Posts Tagged ‘demonstrations’

Afghans rally against rising civilian killings

December 31, 2009
Morning Star Online, Wednesday 30 December 2009
by Tom Mellen
Afghans protest against the recent killings of 10 civilians allegedly by coalition forces

Afghans protest against the recent killings of 10 civilians allegedly by coalition forces

Afghan students have rallied in Jalalabad and threatened to “take up guns instead of pens and fight occupation forces” if the Karzai regime fails to stop the indiscriminate killing of civilians by occupation troops.

Continues >>

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The jungle massacre: Peru’s tribal chief flees country

June 11, 2009

Amazon leader seeks refuge at Nicaraguan embassy after followers killed in clashes over oil and logging laws

The Independent/UK, June 11, 2009

Protesters block access to Yurimagua city in the Amazon
REUTERS

Protesters block access to Yurimagua city in the Amazon

The leader of Peru’s Amazon Indians will be flown to exile in Nicaragua after seeking asylum following violent demonstrations that killed scores of police and protesters.

Alberto Pizango, the head of Aidesep, which represents 56 tribes, spent yesterday at the Nicaraguan embassy in Lima. Dozens of his followers died during protests against new laws that will leave swathes of their ancestral homelands open to oil and gas exploration. He has been charged by his own government with “sedition, conspiracy and rebellion”.

The London-based pressure group, Survival International, called on oil firms to withdraw from Peru, describing the incident as “The Amazon’s Tiananmen” and accusing security forces, who have since imposed a curfew over the region, of burying and burning corpses to hide the scale of the killing.

Continued >>

Protests over Kashmir rapes enter Day 6

June 7, 2009

Rashid Ahmad, Hindustan Times/India, June 7, 2009

Srinagar

After relative calm since the Assembly polls in December, pro-freedom calls returned to Kashmir this week.

On Saturday, demonstrations and clashes between police and protestors filled the streets of a paralysed Kashmir for the sixth day. Several were injured as protestors clashed with police and CRPF at Nowhatta, Jamia Masjid, Rajouri Kadal, Nowgam, Chanpora and Manchwa areas.

This time, it began with the alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian town, 60 kilometres south of Srinagar.

Nelofar (23) and her sister-in-law Asiya (17) went missing on the evening of May 29. Their bodies were recovered from a nearby stream on May 30.

Police and administration said the women had drowned but residents and relatives of the women accused security force personnel of raping and killing them.

The bodies were found just yards away from a CRPF formation and the headquarters of district police lines. The headquarters of district police lines is also located in the vicinity.

Nelofar’s husband, Shakeel Ahmad Ahangar, said, “The bodies were recovered on the edge of the stream, not from the water. Both the bodies were half-naked and they had bruises all over.”

The deaths provoked massive protests in the town, which later spilled over the other parts of the Valley.

Separatist leaders called for total shutdown on June 1 and demanded that Indian troops be withdrawn from Kashmir. The call found takers all across the valley with massive violent protests in favour of azadi and against India.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who faced severe flak for saying the women were not raped and murdered, has ordered a judicial probe.

With Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani calling for continued demonstrations and protest marches on Saturday, the uncertain situation is likely to continue in Kashmir.

Several separatist leaders were also arrested on Saturday.

MIDEAST: A ‘Police State’ Celebrates

January 19, 2009

By Nora Barrows-Friedman | Inter Press Service

JERUSALEM, Jan 19 (IPS) – The Israeli government is stepping up efforts to suppress dissent and crush resistance in the streets. Police have been videotaping the demonstrations and subsequently arresting protesters in large numbers.

According to Israeli police reports, at least 763 Israeli citizens, the majority of them Palestinian and 244 under 18 years old, have been arrested, imprisoned or detained for participating in such demonstrations. Most have been held and then released, but at least 30 of those arrested over the past three weeks are still being held in prison.

Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations in Haifa, tells IPS that these demonstrations “are part of the uprising here inside the Green Line, to share responsibility and to share the challenge with the people in the Gaza strip.”

As an organiser of many of these solidarity demonstrations inside Israel, Makhoul himself was arrested by the Shin Bet (the Israeli secret service). “They called me, came to my home and held me for four hours,” he tells IPS. “They accused me of being a terrorist and supporting terror. They said that they are watching me and monitoring me.” Israel, he said, “has become a terror state.”

The Shin Bet has accused Makhoul and the hundreds of others arrested of “being a rebel, threatening the security of the State of Israel during war time.”

Makhoul believes that such threats are being implemented by Israel’s security forces “(in order to) break our will and the spirit of our people. But I think our spirit is much, much stronger here in Haifa and in Gaza than the Israeli oppression.”

On Jan. 15, a Haaretz-Dialog public opinion poll taken in Israel found that 82 percent of the Israeli population believes that Israel did not go too far in its three-week operation in Gaza, “despite pictures from Gaza depicting massive destruction and a large number of wounded and killed, including women and children,” reports Haaretz.

At a demonstration last week in front of Kishon prison north-east of Haifa, where some of the Palestinian demonstrators are being held, Israeli anarchist and professor of mathematics Kobi Snitz tells IPS that this figure is indicative of the current social climate inside the state.

“People are made to be afraid. Virtually all Israelis, particularly Israeli Jews, are convinced that Hamas was the one that violated the ceasefire. This just isn’t true…(But) you won’t find this in the Israeli media. There is no understanding of the level of violence used on Gaza by the Israeli military. And the police operate under the assumption and guidelines that every political expression now is to be repressed and prevented.”

IPS asked Snitz to describe the momentum of these daily protests across the country. “These demonstrations happened virtually by themselves,” he says. “At this point, anybody who is not severely indoctrinated or ignorant just feels compelled to do something every day. It’s unbearable to sit at home and not do anything.”

Last Saturday night in the coastal town of Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, several thousand demonstrators – including Palestinians, various peace groups, Israeli anarchists and teenaged Israeli refusniks fresh from jail for refusing to serve in the mandatory military – marched through the main street in the old city with flags, banners, and vociferous determination to keep up the fight inside Israeli society against their government’s lethal operations in Gaza. Israeli security forces, carrying weapons and video cameras, heavily flanked the protesters.

But activists say it is crucial to expand the discussion from this current struggle for Palestinians inside the Gaza strip outward into the larger context. “I’m here to take a stand for Gaza,” Mahmood Jreri of the acclaimed Palestinian hip-hop group DAM, based in Lydd (east of Tel Aviv), tells IPS during the march.

“The main reason (I’m here) is to say that we are not part of what the Israeli government is doing. The Palestinian people are fighting for their freedom and fighting against the occupation. When Palestinians have their freedom, then there will be peace here.” (END/2009)

When Pharaoh embraces Goliath

January 18, 2009

Mostafa Omar shows how Egypt’s tacit support for Israel’s war on Gaza has deepened the crisis in Egyptian society.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at a June 2006 conference (Menahem Kahana | AFP)Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at a June 2006 conference (Menahem Kahana | AFP)

MILLIONS OF ordinary Arabs have poured into the streets of every Arab country in the past two weeks to protest the ongoing Israeli massacres against Palestinians in Gaza. Demonstrators not only condemned the U.S. for its typical unconditional support of Israel, but they also denounced Arab regimes that do nothing to help the Palestinians besides give empty speeches.

Protests in the Arab streets in solidarity with victims of Israel’s wars from Palestine to Lebanon are common reactions in the region. Yet the latest mobilizations have a new and volatile character compared to previous ones.

First, the demonstrations this time are much larger and angrier than anything in decades. They reflect not just the outrage that ordinary Arabs feel towards Israel’s brutality towards the Palestinians, but also the bitterness towards the arrogant attempts of the United States to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan.

Second, these demonstrations have an explosive character due to the acute economic crisis faced by Arab workers and peasants. This is especially true in Egypt and Jordan, which have implemented disastrous free market policies in the last three decades.

What else to read

Al-Ahram Weekly carries English-language news updates and commentaries on the situation in Egypt.

One of the best left-wing writers on Egypt is Joel Beinin, a contributing editor to Middle East Report and Information Project. His article “The Militancy of Mahalla al-Kubra” provides essential background on the fight of textile workers.

Last year, the International Socialist Review published a special feature on the global food crisis, including Hossam El-Hamalawy’s “Revolt at Mahalla” on the eruption of class struggle in Egypt in connection with the food crisis, and Sharon Smith’s “The revolt over rising food prices.”

Norman Finkelstein’s Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict is essential reading for picking apart the myths used to justify Israel’s apartheid. Between the Lines: Readings on Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. “War on Terror,” by Tikva Honig-Parnass and Toufic Haddad, documents the apartheid-like conditions that Palestinians live under today.

For background on Israel’s war and the Palestinian struggle for freedom, read The Struggle for Palestine, a collection of essays edited by Lance Selfa on the history of the occupation and Palestinian resistance.

Finally, while protesters in various Arab countries have denounced all the regimes that fail to take any meaningful action against Israel or its American sponsor, demonstrators have concentrated their wrath on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for his shameful role in enforcing the Israeli blockade on Gaza for the past year and a half.

Indeed, Mubarak has publicly stated that he will not open the Rafah border crossing to Palestinians searching for food and medicine until Mahmoud Abbas, the pro-Western president of the Palestinian Authority, is back in power in Gaza.

For months, Mubarak has stopped all but very limited numbers of aid caravans with food and medicine to Gazans from crossing into the Strip. And since the Palestinians broke down the border wall between Egypt and Gaza in January 2008 to enter Egypt to buy supplies of food and medicine, Mubarak has also increased the number of Egyptian police at the border with Gaza to prevent any more prison breaks.

To add insult to injury, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni used her meeting with Mubarak in Cairo December 24 to more or less announce that Israel would start bombing Gaza.

Another source of bitterness is the fact that Israel relies for much of its electricity on cheap Egyptian natural gas. In 2005, Mubarak signed a 15-year trade deal with Israel to supply it with 20 percent of its natural gas needs at a low, fixed price. In other words, anything Israel needs for its massacre that uses electricity is operating on the cheap, thanks to Mubarak.

Therefore, the anger that erupted across the Arab streets against Mubarak–derisively known as the Pharaoh–is totally justified.

In Syria, Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon, angry demonstrators tried to storm Egyptian embassies and consulates. In Aden, Yemen, protesters managed to actually take over the consulate for a short period and vandalized its contents. Protesters called Mubarak a coward and accused him of being an agent of Israel and Zionism. They carried a poster featuring the pictures of Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mubarak smiling, with the caption calling the trio the “Axis of Dirt.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

A FEW days after the Israeli massacre in Gaza began, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al Quds newspaper, told Al-Jazeera:

Egypt has been boiling with anger for a long time…the people are humiliated more and more by the government’s policy to Israel. When the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, chooses Cairo as a platform to announce it was prepared to take military action against Hamas, it was a huge humiliation to Egyptian pride.

Indeed, it was one of the most insulting things Israel has done to Egyptians in a long time. But the response in Egypt to Israel’s actions–and to Mubarak’s role in strangling Gaza–has exceeded everyone’s expectation.

The Association of Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition group, along with different socialist and Nasserist groups, the Egyptian Movement for Democracy (Kifaya! or Enough!), writers, artists and most unions have all denounced Mubarak’s complicity with Israel.

But they’ve also been actively mobilizing an impressive number of protests in all major cities, towns and villages across the country. They are trying in many different ways to put pressure on Mubarak to stop fronting for Israel.

For example, students from the Muslim Brotherhood and left-wing organizations, along with university professors, are holding angry demonstrations and mass meetings in every major university around the country. On December 28, at one of many huge rallies that took place at Cairo University, students chanted against Israel and denounced the Egyptian president’s complicity with Israel. Ahmed Sayyid, a pharmacy major at Cairo University, told reporters:

The Israelis are lucky to have such a complacent government in Cairo. [But] there are thousands of youths, girls and boys, which, if they were allowed to fight or trained to fight, would go now to defend the Palestinians.

In the provincial northern city of Damanhour, 15,000 women supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood protested and clashed with police who tried to stop them from marching to join the Doctors Union at a mass meeting to support Palestinians. And in the capital city of Cairo, the police had to shut down all streets leading to midtown on more than one occasion to stop the thousands of people who keep turning out for daily protests.

The Popular Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People is also trying to organize independent, grassroots aid caravans to travel to Rafah starting January 9 in an attempt to break the siege once and for all.

Egyptian artists also held a mass meeting in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance and to protest Israel’s massacres. The meeting issued a statement directed to all artists around the world. Part of it read:

To all artists of the world …

We have stood with all of your people against Nazism, fascism and the Apartheid regime of South Africa until all were transferred to the dustbin of history. Today we are all called upon to address the State of Israel, the Zionist movement and the dirty imperialist alliance which links them to the same ruling classes which are responsible for the chaotic and brutal world we live in and which is about to collapse economically, environmentally and morally together.

Bear with us this responsibility and press on your governments, which have long been unfair to us. Carry with us a common slogan which is: Save Gaza Now! Stop Israel!

Unions organizing millions of workers and professionals, such as lawyers, journalists, engineers and doctors–which have refused to recognize Israel from Day One of the 1979 peace treaty–have called on their members to rally in defense of Gaza. Thousands attended mass meetings and protests, either in their own union headquarters or on the streets all over the country. And on January 6, the General Union of Doctors held an emergency mass membership meeting to send physicians and medicine to Gaza.

Among the common demands of this opposition are that Mubarak opens the border crossing with Gaza, ends all exports of Egyptian natural gas to Israel, and severs all diplomatic and economic ties to Israel.

In the Egyptian Coptic Christian community, which makes up between 10 and 15 percent of the population, many Christians pressured their pro-government Pope Shenouda to tone down all celebrations for the Coptic New Year, which regularly falls on January 8.

The police stationed thousands of soldiers outside all major churches and cathedrals around the country to attempt to contain possible angry pro-Palestinian protests, which they feared would break out on a night when worshippers literally flood every church.

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IT’S TRUE that Egypt has fought different wars with Israel that took a huge human toll on the population for 30 years, and it’s also true that the question of Palestine played a key role in the dynamic of why and how these wars were fought.

But in fighting these wars, Egypt was motivated, first and foremost, by its desire to assert itself as the main political and military power in the Arab world, not solidarity with the Palestinians. This was the case with all the different regimes that ruled the country–from the Arab nationalist regime of President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1952-1970) as well as the more pro-Western ones of Anwar Sadat (1970-1981) and Mubarak.

This time, though, Mubarak didn’t even make a pretense at a military response to Israeli aggression. In the first couple of days into the Israeli bombing campaign, Mubarak and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu Al-Gheit blamed Hamas for “provoking” Israel–glossing over the fact that they knew better than anybody else that Israel was preparing such an assault six months ago.

But since the demonstrations against him began to spread in late December, Mubarak has had to tone down his open disdain for Hamas (which, by the way, was democratically elected). As the regime began to feel the heat from mass, non-stop protests, it shifted its rhetoric somewhat and began to criticize Israel. And, perhaps for the first time since he came to power in 1981, the Egyptian dictator has had to respond to his critics.

Mubarak unleashed his paid pundits in the government media to churn out article after article defending him as a “champion of Palestinians” who has done all he can to help them under the terms of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. For example, Mubarak’s apologists argue that according to the terms of that treaty, Egypt cannot unilaterally open any border crossing with Gaza if the Israelis say no.

Simultaneously, the same pundits have been pushing an Egyptian chauvinist line of argument to dampen public solidarity with Gaza. They claim, for example, that the Palestinians want to cross into Egypt so they can take food from the mouths of hungry Egyptians (which, by the way, are the same hungry people these hacks didn’t mind impoverishing as a result of Mubarak’s free-market policies).

The regime also tried to deflect popular anger towards Shiite Muslims, by denouncing Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah–the Lebanese Shia organization that gained popularity in Egypt and the Arab world in 2006 by militarily defeating Israel. Mubarak’s officials claimed that Nasrallah insulted all Egyptians when he argued that the Egyptian army generals aren’t worth a penny and called on Egyptians soldiers to defy their officers and open the border crossings to Gaza.

In reaction to Iranian demonstrations against the closing of the Rafah border crossing, the Egyptian foreign minister publicly accused Iran of wanting to spread its Shia ideology and control the Middle East in an another attempt to flare up anti-Shia sentiment.

The government’s propaganda campaign has been partly effective, at least among some conservative layers in the middle classes. But, the campaign has so far failed to make huge inroads among the vast majority of the population, and therefore has failed to slow down the protest movement.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

ONE REASON for the ineffectiveness of this pro-Mubarak campaign is that the regime had little credibility to begin with. The 80-year-old dictator has been running the country with an iron fist for 28 years and even plans to get his son appointed as the next president. So far, he has refused to cede to any of the protesters’ demands, including the mildest one of expelling the Israeli ambassador.

The other reason this campaign isn’t working is that Egyptian public opinion on the need to maintain any diplomatic or economic relations with Israel has shifted in the last 20 years.

Many people were in favor of the 1979 peace treaty and cooperation with the U.S., in the hope that it would usher into a period of prosperity. They now realize that it actually brought about more poverty and misery. These shifting sentiments are only compounded by the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and American mistreatment of Arabs and Muslims.

But while Mubarak is a close ally of Washington, his regime is anything but a helpless pawn. He runs the largest Arab country, with 75 million people, and heads the largest and most advanced army in the region–other than Israel, of course.

In reality, the Egyptian ruling class represented by Mubarak (and Anwar Sadat before him) willingly and consciously cooperates with both the United States and Israel. This class made that strategic decision in the mid-1970s because it concluded that its political and economic interests lay in joining the Pax Americana camp.

Thus on the domestic front, Egypt has followed the American neoliberal economic policies of privatization, deregulation, a rollback of land reform and attacks on workers’ living standards. On a regional level, Egypt has more or less supported the main outlines of American interests in the region, and even took part in the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991.

When it comes to the current Israeli offensive in Gaza, Mubarak’s regime actually has a material interest in some sort of an Israeli victory in Gaza, despite his more recent public statements to the contrary.

Mubarak, like Israel, would like to see a weakened Hamas. He has always feared that the existence of a strong and defiant Hamas (as well as a strong Hezbollah in Lebanon) could strengthen his own main foes at home, the Muslim Brotherhood.

But the regime is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, Mubarak worries that a strong Hamas in Gaza which continues to fight Israel could strengthen the position of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has historic ties to Hamas.

More importantly, Mubarak fears that a Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, serves as a model to emulate for oppressed workers and peasants in Egypt suffering under his dictatorship. Mubarak is right about that. There is no question that the rise in class and social struggles in Egypt in recent years was inspired by the example of the Second Palestinian Intifada of 2000-2003.

This possibility of radical or revolutionary change in Egypt drives Mubarak more and more into the arms of the U.S. and Israel when it comes to practical considerations such as their common goal of isolating Hamas. But, on the other hand, the erupting volcano of public anger around him leaves him losing sleep and issuing angry, yet hollow, statements against Israel.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Mubarak regime is seriously shaken by the breadth and depth of the anger in the streets in a way that has never happened before.

But while the regime’s days are not by any means numbered, the earth it is standing on is beginning to crack, and could give way in the near future. The country has the largest working class in the region–one that began to flex its muscles in mass strikes and display its latent social powers in recent months with strikes and protests. As the Arab writer Atwan pointed out to Al-Jazeera: “Egypt is on the edge of transforming, and the regime there could be toppled as a result of this.”

The potential is definitely there to achieve such a much-needed democratic change in the region. Democracy in Egypt will be the New Year’s gift that Egyptians could finally deliver to every child in Palestine who grew up in poverty and terror, and to every Palestinian man and woman in and out of Palestine who taught us how to fight when they fought Israel and Zionism in the past 60 years.

The days and months to come will provide Egyptian pro-democracy activists and opponents of American and Israeli imperialism an exciting chance to (a) force the regime to lift the siege on Gaza, (b) grow deeper roots among workers, students and peasants, and (c) build organizations with a vision of an Arab world built on justice, equality and the use of its human and natural resources for a better life.

It’s our duty in the U.S. to do what we can to support that struggle.

A socialist answer to the Gaza crisis

January 11, 2009
WSWS, 10 January 2009

The following statement [PDF] is being distributed at international demonstrations being held this weekend against the Israeli war in Gaza.

The criminal character of the Israeli blitzkrieg against Gaza is becoming clearer day by day. According to the United Nations, nearly 800 men, women and children have been killed so far by the Israeli military and over 3,200 people have been wounded. Universities, schools, houses, bridges and drainage systems have been destroyed by huge 500-pound bombs. The extent of the humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip defies description.

Israel is continuing to intensify the war. On Thursday, the United Nations stopped vital supplies of food for the population of Gaza after its workers were deliberately targeted by the Israeli army.

All over the world people are reacting with a sense of shock and anger to the slaughter of the defenseless Palestinian population by the modern Israeli military machine. International protests are increasing, as are the numbers of people taking part. Numerous demonstrations are planned for today with rallies and protests taking place in the US as well as numerous European cities, including Paris, London and Berlin.

How can the Israeli terror be halted? How can the future of the long-suffering Palestinian people be assured?

The organizers of today’s demonstrations have no answer to offer. Their main response is to appeal to Western governments and the United Nations to intervene and exert pressure on Israel. This invariably leads to a dead end. In reality, only a socialist offensive on the part of the international working class can bring peace to the Middle East and secure a viable future for its people—Palestinian, Israeli and Arab.

The genocidal offensive launched by the Israeli government is inseparably connected to the crisis of the capitalist world economy. After decades of unrestrained enrichment, the ruling classes all over the world have nothing to offer the working masses except poverty, unemployment, exploitation, repression and war.

Israel demonstrates this development in microcosm. Israeli society is wrought by profound social divisions. Its government is thoroughly embroiled in corruption. One of the aims of the onslaught on the Gaza Strip is, in the middle of an election campaign, to divert attention from the seething social tensions inside Israel itself.

Zionism has proved to be a trap for the Jewish people. Socialists have always warned that the Jewish question cannot be solved by setting up a capitalist national state on a religious basis. The overcoming of anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews is inseparably bound up with the abolition of capitalist class society and the fate of the international working class. The Holocaust was made possible only by the prior destruction of the German workers’ movement by the Nazis.

With its terrorizing of the Palestinians, the Israeli state has lost any moral legitimacy. This is reflected inside Israel itself, where political life is increasingly dominated by religious zealots and right-wing fanatics who intimidate the Israeli population. It is a tragic irony that the closest parallel to the Israeli onslaught on the encircled population of Gaza is the murderous clearing of the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazis.

Israel can conduct its war only because it has the unconditional support of the US and the complicity of the European and Arab bourgeoisies.

The US pumps $3 billion annually into the Israeli military, supplying it with the most modern weaponry. Not only President Bush and the Republicans, but the Democrats in the Senate as well have unequivocally backed Israel. Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, has remained silent—which amounts to tacit agreement.

The European ruling elites are playing a more disguised but equally perfidious role. Not one of them has condemned the Israeli aggression. Instead, they have justified the Israeli aggression as a legitimate act of self-defense and declared Hamas to be responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians. According to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, responsibility lies “clearly and exclusively” with Hamas.

The Europeans, however, are concerned about the possible consequences of the reckless actions of Israel and the US. They are therefore demanding a cease-fire. They fear the war will destabilize the Arab bourgeois regimes and undermine their own influence in the region. They also fear an increase in tensions within their own countries, which, especially in the case of France, are home to millions of immigrants from North Africa and Arab countries.

While Israel continues to intensify its terror against the Palestinians, Europe, led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is pushing for a cease-fire on terms acceptable to Israel and the US.

Gaza is to be transformed from a prison into a high-security ghetto. The small strip of borderland between Gaza and Egypt—the only one not controlled by Israel—is to be hermetically sealed and supervised by an international security force. The authoritarian Egyptian regime of Hosni Mubarak and the US-sponsored Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas will be given the task of policing Gaza. Israel will thereby be freed of any responsibility for feeding Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants, and Mubarak will take over as the prison warden.

Mubarak is as yet hesitating, afraid of the domestic repercussions of such a step. But if the bribe is high enough, he will agree. His government is largely dependent on international financial assistance.

Mubarak played an important role in the preparation of the war. He shares the Israeli goal of destroying Hamas, which he fears because of its links to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Two days before Israel launched the war, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni paid a visit to Cairo to inform Mubarak of Israel’s plans. When the war started, Egypt made sure its border with Gaza remained closed, thereby blocking the only possible escape route for the encircled Palestinians.

While it is necessary to defend Hamas against the assassination of its leaders and the vilification of its supporters as “terrorists” by those inflicting state terror against a civilian population, this movement has no perspective for confronting and defeating the conspiracy between the US, Israel and the Arab bourgeois regimes. As an Islamic organization, it rejects the class struggle. Rather than turn to the Arab, Israeli and international working class for support, it is attempting to strike a deal with the Arab regimes and the imperialist powers. This is of a piece with its perspective of increasing pressure on Israel by firing rockets at Israeli villages.

Hamas is heavily reliant on Syria, which will have no problem dropping its support for Hamas if Israel pays the appropriate price. It is to this end that Sarkozy and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan (a former Islamist) are intervening. They both maintain close contacts with Israel and Syria, and are pressuring Syria either to force Hamas to end its resistance, or to abandon the organization altogether.

The fate of the population of Gaza is inseparably bound up with the international working class. The Palestinian people cannot expect any support from the United Nations, Arab regimes or European governments, which have betrayed them time and time again and share responsibility for their plight.

The international economic crisis will inevitably provoke explosive class struggles—in the Middle East, Europe and the US. These will provide the basis for a combined offensive by the international working class. The precondition for such a struggle is a break with all those parties and organizations that subordinate the working class to the national interests of the bourgeoisie. An independent socialist perspective is required.

That is not the orientation that dominates today’s demonstrations. Instead, many organizations that call themselves “left” or even “anti-capitalist” are trying to divert the protests behind their respective governments.

In Germany, the position taken by the Left Party is no different from that of the Merkel government. Leaders of the Left Party such as Gregor Gysi hold Hamas responsible for the outbreak of the war. Another Left Party leader, Norman Paech, demands the sending of UN troops to block the supply of weapons to Gaza. Others, like Wolfgang Gehrcke, hail the initiatives of French President Sarkozy. Monika Knoche calls upon the German government to support “the initiative of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.”

In France, the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) appeals to the “International Community,” i.e., the imperialist governments organized in the United Nations. On its web site, the “New Anti-Capitalist Party” being formed by the LCR prominently published an appeal by the Israeli peace activist Michel Warschawski, who demanded “an international intervention now” and called for “pressure to be exerted on Western governments” to send international troops.

At a time when growing numbers of workers and youth are coming into conflict with their own governments and the capitalist system, such organizations are seeking to divert the opposition to imperialism into support for the respective bourgeois regimes and their policies.

In the US, the organizers of the demonstrations subordinate them to the Democratic Party. They address appeals to the incoming president, Barack Obama, who has long since made clear that he will continue in all essentials the foreign policy of George W. Bush.

The World Socialist Web Site and the International Committee of the Fourth International call upon all participants in the demonstrations to reject this orientation. The events in Gaza urgently raise the necessity of uniting the Jewish and Arab working class in the struggle for a Socialist Federation of the Middle East. This perspective is inseparably bound up with the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism all over the world.

The World Socialist Web Site editorial board

Israel rejects UN cease-fire, continues Gaza assault

January 10, 2009
By Tom Eley | World Socialist Web Site,  10 January 2009

On Friday, Israel continued its bombardment of the densely populated Gaza strip, rejecting a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire. Israeli leaders hinted that they were preparing the “third phase” of the blitz, which would entail an invasion of the inner city of Gaza, home to 410,000 people.

The criminal character of Israel’s war is reflected in its death toll. The number of Palestinians killed is rapidly mounting. Nearly 800 have died, and thousands more have been maimed. It is now believed that about half of those killed in Gaza have been civilians.

Meanwhile, 13 Israelis have died, with only three of these civilians. The ratio of Palestinian civilians to Israelis killed is over 100 to 1.

Between Thursday night and Friday afternoon, at least 22 more Palestinians were killed. Israel bombed at least 30 targets in Gaza during the night. Among the buildings destroyed was a five-story structure in northern Gaza, where seven members of a family, including one infant, perished.

Aid workers report that the situation in Gaza is increasingly desperate. Unless food and water deliveries are allowed, many of the area’s population of 1.5 million people face starvation.

The UN Security Council resolution called for an immediate end to the hostilities. The US—which normally vetoes UN resolutions related to the Palestinians that do not completely correspond to Israel’s interests—abstained from the vote, thus allowing the measure to pass without opposition.

The resolution was crafted as a face-saving measure for Israel. In effect it was an ultimatum issued to the Palestinian population, predicating any cease-fire on the ending of all resistance to Israel. Only after Palestinians lay down their primitive rifles and rockets would the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) be required to rein in its military. The resolution also called for a “durable cease-fire,” a US-Israeli euphemism for the cessation of all resistance on the part of the Palestinians, now and in the future, against Israel’s blockade, which even before the IDF’s December 27 attack had reduced over half of Gaza’s population to malnourishment.

The UN resolution envisaged a tightening of the noose around Gaza, including language demanding the prevention of the shipment of arms to Gaza from Egypt. One of Gaza’s few means of acquiring food and medicine is a series of tunnels under its southern border with Egypt. Israel has targeted the border area with a massive bombing campaign in a bid to destroy the tunnels.

Nonetheless, Israel rejected the UN motion out-of-hand. The Israeli cabinet met immediately, and, in language reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s defiance of the UN’s forerunner, the League of Nations, issued a statement rejecting the notion that the UN has any right to intervene in the Israeli offensive.

“Israel has never agreed that any outside body would determine its right to defend the security of its citizens,” said the office of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

For its part, a Hamas representative in Lebanon said the group “is not interested” in the UN cease-fire because it does not meet the organization’s minimum demands. Another Hamas spokesperson said that the UN has not counted Hamas as a legitimate party to truce negotiations. Ayman Taha, a Hamas delegate in Egypt for informal negotiations, told Al-Jazeera television that Israel must stop its attacks and withdraw from Gaza. “We are not asking the impossible,” he said. “This is our right to ask for it, and to protect our people and their blood.”

Protests, large and small, against Israel’s attack on Gaza have continued throughout the world.

Thousands gathered at demonstrations in the West Bank, Alexandria in Egypt, Amman in Jordan, and in Kuwait and Baghdad. It is reported that protests in Egypt have been growing in size and intensity, and are spreading across the country. The protest in Alexandria attracted more than 50,000.

In Kenya, a protest of about 5,000 was prevented by police from advancing toward the Israeli embassy. Five thousand also protested in Malaysia. A protest of 1,000 in Oslo, Norway, was broken up by police after altercations erupted with a pro-Israeli counterdemonstration.

Worldwide protests on Gaza continue

January 9, 2009
Al Jazeera, January 9, 2009

About 40,000 people marched in Oslo against the violence in Gaza

International condemnation of Israel’s two week assault on Gaza has continued, with tens of thousands of protesters calling for end to the military offensive.

In Norway on Thursday, at least 40,000 people marched in the capital Oslo, as well as in five other cities, in a protest called by an alliance of about 80 organisations.

The demonstration was called after two Norwegian doctors working in Gaza sent messages to Norwegian media about Israel’s assault there.

“Our hope is that this gathering will be felt in the Middle East. We want to show the world that people can stand together in peace, no matter what their religious or political view,” Svein Tore Bergestuen, one of the event organisers, told Al Jazeera.

Clashes

The largely peaceful protest was marred by the detention of at least 27 people after clashes between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Shop windows in the city centre were shattered and police repeatedly used teargas to break up groups of activists.

The violence started when about 1,000 pro-Palestinian supporters showed up at a rally sponsored by Norway’s largest opposition party in support of Israel.

Television pictures showed them burning Israeli flags and throwing projectiles at police.

“This has nothing to do with the situation in Gaza,” Johan Fredriksen, chief of staff of the Oslo police, told the website of the Aftenposten newspaper.

“These people came to the protest with knives, bats and Molotov cocktails,” he said, speaking about the pro-Palestinian side.

Other protests

Demonstrations were also held in Venezuela, Tehran, Khartoum and Sarajevo.

Protesters in Venezuela protesting against Israeli attacks [AFP]

In an address to thousands in Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, criticised some Muslim majority states for not supporting the Palestinians.Thousands also gathered in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to express their solidarity with Gaza, some brandishing models of rockets.

Several hundred people gathered in freezing conditions in front of the US embassy in Sarajevo and called for Washington to use its influence to stop Israeli attacks on Gaza.

In Venezuela, protesters condemning Israel sprayed graffiti and hurled shoes at the country’s embassy, backing the decision by Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s president, to expel the Israeli ambassador.

About 1,000 demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and chanted “Gaza, hold on! The world is rising up!”

The protest came two days after Chavez ordered Shlomo Cohen to leave in protest over the war and Israel says it is considering expelling Venezuelan diplomats in response.

UK rallies to protest Gaza bombing

January 3, 2009

RINF.COM, Jan 3, 2009

Tens of thousands of protesters are due to voice their anger at the Gaza bombing blitz in a series of rallies across the UK.

Up to 20,000 people – including the singer Annie Lennox and Respect MP George Galloway – are expected to march along the Embankment in London before walking to Trafalgar Square to call for an immediate end to the Israeli attacks.

The demonstration is the biggest of at least 18 organised across the country.

Former model Bianca Jagger and singer Lennox have backed the protests, calling on American President-elect Barack Obama to speak up against the bombardment.

Other rallies will take place at Blytheswood Square, Glasgow; Bedford Square, Exeter; Princes Street, Edinburgh; Bristol city centre; Bold Street, Liverpool; Norwich Forum; Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square; Queen Victoria Square, Hull; Tunbridge Wells town centre; Leeds Art Gallery; All Saints Park, Manchester; Grey’s Monument, Newcastle; Castle Square, Swansea; St Sampson’s Square, York; Morrisons, Caernarfon; Bradford city centre; and Sheffield town hall.

Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone and comedian Alexei Sayle also added their support to the campaign to end the violence.

Speaking at a press conference in central London, Ms Jagger said: “I would like to make an appeal to President-elect Obama to speak up.

“People throughout the world were hopeful when he was elected and we must appeal to him to ask for the immediate cessation of the bombardment of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.”

Lennox spoke of her shock at watching scenes of the bombing on television. She said: “A few days after Christmas I came downstairs, put the television on, and saw smoke pyres coming from buildings and I was shocked to the core because I was thinking as a mother and as a human being.”

Comedian Sayle said he was speaking out because it was important for Jewish voices to be heard. He said: “I want to feel proud of Israel, I want to be proud of my people but I am ashamed.”

MIDEAST: Egypt Seen as Complicit in Gaza Assault

January 2, 2009

By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani  | Inter Press Service

CAIRO, Dec 31 (IPS) – As the Palestinian death toll approaches 400, much of popular anger throughout the Arab world has been directed at Egypt — seen by many as complicit in the Israeli campaign.

“Israel would not have hit Gaza like this without a green light from Egypt,” Hamdi Hassan, MP for the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement, told IPS. “The Egyptian government allowed this assault on Gaza in hopes of finishing off Hamas.”

On Saturday (Dec. 27), Israel began a series of devastating air strikes on targets throughout the Gaza Strip, controlled since the summer of last year by Palestinian resistance faction Hamas. According to Israeli officials, the campaign — which has included hundreds of air strikes — comes in retaliation for rockets fired by Palestinian resistance factions.

More than 200 Palestinians were reportedly killed on the first day of the operation, making it the single most lethal day for Palestinians in the history of the 60-year-old conflict. Four Israelis, meanwhile, have reportedly been killed by Palestinian rocket fire since the air campaign began.

In the meantime, Israel has continued to amass tanks along its border with the Gaza Strip amid predictions of an imminent ground assault.

“What’s happening in Gaza represents an unprecedented crime against humanity,” said Hassan. “Enormous military power — featuring the latest U.S. weaponry — is being brought to bear against a poverty-stricken and largely defenceless population.”

Ever since Hamas wrested control of the strip from the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) last year, Egypt — like Israel — has kept its border with the enclave tightly sealed. The border closures, in tandem with the neutralisation of the strip’s airports and maritime ports by Israel, has effectively cut the territory off from the rest of the world, and brought it to the brink of humanitarian disaster.

“The international community has condoned the siege of Gaza and allowed the Palestinians to be punished for democratically electing Hamas,” said Hassan, noting that the Islamist group swept the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections.

Egypt has said it cannot reopen the Rafah crossing, the sole transit point along Egypt’s 14 km border with the Gaza Strip, in the absence of PA officials and EU observers, as stipulated in a 2005 U.S.-sponsored trilateral agreement between Israel, the PA and the EU.

Critics, however, reject this argument, and say there is no legal justification for keeping the border permanently closed to people and goods.

“Egypt isn’t even a signatory to the agreement, which expired after one year and was never renewed,” said Hassan. “Those cooperating with Israel are simply using this outdated agreement as an excuse to keep Rafah sealed.”

Despite increasingly vocal demands — by both street protestors and opposition MPs — to open the border to aid convoys in the wake of the recent Israeli assaults, the Egyptian government has dragged its feet.

“For the first two days of the campaign, the authorities forbade all aid convoys from entering Gaza,” Magdi Hussein, secretary-general of Egypt’s Islamist-leaning Labour Party (officially frozen since 2000) told IPS. “On the third and fourth days, limited aid was allowed in — but this was only due to mounting popular pressure.”

In a televised address Dec. 30, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak defended Egypt’s position by again referring to the 2005 border agreement. “Egypt doesn’t want to sanctify the division (between the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the PA-run West Bank) by opening the Rafah crossing in the absence of the PA and European observers,” he said.

For the last five days, Egypt has witnessed thousands-strong demonstrations at university campuses, mosques and professional syndicates. Amid an increasingly tight security presence, protestors have called for the permanent reopening of the Rafah border crossing and the severing of Egypt’s diplomatic relations with Israel.

“That protests are being staged all over Egypt — and will persist as long as the aggression continues — is an indication of the level of popular outrage,” said Hassan. “If the government doesn’t change its position and allow aid to flow freely into Gaza, the situation could become very dangerous.”

Demonstrators in several Arab capitals have vented their rage outside Egyptian embassies. Protestors have reportedly attacked Egyptian consular offices in Sudan and Yemen.

“Demonstrations around Egyptian embassies abroad show that the Arab and Muslim people across the region recognise Egypt’s complicity with Israel in keeping the border closed without legal justification,” said Hassan.

Suspicions of Egyptian complicity with Israel against Hamas are not limited to the border issue. Many also suspect a degree of Egyptian-Israeli coordination in advance of the air campaign — an impression reinforced by the fact that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was in Cairo, where she met with Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, less than 48 hours before the assaults began.

At a joint press conference with Aboul-Gheit in Cairo Dec. 25, Livni vowed to retaliate against Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. “This is something that has to be stopped,” she said of the relatively ineffectual rocket salvoes. “And this is what we’re going to do.”

While Aboul-Gheit used the occasion to publicly urge restraint by both sides, many independent commentators believe that, while in Cairo, Livni received a tacit go-ahead from Egyptian officials for the campaign.

“It was at the Livni-Mubarak talks that Egypt gave Israel the green light to strike Gaza,” said Hassan. Contentiously, he went on to point to statements by Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum that Hamas had received false assurances from Egypt, immediately following the Cairo talks, that an Israeli attack on the strip was not imminent.

On Sunday (Dec. 28), a presidential spokesman strongly denied Barhoum’s claims. “No Egyptian official sent any assurances to Hamas in this regard,” he was quoted as saying in the state press.

Misgivings about possible Egyptian connivance with Israel against Hamas have not been limited to opposition figures and political commentators. On the campaign’s third day, thousands of demonstrators in Cairo chanted: “Oh, Mubarak, what do you say? Why was Livni here anyway?” (END/2008)


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