Imperialism and the interminable suffering of the Palestinian people

Struggle against decades of occupation, uprooting, repression and murderous interventions

A brief overview of the Israeli occupation of Palestine

TEXT BY Despoina Orfanaki Translation by Kerannume

The latest merciless bombardment of the occupying Israeli Army in Gaza, is not ‘a bolt from the blue’. From 1948 until now, in the altar of imperialist designs and antagonisms in the flammable region of the Middle East, the Palestinian people is subject to decades of occupation, persecution, displacement, constant repression, strangling restrictions and an economic embargo, bloody, military interventions and repression from the occupying Israeli state.

A brief look at these seven decades and the current situation, overturns the provocative assertions about ‘Israeli self-defence’; it highlights the continuing and diverse expansion of Israeli occupation; it attests to the immense responsibilities of the USA and its allies for their unreserved support of this continued crime; it uncovers the hypocritical appeals to international law, which suits imperialist correlation of forces and antagonisms; it underlines the need for the intensification of solidarity to the fight of the Palestinian people for an independent-free Palestinian state, within 1967 borders and Eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

Tarek Al-Ghoussein – Untitled 9, Self Portrait Series (2002-03)

The beginnings of occupation and its constant expansion

Having as background the important international geopolitical rearrangements after the WWII, Britain, that controls the historical Palestine from the beginning of the 20th century, asks from the UN to determine the status of the region.

In 1947, with UN resolution 181, 56.47% of the land of Palestine is given to the newly formed State of Israel, with a population of 608,000 people. The remaining land carried on belonging to Arabs that surpassed 1.4 million people.

In 14/5/1948 the State of Israel is officially established. The Jewish paramilitary organisation Haganah, equipped with angloamerican arms, assumes the role of the tactical army. A day after, troops of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq clash with the Israeli forces. Israel prevails militarily, expels from their homes by force around 800,000 Palestinians (the 67% of the population) and annexes their land. Jerusalem is divided: the western part is controlled by Israel and the eastern by Jordan. Since then, the Palestinians refer to this expulsion as Nakba (catastrophe). The ensuing months, the Israeli forces expel also 90,000 Christians (two thirds of Palestinian Christians).

In 11/12/1948, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 194, affirming the right of return of Palestinians to their land. Israel rejects the resolution and refuses to recognise it.

Between 1948 and 1951, around 700,000 Jewish settlers immigrate to Israel.

In 1956, during the Suez crisis, Israel invades Egypt and captures mount Sinai; two months later, it leaves.

In June 1967 the Six-day War follows. Israel invades and captures the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip (Egypt), the Golan Heights (Syria), and the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem (Jordan). The Six-day War ends with Israel having secured land two times the area that it had held until then. Another 300,000 Palestinians are uprooted.

The same month, the extraordinary, special session of the UN GA, convened at USSR’s initiative, decided that the annexation of Arab lands from Israel was illegal. Abetted by the USA and its allies, the Israeli government states that it will not take in consideration ‘neither the international guaranties, nor UN.’

Correspondingly, in November 1967, the Security Council adopted unanimously resolution 242, mentioning the ‘need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every State in the area can live in security’. It mentioned moreover, the ‘withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from occupied territories.’ Half a century later, the Israeli troops and the occupation remain unshakeable, (Israel has only left from parts of the Sina Peninsula and Golan Heights), in egregious defiance of numerous UN resolutions that have passed between then and now, and attesting, in practice, to the argument that the infamous international law becomes malleable, bearing on imperialist interests and correlation of forces.

In 1980, Israel declares the indivisible Jerusalem as its capital, ignoring brazenly UN’s resolutions.

In 1982, Israeli troops invade Lebanon to destroy Fatah’s bases.

In December 1987 the first Palestinian Intifada (Uprising) begins against Israeli occupation of West Bank and Gaza Strip, with more than 1400 Palestinians dead.

Samia Halaby, Demolish The Wall Let Life Be Fertile, 2004

‘Peace’ plans that perpetuate the occupation

In the beginning of the 90s and while the overthrow of USSR and the other Socialist countries had occurred, secret negotiations began for the resolution of the Palestinian issue.

In August 1993 in Oslo, Israel and Palestinian representatives reach to a peace plan that fragments the Palestinian territories, maintains the occupation, undermines the rights of Palestinian to sovereignty in fundamental sectors of the economy and politics at the expense of the interests of refugees and the Palestinian people.

In April 1995, Israel establishes new Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. In September 1995, the second Oslo Accord is signed.

In April 1996, Israeli occupation forces massacre thousands of Palestinians (100 children among them) in Lebanon’s Qana refugee camp. In May 1996 during the elections, current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wins for the first time, promising new Jewish settlements in occupied land.

In March 1997, Israel carries on with the policy of apartheid by continuing with the construction of residences ‘for Jews only’, in the occupied Eastern Jerusalem.

In May 2000, Israel chooses to withdraw its troops from Southern Lebanon, while in July the talks between the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on the issue of the withdrawal of the occupation forces from West Bank collapse.

In September 2000 the Second Intifada takes place. In 2002 Israel launches an attack named Operation Defensive Shield on West Bank and starts the erection of a wall within and around West Bank with the aim of usurping even more Palestinian land.

In June 2003, the Quartet for on the Middle East (USA, Russia, UN, EU) promotes a new roadmap for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, proposing an independent Palestinian state and the freezing of Jewish settlements.

In September 2005, the Israeli occupation forces go ahead with a strategic move and withdraw all settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip, choosing to increase the usurpation of Palestinian land in the West Bank. However, they maintain control of the airspace, the littoral zone, the territorial waters and the borders of the Gaza Strip.

In June 2006, after the captivity of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas members, clashes in the Gaza Strip begin and in August Israeli forces invade Lebanon, having as justification Hezbollah’s attack and abduction of two Israeli soldiers. The conflict is halted after a truce, while Hezbollah maintains its forces almost untouched.

In December 2008, Israeli forces attack Gaza under the pretence of rocket launches by Hamas.

In May 2010, Israeli forces attack the flotilla of the coalition Free Gaza Movement that protests the embargo imposed by Israel in the region. Israeli special forces soldiers, operating on international waters, kill nine Turkish activists aboard the ship Mavi Marmara.

In July 2013, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, under the aegis of the USA, restart without result.

In the summer of 2014, Israel launches a new land and aerial attack on the Gaza Strip. The clashes stop in August with a truce through the intervention of Egypt.

Don McCullin
A Palestinian Mother in Her Destroyed House, Sabra Camp 1982, printed 2013
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
© Don McCullin

Escalation of the attack with the backing of the USA and the EU

In February 2017, US President Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, legitimising the occupation of Eastern Jerusalem.

In January 2020, Trump presents his vision for the ‘deal of the century’, supposedly for the solution of the Palestinian issue. In reality, that which Trump’s plan proposed, was the shadow of a statelet that resembled more a Swiss cheese than an independent country.

Trump’s plan has certainly not solved the Palestinian issue, it was used, however, formally to break the isolation of Israel from the Arab countries (not with Egypt and Jordan, with which it has agreements decades now).

In the framework of the US-NATO strategy for the promotion of Israel for a more effective control of the region, in its antagonism with China, Russia and Iran, the Abraham Accords are signed in September 2020 between Israel, UAE and Bahrain and later on with Morocco and Sudan.

In April 2021, the attempts of Jewish settlers for mass expulsion of Palestinians from the alShayhk Jarah district of Eastern Jerusalem, with the protection of the Israeli state, intensify. In parallel, in the midst of Ramadan, Israeli police conducts raids in the Al-Aqsa mosque against worshippers and protesters, restricting the access of Arabs in the area.

In May 2021, exploiting Hamas’ response of launching rocket barrages against Israel, and with the USA and EU having their backs, the Israeli government launches an eleven-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip, with aerial raids and artillery shelling. The occupying state responds to Palestinian protests in West Bank with savage repression and murders.

The temporary, fragile truce that began Friday 21/5/2021 maintains the root of the problem intact: the occupation of Palestine by Israel. The perpetuation of which is permitted in the end by all plans—put forward with the mark of imperialism—of modulation of the Palestinian issue, having as background the intensification of antagonisms in the region.

Josef Koudelka Shu’fat Refugee Camp, overlooking Al ‘Isawiya. East Jerusalem. 2009. © Josef Koudelka | Magnum Photos

This article is taken from Greece’s CP daily Rizospastis. Translation of the original with minor editorial changes is by Kerannume. Despoina Orfanaki is a regular and long-time international politics columnist for the daily.