A WORLD TO WIN    #28   (2002)

Palestine on the Front Line

By V. K. Sin

As the magazine goes to press in mid-April 2002 the Israeli reoccupation of the major population centres on the West Bank is continuing. It is the biggest Israeli military operation since the invasion of Beirut in 1982 and has been met with fierce resistance by the Palestinians and a great wave of support from progressive people the world over. Despite unprecedented attempts by Israel to prevent any access by journalists or aid workers, reports are beginning to filter out of hundreds of victims massacred in the Jenin refugee camp alone. Witnesses speak of mass graves and persons buried alive by bulldozers. Ambulances are stopped from rescuing the wounded and medical personnel have repeatedly come under fire, a war crime under the Geneva Convention.

While fury intensifies all over the world, the US has stood, almost alone, behind its Middle East attack dog ostentatiously refusing to pull back on the leash. Yasser Arafat, yesterday’s “peace partner” of the US and Israel, is blockaded into two rooms of what is left of his headquarters as Israeli tanks control even if and when he has any running water. The European Union’s top diplomat is unceremoniously denied permission to meet with Arafat.

The US began by dealing the “anti-terrorist” trump card to the Israeli state, which grants the holder immunity while carrying out any horrendous anti-people crimes it wants. As world outrage increased daily, Bush was forced to add a few words of deception to his naked support of “Israel’s right of defence” when he publicly asked Sharon to withdraw from the West Bank population centres while making it clear to everyone that the latter would have all the time he needed to finish his bloody work. Colin Powell was sent to meet Arafat whom he left bitter and betrayed whilst Israeli atrocities continued on his doorstep and throughout occupied Palestine.

Although the US and Israel may have overwhelming force on their side, they are spreading and intensifying the hatred and resistance of millions throughout the Middle East and beyond and may yet provoke events that neither master nor puppet can bring under control. - AWTW

The struggle in Palestine now stands at the most critical juncture since 1948. At end March 2002, in the most massive incursion into the Occupied Territories – the West Bank and Gaza – since 1967, Israel is re-occupying territory it withdrew from years ago under the Oslo agreement. More than 1,200 Palestinians have already been killed and many thousands wounded since the Second Intifada (“uprising”) broke out in September 2001, and the numbers are rising rapidly under the brutal Israeli aggression. Israel is using its vastly superior firepower to bombard Palestine’s cities at will, its US F16 fighters scream over the skies of Palestine sowing terror, its tanks roll through Palestinian cities and refugee camps, blasting through the barrages of rocks hurled against them by the courageous but dramatically outmatched teenagers on Palestine’s streets. Ramallah, often called the most beautiful of Palestine’s cities and symbolic headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, is being reduced to rubble. Captured Palestinian security forces are being executed in cold blood. Israel’s prisons groan with thousands of Palestinian prisoners who suffer routine torture, under the approving eye of Israel’s highest courts. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon blusters that he will “beat the Palestinians into submission”, that he will teach “the savages” a lesson, and publicly asks his US masters for permission to assassinate Yasser Arafat, who has been all but imprisoned in a single room in his Ramallah headquarters by Israeli troops, with Israeli tank turrets mere feet away. Regardless of whose finger happens to be on the trigger, the blood of the Palestinian people is on the hands of the US imperialists, whose full backing is indispensable to Israel’s very existence.

The response by the Palestinians has in turn claimed over 400 Israeli lives and shown to the whole world, and to Israel too – as if this needed showing yet again – that the Palestinians will never accept living under the yoke of the imperialist-Zionist state. Israel’s escalating repression of the Palestinian people is a high-risk undertaking, and is provoking mounting protest world-wide, especially in the neighbouring Arab countries. It could turn out that it has unleashed a series of events that escape its control and pull it into a broader conflict that it does not have the resources to handle – it may have, as Mao Tsetung put it, picked up a rock only to drop it on its own feet.

Over and over again the struggle of the Palestinian people has burst through the iron fist of Israeli control, seized the front pages of the world’s media and upset the imperialists’ plans for the region. Their struggle has fuelled resistance and stoked the fires of liberation around the world; it has inspired the oppressed of every country. Yet their numbers are no greater than the population of a working class district like South Central Los Angeles or of medium-sized cities like Hyderabad or Milan. What miracles could be accomplished with the spread of the fire and determination that burns in the hearts of the Palestinian people!

At a time when the proletariat is still emerging onto the world scene and undertaking the titanic, uphill fight to overthrow the most powerful reactionaries in human history and carry through the world-historic mission of uprooting all oppression and exploitation, at a time when the great bastions of the proletarian revolution, the USSR and China, have fallen to the enemy, time and again the Palestinian people have flung themselves into unequal battle against the US-Israeli regime. Emboldened by the courage born of a just cause, they have sacrificed many thousands of their best sons and daughters in one-sided combat against a vastly superior force. This has made inestimable contributions to the cause of world revolution: most fundamentally, it has helped clarify friend from foe in the eyes of the world’s oppressed, exposing the US imperialists’ claim to represent progress in the region, and showing instead that they stand solidly behind reaction and national subjugation. Likewise, it has shattered their claim that their regional puppet Israel is an island of civilisation and democracy amidst a sea of “backward Arabs”, revealing instead the cruel reactionary heart of the Zionist state.

The verdict that the Palestinian cause is a just cause, and that the US-Israeli cause is unjust, is seared into the hearts of the world’s oppressed. This verdict is reaffirmed with each crime that the US-Israeli state commits against the Palestinian people, just as it is with every rock thrown or bullet fired in the Palestinians’ fight. Today, as the imperialists beat the drums of war for another crusade in the Middle East, the unyielding struggle of the Palestinian people stands as a sharp reminder to progressive forces around the world that this crusade is an unjust cause, and that this will be yet another unjust war.

Yet only a few years ago the imperialists were hoping, and maybe even believed, that things were going to be different for them in the Middle East. They marshalled their power to knock together the Oslo peace agreement, and made grandiose promises of peace, independence and prosperity for the Palestinian people, sealing this with the infamous handshake on the White House lawn in 1993 between Palestine’s Arafat and Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin, as US President Bill Clinton beamed his approval. The imperialists pushed acceptance of the Oslo accords by a combination of the lure of self-rule in the form of the “Palestinian Authority” and dire threats of further repression in the form of Israeli storm troopers. The upsurge of the Palestinian people in the Second Intifada represents an unambiguous rejection of the imperialists’ peace process, and powerfully exposes the lies and treacherous claims behind it. While the Oslo leaders received Nobel peace prizes and tributes from the official international community, what this peace process has brought the Palestinian people above all is impoverishment, repression and national humiliation. And what the imperialists have on their hands now is not a people who have been corralled into submission, but a furious rebellion whose fires will not be easily ­extinguished.

Background to the Oslo Agreement

The collapse of the Soviet bloc a decade ago and the emergence of US imperialism as the world’s only superpower led to a series of efforts to restructure power relations, particularly in some of the main hot spots around the globe. Unfettered by the removal from the scene of their long-time rival, the US imperialists struck out dramatically in the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to reassert their global hegemony and threaten recalcitrant Third World regimes. One important factor in this process was that now the same order of threat to US interests was no longer posed by political forces formerly associated with the Soviet Union such as the African National Congress in South Africa, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The result was a series of “peace processes” ranging from South Africa to Central America, the Kurdish “safe havens” in Iraq, and into Palestine ­itself.

In Palestine, the US imperialists sought to respond to the blows of the First Intifada and to follow up the momentum they developed with their victory over Iraq to force into place new arrangements that would create greater stability in this tumultuous part of the world. But the peace process in Palestine differed in certain crucial ways from many of the others brokered by the imperialists. For there was no question here of threatening or even tinkering with the unchallenged supremacy of Israel. The Zionist outpost has been the keystone in the structure of US imperialist domination in the region for decades now. It has faithfully served US imperial interests through reactionary wars and thuggish interventions and is its key “regional cop on the beat”, as former US President Nixon called lackeys like this.

Furthermore, this region, with its vast oil resources, is still key to the lifelines of the world economy, and thus occupies a strategic place of unrivalled importance. The US has no intention of doing anything that could undermine Israel’s role in maintaining the current US-dominated power relations here; on the contrary, as the US strikes out on its war against the world, it will need to draw on its regional gendarmes, especially Israel, as never ­before.

So the kind of changing of the guard that took place in South Africa, which, while it had nothing to do with liberating the masses, did involve an actual restructuring of ruling power relations, was never in the cards for Palestine. Instead, a key measure envisioned in the Oslo peace process was the setting up of a repressive Palestinian apparatus to fulfil the Israeli goal of keeping a lid on the Palestinian struggle.

Oslo: Theory and Reality

The story about the Oslo peace agreement that was sold to the world was that Israel and Palestine were trading land for peace. In other words, Israel was to pull back from some of the Palestinian territory it had occupied, in return for which the Palestinians were to recognise Israel’s legitimacy and cease to attack it. This would in turn permit Israel to normalise its relations with the Arab states.

First, it is important to recognise that nothing in Oslo or any subsequent agreement has ever called into question Israel’s borders before the 1967 war against the Arab regimes. In other words, the most that Israel has ever put on the negotiating table is the 22 per cent of historic Palestine that it occupied following the 1967 wars, mainly the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. So even the maximum concession on the bargaining table would leave Israel occupying 78 per cent of historic Palestine, that is, Palestine as it existed under British rule up through the Second World War, also called Mandate Palestine.

This in turn means that the maximum that the Palestinians would ever obtain under the Oslo process is for the approximately three million Palestinians now in the West Bank and Gaza to be able to live under some form of formal Palestinian government in less than a quarter of historic Palestine, while the Israelis, with a Jewish population that constituted no more than one-third of the population before 1948, and only five per cent of the population at the end of the nineteenth century, before large waves of imperialist-sponsored immigration, would occupy more than three-quarters of the country. In addition, these figures leave out some three million Palestinian refugees who do not live in Israel or the Occupied Territories.

Yet at every negotiation session the Israelis pointedly refused to give up even the sliver of historic Palestine constituted by the Occupied Territories. The reasons underlying this refusal go a long way to illustrating exactly what the Oslo peace process is all about.

The parts of the Occupied Territories that Israel is insisting on keeping consist of a series of heavily fortified “illegal settlements” that it has built up and garrisoned over the preceding decades in order to strengthen its decisive military domination of the bulk of the Occupied Territories. (These settlements are, outside the imperialist media, commonly referred to as “illegal” because they are in contravention of UN resolutions, as well as of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit settling on a militarily occupied territory. We have adopted the terminology “illegal” in this article without implying the legality or justice of the previous existing settlements.) Formally, the Oslo agreement divided the Occupied Territories into three categories: area A (17.2 per cent of the Occupied Territories), where the Palestinian Authority supposedly governs and handles security; area B (23.8 per cent of the Occupied Territories), where the Palestinian Authority governs but there is joint security, meaning in practice that Israel determines security; and area C, where Israel openly governs and handles security (59 per cent of the Occupied Territories). A look at a map showing these areas reveals that Israel has structured them so that “A” areas are systematically bordered by “B” areas, which are in turn surrounded at key points by “C” areas. In other words, Israel has surrounded the Palestinian-controlled areas with a system of fortifications at crucial points of control.

These settlements are actually vast fortresses surrounded by barbed wire, electric fences and other protective facilities, and garrisoned by volunteers who tend to have a high degree of ideological commitment to the Zionist cause. The settlers are also granted certain material privileges to entice them to their front-line position, such as heavily subsidised housing, much like the initial settlers in the US West were enticed to the frontier with the promise of free land. The settlers are all provided with arms, and frequently act as lynch mobs, dispensing Nazi-style “justice” on the streets. Beyond that, the settlements serve as logistics centres, safe outposts used by the Israeli military for surveillance and staging grounds for attacks, including by the elite death squad assassins, as well as for positioning artillery. For instance, Arafat’s headquarters were shelled by artillery positioned in an illegal settlement.

These garrisons are linked by what are called “bypass roads”, because they bypass the vast majority of the area’s inhabitants, the Palestinians, and instead directly link the various Israeli settlements and Israel itself. One of their main purposes is to permit the rapid movement of troops. The method here is similar to the system of forts that the US military used in the West to subjugate the Native Americans, but in a much more concentrated geographic area. In fact, today no Palestinian in the Occupied Territories lives further than 10 km from some form of Israeli-controlled territory. The Palestinian people are broken up into seven discontinuous islands on the West Bank and are unable to move freely even within the Occupied Territories. They are forced to pass through a series of Israeli checkpoints where they are subjected to degrading searches and lengthy waits. By analogy, in a prison too, even if the prisoners have the great majority of space, the guards’ tiny portion is the key to total control.

Besides serving as security outposts, the illegal settlements are also part of Israel’s overall policy of “creating facts on the ground”. What they mean by this is making the Israeli presence increasingly “irreversible” in larger and larger parts of Palestine. Today, 40 per cent of the Gaza strip is occupied by settlements, which contain less than one per cent of the Gaza population. The population of the illegal settlements has grown steadily over the Oslo years, under Labour and Likud governments alike. In fact, the pace of illegal settlement has accelerated since Oslo, and now amounts to some 200,000 people in the West Bank and Gaza, and almost 200,000 more in illegal settlement areas in Jerusalem. These settlements have been erected in defiance of numerous United Nations resolutions and condemnation world-wide – except from the US ­imperialists.

The Israelis have implemented this same policy with regard to Jerusalem. Despite having been proclaimed an “open city” by the UN, in respect of its position as a historic site for three of the world’s main religions, Israel has imposed its own laws in the city, annexed Palestinian areas in and around Jerusalem, built new housing and brought in some 200,000 illegal settlers to establish a stronger Jewish presence in the city and strengthen its control there.

The Israelis have thus seized on the peace process to strengthen their military position vis-à-vis the Occupied Territories through this illegal settlement system and through breaking up and weakening the internal cohesion of the Palestinian areas. But the Oslo process also aimed at setting up another mechanism to keep the Palestinians in check, or, as the Israeli negotiators and the imperialist media always put it, to “ensure Israel’s security”. And that is the Palestinian Authority itself.

Palestine is one of the most policed states in the world, with 35,000 police for its three million people, a rate some four times higher than the police per capita ratio in Israel itself. Yet the only weapons these forces have are small arms, and when Israel captured a ship bringing in a quantity of weapons that dwarfs what the Israelis themselves are given every day by the US, they went into a rage. There has been one overwhelming purpose for this lopsided concentration on lightly armed security forces: to ensure the Palestinian Authority’s ability to control its own population and, at the same time, to prevent attacks on Israel. For several years after Oslo, this is what Arafat and the Palestinian Authority managed to do, as the guns and prisons of the Palestinian Authority targeted the Palestinian people themselves. This was the period when the US imperialists and the Zionists thought the peace process was making “good progress”.

The main aspects of the Oslo agreement were designed to set up and legitimise a set of agreements that locked Palestine into a position of subordination and dependency. The central role of any Palestinian government that Israel permitted to exist would be to keep its own people in line.

The Palestinian Economy: Military Subordination

What has emerged under the Oslo agreements is not the promised increasing autonomy of the Palestinian economy, but increasing dependence on Israel.

Any capitalist country would “naturally” create, foster and enforce these kinds of relations of dependency with an oppressed nation on its borders. But what differs in the situation of Israel and Palestine is that economic exploitation is far from the top of Israel’s priorities in Palestine.

As noted above in the discussion of illegal settlements, Israel has carved Palestinian areas up into discontinuous islands. It has used its military domination to prevent the development of a harmonious interlinked Palestinian economy and instead fostered this situation of separate economic islands. This process has gone so far that, in the words of one economist, “by 1998, almost all physical, demographic and commercial interaction between the West Bank and Gaza had ceased.”

This has rendered the Palestinian economy heavily dependent on economic relations with Israel. The overwhelming majority of Palestine’s exports go to Israel (88 per cent), while the Palestinian territories are the second destination of Israeli exports, after the US. Israel is also the source of most capital investment in Palestine. One of the rotten fruits of the peace process has been the rise of the type of factories common along the US-Mexican border (maquiladoras). Unfinished Israeli components are “sold” to the Palestinian sub-contractors who have set up these factories and who then assemble the components using cheap Palestinian labour, then “re-sell” them back to Israelis for a profit. This has led to the emergence of a small class of well-off Palestinian businessmen who are entirely dependent on trade with Israel and on super-exploiting cheap Palestinian labour, mainly women, in these maquiladora-style factories, where average wages are about $3 per day, less than a tenth of what Israeli production workers earn.

It must be remembered, first of all, that part of the reason for Palestinian dependency on Israel has to do with the theft by Israel of almost all the Palestinian land, which thereby not only robbed Palestinians of their chief means of subsistence but also created a nation of refugees. Even today, over 50 years later, 60 per cent of Palestinians are still refugees. Israel has used its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza to further strip away the people’s economic resources, destroying half of Palestinian olive groves and uprooting hundreds of thousands of trees during the Second Intifada alone.

In addition to controlling transport, Israel has control of the water resources of the entire area, and reserves most of the water for its own illegal settlers. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip lack running water and sanitary facilities, while on the adjacent hilltops settlers swim in their pools and water their roses. Eighty percent of the water resources in the Occupied Territories go to Jewish citizens, and only 20 per cent to Palestinians, though the latter are many times more numerous.10  US politicians and the media like to wax lyrical about the “miracle” of how Israel has “made the desert bloom”, but Palestine’s orange groves were famous long before Israel even existed. The secret of agricultural productivity there is not so much Israeli resourcefulness, as their theft of Palestinian resources – combined with billions in imperialist aid.

Whenever Israel wishes to hit the Palestinians, it uses its vice-like control of transport, water and communications to simply shut down the Occupied Territories, including their economy. The Palestinian economy loses far more from these closures than it receives in aid from donor nations.11  Between 1993 and 1996, for instance, it has been estimated that Israel closed the West Bank and Gaza to all physical and economic movement almost one day out of every three. This has led to devastating economic losses and deterred almost all foreign investment.12 

Since Oslo, while the Israeli economy has forged ahead, with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rising by 50 per cent in 1995-1999 (GDP per capita now stands at about $17,000), Palestinian GDP per capita fell 20-30 per cent between 1993 and 1999, and is now less than 10 per cent that of Israel’s at $1,350.13  Unemployment has grown massively in the Occupied Territories, and is now 40 per cent in the Gaza Strip. Today, 80 per cent of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip live below the official poverty line, spending 58 per cent of their income on food alone.14  Israel has cut down on its dependency on Palestinian migrant workers by importing 300,000 foreign workers from Romania, Thailand and other places and expanding the maquiladora-style system.15 

This web of dependency has also enshrouded the Palestinian Authority itself, the supposed representative of the Palestinian people. US and European aid, the rise of a strata of Palestinian compradors, and the buffeting of the Palestinian economy by the US-Israeli regime have led to a situation where the Palestinian Authority increasingly answers to outside forces. At the insistence of the US and Israel, one-third of the Palestinian Authority budget goes to security spending, making it bigger than the health, education and social services budgets combined. One mainstream Palestinian commentator concluded that the Palestinian Authority “was more accountable to Washington, Israel and the World Bank than to its own citizens.”16 

The peace process was hailed as heralding the development of a Singapore of the Middle East. Instead it has produced what one commentator described as “Soweto on the Mediterranean”.17  Meanwhile Israel has prospered. Supporters of Israel and the imperialist-brokered peace process have long ago mastered the art of seeing a fat overfed man and a skinny malnourished man living on the same land and concluding that there is no relationship between the bloated condition of the one and the malnourished condition of the other.

The Right of Return

Israel has refused to even consider putting the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes on the bargaining table. It is the great “unthinkable”. And with good reason. For this issue goes right to the heart of the crime at the origin of the imperialist-Zionist state.18 

There are 3.7 million refugees registered with the UN, meaning the majority of Palestinians are refugees. Some 3 to 4 million Palestinians still live outside historic Palestine. Well over a million of them still live in refugee camps, including most of the 400,000 in Lebanon and the slightly larger number in Syria, as well as most Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.19  The majority of these refugees live in great poverty, and the position of those abroad is inherently precarious, as was demonstrated when 300,000 Palestinian migrant workers in Kuwait were expelled in the wake of the Gulf War. The very existence of these refugees is a constant reminder that the Israeli settler army drove out the land’s initial inhabitants, the Palestinians, and colonised it for themselves.20 

Nothing in the Oslo process has ever addressed the right to return of these refugees. Prominent Israeli spokesmen have repeatedly argued that it cannot implement the internationally accepted demand for the right to return of the Palestinian refugees as this would mean the end of Israel as it exists today.21  Indeed – the Zionist’s own argument is a tacit admission that Israel’s very foundation was premised on taking another people’s land and driving them out.

The fact that the imperialists and Zionists refuse to even consider the refugee problem would be, in itself, sufficient to guarantee that there will be no peace in the Middle East.

The results of the Oslo agreement are as one-sided as its original terms. In the almost nine years since Oslo, the Palestinians have seen themselves impoverished, locked up and surrounded by increasing numbers of illegal Israeli settlements, while the Israelis treat Palestinian elected leaders like a warden treats the representative of the prison inmates. Since Oslo, the US-Israeli regime has used its state power to “move the goalposts” repeatedly – for instance, putting on the bargaining table a withdrawal from a certain percentage of settlements, while in the meantime it builds even more illegal settlements, so that even if there were an agreement the actual number of settlers remaining in the Occupied Territories would grow.22  What was sealed on the White House lawn was not an agreement between two equal powers, in a neutral process of give-and-take, but the terms of surrender of the leadership of a small nation to the much more powerful occupier.

US Imperialism: Seasoned Swindler Plays “Honest Broker”

The US has long portrayed itself as an “honest broker” standing above the fray in Palestine. But at every step of its existence the US imperialists have given indispensable support to the state of Israel.23 

Two telling indications of the extent of US support for Israel are, first, the records of votes on the numerous UN General Assembly resolutions on Palestine, where the final tally has usually been more than 100 to 2 – over and over again the two being the US and Israel (this is one reason why the UN is governed by the Security Council in which the US has a veto). Since 1983, the US has vetoed 20 UN Security Council resolutions condemning general Israeli practices in Palestine, as well as three specifically on the Occupied Territories. It has also twice vetoed Security Council motions calling for the application of the Geneva Conventions in the Occupied Territories and more recently blocked the presence of international observers.24  Second, and more importantly, the US gives more military and financial aid to Israel than to any other country, and has done so for decades. Since 1967 the US has given over $92 billion to Israel, and in 2000 it sent over $5 billion in aid – more than $1,000 per Israeli Jew.25  US aid has been set since the days of Nixon to guarantee that Israel has a military edge in every aspect of war-fighting, especially in the air, and to give it the capacity to produce itself much of the lighter armaments it needs.26 

Some observers, especially in Europe, have tended to view the Palestinian conflict in terms of a US-backed Israel versus a European-backed Palestinian Authority. They point to substantial European Union aid and the large number of European NGOs active in the Occupied Territories and to the way that Israeli forces have bombed a number of Palestinian facilities paid for by European aid, sometimes, it seems, purposefully. While there is some truth to this, the US has given more financial aid to the Palestinian Authority than is generally recognised: $3 billion in the period 1993-2000.27  This actually puts Palestine towards the top of the list of recipients of US foreign aid. The purpose of this substantial aid is two-fold: one, to ensure that the Palestinian Authority is capable of playing the role required of it by the Oslo accords, chiefly keeping the Palestinian people in line; and two, to foster a stratum of compradors and a middle class, including large numbers of NGO personnel. These people, who are linked to, and look to, the West, are to act as a buffer against rebellion from below. While US aid to Israel vastly exceeds that to Palestine, and goes in large part to fund military power – which is strictly off-limits to the Palestinians – the policy of providing substantial aid to both sides reflects US determination that no other major power will have a substantial say in developments in this critical region.28 

Palestine’s Islamic Fundamentalists and the Democratic Secular State

Back in the 1960s the Palestinian liberation movement formulated the goal of the struggle as the destruction of the Zionist state of Israel and its replacement by a democratic secular state in Palestine. This was to be a state in which all the inhabitants of Palestine, regardless of their religion , would be treated equally. That formulation stood in stark contrast to the theocratic orientation of Israel, which, as a “Jewish state”, excludes Palestinian citizens from important affairs and openly discriminates against them. The goal of a democratic, secular state gained the support of Maoist China and much of the rest of the world, and stood as a symbol of the far-sighted vision of the Palestinian liberation forces. They refused to allow themselves to fall to the level of their imperialist-Zionist enemy and be sucked into the dynamic of limiting their own vision to that of their ­opponent.

As part of entering into the imperialist-brokered Oslo peace process, Yasser Arafat led the Palestinian resistance leadership to repudiate this historic achievement. In fact, as far back as 1974, Arafat had made it clear he would accept a “mini-state” on only a small part of historic Palestine, but at that historic juncture it was impossible for Israel and the US to accept his surrender.29 

A number of factors besides Arafat’s long-standing desire for an accommodation with the imperialists were involved in launching the Oslo process. First, the collapse of the Soviet social-imperialists and the accompanying global campaign by the imperialists to use the failures of Soviet revisionism to attack communism and revolution in general led to weakening the more radical secular forces in the Palestinian liberation movement.30  This was made easier by the fact that too much of the Palestinian left, instead of practising the Maoist theory of self-reliance, had portrayed the Soviet social-imperialists as friends of the Palestinian struggle and allowed themselves to become dependent on hand-outs from the Soviet “big brother” and its regional allies like Assad’s Syria, along with financial handouts from openly reactionary Arab regimes.

These developments, along with the emergence of the US as the world’s only remaining superpower, its pummelling of Iraq during the Gulf War, and the series of imperialist-brokered “peace agreements” it secured (such as in South Africa, for example) on the one hand, and on the other Israel’s continuing ability to secure peace with the main Arab regimes in the region, combined with the Zionist state’s continuing need for stability, all set the stage for the Oslo peace process.

These same dynamics and in particular the weakening of the Palestinian left, created fertile soil for the Islamic forces to prosper. Their growth was also nourished by the general reaction to further imperialist penetration of the region, which brought intensified oppression to broad numbers of the Arab masses. Also fuelling the Islamic forces was reaction against ­Israel.

But the rise of the Islamic forces was not just a spontaneous development. It was also consciously and cynically supported by the imperialists and Zionists themselves. In the 1980s, the Israeli army brutally drove deep into Lebanon in an effort to expel the forces centred on the PLO, which allowed Islamic fundamentalist forces to move into the resulting power vacuum. The Israeli army consciously favoured this development, viewing the Islamic forces as a “lesser evil” to the radical secular forces that it had been fighting so bitterly for so many years.31  At this same time, the US imperialists were providing massive aid to the Islamic forces in Afghanistan, which had a spillover effect and boosted the Islamic forces throughout the region. Ironically, the imperialist boost to the Islamic forces came just as conditions were ripening for a settlement with the secular forces around Arafat, thus setting the stage for the former to emerge as stronger opponents of the US-Israeli regime.

The Islamic forces thus profited from widespread disillusionment with the pro-Western secular forces and have attracted some masses who want to fight Israel.

Ultimately, though, however militant Hamas and Islamic jihad may appear, their programme is not one that will lead to the defeat of the US-Israeli state and liberation for the Palestinian people. Hamas declares that it wishes to erect an Islamic Palestinian state and destroy Israel, which it denounces as a “Jewish infiltrator” on Arab land. But the core of the Hamas programme, including its fighting strategy and its relations with Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, indicates that ultimately it aims no higher than accommodation with imperialism under a religious cover. This should be no surprise: no Islamic political force, whether Khomeini’s Islamic Republic in Iran or the Taliban in Afghanistan, has ever managed to thoroughly rupture with imperialism – more to the point, they have not even attempted this.

The Hamas programme unleashes and reflects the interests of feudal forces. It is built on the continuing oppression of women.32  There is no programme for land reform or agrarian revolution. Moreover, Hamas and the other Islamic fundamentalists lower the nature of the fighting to a war between religions and in so doing obscure the national liberation interests and the social liberation interests of the Palestinian masses – not to mention the fact that it is hard to see how turning the struggle into a battle of Muslims versus Jews will ever prove capable of mobilising the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who happen to be Christians.

So even if Hamas were somehow to go against its feudal nature and genuinely fight to defeat the US-Israeli regime, it could never mobilise the full forces of the Palestinian people that are indispensable to the uphill battle to defeat the enemy’s far superior military forces. Its tactics, including targeting Jewish civilians, reflect that its actual goal is instead to simply make Israel pay too high a price for continuing its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.33 

The policy Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have adopted towards the Islamic forces has been to try to use them as much as possible, while keeping them in check. They turn a blind eye to certain attacks on Israel when this suits their interests, and imprison Islamic militants when that serves their purposes. The Arafat forces and the Islamic forces thus jockey for position on the basis of fighting for better terms for negotiating a settlement with the imperialist-Zionist enemy, and not in an effort to overthrow the Israeli state and achieve full liberation. This policy has been followed for many years in Lebanon by the Islamic party there, Hezbollah. When, with backing from Syria, they finally managed to force an Israeli withdrawal there, they dropped any remaining radical pretensions and became part of the reactionary ruling structure in Lebanon.

Before leaving Hamas and the Islamic fundamentalists, a word must be said here about the Western media’s barrage of attacks on the suicide bomb tactics used mainly by the Islamic forces. These imperialists who are responsible for uprooting several million Palestinians and hurling them to the winds, whose Israeli puppets carried out the invasion of Lebanon and bombing of Beirut in which over ten thousand civilians died, who helped Israel build up a nuclear arsenal in a region that experiences more frequent wars than any other, and who slaughtered some 200,000 Iraqis in the Gulf War and then watched hundreds of thousands of children die under their subsequent blockade, who have just killed thousands more Afghanistani civilians and who today close their eyes to Israeli missile bombardments of densely populated areas in Palestine, and then belittle the inevitable civilian casualties as “collateral damage” – these imperialists have no right to denounce the “terrorism” of such a poorly-armed force which is resisting brutal occupation.

They wail about “civilian casualties” on both sides but try to portray the Palestinians as worse because they are said to “target” Israeli civilians, whereas Palestinian civilian casualties are supposedly not intentional. This is a blatant lie. Do they really expect people to believe that when Israeli jets drop 1,000 pound bombs in the middle of densely populated Gaza City civilian casualties are “accidental”!? Would they like to explain why there are almost four times as many Palestinians dead as Israelis? And why the ratio of Palestinian wounded to Israeli wounded is even higher?34  Israeli soldiers have testified over and over that they have been ordered to fire on children, and the Israeli high command has even tried to justify shooting Red Cross workers, ambulance drivers, doctors and nurses who are trying to rescue the wounded, despite global condemnation.35 

One of the most outrageous arguments of the Zionists is that the Palestinians “brought it on themselves”. In speaking of the elevated numbers of Palestinian children among the victims of the Israeli army, Bernard-Henri Lévy, a French philosopher, argued, “Is it quibbling to ask who put these children on the front lines in the first place, and as part of what gloomy martyrs strategy?” – a transparent effort to point the finger of blame in some direction other than the Israeli armed forces who gun down rock-throwing children in the streets.36 

This is not a “cycle of violence” or a feud between neighbours that erupted over some long-forgotten trifle. This is a fight between occupier and occupied, between possessor and dispossessed. It pits a rich, powerful capitalist state with 200,000 active troops and 400,000 reservists backed by jet fighters, missiles, tanks and even nuclear bombs – not to mention the support of the largest foreign military assistance scheme in the world today – that is trying to “beat into submission”, as Sharon puts it, a poor oppressed nation that instead of an army is allowed only a police force of 35,000, armed with little more than Second World War era rifles. The fact that there has been almost no condemnation by the “official” international community of Sharon’s outrageous threats is revealing of the double standards systematically applied to reporting on Palestine. Imagine the outcry if Arafat blustered that he would “beat the Israelis into submission” or openly mused that he should “liquidate Sharon”!

No Liberation without the Destruction of Israel

The biggest hurdle for those who want to see the struggle for liberation and justice for the people of Palestine go all the way to victory has centred on the question of whether it is possible to somehow obtain liberation without defeating Israel. And here is the fundamental point of Middle Eastern politics: there will be no justice for the Palestinians until the state of Israel is destroyed. This is simply another way of saying that the Palestinians will never enjoy true liberation until imperialism has been overthrown, because what Israel represents above all is not a “home for the Jews” but the key outpost of US imperialism in the Middle East.37  The pivotal point of the strategy of every force involved in the Palestinian struggle is how it views imperialism.

For over 50 years now, the Palestinian people have been waging struggle, fighting the Israelis under one banner or another, suffering setbacks, picking themselves up, then fighting again. But up to now the struggle has been led by various combinations of the Palestinian elite, representatives of the national bourgeoisie and even feudal forces. In the era of imperialism and world proletarian revolution, as Mao analysed, these classes can never carry the bourgeois democratic revolution through to victory. They are too weak, vacillating and linked to imperialism to carry through the fight to break with imperialism completely and establish genuine national independence. This is even truer today, when imperialism is more tightly knit and highly integrated, than when Mao first analysed this 70 years ago.

There is no easy answer to dealing with the overwhelming superiority of the US-Israeli regime, but several things must be said. First, to go beyond the mere assertion that the US imperialists and their Zionist settler state can be defeated and Palestine liberated requires that a Palestinian vanguard arms itself with the science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, turns this into a material force on the battlefield and develops the strategy and tactics that can ultimately win. In short, theory has to advance through practice.

Second, the Palestinian revolution is part of the world revolution, and its advances and setbacks are bound up with the advances or setbacks of the world revolution. Thus figuring out how to carry on the fight against the US-Israeli state requires situating the Palestinian revolution within the overall fight against the US-led imperialist system, and developing a strategy and tactics that take that into account and enable the struggle to advance as much as it can at any given point along the path to ultimate victory. The notion that the US imperialists and the Zionist state could be quickly toppled independently of regional and global developments would quickly lead to demoralisation as the struggle inevitably proves to be more protracted. But the far greater danger has been to think that the US-Israeli set-up is so strong that there is little that the Palestinian people can accomplish today to advance along the path to victory, thus leaving no choice but to confine the struggle to the goal of compelling some larger benevolent power, usually the US, to pressure Israel to grant concessions to the Palestinians, leaving Israeli domination intact.

In terms of the basic path to revolution, Palestine is an oppressed nation where the strategy of the revolutionary forces requires waging protracted people’s war. But it has certain unique features, including that the bulk of the nation is occupied by a highly developed, militarised settler state. This state is backed heavily by US imperialism; it has a population of settlers roughly equal to the number of dispossessed Palestinians; and the territory is small.38  So the Palestinian revolutionaries face the task of finding a way to implement the strategy of people’s war in difficult circumstances. Waging this kind of warfare means not tailoring the strategy and tactics of the struggle to the demands of the bargaining table, but instead fighting with the long-term strategy of actually defeating the US-Israeli state, and maximizing the gains that can be made on that path at every given point in the struggle.

Already today the dynamics of the fighting cry out for consciously moving the struggle to a qualitatively higher stage. Recently, Palestinian Member of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) Azmi Bishara, no advocate of war with Israel, analysed that, “The Israeli government is trying to narrow the space of resistance: it is offering the choice between accepting Israeli dictates and an overall war.” Frederick Engels, the collaborator of Karl Marx, pointed out that every advance in the fighting of the revolutionary forces called forth an intensification of the battle by the reactionaries, and vice versa, in a spiral that eventually led to the defeat of one side or the other. Seeking some third way that avoids this dialectic ultimately means ceding victory to the reactionaries, because their escalation of the fighting cannot be met.39 

No one can say now what combination of developments in the struggle and in the objective situation in the region and the world as a whole would bring about a situation where it would actually be possible to defeat the US-Israeli state. Such a prospect would almost certainly involve other major upheavals in the region, perhaps a combination of war and revolutionary upheaval in one or more of the neighbouring Arab countries. It is worth considering, for example, what a vanguard with real roots and military strength in Palestine might have been able to accomplish during the fiasco of Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. Israel has never been embroiled in a regional conflict when on the home front it faced the kind of determined resistance from the Palestinians that it does today.

In any case, what is certain and what the tragic results of the peace process have shown again and again is that seeking an accommodation with the US-Israeli regime will not bring liberation. There is no other path to freeing Palestine than defeating Israel on the battlefield. This demands the formation of a vanguard that can seize every opportunity to keep the coals of the armed struggle alive and advance as much as possible along the path of building up the party and the revolutionary army under its leadership so that when, and as, more favourable alignments of regional and global forces do emerge, as they have and will again, the revolutionary war can be led towards final victory. And while it is also certain that the path to liberation will be exceptionally arduous, it is no less the case that the possibilities for carrying out this kind of all-the-way revolutionary struggle tend to be underestimated and have yet to even be examined properly, above all this is due to the lack of a Maoist vanguard there.

In this light, it is worthwhile examining the way that the accepted wisdom guiding the Palestinian struggle in recent years deals with a few key issues. One crucial question that would have to be resolved to make significant advances is the relationship to the struggle in other Arab states, such as Lebanon and in particular Jordan, a large part of whose people are Palestinians. If this is handled successfully it could be a source of tremendous strength. But all too often, based in part on the nationalist outlook of the PLO leadership, the hopes of the Palestinian struggle have been pinned to the existing Arab regimes, which have been portrayed as vacillating friends of the Palestinian struggle instead of deadly reactionary enemies, themselves abject lackeys of imperialism. The results have been to subject the Palestinian people to deception and betrayal.

Again, determining the specific features of what kind of relationship is possible, and necessary, with the struggle in the surrounding Arab countries requires the development of a vanguard Palestinian organisation. But two points are clear: first, the core of the struggle would have to be the self-reliant struggle of the Palestinian masses themselves. This is no cause for pessimism. Look at the way the forces at the heart of the struggle against Israel have shifted over time. Initially the main forces fighting Israeli troops on the battlefield were the armies of the Arab regimes. They seemed big and powerful, but were decisively beaten. Then the core of the forces contending with the US-Israeli regime shifted over to the Palestinians abroad. Now, with the two Intifadas, the heart of the battle has moved again, into Palestine itself, and ominously for Israel, it has for the first time drawn in substantial open support from Palestinians living inside the “green line” (the pre-1967 borders), i.e. in Israel itself. And with each shift in this struggle, as the core of the fighting against Israel moved closer to home and became more rooted among the Palestinian masses themselves, the vulnerability of the US-Israeli regime has stood out more starkly.

If led by a correct line that clearly identified friend and foe, brought the interests of the oppressed masses to the fore, exposed the narrow interests behind those involved in conciliation and betrayal, and targeted the struggle squarely against the imperialists and on that basis drew out the common interests of all the oppressed masses, then there is no doubt that such a struggle would rouse the hopes and sympathies of the oppressed around the globe, and in particular in the Arab world, as never before. The Palestinian masses have to rely on themselves, but they would not be fighting the imperialist-Zionist state alone.40 

Just as there has been a strong tendency to view the Arab countries through the lens of nationalism and neglect the class nature of the Arab regimes, so too have there been strong tendencies to portray Israel in nationalist terms, seeing it principally as a “Jewish state” and not as an outpost of imperialism. This has led to neglecting some of Israel’s particular features that need to be considered carefully in developing a revolutionary strategy, including the heterogeneous character of its population; its extreme reliance on US backing, and its consequent isolation in the region, where Israel is universally hated, even if temporarily tolerated; along with this, its great reliance on the superiority of its hi-tech arsenal, and the way it is consequently compelled to fight41 ; and, based on its reactionary character and imperialist backing, its extreme arrogance.

Consider the character of Israeli society. It is not like the “usual” capitalist oppressor country. Most such states have arisen historically over many generations, and have at their core a large class of proletarians that have nothing to lose and that are oppressed and exploited by the bourgeoisie. Israel, on the other hand, was set up only two generations ago by the imperialists, and ripped out of the land of another people. Even today as many as half of Israel’s non-Palestinian inhabitants were not born there. One million Russians came to Israel in the 1990s alone, and a few hundred thousand in the preceding two decades.42  As previously mentioned, half of those arriving in the 1990s did not even have a Jewish father or mother. Few arrive speaking any Hebrew. So why did they come? Israel’s average per capita income is at West European levels, almost $20,000 – Russia’s is closer to $1,000. While this is not the entire story, it is abundantly clear that what led these people to Israel was not Moses’ call from the “Promised Land” but the much more tangible appeal of US-backed hard currency.43 

What is being constituted in Israel is not a historically developed nation with a full class structure but a garrison state of mercenary settlers, rewarded handsomely for serving on the front lines in the fight to control the Arab world and ensure the steady supply of the oil that the West depends on. Israel is filling the ranks of its garrison settler state by offering the “right of return” to anyone with even the most tenuous claim to be Jewish, while Palestinians, whose families lived in Palestine for generations, are forced to watch over the electric fences as these foreigners set up new lives in their old villages.44 

All this means that the character of Israeli society divides into two: on one hand it is highly militarised and garrisoned by many people who have settled there in the full knowledge of their criminal role – which makes Israel a formidable foe – whilst on the other hand it is a heterogeneous society, made up of a multitude of different cultures and nationalities (e.g. there are over 20 regular Russian-language news publications in Israel, not to speak of Romanian, Ukrainian, etc.), large numbers of whom have no real roots in the society and consequently no real sense of national unity. How they will respond to the protracted and more resounding blows of a genuine people’s war remains to be seen.

The public refusal of increasing numbers of Israeli reservists to serve in the Occupied Territories, and their denunciation of their mission there is indicative of the kinds of cracks that can appear in fortress Israel. Over 300 Israeli reservists have signed a petition declaring that they refuse to fight “beyond the green line [the pre-1967 borders] in order to rule, expel, destroy, blockade, assassinate, starve and humiliate an entire people.”

The Battlefront Today

The US-Israeli regime faces a serious dilemma. The Palestinians’ thirst for national liberation has proved unquenchable. If the Zionists continue to step up their repression and permanently re-occupy the Occupied Territories, they will only increase the Palestinians’ desperation and fury through more misery, more bombings, more prisons, more assassinations … and in the process will also create more targets for Palestinian fighters. The Israeli generals are understandably anxious, and a flurry of repressive programmes are on the agenda, including giant systems of concrete walls, electric fences and canals and trenches to separate and ghettoise the Palestinians. One Israeli officer has told his colleagues that they must study the tactics of the Nazis in the Second World War. If, he argues, “it is the job of an Israeli officer to seize a refugee camp or take over the Nablus kasbah… then he must before all else analyse and bring together the lessons of past battles, even – shocking though this might appear – to analyse how the German army operated in the Warsaw ghetto.”45  Can there be any more telling indication of how the Israelis regard the Palestinians as an “inferior people”, “subhumans” – like their US masters’ prisoners in Guantanamo, Cuba – deprived of the most elementary rights? Does this account for the numbers stamped on the arms of the Palestinian prisoners taken in March in the refugee camps? And just what does this herald for the future?

Indeed, just as their US masters have shifted the terms of mainstream political debate “to the right” since the 11 September attacks, so too have Israel’s rulers shifted the terms of debate on solving the “Palestine problem”. There is increasing talk in Israeli policy circles, including the Cabinet itself, of “transfer”, which means expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank and perhaps even the one million Palestinians who are citizens of Israel itself. This is nothing but naked “ethnic cleansing” – and there is no other country on Earth where such discussion is supposedly acceptable. This solution holds a strong attraction for the Zionist bosses, for it was, after all, the ethnic cleansing of 1948 that enabled them to found the Israeli state in the first place, when their “Jewish jihad” drove out two-thirds of all the Palestinian inhabitants. But unlike Serbia’s Milosevic, who is being tried as a war criminal for his far less extensive programme of ethnic cleansing, the Israeli founding fathers were not punished for their crime, but rewarded. Hence the attractiveness today of what some Israelis call “finishing the job” – driving all Palestinians out of their native land.

The imperialists are at the same time also giving some prominence to yet another peace proposal, this time advanced by that great friend of American democracy, the bootlicking imperialist lackey at the head of the Saudi sheiks, Crown Prince Abdullah. Like its predecessors, this plan too would only work to the benefit of Israel and the reactionary Arab states, at the expense of the Palestinians.

Support the Just Struggle of the Palestinian People!

Today, the Palestinian struggle is linked as never before to world revolution. Imperialist relations in the region are wound tight as a drum. Any substantial move by a major power can give rise to unintended and unforeseeable consequences that reverberate around the world – as the US found out so dramatically when it was hit by the “blowback” generated in large part by its own power plays in the Middle and Near East. The Middle East, which accounts for 60 per cent of the world’s arms purchases, is as much as ever the world’s “minefield”, where a wrong step can be deadly.

The Second Intifada is forging ahead, refusing to concede the battlefield, despite Israel’s unquestioned military superiority. Rage is seething throughout the Occupied Territories and the refugee camps of Lebanon and beyond. The stakes are higher than ever for the struggle in Palestine. One Palestinian fighter, when asked by a Western journalist whether he was fearful at the renewed invasion of Gaza by Israeli armed forces, responded, “Why should I be? We have nothing to lose.”46 

The Palestinian people do indeed have nothing to lose, they have no stake in the peace process, nothing to gain in the honeyed words of the imperialists, which disguise only more dead-ends and traps. The blows dealt to the imperialists by the Palestinian struggle have weakened them and strengthened the struggle of the oppressed world-wide, particularly in the Arab world, where there is a deep reservoir of hatred of US imperialism. While these sacrifices have not yet led to victory, the achievements of the Palestinian struggle, in particular preventing the success of the capitulationist Oslo accords, have created better conditions for the advance of revolutionary and liberation struggles around the world, and especially in Palestine itself. The logic of the Palestinian struggle is the logic of the struggle of every oppressed people. As Mao Tsetung summed up, “Make trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again… till their doom; that is the logic of the imperialists and all reactionaries the world over in dealing with the people’s cause, and they will never go against this logic…. Fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again… till their victory; that is the logic of the people, and they too will never go against this logic.”

The young generation that has taken to the streets in Palestine faces awesome challenges, as Israel threatens unprecedented destruction and carnage. But they have a basis to learn the lessons paid for in the blood and sacrifice of their own forefathers, and of the generations of oppressed world-wide who have fought, and, on a few precious occasions, actually defeated the hated enemy. They have cast away illusions about the peace process. Now it is time to turn aside from the traditional wisdom of yesterday’s forces and reach for the weapon of Maoism, the outlook of those at the bottom of the imperialist global empire, those who have nothing to lose, the revolutionary proletariat, and to link up with their representatives from the many battles being fought against imperialism around the globe, in particular the parties and organisations that make up the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. With the weapon of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and its military strategy, people’s war, the Palestinian people’s fight will surely become an even stronger and more integral part of the world revolution, hastening the day when imperialism, Zionism and all their running dogs will meet their doom.


 1 Israel’s Supreme Court approved the use of “moderate physical pressure” – torture – on detainees. Half of all Palestinian teenagers from the Occupied Territories experience prison. Alain Gresh, Israel-Palestine (Fayard, Paris, 2001), pp. 161, 154.

 2 One US official, surveying the state of Arab public opinion and its impact on US manoeuvring room in the Middle East, lamented, “The worse things get between Israel and the Palestinians, the fewer options we have with Iraq.” Time, 25 March 2002.

 3 For more on the context and dynamics of the imperialist-backed restructuring of South Africa’s power relations, see “The Changing of the Guard in South Africa”, AWTW 1995/20.

 4 Edward Said, The End of the Peace Process (Granta, London, 2000), p. 78.

 5 Israel screams that its Palestinian opponents are blurring the distinction between military and civilians and uses this to justify its bloody crimes against Palestinian civilians – but it does the same thing on a much greater scale as it militarises all Israeli society and turns several hundred thousand illegal settlers into forward support personnel for its troops.

 6 Marwan Bishara, Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid, Zed, London, 2001, p. 110; Edward Said, The New Intifada, edited by Roane Carey, Verso, London, 2001, p 36.

 7 Sara Roy, “Decline and Disfigurement: The Palestinian Economy after Oslo”, The New Intifada, p. 99.

 8 Edward Said, “Palestine Under Siege”, The New Intifada, p. 28; Bishara, Israel/Palestine, p. 105.

 9 Salman Abu Sitta, “The Implementation of the Right of Return”, The New Intifada, 301.

 10 Said, The New Intifada, p. 28.

 11 Edward Said estimates losses for the first six months of 2000 at three times total donor aid. The New Intifada, p. 28.

 12 Said, The New Intifada, p. 28.

 13 Israeli GNP is $100 billion, the Palestinians $4 billion. Avishai Margalit, “The Middle East: Snakes and Ladders”, New York Review of Books, 17 May 2001. Gresh, p. 159.

 14 Sara Roy, The New Intifada, p. 104.

 15 Bishara, Palestine/Israel, p 102, 105.

 16 Bishara, Palestine/Israel, p 109.

 17 Mouin Rabbani, “A Smorgasbord of Failure: Oslo and the Al-Aqsa Intifada”, The New Intifada, p. 77.

 18 What some Israeli critics have called, drawing on Biblical language, “the original sin”.

 19 Bishara, Palestine/Israel, pp. 7, 77.

 20 It is beyond the scope of this article to return to the question of the founding of the Israeli state. For more on this see AWTW 1988/11, which devoted a special section to Palestine and the Middle East. However, it is worth noting a few more recent developments regarding this subject. For years Israeli historians were all but monolithic in their propagandistic views of the 1948 events. Recently, in part due to the shocks dealt by the First Intifada, cracks have begun to appear in historical accounts from within Israel itself. What are called the “new historians” have, while not breaking with basic Israeli policy, come to accept certain charges long made by Palestinians. They have, for instance, drawn on previously inaccessible Israeli archives that prove that the Israeli army did indeed practice mass terror to drive the Palestinians from the land and to prevent them returning in the immediate aftermath of the war. See Norman G. Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Palestine Conflict, Verso, London, 1995.

 21 This argument is found even among Israel’s peace movement. Amos Oz, for instance, a novelist and founder of the Peace Now movement in Israel, recently argued that, “We shall never be able to agree to the return of the refugees to within the borders of Israel, for the meaning of such a return would be the elimination of the State of Israel” – meanwhile, in the 1990s one million Russians, half without even a Jewish parent, have been accepted into Israel. The New Intifada, p. 172.

 22 Even one of Clinton’s advisors was forced to make this observation. Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors”, New York Review of Books, 9 August 2001.

 23 For more on this see AWTW 1988/11, which examines the relationship between Zionism and imperialism and how Israel has functioned as an outpost of US imperialism. It also looks at the decision of the then socialist USSR under Stalin to give initial recognition to the Zionist state, examines the factors behind that and criticises the Soviet decision from the viewpoint of revolutionary Maoism.

 24 News from Within, December 2001, Alternative Information Center, Jerusalem.

 25 Said, The New Intifada, p 40.

 26 The David versus Goliath image so assiduously cultivated by pro-Israel propagandists – “tiny Israel versus a sea of Arabs” – has suffered a beating during the two Intifadas. Moreover, revelations from Israeli archives opened up in recent years have revealed some surprises, including that in the 1948 war Israeli troops actually outnumbered their Arab opponents. See among others Gresh, Israel-Palestine.

 27 Bishara, Palestine/Israel, p. 7.

 28 Public spending as a percentage of GDP by the Palestinian Authority rose from 12 per cent in 1994 to 25 per cent in 1999. This reflected both the decline in the Palestinian economy, as well as increased spending on police forces funded by foreign aid, rendering the Palestinian Authority even more dependent on the imperialists, principally the US.

 29 The defeats inflicted on the Arab armies in the 1967 and 1973 wars seem to have led Arafat and his Fatah forces to conclude that the prospects of defeating the US-Zionist state were slim or non-existent, and that the best they could do would be to accept Israel’s existence and settle for a mini-state. Much of the rest of the Palestinian left refused this conclusion and formed what was called the “rejection front”. For more on this, see AWTW 11/1988.

 30 After the coup in the mid-1950s which reversed the revolution and re-established capitalism, the new Soviet bourgeoisie gave particular emphasis to challenging their US imperialist rivals in the Middle East. The Soviet social-imperialists sought to use the contradictions between the Arab regimes and the US and in particular Israel to carve out their own sphere of influence. Ultimately, however, they suffered serious setbacks, in particular when Egypt expelled the Soviet advisers there. After the 1978 Camp David agreement Egypt moved directly into the US camp.

 31 Hamas arose out of the Muslim Brotherhood, which, according to Alain Gresh, “during the 1970s and 1980s received help from the Israeli secret services to fight the PLO” (Israel-Palestine, p. 170). A 3 April 2002 article in Le Monde entitled “The Israeli Army Is Hitting Harder at the Palestinian Authority than Hamas” details how the Israeli armed forces systematically respond to Hamas suicide bombings by striking at Arafat’s forces and infrastructure and suggests an implicit complicity between Hamas and the Israeli army. The latter has often struck murderously at the armed Islamic movement but never, the article says, at its political wing or institutions. The correspondent concludes that getting rid of Arafat would strengthen Hamas, and cites Israeli government figures who have spoken in favour of such a development.

 32 For more on this again see “Islam: Ideology and Tool of the Exploiting Classes” in this issue.

 33 In this it resembles many other nationalist forces, such as the Irish Republican Army, the Basque ETA and others that use terror tactics in an effort to make the price paid by the occupying force too high to continue.

 34 It is worth noting the events that immediately preceded the launch of the suicide attacks. The Israeli forces had been hit hard by the First Intifada and subsequent mass Palestinian upsurges, and evidently made changes to their strategy. When the Second Intifada broke out, the Israelis deployed significant numbers of snipers to shoot down rock-throwing youth. Numerous human rights groups noted the unusually high levels of killed and maimed children among the Palestinian casualties. Using this strategy, in the first week of the Intifada the Israeli forces suffered two losses while the Palestinians suffered five killed on the first day, ten on the second, and then eight, six, seven and six on subsequent days. (Margalit, “Snakes and Ladders”, NYRB). The Israeli command seemed to believe they were going to be able to sit safely at a distance and simply blast the Palestinians into submission, but events turned out otherwise.

 35 Even obliging the docile US puppet Kofi Anan, head of the UN, to speak out. Regarding shooting children, one Israeli sniper said: “You don’t shoot if they’re 12 or younger. Over 12, and it’s authorised. That’s what they tell us.” Le Monde, 24 November 2000.

 36 Quoted in Gresh, Israel-Palestine, p 27.

 37 To be clear, advocating the destruction of Israel does not mean “driving the Jews into the sea”, as many Zionists claim, or as some reactionary forces among the Arab regimes, such as the Saudi ruling class, have at times foolishly boasted. One thing Zionists and feudal sheikhs have in common is the reactionary notion that Jews cannot live in peace with other peoples and thus need to be kept apart.

 38 Though ominously for Israel, the Palestinian population is increasing at a rapid rate: half of all Palestinians are under the age of 18. Bishara, Palestine/Israel, p. 39.

 39 Bishara was consciously seeking just such a “third way” which he formulated as an effort “to avoid either capitulation or war”. Nonetheless, his parliamentary immunity has been lifted and he is being charged with support for terrorism. News from Within, December 2001.

 40 For more on the possible application of the principles of Maoist people’s war to this region and actual possibilities for fighting the US-Israeli state, for example by fomenting rebellion in an allied state like Egypt so as to draw the Israelis out of their home base and spread their forces thin where they are more vulnerable to attack, see “Drown the US Invaders in a Sea of People’s War!”, AWTW 1991/16.

 41 Israel tries to fight wars of quick decision and to use blitzkrieg-type tactics, as in the Six Days War – but its vulnerability was exposed, above all, in the course of the protracted warfare it faced during its invasion of Lebanon. It finally beat an undignified retreat.

 42 Bishara, Palestine/Israel, p. 99.

 43 The lack of Jewish roots of the Russian immigrants is so flagrant that the Israeli rabbinate often refuses to allow them to be buried as Jews. Gresh, Israel-Palestine. For a more in-depth treatment of the issue of the nature of Israel and the Jewish people, see AWTW 1988/11. The Russians tended to be highly educated and have given a big boost to the Israeli economy.

 44 The imperialists regularly use their state power to “create facts on the ground”, as the Israelis have sought to do in Palestine. Though Palestine is unique, nonetheless there are certain similarities in the way the imperialists divided up other nations in the post-Second World War re-division of the globe, in particular Vietnam, Korea and Germany. In each of these countries, the US carved out a large part of the country and tried to establish it as an independent, historically legitimate entity. The world was treated to the sight of prestigious American academics pontificating about how South Vietnam had always had a certain separate existence from the North, and was not truly part of the same nation. The lies behind this shameless propaganda stood out starkly as soon as US firepower was defeated on the field of battle – just as the Zionist lies of a “land without a people for a people without a land” have been blown apart by the guns of the Palestinian resistance.

 45 Robert Fisk, The Independent, 30 March 2002.

 46 Guardian, 7 March 2002.

 47 Said, The New Intifada, p 34.


Demonstrations in Support of the Palestinian People and against Israeli Terror

People all over the world exploded in anger as the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza escalated murderously: throughout the Middle East and Arab world, from Iraq to the Atlantic, demonstrators marched and in many places fought police near American embassy compounds. In Morocco, one to three million people were finally allowed to demonstrate. In Rome on 10 March, 100,000 people demonstrated in heavy rain in support of the Palestinians. In France, the country with the highest population of Arabs and Jews in Europe, tens of thousands of people of many nationalities took to the streets of Paris, shouting, “We are all Palestinians”. This number doubled on 6 April in Paris, and in other French cities large numbers chanted “Bush-Sharon Assassins!” In April, many thousands demonstrated in London, Amsterdam and other European cities and in Egypt, Turkey and Jordan, furious masses fought the authorities. There have also been many demonstrations in the US, including in Detroit, home to thousands of people of Arab origin, and even in Bush’s ranch in Texas where demonstrators protested against his threat to invade Iraq and for an end to Israeli occupation.

Ariel Sharon - "the Butcher of Beirut"

In 1982, the Israeli Defence (sic) Forces, under the command of General Ariel Sharon, invaded southern Lebanon in an effort to subjugate the Palestinian resistance forces that had regrouped there, including Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The Israelis cultivated the Christian Phalangists, a quasi-fascist Lebanese nationalist force, as their junior partners in the invasion. After a lengthy and bloody siege of Beirut, in which between 10,000 and 20,000 civilians were killed, overwhelmingly by the Israeli bombardment, the PLO finally chose not to force a decisive showdown, but to abandon their position in Beirut, and several thousand fighters left for Tunis. Left behind were many thousands of women, children and older people, concentrated in sprawling impoverished camps. The Israeli army quickly established perimeters around these. Shortly thereafter, on 16 September 1982, the Israeli army allowed heavily armed Christian Phalangists to enter two of the main camps in the Beirut area, Sabra and Chatila, where over a period of several hours they carried out an obvious and very bloody massacre. When they finally left, again under the eyes of the Israeli troops, hundreds - most estimates are of 600-800 or even more - of unarmed Palestinian refugees lay slaughtered. Shortly before a war crimes hearing was scheduled to be held in Belgium concerning Ariel Sharon's responsibility for these massacres, the key witness was blown up by a car bomb in Beirut, in "unexplained circumstances".
The question some pro-US-Israeli forces do not want to face is. Is Ariel Sharon Prime Minister of Israel despite or in fact because of his role overseeing this butchery?