Palestine: Gaza ceasefire setback for Zionists/FRFI 230 Dec 2012/Jan 2013

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

On 21 November, following eight days of Zionist bombardment of Gaza and the deaths of around 170 Palestinians, Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egypt-brokered ceasefire. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

The Israeli blitzkrieg began on 14 November with the assassination of Ahmad Al Jaabari, head of Hamas’s military wing, in a missile attack on his car. During the eight days’ onslaught, Israel claimed it had attacked 1,500 sites across Gaza. 300 Palestinian homes had been destroyed or damaged. Eleven members of the Al Dalou family, including four children, were massacred when a bomb flattened their house in Gaza City on 18 November. Two bridges linking north and central Gaza were destroyed, government buildings including the Prime Minister’s office were hit, and health, education and media facilities were also targeted. Two mosques were also blown up. All this took place under the grotesque banner of ‘Operation Pillar of Defence’.

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Israeli blitzkrieg: victory to the people of Gaza!

On the morning of 14 November, under the grotesque banner ‘Operation Pillar of Defence’, Israel launched yet another barbaric attack on the Gaza Strip. Its opening act was the assassination of Ahmad Al Jaabari, the head of Hamas’s military wing, the Izzedin Al Qassam Brigades, with a missile attack on the car in which he was travelling. Within the first five days of this onslaught the Israeli military claimed it had carried out 1,350 attacks on ‘terror’ targets: these attacks had claimed the lives of over 80 Palestinians including 11 members of the Al Dalou family, four of them children, massacred when a bomb flattened their house in Gaza City on Sunday 18 November. Over 700 were wounded in the same period, the overwhelming majority of the victims being Palestinian civilians As of the end of 20 November, the seventh day of the onslaught, 140 Palestinians have been killed (compared to five Israelis) and over 900 wounded. There is as yet no sign of agreement on a cease-fire.

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Palestinian Authority in economic crisis /FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

At the beginning of September protests against the high cost of living and the rising prices of fuel and basic food items swept across the West Bank. The protests were directed against the economic policies of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and in particular of the Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, and his subservience to the dictates of Israel. Fayyad is a former IMF economist and has been an enthusiastic supporter of the strategy put forward by Tony Blair and the Quartet of security cooperation with Israel and the cutting of public expenditure, under the guise of Palestinian state building. Fayyad had announced an increase in the level of VAT to 16% and an increase in the cost of fuel to the equivalent of over $2 a litre, while employees of the PA had still not received their salaries for August. This came on top of an inflation rate of 3.5% for 2011 which included a massive rise of 18% in electricity prices. On 4 September protests erupted in Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin and other cities.

Thousands of people participated in the demonstrations; burning tyres were placed on roads in Hebron and an effigy of Fayyad was set on fire. One of the demands of the protesters was the ending of what is known as the Paris Protocol. This is an integral part of the Oslo Accords which ties and subordinates the Palestinian economy to the interests of Israel. Under the Paris Protocol, for instance, the difference between VAT levels in Israel and Palestine is set at a maximum of 2%. As wages and the standard of living are higher in Israel, this linkage can only have the effect of worsening living conditions for Palestinians. As the protests escalated with the demonstrators taking on the PA security forces in Hebron and Nablus and with strikes of public sector workers taking place, Fayyad and the PA were forced to backtrack. On Tuesday 11 September they announced a reversal of the price and VAT increases with VAT being pegged at 15%. On the same day Israel announced that it would advance $63m of tax payments to the PA to help it through the crisis it faced. Netanyahu declared that it was ‘in our joint interest’ that the PA overcomes its financial crisis. Most PA employees were paid half their August salaries at the beginning of September with the other half being paid out on 17 September.

The PA depends almost entirely on financial assistance from donor states, in particular the EU, US and certain Gulf States. Its tax revenues are collected by Israel and are either passed on or delayed depending on the political whims of Israel at that particular time. Whether PA employees receive their salaries on time at the end of September depends entirely on the speed of delivery of aid money from these donor states.

A report on the economy of Palestine by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released on 5 September describes how Israel uses the tax revenue it collects on behalf of the PA for its own political ends: ‘A key source of the PA’s fiscal instability is the channeling through Israel of Palestinian trade clearance revenue, which Israel collects on behalf of the PA as stipulated by the Paris Protocol. In May and November 2011, Israel withheld Palestinian revenue to further its political goals, as it did in 2002 and 2006.’

The report details some of the realities of the Palestinian economy and the deteriorating living conditions for the majority of Palestinians. The unemployment rate in Gaza is 33%; in East Jerusalem it rises to 40% for men and 85% for women. Poverty rates in East Jerusalem stand at 78%, which is higher than Gaza where 52% of households are deemed to be food insecure. Across Palestine 33% of all households are deemed to be food insecure with another 33% vulnerable or only marginally food secure. Wages are now on average worth 8.4% less than they were in 2006, the decline more pronounced in the West Bank. The report documents the destruction caused to the agricultural and fishing industries by the Israeli occupation in denying access to the land and to water and by restricting access to markets to buy and sell products. A graphic example is the decimation of the fishing industry in Gaza, where the number of fishermen has declined in number by 66% since 2000.

The report concludes that: ‘Prolonged occupation, and the socio-economic impact of confrontation with an expanding settler/colonial-type enterprise, is the main cause of the failure of Palestinian economic development efforts. Ending settlement and occupation is the sine qua non for sustainable development to take root. In the absence of a dramatic shift in the economic and political balance of power between the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian people, genuine economic recovery in the occupied Palestinian territories will remain elusive.’

This conclusion is also an indictment of Abbas, Fayyad and the PA; they represent the interests of a small layer of Palestinian capitalists whose privileged life styles depend on their continuing collaboration with the Israeli occupation forces and imperialism. Any successful struggle by the thousands of Palestinians who came out onto the streets will mean confronting not just the Israeli occupation but also these pro-imperialist Palestinian forces.

Bob Shepherd

Settler violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem

Incidents of violent racist attacks against Palestinians by settlers and other Israelis continue to rise across the West Bank and Jerusalem. In mid-August three Palestinian youths were attacked and hospitalised in Zion Square in the centre of West Jerusalem by a gang of Jewish youth who, according to witnesses, were looking for ‘Arabs to kill’. At the same time in the West Bank a taxi carrying a Palestinian family was attacked with a petrol bomb by settlers hospitalising all six occupants including the driver and a six-year-old child. At the end of 2011, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that attacks by settlers against Palestinians were up 32% from 2010 and 144% from 2009. These include attacks against Palestinians that result in injury or death as well as attacks against Palestinian property. So far in 2012 by 11 September there had been 117 recorded attacks.

Israel: a racist apartheid state / 228 Aug/Sep 2012

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.

Boycott Israeli goods!

Bob Shepherd

Israel: A rotten racist state – June 2012

Israel: A rotten racist stateOn 7 June an Israeli court in Jerusalem rejected appeals from human rights organisations that had delayed the implementation of an order from the Interior Ministry, issued on 1 April, which called for the deportation of around 1,500 refugees from the South Sudan. The Interior Minister, Eli Yishai a member of the Shas party, at the beginning of June had expressed clearly the racist ideology behind the Order when he declared, ‘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 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. A report just issued by the Hotline for Migrant Workers in Israel showed that the Israeli state deliberately prevents refugees from being granted official asylum. Last year out of the thousands of applications for asylum only eight were granted.

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  11. Palestine: unity in the face of Zionist terror / FRFI 221 Jun/Jul 2011
  12. Palestine: US and Israel defy the UN/ FRFI 220 April/May 2011
  13. Palestine: no two-state solution! / FRFI 219 Feb/Mar 2011
  14. Palestine: Zionist settlement building accelerates / FRFI 218 Dec 2010 / Jan 2011
  15. 10 years of Intifada / FRFI 217 Oct/Nov 2010
  16. Free Gaza / FRFI 217 Oct/Nov 2010
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  20. Defend the Gaza protesters / FRFI 215 Jun/Jul 2010
  21. Abbas agrees to farcical proximity talks / FRFI 215 Jun/Jul 2010
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  24. Israel: Zionists out of control / FRFI 214 Apr / May 2010
  25. Palestine: Egypt tightens the noose on Gaza / FRFI 213 Feb / Mar 2010