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Israeli troops inflict 'collective punishment' on Palestinians
THE GAZA strip is again suffering a brutal Israeli army onslaught. Vital bridges have been blown up and Gaza's only power station hit by nine missiles, which cut electricity supply to 65% of Gaza. As well as these attacks from the sea and air, Gaza was completely sealed off by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and Israeli troops have moved back into the strip. Israeli forces also imprisoned 64 Hamas activists and ministers.
This was the Israeli government's initial response to Palestinian militias taking prisoner an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, which in turn was a reaction to the IDF killing many Palestinians in recent weeks.
Thousands of IDF missiles have bombarded the Gaza strip during the last few months. Targeted assassinations of militia leaders are being carried out and many civilians are dying as well, unable to escape shells raining down on such a densely populated strip of land.
The escalation of the Israel-Palestine conflict following the capture of Gilad Shalit may recede if a deal is struck, or could intensify considerably without one.
His captors are demanding the release of around 1,000 Palestinian women, children and 'humanitarian cases' from Israeli jails, out of 8,000 imprisoned Palestinians. Whatever the outcome, the situation is a strong reminder of the extreme instability of the region. With none of the Palestinians' problems resolved, and with their plight worsening, the danger constantly exists of a spiralling into an all-out war involving the surrounding Arab countries.
Palestinians in the occupied territories also continue to endure an economic blockade by Israel and the world capitalist powers, ever since they elected Hamas to government in a landslide victory in January 2006. This has caused massively increased poverty, malnutrition and unemployment. Illustrating the humanitarian crisis, the World Food Programme recently said that many Palestinians are now living on only one meal a day.
THE CRISIS in Gaza has served to overshadow the conflict between Hamas and Fatah over political control of the Palestinian people.
In an attempt to quell infighting between Fatah and Hamas militias but also to undermine Hamas and regain some initiative, PA president, Fatah's Mahmood Abbas, supported an 18-point proposal drawn up by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. He has threatened to hold a referendum on 26 July if the Hamas government does not sign up it. Hamas has not yet given a full verdict, but has acquiesced to the part calling for a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, giving implicit recognition to Israel while not stating it explicitly.
The proposal also calls for a power-sharing government involving both Fatah and Hamas.
Hamas is hesitating in its response, because it is internally divided, and compromise with Fatah could lead to a split. And whether Hamas survives in government long enough to be party to a new power-sharing PA is not certain, faced as it is with international sanctions and the military might of the Israeli regime.
However, the removal of Hamas from government by US or Israeli capitalism, as well as multiplying the anger of the Palestinians and their support for Hamas, would increase outrage worldwide, particularly among the Arab masses.
No capitalist solutions
NEITHER HAMAS nor the pro-Western Fatah can show a way forward. A capitalist Palestinian state, whether Islamic or secular, would not solve the Palestinians' economic problems. But neither party have a strategy that can deliver a Palestinian state against the massively armed opposition of the Israeli ruling class.
Only the building of a democratic, anti-capitalist, mass movement of Palestinian workers will be able to organise successful work for both defence and the furthering of the Palestinian struggle. And alongside the Palestinian struggle, the Israeli working class also needs to build a new movement and party that can represent its own interests and challenge the capitalist system.
The Israeli capitalist parties cannot offer security, or bring decent living standards to Israeli workers. On the contrary, there have been waves of attacks on the welfare state and secure jobs by successive governments in pursuit of a neo-liberal agenda.
A determined struggle against capitalism will raise consciousness of the need for a socialist alternative in both Israel and in a Palestinian state alongside it, which will be the only basis on which the conflict and bloodshed can be ended once and for all and decent living standards provided for everyone.
The full version of this article can be read on the website: www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 6 July 2006:
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