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September 2002 • Vol 2, No. 8 •

Support the Palestinian Struggle for National Liberation!

Michael Schembri

The Palestinians are a people under occupation. This occupation did not start a few weeks ago. Israel is the result of decades of colonial settlement by Zionists supported by the European powers, which started at the end of the 19th century. It continued with the struggle of the Zionist movement against the British in order to create an independent Jewish state. It was sealed by the partition of Palestine into two separate states by the United Nations in 1947, which did not recognize the right of the majority population of Palestinian Arabs to the land they had lived on for centuries. Israel consolidated itself by overrunning most of Palestine in the 1948 war, during which it drove out the bulk of the Palestinian population through acts of terrorism. Finally, in 1967, it occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which are referred to as the Occupied Territories. Much of the land in these territories has been expropriated.

Israel has not needed the excuse of suicide bombings to invade Palestine, to subject the Palestinians to untold brutality, to carry out ethnic cleansing in order to secure land, which belonged to another people. Given this history, suicide bombings can only be seen as acts of desperate anger. Palestinian cities are being attacked, leaders assassinated or arrested, and more and more land and water taken; yet the Palestinians have no serious armaments and have been shot while engaging in civil disobedience. Palestinians have no strategic support from the Arab countries, and no longer any help from what was the Soviet Bloc. The PLO no longer has bases outside the country. Nor have the Palestinians any hope for any gains from the negotiations. While the suicide bombings may not be the best strategy for the liberation of the Palestinian people, Israel must be held responsible for provoking them. If there weren’t an occupation, there wouldn’t be suicide bombings.

 The Occupied Territories Today

At the ignoble end of the Oslo peace process it is possible to see why the Palestinians refused to put up any more with the charade. More settlements exist now than seven years ago, at the beginning of the process. Thirty-four new settlements have been constructed since early 2001. East Jerusalem has been completely cut off from the rest of the territories by the buildup of a wide swathe of fortified settlements in an ongoing process of annexation. The territories, in a deliberate plan described as apartheid by the Israeli state itself, have been chopped up into smaller bits of land cut off from each other by settlements and roads accessible only to the Jewish settlers and the Israeli military. Water and energy are completely controlled by Israel, as are all border crossings.

Even without this occupation in place, the territories simply are not rich enough in soil, water and other resources to be viable as a separate state. Every day, before the recent Intifada started, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers commuted to Israel and back for work. Under the final version of the Oslo “peace” process the Palestinian Authority was given control over only 17 percent of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with another 24 percent under joint Israel/PA control. This 41 percent of the Occupied Territories makes up only 9.6 percent of historic Palestine or British mandate territory. The West Bank would be chopped up into 64 pieces of land, with no border with Jordan.

Israel is obviously not budging. It is obvious it never meant to.

Palestinian Arabs Inside Israel

Inside Israel the situation of Palestinian Arabs citizens of Israel is not much better. It is true that economic rationalism has been demolishing the welfare state, which Israel had built over the decades. However, the economic situation of most of the sectors of the Israeli Jewish workforce remains relatively privileged in comparison with that of the Palestinians in Israel. Until 2000, the Israeli GDP was growing relatively rapidly. Palestinians in Israel also have to survive in the face of deeply ingrained racism and accompanying injustices, and national humiliation. Not so incidentally, the Histadrut (Israel’s national trade union) remains a protagonist in this discriminatory treatment of Palestinian workers in Israel. Despite being nominally citizens of Israel, Palestinian Israelis do not have a right to buy land. The Israeli Defense Forces continue taking land away from them, bulldozing their houses in order to build houses and other buildings for Jewish immigrants.

Following the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada last September, Palestinians in Israel have been the victims of ongoing pogroms—violent attacks by mobs of Israeli Jews supported by the police.

Israel remains a state based on Jewish exclusivity. The state is defined by “race” and religion and is meant to exclude those who are not Jewish. In other words it is a racist state on a level only paralleled by Apartheid South Africa.

The Refugees

Israel has created a huge Palestinian refugee population. While over 1 million Palestinians still live in Israel, with a further 3.3 million in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 4 million refugees live in the neighboring countries (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and other Arab countries) and another half million live further in the Diaspora (Europe, North America, Africa and Australia.) In all 3.7 million Palestinians are officially registered by UNRWA as refugees, one third of whom live in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank and the neighboring countries. They constitute the largest group of refugees in the world as well as the longest existing. People of Jewish families around the world can avail themselves of the Israeli Law of Return, entitling them an automatic right to go to Israel and acquire immediate citizenship, education, social support and housing. Palestinian refugees are denied the right to return to (or even visit) the lands and family homes they were forced from. Is there a solution?

We are clearly dealing with a situation of one people—the Palestinian Arabs—occupied by another, newly constructed nationality—Israeli Jews. This does not mean that a solution is possible by pushing the Jews into the sea. It does mean, however, that there can be no sustainable solution, which accepts the existence of two separate and unequal states. A separate Palestinian state simply isn’t viable. A separate Israel does not solve the problems either of the Palestinian refugees nor of those Palestinians held as a conquered people inside Israel itself. As long as there remains a separate Jewish state of Israel the conflict will continue. The only possible way out, hard as it is, is through the formation of a single secular state of Palestine in which all citizens—Arabs and Jews—are equal. The absolute obstacle to this solution is Zionist racist supremacy. On the other side, this solution used to be the dominant position of the Palestinian liberation movement, before Zionist brutality and intransigence created and fed a fundamentalist Islamic response.


There are a number of immediate demands, which must be made. These include:

  • Solidarity with the Palestinian resistance;

  • Political actions in support of the Palestinians;

  • Practical aid and funds for the Palestinian health and welfare services and for human rights and campaign organizations;

  • International sanctions against the Israeli apartheid state;

  • In Australia, the demand that the government change its UN vote to one of support for the Palestinians;

  • Support for an international enquiry into the war crimes;

  • Reparations from the USA and Israel for reconstruction of Palestinian society and infrastructures destroyed in the April re-invasions;

  • The freeing of Mordechai Vanunu, and all political prisoners in Israel and Palestine;

  • An end to Israeli military and civilian aggression in the Occupied Territories;

  • An end to the blockade of the Palestinian communities inside Israel.

There are other demands which in and of themselves put into question the very existence of the Israeli state, but which have to be made if justice is to be achieved:

  • Palestinian refugees must have the right to return to their lands, homes, villages and cities;

  • There must be restitution of confiscated land to Palestinians;

  • Palestinian refugees must have the right to compensation and reparations;

  • The Israeli Law of Return must be abolished;

  • All citizens must have equal rights;

  • Arabic and Hebrew must become equally national languages;

  • Equality of Arabs and Jews in employment; integration of the trade unions;

  • The state must become secular, and all religious symbols of the state must be removed;

  • Law, health and education must be secularised;

  • There must be equitable distribution of water, transport, energy and communication infrastructures;

  • The military and police must be integrated;

  • The new state will establish peaceful relations with countries in the region.

These are clearly transitional demands which challenge capitalism: demands which are essential but which cannot be met by retaining the existing Israeli state, the current Israeli borders, the current relationship of Israel to U.S. imperialism. Neither can they be met without the expropriation of the Israeli bourgeoisie and the overthrow of the military-state apparatus. It is a tough call. But no other way forward is possible which does not perpetuate the dispossession of the Palestinian people and thereby also perpetuating the conflict in the Middle East.

reprinted from the website of Socialist Democracy, Fourth International Caucus, Australia





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