Jericho and beyond

Last week’s attack by the Israeli army on the prison in Jericho highlights the growing impasse in Israeli/Palestinian politics. Olmert, the interim leader of Sharon’s Kadima party is using the attack to boost his fortunes in the upcoming Israeli elections. At the same time Abu Mazen, the “friend” of the West is being exposed.

On Tuesday March 14, the Israeli Army shelled and occupied a prison in Jericho and after it had demolished parts of the prison walls “victoriously” kidnapped a group of prisoners, including Ahmed Saadat, the accused mastermind of the killing of a far right Israeli Cabinet minister, by the name of Rehabam Zeevi.

Ahamd Saadat is the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) a left wing guerrilla group. Zeevi was known for his close relations with the Israeli Mafia and he was the leader of Moledet (Country) party calling for the “transfer” of the Arabs citizens of Israel, i.e. their expulsion, adding them to the millions of Palestinian refugees who have languished in camps ever since the partition of Palestine and the subsequent occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Among other things Rehbam Zeevi was one of the masterminds who transferred 120,000 Arabs from the Golan Heights after the occupation in 1967.

We Marxists oppose the methods of individual terror as they only help the most reactionary wing of the ruling class. Instead of weakening the Zionist right they strengthen it. Instead of raising class consciousness among the Israeli workers they lower it. However, we do not condemn the killing of Zeevi on moralist grounds. We do not share one tear for him.

The hypocrites who condemn this killing on “moral” grounds should be reminded of the case of Hershel Grynszpan (pronounced “greenspan”). He was the young Jewish student who killed a German diplomat in Paris in November 1938, after his parents were deported to Poland with another 17,000 Jews. The Nazis used this act to justify their launching of the Kristallnacht atrocities. All the hypocrites in the world united to condemn the killing, but not Trotsky who wrote the following:

"It is clear to anyone even slightly acquainted with political history that the policy of the fascist gangsters directly and sometimes deliberately provokes terrorist acts. What is most astonishing is that so far there has been only one Grynszpan. Undoubtedly the number of such acts will increase.

“We Marxists consider the tactic of individual terror inexpedient in the tasks of the liberating struggle of the proletariat as well as oppressed nationalities. A single isolated hero cannot replace the masses. But we understand only too clearly the inevitability of such convulsive acts of despair and vengeance. All our emotions, all our sympathies are with the self-sacrificing avengers even though they have been unable to discover the correct road. Our sympathy becomes intensified because Grynszpan is not a political militant but an inexperienced youth, almost a boy, whose only counsellor was a feeling of indignation. To tear Grynszpan out of the hands of capitalist justice, which is capable of chopping off his head to further serve capitalist diplomacy, is the elementary, immediate task of the international working class!

“All the more revolting in its police stupidity and inexpressible violence is the campaign now being conducted against Grynszpan by command of the Kremlin in the international Stalinist press. They attempt to depict him as an agent of the Nazis or an agent of Trotskyists in alliance with the Nazis. Lumping into one heap the provocateur and his victim, the Stalinists ascribe to Grynszpan the intention of creating a favourable pretext for Hitler's pogrom measures. What can one say of these venal “journalists” who no longer have any vestiges of shame? Since the beginning of the socialist movement the bourgeoisie has at all times attributed all violent demonstrations of indignation, particularly terrorist acts, to the degenerating influence of Marxism. The Stalinists have inherited, here as elsewhere, the filthiest tradition of reaction…

“It was so, similarly, with the International of Marx in its time. We are bound, naturally, by ties of open moral solidarity to Grynszpan and not to his “democratic” jailers…

“The Stalinists shriek in the ears of the police that Grynszpan attended ‘meetings of Trotskyites.’ That, unfortunately, is not true. For had he walked into the milieu of the Fourth International he would have discovered a different and more effective outlet for his revolutionary energy. People come cheap who are capable only of fulminating against injustice and bestiality. But those who, like Grynszpan, are able to act as well as conceive, sacrificing their own lives if need be, are the precious leaven of mankind.

“In the moral sense, although not for his mode of action, Grynszpan may serve as an example for every young revolutionist. Our open moral solidarity with Grynszpan gives us an added right to say to all the other would-be Grynszpans, to all those capable of self-sacrifice in the struggle against despotism and bestiality: Seek another road! Not the lone avenger but only a great revolutionary mass movement can free the oppressed, a movement that will leave no remnant of the entire structure of class exploitation, national oppression, and racial persecution.” (Leon Trotsky,14 February, 1939)

In answer to this some people, whose solidarity is with the Zeevis of this world and not with the Grynszpans, would say that Israel is not a Nazi regime. Yes, it is true that Israel is not a Nazi regime and the year is not 1942 (the “final solution”) but Rehabam Zeevi was a fascist and his actions were no better than that of the Nazi transfer of 17,000 Jews in 1938. We have to be able to distinguish between the desperate act of the oppressed and the terrible repression carried out by the oppressor, even though we do not agree with the method of individual assassinations.

In Jericho what we saw was the action of the oppressor, a powerful army far better equipped than the people of Palestine. According to Al Jazeera, reporting the words of Akram Rajoub, the local security commander, the "Israeli army entered Jericho on Tuesday morning [of last week] and surrounded the prison, calling over loudspeakers for the prisoners to give themselves up. The troops then broke in through the front gate of the jail with a bulldozer, drove inside in armored personnel carriers, and engaged in a shootout with the Palestinian police."

US and British observers who had been monitoring the jail for the past four years withdrew early on Tuesday morning – just before the raid – because of “security concerns”. The Israeli government ordered the raid because the monitors were withdrawn, the army said. The truth, however, is evidently the opposite: the British and American monitors withdrew to allow the Israeli army to raid the prison.

This is a known pattern. Before the mass killing of the Palestinians refugees in Sabra and Shatila the American government promised to the Palestinian fighters that it would guarantee the safety of the refugees. Later, after the PLO fighters had left Beirut, the Phalange carried out the massacre in the camps, while the Israeli army made sure that no one would escape. “Friends” indeed help each other in such cases. Unfortunately for them, friends some time change friends.

Before the mass murder by Baruch Goldstein in Hebron, for some mysterious reason the guards were missing and the cameras in the cave were not loaded with film. Another miracle happened there. Goldstein supposedly used only one weapon but they found bullet shells of two weapons. "God's ways are mysterious," Pat Robertson, the Christian fundamentalist, would say, while Bush, Blair and Olmert would say "Hallelujah praise the Lord".

During the shootout with a small Palestinian police force, three Palestinians were killed and 35 were injured. This attack on the prison also came conveniently just two weeks before the national elections in Israel. This of course has boosted the ratings of the Acting Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert and his party Kadima in the opinion polls, but at the same time it has increased the instability in the Occupied Territories and has added to the growing instability in the entire region.

This has all happened while Sharon is being kept artificially alive until the end of the election campaign. The Palestinian group that must feel the absence of Sharon the most is Hamas. His repressive policies were a major contributing factor to the electoral victory of this group this January. But now it seems that Olmert is following faithfully in the footsteps of the dying leader and may help them as much as Sharon.

The victory of Hamas has been used by Olmert and his party Kadima to gain votes in the electoral campaign. "We will never negotiate with terrorists," they have declared. Olmert has even used the victory of Hamas to de facto steal money, the VAT his government collects for the Palestinian Authority, in violation of the agreements between Israel and the PA, while announcing that Hamas must respect the agreements the PA signed with Israel.

However, since the Israeli public yearns for peace both parties, Kadima and the Labour Party, have announced they will support the so called "moderate"(i.e. collaborationist) wing of Fatah led by president Mahmoud Abbas, also known as "Abu Mazen", and will never recognize the Hamas government.

Only just over a week ago a Labour Party team met with Abu Mazen to get his blessing and support, praising him for his courage and wisdom. On the same day during an Israeli TV political show Ephraim Sneh, a leading member of the right wing in the Labour Party, was very open and explained that the Labour Party wants Abu Mazen, who still has control of the Palestinian army, to organize a military coup against the elected government of Hamas.

Perhaps because of this “exposure”, Abu Mazen in return has announced that he prefers Kadima. This of course made the Labour Party right wing leadership furious. Not only have they showed no respect for any democratic norms but they were not even paid for it.

For weeks Kadima’s strategy in the elections was to put every one to sleep. The Labour Party instead of organizing the working class and the poor in massive actions against the government played along with this Kadima strategy.

It worked very well for Kadima as the Labour Party ratings have been steadily declining. But then many reports of Olmert’s corruption appeared in the mass media. And Kadima’s popularity went down while the parties to the right of the Labour Party and Kadima have been gaining support.

This of course did not make Olmert, the acting Prime Minister, very happy with the polls. Like an old magician he has used the old trick of creating an extreme nationalist atmosphere in the country and with himself as the great hero in the style of the Western movies of the 1950s. Thus he sent the Israeli army to attack Jericho's prison. If Reagan could become the President of the US even though he was known for his B movies, why should Olmert not be the Prime Minister of Israel?

This trick has worked. It was applauded by most Israeli politicians including even Amir Peretz, the new leader of the Labour Party partly. Peretz has in fact been caving in to the nationalist pressure, but it may also be possibly to take revenge. After all, did Abu Mazen not betray him first? Thus Olmert and his Kadima party have gained approval ratings in the wake of the raid, and 12 days before a general election it now seems they are likely to win. With the existing leadership of the Labour Party even Mickey Mouse could win. After having raised the hopes of many workers on the left Peretz has swung back to the “centre”, disappointing many of his supporters

This successful pirate act by Olmert indeed was almost like a military coup, not against Hamas however, but against Mahmoud Abbas, the great President, the darling of the US and the Israeli ruling class. So what if they have betrayed him? Isn’t this normal among thieves – sorry, among "democrats"?

This operation is likely to open a new round of terrorist actions inside Israel that will kill innocent workers and poor, among them foreign workers, and will give the Israeli government the chance to retaliate with state terrorism. This is a great result for the capitalists whom Olmert serves. Since the beginning of the Intifada more than five years ago the rich have grown richer and the number of people living below the poverty line in Israel has grown from less than one million to close to 1.6 million.

The Israeli establishment would like to boycott the Hamas government, carry out an air strike against Iran, topple Bashir Assad in Syria and so on. However, the big boss is American imperialism that is considering the option of dealing with Hamas. After all, the US and the fundamentalists have a long history of collaboration. They worked together in Indonesia and after the CIA backed coup against the elected government of Sukarno they murdered between half a million and one million workers and peasants suspected of supporting Sukarano and the Communist Party. They worked together in Afghanistan to topple the left wing government. They are working together in occupied Iraq.

In other words, the Israeli army that acted to destroy the influence of Abu Mazen in the raid on the West Bank prison in order to boost acting premier Ehud Olmert's prospects of re-election, is actually ensuring that it will negotiate with Hamas.

The Fatah leadership is very aware of the fact that Olmert, whom they supported until a few days ago, is destroying them. "What happened in Jericho and the crimes against the Palestinian people... is a pre-planned scheme to destroy the Palestinian Authority. This is the basis of Israeli policy," Saeb Erikat, chief Palestinian negotiator, told reporters on Thursday.

Most Palestinians are aware that the raid on the prison was supported by Bush and Blair, who removed the British and the American observers prior to the attack. The Palestinian masses are furious with the American gangster and his poodle. But Erakat, who spoke after the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization had discussed Saadat's capture, put the rope round his neck when he held Britain and the United States responsible and… called on them to work with Israel to return the fighters. "We decided to call the United States and United Kingdom to put pressure on Israel to return the people who were kidnapped from the Palestinian Authority," PLO committee member Saleh Rafat said.

If Olmert is the old drunk magician, the Abu Mazen group is the scared rabbit in the magician’s hat. Olmert of course wants to use the kidnapping as the cream on his cake, and have a show trial of Saadat and four PFLP colleagues for the Zeevi killing. The chief prosecutor has already ruled that there is no legal impediment for such a trial to go ahead, even though one has already been convicted by an Israeli court and all but Saadat were convicted by the Palestinians. "Taking into account past agreements with the Palestinian Authority and the circumstances, they can be tried in Israel," a justice ministry spokesman said.

To get real media coverage they would like a civilian rather than a military court. The Romans used this old trick of bread and circuses by throwing the Christians before the lions long before today’s leaders of Israel. It did not help them...

Last week the security services began interrogating Saadat and his comrades. However, according to his lawyer Hassan Mahmud, after visiting him Saadat told the Israeli officials in the prison: “I refuse to have any dealings with you as I consider that you have kidnapped me."

A show trial of Saadat may prove to be a boomerang as it will give the PFLP a chance to focus on the crimes of the Israeli state and the US and British imperialism that back Israel against the Palestinians. Already in a letter to the Palestinian People from his cell in Jerusalem, through the Adameer Society, Saadat said that the Mid-East Peace “Quartet” [the US, European Union, Russia and the United Nations] is providing a cover for Israel, and that what happened in Jericho means that the US and UK are now openly part of this conflict. Saadat has put the burden for responsibility on both America and Britain and has accused them of collusion with the Israelis. He has also blamed the Palestinian Authority for not releasing the prisoners in Jericho Jail before the attack.

However, if all this continues we cannot exclude the possibility that the “only democracy in the Middle East” may help Saadat leave this world while in the Israeli prison and then present it as a death from natural causes.

The masses are on the move in the Middle East but Saadat in his letter reveals quite clearly that he does not count on the workers and the poor in the Arab countries but on the Arab ruling classes and the "Moslem nations". In other words he still has not learnt any lessons from the past.

We, the Marxists in Israel who work in the Labour Party struggling for the socialist transformation of the rotten capitalist order, demand the immediate release of Ahmad Saadat. The Israeli ruling class is the last one to have any moral authority to bring to trial the PFLP for killing an Israeli war criminal, an enemy of the working class.

At the same time we oppose individual terrorism, as it is a method that only serves reaction in Israel. The only way forward is through the revolutionary struggle of the working class.

March 20, 2006

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