New Flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict at Palestinian Forces Feud

by Gerry Foley / November 2005 issue of Socialist Action newspaper

At the end of October, war between the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups, which had been in abeyance since the Zionist evacuation of Gaza, seemed to be igniting again.

On the weekend of Oct. 22-23, the Israeli army invaded the West Bank town of Tulkarm and assassinated a top leader of Islamic Jihad, Luai Saadi. Zionist officials accused him of having planned suicide operations that killed 10 Israelis. They announced that they would continue to pursue militant leaders they consider responsible for planning attacks on Israel.

Islamic Jihad is the second largest Islamist organization, after Hamas. Its response to the
assassination of Luai Saadi was to threaten an all-out war against Israel. “We will not stand handcuffed while the blood of our fighters is being shed. … Let calm go to hell,” said a statement by the group, the liberal Zionist daily Haaretz reported Oct. 24.

On Oct. 26, an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber, 20-year-old Hassan Abu Zeid, blew himself up in front of a falafel stand in an open-air market in the Israeli coastal town of Hadera. The blast killed outright five Israelis, and another six were reported in serious condition.

The Zionist rulers announced that they were launched a campaign of retaliation against the Islamist organization. On Oct. 27, Israeli missiles hit a car carrying a senior Jihad leader for the northern Gaza strip and his aide. Both were killed. Four bystanders were also killed, including a 15-year-old boy and a 65-year-old man.

The following day, Israeli missiles killed a leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a military organization affiliated with Fatah, in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun. Al Aqsa, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas all threatened reprisals. The duel of missiles between Israel and Palestinian fighters in Gaza also resumed, making Gaza once again a shooting gallery for the
Zionist forces.

In fact, before the new flare-up of military strikes, the effect of the Zionist government’s withdrawal from Gaza seemed to be mainly that it had increased conflict among Palestinians. In its Oct. 13 issue, Haaretz noted that the number of Palestinians killed in inter-Palestinian conflicts exceeded the number of Palestinians killed by the Zionist forces for the first time:

“In the report [released Oct. 13], the Palestinian Authority’s Interior Ministry cited 219 deaths as a result of inner-Palestinian violence compared to 218 deaths at the hands of Israeli security forces over the course of the first nine months of this year. The statistics reflect the relative calm in the territories vis-a-vis Israel as well as the increasing anarchy in PA-controlled areas.”

It has been the constant objective of the Zionist rulers to turn the fruits of the Palestinian struggle into an apple of discord for the oppressed people. Concessions to the rights of the Palestinian people are always made conditional on the Palestinian forces themselves repressing the more intransigent fighters. The tensions between the militants and the Palestinian Authority politicians and the police force they command have grown as the Gaza Strip has moved to self-rule, since Islamists who are identified with a line of unyielding struggle against Israel are the dominant force in the territory.

Both the United States and the Israeli authorities have only recently retreated from putting pressure on the Palestinian Authority to exclude the Islamist organization Hamas from running in the upcoming Palestinian elections. Undoubtedly, they feared that pushing the PA too openly into a confrontation with Hamas would only weaken it and strengthen its Islamist

Moreover, they obviously hoped that the spoils of compromise could also tempt a wing of Hamas. There have been statements by some Hamas leaders that could indicate a conciliatory turn, despite the organization’s strident anti-Zionist rhetoric. In fact, the Islamist organizations are fraught with contradictions, since they have no consistent political strategy for fighting the Zionists.

The Palestinian Authority leaders could only protest that the Israeli assaults made it more difficult for them to keep the situation in the Palestinian territories under control.

But the benefits for the Palestinians of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza remain small. The Israelis are continuing to isolate the economically deprived area. The New York Times reported Oct. 24: “A special Mideast envoy criticized Israel for not allowing greater Palestinian movement in and out of the Gaza Strip, where residents currently face greater
difficulties in traveling than before Israel’s withdrawal from the territory.” The envoy was James
Wolfenson, a representative of the so-called Quartet, which includes the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia.

The results of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza thus resemble those of the Oslo Pact, which was supposed to set in motion a process leading to Palestinian self-rule. In fact, it made the situation of the Palestinians even more difficult. And the latest wave of Palestinian resistance has been a response to that. In the context of the new flare-up of violence, the Israeli government has stepped up its demands that the Palestinian Authority disarm the fighters. Haaretz of Oct. 29 reported that the Palestinian Authority had arrested four Islamic Jihad supporters but that the arrests had prompted a demonstration of protest that the PA police dispersed by gunfire.

The Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, who has accepted responsibility for maintaining the “security” of the Egyptian border with Gaza, has warned Israel that any attempt by the Palestinian Authority to disarm the militants could lead to civil war in the Palestinian areas. That is probably what the Israelis want. Their difficulty is that if there were a civil war today,
the PA would probably lose it.

However, the danger of inter-Palestinian conflict is obviously increasing, and the Palestinian militants need a new political strategy to avert it and to undermine the political power that the Zionist state has over them.

They would be greatly strengthened if they called for a democratic solution, a single state of Palestine in which Jews and Arabs could live together peacefully based on the common economic interests of working people in the region.

The projection of regional unity based on the basic interests of working people could foster the broadest unity in struggle against imperialist domination and manipulation.

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