Created: Friday, 10 August 2012 10:13
Written by Bob Shepherd
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012
Since the end of the mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in May, the Zionist state has been backtracking on its agreement and is continuing its repression of both the prisoners and their families. Within Israel itself the government has stepped up its racist offensive: 97 encampments are being erected in the Negev desert to keep African refugees out of Israeli cities. Racist attacks, including the firebombing of the homes and businesses of black Africans, are now a common occurrence in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel is a racist apartheid state.
Israel reneges on hunger strike deal
The aims of the Palestinian prisoner hunger strike had been to end administrative detention and the use of solitary confinement, to obtain the right to family visits and to demand an improvement in general prison conditions. Israel had agreed that a delegation made up of representatives of the prison authority and the Israeli internal security service would meet with the prisoners’ committee to negotiate the implementation of the deal. When the meeting finally took place on 11 June, only the representatives of the prison authority turned up. They informed the prisoners’ committee that Dirar Abu Sisis, the last prisoner still being held in solitary confinement, would continue to be held while charges were prepared against him. In respect to ending administrative detention they said there would be ‘progress’ on the issue and they would ‘do their best’ regarding prisoners’ living conditions but that they had to wait for a High Court decision before prisoners could be allowed access to educational programmes.
On 21 June the administrative detention order against Hasan Safadi, who had been on hunger strike for 71 days and had been one of the leading figures in the protest, was renewed in blatant contravention of the agreement. Hasan immediately restarted a hunger strike. According to a representative from the prisoners’ rights group, Addamer, between the end of the hunger strike and the beginning of July, Israel had renewed more than 35 administrative detention orders. There have been draconian restrictions imposed on family visits: only wives and parents will be allowed to participate. As we go to press, although the Palestinian football player, Mahmood Sarsak was released after 96 days on hunger strike on 10 July, there are at least two other prisoners as well as Hasan Safadi on hunger strike.
Racist Israel – ‘this country belongs to us, to the white man’
On 7 June an Israeli court in Jerusalem finally agreed an order from the Interior Ministry to allow the deportation of refugees from African countries with diplomatic relations with Israel. Interior Minister Eli Yishai clearly expressed the racism behind the order when he declared at the beginning of June, ‘Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man’.
There are an estimated 60,000 African refugees in Israel, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea. The vast majority have been granted temporary status visas and are not legally allowed to work in Israel, although the state has been turning a blind eye to their exploitation by Israeli companies. The state gives no benefits or aid to these asylum seekers. Last year out of the thousands of applications for asylum, only eight were granted.
The government and media label all asylum seekers as ‘infiltrators’, a term it uses for Palestinian resistance fighters. On 4 June Prime Minister Netanyahu called for the building of ‘holding camps’ in the Negev desert for refugees from Sudan and Eritrea and the deportation of 25,000 refugees from countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations such as Ghana, Ethiopia and South Sudan. Israel’s Defence Ministry has said that five such camps will be built with up to 25,000 tents to accommodate all asylum seekers and to prevent them from entering Israeli cities.
On 23 May race riots took place in south Tel Aviv following an anti-immigrant rally addressed by members of the Israeli Knesset. Miri Regev, an MK from the Likud party, declared at the rally that refugees from Sudan were a ‘cancer’. Ronit Tirosh, a Kadima MK, called for all ‘African infiltrators’ to be deported. People left the rally and attacked African-run shops, a car with African passengers had its windscreen smashed and the Central Bus Station, a meeting place for asylum seekers, was attacked. Petrol bomb attacks have taken place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem against the homes and businesses of black Africans. An arson attack was carried out on 4 June on an apartment in Jerusalem housing ten asylum seekers from Eritrea. Four were hospitalised, and graffiti was left saying, ‘leave the neighbourhood’.
In the summer of 2010 25 Jewish rabbis in Tel Aviv issued an edict against the renting of property to African refugee ‘infiltrators’. Ten estate agents that work in South Tel Aviv publicly agreed to refuse to let property to ‘infiltrators’ and not to renew any expiring leases. At the end of June Israel began deporting the estimated 1,500 refugees from South Sudan living and working in the country. Marshan Mai, one of the first to be deported, said, ‘I don’t want to be here. I didn’t want to come back. I have nothing to do here... They said, “Go back to your country, you are black people”.’
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority – servants of imperialism
A report issued by Hamas at the beginning of July showed that the PA had arrested 382 people associated with Hamas and ordered 245 more to report to security officials in the first six months of 2012, and that it continues to detain 62 Hamas supporters against the wishes of the Palestininian Authority (PA) courts. On 30 June PA forces brutally prevented youth organisations from marching in Ramallah against a proposed meeting between Abbas and the then Israeli deputy Prime Minister, Shaul Mofaz. Mofaz was the Israeli Defence Minister in 2002 who was in charge of the destruction of the Jenin refugee camp. A further demonstration protesting against this PA repression the next day was also attacked by security forces, with ten people being hospitalised.
PA President Abbas showed how far he will go to prostrate himself in the interests of imperialism when it was revealed that in March he had asked Cuban President Raul Castro to free the US spy Alan Gross. Abbas’s aim was to ingratiate himself with the extreme right-wing US-Cuban Republican Congress woman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who was blocking $147m in US aid to the PA. Three weeks after Abbas had contacted Raul Castro, $89m was released. There is no indication that Abbas has ever raised the issue of the Cuban 5 with President Obama, although Cuba has been one of the most principled supporters of Palestinian self-determination and broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 1973.
Abbas and the PA have only one strategy: collaboration with Israel and imperialism to defend their class interests. Some 29,500 people work for the PA security forces in the West Bank and depend on the continuing financial handouts the PA receives from imperialism and its Arab League allies for their livelihoods. They are a crucial layer of support for Abbas. As pro-imperialist forces they must be confronted and defeated if there is to be any chance of progress for the Palestinian people.
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