The open provocation by Sharon is clearly intended to sink the so-called ‘peace process’ that the right in Israel oppose. He entered Jerusalem with 3,000 troops to visit the Temple Mount, also the site of Al-Aqsa mosque a holy site for Muslims. 13 days into the uprising and no end in sight –89 Palestinians dead and counting. This is an outrage against an oppressed people in its own occupied land. We say that the only solution to the Palestinian question is for Israel to get out of occupied Palestine. We are for an Independent Socialist Republic of Palestine.

The Insurrection begins

The recent events were sparked off by a provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque by Ariel Sharon, an Israeli war criminal who presently leads the Israeli right opposition. That the visit was a deliberate provocation is undeniable. The Palestinians were well within their rights to protest and throw stones at this man and his 1000 accompanying heavily armed soldiers. In fact the Palestinians had a duty to protest this arrogant display of contempt. There can be no doubt as to which side initiated hostilities in this conflict.

Once more the whole world is forced to confront images of the racist Israeli state shooting twelve year old sons and 18-month-old daughters of Palestine. Once more the "International community" does nothing to help the Palestinians. That the Israeli state is a racist state is clear. The atrocities committed against the Palestinian people aimed not only at exterminating from their homelands, but also of removing them from the pages of history. In this the crimes of the Zionist exceed all other attempts at genocide in modern history.

It would be all too easy to lay the blame on Sharon and only Sharon. In fact the Israelis may well have planned it this way. If the blame is placed on Sharon and the Palestinians rather than the Israeli state, it can be viewed as a right wing faction and over sensitive Palestinians sharing responsibility for the bloodshed rather than the "good" Israeli moderates.

That Sharon is a criminal who oversaw such massacres as those at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps is undeniable. But would Sharon have managed to assemble 1000 troops for his visit without the approval of "moderate" Barak's government?

Would Sharon have been able to order the shoot to kill policy followed by the Israeli army in all parts of occupied Palestine? Would Sharon be able to order Apache helicopters to fire rockets at Palestinian refugee camps? Of course not. That had to come from the Israeli government. Was it Sharon who supplied Jewish "settlements" in Palestine with supplies and sandbags in recent months? These same "settlers" have been attacking Palestinian houses and mosques in towns like Nazareth, where they were aided by Israeli police.

The recent "clashes" which basically consist of Israel, armed to the nuclear teeth, butchering defenceless Palestinian youths with tanks and helicopters.

What of the "deadline" declared by the militarist Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel? At the time of writing the deadline has expired only to be replaced by a new one. "If Arafat and the Palestinians don’t end this in three or four days then they do not want peace" is the Isaeli line. What the Israelis are seemingly unable to grasp is that Arafat is no longer able to command the Palestinians.

The political message that the Israeli occupation is sending with every rocket, every shell, and every bullet is clear: "have it our way and no other way".

The ‘Oslo class’

Seven years ago, the handshake between the PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was heralded as ushering in a new era, one of peace and prosperity for the people of the Middle East as part of the new post-communist ‘new world order’. While the rhetoric certainly touched the nerves of many who were eager for an end for a decades-old bloody conflict between the Jewish and Arab populations of Israel/Palestine, those aware of the reality of the Declaration of Principles signing ceremony were hardly cheering.

For the past seven years matters have gone from bad to worse: killings of Palestinians have continued, more land than ever have been taken away from the rightful owners, more restrictions of political and social rights, more frustration and resignation to a fate worse than death, that of life in a "jail" guarded by Arafat's men with Israel giving the instructions and looking on.

The Oslo process has created an oppressive system that so far has kept the Palestinians angry but pacified. The Israeli army in cooperation with Arafat's Authority has managed to disenfranchise the Palestinian people and force them to live on reservations like the old South African black "bantustans". This has facilitated the continuation of Israeli occupation for years. Arafat's Authority's corruption and its creation of a bloated corrupt bureaucracy have managed to weaken the Palestinian people's ability to respond to the challenges facing them.

As Class Struggle has argued all along, the Oslo road for Arafat meant basically a sell out, and a career as a police enforcer for Israel over the Palestinian people. Fatah, which is Arafat's own faction and power base in the PLO (now labelled the PA, Palestinian Authority) is organising on the ground against the wishes and orders of Arafat. Fatah officials said members of the mainstream political faction, acting on orders from local leaders and not Arafat, went from door to door delivering the leaflets and plastering them on shop and car windows in Palestinian-populated areas at night.

Breaking from Oslo

The humiliation of the Oslo "peace" process has left the Palestinians with no other choice but to engage in struggle. Under immense pressure from below, local leaders of the Palestinians have broken with Arafat. Arafat finds himself squeezed from all sides; his Egyptian "allies" apply one sort of pressure on him, the Americans another, and the Israelis a third. Threatening to sweep him into the shadows is a force he never reckoned on...the Palestinians. That they were ignored and discounted for so long is nothing new and the history of that goes back at least to 1934.

While Arafat may appear to be safely in the eye of the tornado it is highly likely that his career will be decided over the next few days. Arafat’s position at the intensive negotiations at Camp David last July appeared to Israel as too stubborn, he was immovable when the talks narrowed down to Jerusalem, precisely because he knew that Jerusalem is too important, too emotional and far too sacred to simply return to Gaza without it. In an effort to forge national unity and in a sign of his concern, Arafat gathered all the main factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as well as Hamas on Sunday in Gaza.

But he is caught nevertheless between the hammer and the anvil. Regardless of what they may talk about in Gaza the fundamental contradictions of his position as negotiating the prison terms with Israel, the jailer of his people, still remain. Whatever terms he manages to get over the size of the bantustans will fall far short of even such universally accepted rights as the right of return, in particular UN resolution 242.

From Insurrection to Revolution

Class struggle is for the victory of the Palestinian people in their struggle to liberate their lands from the foreign invader, and the re-establishment of a multi-ethnic Palestine to pre 1948 borders. The Zionist project in Palestine must be ended. If the Zionists must have their "Israel" Class struggle recommends the Red Sea as a suitable venue.

The risings, dubbed the Al Aqsa Intifada after the mosque "visited" by Sharon, have had the effect of uniting the Arab masses in their total support for the Palestinians. The usual bravado was expected from and delivered by such leaders as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, nevertheless the size of the demonstrations in Baghdad, in Morocco and elsewhere are testament to the depth of the Arab masses' feelings of solidarity with the Palestinian people. All this comes at a time when the UN imposed sanctions on Iraq appear to be crumbling. Half a dozen planes have landed in Baghdad airport and more are expected in the next few weeks.

The entire Middle East is now very fluid and the situation is likely to develop very quickly. Like Arafat himself, Arab leaders in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt etc are finding themselves squeezed between the pressure of the masses from below and their own sell out agendas. The contradictions of their positions, like Arafat's own, are rapidly approaching flash point. A measure of Arab unity, feared and loathed equally by the Israeli state and by the sell out Arab leaders, is finally surfacing. They do well to fear it, for it holds the potential to sweep them both into the sea where they belong.

As communists, we argue that the new Intifada must not allow itself to become trapped in another political settlement on Israel’s terms. This will throw up a new Arafat and a new Barak and sell out the Palestinian people once more. To avoid a massive defeat at the hands of Israel and the occupation of remaining areas of Palestine, a military truce will be necessary, but one that does not accept the terms of the Oslo ‘peace process’.

To turn this to the advantage of the liberation of Palestine, it will be necessary for the youthful masses to form workers councils and workers militia coordinated by a democratic Congress of the Palestinian people.

Only by this means will revolutionarysecular political ideas penetrate to the masses and counter reactionary fundamentalism and the calls for a ‘Holy War’ that now prevail in Palestine. Only by this means will the struggle for the national rights of Palestine become a permanent revolution for a Socialist Republic of Palestine.

Victory to the Intifada!

For a Socialist Republic of Palestine!

For a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East!

From Class Struggle No 35 October-November 2000

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