Palestine’s long torment

by Anindya Bhattacharyya

The Gaza Strip is effectively the world’s largest prison camp.

Zionist terror gangs drove its population from their homes during the creation of Israel in 1948.

That event – known in Arabic as the Nakba (catastrophe) – saw 750,000 Palestinians ethnically cleansed. They fled to the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and to other countries.

Prior to this Britain controlled Palestine. The British imperialists had promised the land to both the native Palestinian population and to the Zionists, who had settled there over the previous 50 years.

Zionism was a Jewish nationalist movement that arose in Europe in the late 19th century as a response to the growth of anti-Semitism.

Zionism’s founder Theodor Herzl argued that anti-Semitism could never be defeated and that Jews should found a new “homeland”. Only a small minority of Jews backed this. Herzl and his supporters looked to the major powers for support.

In 1917 the British foreign secretary Lord Balfour gave official backing to their colonial ambitions. He hoped that a Zionist state in Palestine would serve the interests of British imperialism.

After the horror of the Holocaust, when Nazi Germany exterminated six million Jews, Zionism became a majority trend amongst Jews.Tragically, some Jews went from being the oppressed in Europe to becoming the oppressor in the Middle East.

In 1947 the UN proposed to partition Palestine and give the Zionists 55 percent of Palestinian land, even though they comprised just a third of the population.

This was not enough for the Zionists who began to ethnically cleanse Palestine in March 1948. By the end of the year they controlled 80 percent of the territory and had driven the refugees into two enclaves that made up the remaining 20 percent – the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Occupied territories

Israel annexed and occupied these in its 1967 Six Day War with Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Israel has controlled these Occupied Territories ever since.

From Israel’s inception, imperialist forces courted the Zionist state as an ally in the oil-rich Middle East. As the US emerged as the world’s superpower after the Second World War it began to arm and fund Israel to act as its “watchdog” in the region. Israel’s attacks on its neighbours almost always take place with US consent.

With US support Israel has ignored hundreds of UN resolutions that have criticised it.

The Palestinians have resisted Israel throughout the past six decades. In 1987 the Intifada uprising broke out in the Occupied Territories.

This was one factor forcing Israel to open up negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) – the so-called “peace process”. In 1993 this led to the Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and the PLO. A “two state solution” was promised in which Israel would remain intact but the Palestinians would be allowed their own state.

Many people still argue for a two state solution, but the experience of the “peace process” shows that it cannot work.


It was designed to retain Israeli dominance, with the PLO forced to police its own people. The Palestinians were to be given “Bantustans” – the name given to the supposedly independent states in apartheid South Africa that were, in reality, dominated by the racist state.

There is a massive imbalance of power between the two sides – a highly militarised state funded by the West on one side and an oppressed and isolated people on the other.

Zionists have continued to build settlements in the Occupied Territories. There are now 270,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and a further 200,000 in East Jerusalem. The ongoing construction of an “apartheid wall” isolating the West Bank highlights the cynicism behind the talk of a “peace process”.

The notion of a two state solution also involves giving up a fundamental principle of the Palestinian struggle – the right of refugees to return to their land. This would effectively legitimise the ethnic cleansing of 1948.

And it means accepting the idea that Jews and Arabs cannot live together – despite their long history of peaceful coexistence before the birth of Israel.

In the long run a solution can only take place in the context of a wider political upheaval across the Middle East. The corrupt, pro-Western Arab regimes have done nothing to support the Palestinians. The Arab masses are angry at the treatment of their Palestinian brothers and sisters, and at the repression and poverty they face at home.

The Arab working class has the power to challenge their own rulers and win fundamental change in the region. That would open the possibility of a single, democratic and multi-ethnic state encompassing all of historic Palestine – the only chance of a lasting and just settlement in the Middle East.

The following should be read alongside this article:

» Eyewitness in Gaza: ‘Can you hear the noise? The Israelis are bombing again’
» Opposition to war remains a powerful force in the world
» Gaza: a new flashpoint in the ‘war on terror’
» Hamas: the changing face of the Palestinian resistance
» Egyptians rage at hated regime
» Israel’s bloody assault on Gaza fuels protests across the world


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