Palestine: repression and resistance/ FRFI 238 Apr/May 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

In March, Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas went to Washington for talks about US Secretary of State John Kerry’s ‘peace’ plan. Negotiations between the Israeli occupiers, their US sponsors and the unelected Palestinian leadership, have done nothing to stop illegal Zionist settlements, house demolitions and land grabs, maintaining Israel’s total control of the borders and water and energy supplies to the Occupied Territories. Even the trickle of Palestinian political prisoners released in ‘goodwill gestures’ looks likely to stop, as chief Zionist negotiator Tzipi Livni claims: ‘There was never any automatic commitment to release prisoners unrelated to making progress in negotiations’. Meanwhile, Israel is intensifying its daily war on Palestinians in the West Bank, through murder, detention and terror. Gaza remains blockaded and is regularly bombed, with no US, EU or UN opposition. No wonder ordinary Palestinians are rejecting negotiations and rebuilding resistance. LOUIS BREHONY reports.

War on the West Bank

On 10 March six Palestinians were killed in 24 hours of Israeli assaults on the West Bank and Gaza strip: Raed Zaitar, a judge shot at the Jordan border while trying to visit his hospitalised daughter; Saji Darwish, an 18-year-old student who threw stones at occupying troops near Beitlin village; Fida Mohyeedeen Majadla, shot repeatedly at a roadblock near Tulkarem, and three resistance fighters from the Islamic Jihad group in Gaza, killed as they fought an invasion of Israeli military vehicles. At a funeral for Saji Darwish, classmate Mohamed Taha said, ‘I feel like every Palestinian, sad, because this happens every day and the world does nothing.’

The number of Palestinians shot and killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank reached a five-year high in 2013, with 27 deaths. Many of these killings occurred during raids where occupation troops carried out arrests. 3,799 Palestinians were arrested by Israel in the West Bank in 2013, including an average of 200 children per month. The Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights reported on 17 March that in the first two months of 2014 the Israeli army had increased its detentions of Palestinian children by 80%, with 740 arrests; 465 remained in custody for a week or more.

In the week following the 10 March killings, 100 Palestinians were arrested, including eight former political prisoners and 13 children. Public displays of brutality by occupation troops are common. On 16 March hundreds of young Palestinians marched through the Old City of Jerusalem, carrying books in a symbolic demonstration to defend Palestinian education. Israeli forces responded with horses, batons and stun grenades, attacking and injuring indiscriminately, arresting a young man and breaking up a human chain thrown around the gates of the city. In Hebron, soldiers provide a cover for settlers’ destruction of Palestinian farmland and providing protection for provocative invasions into the city.

As Zionist politicians and military spokespersons claim to target ‘suspected terror activity’ in the West Bank, the most recent arrests showed that the wider Palestinian community was the target. On 13 March, 11 Palestinians arrested in the West Bank and Jerusalem included a 14-year-old boy, an elderly man, a woman visiting her son in an Israeli jail, and a member of Hamas who had served over 13 years as an Israeli prisoner. Palestinians continue to be arrested in cities of historic Palestine now claimed as Israeli. But the lesson of history is that no amount of Israeli terror has kept down the fighting spirit of Palestinians. Despite the PA’s submissiveness to Israel and the imperialists, the towns of Hebron, Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus and increasingly Jerusalem remain centres of resistance.

On 17 March, before a Washington meeting between John Kerry and Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, the Zionists announced the expansion of the Ramot settlement in occupied Jerusalem, with plans for a total of 734 housing units, including 300 allocated for security forces. Nearby, Palestinian homes that lack permits are demolished as Zionist colonisation of East Jerusalem creeps ahead. The fight for Palestinian sovereignty over the Al Aqsa mosque compound is symbolic of the struggle for a free Jerusalem. Israeli troops control the entry and exit points and routinely deny entry to Palestinians, leading to protests and physical resistance. Occupation troops use batons and bullets to beat back protesters. The Arab Organisation for Human Rights reports that there have been over 1,000 break-ins or invasions by settlers into the Al Aqsa mosque compound since February 2013.

Gaza: Egypt coup leaders collaborate with Zionists
The harsh living conditions imposed on the people of Gaza as a consequence of the Israeli blockade are made worse by Zionist military assaults, backed up by Egyptian forces. By 15 March, 18 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza and 100 injured since the start of the year, mostly by live ammunition or shelling. According to the Palestinian Information Centre, the raids target centres of Palestinian resistance, including sites belonging to the Popular Resistance Committees, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Al Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad has ‘broken its silence’ and launched rockets into Israel on 12 March in response to Israel’s killing of three resistance fighters in a raid a day earlier.

The Gaza blockade has been maintained brutally with the collaboration of the Egyptian military regime. On 19 March, as Egyptian officials met their Zionist counterparts in Tel Aviv, it was revealed that Israel supported US government plans to provide Apache helicopters to the Egyptian dictatorship. Egyptian and Israeli naval forces collaborate frequently in attacks on Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza, using machine guns to enforce the blockade. Since the coup on 3 July 2013, Egypt has maintained the shutdown of the Rafah border crossing, opening the border only temporarily to allow selected groups through. Throughout Israel’s recent assault on Gaza, Egypt has tightened its grip – 18 March was the 40th day running that Egypt had kept the Rafah border crossing closed. Five days earlier, a three-month-old baby died as his parents attempted to get him to an Egyptian hospital with liver and heart problems. Two women also died after being refused entry by Israeli and Egyptian forces. Egypt is in charge of brokering a ceasefire. Israel has violated the November 2012 ‘calm’ agreement more than 1,400 times.

EU hypocrisy
A January 2014 EU report on the humanitarian situation in Gaza highlighted the consequences of blockade and the resulting lack of fuel, which ‘has led to up to 16 hours per day of power outages in the coastal enclave of some 1.7 million people.’ It continued: ‘Today, Gaza is facing a dangerous and pressing humanitarian and economic situation including the cessation of imports of construction materials; rising unemployment, rising prices and increased food insecurity.’ Hypocritically, the report laid the blame for the situation entirely at the door of Hamas: ‘If Hamas would completely renounce its use of violence to achieve its objectives, it would have a revolutionary impact on the entire situation in Gaza, which would enable them to promote the very necessary process of reconciliation with Fatah (PLO).’

Palestinian prisoners continue to suffer
Months after Israel was forced to release hunger striker and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) activist Samir Issawi, on 13 March occupation forces arrested three members of his family – his brothers Shadi and Medhat and his sister Shirin; troops also arrested Amjad Al Safadi, a lawyer from Issawiyya in East Jerusalem. Medhat is a DFLP leader and ex-political prisoner, having served 20 years. On 14 March, Israel announced its intention to ‘continue investigating’ the group’s activities while keeping them locked up. At the time of writing they remain imprisoned and demonstrations are taking place calling for their release.

The pattern of arrest-release-arrest is very familiar. In 2013 Thaer Halahle was released after a three-month hunger strike, only to be recaptured by Zionist forces. In March, he was taken to hospital in shackles, suffering from hepatitis, chronic kidney problems and serious weight loss. His father called for solidarity, after deliberate delays in treatment and medical checks. Ismail Arouj was put in ‘administrative detention’ for six months, having previously been detained for five and a half years without trial. His family added that he was arrested immediately after being released from PA custody, showing clear PA collusion with the occupation.

Cameron, negotiations and the boycott
The March visit of Abbas and Netanyahu to Washington came within a week of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s trip to the Middle East. Cameron declared, ‘I’ve got a planeload of innovative British companies coming with me and we’ll be linking them up with Israeli businesses so they can forge new partnerships’. His speech to the Israeli parliament (Knesset), announced his ‘unbreakable’ belief in Israel, and said, ‘Britain opposes boycotts, whether it’s trade unions campaigning for the exclusion of Israelis or universities trying to stifle academic exchange’.

Cameron also met Labour warmonger and ‘Peace Envoy’ Tony Blair, saying, ‘I obviously listen to Tony Blair’s advice...We come from different political parties, different political traditions and there are many things we disagreed about, but we both want a two-state solution and he has got a contribution to help bring that about.’ After upsetting sections of the Palestinian bourgeoisie by spending just three hours with them during his two-day visit, Cameron called for ‘land swaps’ and a ‘shared capital’ in Jerusalem as part of a peace deal. He also dishonestly pledged £6m for Palestinian farming in Area C, part of the West Bank which remains under total Israeli control.

Palestinians continue to protest against the fraudulent negotiations. Salah Al Bardawil, a Hamas leader in Gaza, told Quds Press that 90% of the Palestinian people did not authorise Abbas to negotiate in their name. Despite Abbas’ spokesman Abu Rudeineh protestations that the PA will stick to ‘fundamental Palestinian principles’, there was an admission by Abdullah Abdullah, deputy commissioner for international relations in Abbas’s Fatah party, that ‘we have compromised on every subject’.

Responding to escalating Zionist attacks, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is calling for a ‘comprehensive political and military national strategy,’ an end to ‘security’ collaboration between the PA and Israel, and an end to the negotiations. Following the targeted assassination of young PFLP leader Moataz Washaha in Bir Zeit village on 27 February as occupation forces laid siege to his home, his family members called for an international boycott campaign. His sister Shorouq released a statement:

‘I ask all the world to boycott Israel in its entirety. And I ask the same of all institutions dealing with the Israeli Occupation. Boycott the Occupation... Boycott is an act of resistance.’

Support the boycott!

Victory to the Palestinian resistance!

Zionism: racism without end

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 237 February/March 2014

Confident that it can act with impunity, the Zionist state continues to treat the US-sponsored Peace Talks with complete contempt while treating thousands of African asylum seekers with racist brutality.

At the end of 2013, a third batch of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners was released in line with the terms of the Peace Talks. In response, on 10 January 2014, the Israeli government announced the construction of around 1,400 housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The decision met with ritual criticism from EU countries, Britain, France, Italy and Spain calling in their respective Israeli ambassadors to rap their knuckles. This in turn was met with manufactured outrage by the Israeli government. Foreign Minister Lieberman condemned their supposed support for Palestine and grotesquely announced: ‘Israel is making great effort to allow the dialogue with the Palestinians to continue and the position these states are taking, beyond it being biased and unbalanced, is significantly harming the chances of reaching an accord.’

On 11 January, Israeli press reported that the Israeli Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, had labelled John Kerry, the person most clearly associated with the Peace Talks, as ‘obsessive and messianic’ and said that his peace plan was ‘not worth the paper it’s written on’. As we go to press, Kerry has yet to announce his framework proposals which will be the basis for the continuation of the talks. However, it is widely expected that they will include land swaps which would remove the largest settlement blocks from Palestine, the recognition of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ and a continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley. In other words the Kerry proposals and the Peace Talks as a whole are geared to the interests of Israel. Yet even this it seems is not enough to satisfy the demands of the Zionists who want to see the aspirations of even a neutered Palestinian statehood smashed alongside the destruction of Palestinian national consciousness.

All Palestinian resistance factions are united in their condemnation of the sham Peace Talks and call for Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to abandon them. Demonstrations have taken place across the West Bank and Gaza with the PFLP calling for the building of a mass movement against the talks. But Abbas and the PA refuse to withdraw as their political and future financial wellbeing is directly linked to their success. In December 2013, the EU threatened the PA that it would consider withdrawing its financial support if the Peace Talks broke down. This would have a devastating effect on the PA’s continued ability to pay the approximately 150,000 workers it directly employs and who provide the basis of whatever support Abbas continues to have. The EU then announced that the ‘success’ of the Peace Talks would see both Israel and a new Palestinian entity rewarded with the status of ‘special privileged partnership’. This would give Abbas and the PA a massive financial boost. This carrot of a new financial deal with the EU is something the small parasitic layer of Palestinian bourgeoisie will go to any lengths to secure; it is the political interests of this class that Abbas and the PA represent.

Israel – a racist and apartheid state

A direct consequence of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people is its racist treatment of asylum seekers from Africa (see FRFI 228 for an earlier report). In December 2013 the Israeli parliament passed an amendment to the ‘Prevention of Infiltration Law’ in response to a High Court ruling that an earlier amendment allowing the detention of asylum seekers in prison for three years was illegal. The new amendment allows the state to keep new asylum seekers in prison for one year and then to hold them in an ‘open’ prison. The first ‘open’ prison, Holot Camp is situated near the border with Egypt and in the middle of an Israeli army firing zone. Asylum seekers have to sleep in the camp and be present for three roll calls during the day.

There are an estimated 60,000 African refugees in Israel, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea. Israel cannot deport people to these countries, but neither will it grant people official refugee status. The vast majority have been granted temporary status visas and are not legally allowed to work, although up to now in the majority of cases the state has been turning a blind eye to their exploitation by Israeli firms. The state gives no benefits or aid to these asylum seekers.

In response to these conditions and to the new law, thousands of asylum seekers in Tel Aviv met in a park at the beginning of January and called for a three-day general strike of all asylum seekers working in restaurants, cafes and other work places. An unprecedented mass demonstration of around 20,000 asylum seekers took place in Tel Aviv; their central demands were for the end of indefinite detention and for Israel to individually examine their requests for asylum and refugee status. This followed asylum seekers twice defiantly marching out of the ‘open’ prison of Holot in December 2013. On the second occasion 200 marchers succeeded in reaching the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem after a three-day march. They were then arrested and re-imprisoned. Netanyahu declared that asylum seekers had the choice of either going back to their countries of origin or staying in the Israeli prison camps. But asylum seekers in Israel are now refusing this racist choice of either imprisonment or torture and death and are demanding their democratic right to freedom and the right to work.

Boycott the racist apartheid state of Israel!

Bob Shepherd

Gaza: Humanitarian crisis intensifies / FRFI 236 Dec 2013/Jan 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014

 

‘Gaza is quickly becoming uninhabitable’

It is now one year since the 21 November 2012 ceasefire agreement that ended the eight-day Israeli bombardment of Gaza during which at least 165 Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured. Living conditions for the people of Gaza have continued to deteriorate despite Israel’s agreement to open the border crossings. A report issued by Oxfam entitled Gaza: one year since the ceasefire, the blockade goes on, states: ‘The blockade has devastated the lives and livelihoods of Gaza’s population: 80% of people in Gaza receive international aid, 57% of households are food insecure, exports are virtually nonexistent, many basic services are barely functioning and unemployment is over 35% and rising.’ Bob Shepherd reports.

In FRFI 230 we said of the ceasefire agreement: ‘everything the Israeli government says is either a lie or a deception’. So it has turned out. Israel has continued its military attacks on Gaza even though the past 12 months has seen the lowest number of rocket attacks from Gaza for the past ten years. The UN Organisation for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) lists deaths of 11 Palestinians and injuries to over 3,500 during this period. Israeli naval forces have stepped up their harassment of Gaza’s fishing fleet. This year there have been over 150 incidents of naval fire at Gazan fishermen – a 40% increase from the past two years. 95% of fishermen and their families now depend on some form of humanitarian assistance including food aid.

Following Egypt’s military coup, the Egyptian army has shut down the vast majority of tunnels under the border, closing off what had become an essential lifeline for Gaza. The consequences include shortages of building materials and of affordable fuel. One million litres of fuel a day came through the tunnels. This was used to run Gaza’s power plant, hospitals, water treatment units, other basic services and household needs. Fuel from Israel is at least double the price and fulfills only 40% of Gaza’s needs.

The effects of the fuel shortage have been devastating. Gaza’s main power plant has been shut since the beginning of November resulting in power cuts of up to 16 hours a day. On 14 November the main sewage station in Gaza City ran out of fuel, and raw sewage flooded the streets. Gaza City’s head of sanitation said that untreated sewage had to be pumped directly into the Mediterranean Sea to save fuel. Supplies are now so low that even this isn’t always possible. New sewage floods are inevitable.

Water supplies have also been dramatically affected. 25% of the population now receives clean water only once every four days; 40% once every three days; 20% once every two days; and just 15% receive water every day. When water is available the delivery period lasts for only six to eight hours.

The construction sector is one of the biggest employers in Gaza with around 70,000 workers. With Israel’s refusal to allow construction material for commercial use to enter Gaza since 2008, supplies through the tunnels have become essential. Their closure is having a devastating effect on the industry. Additionally, Israel decided in March not to grant the United Nations refugee organisation, UNRWA, permission to start any new construction projects in Gaza, and has now refused it the right to import any construction material. Construction projects it already has running have come to a halt.

Israel’s increased restrictions placed on the movement of goods and vehicles across Karem Shalom, the only Israeli border crossing for goods, have meant exports from Gaza have fallen by half since the ceasefire agreement and this year is on track to see the lowest export levels since 2009.

UNRWA head, Filippo Grandi, speaking in November to a meeting of major donors in Jordan declared, ‘The situation in Gaza has deteriorated substantially, and I repeat substantially, in the last few months…Gaza is quickly becoming uninhabitable’. James Rowley, head of OCHA, on a visit to Gaza on 21 November said, ‘In our view every indicator for Gaza is negative, not even neutral, but negative. We are extremely concerned about the broad deterioration of the economy and the humanitarian implications for Gaza’s population as a whole’.

The immediate remedy to this humanitarian crisis is clear. Both UN officials called for the ending of Israel’s illegal economic blockade of Gaza. The UN however acts as an instrument for the interests of imperialism in the region and will not impose any practical pressure on Israel to lift the blockade. The Palestinian struggle demands real solidarity on the streets of the imperialist countries themselves.

The Palestinian Authority and peace talks

In July 2013 Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), made an agreement with US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to begin a new nine-month round of peace talks with the Netanyahu government. Israel has since humiliated the negotiating team with a series of settlement construction announcements. On 13 November, the entire negotiating team offered their resignations after Israel announced plans for 20,000 new settlement homes. Yet Abbas continues to be a loyal lackey of imperialism and is adamant that the peace talks will continue.

The Israeli group Peace Now has issued figures for settlement plans in the eight months since Netanyahu formed his new government on 18 March 2013. Plans have been approved for 8,943 units, 6,521 in the West Bank and 2,422 in East Jerusalem. Tenders, the last stage in the process before construction, have been issued for 3,472 housing units, 1,457 in the West Bank and 2,015 in East Jerusalem. Construction of housing units in established settlements does not always require any authorisation from the central government. In the first six months of 2013 there was a 70% increase in settlement construction as compared to 2012. In total 2,840 housing units were either built or in the process of construction.

The sham peace talks are being used by Israel as a cover for its ever-increasing occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Abbas and the PA are collaborating in the occupation by engaging in these talks.

The one success of the talks claimed by Abbas has been the release of long-term Palestinian political prisoners. 52 prisoners of the 104 (who are due to be released throughout the talks) are now free. This obscures the fact that there are over 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons. The reality of life for the majority of them is hardship and degradation. During 2013 three prisoners died in custody: Jaradat Arafat died under torture and Maysara Abu Hamdiya and Hassan Al Turabi died due to medical neglect. Palestinian prisoners support group Addameer stated: ‘The death of Turabi is the direct result of the Israeli Prison Service policy of medical negligence which is being practised against all Palestinian political prisoners and detainees’.  

Bob Shepherd

 

Occupied Palestine: an eyewitness report

As a teenager, I became painfully aware of the Palestinian people’s oppression through television images of a 12-year-old boy named Muhammed Al-Durrah who was brutally shot down by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip in September 2000. This event is what eventually led me to volunteer in Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in September 2013. ISM was the organisation that activists Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie, who were murdered by Israeli forces for standing with the Palestinian people, belonged to.

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The Oslo ‘peace’ agreement, 20 years on/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has urged the US to make ‘the biggest effort in 20 years’ for a peace agreement. The last ‘big effort’ was the Oslo peace accords, signed at the White House 20 years ago, on 13 September 1993. Led by US President Bill Clinton and heralded with the (in)famous handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Yasir Arafat, the agreement ignored key issues – the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the status of Israel’s illegal settlements, and the borders of a future Palestinian ‘entity’ (the words ‘Palestinian state’ were not used). These issues were set aside for discussion as part of a five year process that never happened. In return for PLO recognition of Israel – a rejection of the right of return – the Palestinian leadership believed they would gain a state in the remaining 22% of historic Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital city. Mahmoud Abbas, today the unelected president of the Palestinian Authority, wrote the Palestinian documents submitted for Oslo. Robert Fisk writes that Abbas wrote ‘600 pages in which he did not once use the word occupation'. In which he referred only to the 'redeployment of the Israeli army rather than its withdrawal.’*

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  4. Palestine: Zionist settlers on the rampage/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013
  5. Obama re-affirms support for Israel
  6. Israel general election sees no change /FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013
  7. Palestine: Gaza ceasefire setback for Zionists/FRFI 230 Dec 2012/Jan 2013
  8. Israeli blitzkrieg: victory to the people of Gaza!
  9. Palestinian Authority in economic crisis /FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012
  10. Israel: a racist apartheid state / 228 Aug/Sep 2012
  11. Israel: A rotten racist state – June 2012
  12. Palestine: New Israeli coalition spells no change on occupation
  13. British Banks – No More Profits from War!
  14. Solidarity with Palestine and the prisoners of imperialism - 20 April 2012
  15. Palestine: occupied, imprisoned, but undefeated! /FRFI 226 Apr/May 2012
  16. House Demolitions in East Jerusalem: Occupation and Resistance – eyewitness report – Feb 2012
  17. Palestine: no two-state solution possible / FRFI 225 Feb/Mar 2012
  18. Palestine: UN statehood bid falters/ FRFI 224 Decr 2011/Jan 2012
  19. Videos from FRFI public meeting: Palestine: Unity and Liberation - Oct 2011
  20. Palestine statehood: no to imperialist veto / FRFI 223 Oct/Nov 2011
  21. Palestine: national unity stalls / FRFI 222 Aug/Sep 2011
  22. Palestine: unity in the face of Zionist terror / FRFI 221 Jun/Jul 2011
  23. Palestine: US and Israel defy the UN/ FRFI 220 April/May 2011
  24. Palestine: no two-state solution! / FRFI 219 Feb/Mar 2011
  25. Palestine: Zionist settlement building accelerates / FRFI 218 Dec 2010 / Jan 2011