Palestine: Seven years of repression and resistance

The seventh anniversary of the start of the second Intifada on 29 September 2000 sees the Palestinian movement at one of its lowest ebbs ever, with Fatah openly acting as an agent of imperialism and Hamas, its anti-imperialist wing, isolated internationally. Imperialism has always been determined to deny the Palestinian people their right to national self-determination, all the more so since the invasion of Iraq. The reason for this is the strategic importance of the Middle East for imperialism. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

The Palestinian people’s struggle has always had the potential to detonate a wider revolutionary struggle for democratic rights across the Middle East: it has become the symbol and hope of all the poor and oppressed in the region. A victory for the revolutionary struggle of the Palestinians would be catastrophic for the interests of imperialism and act as a beacon of hope for the oppressed millions of the Middle East. For this reason imperialism and its Zionist henchmen have taken every step to prevent it.

Over these seven years of struggle Israeli forces have killed around 4,600 Palestinians, including 967 children, and injured some 32,000. In August this year alone, the Zionists killed 52 Palestinians, 12 of them children, three of whom were blown up by a missile. On 19 September, the Israeli Security Cabinet declared the Gaza Strip to be an ‘enemy entity’. It said that there would be ‘limitations on imports to the Gaza Strip and a reduction in the supply of fuel and electricity’. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, on a flying visit to the region for talks with Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas to prepare the ground for the US’s proposed Peace Conference in November, agreed: ‘Hamas is indeed a hostile entity. It is a hostile entity to the US as well’.

The declaration of the Israeli Security Cabinet is the latest stage in the policy of isolation Israel and the imperialists have been implementing against Hamas and the people of Gaza since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections at the beginning of 2006. This policy has escalated since Hamas took control of Gaza in June. The situation in Gaza is dire: since June 75,000 workers in the private sector have been made redundant; unemployment rates are now a staggering 75%. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reported in July that 70% of Gazans, totalling some 900,000 people, now rely on food aid. The main border crossings at Rafah and Karni have been virtually closed by Israel since 12 June; Karni being the main entry point for commercial and humanitarian supplies into Gaza.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum was clear in his analysis of the strategy of Israel and the imperialists: ‘They aim to starve our people and force them to accept humiliatingformulas that could emerge from the so-called November Peace Conference...they want the Palestinian people to revolt against Hamas...but the Palestinian people are supporting Hamas by all means because Hamas continues to refuse to recognise this occupation or end its resistance.’

Israel and Fatah co-ordinate attacks on Hamas
The imperialists have been ably assisted in their attack on Hamas by the puppet Palestinian Authority (PA) based in Ramallah and run by Abbas and his pro-imperialist Fatah faction. On 19 August Gaza suffered an electricity blackout when the European Union stopped paying for fuel which supplies Gaza’s only electricity generator. The PA provided the excuse for stopping the payments by spreading the false rumour that Hamas was going to tax people for their use of electricity. The PA Cabinet Secretary said that the electricity would be cut off in order to drive people to rebel against Hamas. Fatah also used its control of PA finances to threaten PA employees in the Gaza Strip, telling them that their pay would stop if they didn’t support Fatah’s call for a general strike against Hamas on 9 September. The strike was a response to Hamas’ actions two days earlier in dispersing Fatah supporters who were using Friday prayers as a platform to foment opposition to Hamas. In the event, most PA schools were closed by the strike as were many businesses and markets.

At the beginning of September, Hamas issued a report covering the period between 11 June and 31 August, detailing the attacks Fatah forces have carried out on its members and supporters in the West Bank. The report listed 639 arrests, including elected officials such as mayors and councillors. There were 36 attacks where Fatah forces opened fire on individuals and there were 163 assaults on universities and their students. A number of Hamas offices and houses of its members were attacked and burnt down, including the Ramallah home of the speaker of the PLC, Dr Aziz Deweik, who is imprisoned by the Israelis. The morning of the start of Ramadan on 12 September saw Fatah forces raiding mosques in the West Bank and arresting Hamas supporters. At the same time, in what was clearly a co-ordinated action, Israeli forces raided the West Bank arresting 18 Palestinians. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society stated that Israel had abducted 900 people from Hebron this year alone.

Fatah and Israel’s attack on Hamas is not just targeted at individual members and supporters; it is aimed at destroying the whole social infrastructure of the organisation. Following on from Abbas’s decree that revoked the licences of all NGOs operating in the West Bank, forcing them all to reapply, Prime Minister Fayyad issued an order closing 103 named charities and social welfare institutions that he linked with Hamas.

On 11 September the military wings of Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees launched a rocket attack on an Israeli military base north of the Gaza Strip, injuring 69 soldiers. The Israeli response was, however, low-key as the government realised that an all-out onslaught on Gaza would have been a unifying factor for the mass of Palestinians. The Israeli Deputy Defence Minister declared such an action might force Abbas to stop co-operating with Israel: ‘When the President of the Palestinian Authority stands in the same trench as Israel in confronting Palestinian extremists that must be held on to.’

In preparation for any new Palestinian elections and in an attempt to strengthen the chances of Fatah, Abbas issued a decree at the beginning of September changing the existing electoral system from a mixture of proportional and direct election to one that is purely proportional. This makes the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem one electoral block. In a blatant attempt to exclude Hamas from contesting any forthcoming elections the decree also stipulates that any candidate must recognise the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Hamas has never been part of the PLO and the only purpose of Fatah’s recent promotion of the organisation is to undermine Hamas’ position in Gaza.

Fatah’s role is currently being supported by the PLO left parties DFLP and PFLP. Both groups have agreed to be part of the new Commission for National Activity set up under the umbrella of the PLO. One of the first acts of this Commission was to support the 9 September general strike. PFLP leader Kayed Al Ghoul told Al Jazeera that the strike was to bring Hamas back into the Palestinian national movement: ‘Last Friday, democracy was attacked...We want to reinforce democracy, multiplicity, respect for other opinions, freedom of expression and the use of peaceful means to express one’s positions’. In practice, however, it meant the PFLP was being drawn in behind Fatah.

The November ‘peace conference’
The US-sponsored Middle East Peace Conference scheduled to start in November is an attempt to promote Abbas as a statesman who can deliver for the beleaguered Palestinian people. In reality everyone knows that there will be no agreement on the return of Palestinian refugees, the dismantling of the Zionist settlements in the West Bank, the pulling down of the Apartheid Wall or the establishment of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. However there will no doubt be a lot of hot air to give the impression that Abbas can deliver as he and Fatah are now in the forefront of imperialism’s attack on the Palestinian people’s revolutionary struggle for national self-determination.

FRFI 199 October / November 2007