Palestine: War of Stones On Again

Revolutionary Worker #901, April 6, 1997

As we go to press, the oppressed people of Palestine have been waging daily street fights for over a week against the troops of Zionist Israel. Young Palestinian rebels, fearless and defiant, are using whatever is at hand--stones, slingshots, gasoline bombs--to go up against the well-armed Israeli soldiers. Yasser Arafat's police forces are trying desperately to keep the protests under control. But hundreds of people in the West Bank town of Ramallah swept past the Palestinian police and rushed the Israeli army checkpoint. In Bethlehem, protesters burned U.S. flags along with Israeli flags. Hebron has been the scene of fierce clashes.

From a March 27 report in the Washington Post: "Teenage boys are learning the old intifada [Palestinian uprising--RW] skills: how to fashion a sling from clothesline and scrap leather and use it to launch a lemon-size stone 30 yards, how to ward off tear gas with onions, how to use a wheeled metal trash bin as rolling armor against the rubber bullets of Israeli riot troops. `We learned this in the refugee camp,' said Firas Jihad, 14, outside Bethlehem's First Bible School recently, whirling a homemade sling in an underhanded arc before letting fly his missile toward Israeli soldiers."

The war of stones is on again!

The Zionist settler-state of Israel, and the U.S. imperialists behind them, have tried to use brute force combined with false promises of "peace" to extinguish the just struggle and deep aspirations of the Palestinian people for liberation. But as Mao Tsetung said: where there is oppression, there is resistance. The fires of resistance continue to burn in the towns, villages and refugee camps of Palestine.

The Invasion by Housing Project in Jerusalem

The spark for this most recent upsurge in Palestine was a blatant act of provocation by Israel's Netanyahu government. On March 18 construction began on a new Israeli housing project on Jabal Abu Ghneim mountain in the Arab section of East Jerusalem. The huge project, called Har Homa by the Zionists, will bring at least 50,000 more Israeli settlers onto stolen Palestinian territory. Rifle-toting Israeli troops accompany bulldozers at the construction site, and police have blocked off nearby roads to prevent protests.

For the Palestinian people, Jerusalem is their economic, political and cultural center. The Zionists have been moving to outright annex the entire city of Jerusalem and surrounding areas to the state of Israel--and the Har Homa project is a key part of this plan. Har Homa will complete a ring of Israeli settlements that surround Palestinian areas in East Jerusalem, and will cut off those communities from the Palestinians in the West Bank.

A Canadian journalist described how these Israeli settlements are like military fortifications: "These massive, ugly apartment blocs form a nearly unbroken wall, cutting off Jerusalem from the West Bank. Constructed of large stone blocks protected by earth revetments, and thick, steel-reinforced concrete, many are capable of withstanding 155mm howitzer shells and even direct fire by 105-130mm flat trajectory shells. Narrow windows resembling pillbox embrasures face the enemy. These fortress blocs have underground shelters, magazines, and independent water supplies. Their residents are armed and organized to defend the complexes."

The Har Homa project is an invasion under the guise of "housing construction"--part of Israel's moves to grab more Palestinian land and push the people into isolated bits of territory surrounded by the Zionist military. And all this is being carried out under the Israel-PLO "peace process"--initiated and orchestrated by the U.S.

A few days after the groundbreaking at Har Homa, an explosion ripped through a restaurant in Tel Aviv, killing three Israelis and a Palestinian man. The Netanyahu government claimed that the Islamic organization Hamas was responsible for the blast. Following their usual practice of "collective punishment," Zionist troops evicted the family of the alleged bomber and destroyed their home. And Netanyahu accused Arafat of giving a "green light" to the bombing as well as the street clashes in the West Bank. The U.S. government also declared that Arafat must "take convincing steps against violence and terrorism" before the peace talks can get going again.

In typical fashion, the U.S. imperialists and the Zionists have turned reality upside down. The imperialist-settler state of Israel can carry out all sorts of aggression and reactionary violence against the Palestinian people. But any act of resistance by the oppressed is condemned as "violence and terrorism" that must be crushed.

The Phony "Peace Process"

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the mighty intifada of the Palestinian people rocked the oppressive order in the Middle East and put fear into the cold hearts of the Zionist rulers, reactionary Arab regimes and the U.S. imperialists. The youth were on the frontlines of this war of stones. Their courage in taking on the Isareli army revealed the rise of a new revolutionary generation willing to put their lives on the line for the just cause of Palestinian liberation.

After the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. began the "peace process" in the hopes of burying the cause of Palestine once and for all and achieving "stability" for their imperialist interests in the Middle East. This is a "peace process" built on the murder and starvation of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people.

The negotiations between Israel and the PLO have led to a few small pieces of territory being turned over to the partial control of Arafat's Palestinian Authority. But these areas of Palestinian "self-rule" are much like the bantustans that were set up to control and contain black people under South Africa's apartheid system. Arafat has been given the role of an administrator over the Palestinian zones--in charge of minor local affairs and a police force that has become notorious for brutalizing the people and detaining political opponents.

Meanwhile, the Zionist state exercises overall military and economic control over the Palestinian people. Israel regularly carries out "closures" of the West Bank and Gaza Strip--preventing the Palestinian people from going to their jobs and schools. Water resources crucial to agriculture and people's livelihood are monopolized by the Zionists. Armed Israel settlements in the West Bank continue to expand.

In a letter published in the New York Times this January, Palestinian scholar and activist Edward Said wrote: "Since the Oslo agreements [between Israel and Arafat--RW] were signed in 1993, Palestinians have lost more land to Israeli expropriations and are vastly poorer. They cannot move around, and because of Yasir Arafat's tyrannical regime they live without any democratic freedoms at all.

"Moreover, nothing in the `peace process' envisages any Palestinian sovereignty or repatriation of the 55 percent of the population who exist as refugees. The `autonomy' granted residents of the West Bank and Gaza by Israeli relieves Israel of the bother of dealing with their municipal affairs. The Israeli Army is still in command, the settlements and armed settlers increase in number, annexed Jerusalem amounts to 25 percent of the West Bank, so much so that Palestinian autonomy--confined to the bantustans of the seven largest towns whose entrances and exits are controlled by Israel and whose total area is about 4 percent of the West Bank--is an indirect way of continuing the occupation."

Arafat and the PLO leadership claim that the "peace process" will lead to the recovery of more land and eventually even a Palestinian mini-state. The price for this goal, they say, is the recognition of the "legitimacy" of the state of Israel and renunciation of armed struggle. Arafat is carrying out the program of the Palestinian bourgeoisie, which seeks some way to reconcile the struggle of the Palestinian people with the interests of the imperialist powers and the Zionists. They argue that this is the only "realistic" way for the Palestinian nation, given the military power of Israel.

But as the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement pointed out in 1993: "This dream of reconciling the legitimate national aspirations of the Palestinian people with imperialism and Zionism was never realizable, not then and not now, for the linchpin of imperialist domination of the Middle East is the dispossession of the Palestinian people and the establishment of the pro-West military outpost known as Israel."

As for the vicious Zionist army, armed to the teeth with modern weapons thanks to U.S. aid, any serious struggle for Palestinian liberation must develop military strategy and tactics appropriate for defeating the Israeli state. But, as Mao Tsetung analyzed, in the final analysis the imperialists and reactionaries are paper tigers.

Why are the Zionist rulers threatening to bring out tanks against the stone-throwing youth of Palestine? Why is the U.S. scrambling to get the "peace process" back on track? Why are reactionary Arab rulers in the region issuing dire warnings about a new upsurge of Palestinian resistance?

Because these imperialists and reactionaries know and fear the power of the just struggle of the Palestinian people.

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