By Andrew Williams
The unity agreement signed this week in Cairo between Hamas and Fatah marks a significant step forward in the Palestinian struggle. Under the deal there will be an interim government running the West Bank and Gaza Strip whilst preparations are made for parliamentary and presidential elections within the year. Elaboration of the agreement will unfold over coming weeks, but initial steps are already being implemented, such as on TV broadcasting where the principal Fatah-controlled station is transmitting again in Gaza and Hamas is back on air in the West Bank.
Two important forces combined to make the pact possible. Firstly the Palestinian masses, despite the violence thrown at them by Israel and the capitulations of the Palestinian Authority (PA), continue to resist the illegal occupation of their land. In the long course of their struggle, Palestinians have made huge sacrifices, but are not defeated and remain determined to secure their national rights. Opposition to Israel’s occupation is why Hamas so decisively won the last PA Legislative Elections in 2006.
The new factor strengthening the situation has been the revolutionary uprisings still sweeping the region, in particular the role Egypt is now playing following the ousting of Mubarak. Whilst the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is not reconfiguring the core of Egypt’s foreign relations, such as abrogating the 1979 Camp David peace treaty, it is significantly reducing coordination with the US and Israel, making rapprochements with Iran and Hamas. Egypt has announced it will re-open the border crossing at Rafah, ending its collusion in the siege of Gaza, and unlike Mubarak, who scuppered Palestinian unity negotiations, the new regime brokered this new unity deal.
The divide (and rule) of the recent period made it difficult for the Palestinian struggle to advance. As the leaked Palestine Papers revealed, despite the PA acquiescing to almost all US and Israel demands on borders, settlements and rights of return, Israel remained unwilling to reach an agreement. Restoring Palestinian unity can only strengthen the position and will deal a blow to the demonisation campaign that is waged against Hamas. Also within the Palestinian Territories the PA will come under increased pressure to stop using its security apparatus to repress Hamas and the other movements that resist the occupation.
The unity agreement was reached in the face of total opposition from the West, which inevitably now is trying to limit any further Palestinian advance. The imperialists agree on the importance of a heavily armed Israel to pursue their interests in the region, but this right wing Israeli government’s orientation, continuing to extend the colonisation of Palestinian land, creates difficulties for relations with the Arab states. So neither the US nor EU have immediately rushed to cut off aid to Palestine despite the vocal demands of Israel.
Israel itself took immediate unilateral action to squeeze the Palestinians financially, refusing to hand over import taxes that it collects from Palestinians on behalf of the PA. The Israeli propaganda machine is claiming that Palestinian unity presents a terrorist threat to Israel. The reality is the overwhelming source of deadly violence against civilians comes from Israel. Its assault on Gaza in 2008–2009 killed 1,300-plus, mostly civilians. The regular firing into Gaza by the Israeli military leads to more civilian deaths. This week the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories reported that Israel has killed more than 1,300 children since 2000. To this can be added all those Palestinians maimed and injured and the incarceration of thousands of opponents of Israel’s illegal occupation.
By their heroic resistance to this barbarism, the Palestinian struggle has taken a step forward. The end of the Gaza-West Bank split marks the beginning of a new stage in the struggle. This underscores the priority that should be given to supporting the solidarity movement with the Palestinians and building its activities.
Saturday 14 May 2011
Assemble 12 noon opposite Downing Street London SW1
Called by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, British Muslim Initiative, CND, Palestinian Forum in Britain
For further information see Palestine Solidarity Campaign website