By Yossi Schwarz, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT Section in Israel / Occupied Palestine), 20.1.2015, also at www.thecommunists.net
The elections to the Zionist parliament, the Knesset, are coming soon. These elections are scheduled way ahead of time because of the crisis faced by the Netanyahu government. This crisis developed as a result of its political failure to win the last war against Hamas this summer (i.e. operation “Protective Edge”). This war proved that the fossilized thought of Israeli governments could not only result in the killing of Palestinian civilians, destruction of infrastructure, but also in the death of Israeli soldiers. The general atmosphere of these elections is created by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris which intensified the already existing Islamophobia.
This serves Netanyahu’s agenda, as well as the Israeli establishment well. Terrorist actions against Jews in France usually cause a wave of migrants who join the oppressor “nation” against the Palestinians. According to Israeli polls, the two leading parties “Likud” (led by Benjamin Netanyahu) and the “Zionist Camp” (led by Herzog and Livni) are running neck to neck and have an equal chance of forming the next government, at around 24 seats.
However, an experienced warmongering politician such as Netanyahu will not sit on his hands. One could have expected that he would initiate some sort of military action, if not in the south than in the north, in order to better his chances to win the elections. This could not have come in a more convenient time for Netanyahu, who can now send a message to all the Muslim-haters in Europe and the US that Israel stands in the forefront of the war on Islam.
On Sunday, 18.1.2015, an Israeli jet fighter launched a rocket against a target in the village of Mazraat alAmal in the Quneitra region on the Israeli-Syrian border. Later that day the Lebanese military reported that 3 of its soldiers were hit by smoke and tear grenades thrown from an Israeli army vehicle. A month ago media outlets reported that 8 Israeli fighter jets bombed an anti-aircraft missile storage facility on the Syrian-Lebanese border.
Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanon-based Shi’ite organization, Hezbollah, warned Israel, just a few days before this recent attack, to stop targeting his men. He threatened to retaliate using the very sophisticated weapons in his possession, able to hit anywhere in Israel.
This week’s attack claimed the lives of Abu Isa (a high-ranking commander in Hezbollah), and Jihad Mughniyyeh, son of Imad who was the head of the military wing of Hezbollah and was assassinated while in Damascus by Israel in 2008. While Israel is maintaining its silence on its latest provocation, pro-Israeli sources around the world reported that the group assassinated was busy planning terrorist actions in Israel. It is hard to believe these rumors since both Iran and Hezbollah are preoccupied with supporting Bashar alAssad’s regime against the rebels and have no interest in fighting on two fronts at the same time.
Ever since the war of 2006 Hezbollah settles for limited warnings and reactions to Israeli attacks and avoids any action which could ignite a new war between Israel and the organization. For example, in September 2013 Israel assassinated a Hezbollah activist. Hezbollah responded two days later with a single rocket fired at an Israeli tank in the Shaba farms. This time Hezbollah would most certainly react. The assassinated were high-ranking officials and Nasrallah cannot let it go without retaliation, the only question being how and when, but what does it matter to Netanyahu when he plays with fire?
Unsurprisingly, the “Zionist Camp” supported this action. The reason behind this is the campaign message of this coalition that when it comes to fighting Arabs, they are not an ounce less militarist than Netanyahu. The only one who dared to open his mouth was their new recruit, former general Galant who said that this assault is part of Bibi’s election campaign. He retracted his words very quickly afterwards.
The oppression of the Bedouins in Israel
Many Bedouin citizens of Israel serve in its army. However, while Jewish citizens can rightly hang tight to the illusion that the role of the police is to defend them, you wouldn’t find such illusions among many of the Bedouins, including those who serve in the army. Last week the police murdered a Bedouin youth named Sami al-Jaer during a drug raid in the Bedouin town of Rahat. Grievingly and angrily the townsfolk buried the young man on Sunday.
The police, unsurprisingly, failed to apologize and of course no officer was suspended or faced trial. After all, what could be the worth of a Bedouin’s life in the eyes of the police? Rahat townsfolk reached an agreement with the police not to be present at the burial grounds. But what is the value of an agreement with Bedouins in the eyes of the police? During the funeral a squad car entered the compound with every light flashing and a clear cut message: “we are in charge”.
The squad car was allegedly pelted with rocks. Police opened live fire while throwing tear gas grenades. As a result a 45 year old man named Sami Ziadne died and 22 more Bedouins were injured. The police responded to criticism by saying that the aforementioned squad car entered the compound by mistake and that is why no legal action would be taken against the officers. The rock throwers will, however, face legal charges.
Aqil Ziadne, cousin of the deceased, told reporters that Ziadne was at the cemetery and got hit by tear gas: “Sami was walking along with everyone at the funeral procession when the police came and started shooting tear gas and right there he was hit… the family is very angry and mournful, they lost the head of the family.” According to Aqil, the police had to cross two road blocks to get to the burial grounds, “it is not clear why the police had to arrive in a closed area with complete disregard to what was going on.”
Zalal Ziadne, also a close relative who attended the funeral told reporters: “I was inside the cemetery when suddenly tear gas was felt. I started running, stumbling upon tombstones and hurting my legs. Sami was closer than me, he did not come to fight with the police but to pay his final respects.” According to him the procession and funeral were held in a calm atmosphere. “We didn’t think anything was going to happen but there was a massive shooting of tear gas. There is great anger in Rahat for the attitude of the police, anything could happen now. It is impossible to understand how the police could treat citizens in this way.” The answer of course is – that depends on whether they are first, second or third class citizens.
Hadash MP, Dov Hanin, demanded this morning to establish a national enquiry committee to investigate the deaths of AlJaer and Ziadne yesterday and said: “Since October 2000 more than 45 Arab citizens have been killed by police. This is an unbearable reality which we cannot come to terms with. We can no longer speak of isolated cases detached from one another – it is obvious that there is a serious systemic problem. The top police officials have failed in addressing this matter and that is why a thorough outside investigation is needed to lead to a radical change in police attitude towards Arab citizens of Israel.”
Is the honorable MP unaware of the fact that a Zionist enquiry committee would only serve to cover up the events? Even if it reveals a portion of the truth, is it not obvious to the leadership of Hadash that publishing its findings would have zero effect on the brutal police conduct against Arabs? Have they already forgotten the results of the Orr Committee, established to look into the events of October 2000, when the police murdered 12 Arab protesters?
The committee did harshly criticize ministers and police officials, but also Arab leaders in Israel who failed to do enough to prevent demonstrations against the systematic discrimination of Arab citizens. Raed Salah was accused of incitement for hatred against the state because he defended the al-Aqsa mosque. Azmi Bishara was accused of supporting the political prisoners in Israel. Since then, Raed Salah has been sentenced to jail, while Bishara fled the country. Israeli political and police officials, responsible to the massacre, remain free men to this day.
It is no coincidence that the police are so brutal when they confront Bedouins. This violence is part of a government’s policy against the Bedouins aimed at dispossessing them and driving them off of their lands for the sake of Jewish colonization of the Naqab region.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Interior, in 2012, 859 structures in the southern district were demolished, almost every one of them in the Bedouin settlements. 78% of these were demolished by the owners themselves so as to at least save the meager furniture and avoid any inflated fines imposed upon them to pay for the demolition of their own homes. 54% of the demolitions took place in the 7 planned Bedouin towns and villages recognized by the state. 46% only took place in unrecognized villages. Bedouins who live in planned settlements suffer from terribly high population density, serious planning problems and harsh bureaucratic, financial and mental obstacles to acquiring building permits.
The administration of the southern province of Israel purposely uses house demolition in order to push residents of unrecognized villages into nearby Bedouin towns. It issues demolition decrees, renews old judicial decrees and focuses its power against certain extended families that refuse to negotiate with the state about the terms of their removal. This process has too many similarities with the one concerning the removal of Native Americans and their forced concentration into “reserves”. The Zionist media presents it, of course, as a government’s attempt to uphold the law against the lawless nomads and their criminal ways.
The Bedouins in the Naqab where forcefully removed from their original lands when Israel was established, pushed into more-arid lands and even in those new areas they were subjected to systematic expropriation. Despite all that, they are the only Arab group in Israel which still has ownership rights to a fairly large extent of land – a fact the state, of course, denies.
Ever since 1948 the Bedouins are waging a relentless struggle, not only to gain recognition of the land rights, but also government services given to the rest of the Israeli population. All the while the state relentlessly acts to remove them from their lands and concentrate them into the smallest number possible of settlements.
Bedouins are also disenfranchised when it comes to the state’s development plans. Bedouins who live in unrecognized villages are prevented from building permanent housing, registering their address, electing a municipal council, and even voting for parliament. They fell under the control of state bodies specifically designed to rule and dispossess them. Bedouins who did move to urban areas allocated to them by the government face lack of adequate infrastructure and unemployment.
The lands that were populated by Bedouins up until 1948 (mostly in the north-western part of the Naqab) are estimated by different experts at 2-2.7 million acres. Today these lands are populated by more than 50 Jewish settlements. The few Bedouins who managed to find work in these settlements are actually working the land which used to be theirs. In the eyes of the state, Bedouins are landless. Truth should be told even when it’s not pleasant to the ear – this land grabbing would continue as long as the Apartheid state exists.
A general strike was declared in Rahat and by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel. These measures are in and of themselves a step in the right direction and we support them fully. However, we must sadly admit that they will not affect the land grabbing and oppression policy of Israel.
Alongside concrete protest action, there is a need for a different kind of vision. A vision that will unite all of the Palestinian masses – those who live under Israeli rule as citizens, those who live in the 1967 occupied territories, as well as progressive Jews willing to join the struggle. This vision is of a single state from the river to the sea that would ensure equal rights to Arabs and Jews including the right of all of the Palestinian refugees, who were expropriated, expelled or fled Zionist terrorism in 1947-1948, to return to their homeland.
However, the capitalist ruling classes, especially the Zionist, American, and European ones, as well as Arab, will exert their full power and influence to fight so that this state will never be established. That is why this state could only be established as a workers’ state from the river to the sea, a state without capitalists.
We fully understand that the collective power of the workers, fellahin and poor Palestinians is still not enough to take down Zionist Apartheid, which is why this vision must encompass the entire region and lead to the establishment of a socialist federation of the Middle East as part of a world workers’ revolution.
In the meantime we demand, alongside our Palestinian brothers and sisters, Bedouins, rural and urban:
Justice for those murdered by police! Bring the murderous cops to trial!
Free all Palestinian political prisoners!
Fight until victory for the right of return!
For a popular, democratically organized, self-defense against the violent racists!
Give back all of the lands stolen from the Bedouins!