The assassination of Hamas' Gaza leader Abd Al-Aziz al-Rantisi by Israel on Saturday, April 22, is the second such act of state terror against the leadership of the Islamist movement in less than a month.
On March 22, Israel assassinated Hamas founder Shaikh Ahmad Yassin, sparking off widespread indignation among Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and many others throughout the world.
Moreover, the open support of the Bush administration for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's expansionistic designs in the West Bank will make the powder keg not only in Gaza but in the entire region even more volatile.
The assassination of al-Rantisi is unlikely to weaken Hamas's popularity among the Palestinian people. Hamas is a huge movement with tens of thousands of supporters. As a matter of fact, the murder of al-Rantisi is likely to push more Palestinians into the hands of reactionary Hamas, whose influence is growing as result of the frustration and despair caused by their oppression by the rulers of Israel. This was seen in the huge demonstration in Gaza during Yassin's and al-Rantisi's funeral processions.
Abdel Aziz Ali al-Rantisi was born on October 23, 1947 in the village of Yebna, on the road linking the cities of Jaffa and Asqalan, which Israel occupied in 1948. When he was just six months old, his family sought refuge in Gaza Strip after the 1948-Cataclysm (Al Nakba), and settled in the Khan Younis refugee camp.
In 1965, he went to Alexandria to study medicine. After his graduation, Dr. al-Rantisi returned to the Gaza Strip, later to return again to Alexandria and obtain a M.A. in pediatrics. In 1983, he was dismissed from Nasser hospital by the Israeli occupying authorities for refusing to pay taxes to Israel.
He participated in forming the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in 1987, with the backing of Israel, including Ariel Sharon, who sought to weaken Arafat's Fatah. The Israeli occupying authorities jailed him again in 1988 for two and a half years for participating in anti-occupation activities. He was released on September 4, 1990 and then arrested again on December 14, 1990 and held on administrative detention (without trial or charge) for a year.
On December 17, 1992, al-Rantisi and 400 other Palestinians were expelled to the Lebanese border town of Marj Al Zuhoor.
Following his return from Marj Al Zuhoor, he was immediately arrested by the occupying forces. An Israeli court martial sentenced him to prison until mid 1997, when he was released and continued his role as one of Hamas' leaders.
On June 10, 2003 al-Rantisi survived an attempt on his life by the Israeli army when the car he was driving in was bombed with missiles.
On March 24, 2004 he was named as leader of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, succeeding Sheikh Ahmad Yassin after the latter's assassination by Israel.
Following the murder of Shaikh Ahmad Yassin, Rantisi announced that Hamas would participate in a "national unity council" with the Palestinian Authority (PA). As we wrote in our previous article, Israel: Sharon's Plan - The Road to Peace?, Hamas is ready to be a player in this scheme of betrayal of the Palestinian people's right of self-determination.
A few days ago Hamas' new leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi announced that Hamas would not attack US interests in the region. Now we hear that the leaderships of Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad in Gaza have prepared a draft "National Plan". According to the document, Hamas accepts the PA's supreme authority as representatives of the Palestinians. The document calls the PLO the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and "the national framework unifying the Palestinians in their homeland and outside it". The document does not yet detail any division of labour or the division of forces between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza following the expected withdrawal of Israel, but it already announced the acceptance of Sharon's plan as a step forward. "The forces support acceptance of security and administrative responsibility by the PA in evacuated territories in the context of an agreed national plan".
It would serve the interests of US imperialism and the rulers of Israel if Hamas and the PA were not able to settle the actual division of power among themselves in such a governing council, hence Sharon made up his mind and elected Mohammad Dahlan to be his man in Gaza.
Dahlan was a founding member of the Fatah Youth Association in 1981. In 1988, he was deported to Jordan and later went to Tunisia where he won Arafat's confidence. Mr. Dahlan returned to Gaza in 1994. Upon his return to Gaza he became the boss of the Preventive Security Forces in Gaza whose job was to suppress any opposition to the Oslo Agreement. Dahlan resigned in June 2002 over disagreements with Arafat to reform the PA according to demands of the US. Matthew Kalman of The San Francisco Chronicle Foreign Service in an article dated April 4, 2004 tells us of a respected Palestinian waiting in the wings.
"Officially unemployed since last September (when he resigned), Dahlan retains significant trappings of power - bodyguards, autos, exclusive hotel rooms - and has been quietly courted by U.S. and British diplomats looking for someone - not Arafat -- who can break the ruinous dynamic that has wrecked all previous attempts at Israeli-Palestinian peace.
"Dahlan is believed to enjoy covert funding from Washington and London, and like other Palestinian security chiefs, he has used his influence to gain stakes in a raft of business interests that ensure his financial independence."
Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki says that Dahlan and his supporters would gain in any new voting. Ghazi Hamad, editor of the Hamas weekly Al-Resala, also regards Dahlan as a potentially major player. Hamad also confirmed that there have been numerous meetings between Dahlan and officials from Hamas.
Dahlan is in the middle of a two-month stay in Cambridge, England - believed by observers to have been paid for by the British government - where as he says he is "wasting time, reading and improving my English."
But that's not all. Britain has built two command and control centres for the Palestinian security services in Gaza and in Ramallah, in the West Bank, as well as a new and secure communications system. Officially, London is dealing with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, but British diplomats admit they have discussed every step with Dahlan.
Does he remind us of any one? Of course - he reminds us of one Ahmad Chalabi, the man who would become the president of Iraq on the basis of US bayonets – except this did not happen.
The murder of al-Rantisi serves two purposes. It improves Dahlan's chances by process of elimination, and at the same time sends a message to the leadership of Hamas. These acts of state terror say to Hamas: "unless you want to meet Yassin and al-Rantisi in the great place, where you send so many innocent Israelis and Palestinians, you better take your orders from his higness, the prince Dahlan".
If Dahlan is the Israeli choice in Gaza, they have another leader they want to crown in the West Bank. His name is Marwan Barghouti. On April 20, Haaretz informed its readers that a "memorandum of understanding issued by the leadership of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, under the patronage of jailed Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, called for a total end to the armed struggle emanating from Gaza if a series of conditions are met. The conditions detailed in the document, or "proposal", sent to Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, includes ‘complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, including the ‘Philadelphi Route' on the Israeli-Egyptian border; full Palestinian sovereignty over the Strip including the sea and air ports, and the release of all Gaza residents from Israeli prisons'. In exchange for fulfilling the conditions, ‘the armed forces in Gaza will be obligated not to conduct any armed actions from Gaza' according to the document.
"The document is described as an attempt to complement the dialogue under way among all Palestinian factions in Gaza, and serve ‘as an appropriate response, which will satisfy factions in Gaza, to the assassination of Abdel Aziz Rantisi'. The document proposes defining the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza ‘as the most important achievement of the Palestinians in the Intifada after 10 years of Oslo did not move a single mobile home and during those years, the settlements doubled.' The document is the first clear expression of Barghouti's readiness to support Sharon's plan, and reflects the dialogue between Palestinian factions within Israeli prisons and camps."
According to the same newspaper, "a senior Fatah official in Gaza yesterday said the dialogue among the three main factions - Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad - that began after the assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin last month, but was ceased after Rantisi's killing, will resume in the upcoming days. The official, one of the most powerful in the Strip, said the prisoners' document will serve as the basis for discussions meant to set a date for local elections in the area and to try to reach clear understandings among the organizations over how Gaza will be run once Israel departs.
"The official did not provide details, but said that ‘if there is no agreement on general partnership between the organizations, then there will be a narrower agreement on the management of the Strip'.
"He did not rule out enlisting Hamas and Islamic militants into the PA's security services ‘on condition that they cut ties to those organizations. It would be in a new framework of the security services in Gaza and a new definition of their goals and purposes.'
"Head of Preventive Security in Gaza, Rashid Abu Shbak, also is not ruling out integrating Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the security forces as long as there are clear rules for their participation."
This development may come as a shock for those who have believed in their own propaganda that the Palestinian nationalists and religious fanatics would liberate Palestine. It confirms however the Marxist analysis. As we explained in The Palestinian Question, written by Ted Grant and Alan Woods more than four years ago in Marxism and the National Question:
"The national question is crucial to the Middle East, above all the Palestinian question. After decades of national oppression at the hands of the Israeli imperialists, the Palestinian masses have a burning sense of injustice, expressed in the desire for their own homeland. That is their inalienable right, which Marxists will uphold and fight for. However, the experience of the last thirty years should provide us with some necessary lessons. The petty bourgeois nationalist leaders of the PLO held out the idea that they could obtain self-determination by means of a so-called armed struggle against Israel. In practice this boiled down to simple acts of individual terrorism, bombings, kidnappings, hijacking aircrafts, etc. These actions did not weaken Israel in the slightest degree. On the contrary. To the degree that they persuaded ordinary Israelis that the intention was to "drive the Jews into the sea", they pushed the population into the arms of reaction. Far from weakening the Israeli state, they strengthened it.
"The tactics of the PLO leaders led the Palestinians to one defeat after another….
What they accepted amounted to a betrayal of the national struggle of the Palestinians.
"Washington hoped to establish stability in the area by forcing through a compromise. However, the national question is notoriously volatile and complex, and explosive situations created by imperialism in the past cannot always be easily defused by imperialism when it changes its mind. Just as British imperialism created a Frankenstein monster in the North of Ireland, which it cannot now control, so the American imperialists now find that, having built up a client state in Israel, the puppet does not always dance when the strings are pulled. The Israeli ruling class has its own interests, which may, or may not, correspond to those of the USA. Thus, the so-called Peace Deal in the Middle East is in serious difficulties. None of the fundamental problems have been solved.
"As predicted by the Marxists, the deal signed by Arafat with the Israelis was a trap for the Palestinian people. This is not self-determination but only a miserable caricature and a fraud. … A new Intifada would contain a clear revolutionary potential, on one condition: that it possesses a firm revolutionary leadership that stands for an internationalist solution. On the basis of nationalism, no solution is possible. A far-sighted leadership would strive to link the revolutionary movement of the Palestinians with the movement of the Israeli working class. It would explain that the common enemy of both Arab and Israeli working people are the Israeli bankers and capitalists. It would make clear that the Palestinian revolutionary movement is not directed against ordinary Israeli citizens. It would systematically seek points of support in Israeli society: among the students and progressive youth, in the factories and army barracks. The central idea must be the necessity for a fundamental transformation of society, not only in Palestine but also in Israel, as the only way out of the impasse.
"The fate of the Palestinians has been a terrible tragedy. For more than 30 years, the Palestinians have been fighting for self-determination and where has it led on a nationalist basis? To a complete catastrophe and a betrayal. The lesson is clear and must be learnt: the national problem in Palestine cannot be solved on a capitalist basis. The only way to solve that problem would be by revolutionary means, by a socialist revolution in Israel and socialist revolutions in all the surrounding Arab countries, beginning with Jordan where the PLO could have taken power 30 years ago, if the PLO leaders had not betrayed the revolution. The only way to solve that problem is on the basis of the Socialist Federation of the Middle East with full autonomy for the Palestinians and also for the Israelis.
"Petty bourgeois cynics will say that this is not "practical". But have we not seen enough of the kind of "practical" solutions advocated by these smart-Alecs over the past thirty years—and not just in the Middle East. Everywhere, without exception, these "practical" policies—which boil down to the madness of individual terrorism and nationalist stupidity—have brought nothing but disasters and betrayals. We see this yet again in the capitulation of the Kurdish nationalist's leaders of the PKK and the sell-out of Mandela and Mbeki of the aspirations of the black proletariat in South Africa. Lenin was a thousand times correct when he poured scorn on the so-called "practical" policies of the nationalists. The plain fact is that the only way out for the Palestinians is on the basis of a revolutionary, internationalist class policy. Any other solution spells new disasters. The only really practical programme is the programme of socialist revolution."