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Communist party briefing Seven BACKGROUND TO EVENTS IN PALESTINE

go to communistparty.org.uk June 2014

CPB Congress November 2012 28. The key priority of our international agenda must be the implementation of UN Resolution 194 calling for the creation of a sovereign, viable and independent Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel with the borders of 4 June 1967, Jerusalem as its capital and the right of return of refugees. In furtherance of this goal and to highlight the injustices perpetuated by the state of Israel, we will campaign for its universal boycott, including all things academic, cultural, economic, military and political.

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29. We support the demands of the Palestinian people and their organisations for the restoration of all that has been taken from them, for rights and freedoms, the cessation of abuse and the release of all political detainees, including child prisoners. Our party supports the demand for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood and sees it as its particular duty to campaign for the release of the Palestine Legislative Council member and PLO leader, Marwan Barghouti. Our party also notes the continuing opposition within Israel to the creation of a sectarian Jewish state, the mass movement developing in the face of deteriorating economic conditions and the role of the Communist Party of Israel.

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Statements of the 14th and 15th International Meetings of Communist and Workers Parties December 2012 and November 2013 2012: ‘Condemning the on-going atrocities perpetuated by the Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian people, supporting their right in resisting occupation, and building their independent state, East Jerusalem as a capital, and strengthening the campaign for the immediate lifting of the blockade against Gaza and for the Right of Return.’ 2013 Press Release: Reiterated previous commitments and ‘re-affirmed its solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggle national rights.’

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2014 is the UN’s ‘International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People’ The General Assembly resolution A/68/12 (November 2013) named 2014 as the year of solidarity with the Palestinian People – with the objective of winning global awareness of the demands of the Palestinian People as ratified by UN resolution, winning an understanding of the obstacles to their achievement and a global mobilisation to overcome them Israel’s geopolitical alliances

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Palestine became a British Mandate under the League of Nations in 1922. Prior to 1945 Britain used Jewish immigration to stabilise its military grip on Palestine in face of repeated Arab insurgency. After 1945 and prior to the formal end of the British mandate in 1948 Britain resisted Jewish attempts to establish a separate state for fear of alienating support in its Arab client states (Egypt, Jordon, Iraq). After the Naqba of 1948, when Jewish settlers drove Palestinians from Western Palestine, the US was the first state to recognise Israel. However, the US also remained wary of full support in face of its wider objectives of ending Soviet regional influence and securing oil supplies in Saudi Arabia and Iran. In the 1950s Israel’s closest ally was France who supplied nuclear bomb technology from 1957. Israel also developed military links with Apartheid South Africa. US links with Israel became institutionalised under the Reagan presidency with military supply agreements from 1981 and the US-Israel Joint Economic Development Conference from 1985. Since the 1990s US financial aid to Israel has been running at around $3 billion a year.

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Israel has an army of 175,000 with 445,000 reservists. Most of its equipment comes from the US. Israeli government policy towards the PLO and the occupied territories has moved tactically back and forth from negotiation to repression. The policy of the Israeli state apparatus and intelligence service has been to seek to make occupation irreversible through increasing settlements, the cutting off of water supplies from Palestinian villages and the constructing the Wall across the West Bank to make Palestinian transport and communication increasingly impossible. There are currently upwards of 4,400 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and up to 700 children. There are 321,000 Israelis in the illegal West Bank settlements and another 100,000 in East Jerusalem.

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Over the past decade US regional strategy was to consolidate the position of pro-US authoritarian Arab governments in order to isolate Iran. Historically the US has needed Israel as a military base that is totally reliable in an instable region - but not as a state with policies that undermine its relations with these pro-US governments that also control the bulk of the region’s oil. In the case of any direct military conflict with Iran (and consequent hostilities in Shia Iraq), it would have required the prior neutralisation of Syria as an ally of Iran and thereby also Hezbollah in Lebanon. This would have been essential in order to limit the battlefront and prevent the appearance of US/Israeli assault on the Moslem Middle East.

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Developments in 2013 have significantly changed these strategic considerations. These are: the split in political Islam (between Saudi Arabia and its allies and those states supporting the ‘modernising’ Moslem Brotherhood such as Turkey and Qatar); concerns about anti-US Jihadi and Al Qaeda forces taking control in Syria; the decision to do a deal with Iran in the interests of regional stability (on US terms); and probably also the prospect of US self-sufficiency in oil. These changes may also have opened the possibility of a shift of US policy on Israel.

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The population of Israel and Palestine Israel 2007 census of Israeli citizens gives 6 million as Jewish and 1.4 million as Palestinian. The population of the occupied West Bank and Gaza is 3.8 million (Palestinians) plus half a million in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordon.

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Political organisations in Palestine PLO The Palestine Liberation Organisation was formed in 1964 and has been recognised by the UN as the representative of the Palestinian People since 1972. The PLO is secular and anti-imperialist and was in origin politically left-wing. Its president was Yasser Arafat from 1969 till his death in 2004 when Mahmoud Abbas replaced him. It is composed of a number of organisation of which by far the biggest is Fatah: secular and currently led by Mahmoud Abbas. Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned since 2002, was previously general secretary on the West Bank and remains an elected representative within the Palestinian Authority. The other main organisations within the PLO are: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (founded by George Habash, currently boycotting the PLO and opposing negotiations with Israel), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (Maoist origin, base Damascus) and the Palestinian Peoples Party (Communist Party till 1991).

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Hamas An Islamic organisation founded by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and originally funded from Saudi Arabia. After 2000 its main funding came from Iran via Syria. Hamas has opposed a two state solution and in 2006 narrowly won the elections for the Palestinian Authority. Conflict with the PLO saw its leaders expelled from the West Bank in 2007 but retaining control of Gaza. In 2011 attempts were made to secure a reconciliation with the PLO and this remains a major priority of the PLO leadership in 2013-14. Since 2012 the funding base of Hamas has switched from Iran/Syria to Egypt and then, after the overthrow of Morsi, to Turkey and Qatar.

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Political organisations in Israel The main progressive organisation is the Communist Party of Israel which includes both Jews and Arabs in its membership (currently a majority of members are Arab) and is the leading force within the electoral alliance ‘Hadash’ which has 4 members in the Knesset. The United Arab List is the other alliance which provides Arab representation in the Knesset. It is non-socialist.

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The Israeli Labour Party was generally dominant into the 1980s. It was originally both Zionist and Left-wing in terms of domestic policy. Under Rabin it negotiated the Oslo accords in 1993. It has, however, moved towards the Right and fragmented. A centrist party Kadima emerged in the 1990s but has since also fragmented. A right-wing and aggressively Zionist party Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has been the dominant force for the last twenty years and ruled in alliance with Jewish fundamentalist parties for most of past decade. Yesh Atid was formed in 2012. It is a secular party favouring negotiations with the PLO but also supports the continuation of some settlements and Israeli control of all Jerusalem. It was the biggest gainer in the 2013 election.

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Post 2013 Election position in Knesset Likud-Beitenu (Netanyahu) 31 seats Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid) 19 Labour 15 Jewish Home (Neftali Bennet) 11 Shas (Ultra Religious) 11 UTJ (Religious right) 7 Meretz (Israeli secular Left) 6 United Arab List 5 Hadash 4 Ballad (Arab secular) 3 Yair Lapid as leader of Yesh Atid now holds the balance of power in terms of coalition building.

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Timeline 1917 Balfour Declaration by British Foreign Secretary: Palestine should become a ‘national home’ for the Jewish People; Britain occupies Palestine 1917-22 1922 Palestine becomes a British mandate: Britain suppresses Arab risings in 1920s and 30s; Jewish population increases from 84,000 to 630,000 1922-1947. 1947 UN resolution 181 recognises of the feasibility of ‘two states’ 1948 British mandate ends; Nakba expulsion of Palestinian populations from Western Palestine and unilateral declaration of a sovereign Israeli state 1956 Secret Treaty between Britain, France and Israel for joint attack on Egypt: Israel annexes Sinai peninsular but later withdraws under UN pressure 1967 Six Day war: Israel annexes West Bank, Golan Heights (Syria), Gaza and reoccupies Sinai 1973 Yom Kippur war: Egypt’s defeat used by US to consolidate its control over the Egyptian government. 1978 Camp David Accord between Israel and Egypt by which Egypt recognises Israel and Israel withdraws from Sinai 1978 Israel occupies much of Lebanon and retains South Lebanon till 2000 1982 Second Israeli invasion of Lebanon: massacres at Sabre and Shatila camps 1987 First Intifada begins 1993 Oslo Accords between PLO led by Arafat and Israel led by PM Yitzhak Rabin recognising Palestinian National Authority in Gaza and West Bank in return for PLO recognition of Israel (Rabin assassinated 1995) 2000 Second Intifada 2000 Israel orders withdrawal from Gaza and begins construction of Wall through West Bank 2006 Third Israeli invasion of Lebanon 2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza 2012 November UN recognises Palestine as having non-member observer status; Israeli announces settlements on E1area to complete territorial division of West Bank – further Israeli attack on Gaza 2013 US convenes peace talks between Israel and the PLO; Israel announces 20,000 new settlement units between cutting off East Jerusalem from the West Bank; 22 September 2013: the Left Wing parties within the PLO (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian People’s Party, The National Initiative, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian Democratic Union) call for the suspension of peace talks; 8 November 2013 EU issues a statement condemning the new settlements and Israeli attacks on Palestinians. April 2014 Israel withdraws from US-brokered peace negotiations when Abbas announces talks to broker agreement between PLO and Hamas 2 June 2014 PA Government of National Unity announced with support from Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas: ‘Today we declare the end of the split and regaining the unity of the homeland’. Hamas supports but has no ministers in a ‘technocratic government’ headed by Rami Hamdallah. Netanyahu announces that Israel will impose economic sanctions on the occupied territories and the PLO. The new PA government maintains position of ‘two state solution’.


EU statement to United Nations 8 November 2013 We are fully supportive and we are committed to helping to ensure the success of the on-going direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians aiming at a comprehensive peace between the two sides, through a two-state solution with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The European Union has repeatedly stressed its conviction that a resolution of the conflict can be achieved through a comprehensive peace agreement, based on the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Roadmap, the agreements previously reached by the parties and the Arab Peace Initiative... The European Union deplores continuing Israeli plans and activities to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. Let me also reaffirm the long-held position of the European Union that settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-State solution impossible. All settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem, should cease immediately. New construction plans should be abandoned.                       The European Union condemns in the strongest terms continuing settler violence and deliberate provocations against Palestinian civilians. We call on the Government of Israel to protect Palestinian civilians from violence, bring the perpetrators of any such acts to justice and to comply with its obligations under international law. The European Union and its Member States also express their deep concern about the worsening living conditions of the Palestinian population in Area C, which is its main land reserve. We are particularly concerned by the instances of collective demolitions in recent months, often resulting in the displacement of Palestinians, including Bedouin communities. One element of deep concern for the European Union is the number of Palestinians killed recently in the oPt, in separate incidents involving the use of live fire by Israeli forces. Moreover, we express our concern at the continuing incursions by Israeli forces into Area A. Incursions by Israeli forces into Palestinian cities where the Palestinian Authority, under the Oslo Accords, assumes the powers and responsibilities for internal security and public order put in jeopardy the internationally recognized success of Palestinian institution building efforts .. The EU remains concerned about the extensive recourse by Israel to administrative detention of excessive duration without charge. Under international law, detainees have the right to be informed about the reasons underlying any detention and to have the legality of their detention being determined without undue delay. The EU calls upon Israel to bring formal charges against these individuals, with such charges being determined through fair trials....The EU remains concerned by the high number of Palestinian children held in detention by Israel and by reports of ill treatment during the arrest, transfer and interrogation of child detainees in the West Bank.

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The ‘Two State’ position Hamas has till the present refused to recognise Israel as do some minority groups in the PLO. The position of the mainstream PLO since the Oslo accords has been to recognise Israel’s right to exist and to demand a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders alongside it with its capital in East Jerusalem. This is the position of the Palestinian People’s Party and the Israeli CP. It is also the position of the UN (though opposed by Israel and the US). The SWP and some other Trotskyite groups support the Hamas position and call for the establishment of new state across the whole pre-1948 Palestinian territory that is secular, democratic and non-repressive. They argue that the scale of Israeli settlement now makes a West Bank/Gaza state non-viable

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The argument against this is: • The settlements are illegal by UN decision. They can be dismantled or vacated: in a significant number the population is transient with permanent residences in Israel as well • Abandoning the two state formula surrenders the negotiating position won by the PLO in 1993 • It surrenders the position secured at the UN • It strengthens the grip of the extreme right within Israeli politics • It strengthens the bargaining position of Israel against international (including US) pressure for any settlement • ‘One State’ is also the demand of the extreme right Jewish Homeland party in Israel – in terms of one state covering all pre-1948 Palestine and including the West Bank with Palestinians becoming Israeli citizens or leaving. Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) back the PLO calls for the recognition of the State of Palestine and with authority over all territories assigned under UN resolution.


Now has broad TU support: ASLEF, BFAWU, BECTU, Connect, CWU, FBU, GMB, NUM, NUT, PCS, RMT, TSSA, UCATT, UCU, UNISON, UNITE, USDAW There was unanimous vote at TUC 2012 in support of Palestine in terms of implementation of UN resolutions and specifically to organise a delegation to visit Gaza to determine how best the TUC may assist in ending the blockade.

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This TU support was reflected in call at the PSC AGM in united, focused action on Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) covering political prisoners, football and other issues.

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At the 2013 PSC AGM the motion on the BDS Campaign tabled by ASLEF was supported by the Executive but with the deletion of references to a ‘two-state solution’ and to ‘accepted pre-1967 borders with Israel’.

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It is our party policy to give support to PSC at both British and local level, to support the ‘two state’ solution and to

CP briefing seven Palestine june 2014  

Communist Party briefing to background of events and politics in Palestine