Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
July 23, 2006

Where We Stand On This Latest War
Most of this week’s column is devoted to the new war erupting in Lebanon, Gaza, and Israel.

It was not so long ago when many held out hope for peace in the Middle East. Israel took steps to remove many settlers from Gaza. The residents of the Occupied Territories voted in an apparently free election for a new post-Arafat Palestinian Authority government. Bitter rivals in that contest, each with their own armed units, ultimately accepted the results.

But the Israeli Establishment, and their patrons in Washington, didn’t like the government the Palestinian voters chose. They refused to deal with them and through economic blockade began to try to starve the Palestinians into a regime change. They stepped up efforts to complete a wall—ruled illegal by the World Court—through the West Bank. And, they started hunting down, arresting, abducting and assassinating key Hamas leaders, sometimes killing bystanders in the process.

Far from undermining support for Hamas these brutal Israeli actions—that affected virtually every Palestinian—strengthened Hamas. With Israel and the U.S. seen as determined to deny them the promised right to elect a limited government of their own desperate people fought back with whatever means they had. For this they were condemned by Israel and the Bush administration as “terrorists.”

Israel’s old nemesis in past wars in Lebanon, Hizbullah, decided to intervene in the situation. They crossed the Lebanese border into Israel, killing three soldiers and taking two prisoners. They demanded a prisoner exchange with Israel.

Israel used this “kidnaping”of soldiers as a pretext for a massive bombing campaign of Lebanon while also sending tanks into Gaza. The air raids were not limited to Hizbullah targets along the border. There has been extensive bombing of downtown Beirut and its harbor facilities; dozens of bridges throughout the country; and communication towers, knocking out television and cell phone service. Even some Christian neighborhoods were hit.

Hizbullah responded by firing crude rockets in the general direction of Israel. Most have fallen in isolated areas but some have landed in cities where there have been civilian casualties and property damage—including some Israeli Arab neighborhoods. Indeed, most victims of attacks by both sides have been civilian noncombatants.

Lebanon was only just beginning to recover from strife inflicted by past Israeli invasions, and the ensuing civil war between rival proxy militias, that lasted the better part of two decades. Now beautiful Beirut has once again been reduced to a war zone and countless refugees are seeking shelter. Just as Hamas gained popular support in response to Israeli actions in the Occupied Territories Lebanese increasingly look to Hizbullah as their protector against Israeli attacks.

The U.S. government has been cheering the Israelis on, reserving all their condemnation for Hizbullah and the Palestinians. In a candid moment, President Bush was heard to suggest to Prime Minister Blair that they should tell the head of the UN to get on the phone and order Hizbullah to “stop this shit.”

As a matter of fact, Bush hopes to benefit from the human suffering he reduces to “shit.” He sees this as a bright spot in an otherwise bleak “War on Terrorism.” Certainly, pretending to defend Jews under attack is more popular than the ongoing setbacks to his disastrous policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. His assistance to the Israeli adventure goes beyond moral support—more American high tech bombs are being rushed for use in Lebanon.

Bush and Rice cynically declare they don’t want a “premature” cease fire; they want a long term solution. But their proposal of a “lasting solution” is destruction of both Hamas and Hizbullah and puppet regimes being installed in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories. Such an outcome is unlikely. Even if Israel wins a big military victory in the current campaign the struggle against Israeli repressive domination in Palestine will continue.

Truth is, as long as the Israelis retain the upper hand, this instability is precisely what Washington wants. It has been the centerpiece of Anglo-American Middle East policy since the end of World War II.

The record of U.S. support for Jews is not a good one. During the 1930s, when many European Jews could still have been saved from their eventual fate in the Holocaust, FDR’s administration essentially closed the door to refugees. The liberals were cowed by powerful antisemitism. Only a handful of socialists campaigned for saving the Jews by giving them shelter in America.

Zionism got a big break after the war only because it fit in to the partition booby-trap strategy of British imperialism as it had to abandon most of its former empire. To this day, Hindus and Muslims still fight over the partition border left between India and Pakistan and Greeks and Turks still contend over control of Cyprus.

The Brits cleverly turned over final disposition of their Palestinian mandate to the newly established United Nations. A UN commission rejected a proposal for a single federal state of Palestine, with rights guaranteed for a then Jewish minority, in favor of a tortuous gerrymandered division into Israel and Palestine sure to generate conflict—as happened immediately with the 1948-49 war between Jews and Arabs.

Newly formed Israel, with the support of newly found “friends of the Jewish people” in Washington, came out on top in that conflict and expanded its borders considerably. Property and resources left behind by Arabs who fled to what remained of the Palestinian territory (today the Occupied Territories) or neighboring countries, was redistributed by the Zionists. This is the basis for the demand by Palestinians for the “right of return” that continues to fuel conflict today.

Arab Muslims and Christians, and religious and nonreligious Jews, all are entitled to a stake in what was known as Palestine under British “mandate.” Israeli military might will never completely subdue the Palestinians—nor will it be decisively defeated on the battlefield. One doesn’t have to agree with all the views of Jewish Voices for Peace to see the validity of their motto—Israelis and Palestinians, Two Peoples, One Future.

In my view, lasting peace will be achieved only as a result of determined mass political action by the working class majorities of both peoples. The working class cannot accept a division where those in Israel enjoy a European style standard of living while most in the Occupied Territories endure Third World-like poverty. Nor can working people ignore the denial of basic democratic and human rights so blatant in Gaza and the West Bank.

I share the opinion that the late Edward Said came to hold, that enduring peace with justice can best be accomplished through the establishment of a democratic, secular Palestine based on genuine equality for all ethnic and religious groups. The money spent on the Israeli military could be used to rebuild a unified economy that could guarantee all a decent standard of living.

That’s not going to happen tomorrow. The goal of lasting peace with justice requires a long, difficult struggle. In the meantime both Arabs and Jews are dying now, and the infrastructures of Lebanon and the Occupied Territories are being destroyed now. The Israeli government is the main culprit but the U.S. government shares culpability as well.

We should call on the Israeli government to immediately halt the bombing and invasion of Lebanon, withdraw the forces sent into Gaza, and to lift the economic blockade of the Occupied Territories.

We should demand the U.S. government end its encouragement of the Israeli attacks, provide funds to rebuild the damage inflicted on Lebanon by American bombs and planes supplied to Israel, and give urgently needed aid to the long blockaded Palestinians.

Despite the confusion around these emotionally charged issues significant protests have been mounted in not only Islamic majority countries but in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the U.S.—and even in Israel—as well. That, at least, is encouraging.

Don’t Feed the Pigeons…Or the Homeless
The Las Vegas city council voted unanimously this week to pass an ordinance making it illegal to give food to homeless people in city parks. The ordinance carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 or six months in jail, or both.

No Strike at Fenton
In the hot summer of 1968 I toiled for a few months at a Chrysler assembly plant in the St Louis suburb of Fenton. I didn’t find spot welding frames on the line very pleasant and jumped at the chance to take a truck driving job that opened up.

I was not surprised to read that UAW Local 110 at that plant conducted a strike vote over a log jam of grievances about overtime, the arbitrary use of discipline and health and safety issues. 63 percent of the workers voted to hit the bricks.. Unfortunately, the UAW constitution requires a ⅔ super-majority to approve a strike.

This sounds like it’s time for WTR—the Work to Rule tactic being promoted by UAW dissidents.

As usual, much of the material for this column was taken from stories posted on the
Daily Labor News Digest.

That’s all for this week.

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