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Resisting Israel's history of terrorism and repression
The struggle for Palestine

September 14, 2001 | Page 10

AS THE new Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, reaches its one-year anniversary, international condemnation of the Palestinians has only mounted.

No matter what Israel does--assassinating Palestinian leaders, demolishing Palestinian homes, using live ammunition on children, or subjecting whole cities to starvation sieges--the U.S. continues to blame Palestinians for "violence" and "terrorism" in the Middle East.

Yet as LANCE SELFA shows, the entire history of Israel has been a history of terrorism and repression carried out against the Palestinian people.

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AS IT unleashes savage military violence against Palestinian civilians, the Israeli government--and its echo chamber in the White House--regularly denounces Palestinian "terrorism." They never stop to ask why young Palestinian men feel so desperate that they are willing to kill themselves in suicide bombings to strike back at Israel.

Yet even by the upside-down logic of the mainstream media, Palestinian violence can't come anywhere close to that of Israel. Between 1967 and 1982, official Israeli sources could establish only 282 Israeli deaths from Palestinian attacks. Compare that to the record of current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Sharon launched his career in the early 1950s, leading an officially sanctioned terrorist squad that raided Jordanian and Egyptian towns on the borders of Israel. In just one 1953 assault on the Jordanian village of Qibya, Sharon's Unit 101 killed 69 civilians.

In 1982, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon that killed more than 15,000 people in its first six weeks, Sharon collaborated with right-wing Lebanese militias in their massacre of more than 2,000 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

Even in today's al-Aqsa Intifada, the number of Palestinians killed outnumbers Israelis by four to one.

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FOR MOST of the last 2,000 years, the majority Arab and minority Jewish population of Palestine lived in relative harmony. That changed in the early 1900s with the rise of the Zionist movement, formed in Europe.

The Zionists claimed Palestine as a Jewish homeland, even though the majority of the world's Jews lived in Eastern Europe.

The movement's founder, Austrian journalist Theodore Herzl, said it was futile to oppose anti-Semitism. Instead, he argued, Jews should leave Europe and form a "Jewish state" somewhere else.

The early Zionist movement didn't necessarily have its eye on Palestine. It considered several locations, from Uganda to Argentina--giving the lie to the idea that all Jews view Jerusalem as their "eternal capital."

Zionist colonizing efforts would have failed if they hadn't received the backing of major European powers. In 1917, the British government announced its "Balfour Declaration," siding with Zionist plans to build a Jewish state in Palestine.

But the British weren't interested in helping Jews. Lord Balfour himself was a raving anti-Semite. They were interested in establishing a pro-Western foothold in the oil-rich Middle East.

After the Second World War, the U.S. displaced Britain as the main imperial force in the Middle East. The United Nations (UN)--where the U.S. was the main powerbroker--endorsed the Zionists' plan for a Jewish state in Palestine.

A 1947 resolution partitioned Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with the numerically smaller population of Jewish settlers getting 55 percent of the area. Within weeks after the partition plan passed, Zionist militias began a campaign of ethnic cleansing to drive almost 1 million Palestinians from their homes. At the end of it, the Zionists had seized most of the territory that the UN had given to the Arab state.

The state of Israel was founded on the expulsion of Palestinians--and depends on their continued subjugation to this day.

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THE QUESTION of Palestine has been the chief source of "instability" in the Middle East since 1948. Israel has been the main cause of most of the major wars in the region.

In 1967, it seized the West Bank, Gaza, Syria's Golan Heights and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula--bringing more than 1 million Palestinians under direct Israeli military rule.

Every country in the world, including the U.S., endorsed UN Resolutions 242 and 338, calling for Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories. But for 20 years, the Israeli military continued to rule the territories with an iron fist.

Then in 1987, the mass Palestinian uprising--the Intifada--challenged the Israelis.

The cost of suppressing the uprising with "force, might and beatings," as then-Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin put it, continued to mount. Israel started looking for a way to repackage the occupation--and thought it found a way in 1993, when it signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The "peace process" under Oslo wasn't about peace. It was about getting the Palestinians to "voluntarily" surrender their rights to return to their homes and have their capital in Jerusalem in exchange for a "state" in parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) set up under the Oslo Accords is no more a "state" than U.S. Indian reservations are. Its only real role is to guarantee "security." In other words, the PA began acting as Israel's subcontractor in repressing the Palestinians.

But Israel didn't even keep up its end of this rotten bargain. Israeli settlements grew by more than 200,000 between 1993 and 2000, and the government made only token "redeployments" of its military forces.

Today, Israel's apartheid is clear for anyone to see. Israel maintains a modern "Israeli-only" highway system in the territories, slicing through the land that the PA supposedly controls.

Meanwhile, Palestinians have to negotiate dozens of Israeli checkpoints on pothole-filled roads. And Israeli troops and fanatical right-wing settlers keep up a reign of terror.

Under conditions like these, it was only a matter of time before Palestinians rebelled. With his brazen invasion of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem last September, Sharon--with more than 1,000 armed guards in tow--lit the fuse of a new Intifada.

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THROUGHOUT THE decades of Israeli repression, Palestinians have always found ways to resist. In the 1960s, thousands of activists inspired by the guerrilla struggles of the Cuban, Algerian and Vietnamese Revolutions joined the PLO to fight for a free Palestine. Activists like Abu Ali Mustafa, who the Israeli military assassinated last month, organized among Palestinians in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon to take up arms.

Ali Mustafa and his comrades in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) criticized the regimes of Jordan's King Hussein and Egypt's Anwar Sadat--Arab leaders who supported the Palestinians in word, but opposed them in deed.

But the main force inside the PLO, Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, supported "non-engagement" in the affairs of other Arab states. The disastrous impact of this policy was felt in 1970, when a Palestinian uprising in Jordan against King Hussein was brutally crushed.

The PFLP's criticism of Hussein was on target. Unfortunately, the group took a more uncritical view of so-called "progressive" Arab regimes aligned with the USSR during the Cold War.

The PLO relocated to Lebanon, where it became embroiled in the Lebanese civil war--in which the supposedly "progressive" Syrian regime of Hafez Assad allied with the Lebanese right wing against the Palestinians. After being betrayed by one Arab state after another and the collapse of Oslo, the Palestinian left is looking for new strategies to win the goal for which Ali Mustafa gave his life--a secular, democratic state in all of historic Palestine.

Activists in the U.S. can support this struggle with our fight to force the U.S. to end aid for Israel's apartheid.

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"We will continue the fight for justice"

Here, we print excerpts from a message of condolence sent by the International Socialist Organization to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, following Israel's assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa.

To all comrades and friends,

On behalf of the members of the International Socialist Organization, we would like to extend our condolences to all the fighters in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in particular, and to the Palestinian people in general, for the loss of comrade Abu Ali Mustafa.

Once again, the state of Israel used its terrorist assassination tactics to try to silence the voices of brave Palestinian fighters who won't bow to Israel or its Washington backers.

This time, Israel has deprived us of a comrade who spent over 40 years struggling for the liberation of Palestine and social justice in the Arab world.

Today, we mourn our fallen comrade Abu Ali Mustafa and all the men, women and children in Palestine who lost their lives fighting for liberation. But we also remember the words of Joe Hill, an American trade unionist and socialist fighter, who was unjustly executed by the U.S. government for the "crime" of fighting for social justice.

On the eve of his execution, Hill urged his friends not to weep over his death. Instead, he demanded of them: "Don't mourn. Organize."

As all the comrades in the PFLP and all progressive organizations in Palestine continue the fight for justice, we pledge that we here, in the belly of the beast, will do the same. Free Palestine!

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