Protest for “two states”

Submitted by AWL on 8 May, 2019 - 8:43 Author: Martin Thomas
two states

Workers' Liberty, the Worker-communist Party of Kurdistan, the Worker-communist Party of Iran (Hekmatist - Official Line), and others, will be demonstrating for a democratic "two states" settlement, peace, and workers' unity in Israel-Palestine on Saturday 11 May. We will meet at noon at the BBC, Portland Place, London W1.

That is near where the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has called a march. The PSC protest is widely sponsored, but the message from Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey backing it makes no reference to its actual demands. Our protest calls for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, and an end to the blockade of Gaza. The PSC calls for the "right of return" to what is now Israel of the six million Palestinians who have inherited refugee status, and links its protest to Hamas's "Great March of Return" actions in Gaza.

"Right of return" may sound like a call for individual rights, but collective repossession of the territory by six million people is a different matter. As Omar Barghouti, one of the chief figures in the boycott-Israel movement, explains: "You cannot reconcile the right of return for refugees with a two-state solution. That is the big white elephant in the room and people are ignoring it - a return for refugees would end Israel's existence as a Jewish state". It is a recycled "smash Israel" slogan. It won't happen, any time short of an epochal shift in the military balance - so it offers no practical improvement for the Palestinians - and if it did happen it would be only through a terrible war.

On 7 May, there is an event of a different sort in Israel - the 14th annual "alternative Memorial Day", organised by Combatants for Peace, which brings Israeli Jews and Palestinians together to mourn all those killed in the conflict. As in 2018, the Netanyahu government tried to ban Palestinians from the West Bank from attending. As in 2018, the Supreme Court finally overruled the government.

On 6 May, Israel and Hamas agreed a ceasefire on the Gaza border. Since 3 May Hamas and Islamic Jihad had fired 690 rockets into Israel, killing four people. Israel had bombed Gaza, killing 25 and destroying 130 homes. The battle began on 3 May with Islamic Jihad sniper fire from Gaza that wounded two Israeli soldiers. At one point Hamas blustered that its next step would be to "blow up Tel Aviv", and the ceasefire brokered by Egypt and Qatar could break down when the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv (14-18 May) provides a "soft" target.

Behind it was tension over the implementation of deals made in constant haggling between the Israeli government and Hamas over slight easings of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza and over the transfer through Israel of money from Qatar to Hamas. The answer is a peace deal giving self-determination to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and recognition to Israel.

In the West Bank, tension is rising in the run-up to the promised publication in early June of Trump's plan for the Middle East which has been trailed as abandoning even nominal commitment to "two states". Since 17 February Israel has deducted from the tax revenues which it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and then remits, an amount equivalent to what the PA then pays out to Palestinians in Israeli jails. The PA, in response, has refused to accept the reduced remittance, wagering that Israel will not want to see the PA collapse and have to take direct responsibility for the Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank. EU efforts to broker a deal have so far failed.

The whole Israeli occupation regime in the West Bank is untenable, and will become only more untenable if Netanyahu goes ahead with his plans to annex to Israel "Area C", the 60%-plus of the area of the West Bank already under direct Israeli control. "Area C" includes the Jewish settlements and the Israeli military roads, and surrounds the 160- plus patches of the PA-administered Areas A and B. Our protest on 11 May will call for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and negotiate "two states".

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