As we go to press, Israeli forces have launched a series of murderous attacks on Gaza; more can be expected following a bomb explosion which killed a woman at a bus stop in Jerusalem. There will be no imperialist no-fly zone over Gaza, despite the deaths of a family of four on 22 March, their home hit by an artillery shell. Two children were among the dead.
Bob Shepherd reports.
US imperialism’s opposition to Palestinian democratic rights remains as intransigent as ever. On Friday 18 February at the United Nations Security Council the US vetoed a resolution put forward by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which condemned continued Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. The resolution had the support of over 130 member states of the UN and 14 of the 15 current members of the Security Council. The US was the only Security Council member to vote against.
The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, justified the veto by saying that she ‘regretted’ opposing the resolution but that it ‘risks hardening the position of both sides’ and that ‘it could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations’. These are the negotiations that the pro-imperialist Mahmoud Abbas and his PA cronies have had to end because of overwhelming Palestinian opposition to continued illegal Israeli settlement expansion. Israel welcomed the US veto and demanded the PA ‘return to the negotiating table without preconditions’. For the US and the Zionists, opposition to settlement expansion is an unacceptable ‘precondition’.
Settlement expansion accelerates
On 13 March the Israeli government approved a massive expansion of colonial settlements in the West Bank with the construction of some 500 housing units in the Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel and Kiryat Sefer settlement blocks. Fifty of these housing units are scheduled to be built in Kfar Eldad near Bethlehem, which, according to the Israeli group Peace Now, is not an ‘official’ settlement. This therefore represents the establishment of a new settlement in the West Bank.
In East Jerusalem the demolition of Palestinian homes continues. On 17 March demolition orders were handed to six Bedouin families in the north east of the city. Their homes are being pulled down to make way for the Apartheid Wall around Jerusalem. The Bedouin families are part of the Jahalin tribe who were forcibly deported from the Tel Aviv area in the 1950s. In the 1990s, around 1,000 members of the tribe were ejected from land near Ma’ale Adumim to make room for settlement expansion and forcibly relocated to the area of Jerusalem’s municipal rubbish dump. A report from the UN Relief and Works Agency records 70 house demolitions across the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the start of 2011, double the rate of last year, displacing 105 Palestinians.
Israeli terror in the West Bank and Gaza
The Israeli government immediately deemed the killing of a family of five Israeli settlers in the West Bank by persons unknown on 12 March an act of Palestinian ‘terrorism’. Settlers in the West Bank, under the protection of Israeli troops, attacked Palestinian cars and their drivers, smashed windows, sabotaged water tanks, bulldozed land and uprooted olive trees. Many of these attacks were around Nablus but more took place across the West Bank. In Yatta, near Hebron, settlers also under military protection damaged around 50 dunums of Palestinian land, destroying walls and uprooting crops and trees.
Israel has continued its siege of the people of Gaza. Throughout February and March it launched artillery and missile strikes against the population. On 17 February three civilians were shot dead attempting to enter Israel for work; on 27 February, another civilian was shot dead near the border while collecting material to rebuild his home. On 16 March Israeli planes fired missiles at a security centre near Gaza City killing a security guard and a Hamas militant. On 19 March Hamas’s military wing retaliated firing up to 50 rockets into Israel. The same day, Israel killed two teenagers in Gaza and shelled power lines cutting off power to areas east of Gaza City and the north of the Gaza Strip. This was followed by attacks on 22 March which killed four Islamic Jihad members as well as the family of four.
Palestinian people demand unity
On 15 March demonstrations called by Palestinian youth organisations took place in Ramallah, Bethlehem, other towns across the West Bank and in Gaza City calling for Palestinian national unity, an end to the division between Hamas and Fatah, elections to the Palestinian National Council (leadership body of the PLO) and the release of all political prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza. The call for national unity to strengthen resistance to the occupation struck a chord: in Gaza City an estimated 300,000 took to the streets. In Ramallah a couple of thousand demonstrated; Fatah activists attempted to hijack the event by setting up a party platform against the wishes of the organisers who had called for no factional flags or displays. PA security also attempted to prevent the demonstrators from setting up any permanent presence in the main Manara Square.
All the main political factions in Gaza agreed to back the demonstration. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced his support and instructed the security forces to protect the demonstrators. The factions also agreed that the demonstration would not last more than one day. Hamas security forces prevented attempts to continue past 15 March claiming that Fatah was using the demonstrations to destabilise Gaza. Nabil Amir, a former senior official in Fatah, backed up this allegation saying that Fatah had paid $1m to support youth demonstrations against Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. In addition, Tawfiq Al Teirawi, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, said that he would use the unity marches to trigger ‘more strikes’ against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and that ‘pressure must be exerted on Hamas from all directions, and propaganda must be boosted to incite public opinion against it’.
It is clear that the desire for national unity can only be realised on the basis of resistance to the Israeli occupation and opposition to the imperialist-backed peace talks. This unity can have no place for those in the PA and Fatah who are collaborating with the Israeli occupation and are attempting to manipulate the unity campaign to undermine Palestinian resistance.
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