Israel: Release All Palestinians Political Prisoners!

by Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT-Section in Israel/Occupied Palestine), 3.1.2014, www.thecommunists.net and www.the-isleague.com

 

This week Israel released 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners, the third group of four that she has been forced to release under American pressure. Most of the 26 were imprisoned for more than 20 years. Their release is part of an American-brokered deal, a condition for the current round of the farce known as the “peace negotiations.” US Secretary of State John Kerry’s plan for “peace” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is part of a Pax Americana for the entire region, and is presented as a plan that will integrate West Bank security units in a planned US-led, anti-Al Qaeda regional force. Simply speaking, it is a plan whereby US imperialism gets to control the region, and is thus part of the Western counter-revolutionary assault on the revolution in Egypt and other Arab states.

 

Israel and the Pax Americana

 

Israel, which in the past had hoped that it will be able to drag the US into a war against Iran, is not at all pleased with the US plan, as this may force Israel to relinquish parts of occupied Palestine. Therefore, Israel is attempting to sabotage of the American plans for the region. In this light, the ongoing killing of growing numbers of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is by no means coincidental. Rather, Israeli is currently driving by the use of brutal force for the eruption of a premature Intifada which will be smashed and then displayed to the US and Western Europe that “there are no partners for peace,” as Israel’s Minister for Defense Ya’alon declared on December 26 2013. (1) Or, in other words, that Israel is still the main asset for the West for controlling the region and super exploiting it.

These tactics may increasingly isolate Israel from its traditional friends. Already, the US is striving for warmer relations with Iran, because it cannot rely on Israel to be the main security asset of the West in the region. As a counter ploy, Israel is seeking closer relations with China and Russia, but it is very doubtful that these states will prefer Israel to the Arab states whose markets are much larger.

Today, Israel is facing the same situation South Africa faced in the late 1980s, growing isolation and condemnations by the imperialist states. In order to save capitalism in South Africa, these imperialists were ready to sacrifice the apartheid regime. They relied on the ANC and the CPSA to do for them the job. Today, in our region, they want to rely, among others, on the Palestinian Authority, and this is the reason for the release of the Palestinian prisoners The US and Europe want to see a mini-Palestinian state and as part of Pax Americana-Europe.

 

Zionist Annexation of the Jordan Valley

 

Israel, however, is not prepared to accept even such a mini-Palestinian state. For her, releasing of prisoners is cheap in comparison to giving up the West Bank. Consequently, a few days ago, a group of Israeli cabinet ministers endorsed a legislative proposal to annex part of the occupied West Bank to serve as Israel’s final defense line to the east of a future Palestinian state, thereby putting pressure on the floundering US-brokered peace negotiations.

This move to annex the Jordan Valley, which makes up almost 30% of the occupied West Bank, was approved by members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in the cabinet’s legislative committee on Sunday.

The move came just days before another visit to the region by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is pushing for a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. (2) In the context of the recent release of prisoners, this decision of the cabinet ministers can be seen as a “drawing a line in the sand,” so to speak, showing the Americans and the world where the government’s most serious priorities are.

The 26 freed Palestinian prisoners were cheered by their families and friends. Eleven of them, who are from the West Bank, were escorted to the presidential compound for an official welcome, while the remaining 15 went home to Gaza. Palestinian President Abbas is trying to present the release as a great victory for his policy of collaborating with the American imperialist plan. While we see the release of these prisoners as positive, overall Abbas’ policy of collaboration with the imperialists, including Israel, is a disaster for the Palestinians and the Arab masses of the region.

To minimize the popular celebration, Israel released the Palestinians at 01:30 in the morning. However, more than a hundred relatives and friends from Azmut, the village of Hosni Sawalha and his cousin Muhammad Sawalha, came to greet the two men at the presidential compound. A group of young men chanted “With our blood and souls we will redeem the prisoners,” as they danced in a circle. The mothers of the released prisoners were dressed in white, as if for a wedding.

But once they are free there are no guarantees that Israel will not jail them again. Some of the prisoners who were released in the Shalit deal are already back in prison.

Israel considers them as terrorist murderers with “blood on their hands.” Israeli newspapers were filled this week with photographs of the Israelis killed by the prisoners about to be released as wells as of the families of the victims, holding protests and vigils, but for the Palestinians they are heroes and freedom fighters.

Some of the Israelis killed by these men were from the lands occupied in 1948, which is considered “official” Israel; others were settlers from the lands occupied in 1967 – settlers used by Israel as armed militias to terrorize the Palestinians; and some of them were soldiers who were defending the occupation and the repression of the Palestinians at the time of their deaths.

Even the 2011 US Federal Report -- which profiles terrorist activities around the world -- cites seven “2011 terrorist incidents” that took place in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. Three of these reported incidents were identified as “price tag” incidents, a term which has come to describe, among other things, Israeli “civilian” attacks against Palestinian life and property. These three incidents included the 2011 vandalism of the Muslim Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem, an arson attack on a Jerusalem mosque in December, and another arson attack on a mosque in the village of Burqa in December. (3)

 

Individual Terror and Mass Armed Struggle

 

We in the ISL do not believe that individual terror advances the struggle for the liberation of Palestine. Rather, the road to freedom must be by means of a mass armed uprising led by the working class, mostly Palestinians, with the support of the Arab masses. At the same time, we reject the hypocrisy of Israel that has continuously used mass state terror to oppress the Palestinians.

Palestinian terrorist actions against ordinary Israelis only serve Israel. The Israeli state uses these actions to launch mass terror against the Palestinians, and these Palestinian attacks only galvanize the Israeli population in support of the use of mass terror by the state. Even though we do not agree with or condone the actions of the released Palestinian prisoners against ordinary Israeli victims, we recognize them as freedom fighters. Unlike the Israeli state, we do not consider the killing of soldiers and armed settlers as acts of terror, but as guerrilla warfare that can be used as tactic at times of working class revolution if subordinated to the strategy of the working class revolutionary struggle. History has shown that, by itself, at best guerrilla warfare can only form a deformed workers state like those in China, Cuba, and the former Yugoslavia, where the new bureaucracy in power blocks any movement towards authentic socialism, and thus opens the door for capitalist restoration. We saw this in the former Soviet Union as well as in China and Cuba, all of which are now capitalist states. China and Russia have become now even imperialist states, where a section of the formers “socialist” bureaucracy, has become part of the new capitalist ruling classes.

 

The History of Terror in Palestine

 

Israel’s propaganda claims that the Palestinians freedom fighters are terrorists, regardless of whether they act against civilians or the army and the armed settlers. This is the claim that was used by the South African apartheid regime against the black freedom fighters. The tactic of terror against civilians was brought to Palestine by the Zionists colonialist settlers. This is similar to how the white settler colonialists in South Africa, like Israel, carried out massacres of civilians. The most infamous of these terrorist attacks by white South African settlers was in Sharpeville and occurred on 21 March 1960.

During the British Mandate three main Zionist organizations carried out terrorist actions against the Palestinians civilians: the Irgun led by Begin, Lehi led by Stern and Shamir, and the mainstream Hagana. In 1936–1939 during, the Palestinian uprising, the Irgun began terrorist actions against the Palestinians. During this period, the British disarmed the Palestinians but not the Zionist military organizations that acted together with the British against the national uprising.

On July 2, 1946, the King David Hotel in Jerusalem was bombed, killing 91 people. Menachem Begin, who was later Prime Minster of Israel, and who was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace, planned the destruction of the King David Hotel.

On April 9, 1948, a combined force of the Irgun and the Stern Gangs carried out a brutal massacre of 260 Arab residents of the village of Deir Yassin. Most of the victims were women and children. In 1948, there were between thirty and forty massacres of Palestinians carried out by the three Zionist military organizations. This terror forced the Palestinians to flee for their lives. Among the better known massacres were those carried out in Lydia (Lud), Ashdod, Caesarea, Haifa, Kabri, and Dawayma.

The massacre of Palestinians did not stop after 1948. It has continued by the Israeli state and by right-wing groups. On 29 October 1956, a unit of Israeli border guards told the mukhtar (alderman) of Kafar Kasam that a curfew is to begin at 16:45. The mukhtar told the soldiers that there were about four hundred villagers working outside the village and, thus, there was not enough time to inform them about the new times. An officer assured him that these villagers will be taken care of. Then the guards waited at the entrance to the village. Forty-three residents of Kafar Qasem were massacred in cold blood by the army as they returned from work.

On March 30, 1976, in response to the Israeli government’s announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of dunams of land for security and settlement purposes, a general strike and marches were organized in Arab towns from the Galilee to the Negev. The Israeli army and police killed, six Arab citizens, about one hundred were wounded, and hundreds of others were arrested.

In October 2000, Israeli police killed thirteen Palestinians (twelve of them Israeli citizens) demonstrating in support of the Second Intifada.

A complete list of the massacres carried out by official Israeli military forces follows: The King David Hotel Massacre; the Massacre at Baldat al-Shaikh; the Yehida Massacre; the Khisas Massacre; the Qazaza Massacre; the Semiramis Hotel Massacre; the Massacre at Dair Yasin; the Naser al-Din Massacre; the Tantura Massacre; the Beit Daras Massacre; the Dahmash Mosque Massacre; the Dawayma Massacre; the Houla Massacre; the Sharafat Massacre; the Salha Massacre; the Massacre at Qibya; the Kafr Qasam Massacre; the Khan Yunis Massacre; the Massacre in Gaza City; the Al-Sammou’ Massacre; the Aitharoun Massacre; the Kawnin Massacre; the Hanin Massacre; the Bint Jbeil Massacre; the Abbasieh Massacre; the Adloun Massacre; the Saida Massacre; the Fakhani Massacre; the Beirut Massacre; the Sabra and Shatila Massacre; the Jibsheet Massacre; the Sohmor Massacre; the Seer al-Garbiah Massacre; the Maaraka Massacre; the Zrariah Massacre; the Homeen al-Tahta Massacre; the Jibaa Massacre; the Yohmor Massacre; the Tiri massacre; the al-Naher al-Bared Massacre; the Ain el-Hilweh Massacre; the Oyoun Qara Massacre; the Siddiqine Massacre; the al-Aqsa Mosque Massacre; the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre; the Jabalia Massacre; the Aramta Massacre; the Erez Checkpoint Massacre; the Deir al-Zahrani Massacre; the Nabatiyeh (school bus) Massacre; the Mansuriah Massacre; the Second Sohmor Massacre; the Nabatyaih Massacre; the Qana Massacre; the Terqumia Massacre; the Janta Massacre; the 24th of June 1999 Massacres; the Western Bekaa villages Massacre; the Gaza Cast Lead Massacre (2008-2009); the Mavi Marmara Massacre (May 31, 2010); the Nakba Day Massacre (May 15, 2011).

Some of the best known cases of right-wing Israelis independently undertaking murderous terrorist actions are the following: In 1978,Yisrael Lederman, an army reservist, shot and killed a Palestinian civilian. He was released after serving only two years of his twenty-year prison sentence. In 1982, Alan Goodman, a U.S. citizen, attacked Palestinians at al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, killed a Palestinian Waqf guard and injured several Israeli policemen. He served 15 years of his life sentence and was deported to the United States. Between 1980-1984, a large group of young settlers, who called themselves TNT (a Hebrew acronym for Counter-Terror Terror) placed explosives in the cars of Palestinian mayors, shot and killed Palestinian students at a college in Hebron, and plotted to blow up the mosques on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and to explode busses carrying Palestinian civilians. Several of the 29 members of the group went on to become leaders of the West Bank settler movement.In 1983, Yonah Avrushmi, a Jerusalemite Jew, threw a hand grenade at a Peace Now demonstration near the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem. The blast killed Emil Grunzweig. Avrushmi was sentenced to life in prison, but his sentence was reduced and he was released in January, 2011. In 1984 Yehuda Richter, a Kach activist, opened fire on a Palestinian bus in the West Bank and injured several of the passengers. He was sentenced to five years in prison. In 1984 David Ben-Shimol, an IDF soldier, shot a rocket he stole from the IDF at a Palestinian bus in East Jerusalem, killing one Palestinian and injuring ten others. In 1990, Ami Popper, a 21 year old Israeli, shot and killed seven Gazan Palestinian day laborers in the Israeli town of Rishon le-Tzion, south of Tel Aviv. In 2005 Eden Natan-Zadah, a settler from Tapuah, south of Nablus, a deserter from the Israeli army, shot at passengers of an Israeli Egged bus in the Israeli Arab town Shafa-‘Amr (Shfaram) killing four Arab citizens of Israel and injuring nine others. Passengers overpowered him and killed him Four of the Palestinian defenders were sent to jail. For the full list of right-wing terror see: http://peacenow.org/entries/short_history_of_israeli_right_wing_terrorism#.UsJvPNJdUYo

 

Palestinian Freedom Fighters and Zionist Terrorists

 

In contrast to those who compare Palestinian terrorist actions with the right-wing Israeli terrorist, we reject this comparison. The Palestinians are freedom fighters fighting oppression while the Israeli terror is part of the repression of the Palestinians. In addition, the terror of the Palestinians in response to the massive Israeli terror is no more than a drop in the bucket.

We say to our Palestinian brothers and sisters: A successful Intifada must be well-prepared and massive, as massive as the first Intifada. It needs a revolutionary leadership and massive international support; otherwise it will be crushed and only serve Israel.

We demand the release of all Palestinians political prisoners. The so called “peace negotiations” are no more than a cover for the continuation of the oppression of the Palestinians.

 

Israel and the Western Imperialists push the Palestinian Administration towards Total Capitulation

 

In spite of the growing pressures, Israel is not going to allow even a mini-Palestinian state. Even US Today writes:

“Israel likely will announce new plans for construction in Jewish settlements next week, an official said Wednesday, a move that is likely to trigger an international uproar and threaten peace talks with the Palestinians. The timing of the announcement would coincide with the expected release of a group of Palestinian prisoners. The government has announced new settlement construction plans during previous prisoner releases to blunt domestic criticism. The Israeli official said he “expects” an announcement on new construction next week, but declined to elaborate. He spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement. Israel's Channel 2 TV said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planned to announce “massive construction” next week. Channel 10 TV spoke of 1,000 to 2,000 new homes. Both reports cited anonymous officials close to the prime minister.” (4)

The imperialists are demanding from the Palestinian Authority to renounce the right of return of the Palestinian refugees – one of the main demands of the Palestinian people:

“French President Francois Hollande on Monday recommended that the Palestinian leadership show flexibility on the issue of the 1948 refugees’ “right of return,” and in exchange demand a halt to construction in the West Bank settlements as a way to make progress in the diplomatic talks.”(5)

To renounce the right of return right would be a total capitulation to Israel by the collaborators in the PA. The fact that Abbas supports the US “peace plan” only proves that the PA is an obstacle on the road to freedom of the Palestinians and must be replaced with a truly revolutionary working class leadership fighting for a socialist revolution.

 

No Illusions in the imperialist “Peace Plan”! For Permanent Revolution in Palestine and the Middle East!

 

Some people are deceived by the term “peace plan.” For them, peace is better than war. However the real question is: Peace for whom? The peace like the one Kerry is proposing is not peace for the Palestinians but the continuation of the war against the Palestinians, under a different name.

Today, only a very small fraction of Israelis will support a revolutionary struggle. However, Israel is a death trap for the Israelis and a major military defeat for Israel in one of the coming wars may change this attitude. As Jews said after the Russian Revolution in 1917: “Better red than dead.” Jewish Israeli support for the Zionist state can also be diminished by victorious revolutions in Arab or other countries. This has happened before. The only event that ever split the Zionists was the Bolshevik Revolution that created the Communist Party in Palestine that, at that time, was a revolutionary party, unlike Maki of today.

Clearly there is no solution for the Palestinians within the world imperialist order. Only a revolutionary struggle led by the Palestinian workers with support of the Fallahins and other oppressed layer of society, including a section of the Jewish-Israeli working class and the immigrant workers, can win the freedom of the Palestinians and guarantee safe and secure life for the Israeli Jews and immigrant workers. For this reason we call for Free Red Palestine from the River to the Sea! (6)

 

Footnotes:

(1) Barak Ravid: Defense Minister Ya’alon: Israel has no partner for peace in Palestinians, Haaretz, Dec. 27, 2013 http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.565765

(2)Israeli MPs push partial West Bank annexation, 29 Dec 2013 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/12/israeli-mps-push-partial-west-bank-annexation-20131229174659559902.html

(3) Barak Ravid: U.S. State Department defines settler violence as terrorism, Haaretz, Aug. 18, 2012,http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/diplomania/..lence-as-terrorism-1.45908

(4)USA Today: Israel plans new settlement construction, December 25, 2013,http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/12/25/israel-settlements/4200747/

(5)Jack Khoury: In Ramallah, Hollande urges Palestinians to be flexible on right of return, Nov. 18, 2013, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.558761

(6) Our programme for the revolutionary liberation struggle in Palestine has been elaborated in various articles from the ISL. For example The ISL Position on Wars, August 2009, http://www.the-isleague.com/wars. ISL: The Zionist State Tries to Break Gaza Again – and Fails Again, http://www.the-isleague.com/gaza-war-2012-english.php. The RCIT respective its predecessor organization (MRCI/LRCI/LFI) expressed the same position e.g. in MRCI: Theses on Zionism, Israel, Palestine and Arab nationalism (1989), in: Trotskyist International No. 2, http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/theses-zionism-israel-palestine-and-arab-nationalism; RCIT: New Wave of Israeli Terror against Gaza: Support the Palestinian Resistance! Defeat the Zionist killing machine! Statement from 15.11.2012, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa/defend-gaza.

We have elaborated our historic analysis of Israel as a Zionist Apartheid state and the revolutionary programme for the Palestinian liberation struggle in numerous documents and articles. See e.g. Yossi Schwartz: Israel's War of 1948 and the Degeneration of the Fourth International, in: Revolutionary Communism, Special Issue on Palestine, No. 10, June 2013, www.thecommunists.net/theory/israel-s-war-of-1948-1; Yossi Schwartz: Israel’s Six-Day War of 1967. On the Character of the War, the Marxist Analysis and the Position of the Israeli Left, in: Revolutionary Communism, No. 12, July/august 2013, www.thecommunists.net/theory/israel-s-war-of-1967; Michael Pröbsting: On some Questions of the Zionist Oppression and the Permanent Revolution in Palestine, in: Revolutionary Communism, Special Issue on Palestine, No. 10, June 2013, pp. 26-28, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/permanent-revolution-in-palestine.