Middle East: Gaza – War is not the route to peace

Capitalist regimes unable to provide peace and stability

The following is an article by former Socialist Party TD (Irish MP) Joe Higgins, a well-known CWI campaigner in Ireland, who writes a weekly column in the Irish Daily Mail

Gaza – War is not the route to peace

Since December 27th, the Israeli Defence Forces have killed at least 560 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly civilians. Hamas rockets have killed 4 Israeli civilians. In much of the media this is called a war. It should be called a massacre. On new Year’s Day the Israelis dropped a bomb on the home of Nisar Rayan, a Hamas leader. It killed him. It also killed several women and children in his family. The Israeli Government calls this a targeted assassination. It should be called a war crime.

Even in times of relative quiet, Gaza is a hellish place for its residents. Imagine a sliver of land that would just fit into that half of the Dingle Peninsula that stretches from Dunquin to Anascaul. Now take the entire population of greater Dublin from Balbriggan to Clondalkin and Tallaght and across to Dunlaoghaire, add another three hundred thousand, and shoehorn them all into this tiny space. Leave them there with the crudest of facilities that couldn’t remotely be called an infrastructure and you have Gaza.

I once visited the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. The crude concrete and corrugated iron structures in which people lived were piled on top of each other. The ‘streets’ were narrow laneways of sand where foul waste water lodged and there was a sickening stench of sewage in the air.

That was 15 years ago. Thousands of Palestinian workers crossed the border each day to work in Israel. Since then the population has almost doubled, such economic activity as existed has been smothered by an Israeli blockade and a military ring of steel has turned the strip into the largest prison camp in history. Criminally the Eqyptian Government colludes in this mass imprisonment of a people.

The tragedy of the people of Palestine was to be in the way of the ruthless project to carve out a Jewish state on their territory. Of course the unspeakable crimes of the Nazi inflicted Holocaust was a major factor in driving the latter stages of that project, but it was executed by further unspeakable crimes against an innocent people.

The second great tragedy of the Palestinian people is that in responding to the disaster that was inflicted on them they have been cursed with disastrous leadership. While refugees languished in camps in the Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, Yasser Arafat and the lieutenants of his Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation created a corrupt and self serving bureaucracy, albeit posing as freedom fighters. They looked to the rotten Arab dictatorships which repressed their own people as ruthlessly as the Israelis repressed the Palestinians. Their terror tactics were a disaster.

In 1994 when I visited Palestine, Hamas had the support of a small minority. It was disillusionment with Fatah that allowed them to grow to majority support in Gaza. The Israeli government also cynically helped them, in order to counter Arafat’s influence, in the same way as the American CIA facilitated the coming into being of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan as a tool against the Russians.

Hamas is a disaster for the Palestinians. Their reactionary and right wing ideology shows no way out of the present disaster. Their tactic of sending missiles into civilian areas of Israel is not just utterly wrong but utterly counterproductive. Far from ‘defending’ the Palestinian people as they like to proclaim, they have the same effect as peashooters against a giant alligator, merely irritating the beast and inviting it to do its worst to helpless bystanders.

Although hardly reported anywhere, ten thousand Palestinian Arabs and Jews united to march in Tel Aviv on Saturday last to protest against the savagery in Gaza. True they represent a minority opinion right now, but that event and the slogans that were heard give a clue as to how the nightmare can be permanently ended. ‘Halt the bombing, End the Siege, No to the Qassam rockets, Jews and Arabs – refuse to be enemies.’

The ordinary people of Palestine/Israel desire to live in peace but the murderous Israeli regime, Hamas, Fatah and the corrupt Arab leaders cannot and will not achieve this for them. The alternative to the present nightmare is for them to come together and construct a new reality based on an independent Palestinian State, guaranteeing also the right of the Israeli State to live in peace. Achieving this involves ending the disastrous interference of the imperialist powers in the region and counterposing to the destructive capitalism which they imposed, the democratic ownership and control of the wealth by workers, peasants and the poor for the wellbeing of the majority. On this basis alone is it possible to tear down the walls of hatred and the walls of concrete and barbed wire that sunder communities and nations and visit horror without end on the innocent.

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January 2009