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Vol. 78/No. 44      December 8, 2014

Brutal murder of Jews in Israel
blow to working class
(lead article)
The barbaric Nov. 18 murder of Jews at the Bnei Torah Synagogue in West Jerusalem by two Palestinians dealt another setback to the Palestinian struggle and working people — Jews, Arabs of all faiths and others — throughout Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Armed with a rifle. butcher knives and axes, cousins Ghassan Abu Jamal and Oday Abu Jamal, residents of East Jerusalem, attacked worshippers, killing U.S.-born rabbis Moshe Twersky, Kalman Levine and Aryeh Kupinsky and British-born Avraham Shmuel Goldberg. Traffic cop Zidan Sayif, a Druze, died the next day from injuries. The attackers were shot dead on the scene by Israeli police.

The two attackers were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which applauded the action and handed out sweets to passersby in Gaza to celebrate the attack. The Popular Front — established in 1967 as a pro-Moscow Stalinist wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization — was best known for airplane hijackings in the 1970s. In recent decades the group has been eclipsed by the rise of Hamas and other Islamist groups.

“The Hamas movement is calling for more revenge attacks,” Hamas said on its Al-Aksa TV station.

West Bank Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement condemning the attack, but didn’t speak publicly on it until pushed by Secretary of State John Kerry.

A few liberal imperialist media outlets themselves appeared conflicted over “political correctness” in their reporting. When the British daily Guardian reprinted a Reuters article, it lifted out references to the attackers’ Palestinian nationality, referring to them as “two men.” CNN at one point erroneously ran a banner headline that read, “Deadly Attack on Jerusalem Mosque” and then another that said, “4 Israelis, 2 Palestinians Dead in Jerusalem,” without indicating that the two were the attackers. CBC’s headline was “Jerusalem Police Fatally Shoot 2 after Apparent Synagogue Attack.”

The attack on the synagogue came in the aftermath of Tel Aviv’s July-August war on Gaza, in which both the Israeli regime and Hamas, which governs Gaza, dealt a major setback to the Palestinian people. Israeli forces conducted a seven-week assault on Gaza in retaliation for rocket launches by Hamas and its allies targeting civilian areas of Israel. A central piece of Hamas’ strategy was to create civilian “martyrs” and win public sympathy by launching its rockets from working-class neighborhoods in the expectation of drawing Israeli counterattacks.

By the time the war was over the Israeli assault left more than 2,100 people dead and 11,000 wounded. More than 17,000 homes were destroyed and 120,000 Palestinians left homeless. More than 100 factories were ruined along with greenhouses, livestock pens and orchards. Hamas leaders called this a “victory.”

After imposing a cease-fire on Israeli terms, Tel Aviv further retaliated by expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank and evicting Arabs from homes in East Jerusalem. Some Israeli settlers in the Palestinian West Bank have attacked Palestinian farmers and torched a mosque near Ramallah.

At the same time controversy has been heating up over Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. After the Israeli military occupied Jerusalem in the 1967 war, the Israeli government agreed to allow Muslims access to the site at all times, while non-Muslims have limited visiting hours and Jews are not allowed to pray there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that his government is not proposing any changes in the arrangement, but statements by some members of the ruling coalition that propose dividing the site, and provocative acts by rightists have angered Palestinian Muslims.

Collective punishment

In another example of collective punishment that is sure to deepen resentment among Palestinians, Israeli authorities have been demolishing the homes of accused terrorists, including the Jamal cousins in East Jerusalem who died during their attack, leaving their families homeless.

Just days after the massacre at the synagogue, Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni fired Arab construction workers at preschools there.

The firings were denounced from across the political spectrum. Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid called the firings racist. “The vast majority of Israeli Arabs live with us and we don’t need to insult them and behave like this,” Lapid said.

“It is unforgivable that in the State of Israel someone would take away a person’s right to work because of his religion or ethnicity,” Histadrut labor federation Chairman Avi Nissankoren said at a meeting with the Manufacturers Association, reported the Israeli press.

“Tensions between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians is the worst since at least 2000,” Assaf Bondy, an organizer with the Koach La Ovdim labor union, said by phone from Beersheba Nov. 24. “Cooperation between workers of the two nationalities is much more difficult, but we are trying to focus on the labor issues we have in common.”

“A lot of employers are firing Palestinians or refusing to hire them,” Bondy said. Koach La Ovdim counts orthodox Jews, Palestinians and immigrant workers among its members.

“Now when I go to Jewish towns near here I make sure I leave nothing in the car in Arabic,” Wehbe Badarne, director of the Arab Workers Union in the Nazareth region, said by phone Nov. 23. “There are Jewish people who are afraid to send their children to schools where there are Palestinians.”

‘Workers pay price of this war’

Palestinian working people get hit from all sides. “Hamas says the war on Gaza was a big victory,” Badarne notes. “But it’s the poor people who pay the price of this crazy war.”

At one time the Popular Front was supposed to believe in revolution in Cuba, in Venezuela, in Nicaragua, Badarne said. “But to kill people in a mosque or a church or a temple, as a human I can’t justify this. How do you wake up one day and exact this kind of revenge?”

But few Palestinians will publicly criticize the attack, Badarne said.

“There is another side. People see how the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank cooperates with Israel and allows the Israeli army to enter Ramallah, Jenin and arrest anyone they want. The people are angry.”

The divide between Jewish and Palestinian workers is shown by the reaction to the death of Yusuf al-Ramuni, a bus driver in northwestern Jerusalem, just days before the attack on the synagogue. He was found hanging from his vehicle Nov. 16 before the start of his shift at the Egged bus depot. A government autopsy ruled his death a suicide, but Arab co-workers believe he was killed by Israeli settlers and went on strike. Their Jewish co-workers continued to work. Hamas used the belief that Ramuni was lynched to justify the attack on the West Jerusalem synagogue.

In the midst of the heightened tensions, labor unions in Israel continue to look for ways to resist the bosses’ offensive against living standards, working conditions and dignity of working people.

The Histadrut, the largest union federation, has said that it will begin a nationwide strike Dec. 4 if its demands for an increase in the minimum wage, an end to contract labor and improved opportunities for disabled workers are not met.

“The strike planned by the Histadrut is important,” Bondy said, reporting that Koach La Ovdim is encouraging all its workers councils to participate in the actions.

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