Created: Wednesday, 20 February 2013 15:47
Written by Bob Shepherd
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013
A few days before Israel’s general election on 22 January, Prime Minister Netanyahu appealed to the racism dominating Israeli society, guaranteeing that no Jewish settlement in the West Bank would be demolished if he remained in office. He declared that he would seek a ‘real and fair solution’ with the Palestinians but ‘that certainly doesn’t include driving out hundreds of thousands of Jews who live in the suburbs of Jerusalem and… Tel Aviv, in the Ariel block’. The ‘suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv’ and the Ariel block are illegal colonial settlements built on stolen Palestinian land after driving out thousands of Palestinians from their homes.
Pre-election opinion polls showed Netanyahu’s newly-formed right-wing electoral alliance with Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteiu, losing support and in danger of being outflanked on the right by the Jewish Home party. Naftali Bennett, leader of Jewish Home and of the settler movement, opposes any form of Palestinian state; he called for the annexation to Israel of the 60% of the West Bank known as Area C, which contains all of the Jewish settlements, with remaining pieces of the West Bank placed under Israeli military control.
The polls also showed rising support for a new party representing the interests of the Israeli middle class, Yesh Atid, campaigning on economic issues. The Israeli middle class has faced a squeeze on its living standards, and previously expressed its dissatisfaction in protests in the summer of 2011. The party won 19 seats while Jewish Home doubled its support to 12 seats. This left the Likud-Beiteiu alliance with 31 seats, down 11. Netanyahu, as the leader of the biggest party, Likud, will attempt to form a coalition government which could include both Yesh Atid and Jewish Home, as they both support the illegal settlements in the West Bank and the occupation of Palestine.
Zionist settlement construction accelerates
Since the United Nations General Assembly vote on 29 November 2012 to upgrade the status of Palestine to a ‘non-member observer state’, Israel has escalated its settlement construction and expansion plans. 138 nations voted in favour of the UN resolution, nine against while 41 abstained. The result allows the Palestinian Authority (PA) to join UN agencies, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), opening the door for the PA to take Israel to the court for human rights violations and war crimes. Britain abstained, demanding as a condition for support that the PA agree to an immediate unconditional return to ‘peace talks’ with Israel and a commitment not to join the ICC or to initiate legal action against Israel. The PA rejected these pro-Zionist conditions.
Responding to the UN vote, Israel announced that it would once more penalise the Palestinians by withholding tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA. This amounts to the theft of over $100m a month. The US Congress had already withheld $200m in aid to the PA in 2011 when the PA first put forward the plan to apply for UN non-member status. The US Senate is now debating measures to withhold large parts of US aid to the PA if it takes Israel to the ICC. Tightening the financial stranglehold over the PA has delayed wage payments to PA employees; it further undermines the Palestinian economy, forcing more people into poverty.
On 5 December the Israeli government announced the construction of 3,000 housing units in unspecified areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and 3,426 housing units in the area known as E1 between East Jerusalem and the largest colonial settlement in the West Bank, Ma’ale Adumim. If this project goes ahead the West Bank will be split in two. Plans were then agreed for another 6,600 housing units in East Jerusalem and two new settlement blocks north and south of Bethlehem. These would sever the connection between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The Zionists also announced the opening of tenders to build 84 new housing units in a settlement next to Hebron/Al Khalil. A Hamas Media Bureau report shows that 2012’s settlement construction plans were four times greater than in 2011: 6,932 housing units compared to 1,772. In 2010 it had been 569. 2013’s plans already far outstrip 2012’s figure.
The strategic aim of the proposed settlement expansion programmes is to accelerate the construction of ‘facts on the ground’, isolating areas of Palestinian population from each other, confirming the impossibility of creating a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank.
Resisting this theft, Palestinian activists have set up protest villages on land under threat. On 11 January hundreds of Palestinians set up the tent village of Bab Al Shams (Gate of the Sun) in the E1 area near Jerusalem. A leader from the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements said, ‘We will not be silent while settlements and the colonialisation of our land continue… Israel has imposed facts on the ground for decades amid the silence of the international community, and the time has come to change the rules of the game. We are owners of this land and we will impose the reality on the ground.’ Israeli troops demolished the tent village within a few days but a week later a new tent village was erected on land that is being stolen from the Beit Iksa village in the north west of Jerusalem. The activists named their protest village Al Karamah (Dignity). Israel plans to completely surround Beit Iksa by the Apartheid Wall, cutting it off from Jerusalem and in the process annexing 96% of the villagers’ land. Again Israeli forces demolished the tent village within a few days but this form of protest is set to continue. Local activist Nabil Hababa said, ‘The demolition of Al Karamah does not mean the end of our stand. Activists will again occupy the site on which the village was built and they will rebuild their tents.’
The activists’ protest villages and confrontation with Zionist expansion contrasts sharply with the PA. Demonstrating against the Apartheid Wall in Budrus on 15 January, Israeli forces shot and killed 17-year-old Sameer Awad. Israel continues arresting and detaining Palestinians without trial using Administrative Detention Orders, fuelling further protests. Several Palestinian prisoners are engaged in hunger strikes. Samer Issawi has been refusing solid food for over 170 days. Protests supporting the prisoners continue. The PA has brutally suppressed any militant expressions of solidarity with the prisoners. On 20 January PA security forces used live ammunition to break up a protest that had blocked the road between Ramallah and Jerusalem, shooting three people. The protesters were mainly from the Al Amaari refugee camp near Ramallah. One activist said that a number of men from the camp were being held in the Eshel prison in Israel where they were being tortured.
Solidarity with the Palestinian resistance! Boycott Israel!