Middle East: Sharon opens “the gates of hellâ€

The brutal assassination of the spiritual leader of Palestinian Islamic organisation Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was met with outrage from Palestinians, together with people throughout the Arab world and millions internationally who are horrified at the barbaric acts of the Israeli regime.

Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, coldly planned the killing and then monitored its execution. Warning of revenge, Hamas said: “Sharon has opened the gates of hell”.

The prospect of massive retaliation has shaken capitalist representatives worldwide, leading many, including Jack Straw in Britain, to condemn Sharon’s action. They fear a rapid further escalation of the bloodshed, with the situation spiralling out of control. Hezbollah, has already started firing on targets from its bases in the southern part of Lebanon. Even though US imperialism, the Israeli regime and the Arab elite may be completely opposed to it at the moment, an escalation of conflict leading to armed clashes between Israel and other Arab countries and even war cannot be completely ruled out.

In undertaking this action, the Israeli state has torn up the unwritten agreement that has in the main existed up to now that neither side will eliminate leading representatives of opposing forces. This assassination now means there will be open season on all Israeli government ministers. One member of the Israeli cabinet today said that “all terrorist leaders are in our sights”.

The US regime, however, while continually claiming to be combating terrorism, has refused to condemn its friends in the Israeli government for this latest act of terror. And the Israeli regime has followed the example of its super-power ally by carrying out this assassination unilaterally whatever the consequences might be.

Palestinians are being killed daily in the occupied territories, in both targeted and indiscriminate attacks. This latest atrocity will have great repercussions, as the victim was the most influential Palestinian to be killed since the start of this three-and-a-half year intifada (uprising). 200,000 Palestinians attended his funeral, turning it into the biggest political demonstration in the history of the Gaza strip.

Within Israel, some Palestinian leaders have called for a general strike of Israeli Palestinians and a mass rally to protest the killing. A general strike is already underway in the Occupied Territories. There were also angry demonstrations in the occupied territories and in many Arab countries including Iraq. Arab leaders have been unanimous in their condemnation of the assassination. This is because of the huge pressure they are under from their own populations to take action in response to this provocation.

Sharon used the recent horrific double suicide bombing against Israelis in Ashdod, in which ten were killed, to justify Shiekh Yassin’s death. As the Ashdod bombers came from the Gaza strip which is surrounded by fencing, they damaged the Israeli state’s propaganda that the new ‘security’ wall being built in the West Bank will stop further attacks.

Sharon also had other motives, linked to his plan to impose a separation between Israeli-inhabited and Palestinian areas. Through a show of brutal force, he wants to be seen as setting the agenda, in order to pre-empt Palestinian militias from declaring Israeli troop withdrawals from most of the Gaza strip as a victory.

But it won’t stop such claims, and rather than reducing support for Hamas, it is boosting their standing in the Palestinian population. Sickened at lack of leadership against the occupation from Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders around Yassar Arafat, there has already been increased support for the actions of organisations such as Hamas. And following the Israeli army stranglehold on Palestinian West Bank towns that has virtually destroyed PA control in those areas, the same process is now happening in the Gaza strip as a result of the present military onslaught there, laying the basis for infighting amongst aspiring Palestinian military and political leaders.

This means that Sharon’s disengagement plan, if continued, will not only mean the imprisonment of Palestinians in poverty stricken enclaves from which attacks on Israel would still be launched, but also that these enclaves would be nightmare scenes of turmoil for those trapped within them.

Hamas has called on Islamic groups around the world to retaliate for the assassination, so once again US imperialism, together with its protégée regime in Israel, has increased the chance of terrorist attacks, particularly in Israel, but also in the US and worldwide.

Socialists condemn the brutal assassination, not from the standpoint of government representatives who are trying to protect the interests of capitalism, but from the standpoint of the ultra-oppressed Palestinians in the occupied territories, as well as the working class in Israel and internationally who will pay the main price of worsening violence.

An edited version of this article will appear in this week’s Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, England and Wales

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