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(en) Workers Solidarity #70 - May/June 2002* - Israel/Palestine: Roots of the conflict

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 10 Apr 2004 13:39:48 +0200 (CEST)

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Around the end of the 19th century the area then internationally
known as Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. The vast
majority of the indigenous population were Muslim with a
minority Christian and smaller minority Jewish (around 3%)
population. The indigenous Jewish community were not involved
in nor supportive of the Zionist movement which began in 1882
with the first wave of European Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Zionism, or Jewish nationalism, has the core belief that all Jews
constitute one nation (and not simply a religious or ethnic
community). Zionism, supported by the Western empires, was
influenced by nationalist ideology and by European settler
colonialism, and its goal at the outset was the concentration of as
many Jews as possible in Palestine and the eventual establishment
of a Jewish state there.

The Arabs of Palestine were overwhelmingly opposed to an
exclusively Jewish state and to the large-scale Jewish immigration
which led to eviction from their small farms, which had been sold
to settlers by their landlords. European Jewish immigration to
Palestine increased dramatically after Hitler's rise to power in 1933
leading to new land purchases and Jewish settlements. Palestinian
resistance climaxed in 1936-9 when, after the failure of a long
strike, a national revolt was attempted. The revolt was defeated by
the British who had been in control of the area since the 1st world

After the 2nd world war, survivors of the Nazi Holocaust were not
really given a choice of places to which to emigrate, opportunities
to emigrate to the United States or into other countries in the
Western Hemisphere being very limited. On the other hand, the
indigenous Arab population rejected the idea, accepted as natural
in the West, that they had a moral obligation to sacrifice their land
to compensate for the crimes committed by Europeans.

In 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to partition Palestine
into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab. Days after the
adoption of the UN partition plan fighting began between the Arab
and Jewish residents of Palestine. By early 1948, the Zionist forces
had secured control over the territory allotted to the Jewish state in
the UN plan, as well as territory assigned to the Palestinian state,
and Zionist leaders proclaimed the state of Israel. Neighbouring
Arab states, whose rulers had territorial designs on Palestine, then
invaded Israel-Palestine. By 1949 half the proposed Palestinian
state was incorporated within Israel, East Jerusalem and the West
bank was occupied by Jordon and the Gaza region was divided
between Israel and Egypt. During this conflict massacres of
Palestinian people took place and around 750,000 fled or were
expelled. Of this refugee population, approximately one-third fled
to the West Bank, another third to the Gaza Strip, and the
remainder to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon or farther afield.

In 1967 Israel attacked Egypt, Syria and Jordon in a war which
lasted six days and resulted in the Israeli occupation of the West
bank, the Gaza strip, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.

Since l967 a harsh military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
has been maintained, with the systematic humiliation and
degradation of the Palestinian population an instrument of policy.
Israeli policies and practices in the West Bank and Gaza have
included extensive use of collective punishments such as curfews,
mass land expropriations, house demolitions, assassinations,
forced movement of populations and closure of roads, schools,
universities and community institutions.

Hundreds of Palestinian political activists have been deported to
Jordan or Lebanon, tens of thousands of acres of Palestinian land
have been confiscated, and thousands of fruit trees have been
uprooted. Since 1967, over 300,000 Palestinians have been
imprisoned without trial, and over half a million have been tried in
the Israeli military court system. Torture of Palestinian prisoners is
common practice and dozens of people have died in detention.

Palestinians are denied freedom of expression, press and political
association. Every aspect of Palestinian life is regulated, and often
severely restricted by the Israeli military administration. For
example, the Israeli state even forbids the gathering wild thyme,
and no one may plant a tree or a vegetable in the West Bank
without written authorisation.

Within Israel, the minority Palestinian population live as second
class citizens. Israel is the only state in the world which is not the
state of its actual citizens, but of the whole Jewish people who
consequently have rights that non-Jews do not. For example, 93%
of the land of the state is characterised as Jewish land, meaning
that no non-Jew is allowed to lease, sell or buy it.

Land expropriation, to make way for new Israeli settlements in the
occupied territories has been ongoing since 1968 as more and
more Arab land is ethnically cleansed. Immense networks of
bypass roads linking settlements to each other have been
constructed while further fragmenting and diminishing Palestinian
living space and land holdings.

It is now estimated that there are almost 3.2 million Palestinian
refugees living in the West bank, the Gaza strip, Jordon, Syria and
the Lebanon. Of these, around a million live in refugee camps.

Israel's reign of terror in the occupied territories, accompanied by
its policy of blocking economic development, aims at driving large
numbers of Palestinians to emigrate and to convert the remaining
population into a captive market and cheap labour force for Israel
with the eventual aim of integrating the occupied territories within
Israel. The minority of the Israeli ruling class who don't agree with
this are not much better. Their preferred option is a weak
Palestinian statelet existing alongside Israel and under it's
effective control (the 'two states' solution).

The first Intifada, a mass uprising against Israeli occupation
initially involving hundreds of thousands of people, took place
from 1987 to 1992. After the failure of the Oslo agreement the
second Intifada began in September 2000 and since then over
1,400 Palestinians and nearly 450 Israelis have been killed. Islamic
religious terrorists, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have claimed
responsibility for most of the suicide bombings and other attacks
inside Israel, which have claimed over 160 civilian lives as of April

Israel's military response to the uprising and guerrilla war
escalated in intensity and scale throughout 2001 into 2002,
culminating in the recent military attack on the West Bank and
Gaza strip, where the Israeli military has completely demolished
entire sections of refugee camps and massacred hundreds of
Palestinians living there. Villages and towns throughout the
occupied territories have been raided, civilian homes shelled and
demolished, electricity and water supplies cut, people assassinated
and thousands of residents detained at military bases. Medical
personnel and ambulances attempting to evacuate the dead and
wounded have been shot at and ambulances destroyed.

Deirdre Hogan

The role of the US

Israel's economic and military development is entirely dependent
on massive material and military support from the U.S. In 1982 for
example a conservative estimate of the aid from the US amounted
to $1000 per year for each citizen of Israel and since 1978 Israel
has received something between a third to a half of total US
military and economic aid in the world. "What the United States
wants from Israel is that it become a technologically advanced,
highly militarised society without any independent or viable
economy of its own so that it's totally dependent on the United
States and therefore dependable."(Chomsky) The major interest
for the US lies in the energy reserves of the region. For the US,
Israel is a strategic asset which serves as a barrier against
indigenous threats to US control of Middle East oil.

Israeli anarchists on the occupation

This declaration written in May 2001 is an "unofficial text of small
libertarian communist group in Israel". We reproduce it here to
show that there is anarchist resistance to the occupation within
Israel. This is part of the broader peace movement that unites
some Israeli Jews and Arabs and which has attempted to break the
army blockade of Ramallah on a couple of occasions. This text
also provides a valuable local perspective.

The truth is now there for all to see: there is no peace agreement
between Zionist Israel and the Palestinian Arab people, and there
will never be. Zionist Israel is a state which adheres to
discrimination between its Jewish citizens, and the rest of its

Every agreement achieved in the short run between Israel and the
Palestinians will express the present power balance between an
occupying force and the occupied, between the oppressor and the
oppressed between the strong and the weak between the masters
and the enslaved.

The solutions suggested for the present are based on
"compromise" between two sides that are not equal. The formula
for a "Palestinian state besides the Israeli state" is in the present
conditions a big fraud. Even if Israel will agree in the near future to
the establishment of such a state ruled by the PLO, it will
necessarily be like a Bantustan in the time of Apartheid in South
Africa: A state inflicted with high unemployment, flooded by
hundreds of thousands of returning refugees, while a very high
percent of its population will be dependant on the Israeli economy.

This is the reason we do not find any value in searching for or
offering any solution for the present or the near future. However,
there is a strong reason to put forward principled demands worth
fighting/struggling for:

1) Immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Israeli army
from ALL the territories occupied in 1967 war.

2) Recognition of the right of the Palestinian people for

3) Cancellation of all the discriminatory rules that Israel has and
replace them with fully equal rights for all those who live in Israel .

4) Recognition of the right of the Palestinians ("refugees") to
return to their homeland.

Only a social revolution of all the region (as part of change in the
social order of all the world) which will abolish the capitalist
exploitation and the hierarchical structure of the states and other
oppressing and discriminating mechanisms - will put end to the
conflict ignited in the region by the super power states and the
Zionist project they nourished.

A fuller version of this statement is available in Against War and
Terrorism 2 for 2 Euro from the WSM bookservice or on the web
at http://struggle.ws/issues/war/pamMARCH02.html

Relevant links
* Anarchism and nationalism
* Stop the war http://struggle.ws/stopthewar.html

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