U.S. "Road Map" Means Slaughter of Palestinians

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No.806, 4 July 2003

JUNE 30—Following a “cease-fire” agreement brokered by Washington with three Palestinian groups, Israel has begun pulling its troops out of a handful of areas in the Gaza Strip. But when Israel and its U.S. patrons talk of “peace,” you can be sure there is going to be another massacre of Palestinians. While the Palestinian Authority has agreed to carry out joint patrols with Israeli troops, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is demanding nothing less than a civil war against opponents of the Zionist occupation—“a comprehensive, ongoing war by the new Palestinian government,” as he put it.

On June 4, President Bush, at a meeting with Sharon and Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas (a/k/a Abu Mazen) in Aqaba, Jordan, launched his “road map” for the (eventual) creation of a rump Palestinian “state” in (part of) the Occupied Territories. The announcement was followed by a series of Israeli military assaults, including missile strikes into densely populated Gaza City, that left 24 Palestinians dead in a single week. Supposedly aimed at heading off terror attacks by assassinating Hamas militants, the Zionist atrocities were in fact designed to provoke more suicide bombings. The Islamic fundamentalists of Hamas responded by killing 21 Israelis in the same week of bloodshed, most of them civilians criminally cut down simply because they were Israeli.

It was a similar Zionist provocation that triggered the current cycle of Israeli terror and Palestinian resistance in the fall of 2000, when Sharon marched through the Muslim holy shrine of Al Aksa in Jerusalem with more than a thousand heavily armed soldiers. When U.S. president Clinton met Yasir Arafat in November 2000, Israel responded by blowing up an activist of Arafat’s Fatah organization—also killing random pedestrians. Similarly, Colin Powell’s announcement of a “peace” initiative in June 2001 was met with an Israeli missile strike in the West Bank. When Arafat declared a cease-fire in December 2001, Israel again responded by assassinating a Fatah leader, touching off the biggest wave of suicide bombings yet seen. That led in March 2002 to Zionist troops reoccupying Palestinian territories throughout the West Bank, where they remain today.

Through every Zionist campaign of slaughter of Palestinians, Israel has been backed to the hilt by the U.S. imperialists—Democrats and Republicans—with arms, supplies and billions in cash. When Bush mildly chided Sharon for a recent helicopter gunship attack, this provoked cries of outrage from liberal Democrats and right-wing Republicans alike.

Renewed assertions of U.S. power in the Near East in the wake of its invasion and occupation of Iraq will inevitably mean more slaughter of Palestinians. As part of the latest deal, the U.S. will literally be dealing in Palestinian blood: so-called “targeted assassinations” of Palestinian militants will now be explicitly approved by U.S. monitors!

The agreement for a partial Israeli pullout from Gaza and Bethlehem is a grotesque caricature of the “Gaza-Jericho first” deal that was the first step of the 1993 Oslo “peace” accords, which created the Palestinian Authority. In an article headlined, “Israel-PLO Deal for Palestinian Ghetto,” we wrote that this deal “does not offer even the most deformed expression of self-determination” and instead “would place the PLO’s seal on the national oppression of the long-suffering Palestinian Arab masses” (WV No. 583, 10 September 1993).

Ten years later, much of the West Bank resembles a wasteland of destroyed buildings, wrecked infrastructure and abandoned villages. Every town of any significance is surrounded by military checkpoints, cement blocks, barbed wire or trenches. The number of ultra-chauvinist settlers, who freely rampage throughout the Occupied Territories, stealing land and terrorizing Palestinians, has doubled since 1993 to total some 400,000 today, including in East Jerusalem. The entire West Bank is dotted with military outposts and fortified settlements, crisscrossed by “bypass roads” that are off-limits to Palestinians. Defense of the Palestinians must begin with the demand for the immediate removal of all anti-Arab fortifications in the Occupied Territories—the troops, the settlements and the apartheid highway network.

To add the finishing touches to what will resemble a concentration camp or ghetto more than a state, the Zionists are constructing a concrete wall around the entire West Bank, replete with barbed wire and guard towers every thousand feet, to go with the electrified fence that already surrounds Gaza. According to a report by Jonathan Cook in the International Herald Tribune (27 May), Sharon recently said that the wall will be at least 625 miles long, nearly three times the length of the Green Line, the border between Israel and the West Bank. Why so long? Cook explained:

“Palestinian research based on land expropriation orders issued by the Israeli Army produces a map that shows the wall winding its way deep into the heart of the Palestinian state, twisting and turning in an elaborate route designed to keep a large number of the settlers on ‘Israel’s side’ of the wall and minimize the amount of territory left to the Palestinians. Israel is also preparing a second, similarly tortuous wall near the eastern border of the West Bank, which it shares with Jordan, that will steal even more land from the Palestinians and offers no obvious security benefits. After the wall is finished, at a cost of more than $2 billion, the Palestinians will live in two minuscule states behind concrete and electrified fencing, restricted to their main population centers.”

This is the “unilateral separation” that the Zionist “peace camp,” represented by the likes of Meretz spokesman Yossi Sarid, has clamored for.

According to Le Monde Diplomatique (November 2002), an estimated 290,000 Palestinians will find themselves on the Israeli side of the wall—as will all of East Jerusalem and surrounding suburbs. Many of them will be cut off from their fields or other means of subsistence. Some 70,000 of these Palestinians “do not officially have the right to reside in Israel” and therefore “are extremely vulnerable and will probably be forced to leave.” Indeed, the resulting Palestinian “state” may well become a dumping ground for Israel to expel its Palestinian “citizens,” who make up over 20 percent of the population.

Bush: “God Instructs Me...”

The 1993 Oslo accords, far from ushering in an independent Palestinian state, paved the way for the current immiseration and ghettoization of the Palestinian people. Today, Israel would not even countenance withdrawal from all of the West Bank and Gaza. Following a 1998 agreement engineered by Clinton, historian Norman G. Finkelstein aptly commented: “Apart from ‘extremists,’ no one any longer speaks about full withdrawal. Indeed, the call for full withdrawal is now equated with the call for zero withdrawal, as pundits condemn the ‘extremists on both sides’.”

Just a few years ago, calls for forced expulsion of the Palestinians—euphemistically called “transfer”—and the labeling of the West Bank by their biblical names of Judea and Samaria were publicly voiced only by the fringe elements (like Sharon) on the ultraright of Israeli society. Today these extreme positions are common not only in the Zionist ruling establishment but also in sections of the American ruling establishment, as indicated by the fact that the New York Times (18 May) recently published a major article on the growing support for “transfer” in Washington. These views are exemplified by the unholy alliance of Christian evangelicals and Zionist neocons like Pentagon heavies Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. Perle and Wolfowitz served as advisers to Sharon predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu in the 1996 Israeli elections, where they urged him to abandon Oslo and wage war on the Palestinians. House majority leader Tom DeLay, an evangelical Christian, refers to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria.

As the Times article points out, the Christian evangelical base of the Bush administration today espouses the genocidal line that “Jordan is Palestine”—i.e., the expulsion of all Palestinians from Israel and the Occupied Territories. The demented mindset of these messianic fanatics is captured by the following statements by Bush and Sharon cabinet minister Benyamin Elon. According to Abbas, Bush declaimed at Aqaba: “God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them” (Ha’aretz, 24 June). Elon rants: “The Christians with the leadership of Bush, and the Jews with the existence of the state of Israel, have a window of opportunity to make clear to the Islamic world that we have power, and we are here.” The Times article reported that when Elon addressed the Christian Coalition in the U.S., “he was cheered by thousands of evangelical Christians waving Israeli flags when he called for the ‘relocation’ of Palestinians to Jordan.”

The epithet “self-hater” that the Zionists ritually hurl at anti-Zionist Jews truly applies to the Zionists; in their pursuit of Israeli expansionism they embrace the worst enemies of the Jewish people. Speaking of Elon, the Times wrote, “The Bible, he says, is where Christians and Jews meet; their debate begins only with the New Testament”—never mind that Elon’s “New Testament allies” accuse the Jews of crucifying Jesus! In fact, the Christian fundamentalists support Jewish control of Israel only because in their mythology it will usher in the “second coming” of Christ—after which the Jews (and other infidels) are to be consigned to hell!

For Arab/Hebrew Workers Revolution!

The sense of frustration and despair over the prospects for Palestinian national liberation among many who solidarize with the Palestinian cause was evident at an international conference of Al-Awda (the Palestine Right to Return Coalition) in Toronto over the June 20-22 weekend. A number of participants were with the International Solidarity Movement, whose activists have courageously put their lives on the line in standing alongside besieged Palestinians against Israeli troops and settlers in the Occupied Territories. A WV reporter at the conference observed of many of the participants: “They think the PLO has thoroughly betrayed the Palestinian cause by abandoning the right of return for refugees and accepting the existence of an exclusionist Zionist state. They also despair at the rise of fundamentalist forces like Hamas and Islamic Jihad and at least formally oppose anti-Jewish racism.”

There was widespread hostility at the conference toward the Arab bourgeois regimes. A conference session was devoted to the conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, while the conference call posted on Al-Awda’s Web site also addressed the treatment of Palestinians in U.S.-occupied Iraq: “Thousands of Palestinians living in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities have been abused and evicted from their homes and apartments by forces supported and financed by the occupiers. Meanwhile, a group of Lebanese officials are spearheading an attempt to strip thousands of naturalized Palestinian refugees of their Lebanese citizenship, thereby depriving them of basic civil and social rights.”

Various speakers in the plenary session on “PLO: Past, Present and Future” tried to identify the moment at which the PLO went wrong. One speaker pointed to the 1993 Oslo accords as the PLO’s key betrayal. Another went back further, focusing on the PLO’s acceptance of the idea of a Palestinian “mini-state” in the 1970s. Yet another concentrated on 1970, when the PLO refused to fight to overthrow the regime of Jordan’s King Hussein, who slaughtered more than 10,000 PLO fighters in the infamous “Black September” massacre: “Holding talks with King Hussein as an ‘Arab brother’ was a betrayal of all we stood for.... Israel was not the only one to use phosphorous bombs against us, King Hussein did as well.”

(As an expression of disgust at the current PLO leadership, one speaker retailed the following joke: There’s a bathhouse that charges clients depending on how much soap they will need. Sharon comes up and asks, “How much?” “100 shekels,” replies the attendant. “You are quite big and I’m not even sure we have enough soap.” Then Abu Mazen comes up and asks for soap. “For you, 200 shekels,” says the attendant. “What? Sharon only paid 100 shekels and he is way fatter than me,” says Abu Mazen. The attendant replies: “Yes, but you are much filthier.”)

One speaker at the session on the PLO said, “When you stop representing your people and your national liberation program, then there is not much left of the PLO.” But the petty-bourgeois nationalist program of the PLO, even in the left-wing variants espoused by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), never represented the aspirations of the Palestinian masses but rather those of the would-be Palestinian bourgeoisie. In 1970, DFLP leader Nayef Hawatmeh declared: “We intend to build a democratic and socialist state where Israelis and Arabs will enjoy the same rights; a state where there will be no form of oppression; a state, finally, where the power, and all the power, will be exercised by workers’ and peasants’ soviets” (Pathfinder Press, Documents of the Palestinian Resistance Movement, 1971). But despite such leftist rhetoric, in practice the DFLP remained wedded to the perspective of Arab nationalism and never broke from the more mainstream nationalists represented by Arafat’s Fatah. Even after denouncing the Oslo accords, the DFLP (as well as the PFLP) made their peace with the Palestinian Authority and remained within the PLO.

Like all nationalism, Arab nationalism preaches the unity of the downtrodden and exploited with their “own” exploiters and would-be exploiters. In this view, the allies of the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation are to be sought not among the proletariat of the region—including the Hebrew-speaking working class in Israel—but rather among the Arab rulers. Even the most militant Palestinian nationalists recognized that they did not have the power to defeat the Zionist state militarily. Rather, the strategy of “armed struggle” pursued by the PLO in the 1960s and ’70s was aimed at pressuring the Arab regimes to take up the cause of “Arab unity” against Israel. That is why the PLO pledged “non-interference” in the Arab states, including Jordan, which was majority Palestinian and where the PLO had its main base.

This eventually was supplanted by direct appeals to the imperialists, centrally U.S. imperialism, particularly following the destruction of the USSR. With the counterrevolutionary collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, the PLO was deprived of crucial diplomatic and financial support, paving the way for the ignominious U.S.-sponsored Oslo “peace” accords establishing the PLO as the Zionists’ police auxiliaries in the Occupied Territories.

It is this betrayal which paved the way for the rise of Islamic fundamentalists like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, vile anti-Semitic and anti-Christian religious bigots who seek to enslave women and extirpate any manifestations of social progress. At a workshop on Palestinian women, relegated to the end of the conference, one speaker contrasted the current condition of women in the Occupied Territories to that following the outbreak of the first Intifada in 1987, which spurred women into struggle and gave rise to a plethora of women’s organizations which challenged traditional values. But, she noted, such hopes were dashed with the Oslo accords.

During the discussion, a comrade of the Trotskyist League of Canada laid out our perspective for a socialist federation of the Near East as the only road to liberate women, the Palestinian people and the oppressed masses throughout the region, stressing the need to crack the Zionist monolith along class lines. In reply, one of the panelists dismissed class struggle in Israel as a myth and asserted that all Israelis benefit from the oppression of the Palestinians.

The nationalist view of Israel as a seamless society of predatory colonialists was given the lie by the strike of 700,000 Israeli public sector workers this spring, protesting government cutbacks, that brought the country to a grinding halt for several days. The cutbacks are, in large part, the price of the huge funds expended to maintain the settlements and the military occupation. Thus, on a purely economic level (and only on that level), the strike was a challenge to Israel’s intent to militarily suppress the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories.

While many speakers at the conference put forward the vision of a democratic and secular state where both Palestinians and Israeli Jews could live together, not a single speaker put forward a program of how to get there. The reason is simple. They reject the only realistic program for social and national liberation in the Near East: the mobilization of the proletariat on the basis of revolutionary internationalism to sweep away all the oppressive capitalist regimes in the region.

Breaking the Hebrew proletariat from Zionist chauvinism will be a difficult and arduous task, likely requiring the victory of socialist revolution in one of the other Near Eastern states. But if the Hebrew working class is to fight for its own liberation from capitalist exploitation, it must champion the national rights of the Palestinian people. In turn, the Arab working masses will not be won to a perspective of proletarian revolution if they are not broken from Arab nationalism and anti-Semitism. And that will not happen unless the Arab proletariat upholds the right of the Hebrew-speaking people—as well as the Kurds and other peoples—to a national existence.

The current grim situation underlines that there is no easy road to the liberation of the Palestinian people—including the right of refugees to return to their homeland—which will require the overthrow not only of the Zionist state but also of bourgeois rule in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. This perspective demands the forging of revolutionary Marxist parties tempered through the most uncompromising struggle not only against fundamentalist reaction but even the most secular or “progressive” brand of nationalism. There is no other way.

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