by Pete Brown
(from Communist Voice, vol. 8, #3, issue #30, December 15, 2002)
. As summer turned into fall, Israel intensified its brutal reoccupation of the West Bank and its murderous raids into Gaza. The last week of September Israeli tanks smashed into Yasir Arafat's compound in Ramallah. Israeli troops blew up buildings that housed offices for what was left of Arafat's quasi-governmental Palestinian Authority (PA) and arrested PA leaders. In response, Palestinian youths took to the streets in West Bank towns, confronting Israeli troops, who shot and killed numerous stone-throwing kids. After a 10-day siege the troops pulled back from Arafat's compound in early October. But they remain nearby, and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon issued press leaks threatening to deport Arafat to an empty desert the next time he does anything Sharon doesn't like. Then on the night of October 6-7 the Israeli army pulled a raid on the village of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip. Soldiers poured into town after midnight with 40 tanks. As townspeople massed in the streets to denounce the troops, an Israeli helicopter fired a missile into a crowd in the town square, killing 14 people and injuring 100. This massacre is just the latest escalation in the Israeli offensive against the Palestinians that has been underway since June.
. Sharon holds Arafat personally responsible for the ongoing resistance to Israel widespread among the Palestinian people. But the Palestinian uprising (intifada) that broke out two years ago was not the work of Arafat; it arose spontaneously as a protest against continued Israeli oppression and the breakdown of the U.S.-sponsored "peace process. " For over 50 years Israel, with the backing of the U.S. and the other major imperialist powers, has denied Palestinian self-determination. Since 1948 Israel has refused to allow Palestinian refugees and exiles to return to their homeland. Palestinians who still reside inside Israel are discriminated against as Arabs and as Muslims. Israel even refuses to leave the Palestinian territories (the West Bank and Gaza) it seized after the June 1967 war. When the last round of peace negotiations collapsed two years ago and Sharon came to power, the Palestinian masses saw the need to return to the streets to fight for their democratic and national rights.
. Last March Israel re-invaded the West Bank attempting to crush the intifada. At that time U.S. president Bush criticized Sharon and urged him to withdraw from the West Bank. According to the U.S. -brokered "peace process", the West Bank and Gaza were supposed to eventually become a Palestinian state, and Sharon's massive incursion looked a bit too much like an aggressive invasion and the total scrapping of the "peace process". The invasion was also fanning the flames of anti-imperialist dissent among the masses in other Arab countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, etc. These countries all have governments allied to the U.S. , and Bush is anxious to keep them that way, especially with his plans for a war against Iraq. But the unrest among the masses in these countries was making things difficult for the pro-U.S. governments there. So Bush told Sharon to pull his troops out of the West Bank and dispatched Colin Powell to Arab countries and to Israel to try and achieve some calming down of the situation. This was mainly for show, as Bush looked aside as Sharon ravaged more Palestinian towns, and the bounteous flow of US financial and military aid to Israel continued.
. Actually, Israeli troops were not having an easy time of it. Israel's invasion did not go smoothly. It wasn't like the old days when the Palestinian masses were armed only with rocks. Sharon's soldiers encountered stiff resistance, especially in Jenin. But with superior firepower (and using Palestinian civilians as human shields), Israeli troops eventually succeeded in capturing the Palestinians' main fortifications, capturing and killing many fighters and destroying their weapons centers. Afterwards the Israelis eventually pulled their troops back, and things calmed down somewhat in May. But after a series of bomb attacks inside Israel in June, Sharon used this as an excuse to launch another invasion on June 20. Again Israeli troops targeted Palestinian leaders and militants, killing and capturing many. And again the Israelis also targeted many institutions of the PA, aiming to smash all civil and quasi-government organization in the West Bank.
. Anyone would think the lesson of Israel's first invasion was clear: you can't crush the spirit of
Palestinian resistance with guns. But Sharon drew the opposite conclusion: the Palestinians'
continued resistance required more guns, more tanks, more bombs, more arrests, more
assassinations. Of course this hasn't worked. It hasn't even stopped the terrorist bombings which
Sharon used as his excuse to re-invade the West Bank and impose collective punishment on the
entire Palestinian population.
. There was some uncertainty in Washington circles for a few days after Sharon's new invasion of June 20. Would Bush again call for Sharon to cease fire and withdraw his troops? Bush cleared up the suspense after a few days, though, when he gave a major speech insisting Israel had a right to "defend itself. " In other words, Sharon had the green light.
. Since then the Palestinian body count has steadily mounted. Just about every day brings news of another Israeli atrocity.
. In all such cases Israeli army commanders, up to the prime minister himself, try to justify the atrocity; but when press reports overwhelm their justifications, then they backpedal a mite and say they will "investigate." Then the army investigates itself, but the most that ever comes out of that is a promise from the army they will be more careful next time. Then the next day brings news of another atrocity.
. Through June and July Arafat, under pressure from Bush, tried to broker a deal among all sections of Palestinian resistance to cease attacks against Israeli civilians. Arafat got secular pro-PLO groups like Al Aqsa Martyrs to agree, and the fundamentalist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad were also coming on board. The announcement of a joint resolution was about to be made, on July 25, when Israel bombed the military leader of Hamas on July 24.
. This was an atrocious provocation by Sharon. It's bad enough that Israel regularly resorts to murdering Palestinian leaders through helicopter raids, car bombs, street shootings, etc. But in this case the Israelis used a fighter jet to drop a one-ton bomb on an apartment building in the middle of a city. The bomb not only killed the Hamas leader, but also his children and a dozen other people, with scores wounded.
. Sharon's bombing had the effect of goading Hamas into another round of bombings against Israeli civilians. Again, living conditions for ordinary Israelis have only gotten less secure, more dangerous. Meanwhile Sharon uses this growing insecurity to push for ever more extreme measures against the Palestinians.
. Another gross provocation occurred July 28, when Israeli settlers in the West Bank town of Hebron went on a rampage in the center of town. Some years ago Israel seized some buildings in the center of Hebron and established a settler colony there of a few hundred zionists planted in the middle of a Palestinian city of 150,000. The zionists in Hebron are some of the most rabid anti-Arab racists, and their presence in Hebron is seen as a constant affront to Palestinian militants. After the funeral of a zionist settler killed by a Palestinian, on July 28, hundreds of settlers went on a racist pogrom in the center of Hebron, attacking merchants, beating up housewives, smashing windows, and shooting wildly at Palestinian houses. One little girl was killed and others in her family badly injured. Meanwhile Israeli police and army troops stood by, "keeping the peace". Naturally none of the settlers were arrested, and Bush "forgot" to mention this event in his regular denunciation of terrorism.
. Bush and Sharon justify these massacres by saying Israel is just trying to defend itself against terrorists. But Israeli atrocities are themselves acts of terror aimed at intimidating the Palestinian masses and smashing all resistance to zionist expansionism. Sharon's assaults on the Palestinians are provocations designed, in part, to deliberately torpedo past peace deals and prevent any further peace talks. The bombing in Gaza of July 27 and the missile attack of October 7 show this clearly enough. As to the bombings by Palestinians of Israeli civilian targets -- it is widely recognized, even in the Israeli press, that Sharon's repressive measures are not working to prevent them. The civilian bombings are acts of desperation which hurt the Palestinian cause and are particularly promoted by the fundamentalist trend of Hamas. But Sharon is simply using them as a pretext to try and crush all resistance among the Palestinian masses.
. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks since June 20. But the effects of the re-occupation go beyond the killed and injured. Most of the West Bank has been locked down under round-the-clock curfew for months, with only occasional short respites. The lack of food and medical care for West Bank residents has become an international scandal, with witnesses at the United Nations describing the widespread malnutrition of Palestinian children. But Sharon and his cohorts brush this aside, as they brushed aside UN calls for an investigation into the battle of Jenin last spring.
. As part of his plan to wipe out the PA, Sharon is attempting to put PA leaders on trial. Instead
of just holding PA leaders in military prisons under preventive detention laws, Sharon wants to
convict them of civilian crimes and get them put away for decades. The first attempt along these
lines is the trial of Marwan Barghouti, West Bank chief of security for the PA. Sharon wanted to
make a public example of Barghouti and expose his alleged links to terrorism, but so far this
strategy is backfiring on the Israelis. While denying the terrorism charge, Barghouti has taken a
brave stand of defiance against the Israelis, using the courtroom as a forum to call for victory to
Bush hypocritically calls for PA reform
. In July Bush called for reform of the PA and joined Sharon in declaring that Arafat can no longer be part of the "peace process". The U.S. /Israeli plan being pushed to the Palestinians is that Arafat will be kicked upstairs to the honorary position of president, but the real work of the PA will be handled by a new office of "prime minister". Bush is trying to find some "moderate" Palestinians with some popular support who could be candidates for such a sellout prime minister and his cabinet. In the meantime Bush gives the green light for Sharon's repression, trying to pressure the Palestinians to accept this change of leaders.
. There is a real issue of reforming the PA among Palestinians. For residents of the West Bank and Gaza, the PA is their government. It is a bourgeois regime, but still it is a serious issue for the masses that it be as democratic as possible. Since taking over administration of the West Bank and Gaza, Arafat has shown himself to be a fairly arbitrary despot, closing down some opposition media outlets and jailing some oppositional activists. Also he personally monopolizes PA finances to a point where it's impossible for anyone else to even judge what the level of corruption in his administration is. While Arafat represents the aspirations of the Palestinian bourgeoisie, there are even various critiques of Arafat's administration among different bourgeois sections, ranging from secular forces around the PLO to the Islamic fundamentalist groups. Even within Fatah, Arafat's own organization, there is significant opposition to Arafat, and recently his entire cabinet resigned.
. Among the masses -- the workers, small farmers, and impoverished refugees -- there is anger against the PA and Arafat for their failure to provide social services during this time of deprivation and hardship. The last time Arafat was allowed freedom of movement, last spring, he was afraid to set foot in Jenin, as the masses there were outraged against him for the lack of relief services after Israeli troops had decimated their town. The masses are also unhappy with Arafat's conciliatory policies towards Israel. There is a need for democratic reform within the PA so their viewpoint can get expressed, and politics within the working masses can advance. At present the working masses have no organized voice, and the dissent will come from other class groupings, from the bourgeois groups to the petty-bourgeois nationalists and also the fundamentalists. But the more open expression of their views may help the working masses to understand the features of these trends and see the need to develop their own trend. As long as the masses are pressured to simply "rally behind Arafat" they cannot develop their own independent politics. Since he railroaded through the Oslo peace accords, Arafat has tried to keep the PA under his personal tutelage. At present there is no radical left force ready to provide an alternative to Arafat's policies, but democratic reform of the PA may have some long-term significance in this direction.
. But the Palestinians' genuine desire for PA reform is the last thing Bush and Sharon are
interested in. When Bush calls for reform of the PA, he's trying to dictate to the Palestinians a
new crop of leaders anxious to sell out the masses for their own piece of the pie. For his part,
Sharon couldn't care less about reforming the PA. He's only interested in trampling on the PA
and would prefer that its upcoming elections were postponed or cancelled. Bush's talk of
democratic reform is just imperialist hypocrisy, especially considering that the U.S. government
is a major supplier of Israel's weaponry and finances. When it comes to lack of democracy, Israel
is the main problem for the Palestinians. Bush gives to Israel the tanks, the jet planes, the jeeps
and machine guns Israeli storm troopers use against the Palestinian people every day, denying
them their democratic, national, civil and human rights. Then Bush has the gall to declare that
Palestinian organizations are not led by ideal leaders!
The real meaning of the Oslo accords
. As for Arafat, he is trying desperately to cut some kind of deal with Israel and the U.S., to revive the "peace process" and to get Israel to grant him some land for a Palestinian mini-state. Ever since the Oslo peace agreement in 1993, Arafat has been trying to sell out Palestinian rights for a truncated mini-state. His dilemma is that in the Israeli leaders Arafat is faced with relentless aggressors who are determined to push him flat against the wall. Every time he makes a concession to them, they demand more concessions. If Arafat agrees to denounce bombing attacks inside Israel, they demand he arrest the organizers of such attacks. If Arafat denounces attacks on Israeli settlements, they demand he use his security forces to crush any resistance at all to the settlers, who daily provoke Palestinians living nearby.
. Similarly on the "land for peace" formula. The Oslo accords promised that Israel would hand back the West Bank and Gaza for the sake of peace. But the actual boundaries were reserved to be settled in "final negotiations", and meanwhile Israel reserved the right to exclude land it needed for "self defense". The closer they got to final negotiations, the more rapidly Israel declared pieces of West Bank territory crucial to its self defense.
. Similarly with the settlers. The closer they got to final negotiations, the more rapidly Israel rushed zionist settlers into the West Bank. Far from preparing to trade away the West Bank, Israel was trying to establish facts on the ground that would make it impossible to reverse Israeli control. From 1967 to 1993 about 100,000 zionist settlers were established on the West Bank. But just since Oslo, in 1993, that number has doubled. And the settlements are connected by roads which Israel considers "strategic highways" necessary for self-defense. So the offer of "land for peace" turned out to be the offer of a small scrap of land pockmarked with zionist settlements and crisscrossed with Israeli military roads on which Palestinians would be forbidden to travel.
. As part of their "self-defense" the Israelis also give themselves the right to destroy trees and other agricultural crops that are near one of their settlements or roads. Thus they have bulldozed some 200,000 olive trees in the last few years. This is a major blow to Palestinian agriculture.
. Israel has been especially intransigent on the status of Jerusalem. Historically, East Jerusalem has been almost entirely Arab and Muslim in population. But Israel will not even allow a PA office or representative to exist there, and the Palestinian flag is forbidden there. Many of the zionist settlements are arranged in a ring around East Jerusalem to cut it off from other parts of the West Bank. So here you have the historically most important city of Palestine, traditionally one of the Arab world's major cities, which Israel has seized, annexed, declared to be its capital, and it's only concern is to push more Arabs out.
. Israel not only insists on keeping the land for its settlements, and the roads connecting them, but also the water rights for them, so their settlers can maintain their lifestyle and agriculture. They suck the water out from under Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza, and so destroy the Palestinians' livelihood. In late October Sharon took defense of the settlements to the point where his "national unity" administration collapsed because he refused to consider any cuts in financing for the settlements at a time when the Israeli working masses face pressing social needs. This shows that Sharon has no plans for giving up anything in the West Bank. And Sharon's main rival for prime minister is Benjamin Netanyahu, who holds an even more extreme position. Netanyahu advocates immediate exile for Arafat and using any pretense to expel Palestinians.
. Arafat gets a lot of flak in the bourgeois American press for balking at signing a peace
agreement with Ehud Barak, Labor Party prime minister of Israel, in 1999-2000. But considering
Israel's continuing encroachments and provocations, it was difficult for PLO leaders to maintain
any pretense of standing up for Palestinian rights if they agreed to nothing but a pitiful little
"Two states" means
one superpower and one bantustan
. Every day brings more and more intense conflict in Israel/Palestine. It appears that events are headed towards a climax, when Sharon will try to impose some "final solution" on the Palestinians. Sharon came into office opposed to further negotiations with the Palestinians, and he would prefer to simply trample the PA and avoid dealing with a Palestinian state. Sharon's ultra-right critics such as Benjamin Netanyahu are even more opposed to a political solution. But it is also possible that Bush, worried about the stability of Arab countries during his war against Iraq, will push for some closure to the "peace process". Arafat is desperately trying to make a deal, and Bush is looking for some bourgeois alternative to Arafat among the Palestinians who will be even more amenable. But it is important to remember how Israel is preparing for the possibility of "two states" -- by seizing as much land, water, and strategic assets as possible -- to understand what such a solution would amount to.
. Why has been it so hard to strike a deal? It is because the state of Israel was founded on the basis of denying rights to the Arab majority of Palestine. It expelled most Palestinians. It brazenly denies the right of the exiles and refugees to return because this would end the Jewish majority in Israel, as if a religion had the right to run a state. The continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state requires continuing this oppression. It means denying the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, if not their very existence as a legitimate national group.
. The only durable solution would be for the Jewish state to be replaced by a democratic, secular state. Such a state should cover the entire region of Palestine, and no religious group should have any special rights in it. All Palestinians, and all the Jewish and other residents of present-day Israel, should have full rights in this new Palestinian state. It is no more anti-semitic to oppose the idea of a Jewish state than it is anti-Arab, anti-Iranian or anti-Pakistani to oppose the idea of an Islamic state.
. But it's impossible to guarantee Israel's security as a Jewish state, while providing real rights for the Palestinians. So the attempt at a two-state solution keeps breaking down. A mini-state might provide some relief from the present siege conditions in the Occupied Territories. But it would hardly solve the Palestinian question, and would likely be a temporary arrangement.
. Let's look at the type of two-state solution currently being talked about. This will not be a situation with two states of rough equality co-existing. With their economy destroyed by 35 years of Israeli occupation, the Palestinians will subsist at poverty level, compared to Israelis, and will be dependent on Israel for any economic progress they might make. In previous negotiations Israel insisted on maintaining external security for a Palestinian state. In addition they would control the borders and customs inspections with their own officials. Not only would Palestinian refugees be denied the right of return to Israel, they would not even be guaranteed that right for the state of Palestine -- it would be up to Israel to decide whom to admit into the country.
. With its near-European standard of living and massive firepower, Israel is a regional superpower in the Mideast. A poverty-stricken, overpowered Palestinian state would be simply a bantustan, allowed to exist for the sake of maintaining a stable supply of cheap labor.
. This situation is very similar to the difficult conditions faced by the black people of southern
Africa when they set out to overthrow the white settler-colonial state of South Africa. The white
racist rulers of South Africa established an extensive legal system of segregation (apartheid) to
keep the black Africans subjected. And to forestall any calls for equality South Africa set up a
number of black "homelands" (bantustans), which were supposedly independent countries. Black
South Africans were assigned citizenship in these bantustans and thus deprived of South African
citizenship. The bantustans had a thin veneer of home rule, but they weren't really independent,
else they would have become base areas for the anti-apartheid movement. South Africa
controlled the bantustans' external relations, military, overall finances, etc. , and gave itself the
right to intervene in the bantustans if things weren't going to their liking there. This is the sort of
model the Israeli leaders intend to follow with a "two-states" solution.
Israeli plans for separation
. Meanwhile Sharon has other plans in store for the Palestinians. One of these is "separation", the total separation of Israel and many of its settlements from the Arab-populated areas of the West Bank. Gaza is already pretty well fenced off from Israel, but now Israeli soldiers are engaged in building a fence through the West Bank to enforce "separation" against the Palestinians. Israeli employers have already reduced the demand for Palestinian labor by bringing in guest workers from other poverty-stricken areas of the world, and now the Israelis hope to keep the Palestinians stewing in their own juices, unable to reach Israeli territory. From where the fence is being built it's clear that Israel intends to seize and hold large chunks of West Bank real estate.
. Another plan being rumored in Israeli circles is "transfer" of the West Bank Arab population across the Jordan River into the kingdom of Jordan. This would be straight-up ethnic cleansing like what the Serbs practiced against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. This would be hard for the international community to accept, and the U.S. would have a hard time making excuses for it. But in case of war against Iraq Sharon may use the unsettled conditions to launch such an attack (in the name of "self defense" of course). It's certainly in Sharon's MO to bring off such an attack. After all, Israel was originally founded in 1948 with just such an ethnic cleansing campaign. Netanyahu is pushing for such "solutions", and since he became Israeli foreign minister in early November, his ultra-right policies have even more influence.
. Sharon's aggressive actions have failed to stamp out Palestinian resistance, and there is considerable dissatisfaction inside Israel with his policies. But there is not much of an alternative coming from the main party of the parliamentary "left" -- the Labor Party, which only recently was cooperating with Sharon in a national unity government. In October Labor Party leaders broke up the coalition government and forced a new general election (scheduled for January 28) over the issue of financing the settlements. But they support Sharon's policy of "separation. " In fact the Labor Party leader, Amram Mitzna, advocates immediate unilateral separation even if it means the closing of a few small settlements. Mitzna says he is for restarting peace talks with the Palestinians, without conditions, and this makes him a little different than Sharon. But it is hard to believe he will offer the Palestinians anything better than what Ehud Barak did in 1999-2000. Mitzna is called "dovish" by the press, but this is judging by Israeli standards. During the first intifada he was the general in charge of the West Bank. It was Mitzna who devised the ingenious tactic of breaking the arms of youthful stone-throwers. Instead of shooting and killing teenage demonstrators, Mitzna's soldiers would grab them and break their arms. In Israel this was regarded as "humanitarian" and "dovish. "
. Likud's Sharon will probably win the general election. But no matter who wins the election,
Palestinians will be faced with a difficult situation. Even if Labor's Mitzna is elected and
negotiates some peace deal, this will only mean the opening of a new chapter in the struggle for
Palestinian rights. Among the Jewish Israeli populace there are still peace groups and even some
brave "refuseniks", soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories because they do not
want to be part of the suppression of ordinary people there. But at present the Jewish working
masses are subordinated to diehard zionist parties such as Likud and Labor.
A long-term, difficult struggle
. Israel is the superpower of the Mideast. Sometimes it's difficult to visualize how the Palestinian resistance can ever hope to gain victory over this regional superpower and its imperialist supporters. But recall that white-ruled South Africa in its day was also an imperialist-backed regional superpower, and the white ruling elites insisted they would never give up on apartheid. The anti-apartheid movement went through many twists and turns, but the black masses persisted in struggle, and eventually the apartheid masters were forced to accede to black majority rule. The movement was not strong enough to force through a radical solution, but it did achieve basic civil rights for the black majority, and this was an important step.
. Similarly the Palestinian movement has gone through many twists and turns. The movement has suffered serious setbacks, for example Black September of 1970, when its fighters were expelled from Jordan, and the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, when the guerrillas were expelled from their bases there. Among the movement's leading organizations there has been a long-standing crisis of orientation. For decades now the PLO leaders have given up on the idea of a democratic secular state for all of Palestine (including Israel) and instead relied on the imperialist powers to pressure Israel into granting them some kind of "two-states" solution. They have also relied on the government leaders of Arab bourgeois regimes such as Syria and Iraq, and this has led them into various disasters.
. But despite these setbacks and wrong orientations the Palestinian movement has persisted. The intifada of 1987-91 revived the Palestinian resistance at a time when the PLO was politically bankrupt, beset by splits and dissension and running after the imperialist powers for a seat at an international conference. The intifada was the doing of the Palestinian masses themselves.
. During the 1990s Arafat pursued the dream of Oslo. He was able to get some recognition for his organization from the big powers and some funding for the PA, but this did not improve the lot of the Palestinian masses. While Arafat was setting up new security forces and state-capitalist monopolies, Israel was expanding its settlements, roads, and control of the West Bank. Arafat's police became the enforcer of an Israeli-mandated peace in the occupied territories while the Palestinian masses suffered through arrests and detentions, curfews, roadblocks, and economic depression. Arafat tried to win a final settlement from Israel, to achieve his bantustan "state" before the masses exploded again, but this was not to be.
. The spark that set off a new blaze two years ago was Ariel Sharon's provocation in East
Jerusalem. Backed by 2,000 "off duty" Israeli soldiers, Sharon marched into East Jerusalem and
declared that it would eternally belong to Israel and demanded a more aggressive stance against
the Palestinians. Sharon's demonstration was intended to torpedo further negotiations, and it
succeeded. Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel while the Palestinians launched their
second intifada. Again this was the doing of the Palestinian masses themselves. Today the
masses may not have the strength to immediately bring about a radical solution to their struggles,
but this latest intifada shows that the Palestinian resistance will not die. It has persisted through
ordeals, bad orientations, and betrayals. This is encouraging to all those who support democratic
Support the Palestinian resistance!
. Today the Palestinian resistance is in difficult straits and beset by tactical and strategic questions such as the attitude to take toward bombings of civilians. Questions of general orientation have also come to the fore, as Arafat's sellout has weakened all the secular political groups and allowed religious fundamentalist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad to claim the mantle of militancy. Debates have also broken out in the international solidarity movement as to how best to support the intifada. Some activists are attempting to launch divestment and boycott movements directed against Israel. The experience of the struggle against apartheid South Africa shows that such movements can be useful in popularizing opposition to an unjust regime and can help isolate it. But for such movements to get off the ground they need to be combined with militant demonstrations against Israel and its imperialist backers, especially the U.S. Public demonstrations help popularize the issues and draw working class people into the movement.
. The threat of divestment and boycotts is already making some bourgeois nervous. Harvard University president Lawrence Summers recently denounced any such movement as "anti-semitic" since it meant opposition to the state of Israel. This illustrates the sad state of education in the imperialist metropolis, when the president of Harvard is incapable of drawing a distinction between opposition to zionist aggression on the one hand and racist hatred for Jews on the other. Similarly, in mid-October zionist groups tried to quash a conference at the University of Michigan organized in support of the divestment/boycott campaign, charging it was "racist" and "anti-semitic. " This did not work, however.
. The Palestinian people are right to be demonstrating against Israel's attacks on their leaders. As when African-Americans rose up in rebellion against the racist murder of Martin Luther King in April 1968, an oppressed people cannot allow oppressors to attack their leaders with impunity, even if they have political differences with those leaders. At the same time, Palestinian workers and anti-zionist activists should be working to establish a new orientation for the movement that will turn away from Arafat's failed policies.
. Crucial to building the Palestinian resistance is an orientation to the working class. Palestinian workers suffer the most from the occupation and are the most determinedly revolutionary. The strikes of Palestinian workers during the first intifada had a damaging effect on the Israeli economy. Today the Israelis have replaced many Palestinian workers with guest workers from other countries, and so Palestinian labor is not in as strong a position as in the late 1980s. Moreover, the workers have not yet developed their own independent voice. It is important for rank-and-file organizations seeking to be independent from the bourgeois and fundamentalist trends to bring in ordinary workers, to broaden their base, and to look into the class differences in the movement. Workers are the most concerned about organization, secularism, and the value of international solidarity. Workers in other countries are also the best base for anti-imperialist solidarity actions.
. Activists should also oppose the chauvinist politics of the extreme nationalists and religious fundamentalist organizations. A non-sectarian orientation is crucial to building the Palestinian resistance. This is important not only for uniting the various Arab communities involved in the struggle against Israel -- Sunni Muslim, Shiite Muslim, Christian, atheist, etc. It is also important for building the international solidarity movement among people of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. It holds open the door for establishing points of unity with Jewish working people in Israel, and Israeli groups opposed to the escalating repression, such as the refuseniks.
. Bourgeois columnists in the U.S. ridicule the present intifada as "ill timed" and "foolish". They can't imagine launching a struggle unless they have overwhelming force backing them and the immediate prospect of victory. But the Palestinians have no choice -- to survive as a people they must struggle. An oppressed people cannot always choose the perfect time and place for their struggles. Take the example of the African-American rebellions that occurred in the U.S. in the 1960s and occasionally since -- in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict, in Cincinnati two years ago, etc. Some of these rebellions suffered from the ill effects of spontaneous outbursts. Nonetheless the African-Americans' heroism has gained the respect of progressive people around the world. These rebellions did not bring about a revolution, but they did force many concessions out of the U.S. capitalists and government. Without them the black people would have been pushed into an even more oppressed state.
. For workers the intifada is the best training they can undergo for carrying through the
Palestinian revolution and for the future struggle for socialism. The more they can put the stamp
of the working class on the present-day struggle for democratic and national rights, the better
position they will be in for the class struggles of the future.
Last modified: December 23, 2002.