While Arafat attempts to derail Intifada: the killing of Palestinians in the territories goes on

While the number of Palestinians killed in the present Intifada reaches nearly 300, Arafat is attempting to change the aims of the struggle. He is hoping for some form of compromise with the Israeli government that will allow him to bring the Intifada to an end. But the conditions on the ground do not allow for a quick solution. Now Arafat is placing his hopes in the United Nations. Decades of experience show that this is not a solution. The Palestinian masses can only have confidence in their own ability to struggle, together with the support of the workers of the whole of the Middle East.

The conflict in Israel/Palestine is in no way closer to a solution. The new uprising (Intifada) in the Palestinian territories is going to continue for a rather long time. The reason for this is clear to anyone who understands the terrible conditions the Palestinian people have had to put up with for decades. In the past few years the situation has further deteriorated. Unemployment has risen, the level of poverty has increased. On top of this we have the expansion of the Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, even now while the conflict is going on! According to Agence France Presse (27.11.00) "Israel intensified its settlement activity in the occupied territories by increasing land sales in October, the first full month of the Palestinian uprising. The lands administration has sold 607 parcels of land for construction in the settlements during the month of October." In the midst of conditions of economic and social underdevelopment (bad housing, scarcity of clean water...) the Jewish settlers arrive and set up villages which have good roads, plentiful clean water, constant power supplies... This is a permanent source of provocation for the Palestinian masses.

As if this were not enough we now have the terrible, almost daily, killings of Palestinian youth. The number of those killed by the Israeli army has now reached nearly 300. A further one hundred are critically wounded and are facing a slow but certain death. Every day two or three of these die because of the low level of medical care. A total of 11,000 Palestinians have been injured and another 80-100 are added to that list ever day. 50% of those killed, injured and arrested are young people or even children!

"More of a semblance of war than of peace"

The latest UN report reveals that Israeli troops are now using more and more live ammunition instead of the so-called rubber bullets. Colonel Reisner of the Israeli army recently stated that: "The current situation has more of a semblance of war than of peace." The Israel military is now resorting to the assassination of what it considers "dangerous elements" (such as the man who was killed Nablus with his 10 year old son!).

As The Guardian (28.11.00) explained, "the main change of strategy has been to target and assassinate men Israel accuses of leading militias that have attacked its soldiers and settlers." What utter hypocrisy! If we follow this logic of assassinating those involved in killing Israeli soldiers, how many Israelis would the Palestinians have to kill in order to eliminate those responsible for the 300 Palestinian deaths?

The Israeli security forces have clearly embarked on a policy of bringing the Palestinians to their knees through starvation and state terrorism. This extends to the officials of the client statelet in the Palestinian-controlled areas. For instance, a couple of days ago an Israeli helicopter fired a rocket at the car of a leading Fatah activist in the West Bank, killing him and two passers-by.

But the Palestinian people cannot simply abandon the struggle. They are living in what amounts to an open prison. The Israel Defence Force recently imposed a closure on areas under full Palestinian control. The closure cut off Palestinian communities from one another and barred all vehicles from entering or leaving cities (except for humanitarian reasons).

The masses do not have the leadership they deserve

Their conditions have pushed the Palestinians on to the road of the mass struggle, the Intifada. Thus the demonstrations and protests are continuing. But the masses do not have the leadership they deserve. The workers and youth of Palestine have shown that they are prepared to struggle. Behind them they have the whole of the Palestinian people (apart from a very small privileged elite that would rather have a cosy relationship with Israel and US imperialism at the expense of the Palestinian masses). This impasse can lead to frustration among some layers. This frustration is leading to other kinds of actions such as car bombings, shooting of settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, etc. This is an unfortunate development as this will only serve to strengthen the right wing inside Israel itself.

The enemy of the Palestinian people are not ordinary workers and youth in Israel. The enemy is the Israeli ruling class. This same ruling class also exploits Israeli workers. The task of genuine socialists is to develop a strategy which can help to bring out the class differences within Israeli society itself. The Israeli media will only use the terrorist attacks to whip up an even more intense campaign of racism, chauvinism and anti-Palestinian feelings among ordinary Jewish workers and youth. This will have the unfortunate effect of uniting the Jewish workers in Israel behind their own ruling class, thus strengthening the hand of the Israeli military. Inside Israel the wave of chauvinist and racist propaganda is on the increase. The Israeli media present the situation as if the whole uprising had been orchestrated by Arafat. This is totally false. Its role is to whip up fear among the Jews in Israel, to make them feel insecure and thus to unite around the government... The split of the working class into hostile Jewish and Palestinian sections is already a historical tragedy that strengthens the hand of reaction.

And yet even in this moment of chauvinist and racist hysteria, which the media are trying to maintain in Israel, the idea is beginning to sink into the minds of some Israeli strategists that military repression alone is not going to stop the Intifada. As The Economist (25.11.00) pointed out, "Even knee-jerk militarists are beginning to suspect that military means alone will not quell the two-month-old Al Aqsa Intifada..."

Arafat's ability to control the situation is becoming more tenuous every day

Thus while military operations continue, a desperate, half secret, series of meetings have been taking place in order to try and find some sort of compromise. On November 18th, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, held secret talks with Arafat. In spite of publicly attacking Arafat as being responsible for the unrest serious Israeli strategists understand that Arafat's ability to control the situation is becoming more tenuous every day. His power base is being whittled away. Other forces are growing instead.

It is interesting to note how the US based intelligence analysts, Stratfor (10 November 2000) view the situation: "It appears Arafat has lost control of the rebellious Fatah. For example, Marwan Barghouthi, a Fatah leader in the West Bank and commander of the Tanzim militia, has taken a hard line against Arafat. On November 8, he made the Fatah rift clear, claiming the Intifada will go on - with or without Arafat. A rift in Arafat's Fatah has become increasingly distinct as the Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, continues in the streets. Israel has shifted tactics, and is now taking out Fatah elements no longer loyal to Arafat. Ironically, the attack may indicate progress is being made in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. (our emphasis) The precision of the Israeli helicopter attack indicates Arafat's security services are co-operating with the Israelis - in accordance with the Egypt agreement - in order to liquidate Fatah elements who are promoting the Intifada outside Arafat's control... In essence, Israel can help keep Arafat in power and continue negotiations or watch him fall to the hard-liners and unrestricted Intifada in the territories. Even if Israel is now effectively fighting Arafat's domestic battle for him, it does not mean Arafat's problems are over. On the contrary, Arafat must now deliver on his promise to secure a Palestinian state through peace negotiations. If Arafat cracks down - or helps Israel crack down - on those leading the Intifada, and then fails to negotiate a final settlement, he will be completely discredited. He may also lose his legitimacy and public mandate to lead the Palestinian people." Thus, while the media attack Arafat, the Israeli security forces are de facto collaborating with him. This shows that they have a common class interest, that of the master and his puppets! This is confirmed by one small news item published by Stratfor on 7.11.00, in which they pointed out that: "The head of the Israeli foreign secret service has held co-ordination discussions in Cairo with leading Palestinian secret service officers, with Israel asking for the re-arrest of radical Islamists released last week.. The Palestinians said all prisoners had been taken back into custody."!!

The UN is not a solution

Arafat recently requested that the United Nations station 2,000 troops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However the US opposes such a move. Should Marxists support this call for UN troops to be stationed in the Palestinian territories? Some may think this is a practical option. "It will stop the killings, etc..." In reality it would not solve any of the problems. The aim of Arafat would be to rely on UN troops to maintain his corrupt Palestinian Authority. Behind the flag of the UN his already repressive security forces would strike a blow at Arafatís opponents. Already left activists are regularly arrested and harassed by the Palestinian police. It would be a betrayal of the Intifada and of the aspirations of the Palestinian people. They want their land back, they want the return of the 4 million refugees. They want a land in which they can govern their own affairs. A Palestinian Authority held up by the presence of UN troops would remain a puppet of Israel. As things stand the Authority is totally dependent on Israel economically. Of its $1bn budget, one half comes from Israel! This would not end with the presence of UN troops. In its 50 year history the UN has not solved anything. It obeys the diktats of the major powers. We can only place our confidence in the Palestinian people themselves. What they lack is not UN troops, but a leadership that is prepared to harness the enormous revolutionary potential that they have already amply displayed in the struggle so far.

Attempts to derail Intifada

The more advanced layers among the Palestinian workers and youth understand this. They fear that what is taking place is an attempt to change the aims of the Intifada - to free their land from Israeli occupation - and to use it simply to increase pressure to reopen the so-called "peace negotiations". But the advanced layers cannot accept this. They have not been fighting, they have not lost nearly 300 dead just to return to Oslo and Madrid. The struggle has gone beyond that!

All the regimes of the Middle East are frantically manoeuvring to avoid a major conflict. They all mouth support for the Palestinians, but none of them are prepared to seriously struggle for the rights of the Palestinian people. US imperialism, the European, and even the Israeli ruling class itself would like to avoid war. But the situation may spiral out of control.

Inside Israel, while one wing of the ruling class is trying to reach some kind of secret deal with Arafat, another wing is reaching the conclusion that Israel must use the full might of its military capacity and put an end to the mess, as they see it. Some are considering a de facto repartitioning of the area, by annexing some of the settlements and building what would amount to a massive security barrier between Israel and the Palestinian territories. This could only be achieved on the basis of massive and bloody ethnic cleansing and it would also involve the expulsion of the Israeli Arabs, the Palestinians living within the boarders of Israel. The right wing is playing the chauvinist card and Barak has to constantly look over his shoulder for fearing of being overthrown.

Barak's electoral gamble

Barak has in fact lost his parliamentary majority and has constantly been involved in a game of brinkmanship and zig-zags aimed at appeasing the members of his coalition. But the situation has reached its limits and now Barak has decided to stake everything on early elections. The date of the elections has yet to be fixed but they could take place within the next three months. Barak is hoping to glue together the broken pieces of the "peace process" and thus be able to go to the electorate, presenting himself as the best person to solve the present crisis. He hopes to put pressure on Arafat to return to the negotiating table with the clear message that either he negotiates with Barak now or with the right wing Sharon, should the latter win the elections, the very man who sparked off the present conflict when he visited the Al-Aqsa site! By re-opening "peace" talks Barak hopes to be able to go to the elections and win. But this is a very risky game to play. What can Barak give Arafat that would appease the Palestinian people? Any serious concessions would provoke the right wing who would further whip up the chauvinst frenzy in Israel. Any serious concession on the part of Arafat would further weaken him among the Palestinian masses.

A similar situation is facing the rulers of the various Arab regimes. They are all facing potential revolutionary upheavals on the part of the masses. The masses are demanding action from these regimes. If these regimes do nothing they could be faced with overthrow. Thus they could all find themselves on the path of war even though none of them wish to go down that path.

The path of the class struggle

There is, however, a way out of this mess. A section of the Palestinians are looking to fundamentalism as a way out. This would be a blind alley, as it has proved to be in Iran where the fundamentalists hijacked the 1979 revolution. They can also choose the path of the class struggle. The various petit bourgeois nationalist forces have failed to lead the Palestinian masses out of the impasse. It is time for the workers and youth to take to the road of the class struggle and socialism.

That means overthrowing the weak puppet regime in the Palestinian Authority itself and launching a class war that would have to spread outwards to Jordan and the other surrounding Arab countries. Thus from a position of strength the Palestinian workers could then approach the Jewish workers on a class basis and invite them to break with their own ruling class and join their Arab brothers and sisters in the struggle for a transformation of society throughout the Middle East and beyond. Once the interests of the privileged elites on both sides have been eliminated then the workers can set about solving the national conflict on the basis of a development of the resources of the Middle East to the benefit of all the peoples that inhabit the area.