Category Archives: occupation

Campaigning against the Occupation of Iraq

To mark the 5th anniversary of the occupation of Iraq, Socialist Youth is building for a protest on 15 March in Belfast. SY members have been energetically campaigning outside schools and on the streets with an aim of collecting 5,000 signatures of young people against the occupation of Iraq. The Socialist spoke to SY members Leontia Madden and Conor Barr about how their campaign is going so far.

“Over the past five years the arguments of the anti-war movement have been proved correct. Many young people today may not be too sure of all the facts and figures, but when we get talking to them they have strong feelings against the war” said Leontia. Conor added “The war for oil is a terrible example of capitalism’s constant drive for profits. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, all for natural resources.

“We get young people to sign our petition outside schools across Belfast to demonstrate the opposition which exists but also to raise awareness of what is going on in Iraq. We have received an excellent response with most people signing the petitions and buying our very popular anti-Bush badge. The important thing is we get to speak face to face with people on stalls to put forward a socialist solution.” said Conor, who has been organising very successful stalls at his technical college.

Leontia, a school student from North Belfast said “There is still a feeling of anger against Bush and Blair. But with the occupation lasting five years and no end to the conflict in sight people want to do something more than just sign a petition. We’re holding public meetings in the run-up to the anniversary to explain what is going on in Iraq now and how a socialist solution can be found. As well as this, we want to give an opportunity to people to show their opposition by protesting on 15 March.”

Public Meeting: End the Occupation of Iraq
4.30pm Wednesday 13th Feb. SY Offices, 13 Lombard Street, Belfast

PROTEST against the occupation
2pm Sat 15th March, Arts College, York St, Belfast

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Iraq: One million dead, $1.5 trillion wasted – Now Turkey threatens to invade!

By Cillian Gillespie

The imperialist invasion and occupation of Iraq has had devastating consequences for the Iraqi people. Some estimates now put the number of casualties at 1 million dead since the war began in March 2003.

Hundreds of thousands have been displaced from their homes as a result of sectarian civil war – a war that is a by-product of imperialist intervention in the region. A recent investigation by the US Congress found that the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when hidden costs such as the rise in the price of oil were included, came to $1.5 trillion. This waste of resources is almost as criminal as the obscene loss of life that Bush’s wars for power and oil have cost.

Now the conflict in the Middle East is set to intensify with Turkey threaatening to invade Northern Iraq, which has a mainly Kurdish population. Turkey, along with Iran, Syria and Iraq, has long suppressed the rights of the Kurdish people and denied their democratic right to self-determination. Kurds are the poorest and most discriminated section of Turkish society, often facing longterm unemployment and repression by the military.

In the past few weeks the Turkish government has placed an army of 100,000 soldiers on the Iraqi border, and has begun attacking Kurdish targets in northern Iraq with aircraft strikes. It wants to smash the resistance of the fighters of the Kurdish nationalist group, the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party). More generally, they fear that the emergence of an independent Kurdish state with oil wealth could be a catalyst to spark off a new wave of struggles by the Kurdish people across the Middle East for independence. The Kurdish “autonomous” region of northern Iraq encompasses Kirkuk, which has enormous oil reserves.

The action against the PKK by Turkey has received the full support of the current US administration. Turkey is a key ally of the US in the Middle East and is the only member of NATO in the region. The majority of US military supplies for its occupation of Iraq pass through Turkey. The Bush administration will do whatever it can to placate the Turkish regime, as it is dependent on its support to further its strategy of dominance over the oil rich Middle East and possible attacks against Iran. US Secretary of State, Condelezza Rice, has even suggested that the US would be prepared to take military action against the PKK.

The Socialist Party is completely opposed to the Turkish and US government’s threats against the Kurdish people. We stand for the immediate unconditional withdrawal of all US and foreign forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and oppose any attempt to attack Iran.

As this region faces further instability, war and chaos, the necessity of building a powerful movement that unites workers and poor people across national and sectarian divides and fights for a socialist alternative has never been greater.

‘Strategic failure’ in Iraq and Afghanistan

End the Occupation Now

Editorial from The Socialist

Bush still claims that Iraq under US and British military occupation is making progress towards a stable, democratic society. In reality, the situation is catastrophic.

For most Iraqis, things are much worse than under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. There are severe shortages of fresh water, electric power and even fuel. Reconstruction of the shattered cities is a sick joke. Every day, hundreds die as a result of the US-British occupation, the insurgency, the sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shia, and sheer gangsterism.

Bush, Blair and now Brown claim they are fighting to establish democracy in Iraq. Yet a section of Iraq’s parliamentary representatives, mainly Sunni, are currently boycotting parliament. There is no agreement on concrete details of new laws to rehabilitate some Sunnis (excluded from public jobs as former supporters of Saddam) or to share out the oil between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish areas. In any case, how can there be democracy under military occupation? Currently, the US is holding thousands of prisoners, without any right to legal process.

‘Surge’

Bush claims that security in Iraq has improved as a result of the ‘surge’, the dispatch of an additional 30,000 US forces to Iraq. The US clampdown in Baghdad and parts of the mostly Sunni Anbar province, however, has simply pushed the conflict to other regions. Recently, for instance, there have been horrific bomb attacks in the majority Kurdish city of Kirkuk.

Bush still claims that the situation can be stabilised by next spring. But it was recently reported that Bush’s director of central intelligence, General Michael Hayden, warned the administration that “the inability” of the Iraqi government of al-Maliki to govern, “seems irreversible”.

Hayden could not see “any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around”. Top US military commanders, moreover, have warned that stabilising Iraq, even if achievable, will take much longer than Bush imagines.

Bush is more and more isolated politically. A number of leading Republicans are calling for a timetable for withdrawal of troops. The midterm elections last November were an overwhelming vote against Bush’s Iraq policy. Since then US popular support for withdrawal from Iraq has strengthened. Significantly, over 50% of military families favour withdrawal.

The Democrats, the second party of US big business, now have a majority in Congress. But while passing symbolic resolutions calling for a timetable for withdrawal, they duck the real issue. In the most cowardly way, they refuse to cut off funding for Bush’s military adventure.

A former head of the National Security Agency, retired General William Odon, called for “a flat refusal [by the Democrats] to appropriate money to be used in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion”. He also said that the Democrats should warn Bush that if he tries to continue the war, “impeachment proceedings will proceed in the House of Representatives”.

Despite US imperialism’s overwhelming military power, Bush’s military adventure in Iraq has only served to demonstrate the limits of US power. US imperialism has been defeated in Iraq.

This was starkly pointed out in recent editorials in the New York Times, one of the most authoritative journals of the US ruling class: “It is frighteningly clear that Mr Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.” (The Road Home, 8 July 2007)

“Keeping troops in Iraq,” comments the New York Times, “will only make things worse.” The priority, they say in another editorial (13 July) is “the need to develop an orderly plan to extricate American troops from a lost cause and reposition them in ways that can genuinely protect our national interests.”

Even if US leaders were to adopt such an exit strategy, however, it would be extremely difficult for them to extract their forces without a humiliating rout. As it is, Bush, for his own political reasons, is likely to prolong the agony, inflicting an even more severe defeat on US imperialism. Moreover, the likely implosion of Iraq will intensify the crisis throughout the whole Middle East region.

Here, Gordon Brown continues the Blair policy of clinging to US imperialism’s coat-tails. British forces in Iraq, mainly in the southern, oil-rich province of Basra, have been reduced from 7,000 at their peak to 5,500 currently. However, conflict in the province is more intense than ever, and British forces can hardly leave their base without suffering serious casualties.

Last weekend, two junior ministers, Douglas Alexander, the development secretary, and Mark Malloch Brown, the new Foreign Office minister, commented that the British government should keep its distance from the Bush administration. Britain and the US should not be “joined at the hip”, commented Malloch Brown.

Brown’s new foreign secretary, David Miliband, was quick to insist that there would be “no change” in the relationship between Britain and the US.

Like the US, British imperialism is facing a “strategic failure in Iraq”, according to a senior British military commander. British troops in Iraq are now suffering a higher rate of fatal casualties in proportion to their numbers than their US counterparts.

British forces (currently 7,000) also face a second “strategic failure in Afghanistan”. Taliban forces have become stronger, while the western-sponsored government of Hamid Karzai faces the real possibility of collapse.

In a recent debate in the House of Lords, Lord Inge, former chief of Britain’s defence staff, warned that “the situation in Afghanistan is much worse than many people recognise. We need to face up to that issue, the consequences of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for Nato… We need to recognise the situation – in my view, and I have recently been in Afghanistan – is much, much more serious than people want to recognise.”

British and US forces should be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. The horrendous situation in Iraq can only be made worse by continued imperialist occupation. Resolving the conflicts has to be the task of the Iraqi people.

In the socialist’s view, progress will depend on the re-emergence of working-class forces that can cut across sectarian and nationalist divisions and build united organisations to defend people against violent attacks, political repression and economic exploitation.

Editorial from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales

For recent a campaign leaflet on this issue by Socialist Youth see: www.indymedia.ie/attachments/jul2007/iraq__resistance.pdf

US: Seattle students shut down school board — Demanding military recruiters out of schools

By Dylan Simpson and Marianne Mork and Philip Locker

Below is a report of an important Seattle anti-war action against military recruiters in schools, which Socialist Alternative (the CWI in the United States) played an important role in organizing.

“What do we want? Recruiters out! When do we want it? Now!” chanted over 70 antiwar protestors as we marched into to the Seattle School Board meeting Wednesday night. The spirited protest, called by Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR), demanded the school board finally take real action against military recruitment in our schools. As the local TV news King 5 said, it was “intended to be political high theatre, and it certainly was effective.” Another reporter commented: “it was the most dramatic anti-military recruitment rally to date.”

Seattle students stage protest against military recruitment in schools

YAWR is calling for military recruiters to be banned from Seattle public schools. But to stay within the legal paramaters of the “No Child Left Behind” law, we are demanding that all recruiting be done at a district-wide recruitment fair once a semester. This would create equity between the access to students that the military, college, and job recruiters have. Currently, military recruiters have a massive budget and a huge advantage over college and job recruiters. A district-wide recruitment fair would also stop military recruiters from carrying out their predatory tactics within our schools and disproportionate targeting of schools that are predominantly made up of poor and minority students.

Student activist Kristin Ebeling said: “Our public schools should not be military recruitment stations for the Iraq war. Instead of wasting $500 billion on a war for oil and empire, we need money for jobs and education.”

High school students, teachers, parents and community activists rallied outside the school board for an hour. With the start of the meeting the rally moved inside, energetically chanting and sitting in at the front of the room. To bring the reality of the war home, some students enacted a “die-in,” lying across the floor covered in blood, while the school board politicians huddled at the side of the room.

Addressing the board and the whole room, Shanay Salas and Ramy Khalil from YAWR then explained our demands to restrict military recruiters. We urged that the board amend its agenda for 10-15 minutes to discuss our proposed policy. Unfortunately, the board refused to discuss our policy, nor would they start the meeting until we ended the sit-in and moved away from the front of the room.

Board member Darlene Flynn condescendingly lectured the students: “This is what democracy looks like, but it’s not what a school board meeting looks like, and we have to have a school board meeting.” This statement, ironically exposing the undemocratic nature of the board, brought loud jeers from the demonstrators. With the protestors holding their ground, the board hurriedly left and reconvened in a back room closed to the public.

This comes against the background of the board refusing to enforce their own policy to restrict military recruiters that was passed two years ago. After a city-wide student walkout of 800 students on April 18 to protest military recruitment, attending numerous school boards meetings and sub-committee meetings, and still having the board refuse to let us speak, we decided to take matters into our own hands and organize a sit-in. However, the meeting could have easily continued if the school board had simply been willing to grant our modest request to discuss our proposed policy at their meeting for 10-15 minutes.

Since the board refused to listen to the public, we decided to continue the meeting and took public testimony from those who had already signed up to testify. A number of school bus drivers spoke about their struggle to unionize to overcome the terrible wages and conditions they face, which the board is refusing to support. While some members of the audience complained that we had disrupted an official board meeting, an overwhelming majority of the crowd voted to support our decision to continue the meeting in defiance of the board members.

While school board members claim that they cannot implement our policy because it would mean losing $40 million a year in federal funds, the fact is that our policy was carefully constructed to remain within the legal confines of the No Child Left Behind law. By restricting military recruiters to a recruitment fair on equal grounds with college and job recruiters, this policy would have absolutely no effect on federal funding.

Wednesday’s school board action was a major success in bringing real pressure to bear on the board and raising the issue of military recruitment in the public consciousness. All the local TV news gave very prominent coverage to the protest (see list of links below). But to win we will need to keep up the pressure on the school board and build an organized, active antiwar movement. This fall YAWR is organizing a major student walkout, which we are trying to spread nationally, to show that business as usual will stop until the military is out of Iraq and out of our schools.

Get active with Youth Against War and Racism and the fight against military recruiters! Please come to the next YAWR meeting on Sunday July 1, 4-6pm, at Uptown Espresso (2504 4th Ave and Wall St.) where we will be planning our next steps.

We want to thank all the organizations that made this protest possible: Nova High School Peace and Justice, Lake Washington High School Peace Club, Renton High School Youth Against War and Racism, Seattle Central Community College Students Against the War, Team Victory, and Socialist Alternative.

Links to Mainstream Media Coverage

KOMO 4 Video coverage (click ‘Watch the Story’ below the picture)

King 5 Video coverage

Seattle Times report

Britain: Brown’s political coronation – new face, same agenda

From The Socialist (England & Wales)

London has become a tax haven for the world’s billionaires. One British hedge fund manager put it clearly: “I think the super-rich want to have two homes, one in New York and one in London, but if they’re based in New York, they would pay a lot more tax than here.”

Gordon Brown - by SuzThe thousand richest people in Britain own half the country’s liquid assets. In the last five years of New Labour government they have seen their wealth increase by 79%, to an average of £70 million per head (excluding first and second homes!).

Meanwhile twelve million people live below the poverty line. Public services are being decimated.

Average mortgage payments have increased by £1,500 in the last year, while food prices increased by at least 6%. The government is demanding public-sector workers accept effective pay cuts.

No wonder Britain’s workers have the longest working hours in Europe, struggling to make ends meet while a few at the top drown in an orgy of unimaginable excess.

This is Britain under Blair. Add in the nightmarish occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and it is no wonder that New Labour were humiliated in this year’s elections and only 22% of the population believe Blair did ‘a good job’.

Millions of workers will greet his departure this week with relief.

Brown, however, will be more of the same. He has spent the last six weeks emphasising the continuity between himself and Blair; promising to increase ‘reform’ (read destruction) of public services.

As chancellor he has been directly responsible both for attacks on public sector pay and the tax-free bonanza being enjoyed by the super-rich.

Brown has also used his pre-coronation period to pose as being even tougher on ‘terror’ than Blair.

He has not, however, indicated any change in Britain’s imperialist foreign policy, which is responsible for making Britain a target.

His proposal to increase the length of time individuals can be held without charge beyond the current, already draconian, 28 days will not effectively combat terrorism, but it will further undermine democratic rights.

Undermining democratic rights

Just as was the case with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (legislation that was supposed to thwart the IRA), the vast majority arrested will be innocent. Under the PTA only 1% of those arrested were convicted of any crime.

Brown’s ‘coronation’ campaign, designed to show that he can out-Blair Blair, has had some effect.

Despite Tory attempts to portray him as a closet socialist, voters on average now consider him to be only minutely ‘left of the centre-ground’ – the ‘centre-ground’ being the standard anti-working class, pro-big business, pro-privatisation policies being pursued by all the establishment parties.

However, Blair is seen as being considerably to the right of ‘centre’.

Despite Brown’s efforts to prove otherwise, there are working-class voters hoping that Brown will act in their interests, or at least slow the pace of New Labour’s attacks. It is this that has led to the small ‘Brown bounce’, which has increased New Labour’s miserable rating by about 3%. Experience of Brown as prime minister will destroy these desperate hopes.

If a feeling rapidly develops that ‘nothing has changed’ a Brown government could quickly face an explosion of all the accumulated discontent of the working class, in the form of industrial action, which the trade union leaders would be powerless to hold back.

One factor in how rapidly events will develop is the timing of the next world economic crisis, which would be likely to hit Britain, now a giant casino for the world’s hedge fund gamblers, particularly hard. Even if the economy continues to grow for a couple more years, and it takes a bit longer for the paint to completely flake off Brown’s ‘respray’ of New Labour, he will still face an increased willingness of the working class to struggle.

New workers’ party

A foretaste of this may come within days, delivered by the postal workers, if their union, the CWU, goes ahead with a strike to defend pay and conditions.

As Brown and Cameron fight a battle to be the best representative of big business, the need for a mass party that stands up for the working class is overwhelming. Some activists continue to hope that New Labour can be ‘reclaimed’ by the working class.

Yet this is shown again to be utopian by Brown’s coronation. He was nominated by 313 of 355 MPs, with left MP John McDonnell unable to win enough parliamentary support even to get on the ballot paper.

Instead a contest is taking place for the virtually powerless position of deputy leader. Even if a left-wing candidate was elected they would be unable to do more than whisper in Brown’s ear.

However, there is no possibility of this happening. All six deputy leadership candidates nominated Brown for leader, revealing that, far from representing workers’ interests, their priorities lie first and foremost with furthering their own careers.

In the hope of winning ordinary trade unionists’ backing, some have made attacks on the obscene wealth at the top of British society.

However, even Jon Cruddas MP, who has gone furthest – stating the obvious truth that New Labour has ignored the working class and lost five million voters as a result – was quick to deny that he supported any concrete increase in taxation of the rich.

Since 1997 more than £100 million of trade union members’ money has been paid to New Labour. The majority of national trade union leaders continue to argue that this is to influence New Labour. This will be just as utopian under Brown as it was under Blair.

The majority of even those MPs directly sponsored by trade unions have voted against the most minimal of the trade unions’ demands.

A majority of them even opposed, for example, the introduction of a Trade Union Freedom Bill which would repeal some of the worst aspects of Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws.

The Campaign for a New Workers’ Party, fighting for the breaking of the link between the trade unions and New Labour, and the establishment of a new mass party of the working class, will be crucial under Brown’s reign.

Wealth gap widens

The wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain has more than trebled under Brown’s stewardship. They had an income between them of £360 billion in 2006, which was £59 billion more than the previous year, an increase of 20%.

Britain’s 54 billionaires last year paid only £14.7 million tax – just 0.1% of their incomes! The poorest fifth of the population pay nearly 10% of their income in direct taxes, and another 28% in indirect taxation.

Corporation tax on companies since 1997 has been cut from 33p to 28p.

Warmonger

Being known as ‘Mr Prudent’ hasn’t stopped Gordon Brown wasting £76 billion of public funds on a replacement for the Trident nuclear missile programme.

He has also dug deep (£7.4 billion up to April 2007) to finance the bloody wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Privatisation

Brown has made it absolutely clear he will continue with Blair’s privatising policies.

He will accelerate ‘reform’ in the NHS, and has earmarked another £50 million worth of public assets for privatisation.

£5 billion annually is currently handed over to private contractors, for treatment centres, GP services, etc.

Attacks on public sector

Many public-sector workers are raging at Brown’s 2% wage limit, effectively a pay cut. Other battles are looming, such as against Royal Mail plans to axe 40,000 jobs and close a further 2,500 post offices.

200,000 civil servants were forced to take strike action on 1 May against huge job cuts, privatisation and pay cuts. Brown has spear-headed the attacks on the civil service. In 2004 he announced the axing of 104,000 civil service jobs.

Public sector occupational pensions have been attacked. Many face having to work longer, pay more in contributions and receive smaller pensions.

Pensions

In 1997 Brown gave big business the green light to cut workers’ occupational pension schemes. Companies also took massive ‘pension holidays’ – they stopped paying employers’ contributions – saving them £4,000 a worker every year.

A top UK company director can retire at 60 on a final-salary pension of £3 million. Whereas a majority of UK workers face retirement at 65 or later on inadequate pensions; a single person’s state pension is a paltry £84.25 a week.

Brown’s own pension will more than double when he becomes prime minister, to £123,000 a year.

Palestine: Hamas and Fatah go to war

By Kevin Simpson

After bloody clashes with militias linked to Fatah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Islamic organisation Hamas took control of the Gaza strip on Thursday 13 June.

Sensationalised media headlines across the world described this as ‘civil war’, yet the vast majority of Palestinians took no part in the clashes. Instead, this was a struggle for power between Hamas and Fatah and had little to do with ‘Palestinian national unity’, despite the claims of both sides. And as usual, it was the majority of Palestinians, the impoverished working and middle class, who suffered the consequences. On this occasion, 120 people died and there were over 500 casualties, many of them civilians.

During the Gaza fighting, Palestinian civilians faced possible death if they went out on the streets. There was no access to food and water. Gaza’s hospitals became a battleground for the two militias as their gunmen stalked the corridors and wards looking to execute their wounded opponents.

The majority of Palestinians were terrified. The latest clashes piled even more despair on a desperate population. Despite these conditions, as television footage showed, a heroic minority were prepared to come out on the streets to disarm militia men with their bare hands! If large independent Palestinian working class organisations existed in Gaza, they could have organised such actions on a mass scale which could have held back the militias from taking over the streets.

US imperialism and the regional capitalist powers have shown out-and-out hypocrisy in their response, decrying the ‘Hamas’ coup’. They rushed to defend Fatah, the same organisation which in previous years they described as ‘terrorist’. The Bush administration demanded ‘democracy’ in the Middle East. When the Palestinians elected Hamas to power in a free and fair election, US imperialism, working with the undemocratic Saudi Arabian dictatorship, did its utmost to remove it from power.

US imperialism encouraged armed clashes between Fatah and Hamas militias by providing $80 million in weapons for President Abbas’s own militia. As the recently retired UN envoy to the Middle East, Alvaro de Soto, explained in a leaked confidential report to his superiors: “The US clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas, so much so that, a week before Mecca, the US envoy declared twice in an envoys meetings in Washington how much ‘I like this violence’, referring to the near civil-war that was erupting in Gaza” (Guardian, 18 June 2007).

Repercussions

The repercussions of Hamas’s defeat of Fatah in Gaza will exponentially add to tensions across the region. Western imperialism is now faced with an unfolding nightmare. US imperialism and the reactionary Arab elite in Egypt and Saudi Arabia regard Hamas’ victory as strengthening their enemies in the region: the Syrian and Iranian regimes.

Who talks of peace now? Who even remembers the Oslo peace accords signed by the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1993 and supported by the US government, which most capitalist commentators said would lead to the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? See what happens if you mention Bush’s 2003 ‘road map to peace’. Palestinians will point to the photo galleries of their young loved ones, cut down in the prime of life, casualties of the murderous, imperialist-backed occupation by the Israeli military.

Every time imperialist and regional capitalist politicians come up with a new proposal, none of the real problems of national oppression and mass poverty are actually addressed. In fact they get worse.

But these events have their roots in the Israeli ruling class’s oppression of the Palestinian people which began with the driving out of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 when Israel was created. This suffering was multiplied by the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 Israeli-Arab Six Day War whose fortieth anniversary passed just a few days ago.

In the intervening years, so-called ‘peace’ agreements have been designed to insitutionalise the oppression of the Palestinians. This is because capitalism cannot afford the political and financial costs of genuine Palestinian liberation. The Oslo accords which led to the formation of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) installed Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement which led the PLO into power, as the outsourced local jailers of the Palestinian people. Since Fatah’s defeat, sections of the Israeli media have described Gaza as ‘Hamastan’ and blame ‘Islamic terrorists’. But commentators conveniently forget to mention that the Israeli secret services supported Hamas after it was founded in 1987 in order to undermine its stronger rival at the time, the PLO.

Insitutionalise oppression

So-called subsequent ‘peace’ agreements have been designed to institutionalise Palestinian oppression. This is because capitalism and imperialism cannot afford the political and financial costs of genuine Palestinian liberation. The Oslo accords which led to the formation of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) installed the Yasser Arafat led PLO in power. However, the PLO leadership rapidly lost authority amongst Palestinians because of endemic corruption, spiralling poverty and no abatement of Israeli military attacks. This led to a growth in support for Hamas, which was seen as a more honest alternative to Fatah.

Despite ‘peace’ agreements, Israeli settlement of the West Bank increased by 50% from 1992-96. Palestinian areas were subdivided and separated from each other and Palestinian workers were barred from Israel, further increasing poverty. There are now 450 Israeli military roadblocks and 70 permanent checkpoints in the West Bank. This is in an area one-third the size of greater London!

Under pressure from US imperialism, Palestinian President Abbas called elections in January 2006. To the horror of the Bush regime, Hamas won as the PLO was punished for years of corruption and its inability to halt Israeli capitalism’s military onslaught.

Ever since then, US imperialism, the EU powers and Israeli capitalism have implemented collective punishment on the Palestinians for ‘voting the wrong way’. The intention was to force out the Hamas government. The Israeli regime withheld $800 million in tax receipts that were owed to the Palestinian government. The EU and US cut off economic aid. At the same time the Israeli military continued a bombardment against Gaza and the West Bank killing over 700 Palestinians.

All Hamas had to offer its electorate was anti-imperialist and anti-Fatah rhetoric, and the memory of its armed attacks on Israeli civilians. While the CWI supports the right of the Palestinians to defend themselves, we do not support military attacks on Israeli civilian workers and young people, which drive them into the arms of the most reactionary political forces in Israel.

Last year’s Palestinian public sector workers’ strike against non-payment of wages indicated the pressure on Hamas. Pressure from Arab elites in the region – from an opposite standpoint – led to the formation of a “national unity” government made up of Hamas and the PLO in February this year. But the new government solved none of the terrible problems Palestinians face daily.

Oxfam, the campaigning charity, reported on the day of the Hamas take-over that 1 family in 15 has debts greater than $25,000. A Palestinian school headmaster only earns $9,000 a year! Society is disintegrating. One of the only growth industries is kidnapping. Young people turn to crime or join the militias to survive.

Now Palestine consists of two statelets, one controlled by Hamas, in Gaza, and the other, on he West Bank, supported by Israel, the US and EU, with Fatah as the major force. Given the terrible and deteriorating social and economic situation, more conflict is on the agenda.

Abbas has dissolved the unity government, declared a ‘state of emergency’ and installed Salam Fayyad, its former World Bank-trained finance minister as the new prime minister. Yet Fayyad’s party list only received 2.4% in the recent general elections. Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister has insisted that the old government will remain in power. Once again the hypocrisy of US imperialism and other western powers on the issue of ‘democracy’ is exposed for all to see, by their desire to support an unelected Fatah regime against the elected Hamas.

It is not clear whether Hamas will attempt to attack Fatah offices and leaders in the West Bank or step up rocket attacks on southern Israel. While the evidence suggests that Hamas carefully planned its takeover, as in its January 2006 election victory, its leaders were surprised by the ease with which it was accomplished.

“Dahlan Rice”

This is because many Fatah militia men were paid fighters and not ideologically motivated. During the armed confrontations Fatah organisations in Gaza fractured, with big sections going over to Hamas. Fatah fighters had no real confidence in their leaders, some of whom were renowned for their acceptance of Israeli domination, corruption and links with criminal gangs in the Strip. Principal among these was Dahlan, who many young people in Gaza nicknamed “Dahlan Rice”, after the US Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice.

Following the Hamas takeover, local Fatah leaders have announced a new interim committee to lead the organisation in Gaza, condemning the “collaborators” who used to head the organisation and claiming that Hamas would not harm “good” Fatah members. Incredibly, other Fatah hardliners have described the same individuals as part of the “mutiny trend” who capitulated to Hamas. On 18 June former Fatah secretary in Gaza Husam ‘Udwan, called for the formation of an emergency committee to punish Muhammad Dahlan for this ‘crime’.

It is not clear to what extent Hamas will apply strict Islamic law. Despite claims by Hamas spokespeople last Thursday that Gaza was an Islamic state, it is more likely that they will tread carefully.

However much the Hamas leadership boast about the ease of their victory, the measures they take will be based on how much support they think they have amongst the Palestinians people. Hamas leaders understand that this has fallen in the last few months. They are aware they do not have the same extent of grass roots support, for example, as Hezbollah does amongst the Shiah community in southern Lebanon. One initiative they could take is to strive to obtain the release of Alan Johnston, the kidnapped BBC journalist, to broaden their support.

But as is the case across the Middle East, no one force is able to determine events. Other Islamic-based militias could carry out rocket attacks on Israel, leading to a ground incursion into Gaza, or the Israeli military could carry out pre-emptive strikes. During the armed clashes between Fatah and Hamas, Israel tank fire killed five Palestinians, four of them children, east of Rafah (Ma’an News Agency, 16 June 2007).

The immediate calls for an ‘international force’ to be stationed in Gaza have evaporated into thin air. This would be a suicide mission for any country involved. It may be the case that some sort of UN force could be deployed along the Gaza-Egyptian border, but this would also be risky for the countries involved.

Tension has increased as the Israeli regime has cut off fuel supplies to all outlets except the main power station. There are press reports that the new defence minister in the Israeli government, Ehud Barak, is calling for a ground invasion of 20,000 Israeli troops to wipe out militias firing rockets on southern Israel. This is not the most likely immediate outcome, since the Israeli military want to avoid a repeat of the debacle they faced in Lebanon in Summer 2006, when they committed ground troops to “destroy Hezbollah”. They fear an “Israeli Baghdad” or as some of the Israeli press have said a “Palestinian Mogadishu”. The latter refers to the takeover of Somalia’s capital by militias in the 1990s which subsequently led to the retreat of US and Pakistani forces stationed there under a UN mandate. However, new Israeli military incursion into Gaza cannot be ruled out in the next few months, especially if rocket attacks continue.

Under these circumstances the impression is given that workers and young people across the region can do nothing. But the alternative is a further drift into bloody conflict. In fact the conditions are there for a struggle against capitalism and poverty on both sides of the national divide.

Independent working class movement

Like many Palestinians, the CWI does not support the political positions of either Fatah or Hamas leadership. Unfortunately recent developments have proved embarrassing for some left groups internationally who have supported both of these organisations over the years. Hamas’ politics, although couched in anti-imperialistic rhetoric, is hostile to the workers’ movement and socialism. Their military attacks on Israeli civilians are incorrect and counter-productive. Fatah policies have zig-zagged over the years between exerting diplomatic pressure on the imperialist powers to grant Palestinian national liberation or carrying out armed attacks against Israeli civilians. As the present situation in the Palestinian areas shows, none of these tactics has worked. Only an independent working class movement on both sides of the national divide offers a way forward for the region. If a mass movement of Palestininas had developed in Gaza and the West Bank, in opposition to the murderous tactics of the Fatah and Hamas militias and demanding fundamental social change and defending the rights of all nationalities, this would have had a massive effect in Israel.

For it is not just amongst the Palestinians that there is a deep discontent with the ruling class. The Israeli elite has never had such a lack of authority in their history. The army chief had to be replaced because of its Lebanon defeat. The finance minister faces accusations of siphoning money off from a charity which organises tours of concentration camp sites in Europe. Olmert, the prime minister, has only 1-2% support. There is unprecedented wealth polarisation in the Israeli population. Neo-liberal economic policies, including wide-scale privatisation has led to a backlash with 59% of the population now supporting a “socialist economy” (ie, in this case, a desire to return to the pre-cuts welfare state) according to a poll from the Israeli Institute for Democracy.

An opinion poll by Near East Consulting, one week before the latest Gaza clashes, showed that 50% of Palestinians trusted neither Abbas or Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister. Over 60% think that rocket attacks have no positive effects.

Imperialism has nothing to offer Palestinians and Israelis alike but more suffering. Hopes for a UN-mediated solution will be sorely disappointed. But other ‘capitalist’ solutions will also founder. Recently there have been suggestions in the Western media that perhaps a ‘three’ state solution should be put forward. Or perhaps the incorporation of the West Bank into a federation with Jordan? However, the latter has been proposed before. It would not be accepted by the Jordanian ruling elite because of the instability it would build into the foundations of the country. Neither would the Palestinians accept being swallowed up by a regime renowned for its discrimination, lack of democracy and brutality. What none of these ‘solutions’ explain is how the genuine desires for a decent life for all Palestinians and genuine national liberation will be fulfilled. The failure to do this has led to decades of conflict.

The majority of Israelis and Palestinians have no trust in their ruling elites solving the present conflict. Movements based on the interests of the majority on both sides of the national divide need to be built, dedicated to the overthrow of the capitalist system that perpetuates division and conflict.

We demand

Ma’avak Sotzialisti, the Israeli section of the CWI, is helping to build such movements. They are calling for:

– An end to Israeli military operations in the West Bank and Gaza and the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from those territories.

– Stop the international embargo of the Palestinian Authority.

– For the building of direct links between community groups and workers on both sides of the national divide.

– For the building of democratic and independent workers’ parties in both Palestine and Israel.

– For the overthrow of capitalism and the building of a socialist confederation of the Middle East, with a socialist Palestine alongside a socialist Israel.

Iraq war – Unending slaughter

By Conor Payne

The G8 is taking place in the context of Bush and Blair’s ongoing occupation of Iraq, which has been a disaster for the Iraqi people. 655,000 Iraqis and over 3,000 US soldiers have died since the invasion began.

The occupation has unleashed a wave of sectarian violence which is tearing the country apart. Poverty and unemployment have significantly increased with one in five Iraqis living on less than $1 a day.

Atrocities such as the massacre of civilians by US troops at Haditha and the brutal torture at Abu-Ghraib prison have exposed the coalition’s lies about “democracy” and “liberation.” The war and occupation were always about the interests of big business, particularly the oil industry, and increasing the power of US Imperialism. Iraq is being “rebuilt” not in the interests of Iraqi workers and peasants but in the interest of multinational corporations.

This occupation has lost all support in Iraq and internationally. 82% of Iraqis are “strongly opposed” to the presence of coalition troops. In the US a majority now support the withdrawal of US troops and Bush’s popularity has plummeted.

All those opposed to the occupation should use the G8 as an opportunity to make their voices heard and demand the removal of all US and British troops from Iraq.