Israel: Death in Sinai, Death in Gaza

On the night of Thursday, October 7, around 10 PM, an explosion shook the Hilton Taba hotel, located in the Sinai Peninsula, only a short distance from Egypt’s border with Israel.

The powerful blast caused a cave-in of ten stories in the hotel’s west wing. About an hour later, two additional explosions were heard at a camping site along the scenic coast at Ras a-Satan, an hour’s drive to the south of Taba.

The three car bombs killed 33 people, mainly tourists, and injured over a hundred, with most casualties at the Hilton Taba. Among the dead were 12 Israelis, assumed to be the bombers’ main target. Throughout the night thousands of Israelis, unsure of what could happen next, hurriedly made their way to the checkpoint in Taba. Policemen on the Egyptian side, alarmed by the mounting crowds surrounding them, even fired a few shots in the air. Israeli officials wasted no time tying the bombings to Al-Qaeda, saying Israel was now at the front of "the international war on terrorism".

A few days after the event, the bombings appear to be the work of an Egyptian based Islamic group or the collaboration of several such groups, possibly with guidance and assistance by Al-Qaeda operatives. But Israeli government spokesmen were not waiting for any evidence – the Al- Qaeda hypothesis was too politically useful for that.

It had the advantages of evoking sympathy among the "civilized west", reinforcing the Israeli masses’ siege mentality nurtured by the ruling class over decades, and last but not least, denying any possible connection with the wholesale killing and destruction that was being carried out by the IDF in the Gaza Strip at the same time.

According to Haaretz newspaper, 115 Palestinians have been killed in the two weeks since the strangely named "operation Days of Penitence" began, at least 39 of them unarmed civilians. This re-invasion of parts of the Gaza Strip came after primitive Kassam rockets killed two infants in the Israeli town of Sderot. The IDF raids failed to stop the launching of more rockets, and turned into a punitive expedition in the Jabalya refugee camp and other parts of the strip, including daily assassinations of armed fighters.

Among the Palestinians, this has resulted in a tendency for unity and collaboration between the different fighting groups and factions, as well as many angry voices calling on Chairman Arafat to sack the ineffective Prime Minister, Abu-Ala, who was abroad at the time of the invasion. IDF spokesmen decided this was the best timing to attack UNRWA, the UN’s agency in charge of assistance to refugees in the West Bank and Gaza strip, for allegedly sponsoring terrorism. They released a grainy photograph showing a man carrying a long bundle outside a UN vehicle, claiming this was, beyond reasonable doubt, a Kassam rocket launcher. Only after a few days did the climb-down begin, when those same spokesmen admitted the object could also be a… stretcher.

While the foreign ministers of the EU somehow found the magnificent courage to call on Israel to halt its "disproportionate use of force in the Gaza strip", American vice-president Dick Cheney practically gave the green light for the rampage to continue when he publicly associated Al- Qaeda with the Sinai attacks while ignoring the rising death toll in Gaza. Over the last few days, IDF generals have argued that a partial withdrawal from Jabalya is necessary in order to avoid imminent casualties, but Sharon has so far refused to authorize such a move, and stressed that the operation is not limited in duration.

The working masses of the region can only expect continued bloodshed, exploitation and oppression as long as the murderous Israeli ruling class and the reactionary leaders of the Palestinian authority, Hamas and Islamic Jihad feed the cycle of state and individual terrorism.

The recent solidarity general strike in Israel, which partially succeeded in forcing the Treasury to deliver the unpaid wages of municipal workers, shows the way forward for workers in Israel and the rest of the Middle East. Only through forging their own independent organizations and arming them with a socialist fighting program can they pave the way to a socialist Israel alongside an independent, socialist Palestine, as a step towards a socialist federation of the Middle East.

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October 2004