Unity for two states

The dire situation in Israel and Palestine following the latest escalation of terror and repression is crying out for a principled, democratic political solution, centred on the working class. In response to the two January 5 suicide bombs in Tel Aviv, the Israeli army stepped up its bloody attacks and intensified its oppressive hold over the inhabitants of the occupied territories. The Palestinian population, already kept down by one of the most restrictive regimes ever witnessed, was hit by a further clampdown. Men under the age of 35 were banned from leaving the West Bank and Gaza. Only around 1,350 were allowed to enter Israel the day after the latest army measure, while over 4,000 were turned back. Since June 2002 all major towns have been occupied - surrounded with barbed wire, earth barriers and heavily manned checkpoints. Main roads are largely reserved for Israeli settlers and a round-the-clock curfew has been in operation for 80% of the time - the entire population has been under house arrest - imprisoned in their own homes for days and let out for just a few hours at a time. This has meant economic ruin and destitution for whole communities. Added to this is a new ban on fishing boats leaving Palestinian coastline towns and villages. And of course the ruthless brutality of the occupying regime is reaching new heights. Trigger-happy troops take the lives of Palestinian men, women and children virtually every day and house demolitions are routinely carried out at around 20 a month, rendering the extended families of suspected 'militants' destitute. We are well used to seeing the photographs of Palestinian men, rounded up and kept blindfolded for hours at a time, and every day the total of those held in 'administrative detention' (a leftover from the British mandate) increases. The regime's crackdown is meant to prevent attacks on Israel once and for all. It does no such thing, of course. In fact it has quite the opposite effect, driving more and more young Palestinians into the arms of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. And, not wishing to be outflanked, secular forces linked to Al Fatah have in desperation adopted the disastrous 'tactic' of indiscriminate suicide attacks. The January 5 atrocity, which left 22 dead and more than 100 injured, may well have been the work of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of a now increasingly divided Al Fatah. It is tragically ironic that the victims were from among the very sections of the Israeli population that most urgently need to be won to support Palestinian rights. The two bombs struck at a working class district of Tel Aviv, populated mainly by migrant workers - around 80,000 jews and non-jews, often living in overcrowded and appalling conditions. For example, one of the bombs went off below the flat of a Filipino national. Since the 1993 Oslo accords, which set up the Palestinian Authority bantustan, it is no longer Palestinians, but mainly overseas workers who are used as worst paid labour. This trend has been accentuated by subsequent draconian bans on movement in and from the occupied territories. But the high unemployment arising from the current Israeli economic stagnation has given rise to fresh attacks on this other underclass. The newly created immigration police regularly arrest and deport those who overstay their work permits. Like that of ruling classes everywhere, the Zionist regime's immigration policy is pro-capital and anti-worker. Needless to say, the pay, conditions and rights of the Israeli working class as a whole are in turn permanently under threat as a result of the regime's divide-and-rule immigration policy and the abject failure of the very weak left to cement multinational working class unity. To retain the support of the jewish majority of the working class, the regime lays the blame for every attack against Israel on the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat - despite the vice in which the administration of Ariel Sharon grips the population of the occupied territories, not least Arafat himself. As part of the latest batch of vindictive measures, foreign minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused official Palestinian delegates the right to travel to London for Tony Blair's mini-summit, planned for January 14-15. This would "legitimise a regime compromised by terror", Netanyahu said (he was not referring to his own). The ban has effectively wrecked the conference - and with it perhaps Blair's scheme to bring Arab and islamic regimes onside prior to a US-UK assault on Iraq. Sharon, faced with accusations of corruption just ahead of the Israeli general election, is capable of taking his chauvinism to new extremes. Current Israeli plans are for an impenetrable fence encircling the West Bank, reducing it to a giant concentration camp. But there is no doubt that a section of the Zionist establishment would like to implement its 'final solution' - driving most, if not all, of the Palestinian population out of the West Bank and Gaza in an illusory search for 'security'. As we have pointed out time and again, the ultra-Zionists and the likes of Hamas 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 both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli jews. Sharon and Netanyahu exploit the suicide attacks to further their aims, 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. 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. Programmes based on either the current oppression of Palestinian Arabs or the future oppression of Israeli jews are totally and utterly reactionary. 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 Zionist settler-colonialism. 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 lies with the Israeli working class (including migrant worst paid labour), 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 secured under such a democratic settlement. Similarly, Palestinian national aspirations can only be attained through the recognition by the Palestinian masses that what is now the Israeli nation also has a right to exist. Only on the basis of such mutual recognition can there be a coming together of 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 will surely bring nearer the day when Palestinian Arab and Israeli jew can live side by side as fellow fighters for freedom and full human self-development. Peter Manson