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     Volume 8 Issue 54 | January 24, 2009 |

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Gaza Burning

Jamil Iqbal

Only the dead have seen the end of war
(Plato 427BC-348BC)
Despite all the talks of peace and a two-state solution, Israel more than doubled the number of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and around East Jerusalem.

Sarah Roy in her chilling article (If Gaza falls…., London Review of Books, 1/1/09), rightly states that one of the goals of Israel's siege is to ensure that the Palestinians are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The overwhelming majority of Gazans are impoverished by the eighteen months blockade by Israel and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect of steady employment is rapidly disappearing for the majority of the population. On 5 November, 2008 the Israeli government sealed all the ways into and out of Gaza. Food, medicine, fuel, parts for water and sanitation systems, fertiliser, plastic sheeting, phones, paper, glue, shoes and even teacups are no longer getting through in sufficient quantities or at all.

In the current global economic crisis, control over Gaza is crucial to Israel more than ever since the first Palestinian uprising in 1987. First of all, it satisfies the military's hunger for state spending on arms. The military, and the politicians under its influence, have proven themselves eager to do battle in any period in which their fiscal prerogatives are at jeopardy.

The most crucial thing for Israel, however, is to maintain stability for the moderate PLO in the West Bank which provides Israel with numerous resources in terms of one of the cheapest workforces in the world, a captive market that is dependent on absorbing Israel's surpluses, land and water resources that Israel desperately needs. It requires the pacifying of Gaza in order to make sure that the terrorism it hosts will not slide over into the West Bank and undermine the PLO regime.

They have been subject to humiliation, their lands robbed and occupied.

The destruction of Gaza has nothing to do with Hamas. Israel will accept no authority in the Palestinian territories that it does not ultimately control. Any individual, leader, faction or movement that fails to accede to Israel's demands or that seeks genuine sovereignty and the equality of all nations in the region; any government or popular movement that demands the applicability of international humanitarian law and of the universal declaration of human rights for its own people will be unacceptable for the Jewish State. The answer is because Israel has no intention of allowing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state on its borders. It had no intention of allowing it in 1948 when it grabbed 24 per cent more land than what it was allotted legally, if unfairly, by UN Resolution 181. It had no intention of allowing it throughout the massacres and ploys of the 1950s. It had no intention of allowing two states when it conquered the remaining 22 per cent of historic Palestine in 1967 and reinterpreted UN Security Council Resolution 248 to its own liking despite the overwhelming international consensus stating that Israel would receive full international recognition within secure and recognised borders if it withdrew from the lands it had only recently occupied.

It had no intention of acknowledging Palestinian national rights at the United Nations in 1974, when alone with the United States it voted against a two-state solution. It had no intention of allowing a comprehensive peace settlement when Egypt stood ready to deliver but received, and obediently accepted, a separate peace exclusive of the rights of Palestinians and the remaining peoples of the region. It had no intention of working toward a just two-state solution in 1978 or 1982 when it invaded, fire-bombed, blasted and bulldozed Beirut so that it might annex the West Bank without hassle. It had no intention of granting a Palestinian state in 1987 when the first Intifada spread across occupied Palestine.

Israel had no intention of granting a Palestinian state at Madrid or at Oslo where the PLO was superseded by the quivering, quisling Palestinian Authority, too many of whose cronies grasped at the wealth and prestige it gave them at the expense of their own kin. As Israel beamed into the world's satellites and microphones its desire for peace and a two-state solution, it more than doubled the number of illegal Jewish settlements on the ground in the West Bank and around East Jerusalem.

It must be made clear, however, in spite of recent media hype, that the Palestinians are the victims in this scenario. They have been subject to humiliation, their lands robbed and occupied. They face the terror of the Israeli state. They now want to crush the people of Gaza. Ironically, these actions will serve to strengthen Hamas as the defender of the Palestinians, while Abbas, the stooge of the imperialists in the West Bank, is becoming more and more unpopular.

The pro-western ruling elites of the Arab states are no friends of the Palestinians either. Egypt has sealed the border with Gaza. It was no accident that Mubarak warmly hosted Livni, Israel's foreign minister, in Cairo just before the launch of the offensive. The Israelis have no intention of reoccupying Gaza, which would leave it administering a hostile population of 1.5m. They simply want to destroy the infrastructure and crush the spirit of the Palestinians. The Israeli government also have an eye on the general election in February 2009 and want to capitalise on this war-hysteria. However, they were defeated in Lebanon and they cannot afford to be seen as being defeated in Gaza, whatever the outcome. The flurry of EU diplomatic activity will come to nothing. There is talk of some trusted presence at the border with Egypt, but there will be few volunteers to commit troops to this region. Whatever the eventual agreement, the Palestinians will be the losers

This is not to say that Gaza is meaningless to Israel in its own right. Despite its massive levels of poverty, the fact that the Gaza masses depend on goods coming through Israel gives the Israelis an advantage in terms of a captive market as well, that is, as a long-term perspective. This may also explain why the Israeli army has made much more of an effort to destroy the tunnels that smuggle goods from Egypt than it has to destroy the rocket launchers which were the formal reason for the operation in the first place!

The systematic bombing of Gaza once more lays bare the total bankruptcy of Palestinian nationalism - and Arab nationalism as a whole. For the Palestinians, as well as all Arabs, the dead-end of the previous armed struggle that continued until the expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon in 1982, and the numerous negotiations which never question the borders imposed by the imperialist robbers and looters, has led to more and more brutality, depravation and desperation for the masses. In return, this desperation has spawned the courageous, but highly misguided, and ultimately futile, acts of the new guerrilla movements. The old policy's bankruptcy is now displayed in starker terms by the Islamic groups' suicide bombers who repeat the mistakes of the previous generation in a callous way that wastes their lives without advancing the mass struggle.

Despite all their attempts the Israelis will not manage to undermine Hamas and other Palestinian groups advocating resistance to the Zionist onslaught. The Zionists will actually boost support for them as they did with Hezbollah in 2006. This is because these movements - for now - have become the only hope of the oppressed and exploited masses.

The writer is a research fellow at Metropolitan University, London.

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