The Red Menace analyse the first Palestinian intifada.
Despite its position as a local superpower with one of the best-trained and best-equipped armies In the world, the State of Israel has been rocked by a major movement of resistance for nearly two years. Shamir’s cabinet might be able to kidnap Koran-pusher Sheikh Obeid, but it has been incapable of crushing the intifada. Although the rulers of Israel could in the future use far more force than they have done already, and would not balk, for example, at using chemical weapons on Nablus as Iraq did on Halabjah last year, they and their counterparts in all the countries seeking representation at a future "peace conference" can only dream of discovering a final solution to the ‘proletarian problem’.
Ever since the second world war the Great Powers have called for the institutionalisation of apartheid in Palestine. Once the idea of a "land without people for a people without land" had been generally accepted as bullshit, separate development for Jews and Arabs became official UN policy in 1947. Borders changed, a minority of Arabs became Israeli citizens, expropriations continued and diplomatic policies altered, but the basic principle was restated by UN Resolution 242 in 1967 and by the 3 parties to the Camp David accords in 1978. Last year even the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) dropped its demands for a non-racial capitalist State of "all Palestinians" (i.e. including Jews) and theatrically declared the independence of a Palestinian "Arab State… in the name of God".
Although Israel has never recognised eventual Palestinian sovereignty over anything, there is a clear feeling among some factions of the Israeli ruling class that maybe, just maybe, the PLO might be able to ensure social peace in the occupied territories, and it might be worth making a few concessions to help them do it. There has been talk of releasing hundreds of "PLO activists" from jail if Arafat promises to "call off the intifada". But in reality any kind of short-term "solution" will run into problems for numerous reasons:
A) The Intifada has its own logic, through the cycle of resistance and repression, not controllable by the PLO or anyone else. For example, in Belt Sakour on the West Bank last year, the repression of a campaign of "victory gardens" designed to free the town from dependence on the occupation authorities led to a stepping up of the struggle, first through the withholding of all tax, then the handing in of ID cards. The Palestinian insurgents could certainly teach us a thing or two about how to oppose the poll tax- on 14th August a tax collector’s car was petrol bombed on the West Bank.
B) The Intifada has strengthened the movement of Palestinians within pre-1967 Israel. For instance, on "Land Day" in March (the annual protest against the expropriation of Arab land), they staged a one-day general strike. The interests of the 700,000 Israeli Palestinians (17% of the Israeli population) are ignored by the "two-State solution". In fact the creation of a Palestinian State or semi-State would probably be used as an excuse to expel these Israeli Arabs, either directiy or through harassment.
C) We cannot forget the Palestinians in exile throughout the Middle East, western Europe and the US. In West Germany 70,000 are faced with the threat of deportation. In Jordan and the Lebanon (particularly in the rebellious Arkoub region), Palestinian proletarlans are showing that they have interests wherever they are, not just in the area called Palestine. A "State of all the Arab Palestinians" is as much of a bourgeois pipe-dream as the Zionist nonsense of a homeland for all Jews.
D) The Intifada is accentuating the divisions within Israel. First, there has been increasing direct resistance to repression of the Intifada. Hundreds of army reservists have refused to serve in the occupied territories, and some in the mass detention camps as well, supported by their organisation Yesh Gvul -"There is a limit" or "There is a border" (P0 Box 6953, Jerusalem 91068). This group was originally formed In 1982 by those refusing to do military service In the Lebanon. Today Yesh Gvul refuseniks pledge: "We shall refuse to take part in suppressing the uprising and insurrection in the occupied territories." Pressure on Yesh Gvul activists has been recently intensified with some facing charges of ‘incitement to mutiny’. Meanwhile a smaller, but growing organisation has been set up by those completely refusing military service.
Those serving have also increasingly protested, both against the extended length of reserve service, and against the situation they have been put in by the politicians. In January there was a meeting between Shamir and some reservists serving in Nablus, broadcast on Israeli TV, in which one soldier, expressing the thoughts of many, complained that "to create order In the Casbah we have to brutalise innocents, to make them fear us (...). In the street I catch a man who has a worker’s hands like me, and I have to beat him (...). An oppressive rule cannot be enforced without oppression."
Class divisions among Jews have been showing through even in the supposedly communal kibbutzim. At Kadarim, workers managed to stop management’s plans to produce rubber bullets for the suppression of the lntifada, while at K’ramim members of a kibbutz protested at the bureaucrats’ public condemnation of three of their number caught painting slogans in support of the intifada.
Some Jewish protesters have themselves come up against State repression. Earlier in the year police fired tear gas when members of Dai la Kibush (Enough Occupation) mingled with Palestinians visiting relatives at Megiddo prison in northern Israel. A petrol bomb was thrown at a police vehicle.
Meanwhile, groups of Israeli Jews are increasingly visiting the occupied territories, to help rebuild houses demolished by the army, to join protests, or just to show support. In Tel Aviv University, students have organised a sit-in against the forcible segregation of Jewish and Arab students, while at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, students have invited Arab students to join them from universities closed by the authorities on the West Bank.
Most Jewish support for the intifada is still couched In terms of nationalism and the "two-State solution", but it is nonetheless true that more and more Jews throughout the world are dissociating themselves from the policies of the Israeli State, and even from Zionism itself.
E) The intifada is causing major problems for the Israeli economy:
- The conflict is costly, both in direct terms and in terms of production lost through call-up. The cost of detention centres in the occupied territories alone amounted to 100m shekels (£33m) by April.
- After a mere seven months of trouble, tax revenues from the occupied territories had fallen by 40% due to resistance.
- Tourism, officially Israel’s main export industry (although who can tell the real profit made from foreign trade in weapons, security and military advice?), has been hit hard. Fewer holiday-makers want to go to a country whose violence is broadcast across the world. Nowadays even hotel-owners are calling for a "peaceful political solution".
- Strikes by Palestinian workers and the current blockade of Gaza have cut off an important supply of cheap labour to small industry and the building trade.
Order and the profit-rate are thus being undermined by a movement that is wider than simply a "Palestinian Intifada", a movement impelled by both Arabs and a significant minority of Jews. As the economy deteriorates, all participants in this movement are likely to come under heavier attack one way or another in the last month for instance the maximum period of detention without trial has been doubled to one year). It is practical unity in resistance to this attack, and in offensives against both the Jewish State and the Palestinian Statist wanna-bes, that can erode the apartheid system that is part of the material basis of local Zionism and anti-Semitism. A democratic negotiated solution would in itself be a defeat for the resistance because it would reinforce apartheid by imprisoning Jews and Arabs within separate States. Given the economic crisis this would lead to an exacerbation of the bad side of recent developments in the region, such as the growth of Islamic fundamentalism (and its corollary, the "socialism of imbeciles", namely anti-Semitism) and the rise of Jewish fascism, which on the West Bank is already spreading from religious fruitcakes to infect the yuppies. Rabbi Kahane’s Kach (‘Thus") party already advocates the expulsion of Arabs from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.[/]
The sum total of what we are saying is that the proletariat must destroy the "peaceful democratic solution" before the fascists do.
The Red Menace, Number Four, September/October 1989. Taken from the Practical History website.