Unity for two states

Using the deaths of seven people in two suicide attacks as his excuse, Ariel Sharon has once again taken advantage of the US-led 'war against terrorism' to launch a fresh wave of brutal assaults on the Palestinian people. The two attacks in Tel Aviv had been mounted by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Arafat again demanded an end to attacks inside Israel, but that did not stop the Israeli authority from targeting his Ramallah headquarters, ruthlessly destroying all but four rooms in his office building and cutting him off from the supplies of food and water that he had stocked up in a neighbouring building. Even a stairway connecting the first and ground floors of what remains of Arafat's offices is said to have been pulled down. Within a few days more than three times the number who perished in the suicide attacks had been killed by trigger-happy Israeli soldiers. Large sections of West Bank Palestinians were suffering under the imposition of a 24-hour curfew, but that did not prevent a number of spontaneous demonstrations against the renewed brutality. These intensified when it was rumoured that the Israeli army had given the estimated 200 occupants of the HQ 10 minutes to come out with their hands up before the remaining rooms were demolished. In fact Israel had demanded the surrender of "suspected militants" who were alleged to be "planning attacks" - first the list of wanted men numbered 20, but subsequently it was raised to 50. Amongst those now claimed to be terrorists is Tawfiq Tirawi of the West Bank General Intelligence Service, who only three weeks earlier had been sitting at the negotiating table with the Israelis, trying to achieve their withdrawal from Bethlehem. No doubt Tirawi and the other Fatah officials on Sharon's list could expect to face a show trial (or worse) - like the one begun last month of Marwan Barghouti, secretary general of Fatah in the West Bank and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Of course, since the Israeli ruling clique has declared the Palestinian Authority to be a "terrorist entity", any official who has any responsibility for Arafat's police or armed bodyguard - let alone people like Barghouti who have helped coordinate resistance to Israeli terror on the streets - can be deemed a criminal murderer. Nevertheless, in an ironical display of the utmost cynicism, Sharon's gang has called on Arafat - trapped and impotent as he is - to deploy his security forces to round up "the militants". Presumably Fatah's armed wing and the Palestinian police are meant to round up themselves. Arafat could not hand over the 50 alleged 'terrorists' even if he wanted to. When he agreed in the spring to Israeli demands to place men from his compound in a Palestinian jail under international supervision and let others cornered in a Bethlehem church be exiled, he came under fierce attack from within Fatah and lost support amongst the general population. Arafat has said he is "ready for peace but not for capitulation". The Israeli regime is divided over whether it would be preferable to force him into exile, where he could act as a focus for rallying support, or leave him in place and hope to provoke the crumbling both of his own leadership and of the vestiges of the Palestinian Authority. Either way, he is viewed as a "dead man walking", according to an unnamed Israeli minister. The two suicide attacks came after a six-week lull, which itself had followed previous Israeli incursions and occupations - meant to prevent such attacks once and for all. They do no such thing, of course. In fact they have quite the opposite effect, driving more and more young Palestinians into the arms of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But, as we have pointed out time and again, Hamas and the ultra-Zionists are unofficial allies, feeding one off the other. Both aim for the destruction not only of the Palestinian Authority, but of any peaceful settlement based on the recognition of the national rights of Palestinian Arabs and Israeli jews. In the words of Arafat, Israel is exploiting the suicide attacks "as a cover to destroy the peace of the brave", while Hamas uses Israeli brutality as a pretext for its indiscriminate murderous violence against civilians, which it portrays as the only means of resistance. Hamas and Sharon are twins of terror, whose programmes are based on a loathing of democracy, an inhuman disregard for the rights of all but their own ethnic or religious group and, in the last analysis, a deep hatred of working class power. Sharon at the very least wants to rewrite the Oslo accords; at worst he would be prepared to implement a 'final solution', where most, if not all, Palestinians are forced out of the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas shares the Zionist aim of a mono-national expanded state - but in its case the desired outcome would be a reactionary islamic Palestine, with the Israeli jews driven into the sea. None of this means that we uphold Oslo in any way - it was an imperialist-imposed stitch-up whose purpose was to deny Palestinian self-determination, not further it. We demand a democratic solution, whereby both nationalities can enjoy full rights. In other words a programme based on the establishment of a democratic, secular Palestine alongside a democratic, secular Israel. Far from such a two-state solution being based on 'ethnic cleansing', as our critics ludicrously suggest, it would incorporate the free movement of people, including the right of return of all Palestinians previously driven out of their country by Zionism. The Palestinians must be allowed to set up a viable state in areas where they form the majority. Furthermore there must be full minority rights in both entities. The key to achieving this must lie with the Israeli working class, so scandalously written out of the equation by most of the left. The murderous suicide bomb 'tactic', defended by Hamas apologists as a legitimate, if not the only, resource available to the Palestinian people, is in reality a reactionary dead end. It drives the Israeli masses into the arms of the Zionist extremists, whose brutal actions in turn produce the opposite of the 'security' they claim as a goal. The Israeli working class - potentially by far the most powerful democratic force in the country, if not the entire region - must be won to see that Israeli national rights can only be permanently secured under such a settlement. Similarly, Palestinian national aspirations can only be attained through the recognition by the Palestinian masses that the Israeli nation too has a right to exist. Only on the basis of such mutual recognition can there be unity between the two peoples - a unity based on a democratic programme to be fought for by the working class using working class methods. A unity that, ironically, will bring nearer the day when Palestinian Arab and Israeli jew can live side by side in the same state. Peter Manson