Israel and US plan ‘peace’ of the graveyard

01 March 2024

By Jeremy Dewar

ISRAEL IS poised to attack Rafah, a city on the Egyptian border, which has become the last refuge for more 1.5 million Palestinians driven from northern and central Gaza. The Egyptians have begun construction of a walled clearing, covering 16km2 of land, just over the border to contain the refugees they know could be driven out of Gaza completely if a final assault on Rafah occurs.

Despite declaring Rafah a ‘safe zone’, the city’s schools, hospitals, and refugee camps have been subjected to aerial bombardment from the beginning of the war.

UN general secretary Antonio Guterres described the conditions of people ‘living in overcrowded makeshift shelters, in unsanitary conditions, without running water, electricity and adequate food supplies’.

Aid agencies warn that 335,000 children under 5-years old are in danger of starving to death, as videos emerge of Gazans drinking sewage-contaminated water and grinding animal feed for bread.
Understandably, law and order have begun to break down, as desperate refugees attack aid lorries and fight over rice. The UN has said it can no longer operate in the north of the Strip, due to the dangers posed to its workers.

Disease is killing children and adults weakened by months of starvation, thanks to Israel’s near-total blockade on food and medicine entering the territory. Hospital after hospital has been bombed, raided and closed down through lack of electricity, equipment (even gauze is being reused) and increasingly staff (hundreds of medics have been murdered by the IDF).

The physical toll on a whole generation of Palestinians is incalculable. Christopher Lockyear of Médécins Sans Frontiers told the UN Security Council that ‘children as young as five to tell us they would prefer to die’.

It is in these conditions that the United States, and nine other countries, including the UK, have unilaterally suspended funding to the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNWRA. It is in these conditions that the US vetoed a third UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire. It is in these conditions that Prime Minister Sunak and Labour leader Starmer say they can see no ‘collective punishment of Palestinians’.

But, as millions around the world know, this is what a genocide looks like.

The targeting of women and children, the contamination of agricultural land, the destruction of key infrastructure sites, the destruction of schools, libraries and universities, the demolition of ancient churches and mosques, the encouragement of starvation and disease, all these point to Israel’s intent to destroy all or part of the Palestinian people.

Netanyahu’s ‘Day after Hamas’

After the indiscriminate slaughter of 30,000 civilians, President Joe Biden has belatedly acknowledged that ‘there are a lot of innocent people who are starving… and it’s got to stop’. Of course, the US could put a stop to Israel’s war anytime it wants. Yet it continues to supply Israel’s war machine.

Emboldened by the continuing flow of military aid into the IDF’s armoury, Israel has remained adamant that it ‘must’ attack Rafah to complete its elimination of Hamas. The supposed ‘liberal’ in the war cabinet, Benny Gantz, announced that this would begin on the first day of Ramadan, March 10, unless Hamas releases all the Israeli hostages and agrees to step down.

Benjamin Netanyahu followed this up by presenting a ‘plan’ to his government on 22 February, for ‘the day after Hamas’, consisting of one piece of A4 paper. The plan, approved unanimously, consists of little more than the ‘principles’ Netanyahu has long espoused.

The Times of Israel reported that the IDF would have ‘indefinite freedom’ to operate throughout Gaza and that Israel will establish a security buffer zone on the Palestinian side of the Strip’s border for ‘as long as there is a security need for it’.

‘Local officials unaffiliated with terrorists’ will be installed to administer services in the Strip instead of Hamas, Egypt will be asked to end smuggling into Gaza, the border coming under IDF control, and Arab countries to fund reconstruction of the Strip. UNRWA will be closed down.

The plan also calls for Gaza to be demilitarised and for its population to be subjected to a ‘de-radicalisation plan… in all religious, educational and welfare institutions in Gaza’.

International pressure

But this may not be Israel’s final word as pressure to relent grows. The steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the face of unprecedented Israeli aggression, the growing worldwide solidarity movement and the growing impatience of the US and its allies, as a result of that movement, may yet call Netanyahu to heel.

Activists who have demanded a ceasefire for five months can have some satisfaction that their hard work has now forced the US to table a new resolution to the Security Council calling for a ceasefire—albeit a ‘temporary’ one, to be implemented ‘as soon as practicable’, that is, at a time of Israel’s choosing. But ‘peace’ negotiated and implemented by one’s enemies can, in the long run, be as devastating as war.

The US proposal for the future running of Gaza is to ‘reform’ the Palestinian National Authority. Mahmoud Abbas has moved to replace the government with one made up of technocrats. The PNA is already training its police in Jordan in tactics and methods to control Gaza, where, in a situation of extreme devastation and near starvation , they will obviously be seen as auxiliaries for the Zionists.

But whatever the plans of the US, there remains the major obstacle of the Israeli coalition government and war cabinet whose ministers insist that they will not tolerate any sort of Palestinian self-rule in Gaza, and will retain Israeli ‘security’—i.e. a military occupation and blockade.

It is vital is for Palestine solidarity activists not to be deceived by a temporary ceasefire and talk of a breakthrough. Of course the halting of IDF bombardment, and the arrival of some aid will be welcomed by the desperate people of Gaza but a ceasefire will not solve the crisis.

Firstly, and most obviously, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will remain in mortal danger from hunger, disease and untreated. UNRWA needs its funds restored and indeed massively increased. Israel, the US and EU should be forced to pay the lion’s share not just the Arab states.

We must continue to mobilise for complete IDF withdrawal from Gaza and the occupied West Bank. We must demand the end of the expansion of the illegal settlements and an end to the bombing of Lebanon and southern Syria.

Last but not least the Palestinians must be free to choose their own representatives. Israel and its Western backers must have no veto on whatever parties they choose. There must be no restrictions on Palestinians’ fight for justice. In the present mass movement of support socialists must argue that this cannot be achieved by some sort of ‘two state solution’ but only by the the dismantling of the racist Zionist state and its replacement—‘from the river to the sea’ by a single, secular, bi-national and socialist state for both Israelis and Palestinians.

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