The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 30      August 25, 2014

Talks follow pullback by
Israeli forces in Gaza
(front page)
Negotiations between Tel Aviv and Hamas are continuing in Egypt as Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip winds down. Israeli soldiers completed their withdrawal from the strip Aug. 5, after destroying most of Hamas’ attack tunnels to Israel. Nearly 2,000 Gaza residents have been killed — more than 70 percent civilians, according to the U.N. — and nearly 10,000 wounded. Some 250,000 of the strip’s 1.8 million people are displaced.

An initial agreement has been reached that Hamas will hand over control of Gaza border crossings with Egypt and Israel to police of the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, according to an Aug. 12 report from Ma’an news agency. But the two sides are far apart on other issues, and have still not agreed to an open-ended cease-fire.

The Israeli assault, which began July 7, is Tel Aviv’s third war on Gaza since 2008 — and the most devastating — in retaliation for rocket launches by Hamas and Islamic Jihad targeting civilian areas of Israel. Backed by Washington, Tel Aviv carried out more than 4,900 air sorties and mobilized 82,000 reservists at the peak of the offensive. The U.S.-financed Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted 584 of the 3,460 rockets fired by Hamas.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, 64 Israeli soldiers were killed. Three civilians, including a Bedouin Arab resident of Israel and an immigrant worker from Thailand, died from Hamas rockets and mortars.

More than 30,000 workers in Gaza have lost their jobs at some 134 factories destroyed in the Israeli bombing raids, exacerbating high unemployment, which already stood at 50 percent. Without power to run treatment plants, untreated sewage was dumped directly into the Mediterranean Sea, contaminating fish and sickening fishermen. “The problem of pollution in the sea is worse than before the war,” Nizar Ayish, head of the Gaza fishermen’s 4,000-member union, told Ma’an.

The price of eggs has doubled from 10 shekels a box to 20 shekels ($5.75) and the price of potatoes and tomatoes have tripled. Nearly half of Gaza’s people are now dependent on food aid from the United Nations to survive.

Gaza and the class struggle in Israel

Tel Aviv ended its 38-year occupation of Gaza in 2005. Over the last decade Israeli rulers — faced with continued resistance by Palestinians and insufficient Jewish immigration — had abandoned their goal of a “Greater Israel” stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Instead, they have sought ways to divide Palestinians and maintain a Jewish majority within current boundaries. Nearly 21 percent of the citizens of Israel are Arabs, and it is not unusual for Jewish, Arab and immigrants to work side by side in the same factories, hospitals, and other workplaces; belong to the same unions; and go out on strike together.

Three years before its withdrawal from Gaza, Tel Aviv began building its West Bank “separation barrier” — which twists and turns throughout the West Bank splitting some towns in two and cutting through farmlands — isolating tens of thousands of Palestinians from each other.

Amid growing dissatisfaction with Fatah over its bourgeois corruption, harassment and arrest of political opponents, and collaboration with Israeli military forces, Hamas won elections in Gaza in 2006. Hamas painted itself as a more militant representative of the Palestinian struggle, swearing it would never recognize the existence of Israel. In June 2007 Hamas forced Fatah out of Gaza in bloody clashes.

After Hamas took control, Tel Aviv stopped granting entry permits to thousands of Gaza residents who worked in Israel and made it almost impossible for them to study abroad or to visit relatives inside Israel or the West Bank.

Hamas has since become increasingly isolated and has lost substantial aid from Arab bourgeois regimes in the region. Since the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt last year, the Egyptian military has shut down 95 percent of the tunnels along the Egyptian border dug to bypass trade restrictions imposed by Tel Aviv. With its finances and base of support weakened, Hamas signed an agreement for a unity government in Gaza and the West Bank with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in April this year. But the agreement has been fraught with conflict and Tel Aviv has been pressing for its dissolution and replacement by Palestinian Authority rule.

“I recognize Israel,” Abbas said, after announcing the accord. He claimed that the new unity government would do the same, despite Hamas saying it would never recognize Israel.

On July 8, a day after the Israeli assault began, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri declared on the group’s Al-Aqsa TV: “The policy of people confronting Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order to protect their homes has proven effective against the occupation. … We in Hamas call upon our people to adopt this policy.”

“We are fine, despite the 1,886 martyrs … despite the 10,000 wounded,” Hamas Political Bureau member Osama Hamdan said in an Aug. 9 speech in Rabat, Morocco, a few days after the Israeli withdrawal. “We are fine. Four hundred eighty-six of our children were martyred in this battle, but Allah has blessed us with 4,500 babies in their places.”

“In this war, we said that the enemy would not cross into Gaza, and indeed, it was defeated on the outskirts of Gaza,” said Hamdan.

“We lost in one instant all we had worked for 40 years to build,” laborer Fouad Harara, 55, told the New York Times in Gaza City. “The only thing we gained is destruction.”

“I’m angry at the two sides,” Suhair al-Najjar, 32, told the Times. Najjar, who lost 30 relatives and her home in Khuza’a, a village on Gaza’s eastern border that was demolished in the fighting, described Hamas as “shoes,” an insult.

“They should have accepted the cease-fire,” teacher Hathem Mena, 55, told the Washington Post in Beit Lahiya, Gaza, near the border with Israel, referring to Hamas’ rejection of an Egyptian proposal soon after the Israeli assault began. “It would have stopped the bloodshed. … The destruction is over on this side not the Israeli side.”
Related article:
Chart road forward for toilers of Palestine and Israel
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