Palestine: No End to Barbarism in Sight

The recent massacre of a Palestinian civilians, including three children on a Gaza beach is a grim indicator that there is no end in sight to the continuing barbarism that is the Israel/Palestine conflict. It is likely that the eight deaths and 20 injuries came from indiscriminate artillery fire from Israeli gunboats, which in turn claimed to be responding to Palestinian rockets launched from within the Gaza strip. Inevitably this has led to the military wing of Hamas calling off its 16 month old truce with Israel, and so the cycle of brutality continues.

This latest atrocity is just one further calamity for Palestinian civilians since the election to power of Hamas earlier this year. No surprise that Israel refuses to recognise the Hamas government, and has refused to hand over the $55 million of tax and customs revenue collected on behalf the Palestinian authority every month.

It is hardly any less surprising that the United States, the sponsor of international democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan has suspended dealings with the Palestinian Authority including provision of aid, on the grounds that Hamas is a terrorist organisation. It is clear that democracy only has any meaning for US imperialism if the party supported by America wins. The EU is following, somewhat reluctantly on the coattails if the US, and has also suspended aid to the PA. While the US & its Israeli client are trying to bring about the collapse of the Hamas government by conducting an economic siege (1), arming Fatah, and talking about the desirability of a “soft coup”. (2) For the ideologues of US imperialism, “soft coups” are simply a part of spreading “democracy” around the world. (3) The EU is looking for ways to undermine the position of the US in the Middle East. Under the pretext of saying that it thinks the US policy will not work It is looking for alternative ways to channel funds into the Palestinian territories. The EU, however, was the main source of aid to the PA, this suspension of aid is a particularly crippling blow. This has fuelled growing tension between President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO/Fatah on one hand and, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya on the other and, has escalated into violent confrontation between rival militias resulting in around 20 deaths in Gaza. Although Hamas appear to have agreed to pull their private militias off the street the situation remains tense.

In a desperate attempt to establish his authority and to unfreeze aid to the Palestinian Authority, Abbas has unsuccessfully called on Hamas to recognise the state of Israel. Hamas has responded, with obvious justification, that the PLO’s recognition of Israel’s right to occupy Palestine at the Oslo accords has not prevented further massive settlements and expropriation of Palestinian lands and demands for still further concessions. Upping the stakes, Abbas has now called a referendum on a two state plan that implicitly recognises Israel’s right to exist. This is a high risk strategy which will destroy what little remaining credibility Abbas has, if the referendum goes against him.

As usual it is the working class who pay the price of the machinations of imperialism. The UN says that the PA revenues have dropped by 75% this year and that the economy will contract by 27%. Israel has effectively imposed an economic blockade around the occupied territories, using army checkpoints to limit movement around the West Bank and preventing workers and goods from leaving Gaza. The 160,000 employees of the PA have not been paid for around 3 months. These salaries support around 1 million people, approximately one quarter of the population of 3.8 million. A recent payment of 1months salary for 40,000 of the lowest paid workers has done little to ease the overall situation. The UN has estimated that only 28% of workers in Gaza are in employment for which they are actually paid. State employees are expected to turn up for work for no pay, even though there is nothing for them to do as the PA does not have the funds to continue day to day operations. Workers have taken to the streets demanding their unpaid wages and in Gaza members of the security services vandalised the parliament building.

The imperialist puppet masters who effectively control funds to the PA are in a dilemma. Whilst they do not wish to be seen to be providing a lifeline to the Hamas government, at the same time they are fearful of the social consequences of the current situation continuing. The “Quartet” of middle east “peace” negotiators, the US, EU, Russia and the UN are looking to ways of sending in funds without them going through the Hamas administration. The UN has also called for a massive increase in aid from $215 m to $385m.

There is no end in sight to the suffering of Palestinian workers. The current stand off between Fatah and Hamas is a local issue that will have little bearing on the future a Palestinian state. Irrespective of the outcome of Abbas’ referendum, the future shape of any Palestinian state will be determined by Israel rather than the Palestinians. Newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made it clear that he will continue Ariel Sharon’s programme of unilateral disengagement from the occupied territories. He has no intention of giving back the most important sections of the territories seized in the 1967 war. Of course it would give some international legitimacy to the project if this were to be achieved through negotiations with Abbas and his faction. But, as Israel has made it clear that the two state solution will be based around the separation wall rather than the 1967 borders it is difficult to see what the Palestinians would gain through negotiations except for very some minor concessions. There is virtually no possibility of Israel ceding anything in relation to, the right of return for refugees, Jerusalem or the massive block of Jewish settlements surrounding the city.

Whatever the outcome may be, the one certainty is that the only beneficiaries will be the bourgeoisie. A main function of any Palestinian state will be to ensure the continuing exploitation of the working class.


(1) Arab banks which might have supplied funds to the Hamas government have been threatened with the withdrawal of licences to operate in the US if they do so.

(2) The US vice president Cheney’s office talks openly with Fatah visitors of its desirability. Independent 3/6/06

(3) Independent 3/6/06 reported Israel had allowed weapons from an undisclosed third country into Gaza for the purpose of arming Fatah.

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