On November 8, Israeli artillery shells hit the town of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip. The shells exploded in a residential building, killing 18 people, 17 of whom were members of a single family. Since then, several more have died as a result of their injuries.
This attack came only one day after the Israeli army had announced it was withdrawing from Beit Hanoun after a week-long siege in which at least 77 Palestinians were killed and 250 wounded (figures from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, www.pchrgaza.org)
This kind of a war, one that is waged against unarmed civilians, the Israeli generals know much better how to fight than wars like the one they had in Lebanon where the Israeli war machine was not facing unarmed civilians and young men armed with rifles against tanks, but by a small guerrilla army that defeated them.
Following the massacre, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued a formal notice of "regret" but then he hurriedly added that as long as the Qassams continue to fall on Israeli territory "we are not going to stop." So the people of Gaza can expect more of this barbarism. The apologies of the Olmerts of this world aren't worth the paper they are written on. Their basic material interests come before any consideration about the lives of ordinary Palestinians!
The army of course has given its typical standard explanation of the massacre in Beit Hanoun. Without even blushing they say it was due to a "malfunctioning memory card" of the radar-guided artillery system. This is not the first time they say it was an "accident" (remember the family killed while on a day out on the beach!). Even the Israeli media have had to highlight the fact that such an excuse is extremely implausible. An article that appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on November 10 stated that such a malfunction had never been previously reported in the 30 years in which the army has used this system, nor had it been reported in any similar systems.
The supposed purpose of the attacks was to stop the Qassams being fired into Israel, but on Thursday morning, and even on Friday, Qassam rockets continued to be fired from Gaza. On Wednesday, a woman in Israel, 57-year old Fa'ina Slutzker, a new Russian immigrant, was killed and two other people were seriously wounded by Qassam strikes on the town of Sderot. One of them was the bodyguard of Amir Pertez, the head of the Labour Party and the Minster of War who officially resides in this town. On Sunday in a barrage of Qassam rockets in the western Negev, a man was injured when one of eight rockets landed in the centre of Sderot.
Following the strikes on Sderot, and after the usual threats and promises of the Israeli government that Israel will stop by all means necessary the Qassam rockets, after hints that the Israeli army would reoccupy Gaza, and terrorize the residents there as they terrorized Jenin, a few years ago, on Friday the Israeli Air Force attacked a number of buildings in the Gaza Strip, giving the residents advance warning and telling them to leave.
This mild reaction - by Israeli standards at least - is not exactly what the right wingers in Israel were demanding and hoping for. The chairman of the National Religious Party-National Union, MK Uri Ariel, had announced on Wednesday that if Israel did not embark on a "Defensive Shield 2," it would end up with "Lebanon War 3".
The army had to admit that most of the 19 rockets fired on Wednesday, and that continued on Thursday and Friday, were fired from the town of Beit Hanun, the twon from where the Army had withdrawn last week, following a six-day operation. They had gone in with the excuse that it was to stop the Qassams, and then the Qassams kept flying over the border! Obviously their so-called clean-up operation had not had the desired effect.
Yet incredibly - considering the past record of the Israeli army - the army chiefs are saying that now that no major ground operation would be launched in Gaza in response, and that even a smaller operation focused on the area from which the rockets had been launched was unlikely.
So, how do we explain this shift in the Israeli ruling class attitude toward military actions? Why are they limiting themselves to external bombardment, rather than long-term occupation? A military official explains it like this: "There will be a response, but it must be effective, not cause a deterioration of the situation and not bog down in an occupation of Gaza. There are no magic solutions to this problem."
This is an incredible state of affairs. Here we have the most powerful army in the Middle East, with the most sophisticated weaponry and yet this cannot be used in an effective manner. After six years of large-scale state terror aimed at breaking the back of the Intifada, in which, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, 4,286 Palestinians and, according to B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, 1,011 Israelis have been killed, the Israeli ruling class has had to admit that it has no military solution to the Palestinian resistance.
However, having said this we should have no illusions. Yes, the Israeli army is proving that it cannot solve the problem militarily, but it would be a mistake to assume that from now on the Israeli state will end the killing, even though they know that it will achieve nothing to secure the lives of the ordinary people in Israel, or that Hamas will end the firing of the Qassams. Proof of this was the fact that on Sunday the Israeli air force continued its attack on Gaza. Two Palestinians, aged 16 and 20, were killed and five others were wounded.
The Sunday Times of London, quoting an unnamed Israeli security source, reported on Sunday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Amir Peretz had ordered their security chiefs to assassinate the Hamas political leadership. The paper said that the reported decision was taken "in a desperate attempt to stop the barrage of rockets fired by Hamas at Israeli villages."
In another significant development the Israeli army cancelled a planned air raid on the home of Mohammed al-Baroud a commander in the Popular Resistance Committees in the northern Gaza Strip ,after hundreds of Palestinians formed a human shield outside his home in Beit Lahia late on Saturday. Their determination was clear to all as they chanted anti-Israel and anti-American slogans, and said they were prepared to give their lives to protect the home. "Yes to martyrdom. No to surrender," they chanted.
So what can the wise old leaders of the West do next, when the mighty Israeli war machine has failed in Lebanon and in Gaza, and the even mightier American war machine has failed in Iraq and Afghanistan? Obviously in their zig zag policy of carrot and stick, they will be forced to turn to diplomacy.
For this to happen they will have to offer some concessions and support the so-called "moderates" in the Middle East .In this game of lies, called diplomacy, the European governments are much more experienced than their American counter parts. They hope to play a bigger role in the exploitation of the region, under their usual phrases of bringing "peace and security" and of course "prosperity" etc, etc. They have realized that the US is like an injured shark and they can smell the blood.
"Spain will sponsor a new Middle East peace initiative along with France and Italy", the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Thursday, adding that the international community cannot remain idle as violence rages between Israel and the Palestinians.
How cynical can these right wing social democrats get? For six years the Israeli tanks and airplanes have bombed the Palestinians but only now, when the Israeli ruling class have lost the war in Lebanon and clearly cannot crush the Palestinian rebellion, they have all of a sudden realized that violence is raging in the region.
Zapatero said that his peace plan has five elements to it: an immediate cease-fire, a government of national unity of the Palestinians that can gain international recognition, an exchange of prisoners including the Israeli soldiers, talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and an international mission in Gaza to monitor a cease-fire.
It is not difficult to see that it is the same plan the imperialists tried to impose in Lebanon after the Israeli defeat last August. All they have manage to achieve there has been a sharp crisis. Their dear Prime Minister of Lebanon , Seniora, is in trouble as Hezbollah and its allies have left the government threatening to topple it by mobilizing the masses.
In spite of this experience, now these sage bourgeois politicians are coming up with exactly the same kind of ideas that have worked so well for them in Lebanon and they are trying to impose them in Gaza.
It was not so long ago that the Israeli state was considered a strong local power looking after the interests of the imperialists. Now it seems the European imperialists are being forced to step in to save the Israeli ruling class, but for their services they are of course asking for their share of the loot.
This was revealed by Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, that ex-Christian Democrat, now at the head of a "centre-left" coalition, speaking in Rome:
"I think the European countries present in the area, have an obligation to look for a way to get out of this situation and prepare - to prepare - a peace process," Prodi told reporters.
"There are hopes in Europe for a greater voice in world affairs, particularly after midterm U.S. elections in which voters punished President George W. Bush and gave control of Congress to the Democrats".
"Many people in Europe hope the results will usher in a more humble U.S. foreign policy, in which Washington seeks the advice and input of its European allies, rather than dictating policy to them".
But what kind of peace are they talking about? The last 59 years have shown that the Palestinian question cannot be solved under the imperialist order that created the problem in the first place. Can the rulers of Israel remove all the settlements they have so carefully built since 1967? Can they return East Jerusalem to the Palestinians and allow the return of the Palestinian refugees who were expelled in 1947-8? Can they release all the Palestinian prisoners? In short can they allow a truly independent Palestinian state to come into being, even in part of the territory? The answer to all these questions is clearly no.
They can offer many words and some forms of bribes maybe, even to end the blockade on Gaza, but nothing more than this. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas holding his great title with the blessing of Bush and the praise of Olmert, said on Wednesday in an interview with London-based news agency Al-Shark al-Awsat that the United States had assured him that the formation of a Palestinian government of national unity would bring the end of its political and aid embargo on the PA, and of Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip.
By the weekend Prime Minister Haniyeh may well announce his resignation and Abbas would announce the formation of a new cabinet of "technocrats" led by Mohammed Shabir, the candidate acceptable to both Fatah and Hamas and also to the US.
But while they all continue to play the old and ever so familiar game of "peace in the Middle East" they are all fully aware of the fact that if they do achieve a period without any bloodshed or nationalist hatred, all the social contradictions within Israel and inside the Arab countries will break to the surface in the form of class struggle. Already there are signs that the workers under attack want to fight back ‑ even in Israel.
Now that all these empty words about peace are going to rain down on us, the rulers of Israel need devils others than the Palestinians. They have found them of course in the shape of Iran, that they have characterized as the new Nazi Germany. The leaders of Israel had figured out they would be able to drag the US into another little cosy war like the one in Iraq, only this time against Iran, but some thing happened on the way.
In his address to the General Assembly of the Jewish Communities of North America in Los Angeles, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made it clear that Israel is seeking a confrontation with Iran: "We have reached the pivotal moment of truth regarding Iran... Our integrity will remain intact only if we prevent Iran's devious goals, not if we try our best but fail".
However, after such a belligerent speech for the consumption of the Jewish community in the USA, speaking to reporters on his flight back to Israel, Olmert had to soften his statements, saying that he had only intended "to rouse public opinion and governments around the world". He explained that the real intention was not to fight Iran, but that "America needs the support of the international community in order for us to successfully thwart this deadly threat."
It seems that even Olmert - who is competing very hard with Bush to show who is the smarter of the two - has realised that apart from the Israeli ruling class no one wants to fight Iran, not even the US. It is not only the question of oil, or the military strength of Iran, but it is also a question of who will prevent an uprising in the region once the Anglo-American occupation forces are forced to leave Iraq.
On this question, it is of interest to read Haaretz political analyst Akiva Eldar who wrote on Thursday an article titled Better to milk Lebanon than drink Golan wine. The article states:
"I recently reported that in Washington, there is a growing sense that a document advising President George W. Bush on how to resolve the Iraq crisis will address the Israeli-Arab conflict at length. Zvi Rafiah, a former Israeli congressional attaché who is very involved in American politics, says there is no need to speculate.
"Rafiah has the transcript of an interview James Baker, one of the document's authors, gave ABC television about a month ago. During the interview, the former secretary of state strongly suggested that the White House open direct talks with countries it was keeping at arm's length, including Iran and Syria.
" ‘I believe in talking to your enemies,' Baker declared, noting that as the elder Bush's secretary of state, he visited Damascus 15 times. Talking to your enemies does not constitute appeasement, he said. He even noted that the team drafting the document met with representatives from Syria and Iran to discuss the future of Iraq."
Thus contrary to the Israeli government's and the opposition's hysteria concerning Iran and Syria, the real question is becoming not if and when the US or Israel will attack Iran or Syria but rather what the US can offer Presidents Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for their cooperation to allow the US to leave Iraq without a general uprising of the masses?
The problem that the sharp-witted old Olmert is facing is that he and his friends have told us so many times that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the "new Adolf Hitler" who poses a terrible and immediate thereat to the very survival of the Jews. Now the Israeli public will not understand why the Israeli government and their great friends in the White House do not attack Iran. However, should Israel attack Iran by itself, the last defeat of Israel in Lebanon would look like a great victory.
For most people who see the world only in black and white an agreement between the ruling class of the US and of Iran is viewed as an impossibility and yet the Islamic movement and the imperialists have formed close alliances many times in the history of the last century. This was the case in Indonesia in 1965 when the CIA sponsored coup against the left-wing government of Sukarno used the Islamic League to murder close to one million workers and poor peasants. Again, this was the case of the US alliance with the Taliban against a left-wing government in Afghanistan.
During the Iraq-Iran war while the US supported the secular Baathist Saddam Hussein openly, "soon after taking office in 1981 [that] the Reagan Administration secretly and abruptly changed United States policy and allowed... several billion dollars' worth of American-made arms, spare parts and ammunition to the Iranian Government... The change in policy came before the Iranian-sponsored seizure of American hostages in Lebanon began in 1982." (The New York Times, December 8, 1991)
This should not surprise anyone, as manipulating two enemies is an old game of the imperialists in the Middle East. Let us only remember that the British promised Palestine to both Arab nationalists and Zionists. It is truly a very old game.
As soon as Iraq had won the Iran-Iraq war the US moved against Saddam Hussein's regime and yet at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, the US left him with heavy helicopters that he used to put down the Shiite rebellion in south Iraq. The US occupation forces of Iraq have created a situation whereby Iraq could become a de facto province of Iran once the American troops leave. "Iran is the true winner of that war [the US invasion of Iraq]. They only had to sit tight and smile as the West delivered on a golden plate all the influence Iran had always sought in the Middle East. (The Guardian, London - Final Edition, February 7, 2006).
For many years the rulers of Israel have been the closest allies of the US but this alliance between the two thieves like anything else is not permanent, as the trial of Saddam Hussein has proven. Israel has proven its weakness too many times since 1973 and its rating in the eyes of the rulers of the US has been going down and in the last few months this process has accelerated. The Israeli elite would like very much to change this course by showing the US it is still the tough boy round the block, who can win new wars, but this is not the case in the real world.
Having said all this, diplomacy is not the only game the imperialists play. Lebanon is on the razor edge of a new civil war, and guess who in Lebanon is coming to the support of Seniora's government? That terrible enemy, al-Qaida! On Friday the al Qaida internet site in Iraq published a call: "We call on our brothers in Lebanon... to face up to Hizbullah and the hatred of the rafidha [a pejorative term for Shiite Muslims] and prepare for a confrontation." The statement was signed by the "Mujaheddin of Lebanon".
While the US propaganda bombards us with the idea that it is "fighting terrorism" in actual fact the rulers of the United State are not only behind the massive state terror in Iraq, and Israel in Lebanon and Gaza, but there is growing evidence that is leading to the conclusion that it is behind Al Qaeda's massive terror un Iraq, Jordan and other places and now they are in Lebanon.
Our readers may not be aware of this, but on March 4, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, Iran's Interior Minister accused the US of using its infiltrators within al-Qaeda to carry out terrorist attacks that would serve its interests. This was reported by government-owned newspapers in Tehran. He said that Iran had "specific intelligence" proving that the U.S. had infiltrated al-Qaeda and ordered its cells to carry out terrorist attacks to convince other members of the group that they are genuine devotees.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida leader in Iraq, - just a week before he was killed - accused Hezbollah of acting as a protective buffer for Israel. At the beginning of August, in the midst of the Israeli aggression on Lebanon, an alleged televised video by Ayman al-Zawahiri, introduced as the "Al-Qaeda Number 2", called on the Sunni and Shiite communities to unite against Israel.
Interrogated by the Russian Ria-Novosti agency, a Hizbollah spokesman declared, "The video was a fake prepared by the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services." He also said, "Hizbollah doesn't want al-Qaeda's help or fighters from Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization to come into Lebanon to battle Israeli forces targeting the militant group."
Mohammad Fneish, one of two Hezbollah ministers in Lebanon's government at that time spoke to USA TODAY in July. It was published on July 28, 20006 and in it we read:
" ‘Hezbollah does not need non-Lebanese fighters - certainly not any al-Qaeda fighters to join the lines,' Energy Minister Mohammed Fneish said. He is one of two Hezbollah members who are in the Lebanese parliament.
" ‘Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah are two different groups,' [he] said in an interview in his office in the Energy Ministry in Lebanon's capital. ‘Al-Qaeda believes in killing innocents. Hezbollah is involved in a legitimate resistance (against Israel).'
" ‘Hezbollah,' he said, ‘never would have launched anything like the Sept. 11 attacks on the USA.'
"Fneish stressed that Hezbollah is not ‘against Americans,' but ‘opposes U.S. government policies' that support Israel. He also said that President Bush is ‘practically one of al-Qaeda's biggest recruiters because of his policies' in the Middle East."
From all this we can see that the situation is far more complex than the limited brain of Bush - or Olmert - would like us to believe. Capitalism is in crisis on a world scale. It seeks new outlets for its goods and also secure sources of raw materials, in particular oil. In this, it is prepared to crush anyone who gets in its way. In the process it is creating terrible conditions for the people who get in their way.
In this context, the imperialists are turning the Middle East into a slaughterhouse. Instead of solving problems they are exacerbating them. Iraq is far more unstable now than it has ever been. Rather than a more secure world, the imperialists are pushing the situation to its limits.
The only way out of all this is for the working class to come forward as an independent force in all countries of the Middle East. The ultimate goal must be the socialist revolution that will break the power of all the reactionary regimes in the region and remove capitalist society and build a socialist federation where instead of national and ethnic strife the common people, the working people, will have a real future based on a nationalised economy run, managed and controlled by the workers of all nationalities and ethnic groups themselves.