PALESTINE: CLASHES WITHOUT ARMS,
NOT SUICIDE BOMBING
(An interview with Saleh Jabir)
The fundamentalists have objectively played into
the hands of Ariel Sharon. The strategy of suicide bombing was
politically short-sighted, asserts Salah Jaber, a long-time
Marxist militant from Lebanon and member of the United Secretariat
of the Fourth International. He pleads for the strategy of the
First Intifada of the Palestinian resistance movement in an
interview with Mazdoor Jeddojuhd, fortnightly organ of the Labor
Party Pakistan. Excerpts:
MJ: From Israeli aggression to suicide bombing-----why, of late,
the situation has flared up in Palestine?
SJ: The basic reason for everything happening now is the dead-end
reached in 2000 at Camp David between Ehud Barak and Yassir
Arafat. The then US president, Bill Clinton, sponsored the talks.
The present situation arose out of the provocative visit to the
Muslim holy places in Jerusalem in September 2000 by Ariel Sharon.
It was the spark which lit up this Second Intifada. The Second
Intifada resorted to violence from the beginning against Zionist
violence. Arms and suicide attacks were intensively used which
created condition for the election of Sharon in February 2001.
Sharon is one of the most extremist members of the Zionist
establishment in Israel. He is extremist even among the right-wing
Likud party leadership. He has always stated in the past that the
Palestinians have already their state in Jordan and that the West
Bank should remain under Israeli rule. He is implementing his
agenda. This was made easier by September 11. The political
climate created by President Bush by launching his 'war against
terrorism' provided Sharon with an opportunity to escalate his
drive against the Palestinians.
He is deliberately keeping the situation from cooling down through
provocation, assassinations and invasions into Palestinian
territories. He wanted the temperature running high till he got
the legitimacy to re-occupy the Palestinian territories. Secondly,
his policy is to compel the Palestinians to leave their homeland.
MJ: Bill Clinton recently visited Sweden and claimed that the
present situation is the consequence of Yassir Arafat's refusal to
accept his deal offered at Camp David?
SJ: Yassir Arafat could not accept Bill Clinton's offer. Not
because he is some radical person. He never was a radical. He
refused because it meant total capitulation and loss of
popularity. Yassir Arafat would have become a traitor in the eyes
of the Palestinians and it could cost him his life. The deal
offered at Camp David was costing Palestinians 15 per cent of the
West Bank and their water resources. Following Camp David's
failure, the US and Israel concluded that Arafat must be
pressurized by unleashing terror on the Palestinian masses. Sharon
was the best candidate for such a terror drive. That's why the
so-called Labor Party gave way to Ariel Sharon, and joined him in
the governing coalition. Now Sharon is implementing his plan. He
is preventing all the attempts for the resumption of talks. He is
destroying the infrastructure of Arafat's administration. He is
not ready to accept anything short of the whole West Bank. He is
so extremist that he is not willing to deal even with a
compromising person like Arafat.
MJ: Do you think that suicide-bombing campaign is supported or
sponsored by the PLO?
SJ: The PLO is not a homogeneous organization. It consists of many
groups including Arafat's Al-Fatah. Even Al-Fatah has many
currents. First of all, Arafat was not in a position to prevent
such acts. Since the beginning of the Second Intifada that is from
September 2000, many acts of suicide bombing have been carried out
at individual level beyond the control of any organization. It has
become a way of resistance struggle. These are desperate acts
committed as a reaction to the unbearable situation created by the
Israeli repression. Through such acts of despair, Palestinians are
taking revenge for Israeli atrocities. One cannot believe how many
people are ready to go for suicide bombing.
MJ: Do you think that the method of suicide bombing and violence
will lead to something?
SJ: Resorting to suicide bombing was politically short-sighted.
The Islamic fundamentalists have objectively played in the hands
of Ariel Sharon. They could not understand that they were blindly
reacting to provocations. Similarly it seems that Arafat thought
that through such attacks he could get some concessions or could
bring Israel to sign some new agreement. But this is nothing but
political short sightedness.
There is no way for the Palestinians but mass mobilization. The
present Intifada has become a military confrontation. First of
all, any attacks against civilians are reprehensible from a
humanistic point of view. We cannot accept a strategy of killing
civilians and children indiscriminately. But aside from the
humanistic point of view, this strategy is proving
counter-productive. It is pushing the Israeli population more and
more to the right. The Intifada cannot win support of the Israeli
masses through suicide bombing. During the Vietnam War, the
resistance forces won the war not only through fighting but also
by mobilizing world opinion especially in the USA. But you cannot
win the public opinion in the West trough this strategy of
suicide-bombings and the public opinion in the imperialist world
is very vital. As a consequence of this policy, Israel instead of
pulling back is rather re-occupying. Israel will stay more and
more as a result of this strategy.
This is not only a failure of the fundamentalists. This is also
the failure of Arafat who allowed the use of arms from the start.
You don't use arms when your ennemy is much more powerful
militarily. What is clever is to struggle on the terrain that
suits you best. The First Intifada was resorting only to stones.
It achieved far greater success compared to the present one. Now,
in the eyes of the wolrd public opinion, what is happening is some
kind of 'war' between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel is not
seen anymore as just an oppressor, but as a country reacting to
suicide attacks. But the Palestinians are now realizing the
futility of this method.
MJ: Is there any substantial evidence of this assumption?
SJ: Well, earlier on, the reaction to suicide bombing used to be
joyful. This is not the case anymore. A concrete sign: recently
several dozens intellectuals from the West Bank wrote an open
letter condemning suicide bombing. They would not have dared write
it if the trend of suicide bombing was still popular.
MJ: What means of struggle do you suggest for the Palestinian
SJ: Unarmed mass mobilisation. The strategy of the first Intifada.
I am not talking here of Gandhian or Christian non-violence. The
first Intifada was resorting to stones. It was not really
non-violent in the Gandhian way. You have to analyze the whole
situation. You have to weigh the balance of forces. The balance of
forces suggests that the Palestinians should not resort to arms
and bombs. No arms but mass struggle. Clashes without arms.
MJ: The bourgeois media has been commenting recently that
following the siege of Arafat's headquarters, his popularity has
dramatically gone up. What is your opinion?
SJ: Arafat's popularity has sharply gone up and down recently. He
was unpopular before the siege of his headquarters. Then the siege
in April has led to increased popularity. But as soon as it was
over, Arafat's capitulation on the conditions to end the siege
jeopardized the upsurge in his popularity. His popularity was
sharply declining until US president Bush declared that the
Palestinians should elect someone else as their president. Bush's
statement made Arafat popular again. Thus his popularity is going
through quick ups and downs, like a zigzag. Some Palestinians are
even saying that it was an attempt by Bush to make Arafat popular
and that Bush knew that his kind of statement would go in Arafat's
favor. I don't want to involve myself in such a guess game. The
fact is that Bush is actually repeating what Ariel Sharon himself
wants him to say. But Sharon's aim is to prevent any kind of deal,
knowing that Arafat is the best possible person for agreeing to
any kind of US plan.
MJ: What about the left forces in Palestine?
SJ; The left has been in shambles for many years. They lost a
historical opportunity during the First Intifada. Then, in 1988,
the left was leading the Intifada in Gaza and the West Bank. But
they jeopardized this opportunity by handing the leadership over
to the PLO in the name of national unity. The Palestinian left is
not a Marxist but a nationalist left. It never had the perspective
to replace the bourgeois leadership with self-organization of the
toiling masses. By standing behind Arafat in the name of national
unity, they let the fundamentalists become the only alternative to
Presently the left is very marginal. It is mainly represented by
the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine
(PFLP and DFLP) and the People's Party (Communist Party).
MJ: Are the Muslim fundamentalist forces widely popular?
SJ: The fundamentalists have increased their popularity during the
90s. The PLO used the strength of the First Intifada in order to
negotiate with the USA. The priority for the PLO was to bring the
US to negotiations. The PLO accepted Israel's right to exist, and
Arafat went even to the point of stating that the PLO agreed to
'renounce' terrorism---obeying the condition put by the US which
meant that what the PLO had been doing before was 'terrorism'.
This disgusted the Palestinian masses. The fundamentalists started
growing as an alternative. On the face of it, they have a radical
program in terms of anti-Zionim which they confuse with
anti-Judaism. The left was not there to offer an alternative.
MJ: What will this crisis lead to, in your opinion?
SJ: We have come to a dead end. Arafat's strategy of relying on
the USA has proved totally bankrupt. On the other hand, the
fundamentalists' strategy is no less bankrupt. Time is ripe for
the emergence of a new trend in the mass struggle. A new political
leadership should emerge. Though we are far from it yet the
situation is ripe for that.
(For a democratic socialist Pakistan)
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