Gaza: the Acid Test for Palestinian Liberation
By Mike Chimenti
A Failure Before the Start
This past November 27th 2007, the world was supposed to witness the dawning of a new era in the relations between Palestinians and Israelis. George Bush had called for an international meeting in Annapolis, Maryland to re-start the ‘peace process’ between Palestine and Israel. Delegates and representatives from more than 40 different countries attended the summit. Noticeably absent were any delegates from Hamas, the real representative of Palestinian people, who swept Palestinian parliament elections with 73.5 percent on Jan 26th 2006.
Even before the conference began, most fair minded people held out little hope for the Annapolis Conference, and for good reason. The world has already seen two different ‘peace’ plans designed to end the 60 years of violence initiated by Israel. Both of these plans have ended in total failure.
Saying Peace, Making War
In 1993, the Oslo peace process began. By September 1993, this process was being portrayed as real progress. US President Bill Clinton stood with outstretched arms as Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman, Yasser Arafat, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, shook hands on the White House lawn. The Oslo Accords saw the PLO renounce violence and officially recognize Israel. In turn, Israel officially recognized the PLO (but not a Palestinian state).
The Accords were designed to give Palestinians ‘self rule’ in the Occupied Territories, with control over the economy, taxation, and education. Israel, for its part, was to immediately stop the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, eventually removing them entirely.
By 2000, the Oslo process was dead. Settlements were expanding and Israel still controlled Palestinian economics and politics through military occupation. In June of 2002, as Israel was beginning construction of the Apartheid Wall, the Quartet (US, EU, Russia, and UN) announced the ‘Roadmap to Peace’. Under this plan, the Palestinian Authority was to stop using ‘terrorism’ (ie. renounce violence), and in turn, Israel would stop expanding settlements in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Almost six years later, the same issues are still at the forefront of the debate, and still unresolved. The final outcome of the Annapolis Conference was that the PA and Israel would “immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception", and that both sides would "make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008”, just before Bush leaves office.
"The state of Israel has no interest in holding negotiations with those that refuse to accept the basic principles of the Quartet."
– Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, December 23, 2007, Al Jazeera
Regardless of the language and grand plans of this newest ‘peace document’, the summit’s true purpose was to bolster the strength of the PA and Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. By ‘rewarding’ the West Bank with less aggressive assaults, and punishing Gaza with relentless air and ground raids and slow death via the economic blockade, the Israeli government hopes to undermine Hamas’ support within Gaza, thereby putting the PA back in control of both of the Occupied Territories.
Brutality Reminiscent of the Holocaust
"'Gaza cannot survive for very long at all without supplies and we are teetering here for the last seven months on the brink of a catastrophe”
- John Ging, head of UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, Reuters
The Government of Israel’s relentless pressure on the population of Gaza over the last eight months led to one of the most striking acts of Palestinian resistance in recent history. At dawn on the morning of January 27th, Palestinians destroyed a section of the steel wall that separates them from Egypt. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians poured through the breach in the barrier in search of food, medicine, and fuel. The Rafah crossing into Egypt had been closed completely for six months. One week previous to the wall being destroyed, Israel had closed all of Gaza’s crossings completely, choking off the last trickle of food, fuel and medicine going into Gaza.
Figures on the International Middle East Media Centre website show that since June 2007, 90% of Gaza’s local industries have disappeared under Israel’s blockade and 70,000 people have been left jobless. Poverty in the Gaza Strip has risen to 79%, up from 66% in the fall of 2007.
"We are not prepared to show any tolerance, period. And we will respond. Our reaction is not limited to a specific operation or day,"
–Ehud Olmert, March 3rd, 2008, France 24
In January, Israel began another wave of particularly vicious and deadly attacks on Gaza and the West Bank. The pretext for Israel’s newest wave of aggression was the launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel. On the 6th of January, a rocket landed further into Israel than ever before, reaching the city of Ashkelon – injuring no one and causing no property damage.
Heroic Palestinian Struggle Continues
From the close of the Annapolis conference on November 27th, 2007 until the 1st of April this year, Israel killed at least 363 Palestinians (Aljazeera). In 2007, 373 Palestinians were killed, and 11 Israelis. This recent wave of killing is the clearest indication of which kind of peace the Israeli ruling class has in mind: peace through annihilation.
While the Israeli government trumpeted the intransigent ‘terrorism’ of Hamas and berated the PA for not bringing an end to violence, they also announced hundreds of millions in funding for Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank in order to build 1,400 new homes this year. All of these new settlement expansions were issued after the Annapolis conference.
Despite almost two decades of promises of ‘peace’ and of the creation of an independent Palestinian state, daily life for the millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has become only more violent and desperate. Israel has made clear to the world that the only state they will tolerate for Palestinians is a perpetual state of fear, misery and humiliation. Palestinians have made clear to the world that justice can only come in a unified and restored Palestine. No justice, no peace.
Dismantle the Israeli Apartheid State!
Right of Return for Palestinians!
End the Occupation!
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