By 19 July, the Health Ministry said that 25 health institutions had been destroyed or damaged. Two days later, Israeli tanks shelled the Al Aqsa hospital in central Gaza killing five patients and medical staff. The Al Wafa hospital in Gaza City was destroyed after being hit by missile strikes. The medical situation is dire with essential supplies running out and no way to replace them. 52% of all medical supplies have run out including 28% of essential medicines.

The civilian infrastructure is being systematically destroyed. Israel says it has struck 3,000 targets since the assault began. The head of water facilities in Gaza Municipality stated that warplanes had targeted water wells, pipelines and sewage treatment plants saying, ‘the Israeli occupation is deliberately destroying the water wells in order to increase the human suffering during the hot summer season’. As an added measure Israel cut off all electricity supplies to Gaza on 19 July. Over 100 educational institutions have been damaged and the Ministry of Agriculture reported that agricultural land and facilities are being targeted with around 40 fishing boats destroyed or damaged. However, the Israeli ground troops are facing fierce resistance from Palestinian fighters; the Israeli army admitted it had lost 13 soldiers in one day on 20 July, making a total of at least 32 soldiers killed since the ground invasion began.

On 23 July an emergency session of the United Nations Human Rights Council called by Venezuela announced an investigation into Israeli war crimes committed during the invasion. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said ‘There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,’ citing air strikes and shelling of homes and hospitals. Recently-appointed British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond described the decision as ‘unhelpful’, but conceded that Britain had to abstain on the vote because of the ‘strength of feeling about the loss of life and the desire by a large number of members of the Council to express that feeling in a resolution.’ On 24 July, the Zionists shelled a school serving as a UN shelter, killing 13 people including children and UN staff, and injuring around 200. The Zionists claimed that it had given the occupants of the shelter time to leave before shelling the area. But the UN flatly contradicted that, saying it had made repeated attempts to negotiate a window during which people could leave the area safely but none was granted. It said it had given the IDF precise co-ordinates of the location of the school. It was the fourth time in two days the Zionists had shelled UN shelters.

Zionist lies
The justifications offered by Zionists and their apologists for the onslaught grow ever more grotesque. The Israeli ambassador to the UN claimed ‘our army is a moral army like no other in the world’ and that Hamas is ‘even using ambulances filled with children to move their terrorists around Gaza.’ Even more revolting is the claim by Economics Minister Naftali Bennett saying that the deaths of the four Bakr children were down to Hamas: ‘I think it is terrible that Hamas is butchering its own children’ and that Hamas ‘is conducting massive self-genocide, taking women and children and placing them next to missile launchers.’ US President Obama declared ‘No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks.’ On 9 July, British Prime Minister Cameron phoned Netanyahu to pledge his government’s support for Israeli actions; he had no comment about the deaths of seven Palestinian children the same day. According to a Downing Street official:

‘The Prime Minister strongly condemned the appalling attacks being carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians. The PM reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel in the face of such attacks, and underlined Israel’s right to defend itself from them.’

While opposing the Israeli invasion, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has made it clear that ‘I defend Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks’ and so dismissed the right of resistance against illegal occupation. The British media has once again shown where it stands. Four days into the campaign, when Israeli air strikes had hit 1,160 targets, both ITV and BBC news began their coverage with footage of air raid sirens in Tel Aviv with pictures of Israelis running for cover from Hamas rockets. A week earlier, following the deaths of the three settler teenagers kidnapped in the West Bank, BBC Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly displayed the racism of BBC coverage, claiming that ‘there was a special kind of chilling factor, a cold-blooded calculation to that crime that slightly sets it aside from the other waves of violence that we report on across the Middle East.’

What the media did not report were the anti-Palestinian riots which took place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with Zionist mobs roaming the streets chanting ‘death to Arabs’ and attacking Palestinians with clubs and stones. However they had no choice but to cover the horrific death of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. On 2 July, he was dragged into a car near his home at Shu’faat refugee camp by a group of Zionist settlers. During the kidnapping he was tortured, knocked unconscious, burned alive, and his body dumped in a forest near Deir Yassin, southwest of Jerusalem. The Palestinian forensic institute reports that 90% of Mohammed’s body was covered in burns. Two days later, settlers invaded the village of Osarin, kidnapping 22-year-old Tareq Ziad Odeily, drove him to an isolated area, where he was severely beaten, and stabbed before being left for dead. Mainstream Israeli politicians are now calling for the killing of all Palestinians in Gaza who support the resistance and the expulsion of the rest.

In January 2014 the UN reported that settler attacks on Palestinians have risen every year for the last eight years and had numbered 2,100 since 2006. The attacks include the burning of Palestinian crops, killing of animals, stoning of cars, graffiti and vandalism on mosques and in Palestinian communities and a range of violent acts from assault to outright murder to drive Palestinians out of their homes. The murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir was not an isolated ‘revenge attack’ by a hard-line group of settlers for the killing of the three settler teenagers, but part of a terror campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Opposition spreads
A groundswell of support on the West Bank was evident in a demonstration on 24 July when 10,000 Palestinians marched from Al Amari to the Qalandia checkpoint that separates Ramallah from Jerusalem, many carrying Palestinian flags and wearing black T-shirts with the slogan, ‘We are all Gaza.’ Zionist forces killed two of the protesters. This forced Abbas to declare the following day a ‘day of rage’, during which a further six Palestinians were killed amid widespread protests. Earlier in the week he had been forced to condemn the ‘brutal Israeli offensive in Gaza’ and call for a ceasefire that would lead to an opening of Gaza’s borders; the eradication of the Israeli-imposed buffer zone; the release of Hamas prisoners who were freed by Israel in 2011 and then recently rearrested; and a donor conference for the rebuilding of Gaza – basically these are Hamas’s conditions.

Call for solidarity action
On 20 June, just before the start of the onslaught on Gaza, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) issued an ‘Urgent Call for International Solidarity’ in response to an intensification of Zionist repression on the West Bank. On 8 July as the bombs began to rain down on Gaza, it reiterated the call, pointing out that the Palestinian people across historic Palestine were rising up against occupation and that now was the time to take solidarity action: ‘[We] urge action around the world. Palestine is under attack – and Palestine is resisting, on the path of Intifada. It is the time to act!’ The PFLP called for people to ‘take to the streets’, to ‘intensify the boycott’ and to occupy and shut down Israeli embassies and consulates.

Across the world there have been huge demonstrations in support of Gaza – in Latin America, Europe and across the Middle East. Condemnation of the invasion has come from many Latin American governments. The Maduro government was forthright: ‘Venezuela also rejects the cynical campaigns trying to condemn both parties equally, when it is clear you cannot morally compare occupied and massacred Palestine with the occupying state, Israel, which also possesses military superiority and acts on the margins of international law.’ Venezuela withdrew its ambassador in 2009 in response to Operation Cast Lead. Bolivian President Morales said it was time ‘to end the genocide that Israel is carrying out on Palestine.’ On 23 July, Ecuador announced it was withdrawing its ambassador in protest against the Gaza invasion. Significantly, Brazil followed the next day, its government saying ‘We strongly condemn the disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Gaza Strip, from which large numbers of civilian casualties, including women and children resulted.’ Argentina’s UN Security Council representative condemned the use of force in Gaza, describing the Zionist invasion as an ‘indiscriminate abuse of militarism’ while Chile suspended trade agreements and is considering withdrawing its ambassador.

The mounting international opposition together with the determination of the people of Palestine is making the imperialists waver. With US Secretary of State shuttling fruitlessly around the Middle East in the hope of securing a ceasefire, Hammond conceded to Sky News that ‘as this campaign goes on and the civilian casualties in Gaza mount, western opinion is becoming more and more concerned and less and less sympathetic to Israel’, adding ‘That’s simply a fact and I have to tell that to my Israeli counterparts.’

The Revolutionary Communist Group fully supports the call of the PFLP and has already organised and supported actions across the country (see opposite) and urges all its readers to participate in and organise solidarity actions in the areas where they live.

Solidarity with the Palestinian resistance!

Boycott Israel!

Onslaught on Gaza: ‘Take to the streets…intensify the boycott!’

On the night of 7/8 July Israel launched its latest racist onslaught on the people of Palestine ‘Operation Protective Edge’, a campaign of military terror and collective punishment on the Gaza Strip, designed to bomb the Palestinian people into political submission. The death toll is rising rapidly with over 160 dead and over 1,000 injured within the first five days of bombardment with an estimated 25% of the casualties being children. Israel claims their campaign of terror is necessary to stop Hamas 'rocket attacks' and is backed up in this grotesque parody of the truth by Britain, the US and their pro-imperialist media corporations. The destruction of Gaza and the brutal human cost being paid by Palestinians has nothing to do with ‘rocket attacks’ and everything to do with crushing the growing spirit of anti-occupation resistance in Palestinian towns, cities and refugee camps. This military assault is a political campaign. The US plan to 'negotiate' new terms for the occupation is dead and buried. The attempt to pacify Palestinians to follow a Palestinian Authority which rejects resistance has failed. A new uprising is under way in Palestine.

Israeli bombing campaign
Zionist defence minister Moshe Ya'alon says the operation is aimed at hitting Hamas to ‘make it pay a heavy price.’ The true price is once again being paid by ordinary Palestinians. On 12 July Israel bombed a mosque, a hospital and Gaza’s Centre for Disability Services – killing three young disabled women and injuring more than 10 others. On 9 July eight members of one family, including five children, were killed in an airstrike on Khan Younis refugee camp. A day earlier the home of the al Kaware family was bombed, murdering eight, including six young children. On the same day, Palestinian deaths included nine watching the World Cup in a beach cafe and a journalist's driver in a car clearly marked ‘TV’.

A ground invasion may be imminent. Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz claimed that, ‘Despite the fact it will be hard, complicated and costly, we will have to take over Gaza temporarily, for a few weeks, to cut off the strengthening of this terror army.’ Israel's last ground invasion of Gaza was the Operation Cast Lead bombardment in 2008-09 that killed 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians. Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is not ‘talking to anybody about a cease-fire right now. It’s not even on the agenda.’ On the night of 13 July, Israel began to tell people in the north of the Gaza Strip to leave their homes by midday on the Sunday ‘for their own safety’.

Israel’s terrorism is backed up by its imperialist sponsors. On the day that Operation Protective Edge was launched, a spokesman for US President Obama declared, ‘No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks.’ On 9 July, a day that Israeli missile attacks killed seven children, including two one year-olds and two three-year-olds, British Prime Minister David Cameron phoned Netanyahu to pledge his government’s support for Israeli actions. According to a Downing Street official: ‘The Prime Minister strongly condemned the appalling attacks being carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians...The PM reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel in the face of such attacks, and underlined Israel's right to defend itself from them.’

Since the onset of the crisis the British media has once again shown where it stands. Four days into a Gaza bombing campaign in which Israeli air strikes hit 1,160 targets, ITV and BBC news both felt compelled to begin their coverage with footage of air raid sirens in Tel Aviv with pictures of Israelis running for cover. No deaths were reported as a result of Hamas rocket attacks. A week earlier, following the deaths of the three kidnapped settlers in the West Bank, BBC Middle East correspondent Kevin Kelly displayed the inherent racism in the BBC's coverage, claiming that ‘there was a special kind of chilling factor, a cold-blooded calculation to that crime that slightly sets it aside from the other waves of violence that we report on across the Middle East.’

The horrific death of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was impossible for the media to ignore. On 2 July Mohammed was dragged into a car near his home at Shu'faat refugee camp by a group of fascist settlers. During the kidnapping he was tortured, knocked unconscious, burned alive, and his body dumped in a forest near Deir Yassin, southwest of Jerusalem. The Palestinian forensic institute reports that 90% of Mohammed's body was covered in burns. His death followed an upsurge in racist and fascist messages by right-wing Israelis on social media. Four soldiers were jailed for 10 days after posting pictures of themselves inciting violence. Anti-Palestinian riots took place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with Zionist mobs roaming the streets chanting ‘death to Arabs’ and attacking Palestinians with clubs and stones. Two days after the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Israeli racists invaded the village of Osarin, kidnapping 22 year-old Tareq Ziad Odeily. After forcing Tareq into their car the settlers sprayed his eyes with pepper-spray before driving him to an isolated area, where he was severely beaten and stabbed before being left for dead. At the time of writing, Tareq remains in Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, suffering from serious injuries.

The killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir was presented in the media as a ‘revenge attack’ for the killing of the three kidnapped Israeli settlers and as an isolated, yet extreme response by a hardline group of settlers. But these acts of racist violence are indicative of a growing trend in Zionist politics as Israel builds more illegal, heavily armed colonies on stolen West Bank land and more extreme voices are elected to the Israeli parliament. In January the UN reported that settler attacks on Palestinians have risen every year for the last eight years and had numbered 2,100 since 2006. The attacks include the burning of Palestinian crops, killing of animals, stoning of cars, graffiti and vandalism on mosques and in Palestinian communities and a range of violent acts, from assault to outright murder in a vicious 'price tag' campaign where settlers seek to drive Palestinians out of their homes.

Call for Solidarity Action
On 20 June before the onslaught on Gaza began the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) issued an ‘Urgent call for international solidarity’ as the attacks of the Israeli occupation forces intensified in the West Bank. On 8 July as the bombs began to rain down on Gaza, the PFLP reissued the call, pointing out that the Palestinian people across historic Palestine were rising up against occupation and that now was the time to take solidarity action.

‘We reiterate our call and urge action around the world. Palestine is under attack – and Palestine is resisting, on the path of Intifada. It is the time to act!’

They called for people to ‘take to the streets’, to ‘intensify the boycott’ and to occupy and shut down Israeli embassies and consulates. The Revolutionary Communist Group fully supports this call, and urges all its readers to participate in any local solidarity actions

Solidarity with the Palestinian Resistance!

Boycott Israel!

Palestine: Fatah-Hamas talks /FRFI! 239 Jun/Jul 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

Reconciliation talks that are taking place between Hamas and Fatah follow months of ‘peace’ negotiations between Israel, the US and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Throughout, Israel has maintained the Gaza blockade, violently invaded the West Bank, killed civilians and activists, increased arrests, bulldozed hundreds of homes and continued to build settlements. In talks opposed by many Palestinians, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has offered more concessions to Israel, proposing a three-year ‘transition’ period to keep Israeli troops in the West Bank after the announcement of a Palestinian state. For Abbas, the reconciliation talks are an attempt to recover some credibility and support from the Palestinian people; for Hamas, they offer a way out of its isolation in Gaza. LOUIS BREHONY reports.

The unity proposal would integrate Hamas into the PLO. Yet there are obvious contradictions. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told crowds on 25 April: ‘We will not leave any centimetre of Palestine, and we will not recognise Israel and the occupation.’ A day later Abbas told the PLO Central Council: ‘The upcoming government will obey my policy... I recognise Israel and reject violence and terrorism, and recognise international commitments.’ The failure of negotiations has accelerated the political crisis for Fatah, facing as it does ongoing anti-occupation protests and the refusal of West Bank youth to submit to Israeli terror.

Hamas played a leading role in the Second Intifada and is seen as a party of resistance to Zionism. This militancy is clearly attractive to sections of Fatah seeking legitimacy in the eyes of Palestinians. Yet Hamas now occupies a compromised position as a government force in Gaza, where the total Zionist blockade from Israel is bringing intolerable conditions for the Palestinian population. The blockade has brought growing resentment of Hamas for its social conservatism and an apparently weakening commitment to resistance: co-founder Mahmoud Al Zahhar suggests Hamas could now recognise a Palestinian state ‘on any part of Palestine.’

Between 2008 and 2013, the US provided an average of over $100m a year in security assistance to Abbas’s PA, and overall an annual $440m in ‘assistance’. A condition of this funding was that Hamas remain excluded from the PA. Up to 32% of the PA budget is spent on security and 41% of all public-sector workers are in the security sector. The issue has been central to Hamas-Fatah discussions. Haniyeh says the intention is a ‘partnership’ to ‘build security forces in the West Bank and Gaza.’ It is not evident what happens to anti-occupation resistance in the meantime. Leading Palestinian playwright and poet Samah Sabawi points to a ‘reliance on the generosity of the imperial powers and the weak leadership of the Arab elites [as] the principle cause of failure in Palestinian resistance’ and calls for a new strategy of resistance:

‘Our top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat proudly admits he has resigned eight times, yet he continues the tradition of failed negotiations. The Palestinian leaderships, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, the Hamas government in Gaza, and the aging Palestine Liberation Organisation, all continue to ignore the immense power and strength of the Palestinian people and the goodwill of an ever growing international Palestinian solidarity movement across the world.’

Peace talks heading nowhere

The ‘talks about talks’ were launched by US Secretary of State John Kerry in July 2013 with a nine-month deadline for an agreement. With no US opposition, Israel expanded its settlement building and demanded Abbas go beyond his 1998 recognition of Israel and publicly accept Israel ‘as a Jewish state.’ Abbas attempted to negotiate the release of Palestinian prisoners sentenced before 1993 but, when the time came, Israel refused their release. Palestinian opposition to the negotiations took the form of protests in the West Bank and Gaza. There had been no Israeli ceasefires, no troop withdrawals, no pause in settlement building. The talks were dead in the water long before the 23 April announcement from Fatah and Hamas.

Following the revelations about negotiations between Hamas and Fatah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the BBC that Abbas can ‘have peace with Israel or a pact with Hamas’ and declared the peace talks over, planning sanctions against the PA, including withholding tax and customs revenues that Israel collects on the authority’s behalf and deducting the ‘debt’ owed by the PA for the West Bank electricity supply, which Israel controls. Zionist construction minister Uri Ariel announced that there could be a 50% increase in West Bank settlements by 2019. Israel’s international backers are clear in their opposition to a Hamas-Fatah agreement. US president Obama said the move for unity was ‘unhelpful’ to the ‘peace process’.

Occupation targets Palestinian children

2014 has seen an intensification of violent arrests of Palestinians by the Israeli army, including a significant rise in child arrests. By 19 May, the number of children from Jerusalem imprisoned this year had risen to 120, often accompanied by violent raids, house demolitions and settler attacks. Newly released statistics on the imprisonment of Palestinian children in 2013 show a rise in children forced into solitary confinement after arrest by the Israeli military. Last year 21.4% of all children arrested were put in solitary confinement for up to 28 days of interrogation, according to the report by Defence for Children International Palestine. In 85% of the cases studied, the children are detained ‘during the middle of the night by heavily armed soldiers’.

Interrogations involve mental and physical traumas, including ‘intimidation, threats and physical violence with a clear purpose of obtaining a confession… and/or gathering intelligence or information on other individuals’. In 95% of cases, neither the child nor parents were told of the reasons for arrest. The majority are accused of throwing stones, carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment. According to Dimitri Dilani, the head of the Christian National Coalition in the Holy Land, ‘Such crimes against Jerusalem’s youth make part of the malevolent scenarios of mass-ethnic cleansing systematically weaved and executed by IOF so as to stamp out the historically deep-rooted Jerusalemite communities.’

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