Article from Black Flag #220 (2001) on the bankruptcy of Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
On 28 September Ariel Sharon, a man described by Noam Chomsky as "the very symbol of Israeli state terror and aggression, with a rich record of atrocities going back to 1953" visited the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City, with a 1000 strong police escort. Sharon, leader of the right-wing Likud Party, and the man responsible for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the siege of Beirut and overseer of the 1982 Phalangist massacre of Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, had come to visit Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem as a deliberate provocation to Palestinian claims to sovereignty.
On 29 September Israeli Border Police killed 7 Palestinians protesting Sharon's visit. On 30 September Israeli armed forces, in full view of the world media, killed 12 year old Mohammed Al-Dorra, as he and his father attempted to shelter from the gunfire. Mohammed was deliberately targeted by the Israelis, who also killed an ambulance-man who tried to come to his aid. Anger at yet further proof of Israeli contempt for the Palestinian people led in part to the uprising which has come to be called the "Al-Aqsa intifada”. The root cause though is Palestinian disgust at the betrayals engineered by Yaser Arafat in pursuit of the "peace process" charade.
"Peace" with Israel has meant the further expansion of Israeli settlement on Palestinian land. There are 13,000 settlement units currently under construction and 42 hilltop settlements have been established in the West Bank since 1998. The September 1993 Oslo Accords were designed to do no more than establish a Palestinian Authority to police bantustans on the West Bank, while allowing Israel continued control of security, border controls and water. At Oslo, Arafat sold out Palestinian claims to statehood for the fiction of "independence" and the chance to get rich at the expense of his own people.
As Edward Said has observed,
"Far from ending, the Israeli occupation was simply repackaged, and what emerged in the West Bank was about seven discontinuous Palestinian islands amounting to 3 per cent of the land, surrounded and punctuated by Israeli-controlled territory." (The End of the Peace Process, Granta 2000)
For the majority of Palestinians, the betrayal called "peace" has seen the conditions of daily life worsen, with GOP halved and unemployment rising. Arafat refuses to implement any form of constitution for the territories now overseen by the Palestinian Authority. As Said notes, Arafat has
"led his people astray with phoney promises and maintained a battery of corrupt officials holding down commercial monopolies ever as they negotiate incompetently and weakly on his behalf. Sixty percent of the public budget is disbursed by Arafat to bureaucracy and security, only two percent to the infrastructure. Three years ago, his own accountants admitted to an annual $400 million in disappeared funds. His international patrons accept this in the name of the "peace process", certainly the most hated phrase in the Palestinian lexicon today." (The End Of Oslo-Al-Abram 12-18 October 2000)
If the new Intifada is a determined revolt against continued Zionist oppression, it is also a rebellion against Arafat's continued betrayals.
It is increasingly clear that the revolt was anticipated by Israeli President Ehud Barak when he sanctioned Sharon's visit to Jerusalem. Barak requires a "national emergency" to stay in office, and as the continued pressure on Arafat by the US makes clear, intends to bomb the Palestinian leadership into acceptance of the proposals first advanced by Israel at the July Camp David Summit, which saw the refusal of Arafat's demand for Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem. As Marwan Barghouti, one of the leaders of the new Intifada, makes clear
"The Israeli offer at Camp David did not mean more than the redeployment of the Israeli occupation forces in our occupied territories."
Israel intends to resort to the "iron fist" to secure what was no longer available to it through negotiations alone, Barak, of course, knows all about the use of lethal force to secure a political objective. It was Barak who was Chief-of-Staff of the Israeli Defence Force in 1993 when the Palestiians were bludgeoned into accepting the terms and conditions of the Oslo accords, Nothing goes more to show the supinity of the Israeli left than their continued supp-ort for Barak's Labour Party as a "lesser evil' while Barak presides over "a genocide in slow motion", turning a blind eye to his courting of Likud and the ultra-orthodox Shas movement as he manoeuvres to stay in office. Since September 28 over 200 Palestinians have been killed, with 7500 seriously injured. Almost all of the victims died from gunshot wounds to the upper half of the body, inflicted by Israeli sharp-shooters operating a shoot-to-kill policy against unarmed Palestinians. In the week to 8th November, 25 children were killed by the IDF. A visiting British doctor, David Leighton, condemned IDF actions as a "malicious genocide against children," It is clear also that Barak has given the go-ahead for operations by Shin Bet (Israeli internal security) death squads, with Barak warning of "new tactics" and the use of "guerrilla warfare units". lDF helicopters have fired missiles at Fatah offices in Ramallah and Nablus. On 9 November the leading Fatah militant Hussein Abayat was murdered in a helicopter attack in Bethlehem.
Predictably, the Western media has concerned itself primarily with condemnation of “Palestinian violence", following the line dished out by the US, which moved in the House of Representatives to pass a resolution condemning the Palestinian leadership for "encouraging the use of violence against Israel'', while selling the Israeli air force 35 Blackhawk helicopters worth $525 million, along with an undisclosed number of Apache attack helicopters, (Ha'aretz, 3 October 2000). The media has given more coverage to the killing of the two Israeli soldiers by Palestinians at a police station in Ramallah on October 12 than to any of the Palestinian victims of violence. Needless to say it failed to acknowledge that the soldiers "who had lost their way" belonged to a group of undercover soldiers all dressed as Arabs, travelling in a car and a hijacked Red Crescent ambulance, and carrying large quantities of guns and explosives, in close proximity to a Palestinian funeral procession, and more than likely members of the Musta'arbin (Shin Bet death squad members who operate disguised as Palestinians.) Nor did the media bother to report that when eight intifada militants claimed to be responsible for the soldiers' deaths were handed over to the Israelis in an operation carried out with the collusion of the Palestinian security forces, one of them was killed almost immediately he was detained by the Israelis.
In its refusal of the post-Oslo charade and its opposition to the Arafat leadership, the Al-Aqsa intifada represents the best hope of the Palestinian people. There have been challenges before to Arafat's corrupt machinations (for example in November 1999, 20 prominent West Bank and Gaza Palestinians signed a petition condemning the PA's corruption, leading to a crackdown by Arafat and thousands demonstrating on the streets in support) but the intifada is the first time a new generation of militants has revealed its hand. One of the most remarkable developments has been the operational unity between Fatah militants and their counterparts in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a marked difference from the earlier uprising, when the Islamic groups fought separately to the PLO, and were manoeuvred into sectarian attacks on PLO militants. Moreover, Fatah militants have moved to establish a militia outside PA control, In the first wave of helicopter attacks following the 29 September protests, Arafat was prepared to abandon Lamas and Jihad militants in PA jails which he knew in advance would come under Israeli fire. It was Fatah militants on the ground who set them free. The sudden manifestation of Palestinian defiance has been mirrored by solidarity demonstrations across the region, with mass protests in Amman, Damascus and Lebanon, and a wave of militant student protests in Egypt.
The threat of unrest across the Middle East led to the Arab summit on 21 and 22 October, with the Arab leaders attempting to shore up Arafat with the promise of $1 billion to support his leadership in its attempts to use the intifada as a means of upping the ante in negotiations with Barak. As the militant Islamic newspaper Crescent International made clear
"The one action the Arab rulers could have taken which might have produced results was to announce a cut in oil production, perhaps one million barrels a day for every Palestinian killed, until the Zionists stop their murderous attacks. But Arab oil producers, led by Saudi Arabia had already ruled this out, as they cannot afford to antagonise Uncle Sam, by whose pleasure they remain in power." (Crescent International, 1-15 November 2000)
The Fatah militant Marwan Barghouti has stated that "the intifada has proved to Israel that we are not slaves to the negotiating table." If the intifada is to succeed in realising its aims it needs to be clear about both its goals and how they are to be achieved. Edward Said has stated, rightly, that an alternative peace plan must be based around the demands
"No return to the Oslo framework; no compromise on the original UN resolutions (242,33B and 194); mandating the Madrid Conference in 1991; removal of all settlements and military roads; evacuation of all territories annexed or occupied in 1967; boycott of Israeli goods and services. A new sense maybe dawning that only a mass-movement against Israeli apartheid must work." (AT-Ahrarri, October 2000)
Such a mass movement must be forged under the real control of the people of the West Bank and Gaza, not ceded to the Fatah leadership as a means to strengthen its hard at the negotiating table. The self-determination of the Palestinian people will only be secured through the defeat not just of Barak, but Arafat and the Arab ruling class across the region.
The intifada can only win if it becomes a revolt against both Israel and the Arab rulers who have failed to challenge its supremacy for so long.