Kevin Ovenden on the socialist solution in Palestine
WHAT IS the solution to the Palestinian crisis? The conflict is presented to us as one between two equal forces, with right and wrong on both sides, who must compromise with each other and establish two separate states. But there are not two equal sides battling it out in Palestine. Israel is one of the most heavily militarised states on earth. It is backed and armed by the US. It has received over $92 billion of US 'aid' over the last three decades.
Then there are the Palestinians, driven from their own lands, existing in exile, denied justice. Palestinian oppression and the conflict in the Middle East cannot be ended by telling them to exist in impoverished rump areas, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
And calling those areas 'a state' does not make the suffering in them any less. Israel is built on stolen land. Zionist settlers from Europe began arriving in larger numbers in British-controlled Palestine in the early part of the last century.
But Palestine was already inhabited by an Arab population. Most were Muslims, but there was a big Christian and smaller Jewish population. They had lived peacefully together for 1,300 years. The Zionist aim was to create an exclusively Jewish state in the area. That meant refusing to mix with Arabs.
In 1947 Jewish people made up 30 percent of the population of Palestine. That year the UN decided to partition the area between Jews and Arabs. It did so at the behest of the US, which saw an Israeli state as a way of strengthening its influence in the area. The US bullied and bribed other states to go along with the partition plan. The Jewish minority owned only 6 percent of the land, yet the UN granted them 55 percent of Palestine.
Not satisfied, the Zionist colonisers used military might to seize 79 percent of the country in 1948. The UN mediator at the time recorded what that meant-stealing 80 percent of Arab cultivable land, 50 percent of citrus groves, 90 percent of olive groves and 10,000 shops. He was assassinated by the Zionist Stern Gang.
The 1947 UN partition of Palestine meant robbing the Palestinians. The founding of the state of Israel in 1948 meant the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians.
Most of them and their descendants live in the kind of refugee camps that Israeli forces are now laying siege to. The Western powers threw their support behind Israel as a bulwark of their interests in the oil-rich Middle East. In 1951 the liberal Israeli paper Ha'aretz wrote:
'Israel is to become the watchdog. If for any reasons the Western powers should sometimes prefer to close their eyes, Israel could be relied upon to punish one or several neighbouring states whose discourtesy to the West went beyond the bounds of the permissible.'
Playing that role has meant compounding the humiliation of the Palestinians through military expansion in every decade since Israel was founded. Israel went to war in 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982, seizing more land, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It has also meant a steadfast refusal to allow the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
The so called solution the US and its Arab ally Saudi Arabia are proposing now, a separate Palestinian state on parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, does nothing to address the injustice that fuels the conflict. The UN partition left the Palestinian area overrun by its more powerful neighbour.
The Oslo 'peace process' in the mid-1990s resulted in the creation of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. It was a mini-state in the Gaza Strip and some of the West Bank. But Israeli expansionism continued. The Israeli government encouraged hundreds of thousands of settlers to move into armed encampments in the Palestinian territories.
They are now 20 percent of the population. They consume 80 percent of the water in the area. The Palestinian Authority had official control of Ramallah, Jenin and all the other areas Israel has just invaded.
Calling those areas, criss-crossed by Israeli settlements, a state will not stop further invasions by Israel. The reality behind talk of a 'two state solution' is an Israeli state, which is armed with nuclear weapons and refuses to allow Palestinian refugees to return, alongside effectively a reservation for Palestinians.
Any lasting solution has to be based on the right of return for Palestinians and shattering Israel's military machine. This does not mean 'driving the Jewish population into the sea', as Israel's defenders claim. It means them recognising that they cannot run most of Palestine as an exclusive state based on ethnic cleansing.