Why the anti-war movement should support the Palestinian
By Richard Becker
On Jan. 13 the British government convened a conference
focused on "democratic reforms" in the Palestinian Authority.
The meeting was in London--capital of the former empire on
which, it used to be said, "the sun never set." There, British
Foreign Minister Jack Straw pontificated about the
Palestinians' "need for a higher quality of public
Present to hear Straw's oh-so-imperial-British admonitions
were high-level representatives of the European Union, the
United States, Russia, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other
Notable by their absence were the targets of Straw's
arrogant instructions--the leaders of the Palestinian
Authority. Not that they weren't invited to hear Straw's
lecture in person. No, the problem was that Israel, which the
corporate media often call "the Middle East's only democracy,"
wouldn't let them attend.
As a Jan. 14 Associated Press report pointed out: "Israel
controls Palestinian travel in and out of the Gaza Strip and
West Bank and decides who can and cannot leave."
That one sentence speaks volumes about the real
relationship--the colonial relationship--between Israel and the
Palestinians. While the number of Israelis and Palestinians
living inside Palestine's borders are roughly the same, their
status is anything but equal.
The 3.4 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and
Gaza live under military occupation designed to strangle their
economy and drive them out.
Their average per capita income is about one-twelfth that of
the Israelis. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are
subject to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and torture at the
hands of the Israeli authorities.
The 1.2 million Palestinians living inside the 1948 borders
of Israel are third-class citizens. They are prohibited from
buying land and subjected to pervasive discrimination.
An equal number of Palestinians, more than 4.5 million, live
outside Palestine--those expelled from Israel in 1948 and 1967
and their descendants. Despite many United Nations resolutions
affirming their right to return to their homeland, none has
ever been allowed back or compensated for stolen lands and
Without taking into account the colonial character of
Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people it is not
possible to understand the struggle that has been raging for
more than a half-century.
The anti-war movement and the Palestinian
Some in the anti-war movement advocate side-stepping the
Palestinian struggle and focusing only on opposing a new U.S.
war against Iraq. They argue that the Palestinian-Israeli
struggle is too controversial, and supporting the Palestinians
will lead to a narrowing of support for the anti-war
However, separating the U.S. war on Iraq from the
U.S.-Israeli war against the Palestinian people does violence
to reality. It ignores what the Bush cabal is trying to
accomplish in the Middle East.
Washington wants to conquer Iraq, turn it into a virtual
colony and take control of its rich oil resources. But that's
not all. The U.S. ruling class aims to subjugate and remold the
entire region to fit neatly into its expanding empire.
The larger U.S. objective is predicated on destroying all
opposition in the region. At the top of the list is the
Palestinian Resistance--which, despite heavy losses suffered in
decades of struggle against overwhelming odds, remains
The Palestinian cause is central to the overall struggle in
the Middle East. Defeating the Palestinians would be a great
victory for imperialism and a big setback for the Arab people
as a whole.
The Bush administration has given carte blanche to the
Israeli government of Ariel Sharon--a war criminal and mass
murderer--to carry out this assignment.
Washington has supplied the F-16 fighter-bombers, Cobra
helicopters and even the M-16 rifles to the Israeli army. Just
as important, the United States has provided the political and
diplomatic cover for Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian
Now the Bush administration is contemplating an
unprecedented grant of $14 billion in new military and economic
aid to Israel, a country of just 6 million people.
Despite all the repression--the tens of thousands of
Palestinians killed since the 1948 establishment of the state
of Israel; the hundreds of thousands beaten, tortured and
imprisoned; the dispossession of the Palestinians from more
than 90 percent of their homeland--the resistance has not been
Expulsion in slow motion
How have the Palestinians been able to persevere under
extremely unfavorable conditions? Fundamentally, it is because
the struggle is so deeply rooted in the population.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Palestinian resistance
and the Palestinian people are one and the same.
From this, Tel Aviv and Washington conclude that the only
way to destroy the Palestinian resistance is to uproot and
destroy Palestinian society as a whole. And that is exactly
what the Sharon regime, with the backing of Bush, Cheney,
Powell & Co., are attempting to do.
In 1948, to make way for the state of Israel as an
exclusivist Jewish state, 780,000 Arabs were expelled from the
cities, towns and farms of Palestine in what is known as
"Al-Nakba"--the catastrophe. None of the expelled has ever been
allowed to return, nor have they received a penny in
compensation for their lost homes, lands and other expropriated
Israel, with U.S. backing, has ignored UN resolutions
calling for the Palestinian right to return. In fact, a second
mass expulsion, of hundreds of thousands more Palestinians,
took place after Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza in the
A new wholesale expulsion of Palestin ians, such as what
took place in 1948, would likely trigger a massive social
explosion in the Arab world and beyond. What the Israeli
government is now attempting, through a combination of
extremely harsh repression and economic strangulation, might be
termed "expulsion in slow motion."
Ta'ayush, an organization of Pales tin ian and Jewish
activists in Israel, describes the policy in this way:
"Transfer isn't necessarily a dramatic moment, a moment when
people are expelled and flee their towns or villages. It is not
necessarily a planned and well-organized move with buses and
trucks loaded with people, such as happened in Qalqilyah in
1967. Transfer is a deeper process, a creeping process that is
hidden from view. The main component of the process is the
gradual undermining of the infrastructure of the civilian
Palestinian population's lives in the territories: its
continuing strangulation under closures and sieges that prevent
people from getting to work or school, from receiving medical
services, and from allowing the passage of water trucks and
ambulances, which sends the Palestinians back to the age of
donkey and cart. Taken together, these measures undermine the
hold of the Palestinian population on its land." (Ha'aretz
newspaper, Nov. 15)
The Israeli army has completely re-occupied the cities and
towns of the West Bank, cutting off virtually all economic
activity. Malnutrition and extreme poverty have become
Unemployment has risen to over 90 percent in some areas.
Farmers in many villages have stopped planting because they can
no longer bring their crops to market.
The deliberate destruction of the Palestinian economy, and
the health and education systems, is part of an integrated
strategy that also includes assassination--"targeted
killings"--and mass arrest and imprisonment.
Since the second Intifada (Uprising) began 27 months ago,
more than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed and 30,000
wounded. In the same period, 690 Israelis have been killed.
More than 5,500 Palestinians have been imprisoned, many held
without specific charges and jailed for indefinite terms.
The assassinations and mass imprisonments aim to destroy the
infrastructure of the Palestinian resistance organizations. The
Israeli program as a whole is meant to persuade the
Palestinians to leave en masse.
Sharon and the other Israeli leaders aspire to fulfill the
goals of the political Zionist movement since its origin a
century ago: to turn all of historic Palestine into an
exclusively Jewish state. A central tenet of the Zionist
ideology is expressed in the racist slogan, "A land without
people for a people without a land."
The U.S. leaders--not just Bush but Clinton before him as
well--want to pacify the entire region, which requires the
elimination of the Palestinian resistance movement.
The U.S. and Israeli interests thus neatly converge in
seeking the destruction of not only the Palestinian movement,
but of the Palestinians as a people.
Despite all the hardship and extreme violence inflicted on
them, the Palestinian people are continuing their fight for
self-determination and liberation. The Palestinian resistance
has been a major obstacle to the launching of a new U.S. war
The anti-war movement here needs to join with progressive
forces around the world in supporting the Palestinian people
and their just struggle, and opposing all U.S. wars and
intervention in the Middle East.
Reprinted from the Jan. 23, 2003, issue of
Workers World newspaper
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