Molotovs in Palestine

Revolutionary Worker #914, July 6, 1997

The just struggle of the Palestinian people against the U.S.-backed Zionist state of Israel flared up once again in mid-June. In the West Bank city of Hebron there have been daily street clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops.

Some of the heaviest fighting took place on June 20. An Associated Press report described the scene in Hebron that day: "Gasoline-filled bottles exploded in staccato near the feet of Israeli troops, forcing them into retreat at the height of the bombardment. While some protesters threw the bottles, others busily concocted new firebombs or carried stones to the front for comrades to throw at the soldiers. Israeli troops responded with rubber bullets."

The Washington Post reported, "The youngest boys gathered fist-sized hunks of stones and concrete, this conflict's bottomless ammunition store. Older ones, some barely in their teens, wielded slingshots with marbles or whirled old-fashioned slings.... Young men lined up in an alley to fill glass bottles with fuel from a five-gallon jerrycan, then stuffed in rags to serve as wicks."

An 18-year-old Palestinian said, "Now we are starting the war of the Molotovs."

The fearless young rebels, fighting with stones and Molotov cocktails, are up against the Zionist troops firing steel-cored rubber bullets and sometimes live ammunition. An example of the cold-blooded viciousness of these reactionary soldiers was an exchange between two members of a platoon at the end of a day of street battles on June 20. The lieutenant said, "We did good shooting today." A corporal, laughing, answered, "Yes, you can check Alia Hospital."

At Alia Hospital three Palestinian kids were admitted after being shot at such close range that the rubber bullets penetrated into their flesh. One 12-year-old had a round lodged in his chest. Over 150 Palestinians have been reported injured by Israeli bullets since the clashes began on June 11.

There were protests in several other areas of occupied Palestine. In Nablus thousands gathered for a June 21 rally to denounce the Israeli settlements built on stolen land and the June 10 vote by the U.S. House of Representatives urging official U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Demonstrators burned U.S. and Israeli flags.

In the Gaza Strip hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators tried to plant flags and saplings on a patch of land near the town of Khan Yunis. Israeli settlers from a nearby settlement had taken the land by fencing it off, and the Palestinians were trying to reclaim it. As the demonstrators tore down the fence, Israeli troops moved in with tanks and used tear gas and rubber bullets against the people. Some witnesses said the troops also used live ammunition.

The June 10 vote in the U.S. Congress was one of the sparks for the latest upsurge in struggle in Palestine. The vote was a sign of U.S. backing for the Israeli moves to tighten their grip over Jerusalem. In March of this year, Israel's Netanyahu government began construction on a new 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 land.

The Palestinian people see Jerusalem as their capital--the political, economic and cultural center of their nation. The Zionists are trying to outright annex the entire city and surrounding areas to the state of Israel--and the Har Homa project is a key part of their plan. Har Homa will complete a ring of Israeli settlements that surround Palestinian areas in Jerusalem and will cut off these communities from the Palestinians in the West Bank.

The "war of the Molotovs" is also an expression of anger and frustration among the Palestinian masses at the U.S.-directed "peace process" between Israel and Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. The negotiations between Israel and Arafat have led to a few small pieces of territory being turned over to the partial control of the Palestinian Authority. But these areas of Palestinian "self-rule" are like the bantustans that were set up to control and contain black people under South Africa's apartheid system. Arafat and other lackey officials--who represent the Palestinian bourgeois class--have been given the role of a minor administrator and enforcer in the "self-rule" zones. They received a few million dollars in handouts from the U.S. and other major powers and have been put in charge of some local affairs and a police force. In return, they help to keep the lid on the struggle of the Palestinian people.

The "peace process" has not brought any fundamental change to the situation where the Zionist oppressors exercise military and economic control over the oppressed Palestinian nation. The tiny islands of Palestinian "self-rule" areas are surrounded by a sea of heavily armed Israeli military and settlements. Israel regularly carries out "closures" of the West Bank and Gaza Strip--preventing the Palestinian people from going to their jobs or schools. Scarce water resources, crucial to agriculture and people's livelihood, are monopolized by the Zionists. Armed Israel settlements continue to expand.

The city of Hebron became one of the "self-rule" areas last year. Like other such enclaves, the 100,000 Palestinians in Hebron basically live in a big concentration camp--with the Israeli troops guarding the outer perimeters and Arafat's police force keeping "order" on the inside. What makes Hebron unique is that, under the agreement between Arafat and Netanyahu, 400 right-wing religious settlers were allowed to remain right in the middle of the city.

In early June protests began against land-grabbing by the Israeli settlers in Hebron. The Palestinian protesters set up a tent camp near the land stolen by the Zionists and reportedly tore down a fence put up by the settlers. As Israeli troops came to the aid of the settlers, the conflict escalated into days of street clashes.

Palestinian scholar and activist Edward Said recently pointed out that while the mainstream media in the U.S. is filled with stories about the Israel-Arafat negotiations, they ignore what is really happening to the masses of people in Palestine: "There has been no coverage of the thousands of students in Gaza who cannot go back to their schools and universities on the West Bank (forbidden by Israel); nothing about the large number of Palestinian prisoners still festering (and in some cases being tortured to death) in Israeli prisons; nothing about the horrors that a large family in Gaza with unemployed father must go through to survive; nothing about the systematic, almost daily reprisals against Palestinians who try to prevent their own dispossession by Israeli settlers and army; nothing about what it means for a Palestinian to try to get in and out of Gaza (or about the West Bankers who have been forbidden entry into Jerusalem for a year); nothing about the checkpoints that make the little West Bank enclaves seem like stifling ghettos; nothing about life under Arafat's dreadful regime, with books, newspapers and magazines censored or banned, the security services threatening average people, and corruption killing the possibility of regular daily business."

In Hebron, one young Palestinian said that he and his friends had given the "peace process" a chance. But now, he thinks that "it's all on paper" and will not really change things. He said this as he filled an empty orange juice bottle with gasoline before going up against the Israeli troops.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)