Harassment of Abnaa elBalad highlights plight of Palestinians in Israel

The leaders of the Abna elBalad movement have finally been officially charged. The whole case smells of a witch-hunt, a determined offensive against anyone who dares to raise their head in protest.

Over a month ago in Israel four members of the political movement, Abna al-Balad were arrested, among them Mr. Mohammed Kannaneh, the General Secretary, and Mr. Majed Kannaneh, for alleged security offenses. Two of the four Abna al-Balad political activists, Mr. Malek Abu-Ali and Ms. Sahar Abdu have since been released without charge. We called for letters of protest to be sent to the Israeli Prime Minister's office when these arrests took place. See Stop the harassment of Abnaa elBalad.

Until recently all four, Arab citizens of Israel, had been kept in detention without charge, and were subjected to intensive interrogation methods by the General Security Service (GSS). According to their solicitors, these methods included tying the prisoners to their chairs, sleep deprivation; refusing one of them essential medical treatment, and giving them misleading information about their legal rights. As if this were not enough, the GSS and the police, for a period refused to say where one of the activists was being held. They were also prevented from meeting with their solicitors for 18-21 days. Their families also were refused access to them

As we reported previously, when Mr. Mohammed Kannaneh, Mr. Majed Kannaneh, and Ms. Abdu were arrested police raided their homes and the offices of Abna al-Balad in Haifa and Arabeh. They smashed up the offices and used uncalled for violence against the family members of those arrested.

Last week charges were finally brought against the two Kannaneh brothers. They are now accused of plotting to smuggle bomb-making instructions from Lebanon's Hizb Allah resistance group to Palestinian resistance fighters. According to security officials, they are supposed to have transferred electrical appliances from Galilee to Jenin, which contained computer data on how to assemble and operate explosives. These accusations are yet to be proven, but they seem spurious at the least. As some in Israel have pointed out, Palestinians fighting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza do not need such information and the leaders of the Abna elBalad movement have no history of being experts in such operations.

Although we have important political differences with this group, we believe that this whole episode smells very much of a witch-hunt. It is part of a more general attack on the rights of Palestinians that is taking place. The Palestinians who live in Israel, the "Arab Israelis" are being targeted. Palestinians make up about 20% of Israel's population, but the Israeli authorities treat all Arab Israelis as potential enemies. The latest example is what has recently been revealed around the Knesset building, the Israeli parliament.

According to a news-flash published on March 9 on the news site Ynet-online (www.ynet.co.il), "It was found this morning that Arab construction workers (with Israeli citizenship) who are working in a construction site inside the Knesset compound are marked with a red ‘X' that is drawn on their helmets, to enable an armed sniper who is deployed in the site to watch them all the time. The Knesset spokesman to Ynet [said]: ‘This is a high security zone. We have a big dilemma as we wanted to employ the biggest number possible of workers with Israeli citizenship on the one hand, and our obligation to safety & security on the other hand. The construction workers are marked with a red ‘X' that is drawn on their helmets, to enable an armed sniper who is deployed in the site to watch them, for security reasons'."

This incident alone shows how ordinary Arab Israeli workers are considered by the authorities. But this only confirms a more general pattern. Less than two years ago the Israeli government tried to remove Arab members of Parliament from the Knesset. The Israelis also make no distinction about whom they target for repression. Leading members of the Islamic movement in Israel have been in detention for the "crime" of having transferred money to poor families in the West Bank and Gaza, some of who are literally on the edge of starvation. There is also the ongoing phenomenon of house demolitions, whereby Palestinian families have to experience the traumatic effects of their houses being bulldozed. A latest of example of this in the Galilean village of el-Be'eneh (which is inside the 1948 territories) can be viewed at www.abnaa-elbalad.org/be3n3h_house04.jpg.

It is clear that Sharon's intent is to totally crush the Palestinians underfoot. The building of the "wall" is a clear example of this. But some on the extreme right of the Israeli political scene have even played with the idea of not only clamping down on the Arab Israelis, the Palestinians who stayed within Israel when it was set up in the 1940s, but also of finding an excuse whereby they could all be expelled. The Abna elBalad movement have been involved for years in defending the rights of the Palestinians in Israel. That is the real reason why they have been targeted.

The problem for Sharon is that while he is busy repressing the Arabs, the Jewish workers in Israel are on the move against his draconian policies. There have been several big strikes, especially in the public sector. Unemployment in Israel has climbed above the 10 per cent mark. There is widespread dissatisfaction at how things are developing. The "Promised Land" is proving not to be such a paradise. In actual fact it looks more like Hell than Heaven!

Therefore the attack on the leaders of Abna elBalad has to be viewed from a wider perspective. This attack is not only against the Palestinians in Israel. Sharon wishes to crush anyone who dares stand in his way. His message to any organisation that attempts to defend the Palestinians is "we will crush you". He is also trying to send a message to the Jewish workers. He is worried that over time they can draw some radical conclusions. Through this process we can see the potential for working class unity, starting with Jewish and Arab workers inside Israel itself, and then also involving the oppressed masses in the Occupied Territories.

To stop the struggles of the Arab and Jewish workers coming together, the government, representing the Israeli capitalists, is doing anything it can to strangle the class struggle. They want to push the Jewish workers into the swamp of nationalist hatred. The mirror to this is to push the Palestinians into the arms of the Islamic fundamentalists. So long as the situation remains like this those who gain are Sharon and the Israeli ruling class.

Therefore an attack on the basic rights of Palestinians must be seen as being an attack also on ordinary Jewish workers. The two go together. Sharon has been at war with the Palestinians for years. But now he is also on the path of war against the Jewish workers.

Therefore the only real way of stopping this kind of repression is by building links between the Jewish and Arab workers, of making them aware of who the real enemy is, the Israeli ruling class, the Arab despotic regimes and the various imperialist powers.