Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.More info ×
Israel’s winter assault further disfigured the Palestinian body politic. If the Gazan limb had been kept alive on a drip of international aid, with the West Bank strapped down for economic shock therapy, December and January’s events saw both repeatedly shocked, with Gaza flattened after 22 days of bombardment.
In spite of Israel’s destruction of communications masts in the northern Gaza strip, the blockade of basic journalistic materials for Palestine’s main news agencies and attacks on reporters – killing five – news, images and voices from Gaza continued to stream forth into ’48 Palestine, the West Bank and the world. People across the globe were collectively traumatised as they watched more than a million and a half people locked into a ghetto bombed with phosphoric bombs, tank shells, flachete shells, surveillance aircraft, warships, F16s, F15s, Apache and Cobra helicopters and M16 machine guns for three unrelenting weeks.
Holding onto humanity
A typical torture technique used by many a state is to torture prisoners alongside each other. In Pinochet’s Chile, prisoners were locked in special cages stacked one on top of another; family members were forced to witness and listen to the torture being meted out to others in their family. The humanity of the witness is used to traumatise them, the overbearing force of the torturer re-inscribed on the body and the memory of the tortured and the witness. ‘You cannot stop this,’ is the message, ‘unless you give us what we want.’
The human urge and need to stop the pain of another is unrealised and its frustration exploited. The man-made powerlessness of both is used to terrorise both into submission and to reject their own humanity, to try to de-sensitise and numb the painful need to stop the torture.
So around the world, the students occupying their universities, those praying and collecting funds in mosques, churches and synagogues, throwing shoes at Israeli embassies and businesses, marching in the streets, smashing up arms manufacturers, and those taking up arms to militarily resist the torture – their own and that of a people – are fighting for their own humanity.
Today the torturing and the traumatisation continue. The media spotlight may have passed, but Gaza remains under siege with thousands physically unable to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives as aid is prevented from reaching the homeless and patients blocked from leaving the country for urgently needed treatment.
Israel’s land grab
Off the news agenda is Israel’s de-facto land grab and ongoing injuring and killing of civilians by snipers, gunfire and bombing from naval ships. Approximately 11 have been killed and 71 injured since the ‘ceasefire’ on 18 January. Fighters have also continued to launch operations.
The 500-metre buffer zone around the Israeli border fence has in effect been extended to one kilometre. Approximately 100 homes were totally destroyed in the border areas of Beit Hanoun and 160 homes close to the border in Khoza’a. People still cannot reach their belongings without being shot at. Farmers and residents continue to be targeted and are leaving their land and homes.
I accompanied Manwa Tarabeen, mother of six, to her bulldozed home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, to collect belongings last month. After being shot at she declared, ‘I’m not coming back, I don’t want to be killed. We’re going to move to Jabaliya or inside Beit Hanoun.’
17-year-old Wafa Al Najar from Khozaa, eastern Gaza, was shot in the left kneecap while trying to visit her bulldozed home for the first time since the war. Her family say children are being shot at as they walk to the Khoz’a Martyrs elementary school on a daily basis. In Faraheen, Anwar Al Bureim, 27, was shot in the neck and killed while picking peas. Earlier this month in Faraheen, Israeli snipers hit 20-year-old disabled Mohammad Al Ibrahim in the leg while he was being accompanied by international activists. The result is that farmers are wrenching up their irrigation pipes, clearing their land and clearing out.
Principles of liberation
The blood pressure being exerted on the Palestinians of Gaza is not just about getting them to renounce Hamas, the government that they voted for two years ago, but to renounce the principles it represents – a liberated Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital, a contiguous state with the right of return for refugees. They seek a de-Osloisation of the Palestinian struggle, according to Professor Haidar Eid of Gaza’s Al Aqsa University. ‘Israel’s massacre told us, if you don’t renounce these principles, then we will kill your children.’ Israel’s siege and continuous attacks, on both the armed and unarmed Palestinian resistance, are intended to contort the meaning of the principles of liberation held for 60 years, ‘(to) distort something so it seems to mean something it was not intended to mean’, so that holding on to these principles – represented for many by Hamas – won’t bring liberation, but further collective isolation and torture.
Abo Mahmoud al Eid, a former Palestinan Authority employee, lost his son and six neighbours – all civilians – when they were hit by a missile from a drone while eating chocolate and drinking tea outside a local shop in Jabaliya. He told me: ‘The war on Gaza can be summed up in two words. All the fighters underground, all the civilians overground.’ After the loss of his son, he has vowed to join the armed resistance if Gaza is invaded again. ‘I was sitting in my home, not doing anything, not even working, not part of any group, but I tell you now, if Gaza is invaded again, both me and my sons will be in the front line of resistance,’ he says. The resistance groups declared losses of just over 100 fighters between them – structures of command and fighters still intact, even if the tunnels they used to hide and operate from are not.
It could all happen again. The far right holds the balance of power in the Israeli parliament. Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beitenu party and newly appointed foreign minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, implied during the offensive that Gaza should be bombed with nuclear weapons. He recently said: ‘I want the State of Israel to remain a Zionist, Jewish and democratic state.’ If his vision is realised, more than a million Palestinian Muslims could be ‘transferred’ to the West Bank or Gaza, a process mentioned by successive Israeli ministers, including former foreign affairs minister and Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni.
Attendees at Beitenu rallies chant ‘Death to the Arabs’. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared the job of removing Hamas from Gaza still undone, and Lieberman recently told Y-Net Israeli news ‘[Hamas] is a fanatic religious movement supported by a fanatic religious Iranian regime. So if we want to stop rockets from Gaza, there is no choice but to uproot the Iranian regime in Gaza.’ With men such as these in power, captives in the open prison of Gaza and the 11,800 in the prisons of ’48 Palestine and the bantustans of the West Bank face a future of torture.
UN Relief and Works Agency chief John Ging said in February that food aid for just 30,000 people was reaching Gaza – when 900,000 are dependent on it. Food aid consists of rice, sugar, dried beans, tomato paste, flour, corn oil, lentils and a few tins of corned beef.
Thousands are still living with relatives, spending days in makeshift tents that are washed away in heavy rain, waiting for humiliating handouts. Construction materials have been banned from entry, including steel for badly needed water tanks. Less aid has been reaching the strip than before the war. Islamic Relief has been paying more to store medicines it has been unable to truck into Gaza in warehouses inside Israel than the cost of the actual medicine.
The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the UK’s Department for International Development unveiled a 44-page Palestinian National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan (NERRP) at the Sharm al Sheikh donors’ conference in March. Neither Hamas authorities or civil society organisations were consulted or shown the plan, according to Gazan economist Omar Shaban, president of the PalThink think tank. ‘There has been no public debate or discussion,’ says Shaban. ‘We want Gaza businesses and civil society to be involved in deciding how and what is rebuilt and where. We should be participants and not recipients.’
The proposals within the plan are to be ‘fully synchronised’ with the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP), first published in 2007. Like the NERRP, the PRDP was written in collaboration with the DfID, together with the World Bank. Both promote a classic neoliberal shock therapy programme that will see checkpoint and apartheid-walled free trade zones, de-regulation, and privatisation of public services, including electricity and water in the West Bank. Gaza’s reconstruction is set to spearhead this re-asserted ‘national’ PRD Plan, propelled by billions of dollars of foreign investment.
Palestine as a whole and Gaza in particular have been institutionally weakened by the occupation. In 1998, Gaza was a donor country, supporting Ethiopia and Sarajevo. Now, the Hamas authority has been usurped by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and United Nations Development Programme, which effectively run Gaza economically. In the West Bank, the PA is overshadowed by powerful Palestinian companies such as Jawwal, PalTel, the Consolidated Contractor Company and the Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF). ‘These companies are more powerful than the PA, they are stronger than the political system,’ says Shaban.
Reconstruction and destruction
I asked the minister of social affairs in Gaza, Ahmed al Kurdi, how the reconstruction process could pan out and whether privatisation could happen here.
‘All the funds earmarked for reconstruction are set to go through World Bank and United Nations projects – nothing will be paid into the public sector,’ he says. ‘These institutions will take some 20 per cent in overhead and administration costs. Nation states will be prioritising their own companies for reconstruction. The Japanese government want to reconstruct a school for us, for example, but they want the contract carried out by a Japanese company.’
‘Gaza could be reconstructed tomorrow,’ he continues. ‘We have 60 per cent unemployment, we have the money, we have the skills. The problem is we are occupied and under siege, and the plan has always been to keep Gaza and the Palestinians dependent on aid and donations.’
Dr Faisal Abu Shala, a Fatah minister in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and participant in the reconciliation negotiations in Egypt this March, thinks Hamas has set the Palestinian struggle back decades. ‘Hamas didn’t stick to international commitments, it de-recognised the PLO. We were on our way to statehood and now we are being shunned by the international community. When they took over Gaza, we let them, despite their attacks on us.’
Ahmed al Kurdi disagrees that the PA was on the road to real autonomy. ‘For 15 years they were doing everything Israel wanted them to do,’ he argues. ‘But what happened? Israel kept building settlements and attacking us and stealing our land.’
But Dr Faisal believes success is still possible, despite the building of 3,500 new housing units in East Jerusalem, and demolition orders for 1,000 Palestinian homes. Fatah believes in the international community’s agency to rein in Israel: ‘The negotiation didn’t succeed because Israel is not interested in the solution, the international community is part of the solution.’
NGOs, politics and peace
Some groups in the 130-strong Palestinian NGO Network recently rejected project funding from their international partners, saying they wanted political pressure and advocacy against Israeli war crimes instead. Families living in the ten Red Cross and governmental refugee camps, based mostly in the north, repeatedly state, ‘We don’t want aid, we need our rights, we need a political solution.’ Speaking to an audience of European parliamentarians at UNRWA’s headquarters – one of the tens of delegations touring Gaza after the Israeli onslaught – Sharhabeel Al Za’eem, the founder of Sharhabeel legal consultants was blunt: ‘Our case is not a humanitarian one, this is a purely political issue.’
Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee for the Red Cross, said recently, ‘Humanitarian action can be no substitute for an honest and courageous peace process involving all states, political authorities and organised armed groups that can influence the situation. Reconstruction is unlikely to succeed unless there is a prospect of a lasting peace.’
But what kind of peace? Many believe that post Oslo, Palestinian civil resistance committees have been inexorably pacified by and subsumed into western models of social peace that neutralise political demands and resistance in favour of ‘stakeholder dialogue’ and ’roundtable discussions’ that falsely equalise interests and imbalanced power relationships.
This process legitimises the silence of the international NGO community in the face of war crimes, and separates humanitarian issues from political issues and solutions. Under this rubric, the occupation of Palestine is normalised, and Palestine pathologised, forever broken and needing fixing, with all state-level narratives cleansed of reference to occupation and injustice and the perpetrator never challenged.
The Palestinian NGO Network has been consistently challenging the Fatah-Hamas political polarisation in Palestinian society. The Gaza reconstruction process is no exception. It says: ‘If the formation of a “government of consensus” is not possible in the near future, the reconstruction process should be overseen by a national committee representing all stakeholders, mainly from the civil society and the private sector. The national committee should be supported by specialised technical committees from ministries in Gaza and the West Bank.’
The entire process cannot be divorced from the context of the militarily occupied bantustans and ghettos in which it is taking place. But the internal politics, manipulated by apartheid Israel, also need scrutiny when answering ‘what kind of peace?’, ‘what kind of justice?’ and ‘what kind of reconstruction?’ What is certain is that the Palestinian economy is as much a battleground as Palestinian land and political representation.
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe
How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency