Israel-Palestine: Pax Americana in trouble

In both the Palestinian Territories and in Iraq the imperialists are trying to get their stooges elected. In both there is growing opposition and the plans of the imperialists are proving to be more difficult to put in place. They may get the men they want elected, but they can’t convince the masses that life is getting any better. By Yossi Schwartz (December 24, 2004)

We received this article during the end of year break, and although some of the things it refers to have passed, we are publishing it now for it gives an interesting insight to what is happening both in the Occupied Territories and in Israel itself.

Iraq

When Bush and his waving tail, Mr. Tony Blair, prepared their cover up stories for their real plans for the occupation and plundering of Iraq, they were not aware of the possibility that in Iraq the US would suffer a humiliating defeat that would give a severe shock to the entire Pax Americana in the region. Yet with every passing day the instability of the entire region is growing as result of the daily defeats of the occupying armies of Iraq, defeats that are taking place within the framework of a deepening world economic crisis leading to further instability throughout the entire Middle East.

As this article is being written Mosul is under curfew. Districts of the city have been sealed off by US forces after an attack on the Marez US base in Mosul killed 18 American soldiers and four Iraqi security force members, while 72 were wounded in the deadliest attack on the US military since the invasion last year.

US officials initially said a number of rocket and mortar rounds were fired at a mess tent in the base located in southwest Mosul, but a group opposed to the presence of foreign troops in Iraq said a human bomber was behind the attack. According to Al Jazeera, residents described the city as shut down; mosques and markets were virtually empty.

Witnesses said US forces, backed by Iraqi National Guards, sealed off neighbourhoods in western and southeastern Mosul and raided homes seeking suspects known for their opposition to the occupation of Iraq. Mosul has slid into chaos. In the past two months alone nearly 200 people have been found dead, most of them Iraqis, in a city of two million.

Mosul-based Iraqi journalist Abd Allah Ghafar said several streets leading out of the city were littered with bodies of Iraqi fighters, national guardsmen and those who were the target of score-settling revenge attacks. “Mosul has never in its history witnessed such chaos, such lawlessness,” he said by phone from the northern city.

It is not only he who thinks that the situation is becoming a not so promising place for the American bandits, but some of those who went to Iraq to make big money have also had second thoughts. Contrack International Inc has become the first major US contractor to pull out of the “reconstruction” effort in Iraq, citing security concerns, the Los Angeles Times said. “We reached a point where our costs were getting to be prohibitive,” company president Karim Camel-Toueg said in the December 22nd edition of the paper. Virginia-based Contrack had won a $325 million award to rebuild Iraq’s shattered transport system.

And while the Army command declares that this pull out will not change anything, some analysts think differently. “It’s a very bad sign,” said Michael O'Hanlon, a scholar at the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington. “If this is how other private companies are thinking, it’s a very bad potential warning.”

Another very bad sign for Washington is the fact that families of US troops killed in the assault on Falluja were planning to travel to Jordan at the end of December with $600,000 worth of humanitarian aid for refugees displaced by the attack. The assault on Falluja, which began on 8 November and has in recent days witnessed renewed fighting, left at least 71 US military dead, according to the families, and the Iraqi government said more than 2000 Iraqis were killed. It is unknown how many of the 2000 were civilians.

“This delegation is a way for me to express my sympathy and support for the Iraqi people,” said Rosa Suarez of Escondido in California. “The Iraq war took away my son’s life, and it has taken away the lives of so many innocent Iraqis. It is time to stop the killing and to help the children of Iraq,” she added in a statement released by the families.

The families said that together with peace groups, doctors’ organisations and relatives of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, they had raised 100,000 dollars in an internet appeal. Humanitarian groups such as Middle East Children’s Alliance and Operation USA contributed 500,000 dollars worth of medical supplies. The families planned to fly to Amman on December 26 and hand over the supplies to humanitarian and medical workers there.

The elections in the occupied territories

On January 9 general elections are scheduled for Iraq and in the 1967 occupied lands by Israel. The idea is to form a puppet government for the Palestinians similar to the one in Iraq made up of those Fatah leaders who fully support Bush. In this context the Blair visit is taking place. British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Jerusalem from Iraq, to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Blair devoted two hours to his meeting with Sharon, and then he went to Ramallah, for a meeting with PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.

The aim of Blair’s visit is to promote his initiative for an imperialist peace conference in London for which he has to strengthen the new Palestinian leadership. Sharon, who accepts the idea of a new Palestinian leadership collaborating with Israel against the aspirations of the Palestinians, is less excited about paying the full price for it. For this reason he said yesterday that Israel will support the conference but will not attend.

“Since the initiative is meant to deal with the relationship between the Palestinians and the donor countries, there is no point [in] us attending, because it will transform the conference into something political. The goal is to encourage the new leadership to impose law and order, back to normal life and a war on terror, and our presence won’t help and could hurt,” said Sharon during a meeting with officials from the Anti-Defamation League.

World Bank President James Wolfensohn who also visited Israel this week spelled out the price Sharon is expected to pay: “Disengagement is insufficient if it does not also give hope to the Palestinians”, (in an interview with Haaretz).

“What we did in the paper that we prepared was to simply say, look, if you are trying to withdraw [from Gaza], that’s a wonderful thing, but if you don’t give hope at the same time... you’re not really achieving very much,” he said.

The Palestinian Authority currently receives $930 million a year in international aid, and the World Bank wants to raise this by $500 million. But it recommended conditioning the increase on Israel removing checkpoints and closures, and on the PA instituting economic, legal and security reforms.

“What we were trying to do... was to say in a neutral way what we think the facts are,” he said. “And the facts are that if we go out and raise money for a strengthening of a Palestinian area or a state, the only way to get money for that is (if) that area is viable. Not only economically viable, but ... [you need] to restore the possibility of hope for young Palestinians. I don’t think any signature or any agreement has much strength – you know, young Palestinians are like young Israelis... They want an opportunity, they want a future and most of them want peace. So what you need to do is to create an atmosphere in Gaza and the [West Bank] [where] they can look forward to peace. The donors, essentially, today, having gone through [the] intifada, are going to want to feel that if they put in an additional $500 million a year... that it is being done seriously and with an opportunity for a viable area. That’s just common sense, that’s not conditions.”

Wolfensohn opposes Israel’s plan for economic separation from the Palestinians following the disengagement. He is also unenthusiastic about an Israeli proposal to use international donations to rehabilitate Palestinian refugee camps. “I call them feel-good projects; they make you feel good and do good things ... but it’s not enough. It has to be in the context of something,” he said.

Clearly Wolfensohn speaks the language of our own local reformist leftists, of the Egyptian government, and even of visiting Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, who said that Italy would help train the “blue” civilian Palestinian police force. Wolfensohn however does not speak the language of Sharon whose aim is to prevent even the Palestinian mini dependent state our reformist leftists dream of.

The Palestinian people themselves who can see through Sharon and the corrupt PA understand what is the meaning of the January 9 elections and do not support the new imperialist scheme. This awareness is expressed among other things by the fact that Hamas the main opposition has declared it is not going to participate in the January elections.

At the same time however, Hamas has decided to show its strength and to contest the local elections taking place in 26 municipalities today. The last local elections in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories took place in 1976. At that time the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) supporters won the mayoral election, and as result the Israeli government halted the democratic process indefinitely and adopted a policy based on appointment rather than election.

Needless to say, the appointed mayors were answerable, first and foremost, to the local Israeli military governor and were detested by the bulk of the people who viewed them as collaborators serving the interests of their masters. The policy of appointment persisted even after the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994, mainly because the Palestinian leadership, along with Israel and the US, feared that supporters of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, would win if truly democratic elections were held.

This time the Israeli government intervened in the elections in order to help Fatah leaders win the elections. It stopped the Communist candidate from entering Jerusalem to conduct his election campaign. It is releasing 170 prisoners all of them are Fatah members who were given jail terms ranging from a few months to six years. All the prisoners on the list were already slated for release no later than the beginning of 2006.

On December 10, The Shin Bet security services arrested four Hamas candidates in the upcoming municipal elections in the West Bank town of Dahariyeh. The four arrested men are all well-known teachers who have directed Hamas charity activities in recent years in Dahariyeh and its surrounding villages. The final list of candidates contains 56 names, including 11 women. They are competing for 13 seats on the town council, two of which are reserved for women. The council will then elect the mayor.

The arrests, made on the night the list of candidates for the election to the local council was announced eliminated one-third of the candidates for the Bloc for Islamic Change, the ticket Hamas is running on, since the organization itself is outlawed by the Israel Defense Forces. However, Israel may get the opposite effect its wish.

“Although they have been arrested, the voters know the candidates and their activities, and the arrests won’t affect us. We are prepared for the worst, and we hope to get at least nine seats on the city council and to elect the next mayor,” said Mohammed al-Takhman, 35, another candidate on the list, which includes 11 teachers. He was speaking at a Hamas center on the edge of town that includes a kindergarten, a club and a mosque.

Falastin al-Khatib, a 28-year-old maths teacher and one of the two women on the list, nodded her head and added, “The arrests were supposed to make people not vote for the arrested candidates. But we know that voters will look at them as reliable people.”

The Fatah leadership openly admits that it is concerned that it may lose ground to Hamas in these elections. In five towns, the race between the two Palestinian movements is extremely tight and revolves around the role of clans. This is the case in Tubas, Silwad, Ubaydiya, east of Bethlehem, Al-Azaryeh, just over the security fence in east Jerusalem, and Shiukh, near Hebron.

In all of the cases, Hamas has posed a strong list of candidates with an extensive record in social activities and welfare. “The competition here between Fatah and Hamas is tight and we will need a major effort in this town in order to win the election,” Fatah officials said yesterday, discussing the situation in the village of Silwad, northeast of Ramallah.

Sources suggest that in Silwad and in the village of Baita, near Nablus, Fatah is initiating an early deal with Hamas for a coalition, in order to avoid defeat at the polls. Abd al-Halim Atta, a leading Fatah candidate in Dahiriya, admits that the elections will be a close race between Fatah and Hamas. He pointed out that the platforms of both Fatah and the Islamists were strikingly similar and that eventually such factors as personal charisma, character, social status, tribal weight and religiosity would be the determining factor. Atta recognised that the zeal for the municipal elections exceeded by far any enthusiasm for the presidential elections, scheduled for 9 January.

The rivalry between Hamas and Fatah, along with the more mundane concerns about local services, seems to explain the widespread preoccupation with the elections. “The outcome of the presidential election seems to be a forgone conclusion,” Atta said, suggesting that Fatah’s candidate Mahmud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazin, will be elected as president of the PA. Atta expresses a general feeling among the Palestinians.

Muhammad Halayka is a local election observer at the village of Shoyokh, northeast of Hebron, where municipal elections took place on Thursday (December 23). He told Aljazeera.net that the local and legislative elections would be more reflective of the people’s political mood than the presidential election. “I predict that the turnout in the presidential election will be much lower than in the upcoming municipal elections.”

Halayka, a journalist, voiced anxiety about the possibility that the election would be rigged or at least partially falsified in his small town of 8000. He said a Palestinian intelligence officer had been appointed to head the local election committee, which he argued was inconsistent with the principle of neutrality. During Aljazeera.net’s tour of three Palestinian towns in the Hebron region where elections were taking place on Thursday, December 23, it saw little infatuation with Abu Mazin. Images of Mahmud Abbas were conspicuous by their absence. There was not a single portrait of him anywhere.

One young man apparently could not keep his feelings suppressed. He called Abu Mazin America’s candidate, adding that he would not vote for him on 9 January. The fact that the activist was not rebuked by the Fatah multitude is telling.

A middle-aged Fatah activist sought to explain what seemed to be a widespread ambivalence toward Abu Mazin, especially among the movement’s grassroots supporters and its younger generations. “Look, many people here are worried that Abu Mazin might deviate from our national constants. “But I assure you that any Palestinian leader, even if elected, who chooses to compromise on these paramount issues will not live to regret his folly.”

The inroads made by Hamas on the local level are expected to impact most seriously with the approach of the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian Authority’s parliament, in the summer of 2005.

Marxists do not oppose the elections today as it is clear that the majority of the Palestinians still think that they can express themselves a little better in the local elections. This may well change for the general elections in January 9 where the results are fixed ahead of time and where we demand that Israel should leave the occupied territories as a pre-condition for any real elections. However, we think that even in the local elections taking place today, the workers and the urban poor should not vote for Fatah or the fundamentalist Hamas but for the candidates of the “People’s Party”(the ex-Stalinist party) and in Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, for the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine candidates. We call to vote for them in spite of our criticism of their reformist politics as part of our policy of the need to develop the independence of the working class from the capitalist class even in places under occupation as part of our general line of class against class and not of nation against nation.

Israel

In Israel itself, the new Likud-Labor party is going to face some real resistance by far right settler rebels who oppose the move for Israeli partial withdrawal from Gaza. The Yesha Council representing settlements in the West Bank and Gaza is urging its supporters to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience in an effort to foil the evacuation of settlements from Gaza. The public should “violate the transfer law en masse and be ready to pay the price of mass imprisonment,” declared council chairman Pinhas Wallerstein. “I am not afraid to go to jail, and I hope that many people will understand, as I do, that we are obligated to pay this price in order to oppose, in a nonviolent manner, the immoral crime of forcibly uprooting Jews from their homes.”

Wallerstein charged that the soon-to-be-established unity government is “illegitimate,” adding, “All the gaps between Likud and Labor are being bridged by one desire: to uproot settlements and expel Jews from their land. This intense desire blinds the eyes of ministers and MKs to the injustice being done to people who went, at their behest and at the behest of the nation, to make the wilderness bloom and to defend the state’s borders with their bodies. Often, the settlers pay for this mission with their lives. If anyone had tried to pass a transfer law like this about an Arab village, no matter how hostile, all the champions of justice and human rights would have immediately risen to protest and cried out to heaven. But when it comes to residents of Yesha [the Hebrew acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza], there is no justice and no rights.”

Most of the speakers at the Yesha Council meeting supported Wallerstein, and the council’s political secretary, Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, confirmed to Haaretz that they had decided in principle to call for civil disobedience. “[Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon’s dictatorship has pushed us into a corner,” he said. “We tried to be democrats, we tried to bring about elections or a referendum to determine the public’s view, but Sharon decided to ride roughshod over everyone, and we will no longer play this game.”

This is the first time that the Yesha Council, which represents the settlement establishment, has backed civil disobedience, though this tactic has long been advocated by other right-wing organizations, such as Zo Artzeinu and Women in Green. These organizations have spoken for years of the need to oppose any evacuation of settlements via mass civil disobedience.

The council’s decision to call for mass violations of the Disengagement Law, even if the violators are sent to jail, is a direct result of the collapse of its earlier strategy, which was meant to bring about elections or a referendum before the disengagement. When Yesha leaders realized that this was not going to happen, they decided on a sharp change of direction: No longer would they seek broad public support, on the assumption that elections were in the offing.

Now, the council is aiming at the already converted: the hundreds of thousands of settlers and the religious Zionist public. It is giving up – at least temporarily – on Tel Aviv and Gush Dan, to which its campaign had mainly been directed hitherto, and focusing instead on getting its own public into the streets. And this public has to be addressed in a different language: by terming the government “illegitimate” rather than refraining from doing so, by embracing nonviolent civil disobedience instead of rejecting it. Needless to say, this is pure demagogy coming from settlers who uprooted the oppressed Palestinians from their land in order to erect the settlements.

In reaction to this demagogy and the call for a right wing rebellion, several leftist MKs and the Peace Now organization urged Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to open a criminal investigation against Wallerstein. Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer wrote Mazuz that “after walking a fine line, the Yesha Council has made a decision to break the law openly and demonstratively and to try to undermine the democratic basis on which the State of Israel rests.”

The Marxists oppose the new government. Sharon’s plan is not going to lead to anything positive. He wants to create a puppet government in Gaza while expanding the settlements in the West Bank. He needs the Labor Party and the Histadruth in his government in order to accelerate the capitalist attacks on the working class. On the other hand he needs the collaboration of the PA against the Palestinian aspirations to be free.

This does not mean we are indifferent to the right wing extremists’ call for a rebellion against this government. They must be stopped and defeated. However, unlike the “leftists” who give their support to the government and call on this government to halt the rebels, we do not give any political support to this government and call for independent working class actions to smash the rebellion.

Today, the relationship between the government and the rebels is such that the rebels cannot win and there is no direct and immediate danger of a fascist dictatorship. However, the future attacks on the working class and the further decline of the Israeli middle class will create a very dangerous situation. If the working class is dragged into supporting this government by the Histadruth, the declining middle class will be pushed further to the right. The only way to prevent such a development is for the working class to enter the political arena as an independent force with its own revolutionary project.

As events unfolded the connections between the rulers of the US and Britain, the World Bank, the rulers of Israel and the local Arab, including Iraqi, Egyptian; Jordanian and Palestinian, puppets will be further exposed before the entire population of the Middle East. This will lead to further understanding on the part of the workers, both Arabs and Israelis, of their need to act together for their own agenda leading to the Socialist Federation of the Middle East.

It is a question of a few years before the American occupying forces will be forced to leave Iraq under the pressure of the American working class itself, as happened in Vietnam. When it will happen the entire Pax Americana will be destroyed in the region by mass revolts that will aim to bring down all the existing despotic states.

The question of the need for a socialist revolution will be seen clearly for many. It is a race against time. The Marxists must prepare to be a force that can intervene in such developments.

December 24, 2004

See also:

[Back to In Defence of Marxism] [Back to Middle East] [Back to Israel and Palestine]