Gaza like Baghdad

The recent internecine fighting between different factions in Gaza has temporarily calmed down after an agreement was patched together to form a government of national unity. This will eventually break down as none of the pressing problems of the Palestinian people will be solved.

Gaza has been looking more and more like Baghdad, with street barricades, snipers exchanging fire, and bleeding children being rushed to hospitals where the staff are inundated and cannot deal with all the injured. Palestinian has been pitted against Palestinian as outside powers attempt to divide the people.

And while this has been going on talks have continued between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas government with the aim of setting up a government of national unity in the territories. Qadura Fares, a leading Fatah figure, recently announced that, "Barring any surprises... this week they will agree on a government of national unity."

Abbas and Mashal, the political leader of Hamas residing in Syria, took part in a meeting in Mecca brokered by the Saudi Arabian regime in an attempt to pacify the situation. The result was that the two sides agreed to form a "unity government. Apparently, Prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh will remain in his post while the Minister of the Interior will be chosen by Abbas from a list of independent candidates put forward by Hamas.

The degree to which Hamas is prepared to go to achieve "legitimacy" in the eyes of Western and Israeli imperialism is revealed by the content of the agreement. Hamas is to allow the Palestinian Authority chairman to hold negotiations with Israel with "no strings attached". Hamas leaders even emphasised that the government's policy will be independent of the policies of the Hamas movement!

Meshal added that the document upon which the new government will be based states clearly that: "The government will respect all agreements that will serve the interests of the Palestinian people as they were defined in the decisions of the PLO's Palestinian National Council."

After three days of fighting in which 28 people were killed and some 240 others were injured the Gaza Strip returned to a relative calm. The agreement also established a "joint Fatah-Hamas operations room" to deal with outbreaks of violence between members of the opposing groups. However, only few of the roadblocks set up by both sides were actually lifted. But the two groups did begin to exchange hostages taken during the recent fighting.

The question that has to be asked is: how long can this accord last? This really depends more on Bush and Olmert than on Abu Mazen, Meshal or Ismail Haniyeh. This shows how the different Palestinian factions are being moved around like pawns by the imperialists. It is the old and tested tactic of "Divide and Rule".

The tragedy of the Palestinian people is that the main political forces, Fatah and Hamas, are incapable of offering them a real long-lasting solution to the many problems they face. The fact that Abu Mazen and Meshal agreed to a government of national unity will not solve anything. The Israeli siege of Gaza causing real hunger among the Palestinian population has not been lifted. The settlements continue, while most Palestinians are unemployed even in the West bank. The roads are blocked in spite of the Israeli government's promise to Abu Mazen to allows easier travelling, and the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons are not likely to be released.

The dilemma facing the Hamas leaders - and the Fatah leaders - is that a "unity government" that will not solve any thing. Therefore it is not going to be popular among the Palestinian masses. There is also the not unimportant detail that this agreement is not binding on the Islamic Jihad. Soon we will be seeing Israel and the US putting pressure on this " government of national unity" to step up the fight against resistance to the Israeli occupation.

The civil war between opposing Palestinian factions have exposed two clear facts. The first one is that Abu Mazen and his man in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, have been acting in the services of Israel and the US that provided them with weapons. At least since October last year long before the latest round of fighting began on February 1, the Presidential Guard has receiving arms via Egypt and Israel and this is common knowledge to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. This has been admitted in the Israeli media for months. Since October, eight truckloads of AK-47 rifles and machine guns and several million rounds of ammunition have entered Gaza from Israel through the Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom crossings. This was revealed also by a high-ranking officer of the Force-17 Fatah militia who conveyed this information to Hebron-based journalist Khaled Amayreh.

The second fact is that Hamas lacks any programme to unite the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation. Such a government of national unity will only weaken the support for Hamas and for Abu Mazen in they eyes of the oppressed Palestinians.

The aim of the Israeli ruling class and the White House is to destroy Hamas' influence and such a government of national unity that achieves nothing can be very useful for the Olmert government, which is suffering a huge political crisis and is very unpopular among the citizens of Israel, both Arabs and Jews.

We are likely to hear in the next period of a renewal of the imperialist "peace process". This will lead once again to the "no exit from hell" situation that we live in. The ruling class in Israel will never agree to a truly independent Palestinian state within the 1967 occupied lands. It will not give up on Jerusalem and the blocks of settlements. It will not release the Palestinian prisoners and will never agree to the return of the Palestinian refugees expelled by Israel in 1948. At most they will agree to a form of Bantustan-type areas of so-called "autonomy", which in reality will continue to be controlled by the Israeli ruling class.

The imperialists who created the Israeli/Palestinian problems are very good at creating a mess, but they are not so good at solving it. On the basis of capitalism there is no solution to the national question, and as long as the ruling class of Israel, and with them all the reactionary Arab rulers that collaborate with the masters in Washington, are not removed the working people in the Middle East will continue to suffer and die.

The imperialists, like in Iraq, will continue to play the game of Divide and Rule. They will try to get one political force among the Palestinians to fight the other. They are trying to get the Palestinians - via the Fatah leaders - to police themselves. This can only lead to civil war among the poor.

The only power that can change this barbaric situation is the working class by uniting around its basic social and economic demands. Only after it takes power and starts to run society in the interests of ordinary working people, who have no interest in oppressing other peoples, will a final solution be found.

The way forward is shown by the masses in Latin America struggling for the socialist transformation of society. It is not by chance that Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected president of Venezuela, is popular among the Arab masses as can be seen in the massive demonstrations in Lebanon where the pictures of Hugo Chavez and the legendary Che are present. The only solution is a Socialist Federation of the Middle East that will include a Palestinian/Israeli federated workers' state.

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