Israeli violence provokes new Palestinian Intifada: Which way forward for Arabs and Jews?

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Said one of the wounded, “They can shoot us from the sky or from the ground, we don’t care. We are defending our Palestinian rights.”

On September 28, 2000, Israeli provocation, coming on top of broken treaties and sellout summits, incited a renewal of the Palestinian Intifada (uprising) of 1987. The Israelis retaliated against rocks and rifles with rockets and missiles, outraging much of the world. The conflict not only holds life and death consequences for the people of Palestine and Israel, but is likely to spark rebellion and civil war throughout the Middle East.

Roots of Palestinian war for independence. Nearly four million Palestinians have been made refugees. Seventy-eight percent of their land was stolen in 1948 to establish Israel, and Israeli military forces have occupied even more territory since then. Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank have fiercely resisted the Israeli army for generations, as have refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Israel wants them to just disappear. The Israeli state was founded on the ideology of Zionism, which holds that Palestine, or Zion, is the homeland of Jews only. Nearly all the land in Israel is restricted, by law, to Jewish ownership.

Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinians and its role in the region as partner in imperialist crime with the U.S., however, guarantee that it will continue to face fervent hostility both from Palestinians and from neighboring Arab countries. In short, Israel is a death trap for its own Jewish citizens.

What road to a just resolution? Raya Fidel, Ph.D., is a Jewish feminist and activist born and raised in Israel and now a university professor of library science in the U.S. She sees three possible routes ahead.
One is the revival of negotiations for a settlement based on the 1993 Oslo Accords. Another is the establishment of two separate states: an independent Palestine, consisting of Gaza and the West Bank; and Israel, with borders based on those in existence before its expansion after 1967. The third is the forging of one secular, democratic, socialist state that would be run by Palestinians and Jews as equals.

Oslo: the “peace agreement” that wasn’t. The Intifada for self-determination begun in 1987 was sparked by women and youth of the West Bank and Gaza and sustained by grassroots organizing over several years. The 1993 Oslo Accords were a product of that heroic revolt, which forced Israel to negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization and secured a promise of U.S. economic aid to Palestine.

But the accords are a dead end nonetheless.

Nizar Mansour is a Palestinian born in Bethlehem, where he was beaten and jailed by the Israeli government for his political activities. As a co-speaker with Raya Fidel at a Seattle campus in November, he put it this way: “An agreement can only be reached between equals. How can any people ‘agree’ to self-destruction?”
Under Oslo, Palestinians would have limited control over pieces of territory scattered among Israeli vigilante settlements. Israel would control the infrastructure, thwarting economic development. This scenario, as Fidel pointed out, is all too reminiscent of the apartheid “solution” in South Africa.

Brokered by the U.S. and conducted in secret, Oslo was an attempt to “stabilize” the area and make it safe for the neoliberal agenda of privatization, open markets, etc. It has now been repudiated in blood by the new Intifada – just as the World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund have been rejected by massive street protests from Seattle to Prague.

This spells big trouble for rulers in the Middle East who have capitulated to the WTO and IMF, setting the stage for rebellion in their own countries.

Why was the U.S. so eager to stage-manage this hollow peace process? To prevent revolution in the region and keep it safe for big business, above all the oil companies. Those in power do not care about the rights of Palestinians, any more than they cared about desperate Jews turned away at U.S. borders in their flight from Nazi Germany 60 years ago.

Two states: a fragile solution. The two-state scenario would mean creating alongside Israel a separate, acknowledged Palestine based on the borders existing prior to the 1967 war. This entity would be helmed by Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority, already discredited by its lack of democracy, corrupt use of funds, and collaboration with the CIA and repressive Arab regimes.

The state that would result – a small, impoverished, fledgling Palestine overshadowed by a well-armed, hostile, and economically dominant Israel, backed by the U.S. – would be independent in name only and have no chance of lasting success.

Some believe that the United Nations could help to guarantee its survival. But the UN, dominated by the U.S. and its cohorts in global bullying, has failed to resolve Palestinian grievances for five decades.

Yet Palestinians have a legitimate right to demand recognition of a separate state, and it would be a moralizing step forward.

But for this to be viable even for a time, Palestinian refugees must be free to return to their homeland. And the rights of Palestinians in Israel, after decades of economic discrimination, racism and police brutality against them, must be guaranteed.

To achieve this, Jewish radicals, feminists, and progressive workers in Israel will need to mobilize against rising rightwing fundamentalism, and do so shoulder to shoulder with Arab Israelis and immigrant workers from Asia and Africa. They can build on the efforts of student activists and Arab and Jewish women who are already protesting the religious right.

In the Intifada, secular, Christian, and non-fundamentalist Muslim fighters, among them many leftists, outnumber Islamic reactionaries. But the anticommunist, anti-Semitic, misogynist and antidemocratic agendas of fundamentalist groups like Hamas and Jihad need to be strongly challenged. The rights of women, who are the most abused under any theocracy, must be upheld.

Socialism: the only practical way out. The only comprehensive solution is for both peoples to live together in one secular, democratic country with a collectivized, nonprofit economy.
This would solve the refugee question because there would be no borders separating Palestinians and Jews. It would resolve the issue of the rights of Palestinian Israelis because all members of the society would be equal under the law. And it would contribute to dissolving religious fundamentalism by making everyone free to practice any religion, or none.

Some people think this is an unrealistic dream. Actually, it’s the only reasonable answer to the problem. The lives and economies of Palestinians and Jews are linked through history and current everyday life. Their future lies not in segregation, but workingclass integration.

Toward that goal, we in the U.S. can help by pressing the following demands:

• Stop the slaughter of Palestinians!
• U.S. and CIA out of the Mideast – end U.S. aid to Israel!
• Withdrawal now of Israeli troops and settlers from the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights!
• Right of Return and reparations for refugees!
• End government harassment against Middle Eastern activists in the U.S.!

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