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Crumbs from Sharon’s table - the withdrawal form Gaza

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The Gaza pull out of Israeli citizens and the dismantling of four settlements in the West Bank has been hailed as a victory for the Palestinians by many Middle East commentators. Even Hamas said it was a step forward. But the facts behind the recent events in Gaza paint a darker picture for the future of the Palestinians.

The sight of unarmed Israeli soldiers crying as they removed Zionist fanatics from their homes was beamed across the world, designed to show that Israel was making the most sacrifices. The hypocrisy of the soldiers who shed tears as they dismantle the illegal settlements is evidence of the inherent racism of the Israeli state and its forces. No soldiers cry when Palestinians are shot by the IDF or when Palestinian homes are demolished by Caterpillar-built armoured JCBs.

So why is Israel finally leaving the Gaza strip? The disengagement plan represents a change in policy of sections of the Israeli ruling class. The well organised and militant Hamas led guerrilla movement in the Gaza strip and the cost of maintaining control of the area for so little gain meant that a withdrawal of settlers is, in the long term, a political manoeuvre that could reap huge rewards. In exchange for pulling out 9,000 Zionist settlers in the Gaza strip the Israeli state can proceed to expand and consolidate the massive settlement programme in the West Bank, a place with far more resources and of greater strategical importance.

But Sharon’s strategy has irked many hard-line Zionists in Israel and in the Knesset, especially in his own party Likud. Binyamin Netanyahu has thrown his hat into the ring to fight Sharon for the leadership. Based on current election polls he is much less popular than Sharon, but among Likud party activists he leads by a considerable margin. Both he and Sharon will play to the right now, Netanyahu because he hopes to win the support of Likud and expose the “sell out” that Sharon has engineered, and Sharon because he hopes to regain the confidence of the rank and file. Netanyahu represents the hard-line Zionist tendency that does not want to give an inch of ground to the Arabs, and is willing to bring down the government that it sees as discredited with compromise. Sharon will have to show incredible nerve in order not to flinch, but he will more than make up for any loss of support in Gaza by a brutal repressive policy in the West Bank. Sharon, not usually a man associated with pro Palestinian feelings or motives, is willing to see the long-term strategy, to give the crumbs from the table of a handful of dismantled settlements.

But in exchange for what? His adviser Dov Weisglass said: “The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians”. In other words the Zionists want to preserve the existing set-up and avoid having to negotiate the questions that really matter such as free movement between the Gaza strip and the West Bank, the return status of millions of Palestinian refugees around the region and so on. An article in the International Herald Tribune in 2004 points out that “Gaza will remain dependent on Israel for water, sewerage, electricity, telephone access, trade and currency, which will remain the Israeli shekel.”

The Israeli military will also have full control over any goods and people that go in and out of the Gaza strip, further confirming who holds the reigns of power even in the “liberated” areas of Palestine. Only a few months ago the IDF was demolishing thousands of Palestinian homes along the border with Egypt in order to create a buffer zone and prevent significant economic of social ties with Egypt from being developed by the Arabs in Gaza. Many of the Israelis moved from the Gaza strip will be placed in areas like Negev, where they will most likely displace the local Arab Israelis, helping to deal with the thorny internal problem Israeli faces of a growing non-Jewish electorate.

The shape of a future Palestine is now becoming clearer. The Zionists have effectively created an open-air prison in the Gaza strip. They maintain control of air, sea and land borders, there is no freedom for Palestinians to leave the Gaza strip and travel to the west bank. The West Bank wall will be completed, the settlements greatly expanded, some of them so much that they will create a massive corridor linking Jerusalem to the occupied west bank. These will effectively mean the ends of Palestinian hopes that Jerusalem will be their capital in a two state solution. The limits of the two-state solution can be seen by the entire world. The Israeli state will not give up its military domination over the Palestinians nor will it all them anything bearing the resemblance of a state. The Israeli state is the biggest barrier to peace in the region and it must be smashed. Real freedom is never given it is taken, and the Palestinian resistance and national liberation movement must not be blinded by these supposed victories.

The premiership of Mahmoud Abbas represents the ascension of a conservative and conciliationist wing of the PLO. Arafat at least talked the talk even if he did prove to be an ineffective political leader; Abbas is unashamedly committed to negotiations with the Israeli government. As long as he remains in power in Palestine, the intifada will be effectively demobilised, replaced instead with dialogue with the Israelis. This creates even more room for the Zionists to carry on with their plans unfettered by mass resistance by the Palestinians.

We can play our part in the UK by linking the anti-war movement much more clearly with the Palestinian cause. The fate of the Palestinians is bound up with the fate of the Iraqis who are currently waging their own intifada against the Imperialist occupation forces. A renewed mass anti-war movement that has solidarity with the Iraqis and Palestinians and makes it clear that as the new Iraq constitution is an attempt to legitimise the occupation, so the road maps for peace and the Gaza strip disengagement is a smoke screen to what is really happening. Only a mass, militant, armed resistance in Palestine, which seeks at every avenue to make links with Israeli workers and youth and to break them from their Zionist reactionary leadership, can carry out the necessary tasks to create a real peace for the people living there. A bi-national, socialist state can be built out of the struggle for freedom that is a struggle that will not be satisfied with crumbs from Sharon’s table.