Palestine: End the sanctions on Gaza

For a mass Palestinian workers’ resistance

Below is the text of a leaflet distributed by members of the CWI in Lebanon at a protest organized for the defence of Palestinian rights and in opposition to Israeli sanctions on Gaza.

Leaflet in Arabic.

End the sanctions on Gaza

Today, for the first time in a month, Israel is temporarily lifting some restrictions on aid workers and journalists in Gaza. People in the Gaza Strip are paying a heavy price for the Israeli sanctions and policies of starvation and humiliation. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are struggling daily to secure enough food, water, fuel and cooking gas. Black-market cooking gas prices are now at US $100 a tank!

The deteriorating situation in the territories now means that for the first time, 80 percent of families in Gaza are living in abject poverty and malnutrition rates among Gaza’s children are rapidly rising.

The siege is widely recognized as collective punishment of a civilian population, and constitutes an act defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention as a war crime. Israel’s sanctions on the impoverished coastal territory started after Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006 which were considered free and fair by international observers. The Israeli state further tightened the rope after Hamas ousted the rival Fatah movement in what many have described as an Israeli and US-backed offensive by Fatah aimed at driving Hamas out of the enclave

Israel had in the past invaded Gaza with tanks and soldiers in a number of offensives, killing Hamas members and civilians. These numerous breakings of ceasefire agreements have prompted Gazan fighters to resume rocket fire.

The reaction to the Hamas victory in the elections in 2006 was a coordinated embargo by Israel, the US and the EU with the Arab League collaborating by staying silent on the issue. Millions of US dollars of aid to the Palestinian Authority have been withheld and the plight of the occupied territories has become dire. Since 2006, hundreds of Palestinians have been killed, including many children.

Egyptian authorities have closed the Gazan border and have stopped people from crossing over to get foods and medical supplies in Egypt. Some food has been smuggled in through tunnels from Egypt but most basic goods have been in short supply.

Earlier this week, Egyptian riot police clashed with hundreds of students at Cairo University who were protesting against the blockade and demanding the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. Many Egyptians are strongly opposed to their government’s compliance in the siege of the Gaza Strip.

Economic Sanctions

Gaza’s sole power plant provides around 30% of electricity in the territory. Repeated shutdowns by the sanctions have led to blackouts, and have damaged parts of the production units that have not been replaced because of the Israeli blockade.

Although the Israeli government removed the Jewish settlements from the strip in 2005, Israel maintains absolute control over Gaza’s borders and airspace, with the Gazan port being closed for over 40 years. Israel’s brutal blockade has been targeting 1.5 million civilians for over two years, drastically increasing poverty and malnutrition rates.

The entire strip has been reduced to conditions of terrible destitution, with no escape, and with majority of the population now unemployed and relying on relief and charity.

The withdrawal from Gaza was never undertaken with the aim of giving Palestinians a genuine state. Then, when Hamas was elected to govern the Palestinian Authority in 2006, Israeli military punishment was stepped up, with regular brutal incursions using tanks, bulldozers and helicopters.

The Israeli government tries to justify its onslaught on the grounds that rockets are being fired from Gaza into Israel. This is despite the fact that the number of Israelis killed by Palestinian rockets is their 10’s while Palestinians have been killed in their hundreds by Israeli forces.

Palestinian Territories

Israeli army assassinations and brutality are not confined to Gaza. Some Israeli soldiers in the West Bank have spoken out about their army’s torture of Palestinian residents there, and atrocities against Palestinians have are carried out by Hebron’s religious Jewish settlers. Palestinians are also faced with the existence of the ‘security’ wall eating significantly into Palestinian land alongside the expansion of Jewish settlements and atomisation of Palestinian areas. Meanwhile, the average per capita income in the Palestinian Territories has declined to $700 a year compared to $20,000 in Israel.

For Workers’ Resistance

While armed resistance by the Palestinians is necessary, it should be organised by democratically controlled workers’ militias and attacks should not be directed at Israeli civilians. As well as bringing more repression down on Palestinians, increasing their suffering and making struggle more difficult, such attacks are not effective in defeating the Israeli state apparatus and only push Israeli workers away from the Palestinians’ cause and straight into the hands of the far-right and the racist Israeli capitalist class.

Many Hamas leaders were seen as self-sacrificing, had rejected the corruption of Fatah and condemned US imperialism. But once in power, whether in councils or government, they have turned to passing the burden of economic crisis onto the shoulders of workers through job cuts and privatisations, just as Fatah has.

Palestinian trade union leaders are connected to Fatah and the Palestinian trade union federation which was formed in the 90’s to bring existing unions together under one umbrella, the leadership which was never democratically elected are employees of and receive their salaries from Fatah. The trade union leadership has never defended the interests of the working class independently of the Fatah government. They have never fought, for example, for the a minimum wage. Instead, they have been cooperating with NGO’s and been promoting ideas such as fair trade rather than workers’ struggles to improve conditions and wages.

Still, history shows that Palestinian workers have taken spontaneous industrial action independent of their leaders to defend their jobs and pay. In September 2006, the employees of the Palestinian Authority declared an all out strike to demand full payment of their wages. 165,000 workers employed by the Palestinian Authority had gone without wages for more than six months. The wages of these workers support approximately a million Palestinians. The strike involved about 100,000 workers and raised important questions about the political situation inside the Palestinian territories following the elections.

Organising a mass struggle requires the building of popular committees in the territories, the foundation of an independent workers’ party representing the oppressed layers in society and the transformation of the trade unions into a militant and democratic force. Such an organisation would pose the need to take over the property of the Palestinian elite to cope with the task of managing society in times of crisis.

In the absence of such a movement and in the feeling of helplessness popular support can be witnessed for a government of national unity. But capitalism will provide no future for the Palestinians.

For the immediate end of the sanctions on Gaza and immediate withdrawal of the Israeli army from the occupied territories!

  • For an immediate end to the Israeli and international sanctions on the Gaza strip, and for all needed supplies to be sent in without delay. For the removal of the separation wall and all checkpoints and barriers from the West Bank.
  • For the establishment in the territories of grassroots committees, to provide the basis for genuine and democratic workers’ leadership. For the right of these committees to be armed for the purposes of defence.
  • For a mass struggle of the Palestinians, under their democratic control, to raise their standard of living and to fight for genuine national liberation.
  • For the removal of the separation wall and all checkpoints and barriers from the West Bank.
  • For a struggle by Israeli Palestinians against institutionalised racism and their treatment as second-class citizens.
  • For the struggle of a united workers’ movement to end Israeli capitalism
  • For a Socialist Middle East with the right of return of refugees and guaranteed democratic rights for all national minorities.

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December 2008