Palestinian Resistance Stuns Israel
by Sara Flounders, Co-Director, International
For decades the struggle for Palestine's liberation has played
a pivotal role in the Arab people's struggle to break imperialism's
stranglehold on the Middle East.
Although only a few million people, the Palestinians have
been heroic in their determination to survive as a nation. This
struggle against overwhelming odds despite many setbacks has revived
again and again.
The courage of youths confronting Israeli tanks day after
day with stones and slingshots is once again changing the equation
of forces in the entire region.
As powerful as the 1987 Intifada was, the scope of the new
uprising is greater. It has gone beyond the occupied territories,
spreading within the 1948 borders of Israel and mobilizing people
throughout the Arab world.
Millions of outraged people have mobilized support, from Lebanon
to Egypt, Morocco and Yemen. The Palestinian struggle has aroused
a mass movement in these countries that inspires mortal fear
in the thin ruling strata. These demonstrations are increasingly
targeting U.S. imperialism.
This new chapter in the Palestinian struggle began Sept. 28
when Israeli general Ariel Sharon visited Jerusalem with over
a thousand troops to declare Israeli sovereignty over the Al-Aqsa
Mosque. This calculated provocation would have been impossible
without the Barak government's approval.
Barak authorized a massive Israeli military presence the following
day, the Moslem day of prayers. As thousands streamed out of the
mosque after prayers, the first clashes began. Now a whole generation
has awakened to resistance.
Divide and rule
This new wave of resistance has brought down the whole U.S.-
orchestrated plan to use coercive diplomacy and overwhelming force
to impose a permanent state of dependent reservations or Bantustans
on the Palestinian people.
The Oslo "peace process" provided that the Palestinian
Authority would administer these impoverished and fragmented cantons.
A lightly armed Palestinian police force was to collaborate with
U.S. and Israeli overall control and repress any forces that attempted
Israel spent the seven years of negotiations building and
reinforcing settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. There are now
over 170 militarized settlements for over 200,000 Israeli settlers.
The number of settlers doubled during the "peace process."
The Israeli regime uses the settlements to justify a large
Israeli military presence and an invasive system of super-highways
connecting the expanding settlements throughout the West Bank
to Israel. These highways also divide the Palestinian segments
from each other and from their center in Jerusalem.
End of collaboration
The plan was a calculated effort to divide and weaken the
Palestinians geographically--and even more important, politically.
A key strategy of the Oslo Accords was to subvert and co-opt a
section of the Palestinian movement and use it against the rest.
As part of the peace process PA President Yasser Arafat's
forces were given tens of millions of dollars to combat "terrorism."
This did not mean reining in the ongoing terrorism of Israeli
settlers, but Palestinian police were supposed to arrest and jail
all the forces committed to continuing the fight against Israel.
Now that an uprising has broken out, increased Israeli repression
and terror tactics have led to increased resistance with each
passing day. The U.S.-Israeli plan to shape a section of the
Palestinian police into a repressive army of collaboration has
In October, CIA Director George Tenet was shown on television
seated next to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and just
across from Arafat at a key meeting in Paris. But what has become
of Tenet's plans to build collaboration between the armed forces
of oppressor and oppressed? It has collapsed. Israel has launched
a missile attack on the headquarters of Arafat's personal security
forces. The PA responded by releasing all Palestinian political
prisoners from jail.
On Nov. 9 Israeli troops carried out a rocket attack and assassination
of Hussein Abayat, a regional commander of the Tanzim militia
in the West Bank. In return, on Nov. 11 Palestinian guerrillas
ambushed two armed settler-convoys, the first daylight operations
by Palestinians in Israeli-run areas of the West Bank.
Morale and political unity decisive
The balance in war is not decided by weapons alone. Though
U.S.- supplied Israeli weapons are far superior to the small arms
of the Palestinians, protracted struggle is decided by morale,
by the level of popular support and the level of political consciousness.
Israel is facing a serious crisis of morale. Political divisions
are tearing the state apart. The escalating brutality and repression
have demoralized many.
The whole Israeli state is built on the false promise of a
secure and prosperous lifestyle, heavily subsidized by Washington.
Subsidized housing, with large apartments, lush lawns, swimming
pools and sports clubs attracts Israeli settlers to the militarized
West Bank settlements.
But now, as Israeli violence escalates, Palestinian guerrilla
fighters are responding by targeting the settlements. Settlers
travel only in armed convoys. Many settlements are practically
In contrast, the Palestinians are more united and cohesive
than they have been in a decade. Their anger at seven years of
fraudulent peace talks while settlements expanded all around
them has finally exploded. Now each escalation in Israeli repression
and terror tactics brings not fear but new levels of outrage
and organized resistance.
Change in the whole region
The heroic Palestinian youths who day after day challenge
Israeli tanks with stones and slingshots have inspired and aroused
people throughout the Middle East. Millions have taken to the
streets in solidarity with their struggle, denouncing not only
Israel but U.S. imperialism.
In the last six weeks this shift in political climate has
weakened U.S. imperialism in the Middle East and unraveled its
Iraq, Syria and Iran are forging new relations. Iraq is openly
challenging the no-flight zones that U.S. and British aircraft
carriers and jet bombers have enforced with impunity for 10 years.
Planes from many countries are flying directly to Baghdad to
challenge the sanctions strangling the Iraqis. The charged political
climate makes it harder for the Pentagon to threaten or to intervene
Collapse of Israeli economy
Washington's plans to make Israel the high-tech engine of
the region have collapsed. Promising business deals and trade
offices have closed.
The crisis has derailed the Euro-Mediterranean partnership,
a European Union-inspired process to bring "southern Mediterranean"
countries into a free-trade area. Now Syria and Lebanon are
threatening a boycott because of Israel's participation. The real
beneficiaries of a free-trade zone are always the developed countries
with the strongest economies--the U.S., Israel and the West European
The tourist industry, a mainstay of the Israeli economy, has
totally closed down. Flights to Tel Aviv are almost empty. The
arrivals section echoes. Departing flights are booked solid with
no available seats. At the airport and in every shopping or gathering
area the mood is tense and security is all-pervasive.
U.S. tax dollars are once again the only real prop of the
Israeli economy. Congress has promised anew infusion of both
military hardware and economic subsidies.
The military clampdown is even more destructive to the fragile
Palestinian economy. The enforced closing for weeks at a time
of many small businesses and endless roadblocks mean that it is
difficult to get to market even the olives and agricultural produce
that are a mainstay for many families.
Workers can't get to their jobs. The 40,000 Palestinians who
had permits to work in Israel and the 60,000 who worked there
illegally are without an income.
Although this creates enormous privation and hardship for
the Palestinians, it has also undermined joint business deals
with Israel. World Bank and International Monetary Fund long-term
investment projects that dramatically increased the dependence
of the Palestinian economy on Israel are the first casualties.
Accommodation is no longer an option for the thin layer of the
population who benefited from collaboration.
A new era of continued resistance will revive the movement
for the liberation of Palestine. It will inspire anti-imperialist
struggles worldwide--and that will make it harder for the billionaire
transnational corporations to use oppressed countries as a cheap
The working-class and progressive movement here has a great
stake in this struggle. Its support for the righteous demands
of the Palestinians-- for full sovereignty, the right to an independent
state with its capital in Jerusalem and the right for return for
all refugees--is vital.
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