The Palestinian Struggle and the Right of Return

The Israeli government of Ariel Sharon, with the full backing of Washington, is intensifying its terrorist repression and economic strangulation of the Palestinian people. The Israeli aim is clear: to drive out as much of the Palestinian population as possible and secure control of all of historic Palestine.
From its inception in 1948, Israel has been a colonial state based on "ethnic cleansing." The forced removal of the Palestinian Arab people was deemed a necessity by the founders of Israel who, from the beginning of the Zionist movement a half-century earlier, had envisioned the creation of an exclusivist Jewish state on Palestinian land.
Israel was created by a vote of the U.S.-dominated United Nations General Assembly on Nov. 29, 1947. The vote to partition Palestine was blatantly illegal in that it did not consult the population of the area, which at the time was about two-thirds Palestinian. Israel was granted 55% of Palestine in the partition plan, but that area was expanded through war so that by July 1948, it controlled 78% of the land. In the process, 800,000 Palestinians - three-quarters of the population - were expelled or fled the fighting, expecting to return when the war ended. Thousands died in the chaos and those expelled found themselves living in the most desolate refugee camps in neighboring countries.
Late in 1948, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194, stating that all Palestinian refugees must be allowed to return to their homeland. To this day not one Palestinian refugee has been allowed back. Their homes, farms, orchards, shops and offices were confiscated without compensation, and formed an indispensable part of Israel's economic foundation.
The sudden dispossession of the Palestinian people to clear the way for the creation of Israel is known as Al-Nakba, or The Catastrophe. During the 1967 war when Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights, more than 300,000 Palestinians were forced into exile, some for the second time. Today, around 4.5 million Palestinians live in exile, and about the same number reside inside Palestine.
In the U.S. and much of the Western world, the establishment of Israel was portrayed as justice for the Jewish people, who suffered genocidal extermination at the hands of Hitler and Nazis during World War II. The U.S. government under Roosevelt did very little to stop the genocide when it was actually taking place. (See While Six Million Died, New York 1967)
In the Middle East and throughout the Third World, the creation of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians (who had nothing to do with the Holocaust) was viewed as a flagrant injustice and a new form of Western colonialism.
These counterposed views of Israel were and are based on the role that Israel has played in the world. From the very beginning up to the present time, the leaders of Israel have made their state an instrument of imperialist domination in the Middle East and elsewhere. When the Arab nationalist movement was on the rise in the 1950s and 1960s, Israel - provided with military technological superiority by the U.S. and France - launched devastating wars against Egypt, Syria and Jordan. When the anti-apartheid movement prevented the U.S. from openly supporting the racist regime in South Africa, Israel stepped in, even helping the apartheid rulers acquire the atomic bomb. The examples go on
and on, from the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, to arming and training the Guatemalan army that carried out genocide against the indigenous people of that country, to support for the fascistic Pinochet regime in Chile.
As a reward, Washington has funneled more aid to Israel, with just 6.5 million people, than any other country in the world. It is not sympathy for Jewish people - the imperialists have no sympathy for any people - but rather material interests that motivate the massive military and economic aid without which Israel could not survive.
Despite the ferocious repression, the tens of thousands killed, wounded, jailed and tortured, the crushing of the Palestinian economy and more, the Palestinian people are continuing their long and heroic resistance. A key demand is for the Right of Return, the right of all Palestinians to return to their land. The undeniable justness of this demand rests not just on UN Resolution 194, but more critically on a basic understanding of the right of oppressed people to their land and self-determination.
The Palestinian proposal for a state in which all people would live with equal rights - a democratic, secular state - has been rejected out of hand by the leaders of both Israel and the U.S. Here, the Democrats and Republicans are equally vitriolic in their support for Israel and opposition to Palestinian rights.
Both the U.S. and Israeli leaders oppose the Palestinian Right of Return because they know that such a state would no longer be a reliable base for imperialist interests in the Middle East. Already under siege at the hands of the Iraqi resistance, Washington views Israel's military power as more indispensable than ever to their control of the entire strategic region.
Support for the Palestinian national liberation movement - including the Right of Return - is a crucial issue for the anti-war movement.

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