"Qassam" rockets, terror attacks, devastation, bloodshed… Can the "Disengagement Plan" bring the end of the Israeli-Palestinian bloodbath any closer?
Since the tragic incident of 29 September, when two children were killed by a Qassam rocket attack on Sderot, the Israeli military establishment was left without answers. How could they prevent the launch of rockets, built from simple signpost poles filled with gunpowder, that could be quickly launched from almost anywhere? The heads of the Israeli "security" machine have no answer to this question, as the Israeli Minister of Justice inadvertently admitted by calling on the residents of unemployment-stricken Sderot to strengthen the roofs of their houses in preparation for the next rocket attack!
The Israeli government had to show that it has control of the situation, and the army, like a raging bull, was unleashed for an unlimited time, to crush the northern Gaza Strip, to demolish houses, to destroy infrastructure, to bomb schools. In the first 24 hours alone, over thirty Palestinians were killed, most of them unarmed, in an attempt to "calm down" the residents of Jabalya refugee camp. The absurdity of this attack was clear: Qassam rockets could be easily launched from an "erased" neighbourhood as well. It’s hard to tell what the next panic-response step of Mr. Security [Sharon] will be, but it could be easily said that, like the previous ones, it would consist of nothing more than horror and an even greater bloodshed.
The Wall of Illusions
After the 31 August double suicide-bombing in Beer Sheva brought back the old shocking images into Israel, the establishment media hurried, once again, to intensively endorse the idea of the Separation Wall and its completion in the southern Gaza Strip. The Wall is being marketed as a "magical solution" which will provide safe and protected lives to all those who live in Israel. Along with the disengagement plan, the territory inside Israel is presented as a perfect safe haven. The sharp decline in the number of suicide bombings inside Israel during the past year and a half is presented as "decisive proof" of the Wall’s effectiveness.
However, also taking into account the massive military assaults launched since the "Khomat Magen" [Security Wall] operation in April 2002, there is no doubt that the ability of several organisations in the occupied territories to launch such bombings inside Israel has been reduced.
The Wall’s presence channels in the short term, the launching of bombings from the Shomron [north of the West Bank] to the places where it is not completed yet. However, the aggressive acts of the Israeli military and the Wall’s construction, had also opposite effects, as even the Shabak [General Security Service – the secret internal police of the Israeli state] admits between the lines of its report on 26 September. The cooperation between the various Palestinian militias has strengthened both in the Shomron and in the Gaza Strip, and the organisations are forced into planning more complex operations. Despite the demagogy of the state – which tries to dance on the fears of the Israeli workers – the fence around the Gaza Strip shows how the Wall could in no way be a hermetically sealed barrier. The Israeli army invades and leaves the Gaza Strip cities on a daily basis, but despite this the deadly terror attack of March 2004 against the Ashdod dockers came exactly from this area.
In the West Bank, the Wall would consist of about 600 Km over a topographically varied terrain, and therefore the chances of crossing it are much higher. It could be expected that afterwards, Israeli Palestinians, who face the humiliation of the Israeli government’s racist discrimination policies, will commit or take part in the planning of more bombings inside Israel. Therefore, contrary to the Israeli government’s claims that the situation created on "the day after" will be calm and stable, the chance of this happening approximately matches the probability of the Members of the Knesset [Israeli Parliament] volunteering to live on the minimum wage from tomorrow.
As a part of the Disengagement plan, the Israeli government will try to evacuate all of the 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip, end the Israeli direct military occupation there and evacuate four isolated settlements in the northern West Bank. But, in addition, the Israeli army will completely control the passage to and from the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank, retain exclusive air control and continue naval operations along the Gaza Strip’s coast. The extension of the "Philadelphia Axis" [the border corridor between the Gaza Strip and Egypt], will further banish scores of families to the imaginary neighbourhood consisting of the 20,000 people left homeless following the past four years’ assaults. It is obvious then why the Palestinian masses have no illusions about the results of the Disengagement plan.
The Israeli government has made several adjustments to the Wall’s route, in an attempt to please Western imperialism and various human rights organisations pressured by youth, workers and the unemployed around the world who are shocked by the images of destruction and human suffering transmitted, along with the news of brutal oppression of mass demonstrations. In addition, while the Israeli ruling class is a bit arrogant about the Wall, the Western imperialists fear a wider uprising in the future. But even with the adjustments, the Wall will directly ruin the lives of thousands, separate them from the centres of their daily activity, and prevent their access to services and workplaces. It will only increase the oppression, poverty, rage and frustration and will throw more and more people in the current situation into Hamas’ arms. And this is another paradox of the Israeli army’s war against the so-called "infrastructure of terrorism" and its attempts to "prepare the ground" for disengagement: support for the horrific methods of terrorism against Israeli civilians has actually and significantly increased. Following the Israeli assassination of the Hamas leadership, this organisation has gained further mass support and also an increased number of those willing to join its ranks, despite the temporary setback inflicted on its military capabilities.
The Israeli government was surprised when it found itself fighting a mythical Hydra, which grows two heads for each one which is severed, rather than a barrel, either with or without a bottom [reference to a dispute between different sections of the state machine, as to whether ‘terrorism is a barrel with a bottom’]. However, in spite of that, out of their inability to solve the problem, they have already marked the next target – the Hamas leadership in Syria!
Sharon’s Obstacle Course
The dispute around the disengagement plan has led to a profound earthquake within the Israeli political establishment, sharpening the tendencies towards divisions and splits within the larger parties, and once again shook the very foundation of the government, when the fundamentalist-nationalist parties upon which the government had depended have either threatened to break away from the coalition or did just that. The ideal situation, as far as the capitalists are concerned, would be a joint "national union" government of the Likud and Avoda (Labor) parties, which would enable the disengagement and budget cut plans to pass through parliament. However, desperate attempts by elements within the Avoda party to save their leadership from such a course, as well as attempts by elements within the Likud party to stick to its "ideological" lines, have not allowed this union.
Another problem which the Sharon administration has to cope with is the growth of the organisations of the small messianic faction among the settlers, which has been groomed by the different governments for over 30 years, and which is unwilling to accept the fact that at the moment it no longer serves the interests of Israel’s ruling class and therefore is not needed now. On 12 September, the Yesha Council – the main settler organisation (sponsored by the government) – organised an anti-disengagement demonstration in Zion Square in Jerusalem, with about 50,000 participants. Less than a month before that, this organisation had shown its capabilities by bringing about 100,000 activists to the "Human Chain" demonstration, composed of most of the Yesha Council’s power base.
However, this organisation’s leadership was scared by the movement’s power, grown beyond its ability to control it, and hurried to denounce the growing calls for a civil war and for the assassination of Sharon. The monster rose against its creator. In a letter advertised by some of the settlers’ prominent rabbis, all bars were lifted and the government was called on to arbitrarily harm Palestinian civilians. Rabbis have begun to preach for armed resistance against the settlers’ evacuation, and to threaten to give their blessing to the elimination of government representatives. Any attempt to evacuate settlers will get that messianic nucleus stuck like a bone in the throat of the government.
Despite wide approval ratings for the disengagement plan within Israel, Sharon doesn’t want a referendum on it. For him it is nothing but another obstacle which he is better to skip, because such a referendum will delay the execution of the plan and threatens to put Sharon’s political power to another test, which could end up kicking him out of political life altogether.
Even after the lack of support in Sharon was revealed in the Likud party Central Committee as well as in the party members’ referendum, he announced that he would nevertheless proceed with the plan. In fact, this plan is one of the most urgent goals on the Israeli capitalists’ agenda, and during recent months it has become clear that any new government coming to power in Israel in the near future will be pushed to take this step too. The disengagement plan comes after years in which the Israeli ruling class, even with external support from imperialist powers, failed to reach what it considered the best solution: An agreement between the Palestinian elite and the Israeli capitalists which will succeed in returning stability and control to the region, and, ultimately, allow them to "quietly" conduct their business. Their inability to do so, as shown by the failure of the Oslo agreements and their other subsequent versions, has caused the death of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis. As a result of this failure, the Palestinian Authority’s power base has been diminished, leaving the Israeli ruling class without any Palestinian puppet ruler ("a partner") who could bring order to the occupied territories.
Assassinations in search for the "Barrel’s Bottom"
Sharon found out that his plan cannot be as "unilateral" as he originally planned. Stability in the field after the disengagement requires the inclusion of additional factors in it. For this reason, Egypt is included in the plan as well, as a local power entrusted with mediating between the various factions, delivering messages to them and training Palestinian officers who could then "establish order" in the Territories. Egypt has good reason to worry about a display of power by the Palestinian masses after the Israeli withdrawal and from the rise of populist forces, since the Egyptian regime feels threatened by the Islamic Brotherhood organisation, out of which the Hamas movement grew in the past.
The same goes for American imperialism, whose greatest nightmare is that instability in the region can lead as part of a domino effect to the overthrow of all the regimes that cooperate with it. Arafat, who has ceased to be able to even partially serve the imperialist interests long ago, has become a political obstacle to ’reforms’ in the Palestinian Authority’s apparatus demanded by the Israeli government and imperialism worldwide. Both Sharon and Mofaz (Minister of Defence) have already hinted about a plan to exile him in the future, which would, on one hand, tactically remove this obstacle, and, on the other hand, please the hawkish elements in the government. During recent months, the Palestinian Authority has more and more resembled a soap opera. Abu-Alla (Ahmed Quriah) has announced dramatically over and over again, his "final" resignation from the meaningless office of Palestinian Prime Minister due to disagreements with the Raees, Arafat ["president" in Arabic], who is unwilling to give up his powers, even though they mean almost nothing.
The Palestinian Authority has no solution to the acute poverty in the occupied territories, and especially in the Gaza Strip, the lack of basic services, the rising unemployment rate and the direct military oppression with all its disastrous consequences, and is viewed mostly as a corrupt body cooperating with the occupation. The various factions within the Fatah [the main faction of the PLO] still struggle, and the Authority itself is out of contact with the street and can’t organise any mass event by itself whatsoever. Yes, this is the body supposed to keep order in "the day after"…
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Fatah’s militia, openly clashes with the Authority’s representatives, and occasionally turns some of them into examples by symbolic kidnapping. After the wave of assassinations of 14 members of Az A-Din El-Qassam (Hamas’ militia) activists on 7 September, Abu Alla was forced to support even the Islamic Jihad’s declaration of revenge, promising to flood Israeli cities with blood. Control of the streets is split between the main active organisations, which show their political power in demonstrations and funeral marches. We should expect to see them taking full part in the disengagement’s funeral on the day the Israeli military return to invade the Gaza Strip, under the pretext of "removing threats", as already happens today.
Capitalism is the powder keg
The disengagement plan and the Wall cannot solve the problems, but will only make them more acute, and threaten both the Palestinian and Israeli masses with another disaster in the future. An end of the Israeli military direct occupation of the most heavily populated place in the world is essential and will save many human lives. Evacuating the 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip settlements and isolated West Bank outposts is made necessary by the current situation, in which their very presence there creates an apartheid regime which leads to the direct oppression of hundreds of thousands of people, and the Israeli government, which was behind the settlement effort in the first place, will have to compensate the settlers. However the cycle of bloodshed will not end.
The regional economic crisis is likely to deepen, and with it the severe oppression of the masses in the occupied territories and the continuing dispossession of the masses in Israel. Given no current alternative, much of the Palestinian masses’ justified rage today is directed into the destructive ideas and horrific, ineffective methods of Hamas, but Hamas will not provide any solution, and in time, as the need for a solution grows more urgent than ever, Hamas will suffer the same fate as Fatah and the old People’s Party (former Communist Party). Today, four years after the outbreak of the 2nd Intifada, which was unfortunately taken over by the reactionary forces of political Islam, the mass demonstrations against the Wall signify the potential for a return to a popular Intifada – to an extensive uprising where the Palestinian masses can show their own power and seize control of their destiny.
The most urgent tasks of the Israeli ruling class today are the disengagement plan, completion of the Wall and carrying out the budget cuts. The urgent task of the Palestinian and Israeli masses is to build revolutionary socialist organisations which will lead them in a serious fight for their future. Capitalism cannot provide basic living conditions, nor can it offer a real solution to the massive poverty that exists in the region. It cannot overcome its internal contradictions and bring peace to the Middle East. All the attempts to solve the crisis within the limits of capitalism bring nothing more than destruction and devastation, after which the well-fed politicians and the big millionaires return to their "demographic" calculations in their game of numbers, which is our lives. The capitalist powder keg does have a bottom, and only massive struggles by the masses in Israel and Palestine which will lead to the overthrow of the corrupt elites, to the management of society for our needs rather than for the capitalists’ profits, and to the establishment of a socialist Israel side by side with an independent socialist Palestine, as a stage on the way to a socialist and democratic Middle East, will end this game of blood.
Youth dodge military draft
The intensifying anger against the state expresses itself in the growing numbers of youth dodging the military draft and in a general low morale, especially when it comes to combat roles.
Who would like to be the last victim in Gaza, when it is clear that the withdrawal of the army is now only a matter of time? At the beginning of August, a group of 30 bereaved families published an open letter to high-school students, calling them to rethink their near enlisting:
"The following should not be regarded as a recommendation not to enlist. The contrary – we really recommend the draft. All of us, and of course, all of the dubious millionaires in the country, who steal large sums of money every day from the state, and who own some huge properties here, need the IDF in order to keep their property safe"
..the dark side of the military…
"We will tell you about the dark side of the military… In the military they take advantage of your naiveté and want you as a tool in the hands of ministers and fattened high ranking officials, who can think of nothing but their positions and their enormous salaries… None of them really thinks of you…
You’re a slave…
You’re a slave with the wage of 15 NIS [2.7 EUR] a day… They only look for cannon fodder. Free soldiers who will cost nothing, especially after they’re dead".