Al Intifadeh! The uprising in Palestine

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There will be no peace for the Israeli Goliath in Gaza and the West Bank.

A million-and-a-half Palestinians have risen as one in the Occupied Territories to drive out the Israeli army and settlers. Daily, the banned Palestinian flag re-appears over barricades and at the head of unceasing demonstrations. Children with rocks battle armed troops and settlers; they are tear-gassed, beaten, tortured and shot-and return to fight with redoubled fury. Women fighting to protect their families are savaged by goon squads outside their homes, but rise from the blood and dust to harry the occupiers unmercifully.

Homes by the dozen are bulldozed with retaliatory ferocity as the Israeli “Iron Fist” attempts without success to quash the uprising. Food and medical supplies are cut off by the Israelis in an effort to starve out the insurgents, and still the insurgency grows.

Twenty-one years after Israel stormed into the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian resistance, never subdued and at white heat today, has again riveted world attention and outrage. Neighboring bourgeois Arab rulers tremble as the uprising threatens to spark their own restive populations. Already, Amman and Cairo have had to put down riots in support of the Palestinian upheaval.

The U.S. godfather of Israeli expansionism now offers nervous proposals to negotiate an end to the conflict before it can spread. Ominously for imperialism, U.S. and world Jewry is crying out against the Zionist atrocities.

Those atrocities, and the rebellion, will escalate. Israel was founded on the dispossession of the Palestinians. It was established to serve as imperialism’s watchdog against Arab revolution and the “Soviet threat” to Middle Eastern oil. Its existence is predicated on continued suppression of the Palestinians and aggression against its Arab neighbors.

The unprecedented upheaval. The spark of the current revolt was struck in Gaza on December 9 when a Palestinian died in an accident involving a truck driven by a Zionist settler. Rebellion in the Occupied Territories is not new: 3150 violent demonstrations occurred there between April 1986 and May 1987 alone. But the intensity, longevity, and scope of the latest upheaval is unprecedented.

The revolt grew swiftly from spontaneous outpourings of rage against soldier and settler brutality into a coordinated response with specific demands: freedom for all those imprisoned in the uprising, an end to the occupation and settlement, and self-determination for Palestine.

Leadership was and is provided by women’s organizations, youth groups, and labor unions. The Palestinian Working Women’s Committees in particular have provided health care, legal assistance, education, support for families whose breadwinners are imprisoned, and political and social survival skills.

Meanwhile, Palestinian workers living in the territories, who do most of the low-paid, menial work inside Israel, have called a series of successful general strikes that have strained the already tottering Israeli economy. The strikes are supported by Palestinians living in Israel, strengthening the revolt inside the oppressor state. Arabs and Jews have rallied together on the largest scale in Israel’s history. Huge contingents have echoed the demand for Palestinian self -determination.

The threat of alliance between Jewish and Palestinian workers terrifies the government; such cooperation would signal the downfall of the highly segregated and racist Zionist state.

The occupation army has swelled to 35,000, but shows signs of unraveling under the pressure of the rebellion and growing domestic opposition. Soldiers face a no-win situation and many are disturbed by orders to systematically beat and maim the rebels. The Yesh Gvul (There is a Limit) movement, begun during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, is once again organizing reservists to refuse army service in Gaza and the West Bank.

Who leads? The revolt has thrown up a new Palestinian leadership in the territories. The upheaval caught the PLO—whose top leadership is dispersed outside the territories from Syria to Morocco-off guard. And only in January did PLO leaders in Gaza and the West Bank begin to work with local leadership to coordinate demonstrations and strikes.

That month, the Unified National Leadership for the Uprising in the Occupied Territories emerged. Composed of representatives from three PLO factions, along with the Communist Party and Islamic fundamentalist groups, the committee has shaped the original outbreaks into a sustained and systematic program of demonstrations, civil disobedience, and economic disruption.

The committee represents the first formal cooperation between the PLO and the fundamentalists. The latter, ironically, have previously been financed by Israel to siphon support away from Palestinian nationalism and communism.

Fundamentalism is an essentially rightwing reaction against “western” ideologies, and a show down between the fundamentalists and PLO leftists is inevitable. But for now, in the face of Israeli depradations, the fundamentalists had to join the revolt or lose credibility with the Palestinian people.

The Unified Leadership works closely with the forces that initiated the uprising. “The most important thing,” says one leader, “is that we have enlisted local civic organizations like the boy scouts, women’s groups, and professional unions … This has given us an infrastructure in all the towns, villages, and camps, and at all levels of society.”

PLO committee members cooperate with top PLO leaders outside the territories, at least to some extent, but they do not take orders from them. The dynamics of the revolt, moreover, are an implicit challenge to the traditional leaders, especially Yasir Arafat. Dissatisfaction is widely reported to exist inside the territories over the various PLO factions’ ties to sellout capitalist Arab regimes, and over Arafat’s futile attempts to resolve the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict through backroom deals with Western imperialism.

Double-edged danger. It’s not clear what the sentiment is in the territories toward Arafat’s proposal to establish a Palestinian mini-state on the West Bank in exchange for the PLO’s recognition of Israel. Assuming that the U.S. would back the proposal and pressure Israel into accepting it, a mini-state with the PLO at its head would be an improvement over the current occupation of the territories and the dispersal of the Palestinians throughout the Middle East. A recognized government and territorial integrity would give the Palestinians new leverage to press for an end to their dependent status under Zionism.

But the proposal is double-edged and dangerous: it would also grant legitimacy to illegitimate Israel and create enormous new pressure on the fledgling government to accept a dependent status quo. A government under Arafat would likely acquiesce to the pressure. The new Palestinian state, economically in thrall to Israel and the capitalist West, and unarmed against Israeli aggression, would remain a cauldron of poverty and misery—and revolt.

Ultimately, self-determination requires the dismantling of the Zionist state and its replacement by a bilateral secular state in Palestine. This means a struggle for socialism, and escalating polarization between radicals and pro-capitalists in the Palestinian leadership .

Anti-Zionist Jews speak out. Israel’s Iron Fist policies have engendered an historic shift in world Jewish opinion of the Zionist state. Many Jews are realizing that much of their own proud history chronicles heroic resistance against the same atrocities the Israelis are meting out to the Palestinians. The upheaval is bringing many to realize what Jewish anti-Zionist radicals have always held-that Zionism is a death trap for Middle Eastern Jews and not the mythical haven from Czarist pogroms and fascism that drew many Western settlers. It is more possible for Jews, and non-Jews, to debate and criticize Israel free from the charges of anti-Semitism that obscure the fundamental issues.

Radical Jews are gaining a hearing and making the most of it. An example is a March 8 letter to the Jewish Transcript in Seattle by Marxist Henry Noble: “The height of Jewishkeit is not possession of a militarist state that suppresses another people, it is fighting against all oppression.” This fight is “necessary for our own survival; this is our great contribution to world culture.

“Israel as constituted today is not a salvation for the Jews, but its opposite. The Zionists will lose their lives and their homeland unless they quickly recognize that the only viable state is one shared equally by Arabs and Jews, that is socialist and free from the dictates of U.S. interests. American Jews have a deep obligation to ourselves and to our Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters to bring this about.”

Antiwar means anti-Zionism. Stalinist and pacifist U.S. antiwar leaders meanwhile refuse to make the Palestinian struggle a central concern of the antiwar movement. To do so, they say, would alienate those opponents of U.S. intervention in Central America who happen to be pro-Zionist. Also, anti-interventionists supposedly wouldn’t understand the joining of the two issues.

These leaders advocate “education” on the Middle Eastern issue, off to the side somewhere, presumably in a way that won’t offend Zionist sensibilities. What all this nonsense boils down to is that, while the fight against U.S. warmongering in Central America is popular, public opinion is still divided on Zionism- and antiwar leaders don’t want to risk losing popular influence by taking a principled stand against Israel. And they are most concerned with retaining the favor of pro-Zionist congressional liberals and labor bureaucrats, who are seen by the antiwar activists-incredibly-as leading the fight against U.S. intervention in Central America.

What contempt the Stalinists have for the ability of the antiwar rank and file to grasp the issues and end the war drive! Moreover, it is the Stalinists who do not get the point: in refusing to admit that the Middle Eastern and Central American conflicts are equally the products of capitalism’s drive for profits and political control, they obstruct the antiwar movement from understanding and dealing effectively with either of them.

Top of the agenda. The Palestinian upheaval, now in its sixth month, is a number-one priority for the antiwar movement, which must begin to educate in its ranks on the relation of the revolt to the Central American insurgency. This change of course will lead to a break with the Stalinist and Democratic misleaders. The sooner the better; a break will clear the way for the anti-capitalist antiwar actions required to end both Zionist and U.S. atrocities.

The antiwar movement should begin now to demand an immediate end to U.S. aid to Israel and complete U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Israeli Jews face a choice: support for their government’s genocidal policies or solidarity with the Palestinian revolt. The first course means death for the Israelis and many Palestinians; the second will help bring about safety and cooperative equality for Arabs and Jews alike in a secular, socialist Palestine.

• • •

Washington, D.C.

In seven years, more than 100 of President Reagan’s appointees have been accused of illegal or unethical conduct: six have been found guilty, scores have been forced from office, and more criminal indictments are expected.

Manila, Philippines

President Aquino wants to impose a limited state of emergency to allow the military to arrest suspected rebels and hold them indefinitely without trial.

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