Uprising in Palestine
Written by: Tess Lee Ack
Originally listed under: Edition 47 - December 2000
The Palestinian masses are fighting back against the state of Israel which stole their land and has oppressed them for over fifty years.
It's David versus Goliath: thanks to US aid, Israel is the most heavily armed state in the Middle East, and it is using guns, tanks, helicopters and missiles against a people armed for the most part only with stones and bare hands - plus a lot of courage and determination. The casualties of the conflict are almost entirely Palestinian, including women and children.
The first thing that socialists have to say is that we support the struggle of the Palestinians unconditionally. And despite the casualties, it is a good thing that they are fighting back. The alternative is to accept defeat - to give up the fight for self-determination and basic human rights, to allow thousands of refugees to continue to rot in the camps.
The current conflict was not "started by the Palestinians", as the Israeli government and its apologists in the West would have you believe. It was deliberately orchestrated, sparked by a "visit" to Jerusalem's Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon, accompanied by a thousand troops.
Sharon is the leader of the hard right Likud party, which has always opposed any concessions to the Palestinians. He is infamous for organising the slaughter of hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Chatila camps during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
So his appearance at Temple Mount was a blatant provocation. When Palestinians understandably protested, it gave the Israeli Defence Force the "excuse" to start shooting.
Nor can the provocation be explained away as a maverick action. There is no way Sharon could have done it without the support of Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Indeed, Barak is now talking of forming a "government of national unity" with Sharon.
Moreover, Israel's claim on Temple Mount is completely new, brought up only since the Camp David negotiations in July this year.
But then, the "peace process" has always been a farce, and has delivered nothing to most Palestinians. The Israeli army still occupies large areas of the West Bank and Gaza, supposedly the basis of a new Palestinian state, and Jewish settlements in Arab areas continue unabated.
The Camp David talks between Barak and Yasser Arafat broke down because Israel refused to make concessions to legitimate Palestinian demands. Barak is trying to achieve through force what he failed to win at the negotiating table.
But Arafat and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority are also to blame. The concessions they have made during and since the Oslo conference seven years ago have only encouraged Israel to make new demands, as with Temple Mount.
The intifada (uprising) that led to the Oslo negotiations was wound back - yet it was only this mass, collective defiance that forced Israel onto the back foot. In the absence of that struggle, Israel regained the upper hand.
Many Palestinians are now thoroughly disillusioned with Arafat and the "peace process". Unfortunately some have turned to Islamic fundamentalist organisations like Hamas, which takes a more militant stand against Israel and the US.
The narrow, undemocratic nationalism of these organisations (along with the generally reactionary character of Islamic fundamentalism) will prove as much of a dead-end as the corrupt Arab leaders to whom Arafat has always looked for support. They have all betrayed the Palestinians at one time or another.
Yet there are some heartening signs. For the first time in many years, Arab Israelis - Christian and Muslim - are joining the protests. Athough they have Israeli citizenship, they are second class citizens, barred from many jobs and from living in predominantly Jewish areas and suffering daily racism and discrimination.
And there has been an explosion of anger across the region, with solidarity actions in Jordan (the largest demonstration in ten years), Lebanon (a general strike in the camps), Egypt and other centres.
It is the region's working class, overwhelmingly sympathetic to their cause, that the Palestinians need to look to as the only force capable of winning justice. Ultimately it is a class struggle between the mass of workers and the poor of the whole region on the one hand and the rulers of Israel (and their US backers) and the Arab states on the other.
Despite the mythology promoted by Israel's supporters, the establishment of Israel in 1948 had nothing to do with providing a safe haven for Jews. Both the US and Britain turned Jewish refugees from Europe away.
The reality is that Israel was set up, funded and armed to be a watchdog for US interests in the region, a project that required the bloody eviction of Palestinians from their homeland.
As long as this fundamental injustice is not addressed, Palestinian resistance will continue.