[Marxism] Israel tensions rise but right outmobilizes peace forces

ffeldman at verizon.net ffeldman at verizon.net
Wed Mar 23 14:04:25 MST 2005

The following article by the Jerusalem correspondent of Marxist.com has quite a few interesting observations and comments about the increasingly conflicted situation among the Jews of Israel today. 

He takes off from the contrast between the mobilization of 10,000 organized by the peace forces to support removal of settlements from the Gaza Strip organized by the Israeli peace forces and the action of 100,000 organized by rightist supporters of the settlements.  This registered the decline of the liberal peace movement in Israel in recent years. 

Yossi Schwartz writes: "This small demonstration serves the propaganda of the far right settlers who can claim now that they represent the majority. However, this is no more than a lie. The majority of the Israelis, the working class and the poor, did not show up to the demonstration, not because they support the settlers, but because the organisers of the rally are supporting the budget and the attacks of the government on our class." 

In fact, the demonstration, however modest, was much preferable to no protest at all.  Nothing will be gained by the opposition staying off the streets in order to hide the fact that the right can out-mobilize them at the moment. Fighters against the occupation of any and all Palestinian land have to start from where we are and stay on the streets as a contribution to closing the gap produced partly by the anti-Palestinian stands of the liberals themselves. 

The size of the anti-Palestinian, pro-settler action seems to highlight something about the real relationship of forces at the moment. 

Those, including workers, who identify with the seizure of Palestinian land have a sense of momentum. This comes from the US occupation of Iraq and stronger political support to Israel, from Israel's nuclear arsenal and threats to bomb Iran, and from the savage blows dealt the Palestinians by the Sharon regime and the apparent retreat and divisions of the Palestinian leadership. 

The Palestinians probably seem more vulnerable to having their land taken and this increases confidence somewhat among those, including workers, who identify as settlers, support the settlement project and the overall Zionist aspiration, which the settlers do legitimately represent. 

Schwartz says that workers abstained from the anti-settlement demonstration because the liberal leaders supported Sharon's viciously antiworker budget. But the insufficiency of this explanation is highlighted by the fact that Schwartz has to devote an entire section of his article to educating workers and youth to understand that: 

"Sharon is no friend of the Israeli workers and poor". 

If the workers were so repelled by Sharon's budget that they boycotted a peace demonstration that they would otherwise have been inclined to support, there would be no need for preachments on this theme.  The liberals' fundamental opposition to the Palestinians and antiworker stands reinforce reactionary views. But working class absence from the peace movement today has a lot to do with Jewish workers' self-identification as settlers who have gains to defend against the Palestinian people. 

Class conflicts among the Jews, such as that over the budget, are openings for fighters to participate in changing this outlook, but the budget is simply among many issues that align themselves along the axis of the Israeli state's struggle with the Palestinians.  It does not stand above this struggle, even conjuncturally and is especially central for the Jewish working class. 

The growing conflicts are an opportunity for Palestinians -- most of whom I believe want to hold on to and strengthen the current cease fire, however partial -- to lead a peace offensive for Israeli retreat from the settlements and occupied terriotires that could take advantage of the growing divisiveness of the Israeli society.  This could be a real step toward undermining the popular base of the Zionist state -- something thar cannot happen without an strong, popular, and visible Palestinian national movement. Fred Feldman 

In Defence of Marxism- http://www.marxist.com 


As more land is taken from the Palestinians a new mood is developing in Israel By Yossi Schwartz in Jerusalem 

For the last two months the reformist left parties in Israel, the Labour party, Yahad, together with ?Peace Now?, had prepared a demonstration that was supposed to be a large one and show that the supporters of Sharon?s disengagement plan are many more than the 100,000 who came out a month ago in support of the settlers in a demo in Jerusalem. 

Contrary to the expectation of the organisers, the demonstration was small, with only 10,000 people attending a rally in support of disengagement last Saturday, March 19, at the end of the demo that started off from Rabin Square and ended in Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv. 

In 1982 the same people were able to organise a rally of 400,000 in opposition to Sharon and his responsibility for the massacre of the refugees in the camps of Sabra and Chatila. Many of the supporters of these parties who remember the war of Lebanon, preferred to stay at home this time. Among those who did show up many expressed discomfort at taking part in the protest, which was in political support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. 

On the platform were four speakers representing the groups participating in the event. Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz (Labour) called on Shinui chairman Yosef Lapid to support the budget and not to cause the downfall or postponement of disengagement. ?Your way is our way,? said Pines-Paz, the only Labour minister to attend the meeting, addressing his words to Sharon. Yahad MK [Member of Parliament], Ran Cohen said, ?We are not demonstrating tonight for Ariel Sharon, but for all the people in Israel.? 

The General Secretary of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, was especially harsh in his attack on the settlers. ?Those who invite a civil war should know that we are ready for battle,? he said, to cheers from the crowd. He pledged ?not to leave the street to the extreme right.? 

The last speaker was Tel Aviv University Student Union leader, Yiftach Atzmon, who put the political struggle over borders on a par with the struggle for the defence of higher education and the future character of the country. 

This small demonstration serves the propaganda of the far right settlers who can claim now that they represent the majority. However, this is no more than a lie. The majority of the Israelis, the working class and the poor, did not show up to the demonstration, not because they support the settlers, but because the organisers of the rally are supporting the budget and the attacks of the government on our class. 

Everyone in Israel knows that Sharon?s plan is not really for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. That he would never concede. What he is doing is withdrawing from Gaza while expanding the large settlements in the West Bank. 

In fact, the real criminal activities of the present government are taking place in the West Bank. Haaretz, the main bourgeois daily newspaper in Israel, revealed the following the other day in its report on the extensions of the Settlements in the West Bank under Sharon: 

?The Defense Ministry, following Bush?s pressure to end the so called illegal settlements, as a token gesture in support of his new man in the West Bank ? Abu Mazen ? has completed an extensive aerial photography operation detailing the location and expansion of each settlement and outpost in the West Bank. The photography of the settlements involved two separate operations, one in the summer of 2004 and the other in early 2005, and was carried out by Nesher, a private company, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of shekels. 

?A comparison of the two sets of photographs revealed there has been extensive building in recent months. The ministry is planning more aerial photograph operations to monitor if and where further construction takes place. 

?The operation was carried out on orders from the Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz following a complaint by attorney Talia Sasson, author of a report on the illegal outposts, that was chosen for the job by Sharon to show Bush that he is doing what Bush told him to do, after she complained that aerial photographs of the West Bank settlements had not been done since 2000.? (Haaretz, March 20, 2005) 

The significance of the Rehavam Ze'evi remembrance It is unlikely that the Israeli public will be allowed to be fully informed of the real extent of support for the settlers that Sharon and his friends are providing. These days 70 MKs of the 120 members of the Israeli Parliament, are supporting a bill to establish a Heritage Institute in memory of the former government minister Rehavam Ze'evi who was killed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Part of the bill envisages also an official remembrance day for this close friend of Sharon. 

This fact is not a little detail. For this man, Rehavam Ze'evi apart from being a close friend of Sharon also partook in major operations that involved literally the stealing of large tracts of land that rightfully belonged to the Palestinians. 

Immediately after the 1967 war, Israel began grabbing land on the West Bank and in Gaza. Sharon, together with others started sending settlers into the West Bank, with the pretext of creating a defence line. The bulk of the settlers belonged to extremist orthodox sects who believed that these lands had been given to the Jews by God and were therefore rightly theirs. Illegal private purchase of Arab land got under way in the period 1968-72, mainly under the auspices of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). 

Until 1972, this had been technically ?illegal? but then, Yehezkel Sahar, first minister of the Israeli national police, succeeded in getting the ban on the private sale of West Bank land lifted. This opened the door to further expansion of the settlements and real estate speculation on the West Bank. Sahar himself first gained the right to buy land in the Nebi Samwill, an area near Jerusalem, which he planned to turn into a residential area for Israeli military officers. The significant things is that his partners in the venture were Betsalel Mizrahi, Haim Kahati, and Sharon?s friend General Reshavam Ze'evi (also known as Ghandi). These were all former employees of the JNF. 

It was common knowledge that Ze'evi and Mizrahi were leaders of what was known as the Israeli Mafia, or, to put it better, the second generation of the M. Lansky/Irgun intelligence apparatus. Ze'evi, who had been an adviser on anti-terrorism operations to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, resigned from the army in 1977 and went on to become a consultant to the government of Ecuador in anti-terrorism policies. While in Ecuador with his collaborator Mizrahi, who had served under his command in the military, the Israeli press came out with allegations against him of being a leading Mafia boss. In the period 1977-80, Ze'evi was very active in Central and South America arranging arms deals and was involved in the August 1980 overthrow of the Bolivian government. 

Mizrahi has an equally long history of criminal activities. After serving under Ze'evi, Mizrahi worked for Mordechai Tsaffati, also known as Mentesh. Mentesh was known as the first Israeli ?godfather?, and had originally been part of the post-Second World War smuggling network used by the Haganah and Irgun militias. It seems Mizrahi has taken over Mentesh?s. 

Thanks to the change in the law, between 1972 and 1976, there was a large increase in West Bank land purchases. Another of Sharon?s friends, Raffael Eytan, was heavily involved in these land purchases. Sharon also helped in setting up the controversial Eilot Morah settlement. 

After he left the army in 1973, Sharon was elected to the Knesset for the Likud and served on the Knesset?s foreign affairs and defence committees and in June 1974 he led a group of Jewish settlers in setting up an unauthorized settlement near Nablus. 

The Likud won the elections in 1977, and the spread of new settlements on the West Bank accelerated further. The takeover of the West Bank actually became an unofficial state policy, known as the Sharon Plan. This plan had the aim of settling the West Bank with 1.3 million Jews by the year 2010. Thus, by 1981, between 25,000 and 30,000 Jews had been settled in the West Bank. An extension of the plan in the period 1981-86, aimed at placing a further 100,000 Jews in the West Bank. Short of extreme orthodox Jews, this second phase exploited the needs of young families and married couples, who needed the housing that was made available. 

In 1979, an Israeli high court had taken a further step in allowing the land grab. West Bank land could now be bought by private Israeli individuals. Before then only the government could legally buy land. According to the West Bank Research Center, by then 27% of the West Bank?s land (1.45 million acres) was already under Israeli control. 

The process is still continuing to this day, and is very simple. Land is seized and then declared state property. A Palestinian who has claims to it is given three weeks to file any objections to an administrative appeals court. Of course, the chairman of this court is the legal adviser to the Israeli Land Authority. By this mechanism these lands are then declared to be under the jurisdiction of the Jewish Settlers Regional Councils. This is a further link between the settlements and the Israeli state services. 

Sharon is no friend of the Israeli workers and poor All this of course has been the source of growing anger and discontent on the part of the Palestinian masses, who have seen their territory gradually being eaten away by the growing number of settlements. 

In fact, in 2000 Sharon provoked the second Intifada with the aim of expending the settlements under the cover of ?fighting terror?. Since then Sharon has helped in many ways the stealing of Palestinian land on the West Bank. Thus those parts of the Israeli left who are asking the Israeli population to support this man are only discrediting themselves. It is outrageous that anyone on the left can portray Sharon as somehow a man who is working for peace. He is not working for peace. His idea is to withdraw from Gaza as keeping it is untenable, while at the same time tightening his grip on the West Bank. 

It is time for the left in Israel to end this farce. Instead of cosying up to him, the Israeli left should be exposing him for what he really is. While Sharon continues the oppression of the Palestinian people, at home in Israel proper he is attacking the Israeli workers, the Israeli pensioners, the Israeli poor, the Israeli students... 

We have seen several indications of growing opposition to his policies, strikes and partial general strikes. The latest movement is that of the students. 

On Sunday, for example, a crowd of 800 students gathered on the Tel Aviv campus and they were addressed by the Chairman of the Histadrut (major Israel trade union federation), Amir Peretz. He promised his support for the students and announced that there would be a one hour general strike in solidarity with the cause of the students. This took place yesterday. The National Students? Union in Israel has launched a struggle against government proposals to slash the higher education budget. Tel Aviv University students held a strike on Sunday and all morning classes were cancelled. This has become a nationwide protest. The campaign is building up for tomorrow, when students are promising to hold what they define as ?the mother of all demonstrations? at the Bar Ilan University campus in Ramat Gan. 

Another indication of the radical mood that is affecting particularly layers of the youth is what happened today outside the Israeli army?s central induction centre. Fifty high school students demonstrated in support of two youths, Alex Kohn and Eyal Barmai, who have declared their intention to refuse to be drafted. The two have told the Israel Defence Forces that they will not take part in what they see as oppression of the Palestinian people. In spite of risking imprisonment these young people are going ahead, and are linking up with others who have refused to serve in the Palestinian territories in the past. Around 250 teenagers have signed the letter of the youth which calls on other teenagers who face the call up and all Israeli soldiers, ?to consider afresh if you will risk your life and take part in a policy of subjugation and destruction.? 

The same letter continues, ?Israel is wasting its resources on conducting an occupation and oppression in the occupied territories, at a time when hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens live in shameful poverty. In recent years, citizens have seen a deterioration in all public institutions: education, health care, infrastructure, pensions ... They are neglected for the sake of the settlements? continued existence.? 

These young people are rightly connecting the oppression of the Palestinians with the ongoing attack on the living conditions of the workers and youth of Israel. The two are indeed closely connected. It was Marx who explained that a people that oppresses another people cannot be free. The struggle for a better life for Israeli workers going hand in hand with the struggle to guarantee the Palestinian people their own national dignity, their right to govern themselves and their right to have control over the wealth they themselves contribute to producing. 

The two examples of the students and the protests of the youth facing the call up to the army, together with recent protest over pensions and wages, all indicate the beginnings of a new mood. 

This mood is already having an effect inside the Israeli trade unions. Peretz, the leader of the Histadrut, has not only come out in support of the students. He also is considering not voting the budget. He is a member of parliament and up until recently led his own small party. He then took his small party into the Labour Party and now is a Labour Party MK. Therefore not to vote the budget means standing out as an opposition within the party. 

The new mood, the first signs of which are quite evident, will erupt to the surface sooner or later, and when it does it will mean the end of Sharon. That is why the Israeli left should break with Sharon completely. There should be no support for his budget or for his plans in the West Bank. The aim of the left should be the bringing down of Sharon and the establishment of a left government of the working class parties on a socialist programme. 

March 22, 2005 

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