Jan 12, 2009
Israel has justified its latest war on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by claiming to fight for its right to exist. This political hypocrisy knows no bounds. The problem is precisely that, for over 60 years, the right of the Palestinians to have their own country and their own national existence has been denied by Israel.
Israel refuses to recognize the rights of the Palestinians. This is the fundamental problem.
Since the creation of the state of Israel, the Palestinians have not had any right to be treated as a nation. Chased off their land in 1948, most of these people have been forced to live in refugee camps, usually in Lebanon and in Jordan. The West Bank was then annexed by Jordan, and the Gaza Strip was under the control of Egypt. In 1967, as part of the end of the so-called Six Day War, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Since then, the ongoing policy of the Israeli state – aided by Israeli settlers who have never stopped eating away at Palestinian lands in the West Bank – has been to confine the Palestinian population in isolated enclaves, separated from one another by a multitude of walls and other barriers.
In November of 1974, the General Assembly of the United Nations recognized the right of the Palestinians “to sovereignty and national independence.” But between this formal recognition and its acceptance by Israel, there has been a gulf so wide it has never been crossed. On the contrary, all Israeli governments, whether right wing or left, have always opposed this recognition – including by military force. In June 1982, the Israeli army invaded Lebanon and chased down the Palestinian organizations in Beirut, among them the PLO of Yassir Arafat. In October of 1985, an air raid against the headquarters of the PLO in Tunis left 70 dead. In August of 1986, the Israeli parliament voted to ban all contact with PLO leaders.
It took many years of the Intifada (the uprisings) before the Israeli governments agreed to enter into talks with the PLO. It was the Oslo Accord that recognised an autonomous and temporary Palestinian territory in the Gaza Strip and the town of Jericho in the West Bank. Yassir Arafat recognised the right of Israel to live in peace (November 1988) and removed all wording from the PLO charter that questioned the right of Israel to exist (April 1996). But still the Israeli governments did not make a single significant gesture toward satisfying the national desires of the Palestinians. Instead, despite meeting after meeting about “peace,” Israel provoked the violent reaction of the Palestinians. One provocation was opening a tunnel under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (September 1996). It led to a confrontation between the Israeli army and the Palestinian demonstrators, resulting in 70 deaths. And the worst provocation during this entire period has been the continued building of new settlements. In January of 1998 Israel announced it intended to control large parts of the West Bank, even if there were new agreements with the Palestinians.
Even with a partner ready to make compromises, the state of Israel has always remained intransigent in its refusal to accept an independent Palestinian state on its border. And even when it decided to pull out of the Gaza Strip, it did so in such a way as to turn the area into an open-air prison, keeping control over the land, sea and air borders, intervening whenever it felt like it. Since 2006, Israel has imposed a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip, a veritable seizure in which the inhabitants live at the edge of starvation, often without such basic necessities as water and electricity. Access to fuel, to basic medicine, etc. is drastically limited. This blockade had already caused a humanitarian catastrophe, and today it is further aggravated by a military aggression.
Does Israel react this way because of Hamas? Certainly not. Today Hamas has taken the place of the Palestinian Authority, a government bogged down in compromise and torn apart by corruption. But, just like the radical PLO of the years from 1970 through 1980, Hamas – a nationalist movement that wrapped itself in a religious ideology – is also ready to compromise with the Israeli government, although the Israelis aren’t interested. In 2006, a Hamas leader accepted the creation of a Palestinian state within the borders defined in 1967, under the condition that the Israeli aggression stop and that the settlements be dismantled. In June 2006, Hamas, along with the Palestinian Authority, signed a document of national understanding that recognized the existence of Israel.
Not only did these overtures gain no response from Israel, but on June 28, 2006, after one of its soldiers was captured inside Gaza, Israel launched a land and air offensive in Gaza, nicknamed “Summer Rain,” which was a prelude to the fire storm that was unleashed a few days later against Lebanon.
No, the government of Israel is not looking for the peace that would come from the recognition of the national rights of the Palestinians. Israel is the aggressor one more time. Because, contrary to what is said and repeated, it is not Hamas that broke the truce, but Israel. In November 2008, the cease-fire that had been in existence for four months was broken by Israel with a bombing raid that left six Palestinians dead. It is only after these assassinations that the rocket fire from Gaza reappeared. And what can be said of the decision to completely cut off Gaza? Between November 5 and November 30, only 23 trucks with vital supplies were allowed to enter the territory. On average, 3000 trucks a month are needed to meet the needs of the million and a half people living in Gaza.
Apparently, neither the Israeli bombings nor the blockade are considered acts of aggression by those who lead the imperialist world and by those who support them. The military and aggressive policies of the Israeli leaders serve imperialism very well, acting as a permanent threat against the peoples of the entire region, including the Israeli population, that has every reason to live in peace and fraternal cooperation with its neighbors.
So, in Israel as in the Arab countries, and in all the imperialist countries, it is up to all the peoples, to all the workers who suffer from this cynical and deadly policy, to say no to the aggression of the Israeli army against the Palestinians population and to affirm that they must finally have the right of national existence.