Israel: The withdrawal from Gaza ... a step towards peace?

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip began last Wednesday and has deeply divided both Israelis and Palestinians. Yossi Schwartz in Jerusalem looks at the Israeli pullout and what it means.

For days Israelis and Palestinians have been glued to their TV sets watching the developments in Gaza Strip. The army and the police, under the Sharon-Bush “disengagement plan”, have been evacuating 21 settlements in Gaza and 4 of the 120 settlements in the West bank.

For weeks the supporters of the settlers have been wearing orange ribbons on their arms. In many places one sees the nationalist slogan “A Jew does not expel a Jew”. This is a slogan that can mean either “non-Jews expel Jews” (supposedly referring to the Israeli Army) or “Jews expel non-Jews”.

The evacuation of the Gaza Strip began last Wednesday. The settlers were evacuated in the gentlest way possible. The operation was called “A Hand to our Brothers”. Soldiers and police carried the settlers who refused to leave of their own accord out of the area as if they were carrying fragile eggs. Many of these right-wingers had an orange Star of David pinned to their chests. Many of their children walked with their arms up in the air as if they were the victims of the Nazis – the simply colonialists who stole the land from the people of Gaza and built large farms on the backs of cheap local Palestinian labour.

The settlers insulted the soldiers and threw paint, stones and other objects at them. Yet the army officers spoke to them as if they were their lost brothers and sisters. A man named Shamir told TV reporters, “until now I believed this state was mine – not anymore”. Then he added with tears, “”What will happen to us? We had 300-400 dunams (1 dunam = 1 000 m2)each, and now they put us in hotels”. Later on the Minister of Housing, a member of the Zionist Labour Party, explained that those who agreed to leave voluntarily had already received new villas, while the others were being put in 5 star hotels until the government could find them a new home. Another man, a father holding his daughter, shouted hysterically at a soldier: “Take my daughter like the Nazis did to the Jews in Europe!”

For 30 years 1,500 families, altogether some 8,000 people who settled in Gaza after the Israeli occupation 38 years ago, saw their businesses flourish. They received large tracts of land for free in one of the most densely populated areas in the world. They also received great villas that cost them almost nothing. Nor were these people removed from Gaza without making the evacuation good for business. Each family was well compensated, receiving at least half a million dollars, in addition to receiving new farmland inside the green line. For instance, according to the agreement, farmers who leave their greenhouses will receive $4,000 per dunam. The Gush Katif greenhouses cover an area of 3,000 dunhams! This comes at a time when the number of people living under the poverty line in Israel has risen in the last year from one million to one and a half million!

While the settlers and many of their orange supporters took care to show their tears to the TV cameras, the bourgeois media did not bother to ask what would happen to the Palestinian workers who have worked for the settlers for 30 years, getting paid pennies. Would they at least receive compensation in the form of unemployment benefits? Of course not.

Some of the Palestinian workers who were busy packing the furniture, clothes, and religious books of their slave masters received gifts of 50 dollars. Some even received small ventilators. However, most of them received nothing at all. Some Palestinians are sorry that they have lost their jobs, even if they were only paid pennies. Unemployment in the Gaza Strip stands at around 80 percent. However, no one is sorry to see the settlers themselves leaving.

Some Palestinian children are happy for the first time in their lives. They believe that they will be able to fly a kite without fear of being shot. This however, is a sad illusion.

On Thursday, as expected, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who for years has been the faithful servant of US imperialism, praised Sharon for his courage and leadership in acting on his plan to withdraw from Gaza. “This will lead to peace in the Middle East”, he promised. What else could we expect from the man who supports the occupation of Iraq and praised the phony elections held under the bayonets of imperialism. His well paid job is rather simple, when all he has to do is repeat the words of his master, George W. Bush.

Annan also repeated Sharon’s condemnation of last Wednesday’s massacre when a Jewish settler in the West Bank grabbed a gun from a security guard and killed four Palestinian workers. No one bothered to ask how an unarmed settler was able to grab a gun without any resistance.

Annan of course does not seem to know that the settlers are carrying out more terrorist acts against the Palestinians – a golem created by the Israeli state to terrorize the Palestinians and grab more land and which is now out of control and has a mind of its own. Nor did Annan mention the fact that two days after the massacre the Israeli army moved to grab an additional 1,200 dunams of Palestinian land from the village of Gabel El Hamara near Ali and Shila – the same settlements where the four workers were murdered. Perhaps he believes that this is another step in the direction of peace?

The Israeli government will not stop the right-wing, messianic movement it created because this movement is useful to the ruling class. It is useful because the ruling class can use it not only to terrorize Palestinians, but in the future it can be used against workers struggling for their rights.

While Sharon presents the instructions he received from Bush as a great strategic step and promises that there will now be more money for education and health, this will never happen. At the same time the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was presented by the Palestinian Authority as a great achievement of the policy in support of Pax Americana.

The actual role of the PA was described by Amira Has, a courageous reporter for Haaretz, who wrote on August 16 that thousands of PA police were seen ready to assist the Israeli evacuation. However, these same police were not to be seen anywhere while Dahalan’s death squads, dressed in black and armed with Kalashnikovs were terrorizing the people of Gaza.

The trouble is not only isolated in Gaza. Last Thursday an attempt was made on the life of Hassan Youssef, a senior leader of Hamas in the West Bank. He describes the assassination attempt as designed to intimidate the Islamic group for its refusal to end the fight against Israel.

The Palestinian masses are well aware of the role of the this puppet government. On August 17, Naser el Kadwa, the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs was supposed to deliver a very happy speech in Gaza about the withdrawal. However he could not deliver this speech because of a demonstration of the mothers of prisoners, who blamed him for ignoring their children held in Israeli jails for fighting against the occupation. One of the mothers stated that was very sorry she had voted for Mahmoud Abbas, who has done nothing to fulfill his election promises. She also said that the only thing Prime Minister Ahmed Karia cared about was selling cement to the Israelis so that they could build the Apartheid Wall.

The tension is growing both within Fatah and between Fatah and Hamas. Last week, Faruk el Kadumi, Chairman of Fatah’s Central Committee and Chief of the Political Department, issued an order from Tunisia to remove all commanders and employees from the Palestinian security forces which are controlled by Dahalan, a man who has been groomed by British and US imperialism. He also ordered that those removed should be replaced by a new militia totally subordinate to the Palestinian revolutionary struggle. This is a clear challenge to the PA and to Abu Mazen (Abbas), who is increasingly seen by a growing number of Palestinians as a collaborator of Sharon. This statement is in support of the forces of armed opposition within Gaza. Two weeks ago, he also called for the organization of a popular militia of all the forces opposed to Abu Mazen. These include members of Fatah, Tanzim, and people like Musa Arafat, who has some control over military intelligence. During the last few weeks there have been incidents where forces loyal to Dahalan and those opposed to him have exchanged fire.

On the eve of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Muhammed Azhar, said in a speech that Abu Mazen’s programme was for “one authority, one law, one gun”. Azhar asked, what authority, law, and what gun is he talking about? The guns of the those who fight against the occupation, or the weapon of the police?

Another Hamas leader, Ahmad Andur, explained that Hamas would not give up on its weapons and would not become a part of the PA apparatus. He also said that Hamas would not initiate an attack on Israel, but that it would use its weapons to defend itself.

Our position against the acts of terror of Hamas against innocent Israelis is well known. It is not simply because of humanitarian reasons, but because these acts drive the Israelis into the hands of Sharon. We want a Palestinian/Israeli workers’ state, not a religious state. Our enemies are the big banks and the exploiters, not the Israeli people. However, we also unconditionally defend the Palestinian people against the horrors of Israel’s state terrorism. In the event that Sharon attacks Gaza in support of Dahalan and Abu Mazen, any honest person in Gaza would surely demand the formation of an anti-imperialist front to fight against the occupiers.

Let us be clear. The evacuation of Gaza is no more than a bone that US imperialism has thrown to the masses in a desperate attempt to gain industrial peace while it continues to occupy Iraq and while Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank. The Road Map to Peace in the Middle East is in ruins, and with instability spreading from Iraq throughout the whole region like a plague, the US is desperate to appear to be doing something, to appear to be trying to put out the flames.

The withdrawal from Gaza will only serve to cause further division between Israelis and Palestinians. It was also increase the tensions amongst Palestinians themselves. People will notice that as Israel withdraws from Gaza, more settlements are being built in the West Bank. This will fuel the desire amongst Palestinians for the return of both the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This will drive many into the open arms of the militants. Already the militants in Gaza are making public displays of strength. The strong arm of the Israeli state in Gaza will be replaced with the collaborationist PA of Abbas, who will be forced to reign in the militants to keep Israel happy.

The withdrawal will also foster divisions amongst Israelis as well. The withdrawal has divided Israel as it has never been divided before. Bush and Sharon, and their mouthpieces in the bourgeois media are trying to present the withdrawal from Gaza as a concrete step towards peace. Some even whisper that it may be a step towards the creation of a Palestinian state. The disengagement plan will achieve neither. The Palestinian Authority, in becoming the long arm of the Israeli state, will not have the support to exert its control. The withdrawal from Gaza will only serve to fuel future conflicts.

There is no way that the Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace as long as capitalism continues to exist. The state of Israel, backed by the US, will never give up on East Jerusalem, will never give up on the large blocks of settlements, will never solve the question of the refugees, and will never free all of the Palestinian prisoners. The only way to end this vicious circle of blood is the road of Bolshevism, the road of Lenin and Trotsky – the road of socialist revolution and the establishment of a Socialist Federation of the Middle East, where all nationalities, from the Kurds to the Israelis to the Palestinians can have territorial autonomy within this federation. That is the road to peace.

August 21, 2005

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