The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Middle East:
The price of repression

Oct 6, 2003

On October 4, a Palestinian woman suicide bomber entered a restaurant in the Israeli city of Haifa and blew up 19 people, including herself and three children. The restaurant is owned by Israeli Jews and Arabs. This tragic attack seems to have been the work of a young woman from Jenin, whose brother and cousin were killed by Israel three months ago, a typical example of how Israeli repression has aroused an entire generation to sacrifice their lives out of desperate anger.

A few hours later, Israel bombed what they called a guerrilla training base 10 miles northwest of Damascus, deep inside of Syria. First reports made it seem that no one was in the camp. Whatever the case turns out to be, Israel was making a show that it was ready to widen its bombings from Gaza and the West Bank to other countries, with all the explosive consequences that could have. It's further proof that the Israeli government has led the people living there, both Israeli and Palestinians, into a real disaster and has no answer other than more of the same brutality that led to this situation.

We reprint below an article from the October 3, 2003 issue of Lutte Ouvrière [Workers Struggle] newspaper of the French Trotskyist group of the same name, which clearly describes this impasse.

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The Second Intifada, set off three years ago in September 2000 by the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Jerusalem Temple, has caused 3,500 deaths and more than 25,000 wounded. Three-fourths of the dead and wounded are Palestinians, but the Israelis also have suffered over 800 dead and 5,000 wounded.

The economic recession in Israel has just been added to this disaster. The occupation and permanent war with the Palestinians aren't the only causes. The Israeli economy has suffered a lot from the collapse of American high tech "start-ups," to which it was very closely linked, as well as the stagnation of the world economy. But the costs of the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and the occupation have to be added in, and they are enormous. The Israeli press has tried to estimate the cost. According to the paper Haaretz, Jewish settlements in the occupied territories have cost the equivalent of nine billion dollars since their beginning in 1967, and according to the paper Yediyot Aharonot the Intifada has cost the equivalent of 15 billion dollars, a considerable sum for a small country like Israel, which has lowered the standard of living of the population by 6%.

Today the unemployment rate at 11% is on its way to surpassing its historic high, and the budget which was just voted is particularly catastrophic for the unemployed and the poor.

At its origin, Zionism claimed it would create a country where persecuted Jews could live in peace. Peace has never truly existed and is further away than ever, due to the policy of the Israeli government. The Palestinians pay the greatest price for this disaster, but the Israelis also pay very dearly for it.

The Sharon government denounces the suicide attacks committed by desperate young Palestinians. But its entire policy feeds Palestinian terrorism. The policy of blind terrorist attacks led by Hamas and others is unjustifiable with respect to the Israeli population and even with respect to the suicide bombers whose despair it exploits. But it's important to note that even when Hamas accepted a truce in the suicide attacks, attacks by Israel on Palestinian leaders immediately soared. The Sharon government, in reality, chose all-out war against the Palestinians in Israel. And Sharon is ready to pay a price in Israeli victims as well for this endless war.

For the moment, the majority of the Israeli population doesn't see an alternative, and lacking anything better, follow Sharon. Nevertheless, the only alternative that can change this situation is to recognize the right of the Palestinians to the state which they demand, and to find the means with them to a fraternal coexistence between the two peoples. But in order to obtain this, it's necessary to begin by getting rid of the government of Sharon and to break with its policy, led in the past by Labor Party governments as well as by governments of the right, which is the principal obstacle to peace and security ... for the Israelis themselves.