The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places on earth. A million Palestinians live there under the horror of an almost permanent Israeli siege that makes it a virtual prison. It is a large ghetto, just forty-three kilometres long and ten kilometres wide. Most of its residents are refugees who have lived in camps since they were expelled by Israel in 1948. Since the second Palestinian Intifada began in September 2000 none of Gaza's forty thousand day labourers have been able to cross the border into Israel.
According to a World Bank analysis, if there is no dramatic change, 75 percent of Palestinians will be living below the poverty line within two years (already that amount live at or just above the poverty line). The current rate is 56 percent, compared to 22 percent back in 2000.
The Israeli government has the clear aim of crushing the spirit of the population. They are prepared to use any means to achieve this, from starvation to air attacks and daily artillery fire. Israeli fighter jets have been roaring over the heads of the residents and even when they do not drop bombs they create fear with their sonic boom.
Friday is the holy day for the Moslems. And one of the few ways to forget and escape the horrors of daily life in Gaza is to spend the day on the beach. But last Friday was different. The beach became another scene of horror. Seven Palestinians were killed on a beach in the northern Gaza Strip. A woman and two young children, as well as a young teenager were among the dead, medical officials said. All of the dead belonged to the same family.
The utter hypocrisy and double standards of the imperialists was revealed immediately after this tragic incident. The Israeli government received a slap on the wrist from its imperialist friends. But the reaction inside Israel itself, among ordinary Israelis was different. These killings angered many Israelis. This is what forced the army Chief-of-Staff Dan Halutz on Saturday evening to express "regret" for the shelling. But he immediately added that the army was not taking responsibility for the incident, as the investigation has not yet been completed. This so called investigation is likely to inform us later that it was not the Israeli army who fired on the beach, but there was a mysterious explosion caused by the Palestinians themselves. Major General Yoav Galant, head of the IDF Southern Command, already said on Friday evening that, "the army is looking into the circumstances of the explosion."
What happened on this Gaz beach Friday is nothing but cold-blooded murder, and it followed on Thursday's Israeli strike that killed Popular Resistance Committees leader Jamal Abu Samhadana, who was head of the Hamas government's Interior Ministry security force in the Gaza Strip. The popularity of this leader was revealed when tens of thousands of mourners attended his funeral.
As can be expected, the Israeli state terror is pushing the people of Gaza further into the hands of Hamas. Following the killing on the beach, thousands of Palestinians gathered on Saturday afternoon in Beit Lahia to attend the funeral procession of the seven people killed. The mourners made their way through the town's narrow streets to the family's homes, where weeping women tried to touch the bodies of the dead. The mourners wept with 7-year-old Huda Ghalya as she knelt to kiss her dead father. This young girl had also lost her mother and three siblings, a 4-month-old, a 3-year-old and a 10-year. The mourners were chanting, "revenge, revenge" and "destroy Israel, destroy America."
Under the pressure mounting in the wake of the killings, the military wing of Hamas said that it would renew suicide bombings in Israel, ending the truce that the group had declared last year. "The Israeli massacres represent a direct opening battle and that means the earthquake in the Zionist towns will start again and the aggressors will have no choice but to prepare their coffins or their luggage," Hamas militants declared in a leaflet. "The resistance groups... will choose the proper place and time for the tough, strong and unique response."
These were not mere words, as at least 15 Qassam rockets were fired at Israel overnight Friday through to Saturday morning, for first time in 16 months. But these rockets are not weapons the rulers of Israel are afraid of. Qassam rockets are renowned for being inefficient and are actually much more dangerous to those that use them. According to the Israeli army most of the rockets appeared to have landed inside the Gaza Strip. In the Jabalya refugee camp, five Palestinians were injured on Saturday when a Qassam rocket meant for Israel landed in the camp instead. "Seven additional rockets were fired at Israel on Saturday morning," Israel Radio reported. At least two struck open fields in the western Negev, causing no damage or casualties.
This is exactly what the Israeli government ‑ a coalition that includes the right wing leadership of the Labour Party and in which Peretz is serving as the Minister of War ‑ was waiting for. Such terrorist actions achieve very little, even in military terms, put politically speaking they come in very useful to the Israeli ruling class. They help to push the Israeli population to the right and cut across the class struggle. Peretz has already hinted that Israel may renew its assassination policy against Hamas leaders ‑ even those in government ‑ after the Islamic group declared an end to its 16-month-old truce by firing those rockets and mortar bombs at Israel.
Asked by reporters at a base in southern Israel about targeting Hamas officials, Amir Peretz said: "We will definitely act against any organization or element that is planning operations". He went on to say that he had, "sent a condolence message to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, [of course not to the families of the victims] expressing deep regret at the bloodshed on the beach" and added that "a military probe into the cause of the explosion would be completed only in a day or two".
Danny Rubinstein, a Haaretz Correspondent, wrote the following on this calculated killing:
"The anger on the Palestinian street might spur Hamas to completely suspend the cease-fire agreed to by all Palestinian organizations (except Islamic Jihad) nearly 18 months ago. That was the assessment Saturday night among Palestinian operatives. Hamas, they explained, is attentive to the public mood, and after ‘the Gaza beach massacre,' as all Arab media outlets put it, the organization's members will have to respond with a broad initiative of terrorist attacks.
"Hamas spokesmen, including Osama Hamdan, Hamas' representative in Lebanon, said after the Thursday night Israel Air Force strike killing Jamal Abu Samhadana, the cease-fire no longer exists; but most spokesmen for the organization explained this was purely a tactical move that is, after a vengeance response they will go back to preserving the cease-fire. Now, after what happened on the Gaza beach, there is a real danger that the truce will collapse completely.
"The angry response of the Palestinian public this weekend was similar in many ways to the response in the West Bank and Gaza five and a half years ago to the images of the boy Mohammed al-Dura, who died in his father's arms at Netzarim junction. That incident fanned the flames of the intifada, which started a few days earlier, after Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount. Then, as now, the television and newspaper images reached everywhere. The image of the girl screaming in the sand over the bodies of her dead family members delivered a jolt."
The images of the murder on the beach were broadcast over and over again on Arab TV stations, especially the popular Al Jazeera. "In the case of Mohammed al-Dura there was an exchange of fire, whereas on the Gaza beach there was nothing, only Israeli lust for murder," said interviewees on Arab channels.
In East Jerusalem, people were saying they were certain the Israeli bombing was deliberate ‑ Israel has all the modern technology for accurate hits, so this couldn't have been a mistake. Palestinian figures considered to be "moderates", i.e. pro-American imperialism, also used harsh language in interviews published on Saturday, and even PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, was forced to say that Israel had declared a "fight to the death against the Palestinian people".
If the government of Israel thought that this criminal action would assist Abu Mazen, whom they want to replace Hamas with, they were seriously mistaken. It has simply had the effect of damaging Abbas' referendum move. He was trying to use the document of the Palestinian prisoners, which in essence calls for the recognition of Israel, based on the illusion of a two-state solution. This latest bloody incident on the Gaza beach has turned Palestinian public opinion against Abbas and Fatah. Hamas' leader in the prison, Abdel Halek Natshe, has already retracted his consent to the document, citing Abbas' political exploitation of it in the referendum.
The Israeli "moderates" are finding life difficult. The "centre-left" government of Israel is proving once again that the "solution" based on two bourgeois states within the framework of the imperialist order is no more than pie in the sky. The left reformists in Israel who support this illusion are simply demonstrating that their so-called "realism" is no better than the "realism" of Abbas whose trust in Bush is now turning against him.
As long as capitalism exists the Palestinians and the Israeli people are condemned to live in an ongoing blood bath. The Israeli state will continue to use brutal police methods such as the one we all witnessed on Friday and these will continue to provoke an armed backlash in the form of rocket attacks and suicide bombings inside Israel. Left to itself this situation can only get worse.
However, there is also another side to this. The scenes of the family brutally butchered on the Gaza beach had an impact on public opinion within Israel. Not everyone will accept the official version of those events. It makes people think. An opportunity is provided to offer an alternative to this bloody mess. The only force that can offer that alternative is the working class, both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. A bloody conflagration would destroy the lives of workers on both sides. It would not guarantee a safe environment either for the people of Israel or for the Palestinians.
Therefore the only way out is a revolutionary working class solution. Only a victorious class struggle can transform this sick barbaric society into a federal workers' state within a Socialist Federation of the Middle East. But for this to happen a genuine Marxist leadership is needed. The tragic events on Friday of last week clearly underline how urgent that task is.
- Bush and Olmert endanger life on this planet by Yossi Schwartz in Israel (May 29, 2006)
- Who is behind the Fatah-Hamas clashes? by Yossi Schwartz in Israel (May 24, 2006)
- Israel: Instability, polarisation, protest and centre-left government by Yossi Schwartz in Israel (March 29, 2006)
- Jericho and beyond by Yossi Schwartz in Israel (March 20, 2006)
- Hamas wins Palestinian elections: the early stages of the class struggle and the hypocrisy of imperialist democrats by Alon Lessel and Yossi Schwartz in Israel (February 1, 2006)
- "The Writing was on the Wall"- Hamas in power, what next? by Nadim al-Mahjoub (February 1, 2006)