Category Archives: Arab Labor

Video: Checkpoint 300 (Electronic Intifada)

Video: Checkpoint 300

“This is our life: difficult and full of problems.”

So says one of the thousands of Palestinian laborers who queue before dawn each day to pass through Checkpoint 300, separating the occupied West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

The Israeli military checkpoint is the main crossing point for Palestinians from all over the southern West Bank who work in Israel.

Palestinians in the West Bank must hold an Israeli permit to cross the checkpoint. They are not allowed free movement into Israel.

There are around 100 fixed checkpoints like Checkpoint 300 in the West Bank.

Video by Ahmad Al-Bazz, Haidi Motola and Anne Paq/Activestills.

Palestinian Workers Campaign for Social Justice (MERIP)

Palestinian Workers Campaign for Social Justice

It is clear for us that the struggle against colonialism cannot be separated from the social injustices within Palestinian society. What does it mean to end my subjugation by Moshe for it to be replaced by Munir? What kind of liberation are we seeking? What kind of a society are we trying to build?

by N. Alva
published in MER281

On the hot afternoon of April 19, 2016, thousands of workers and unemployed took to the streets of the West Bank city of Ramallah in protest the labor policies of the Palestinian Authority (PA). As the sun beat down on their shoulders, the marchers remained defiant, shouting “Haramiyya! (Thieves!),” as they reached the rally point in front of the Council of Ministers and Ministry of Interior buildings. Organizers from independent workers’ movements, left political parties and women’s committees took turns addressing the crowd from a makeshift platform on the back of a truck. PA police and security forces were deployed, some in riot gear and armored vehicles, but they did not visibly interfere. The demonstration was the first public, collective manifestation of a campaign against Social Security Law 6, ratified by decree on March 9, 2016 by President Mahmoud ‘Abbas.

The opposition to the social security law is led by newly formed independent workers’ movements and their allies in civil society. Their campaign follows closely upon wildcat strikes by perhaps 30,000 teachers in February and March of 2016. Both efforts are emblematic of Palestinian workers’ growing rejection of the package of neoliberal economic nostrums on offer from the PA in lieu of an end to Israeli settler-colonial rule.

In 1997, after the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) released a report on corruption among PA ministers, President Yasser Arafat infamously quashed judicial action against the accused, telling legislators: “We will worry about our internal problems—the questions of social justice within Palestine—after we fight colonialism, our common enemy.” [1] This injunction is recited still by officials in the PA and its affiliated labor federations, as well as some outside supporters of the Palestinian cause.

But the social and colonial questions in Palestine are co-constituted. To separate the occupation from injustices in Palestinian society is to conceal the complex relations between capital accumulation and class transformation, the PA’s authoritarian practices, and Israel’s colonial project. An understanding of these relations is crucial for those committed to transnational solidarity with Palestine.

Shock Therapy

The campaigners against Social Security Law 6 criticize the measure on several grounds. First, they object to the law’s provision for depositing the retirement savings of private-sector waged employees in a new national fund to be overseen by a council jointly appointed by the PA and business interests. Private banks and companies are to manage these investments in the financial markets. The law’s opponents say that it provides no guarantee from the PA that money will actually be available to workers upon retirement and demand PA accountability in safeguarding these funds. Second, the campaigners oppose the increase in employee contributions into the fund and instead demand an increase in the contributions of employers (business owners). They call for bringing the pensions of private-sector workers into line with the retirement entitlements of workers in the public sector, and for enforcing a minimum retirement wage. [2] Third, the campaigners decry the law’s discrimination against women, families of pensioners, and the old and disabled, among other social groups. Some strands of the independent workers’ campaign call for a national program of social protection covering all workers, farmers and unemployed. [3]

Social Security Law 6 is part of a program of economic shock therapy that began in 2007. The PLC has not formally convened since late 2006, so all of these laws were drafted or amended by presidential decree with limited public disclosure. The new independent unions and workers’ committees see a multi-front attack on labor reflecting the demands of big business.

In 2014, the Investment Promotion Law of 1998 was altered to provide tax relief to large private interests in the name of a more “investment-friendly” business environment. [4] In early February 2015, the PA Ministry of Labor introduced a draft law on unions, which according to independent labor federations will suppress labor organizing by imposing strict conditions under which strikes and meetings can be called. Likewise, the federations express concern that proposed amendments to the existing labor law will ease the procedures for dismissal when workers are already subject to contracts that are increasingly short-term and irregular. In closed-door meetings later that month, the Council of Ministers and big business reached an agreement on further reductions to corporate and individual tax rates. Independent unions, who were not invited to take part in these discussions, note that the tax law is unfavorable to the poor and working classes. President ‘Abbas ratified the agreement as law nonetheless. Most recently, on January 23, 2017, the PA suspended the al-Aqsa intifada health insurance, which provided free access to medical care for the more than 400,000 unemployed Palestinians and their families. (Subsequently, the PA announced that al-Aqsa insurance is to remain available to families approved by a new oversight committee to be established. Labor organizers received the news skeptically, viewing it as a public relations move.)

Read the full article in Middle East Research and Information Project

May Day: Palestinian trade unions call for intensifying BDS

April 28, 2017

By Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS)

On May Day, we Palestinian trade unions are proud to stand with the trade union movement internationally as we collectively resist attacks on our working conditions, cuts to public services and job losses. We lend our voices to the mass rallies taking place internationally uniting trade unions, immigrants and refugees, social movements, and environmentalists fighting for a better future and dignified living.

We also remind the world that Palestinian workers continue to endure and resist Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid on a daily basis, including resistance to Israel’s shameful prison system. We salute our political prisoners on hunger strike to protest Israel’s grave and ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights. We will continue to refuse Israel’s vision of a truncated network of Palestinian Bantustans and associated industrial zones, under which we relinquish our rights and become a pool of cheap labour for the Israeli state. That is why in July 2005, when over 170 Palestinian organizations urged the world to adopt a campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel in the manner of South African Apartheid, this historical call was signed by all the main Palestinian trade union federations. We believe that trade union campaigns targeting corporate and state complicity with Israeli violations of international law are a vital and effective form of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

Trade unions today are taking the lead in defending the Palestinian people’s rights to self-determination, non-discrimination and equality, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees as stipulated in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194. BDS principles and tactics have been formally endorsed by national trade union federations in South Africa, UK, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, the Basque Country, Brazil and other countries across Latin America, in addition to scores of national and local unions. This gives us great hope in the potential of working people to shut down corporate and state support for Israel’s crimes. It also reminds us of the incredibly inspiring international trade union campaigns which helped to expose and confound South Africa’s former apartheid regime. We salute all trade unions implementing effective BDS campaigns and divesting their pension funds from corporate occupation profiteers like G4S and HP, among others.

We also take this opportunity to call on trade unions yet to join the BDS movement to: implement boycotts of Israeli and international companies that are complicit with violations of Palestinian rights, divest trade union funds from companies and institutions complicit in Israel’s occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid, and apply pressure on governments to cut military and trade relations with Israel. We reiterate our call for a boycott of Histadrut, Israel’s general trade union, for its complicity with Israel’s violations of international law and its refusal to take a clear stand in support of comprehensive human rights for Palestinians.

We look forward to working alongside trade unions around the world to develop and strengthen our struggles for human rights, social and economic justice. We stand shoulder to shoulder with working people worldwide and thank you for the solidarity you continue to show to the struggle for Palestinian workers’ rights.

General Union of Palestinian Workers

Palestinian New Union

Federation of Independent Trade Union

Postal, IT and Telecommunications Workers Union

A gruelling life for Palestinian workers in Israel (Al Jazeera)

A gruelling life for Palestinian workers in Israel

Palestinians can earn more by working in Israel, but their days are extremely long because of movement restrictions.

Sheren Khalel, Abed al Qaisi | AJ

‘I leave when my family is sleeping, and when I get back, I have an hour or two before I have to sleep,’ says Talib Ahmed [Abed al-Qaisi/Al Jazeera]

Bethlehem, occupied West Bank – During the day, the Bethlehem Checkpoint 300 tells only half the story. A few lone travellers make the crossing in mere minutes, passing through multiple electronic turnstiles and a warehouse-like compound, and undergoing a quick passport check before leaving the occupied West Bank and entering Israel.

For Palestinian workers making their way through the terminal during the dead of night, however, the same crossing can take hours.

About 2am is the best time to get through the checkpoint, before it gets too crowded. By 3am, hundreds of men are crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the terminal. Clouds of white breath rise from the crowd and disappear. Bundled in thick, worn coats, the men are patient but anxious.


READ MORE: Israel bans Palestinian settlement labourers from work


Talib Ahmed, 49, has been doing building work in Israel for more than 30 years.

Israeli settlements make money at Palestinian expense: Human Rights Watch

“I woke up at 1:30 in the morning to get here by 3am,” Ahmed told Al Jazeera, nursing a small paper cup of spiced Arabic coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. “It’s cold and dark when I wake up, and the rest of my family is asleep.

“I do this every morning, five days a week, so I can cross through to work in Israel and make some money to feed my eight children. I make enough to give them an OK life, even though I can’t give them a really good life.”

Ahmed, who lays tiles in houses, says the work requires a precision that his arthritic hands struggle to achieve. His back is sore from crouching, and he seldom has time to play with his children or spend time with his wife.

“I leave when my family is sleeping, and when I get back, I have an hour or two before I have to sleep, so I can repeat the whole day again,” Ahmed explained. “But I thank God. My job pays better than I could make in the West Bank.”

Unemployment in the occupied West Bank was around 15 percent during the second quarter of 2015, while the average daily wage sits at $25 – half of those who work in Israel, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

More than 30,000 Palestinians legally make the journey through checkpoints between the occupied West Bank and Israel each morning, while thousands more are estimated to make the trek illegally, as only a small percentage of permit requests are approved.

Mohammed Sabah, 55, began working in Israel when he was 20 [Abed al-Qaisi/Al Jazeera]

Mohammed Sabah, 55, began working in Israel when he was 20. Back then, permits were not needed for Palestinians to work in Israeli markets, he said.

Sabah had to get his first permit during the first Intifada, but restrictions tightened further after the second Intifada ended in 2005. Working without a permit became more difficult, as did conditions for workers travelling back and forth, he said.

“I used to drive my car to work in Israel,” Sabah told Al Jazeera. “I am too old for this now, having to come to this checkpoint so early in the morning and standing here for hours. I wish the old days could come back.”


READ MORE: Death and humiliation – A tale of a Palestinian village 


The relationship between Israeli and Palestinian co-workers has also changed since Sabah was a young man.

“Before we worked in Israel to make a living, but we also had friends there,” he said. “Our Israeli co-workers would invite us to their house, or after work some of us could go swimming in Tel Aviv. We had a life. Now there is no life; just work and sleep.”

If I could make [a higher] wage in the West Bank, I would never think for a moment to work in Israel.

Ahmad Hirzat, 23

Since the start of October, when violence in the occupied West Bank and Israel began to spike, Sabah said he has grown increasingly scared of being attacked or mistaken for an attacker while en route to and from work.

Many workers told Al Jazeera that they are careful not to reach into their pockets for their phones in crowded areas, and they no longer bring eating utensils to work in their packed lunches for fear of being accused of carrying or reaching for a weapon.

Allaa Atwan, a 29-year-old carpenter who is a married father of three, believes that he was given a permit because he has an established family in the West Bank, noting that young, single Palestinian men are looked upon with more suspicion by Israeli authorities.

“When I was single, I applied and was denied, and after I was married and had one child, I applied again and was denied,” Atwan told Al Jazeera. “Two years later, I applied after having had three kids, and I was approved.”

After two years of working inside Israel, however, he is now considering giving up his job.

“I don’t see my children,” Atwan said. “I am awake way before anyone else is, and when I get home it’s late and I am exhausted, like an old man.

“More importantly, I am the only one providing for my family, and things are different now. It is dangerous for me to walk the streets in Israel. I am terrified of being arrested or hurt or killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What would happen to my family? I have been asking myself every day if the better wages are worth it.”


READ MORE: ‘Artbitrary’ permit laws for West Bank workers in Israel 


During the first week of December, Atwan said the checkpoint got so backed up with workers trying to get through that Israeli soldiers came out with guns drawn.

“If one person would have gotten scared and moved to run, I can’t even imagine what could have happened, we were all packed so tightly,” Atwan said. “They treat us like animals at this checkpoint, when all anyone is trying to do is work so they don’t have to hold their hand out for food.”

Ahmad Hirzat, 23, said after he got his permit to work in Israel that his neighbours accused him of being a spy [Abed al-Qaisi/Al Jazeera]

Ahmad Hirzat, 23, from the West Bank town of Yatta, got his first permit only a few weeks ago. Because of his age, Hirzat said he has been tackling rumours in his neighborhood.

“People in my area are confused as to how I got my work permit … People are saying I must be a spy, working for Israel. Some of them are joking, but a lot of others are serious,” Hirzat told Al Jazeera.

While he hopes to quell that distrust, he is pleased at the chance to make better wages.

“I am literally making around five or six times more for the same amount of construction work in Israel,” Hirzat said. “Yes, I have to wake up at 1am to get to work at 7am, but I have a chance for a life now. I can start to build a house now; I can send my little brothers to school now; I can start thinking about getting married now. I didn’t have that before.”

Despite the increased dangers that many workers have felt lately, Hirzat has not considered giving up his job.

“I have a future now,” he said. “The Palestinian government couldn’t give me that, but in Israel I make $75 a day. If I could make that wage in the West Bank, I would never think for a moment about working in Israel. I can already see from the old men here at the checkpoint, this is my future.”

Source: Al Jazeera

What will break the stalemate for Palestine? (Socialist Worker)

What will break the stalemate for Palestine?

The Palestinian movement has reached a strategic impasse. Finding a way out requires coming to terms with the lessons of the last four decades, writes Wael Elasady.

Palestinian children in a refugee camp

A PARADOX confronts the movement for Palestinian liberation.

On the one hand, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has mobilized unprecedented support for the struggle of the Palestinians internationally, placing real economic and political pressure on the state of Israel [1]. It has helped put the rights of Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel back at the center of the movement’s demands, after two decades of the “peace process” that reduced the Palestinian struggle to a question of statehood in the West Bank and Gaza.

The BDS call–co-signed by more than 170 civil society organizations, trade unions and women’s organizations–has filled an important vacuum left by the traditional political parties, providing direction to the international solidarity movement by a representative Palestinian leadership, in the form of the BDS National Committee.

On the other hand, conditions in Palestine are among the worst faced since 1948. The historic leadership of the Palestinian movement is now collaborating with Israel’s occupation, through the mechanism of the Palestinian Authority (PA). In Gaza, Hamas’ resistance has failed to cohere in a form capable of advancing the liberation struggle. Gaza has suffered three devastating assaults by Israel since 2008–which according to a recent UN report [2] will render the strip uninhabitable within five years.

Meanwhile, settlement expansion continues in the West Bank, and Israeli settler violence has reached obscene levels, with 130 Israeli attacks on Palestinians just in the first week of October.

As a consequence, Palestinians are more desperate than ever, with individuals lashing out with the limited means available to them to resist their daily misery [3]. The protests of Palestinian youth are spontaneous expressions of anger, but lack sufficient organization and strategic direction, sparking debates about whether the demonstrations can be sustained.

So how can we unravel this paradox?

Put simply, the Palestinian movement has reached an impasse.

In purely military terms, Israel is far superior, with the most advanced weaponry and the backing of the world’s most powerful empire, the U.S. But if a direct military confrontation is bound to fail, what can succeed?

The PA has opted for negotiations–negotiations that have led nowhere. Worse, they have provided cover for a deteriorating situation.

But the early months of the Arab Spring provided a glimpse of the potential to conceive of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a different way. Instead of a narrow effort to carve out a Palestinian state within parameters established by decades of defeat, it raised the possibility of a regional uprising–a social movement comprising the working classes of the Middle East that could connect solidarity with Palestinian dispossession with the grievances of the Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian and Lebanese working classes.

The PA has spent the last 20 years running away from such a strategy–and for good reason. This article examines the last 40 years of the Palestinian struggle to demonstrate that the PA is the outcome of a historical process by which the interests of a tiny minority of Palestinians–namely the Palestinian bourgeoisie–has come to predominate at the expense of other sections of the Palestinian population and even the project of national liberation itself. These interests constrain the vision, strategies and practice of the current Palestinian leadership.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The Palestinian Bourgeoisie

In the aftermath of the Nakba in 1948, the Palestinian elite fared much better than the rest of Palestinian society. On the strength of the oil boom in the Gulf following the Second World War, many who fled were able to rebuild their companies from abroad with capital transferred from Palestine before the defeat, or with assets recovered soon afterward.

By the mid-1960s, their companies formed what Pamela Ann Smith described in her classic text Palestine and the Palestinians, 1876-1983 as “a formidable financial and trading empire which specialized in construction, contracting, transport, banking and real estate management throughout the Middle East.”

Palestinian capitalists, although wealthy, soon found themselves vulnerable to the policies of other Arab states that privileged their native bourgeoisie over the Palestinians. By the late 1960s, a wave of increased state intervention in the economy stifled the growth of many Palestinian companies, restricting their activities and even confiscating their assets as a result of nationalization.

As Smith explains, Palestinian businessmen drew the conclusion that “the creation of a place where economic influence could be secured and maintained by political power, namely through the establishment of a state of their own,” was the only way they could avoid being forced to “share their profits with their Arab rivals.”

Palestinian capitalists could not accomplish this task on their own. They needed to employ the power of a different social force whose interests were very different from their own–the mass of impoverished Palestinians–in order to mobilize sufficient social weight to fight for a Palestinian state.

The array of challenges facing the Palestinian capitalist class shaped its political approach and ultimately set the strategy adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which the Palestinian elite would come to dominate. There were three essential elements to this:

1) The primary aim of the Palestinian capitalist class was capturing control of its own state in order to protect and expand its capital. Despite rhetorical support for the demand of “full liberation and return” that was required to win the support of the majority of Palestinians, Palestinian capitalists were always willing to subordinate the demands of various sectors of the Palestinian population to achieving this primary objective.

2) Palestinian capital developed as an “interlocking” component of Arab capital generally. Therefore, it was opposed to any challenge to the regional Arab states, where its own wealth and industries were based, and advocated for a policy of “non-interference” in the affairs of these states.

This approach, while it protected the assets of Palestinian capitalists, simultaneously isolated the Palestinian movement from the only social forces with the potential power to challenge Israel and the imperial order on which it rested–namely, the workers and oppressed who suffered under the same regional order.

3) The Palestinian capitalists and their Arab partners feared the political mobilization of the Palestinian masses out of concern that their political activation could lead their struggle beyond the narrow concerns of the capitalists. They therefore tried to limit the democratic participation of the Palestinians masses in their own struggle by confining their role to support for the armed resistance groups and obedience to a top-down revolutionary leadership.

In the long run, this approach has proven fatal in the face of an enemy that enjoys the military backing of the world’s largest imperial power and is a regional superpower in its own right.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Fatah and the PLO: Vehicles of Palestinian Capital

Fatah, the leading political party of the PLO in this early era, was the vehicle by which the Palestinian bourgeoisie sought to put this strategy into effect.

In March 1968, not long after the crushing defeat of the Syrian and Egyptian armies by Israel in the 1967 war, a group of Palestinian guerrilla fighters held off a cross-border raid by Israeli forces on their bases in Jordan. This stunning triumph by irregular guerrillas resulted in thousands of Palestinians rushing to join the new groups, inspired by the potential they seemed to hold for resistance to Israel’s colonization and the realization of the right to return to their homes.

Fatah emerged as the most important of the guerrilla formations. It had a leadership comprised of the privileged layers of the Palestinian diaspora, many of whom had become wealthy in Kuwait, where Fatah was founded in 1964.

It emphasized the common interests of Palestinians and asked them to set aside their class differences for the sake of “national unity” in the struggle for the liberation of the whole of Palestine and the establishment of a democratic secular state where all citizens, regardless of religion, would enjoy equal rights.

Fatah rejected any political struggle–what it called “interference”–against Arab regimes, raising to a point of principle the idea that “armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine,” and thereby encouraging the top-down discipline of guerrilla groups over mass popular participation.

Fatah’s rejection of class struggle and its willingness to limit the fight to the territory of Palestine won it massive financial support from the Palestinian bourgeoisie, as well as Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which helped Fatah solidify its dominance over the PLO and gain hegemony over leftist challengers, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The strategy of the PLO would cost the Palestinian movement dearly, resulting in huge missed opportunities and defeats over the coming years.

In September 1971, when the PLO was at the height of its power in Jordan, fighting broke out between left-wing Palestinian factions–in particular, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–and King Hussein.

The PLO at the time enjoyed the support of the majority of Jordan’s Palestinians, who made up 70 percent of the population–and even the backing of significant numbers of Jordanians, including government officials, as well as sections of the Jordanian armed forces.

The Palestinian left called for King Hussein’s overthrow and replacement by a revolutionary government that could then wage a struggle on a stronger basis for the liberation of Palestine and the wider region from imperialism.

In his 1989 book Intifada: Zionism, Imperialism and Palestinian Resistance, Phil Marshall highlights the significance of what taking power could have meant:

The fall of Hussein would have had an electrifying effect in the region. The PLO would have found itself in power at a time when it enjoyed real mass support and during a period of significant radicalization and mobilization. The Arab rulers would have immediately been placed in a position of showing their true colors either supporting the Palestinians or Hussein and his Western backers.

The significance of this critical juncture is further highlighted when we consider that in the wake of Israel’s victory in the 1967 war and the rightward shift of the Arab nationalist movement, the revolutionary impulses of the region’s masses were swinging behind the Palestinian guerrillas, who were seen as a more radical alternative to the timid and sclerotic Arab states.

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat refused this historic opportunity, steadfastly sticking with the policy of “non-interference” under pressure from his Arab “allies.” He instead restrained his forces and attempted to mediate between the Palestinian left and King Hussein.

In the meantime, Hussein was gathering his forces for an all-out assault on the Palestinian movement. Fatah eventually had no option but to fight, but by that point, the military and political momentum had shifted in favor of the King, which led to a crushing defeat of the entire resistance movement and its ouster from Jordan to Lebanon–which became known as Black September.

The debacle of Black September would not be the last missed opportunity of this kind for the Palestinian movement. In a more drawn-out manner, the dynamic played out in Lebanon next. Fatah continued its commitment to non-interference and maintained a neutral position in the sharpening struggle, starting in 1975 between left and right within Lebanon.

Eventually, the PLO joined the fight on the side of Lebanon’s leftists, organized under the banner of the Lebanese National Movement. But they were defeated again–this time by a combination of right-wing Phalangist militias, a treacherous Syrian regime that sided with the Lebanese right to ensure its position of power in the country, and ultimately by an Israeli invasion.

The failure of the PLO strategy was now revealed. It gained dominance thanks to the financial and military assistance from Arab states for its commitment to “non-interference” and limiting its goals to the Palestinian arena. But it had proven woefully inadequate in challenging the military power of the Israeli state, and it fatally tied the hands of the Palestinian movement at the most crucial points of its struggles, undermining any potential challenge to the wider imperial order upon which Israel’s power rested.

If the PLO’s commitment to “non-interference” had left the Palestinians isolated by the 1980s, then its primary class objective of creating a Palestinian state to secure Palestinian capital would result in the narrowing of the horizons of the project of liberation.

Fatah was already moving in the direction of creating a mini-state in the West Bank and Gaza as early as 1974 when the PLO altered its program, stating that it would establish “a national, independent and fighting government in any liberated part of Palestinian territory.”

By the 1980s, the PLO was militarily defeated–as well as politically and geographically isolated, having been forced to flee Lebanon for Tunis in 1982.

The regional balance of power had also changed. Israel, with U.S. military support, had emerged as a regional military superpower, and the U.S.-allied reactionary Gulf states, lifted by rising oil prices, became the economically dominant drivers of Arab affairs. The largest Arab state, Egypt, was pulled into the neoliberal economic order and signed a peace treaty with Israel.

The weakened PLO was now casting about for a way to regain its influence. One approach was to seek out U.S. contacts in the hope of a negotiated settlement that would lead to a mini-state in the West Bank and Gaza. In return, it was willing to recognize the Israel and to renounce armed struggle. This in practice meant abandoning resistance to Israel’s colonial project, betraying its pledge to “full liberation,” and forsaking millions of Palestinian refugees and Palestinians living as second-class citizens in Israel.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The First Intifada: Springboard to Oslo

At first, the U.S. and Israel had no need for the PLO and preferred to negotiate with Jordan instead–at least until the start of the First Intifada in 1987, which was the greatest mass challenge to Zionism since the 1936 Arab revolt in Palestine.

But Fatah and the PLO leadership would yet again transform victory into a defeat for the Palestinians. Rather than work to deepen the mass uprising and encourage its connection to a revolt in Jordan against the effects of neoliberalism, Arafat instead used the uprising as a springboard to win recognition from the U.S. and Israel for himself and the PLO as the “sole representatives of the Palestinian people.”

As Gilbert Achcar argued in his 2004 book Eastern Cauldron: Islam, Afghanistan and Palestine in the Mirror of Marxism, the U.S. and Israel now came to consider Arafat indispensable in the project to wind down the Intifada and help cement the U.S.-led neoliberal reordering of the region.

If the Camp David agreement with Egypt allowed Israel to remove the largest and most important Arab adversary from the equation, then the Oslo “peace process” allowed it to break out of its isolation, integrate itself into the emerging neoliberal economic order, and normalize its relations with the Arab world.

The negotiated return of the PLO leadership and thousands of its cadre to Palestine and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Gaza also brought with it the return of exiled Palestinian capital. The Oslo Accords seemed to finally provide the Palestinian elite with the opportunity to fulfill the long-held goal of an independent state capable of protecting and expanding its profit-seeking enterprises. Through the 1990s and 2000s, this class would come to dominate the Palestinian economy through its relationship with the PA.

But as Adam Hanieh explains in his 2013 book Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East, the PA was far from an independent state:

In the context of the PA’s fully subordinated position, the ability to accumulate was always tied to Israeli consent and thus came with a political price–one designed to buy compliance with the ongoing colonization. It also meant that the key components of the Palestinian elite, the wealthiest businessmen, the PA state bureaucracy, and the remnants of the PLO itself came to share a common interest with Israel’s political project.

Palestinian capital, which in the wake of the Nakba had developed as an “interlocking” junior partner of Arab capital, had now returned to become a subordinate partner of the Israeli occupation and the European and American neoliberal order in the Middle East.

Thus, in the past 20 years, the main political organizations inside the PLO have been transformed from vehicles of resistance against Israel to an indigenous gear in the machinery of Israel’s revamped system of apartheid.

This shift was not automatic or preordained. It was the result of cooptation, in the form of employment in the European-funded PA bureaucracy or the U.S.-trained PA security forces, and repression, most decisively the suppression of the Second Intifada in the mid-2000s. Those elements most willing to reconcile themselves with Israel now predominate.

In practical terms, this means that those thousands of activists affiliated with the various Palestinian factions who may have in the past helped organize and give political cohesiveness to Palestinian resistance are today either dead, in jail or employed by the Palestinian security forces that actively suppress rather than assist [4] any popular mobilizations by Palestinians.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Hamas: An Alternative?

As frustration with the PA’s failures and collaboration mounted, the Islamist party Hamas won popular support for its refusal to capitulate to the Oslo Accords and its continued resistance to Israel’s occupation.

Hamas and the people of Gaza have been met with vicious attacks and a deadly siege by Israel as a result of their refusal to bow to the diktats of Israel and the U.S. But while Hamas has not become an appendage of Israel’s colonization drive, it suffers from many of the same weaknesses that the PLO did.

First, Hamas, like Fatah, rejects any notion of class struggle in its struggle against Israel and the West. Instead, as Khalid Hroub explains in his book Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide, “its membership includes merchants, business people and the rich,” and “wealthy Muslims from the Gulf represent the main source of Hama’s funding.” Similarly, Hamas like the PLO before it, allies itself with various capitalist regimes in the region, from Iran to Qatar, instead of the masses who suffer under these regimes.

The regional upheavals over the past four years have clearly exposed these weaknesses. The spread of the Arab Spring rebellions of 2011 to Syria exposed the limits of the so-called “anti-imperialist” resistance that Hamas tied itself to.

Syria, Hezbollah and Iran viciously repressed the democratic uprising of the Syrian people to maintain their rule, including over the Palestinians of Syria, who they starved in Yarmouk [5]. In so doing, they and their defenders counterpose struggles for democracy and social justice to the struggle against imperialism.

This has the regrettable effect of simultaneously discrediting the idea of anti-imperialist resistance, while opening the door to imperial appeals to those sectors fighting for democratic demands–all while physically annihilating the working class and other oppressed groups whose political activity is required to challenge the power of imperialism.

Hamas did break with its main backers–the Syrian and Iranian regimes–only to move its headquarters to Qatar and hitch its wagon to a new patron.

Instead of forging ties of solidarity with the mass movement challenging Egypt’s relationship with Israel, it looked to the rising star of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had come to power, but set down its own red lines, asserting that “the Egyptian revolution had to settle its own problems before dealing with ‘foreign policy.'” [6] This led the Muslim Brotherhood to oppose protests [7] like those that targeted the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, while affirming its commitment to honoring the Camp David peace accords with Israel [8].

Later, the Egyptian military was able to use mass discontent with Morsi’s continuation of neoliberal economic policies and repression of popular protests to stage a coup and place Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi in power. With the Muslim Brotherhood out of power, Hamas has found itself isolated. At first, it attempted to forge a unity deal with the PA [9]–today, it appears to be flirting with the idea of reconciling with Saudi Arabia [10], which is looking to shore up a “Sunni alliance” to confront its regional Shia rival Iran.

This would again box the Palestinians within limits acceptable to another regional sponsor, while isolating the Palestinian people by throwing their lot in with the same rulers who use sectarian divisions to terrorize and subjugate their Arab brothers and sisters.

Hamas also takes a top-down approach to the Palestinian struggle by confining its strategy to armed struggle on the one hand and diplomacy on the other–while repressing demonstrations in Gaza that it finds threatening to its own hold on power.

In this regard, Hamas has been subject to similar pressures since winning legislative elections in 2006 and, in response to an attempted putsch sponsored by Fatah and the U.S. in 2007 [11], taking power in Gaza. Hamas’ own cadre have been absorbed into the formal state institutions that govern the open-air prison of Gaza. They are only slightly less allergic to popular mobilizations, which are also viewed as a threat to their rule.

Furthermore, the isolation of Hamas following the reversal of the Muslim Brotherhood’s fortunes in the Arab Spring–as well as their need to consolidate their rule in Gaza–has created significant pressures inside Hamas and divisions within its leadership. Some now favor reconciliation with the U.S. and Israel by ending resistance activities–in return for political recognition and a lifting of the siege in order to spur economic growth and stabilize Gaza’s reeling economy.

If the defeats of the PLO in Lebanon had left it desperate for Oslo, years of war on Gaza and regional isolation are pushing Hamas in a similar direction.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Charting a New Course

As this history shows, the situation that Palestinians are facing today is not simply the result of “corruption” or a “strategic mistake” by the Palestinian leadership. This impasse is the result of a strategy that best fits the goals of the Palestinian bourgeoisie.

At best, Palestinian capitalists and their political representatives will maneuver to gain better terms for themselves or ensure that they do not lose all credibility among Palestinians. But they are incapable of carrying out a strategy that can truly win Palestinian liberation for the majority of Palestinians.

This is because such a strategy would entail the mobilization and democratic empowerment of the mass of the Palestinian people as well as the development and deepening of solidarity with workers regionally and internationally to take on the forces that oppress the Palestinians.

Carrying out such mobilizations would unravel the lucrative economic and political relationships of the Palestinian capitalists with American, European, Arab and Israeli capital. These relationships come at the cost of political subservience, not to mention the demobilization of social forces necessary to challenge Israel.

A genuine strategy for Palestinian liberation must be based on a different social force: the vast majority of Palestinian workers–in the West Bank and Gaza, within Israel’s borders, and in the diaspora. Unlike Palestinian capitalists, the Palestinian working class is not hamstrung by regional and international alliances. It is not afraid of the democratic self-activity necessary for liberation. Nor is it driven by the narrow goal of establishing state power on any piece of land Israel is willing to cut loose.

The Palestinian working class may be geographically fragmented, and it may not embody in and of itself the social power necessary to take on the state of Israel. But its interests lie in attempting to unite all the oppressed sectors of Palestinian society behind it. It can only benefit from the deepening of solidarity with the struggles of other workers regionally and internationally–which, taken together, can challenge Israel and the regional order on which it stands.

Finally, the Palestinian working class, which today suffers worsening inequality as a result of the neoliberal policies of the PA and years of expropriation at the hands of a vicious settler-colonial society, has every reason to carry out the most democratic and transformative struggle it possibly can.

The outlines for such a strategy already exist and must be built upon.

The BDS movement has already galvanized international solidarity with the Palestinian people, and it has been central to undoing the damage caused by the “peace process.” It is currently the greatest source of strength for the Palestinian movement, and its victories must be built upon.

While the tide of counterrevolution has set back popular struggles from Egypt to Syria to Libya, this will not last forever, as the recent anti-government protests in Beirut [12] and textile workers’ strikes in Egypt [13] show. The resistance of the Arab masses will return. When it does, we know that the people of the region see in the state of Israel not only the butcher of their Palestinian brothers and sisters, but also a symbol of their own oppression–and their rulers’ complicity in the subjugation and humiliation of the region.

The road to Jerusalem still lies through Cairo, Damascus and Riyadh. Today, the BDS movement shows us that it also winds its way through Paris, London and New York. More than ever, it’s clear that this road will only run through these cities’ streets, and not through their presidential palaces.

  1. [1] http://mondoweiss.net/2015/07/movement-interview-barghouti
  2. [2] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/09/gaza-uninhabitable-2020-israel-palestine-150902065427364.html
  3. [3] http://socialistworker.org/2015/10/28/israels-reign-of-terror-in-jerusalem
  4. [4] http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/22365/another-palestinian-uprising
  5. [5] https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/thousands-risk-starvation-yarmouk-un-warns
  6. [6] http://socialistworker.org/2014/07/28/palestine-and-the-arab-counterrevolution
  7. [7] http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=29021
  8. [8] http://www.ibtimes.com/morsi-reassures-israel-sinai-operations-will-honor-1979-peace-treaty-759553
  9. [9] http://socialistworker.org/2014/05/20/new-era-for-palestinian-unity
  10. [10] https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/saudi-arabia-and-hamas-pragmatic-partnership
  11. [11] http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2008/04/gaza200804
  12. [12] http://socialistworker.org/2015/09/03/the-stink-comes-from-the-top
  13. [13] http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article4264
  14. [14] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0

How Israel withholds labour rights from the West Bank’s Palestinian workers (The Conversation)

The Conversation

How Israel withholds labour rights from the West Bank’s Palestinian workers

Palestinian workers on the West Bank. Reuters/Ammar Awad

As Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories edges towards its 50th year, violent incidents in the West Bank remain fairly sporadic. The political and economic reality of coexistence in the Palestinian territories has made Palestinians and Israelis deeply interdependent – and especially Palestinian workers and Israeli employers and corporations.

That relationship has always been legally tangled, but in recent weeks, there’ve been new developments that could make things even worse.

To begin with, the Israeli National Labour Court found that Israeli law does not apply to Palestinians working for Israelis in the Jordan Valley, an area of the West Bank that has become infamous for child labour.

Meanwhile, the leader of the right-wing party Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett, succumbed to pressure placed by Israeli farmers in the Jordan Valley and stepped back from his previous commitment to apply Israeli labour law in the West Bank.

That spells misery for West Bank Palestinians working for Israeli employers and corporations, and doubles down on a regime of profound legal inequality.

Choked

Tens of thousands of Israelis are moving into existing settlements and establishing new ones (often on private Palestinian land) –not for ideological reasons, but because the costs are lower and the standard of living is higher than in Israel proper. For the same reason, a great many Israeli businesses are moving to the settlements and to industrial zones. Many of these businesses, especially in sectors such as manufacturing, construction and agriculture, rely on cheap Palestinian labour for their profits.

The Israeli government is still choking the development of an independent Palestinian economy through military orders that curb the use of funds, imposes limits on the supply of water and electricity and restricts access to farm land through the permit system and the separation barrier. That means Palestinians are increasingly forced to rely on Israeli employers to make ends meet.

This is not an unwelcome development on the Israeli side. Palestinian workers are especially attractive to Israeli employers because of a very particular legal situation that’s arisen over the past few years.

Heavy load. Reuters/Ammar Awad

Until 2007, the assumption was that Palestinians were employed in the settlements and in Israeli-owned industries according to the Jordanian law that was in place when Israel conquered the West Bank – except where that law was modified by the military commander of the region.

This situation was based on the law of occupation, which dictates that the occupier should respect the law in force in the occupied territory. However, as the occupation became a prolonged one, a situation developed that those who drafted the laws of occupation never imagined.

Israelis lived in the territory and conducted their economic life as if under Israeli law (as is their prerogative) while employing Palestinians under Jordanian law in the West Bank and Egyptian law in Gaza. Different laws apply for people doing the same work, who are different only by virtue of their race or nationality.

The result is not mere discrimination. The application of different laws for different sections of people is very close to, if not reaches the core of, apartheid.

Separate and unequal

The Israeli Supreme Court, politically savvy as ever, addressed this issue in 2007. In a landmark decision, it ruled that where Palestinians work side-by-side with Israelis in Israeli “exclaves” created from illegal settlements and industrial zones, then the same Israeli law should apply to both Israelis and Palestinians.

Paradoxically, this was not just a victory for Palestinians and their Israeli supporters. It was also supported by right-wing Israeli nationalists, who advocate the annexation of Palestinian land through the application of Israeli law to Area C, the West Bank’s largest subdivision. But the ruling both created problems for Israeli businesses established in the West Bank and explicitly relied on a law that is already anything but generous to Palestinians.

Since 2007, the situation has evolved on both sides. Some Palestinian workers have taken advantage of the rights the Supreme Court decision guaranteed them, while right-wing members of the Knesset continued their efforts to expand the application of Israeli labour law.

Many Israeli businesses sprung into action and began searching for loopholes in the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision. So Israeli law should apply where the employer is Israeli? No problem, we’ll engage a Palestinian intermediary to sign the cheques. So Israeli law should apply where the employment is based in an Israeli exclave? That’s fine, we’ll move the undertaking out of the industrial zone, meaning the employer’s obligations are eased, but their workers still regulated by the same highly restrictive permit regime.

This issue was looked into by the National Labour Court, but sadly, it gave its stamp of approval to legal trickery and ushered in the shameful state of affairs we see today, where the application of different laws to different people is formally acknowledged.

As for Naftali Bennett, he could have responded with a proud national pronouncement that would indicate that nationalist ideology comes at a cost. Come to think of it, perhaps that’s exactly what he did – only the cost is for the Palestinians to bear.

Israelis demand Palestinian workers be fired (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Israelis demand Palestinian workers be fired

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-X9SNJvWxg

The Israeli mayor of Ashkelon announced yesterday that Palestinian citizens of Israel are banned from working on construction projects in bomb shelters at local kindergartens during school hours. This comes amid a new wave of Israeli popular racism calling for Arabs to be fired.

In a video posted on Facebook on 18 November, a group of Israeli customers in a supermarket arrive to the checkout lane with full grocery carts. They ask the cashiers whether or not the establishment employs Palestinians — and storm out in synchronized protest when the cashiers answered yes (the video has been translated by The Electronic Intifada in the copy above — press the “CC” button to activate subtitles).

Mani Krois, the Facebook user who posted the video, encourages Israelis to join them in boycotting businesses that “employ the enemy.” At the time of writing, the video has received more than 4,400 “likes” and hundreds of supportive comments.

The Ashkelon mayor’s move came two days after an attack on a synagogue in the western part of occupied Jerusalem killed four Israelis and a police officer from the Druze religious minority in present-day Israel.

activestills14002605349lrvz

Israelis in Jerusalem hold signs reading “Death to terrorists” and “Do not hire enemies” — terms that have become interchangeable with “Arabs” — in Jerusalem following an attack on a synogogue on 18 November.

(Yotam Ronen / ActiveStills)

Writing on his Facebook account, Mayor Itamar Shimoni stated: “I have nothing against Arab Israelis, they work with us throughout the year and do construction for us.”

“Arab Israelis” is a politicized term employed by Israel and its supporters to refer to Palestinian citizens of Israel, who constitute an estimated 1.7 million Muslims, Christians and Druze in cities, towns and villages across present-day Israel.

According to Adalah, a Haifa-based legal center, they face more than fifty discriminatory laws that limit their access to state resources and, to varying degrees, stifle their political expression.

“I think that when the flames are high, it is wrong to let Jews go to the Temple Mount,” Shimoni said, referring to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem. “To the same extent, I think it is wrong to bring Arab laborers into the preschool in this time.”

Shimoni also boasted that he placed armed security guards at elementary schools in the vicinity of construction sites that employ Palestinian laborers.

Yehiel Lasri, mayor of the nearby city of Ashdod, also imposed increased restrictions on Palestinian employees and “assign[ed] security details to kindergartens near construction sites,” the right-wing Times of Israel reported.

Support among Israelis

Israel’s Channel 10 reported on Thursday night that 58 percent of Israelis supported Shimoni’s ban. A screenshot of that survey was posted on the social media website Twitter by Israeli journalist Ami Kaufman.

As the mayor faced mounting criticism, Israel’s housing and construction ministerUri Ariel declared his support for Shimoni’s decision to bar Palestinian construction workers in Israeli schools.

“It’s not racist in my view, I think that in such times, special means are taken, and this is one of the means,” Ariel said, as reported by the Israeli website Galaz. “I suggest that everyone carefully review who is working with him.”

Effi Mor, security manager for Ashkelon’s municipality, also backed Shimoni. “In recent days our hotlines have been getting many calls about suspicious movements, fearful mothers, from a broad spectrum of citizens about them not checking if [they are Israeli citizens],” the Galaz article also notes.

Other Israeli politicians, many of them known for their stridently anti-Palestinian views, condemned Shimoni.

Israel’s economy minister Naftali Bennett — famous for bragging that he “killed lots of Arabs” — denounced Shimoni. “Ninety-nine percent of Israeli Arabs are loyal and want to integrate,” Bennett said.

“There is no place for discrimination against Arab Israelis,” said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as reported by the Israeli daily Haaretz. “We cannot make generalizations about an entire population based on a small unruly minority. Most Arab citizens of Israel are law-abiding.”

The move was also denounced by several other Israeli politicians, such as Tzipi Livni, the justice minister, and Yair Lapid, the finance minister.

Hollow condemnation

Yet, any condemnation of racism from politicians such as Netanyahu and Bennett — known for their intense participation in anti-Palestinian incitement campaigns — is hollow.

In addition to his own incitement and racist threats, Bennett is leader of the Jewish Home (Habeyit Hayehudi) party. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, regularly calls for Palestinian citizens of Israel to be forcibly transferred.

Last week, Netanyahu lashed out at Palestinian citizens of Israel protesting against the police slaying of 22-year-old Palestinian youth Kheir Hamdan in the Galilee village of Kufr Kana.

“Whoever doesn’t respect Israeli law will be punished to the fullest extent,”Netanyahu declared. “I will direct the interior minister to consider stripping the citizenship of those who call for the destruction of the state of Israel.”

He also encouraged Palestinians in Israel to go to the occupied West Bank or the besieged Gaza Strip. “To all those who demonstrate against Israel and in favor of a Palestinian state, I say something simple: I invite you to move there; we won’t give you any problem,” he added, according to Haaretz.

The anti-Palestinian incitement that starts at the top of levels of the Israeli government has also contributed to the country’s downward spiral of racist frenzy.

Drivers out of work

On Thursday, just four days after bus driver Yousuf al-Ramouni was found hanged in his bus, it was reported across Israeli media outlets that 27 Palestinian bus drivers in Jerusalem are no longer working with the Israeli bus company Egged.

Israel claims that al-Ramouni, 32, committed suicide. His family, however, believes he was killed by Israeli settlers.

“We reject the suicide theory. We all know it was settlers who killed him,” Osama al-Ramouni, the victim’s brother, told AFP. “He had no problems that would make him [commit suicide].”

“My brother had children and was a happy man,” Osama also told AFP. “It is impossible that he killed himself.”

Muatasem Fakeh, one of al-Ramouni’s colleagues, said the bus driver’s body “was hanged over the steps at the back of the bus in a place where it would be impossible to hang yourself alone.”

“We saw signs of violence on his body,” he added.

The late al-Ramouni’s Palestinian colleagues went on strike in response to his death. It is still unclear whether the 27 bus drivers were fired, or whether they just refrained from going to work due the unsafe conditions in the current environment of intense anti-Palestinian incitement, particularly in Jerusalem.

Nothing new

Yossi Deitch, the deputy mayor of the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality, demanded that “the Egged bus company management … fire the Arab bus drivers from East Jerusalem who did not show up to work after their colleague was found hanged in a bus,” the right-wing Israeli daily Jerusalem Post reported.

Kikar Hashabat, an Ultra-orthodox Israeli news site, reported that the drivers were fired by Egged. But the bus company’s spokesman, Ron Ratner, avoided commenting specifically and said only that “Egged has not fired any of its drivers who are Arab citizens of Israel.”

Speaking to Haaretz, Ratner pointed out that “very few” of the company’s 600 Palestinian drivers “from the east of [Jerusalem] have chosen to stop working for Egged for personal reasons,” insinuating that the drivers quit by their own volition.

“The drivers’ feelings following [al-Ramouni’s alleged] suicide are understandable,” Ratner went on, “but in practice, even during these tense days, they face no danger in coming back to work.”

But Israeli businesses have a long history of firing Palestinian employees — including those who carry Israeli citizenship — due to social pressure or because of their political views.

During Israel’s 51-day assault on the besieged Gaza Strip this past summer, dozens of Palestinians across Israel were fired from their jobs for posting content critical of the war on Gaza on social media outlets.

In most cases, dozens of employers fired Palestinian employees who posted political content after local Jewish Israeli communities threatened them with a boycott, according to a lawyer working with Kav LaOved, a Nazareth-based labor rights group.

Yet there have also been suggestions that Palestinians are being fired simply for making comments on social media websites. “Israeli Jews have read [Facebook] statuses of colleagues and then demanded their termination,” said the lawyer, Gadeer Nicola, speaking to the liberal Zionist grantmaking group the New Israel Fund.

With thanks to Dena Shunra for translation.

Editor’s note: A photo caption was corrected to say that anti-Arab signs carried by demonstrators display the words “Death to terrorists” and “Do not hire enemies,” and not “Death to Arabs.” The mistranslation originated in the caption supplied by the photo agency. 

Appeal of Algeria’s UGTA and PT for the Unconditional, Total and Immediate Lifting of the Blockade of Gaza

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 7.48.49 PMWORKERS PARTY OF ALGERIA (PT)
GENERAL UNION OF ALGERIAN WORKERS (UGTA)

Algiers, 14 September 2014

To workers, to labour activists,
To defenders of democratic rights

Unconditional, Total and Immediate Lifting of the Blockade of Gaza!
Immediate End to All War Measures Against Gaza!

The peoples and workers of the entire world have been horrified by the killing and mass destruction inflicted by Israel and its army on Gaza and the whole of the Palestinian people, unleashing a deluge of fire that lasted 51 days. The macabre tally: 2,150 dead, around 12,000 seriously injured; 20,000 homes destroyed, throwing 25 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants onto the street; and all basic infrastructure destroyed (schools, hospitals, factories, roads, universities, etc.), resulting in the destruction of 200,000 jobs.

The peoples and workers of the whole world do not agree that the majority of western governments, beginning with the Obama administration, should arm and support Israel, which is guilty of genuine genocide.

The workers and peoples do not agree that several governments, especially a certain number of Arab regimes in the Middle East, should serve as accomplices in this crime against humanity.

Do the Palestinian people have the right to live? Because what the Palestinian people are demanding is what the peoples of the whole world are demanding: land, peace, freedom and re-establishing their unity as a nation.

On every continent, notably in Europe, in the United States, in Latin America, in the Maghreb, in the Middle East, in Japan, Pakistan, South Africa and elsewhere, powerful demonstrations bringing together tens of thousands — sometimes hundreds of thousands — of workers and youth have demanded an end to the killing, an end to the bombing, and the lifting of the blockade that has been strangling Gaza since 2006.

And while Israeli Jews were also demonstrating in their thousands in Tel Aviv to condemn the war on Gaza, hundreds and hundreds of Jewish survivors of the Nazi genocide and their descendants in Europe and the United States declared:

“As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. . . .

“Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water. We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. . . .

“‘Never again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

They are right. And the international mobilisation has helped the Palestinian people, through their resistance, to force Israel to take a step back, including a partial lifting of the blockade and ending the bombing.

But the Israeli aggression against the battered Palestinian people is continuing through mass arrests, assassinations, incursions by the Israeli army, the continuation of the blockade and the confiscation of Palestinian land in order to extend the Jewish settlements, while starving and ghettoising the Palestinian populations even further. This is occurring at a time when the inhabitants of Gaza, which is completely devastated, find themselves in total destitution, deprived of a roof over their heads, of food, water and electricity — in short, they are facing death.

The General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA) and the Workers Party (PT), which in Algeria are organising the labour and popular mobilisation in defence of Gaza, solemnly appeal to all the organisations of the international labour movement, from north to south and from east to west, to all activists, to all defenders of democratic rights, to all defenders of peace and fraternity between peoples:

– Let us together demand the satisfaction of the vital aspirations of the Palestinian people,

– Let us support the unanimous aspiration of the Palestinian people: “We do not want to die a slow death.”

There can be no peace without the unconditional, total and immediate lifting of the blockade, without the rebuilding of the factories, infrastructure and homes that have been destroyed, without the unconditional re-establishment of the right to fish, without the right to have ports and an airport, without the means for hospitals and schools to operate, without the right to a job, without the right of smallholders to cultivate their land, without the right to electricity and water. . . .

There can be no peace without an end to the repression, without the freeing of the detainees, who include 262 children and many women and people who are ill.

We say: It is the particular responsibility of the organisations of the labour movement throughout the world to put an end to the helping hand provided by every government in support of Israel, its army, and its murderous frenzy.

On this basis, we call for every necessary initiative to be taken to put an end to this murderous frenzy.

signed/

Louisa Hanoune
General Secretary, Workers Party (PT)

Abdelmadjid Sidi Saïd
General Secretary, General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA)
Vice-President of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity

Updated: Sign on: Call for U.S. accountability in Egypt

Updated: Sign on: Call for U.S. accountability in Egypt
August 31, 2013

The Ad-Hoc Committee for U.S. Accountability in the Middle East and North Africa is an initiative of social justice lawyers, activists and academics who have participated in first hand investigations of U.S. complicity in political and structural state violence throughout the MENA region. We are seeking individual and organizational endorsements for the following statement. Sign on: international@nlg.org or use the online form:

Condemnation of U.S.-Backed Egyptian State Repression
Ad Hoc Committee for U.S. Accountability in the Middle East and North Africa
August 19, 2013

The Ad Hoc Committee for U.S. Accountability in the Middle East and North Africa condemns the August massacre of hundreds of protesters and prisoners by the U.S.-backed Egyptian military. While currently directed at the Muslim Brotherhood, this dramatic escalation of state repression is designed to liquidate the Egyptian Revolution and restore the military-police state of the Mubarak regime. We also condemn all assaults on Egypt’s Christians, Shiites and other minorities. The sectarian campaign only serves to block revolutionary momentum and, as in the past, further the interests of the repressive state.

The US-backed Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) continues today to wield both undue political and economic power. The State “security” apparatuses continue to be used to repress all forms of political dissent, resulting in the death, arrest, imprisonment and torture of Egyptian revolutionary activists. The week of August 12, 2013 saw the murder of over one thousand Egyptian civilians, protestors and pedestrians, including the slaughter of over 50 Muslim Brotherhood prisoners held in detention on August 18, 2013.

Equally alarming is the resurgence, over the past few weeks, of the intelligence apparatus that was removed from domestic Egyptian life and affairs after — and as a result of — the January 25th revolution.

The remobilization of Islamophobia and the rhetoric of “war on terror” as a means of justifying the recent slaughter of those opposed to Military rule or Mubarak-era remnants threatens the Egyptian struggle for justice and accountability for all victims of state violence at the hands of the military, from Tahrir, Maspero, Mohamed Mahmoud, Port Said, the Presidential Palace battles, to the massacres at the Republican Guard.

We are further concerned that the Sissi-SCAF justification of state violence under the rhetoric of “fighting terrorism” will serve as a pretext for the expansion and legitimization of the U.S.-led global “war on terror” that has victimized millions around the world, including the people of the United States.

We condemn all forms of U.S. complicity in Egyptian state repression and continue to support popular Egyptian demands for an end to U.S. military aid that has for decades financed illegal killing, torture, and imprisonment under the regimes of Sadat, Mubarak and SCAF. While we do not equate the Mursi presidency with the regimes of Mubarak, Sissi and SCAF, we acknowledge and condemn all crimes committed against the Egyptian people under the elected Mursi administration as well, including but not limited to the imprisonment, threats, and incitement of sectarian violence against the opposition. This does not however justify the gross crimes committed by the Sissi-SCAF regime.

• We condemn the illegal use of lethal violence against protesters using U.S. financed ammunition and teargas, which has left hundreds dead in recent weeks.

• We condemn all unjustified arrests and round-ups of individuals suspected of being members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

• We condemn the arrests and threats made against human rights workers, attorneys and all activists seeking to expose state crimes.

• We condemn Egyptian military collaboration with the U.S. and Israel in targeting the Palestinian people.

• We stand in solidarity with those opposed to the reimplementation of Emergency Law and the National Security Police, pillars of the Mubarak regime, under the dangerous pretext of “fighting terrorism.”

• We call for solidarity against all human rights infractions.

• We support the Egyptian call for an immediate transfer of power to a popularly supported civilian government.

Accordingly,

1. We demand Egyptian authorities immediately end all state violence and ensure the protection of the human rights of all Egyptians, including all prisoners.

2. We demand the U.S. government account for its role in and be held accountable for its complicity and/or collaboration in political and structural violence committed by the Egyptian State apparatus.

3. We demand an end to U.S. Aid to the Egyptian Military.

4. We demand the release of all Political Prisoners.

5. We demand an end to all sectarian attacks.

We believe that revolutionary mobilization around the principles of the Jan 25th Egyptian Revolution — “Bread, Freedom, Social Justice, and Human Dignity” — is ongoing, and represented by the continuing struggle of workers and other activists throughout the country. U.S.-financed state repression under SCAF seeks to undermine the continuation of the true revolutionary process.

Ad-Hoc Committee for U.S. Accountability in the Middle East North Africa

Suzanne Adely, National Lawyers Guild, Int. Committee Co-Chair, 2012 NLG Egypt Delegation, 2013 IADL Turkey Delegation

Audrey Bomse, National Lawyers Guild, Member of NLG 2011 Tunisia Egypt Delegation

Lamis Deek, National Lawyers Guild, Human Rights Lawyer, NLG Egypt Delegation Palestine Delegation for Political Prisoners

Michael Letwin, Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325, NLG Egypt Delegation Palestine Delegation for Political Prisoners

Corinna Mullin, Activist and Academic, NLG Tunisia Egypt Delegation

Charlotte Kates, National Lawyers Guild, Palestine Delegation for Political Prisoners

Signatories

Atef Said, Human Rights Activist Sociologist, Egypt-USA

Azadeh Shahshahani, President, National Lawyers Guild, NLG Tunisia Egypt Delegations

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, PhD, Ass. Professor, Race and Resistance Studies, Senior Scholar: Arab Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative (AMED)

Monami Maulik, Migrant/Human Rights Organizer

Immanuel Ness, Professor, Brooklyn College, City University of New York.

Noha Arafa, Esq., Delegate, Assoc. Legal Aid Attorneys

Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN)

Campaign for Peace and Democracy

Devorah Hill, author and educator

Kiana Karim, M.A. Candidate, Gallatin School, New York University

Rogers Turrentine

Wayne Heimbach

Manijeh Nasrabadi, activist, writer, scholar

Selma James, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK

Sara Kershnar

Jill Stein, Green Party Presidential Nominee, 2012

Tom McVitie

Dick Reilly, Hammerhard Media Works

Ben Manski, President, Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution

Andrew Ross, New York University

Dianne Post, Attorney

James Marc Leas, National Lawyers Guild, Co-chair Free Palestine Subcommittee, member 2009 and 2012 Gaza Delegations

Pham Binh, The North Star Website

Dennis Kortheuer, PhD, California State University, Long Beach

B. Ross Ashley, NDP Socialist Caucus, reproclaimed Fourth International

Dr. Stephen Oren

Sherry Wolf, International Socialist Review

David Letwin, Gaza Freedom March, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return

Jose Palazon, CC. OO.

Bernadette Ellorin, Chair, Bayan USA

Dr. Sarah Marusek, amiddleeastblog.wordpress.com

Joe Catron, International Solidarity Activist, Gaza, Palestine

Richard Greve

Julio Vernia

Tikva Honig-Parnass, author

Roger Dittmann, US Federation of Scholars and Scientists

Joanne Landy, Co-Director, Campaign for Peace and Democracy

Sign on here to endorse the statement:http://knowyourhumanrights.org/2013/08/12/sign-on-call-for-u-s-accountability-in-egypt/#form

Israel in Isolation (Socialist Review)

Socialist Review

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Israel in isolation

Issue section:
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Israel’s attack on Gaza has rightly caused outrage. But Israel’s murder of Palestinians isn’t the result of a failed peace process or a few bad Israeli leaders – it springs from the very nature of the Israeli state. Estelle Cooch explains how the recent attack fits into the history of apartheid in Palestine

There’s a well known adage, often attributed to Albert Einstein, that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results”. With that in mind, why did Israel launch yet another attack on Gaza last month – one that seems to have ended with a strengthened Hamas and a more isolated Israel? Did they expect a different result?

The war was the third launched by Israel in six years. Their attack on Lebanon in 2006 was followed by brutal assaults on Gaza in 2008-09 and again in 2012. All three crises have ended with diminishing international support for Israel. Following the most recent ceasefire on 22 November Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal declared in Cairo, “Free people are not deterred. What has happened is a lesson that the people’s choice is the resistance.” The silence of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has been deafening. In his televised speech to the Israeli public, Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t mention the word victory once.

But Israel’s approach doesn’t stem from insanity; Israel doesn’t in fact expect different results, but longs for the same ones. The dilemma they are confronted with is that while their goal remains the same – the creation of an ever larger Israel – the political terrain has been totally transformed.

In 1997, when Israel was last under the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Oslo accords had tempered the Palestinian leadership, the First Intifada had long dissipated and Israel had secure borders with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Fifteen years later and all that is up in the air.

The reaction of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi bears witness to these shifting sands. Morsi was at the forefront of pushing for a ceasefire and the Egyptian foreign minister was deployed to Gaza in the midst of Israel’s aerial blitzkrieg. It almost doesn’t merit saying that Mahmoud Abbas did not visit Gaza and played little role in the ceasefire.

Indeed the glaringly obvious success of Hamas will further accelerate the likely collapse of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and expose the limitations of Abbas’s feeble UN statehood plan.

A victory for Hamas?
One fascinating report by the International Crisis Group argues that Hamas has used their position in the recent conflict to test out their relations with Egypt, Qatar, Turkey and Tunisia. If developing these relations seems more worthwhile in the long term the growing rift between Hamas and the Syrian regime will become irreparable. One other indication of the pressure that reverberated around the Arab world to support the Palestinians was that Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nassrallah was forced into giving a statement in support of Hamas. This comes after months of in-fighting and angry exchanges between the two organisations as a result of their differences on the Syrian revolution. Clearly one motivation behind Israel’s attack, lay in testing the response of a post-Mubarak Egypt. Morsi’s balancing act seems to have worked for now, but the tension between ordinary Egyptians, who want tougher action on Israel, and supporters of the old regime, who wish to reaffirm the Camp David agreement, will prove increasingly difficult to manage in the long term.

Morsi may well be attempting to carve out a role similar to that of Turkey – a strategic ally of the US, but one with a more independent foreign policy. And while Turkey’s reaction has been contradictory – on the one hand they recently condemned Israel as a “terrorist state”, on the other hand trade between Israel and Turkey has increased in recent years – their motivations should be seen through the prism of a changing region. In other words, Turkey desires relevance in the Middle East far more than it desires relations with Israel.

Nonetheless Egypt’s status as the second biggest recipient of US foreign aid means that carving out this different role will not be straightforward.

If one of Israel’s motivations was to test post-election Egypt, another was to test post-election America.

It is interesting that while the US would not condemn the massacre in Gaza (no change there) Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that behind the scenes Hilary Clinton urged the Israelis to accept the ceasefire – a ceasefire that has rehabilitated Hamas as a legitimate partner in negotiations. The International Crisis Group reported the growing divisions within the Israeli government, notably between defence minister Ehud Barak, who wanted to avoid a ground invasion at all costs, and foreign minister and rabid racist Avigdor Lieberman, were laid bare in the debate over the truce. Netanyahu vacillated between their two positions throughout the conflict, but eventually sided with Barak.

The isolation that the Israeli state now faces along every border, and globally with the rise of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, has fed into a third motivation for the attacks on Gaza – racism. Unable to lash out at Iran or even Lebanon after their defeat in 2006, the caged Palestinians of Gaza provide a convenient target for a brutal show of Israeli power. Attempts to demonise Hamas also help to counter the effect of the Arab Spring in humanising Arabs in the eyes of Westerners.

This racism is in some senses the most crucial strand in understanding Israeli policy as its status as a global pariah is thrown into sharper relief.

This racism is not complicated, nuanced, or just the result of a protracted conflict as Western media outlets would have us believe. The massacres in Gaza, the occupation and the apartheid wall are not anomalies of Israeli policy. They are at the heart of everything Israel is and has always been. As Egyptian revolutionary Gigi Ibrahim put it, “For Israel to exist Palestinians must die.”

In short, Israel wants the maximum amount of Palestinian land with the fewest number of Palestinians as possible.

The nature of Israel
This lies at the heart of the very nature of the Israeli state, from when it was founded in 1948. As Moshe Machover and others put it in their seminal work in 1969, The Class Character of Israeli Society, “Israel is neither a classic capitalist country, nor is it a classic colony”.

It is not a classic capitalist country because internal class conflicts bear very little influence on its external conflict with the Arab world. But nor is it a classic colony. It does not wish to exploit the native labour force (the Palestinians). Furthermore Israel is funded by imperialism, to the tune of $3 billion per year, but is not economically exploited by it.

Many people rightly make the comparison between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa. The United Nations legal definition of “apartheid” supports this comparison; the array of discriminatory laws facing Palestinian Arabs within Israel lends further credence.

Ethnic cleansing
But there is one important difference. In the Zionist movement throughout the 1920s there was an ideological battle over whether a Jewish state should exploit Arab workers or restrict itself to using Jewish labour. The Zionists who argued the new state should only exploit Jewish labour won, and consequently the creation of Israel in 1948 was achieved through the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Since then the expansion of Israel and the expulsion of Palestinians has been relentless. Israeli leaders have been unequivocal about this. In April 2012, Netanyahu himself said “I don’t want to govern the Palestinians. I don’t want them as subjects of Israel or as citizens of Israel”.

Unlike in apartheid South Africa, where the labour of the black working class was needed by its white rulers, Israel does not wish to exploit Arab labour. This means that Palestinians cannot rely on mass strikes to bring down the regime, as black workers in South Africa did. Even during the Oslo negotiations, Israel withdrew thousands of jobs from Palestinian workers. The number of Palestinians going to Israel dropped from a peak of 115,600 in 1992 to less than 40,100 in May 2001.

Some have argued, rather naively, that Israel is a society of immigrants that could be won over to opposing Zionism. With patient organising and careful propaganda, the Israeli working class could one day come to play a revolutionary role. But this misses the point.

Israel is not just a society of immigrants – it is a society of settlers. Its working class was forged through colonisation. The Zionist general Moshe Dayan acknowledged in 1956 “we are a settler generation, and without the steel helmet and the cannon we cannot plant a tree or build a house.” Even today 35 percent of Israelis still hold dual nationality with another country, while four million Palestinian refugees remain stateless.

When Karl Marx wrote in 1867 that “a nation that oppresses another cannot itself be free” he was not making a moral judgement. He meant that in a society where one exploited group does not challenge the oppression of another, it comes to believe the illusion that it shares a common interest with its own rulers.

The experience of 70 years of occupation has shown that every aspect of life for the Israeli working class is tied up with the maintenance of the Zionist regime. The main Israeli trade union, the Histadrut, has consistently played a crucial role in propping it up. Formed in 1920, the Histadrut does not allow Palestinian Arabs to join, but actively recruits Israeli settlers into its ranks. In the years before 1948, the Histadrut led “conquest of labour” campaigns that forced Arabs out of work, to be replaced by Jewish settlers.

During the ethnic cleansing of Palestine the Histadrut helped to set up the “kibbutzim” – which have been wrongly portrayed as socialist utopias. In fact they were military camps based on land which Palestinian peasants had been driven from. The Histadrut also oversaw the Haganah, a Jewish terrorist organisation and precursor to the Israeli army.

In the January 2009 massacre of Gaza, the Histadrut praised the “great restraint” of the Israeli army. Even the July 2011 “tent protests” in Israel which railed against economic inequality were remarkably silent about the millions of Palestinians who do not protest in tents, but live in them, in every refugee camp on Israel’s borders. Any “socialist” rhetoric that comes out of the mouths of so called “left-Zionists” is, in the words of Samuel Beckett, a bow tie covering a throat cancer.

As long as Zionism is the only accepted framework in Israeli society, those interested in Palestinian liberation cannot afford to waste their time looking to the Israeli working class for change.

Apartheid
One recent survey asked Israeli workers if the West Bank were to be annexed by Israel, should Palestinians be given the right to vote. A resounding 69 percent voted no. It is hard to find a greater endorsement of apartheid.

If, therefore, Israel is compelled by its very nature to wipe out the Palestinians, why hasn’t it so far? According to the Global Militarisation Index it is the most militarised country in the world. Its air force is considered second only to that of the US. A desire to test its new Iron Dome missile defence system has been suggested as one of the reasons for the recent conflict.

Militarily there is no doubting Israel’s ability to storm across the West Bank and Gaza if it so desired – as it did during the Six Day War in 1967.

And yet if it were to do that its role as the US’s watchdog in the Middle East would be seriously jeopardised. Such action could provoke the Arab working class into revolution – not only in rebellion against their own rulers and those rulers’ complicity with Palestinian oppression, but against the very existence of the Israeli state.
So, since the onset of the Arab revolutions there now seem to be two cycles in the Middle East rapidly hurtling towards each other. The first is a long term one. US economic support reinforces the Israeli occupation which in turn bolsters Israeli militarisation and breeds ever higher levels of racism within Israel.

The forthcoming Israeli elections set for 22 January do not look likely to break this cycle. Ehud Barak has announced plans to retire, robbing Netanyahu of his more moderate ally that limited the influence of far right Avigdor Lieberman. The most recent crisis also brought to the fore the genocidal rhetoric that pervades the Israeli mainstream media. Ariel Sharon’s son called for Gaza to be “flattened”. Interior minister Eli Yeshai declared the goal of the operation as “sending Gaza back to the Middle Ages”. The irony – that the Middle Ages was a period where Jews sought refuge from European anti-Semitism in Arab lands – was no doubt lost on Yeshai.

The second cycle has emerged out of the Arab Spring. Leaders like president Morsi and Jordanian king Abdullah support the Palestinians in rhetoric, but not fully in practice. Israeli aggression will breed more resistance from the Arab working class and Morsi and others will be forced to either suppress their own populations, potentially sparking unknown consequences, or to better support the Palestinians. Even the Qatari government, an erstwhile ally of the US, has pledged to invest $400 million in the rebuilding of Gaza.

These two cycles can continue for some time without coming into contact with each other, but not forever. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring an almighty crash between the two is now inevitable.