"The Writing was on the Wall"- Hamas in power, what next?

Hamas’ ascent to power has been a concluding result of an ongoing process that should be analysed against the background of the events spanning decades, not only in Israel/Palestine but also the whole region and the world. Here Nadim al-Mahjoub, an Arab Marxist, gives his interpretation of the situation.

“Terrorists voted into power,” thus went a front-page headline of a British newspaper, a day after the results of the parliamentary elections that won Hamas 76 seats of the 132 of the Palestinian Legislative Council (The Daily Telegraph, January 27, 2006). The mainstream media have described Hamas victory as ‘startling’, ‘stunning’, ‘an earthquake’, etc.

Fatah, the nationalist movement founded more than 35 years ago by Yasser Arafat and which has been the major partner in the so-called “peace process” with Israel, took only 43 seats after the first Palestinian Legislative Council elections for a decade.

It is worth mentioning that the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) is in fact a body which has no real power or effect. Any agreement that may be reached between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Israeli state during the interim period, “shall have no effect and shall be void ab initio." (See article 18 of the Declaration of Principles, 1993).

The 1.3 million Palestinians inside the so-called Green Line and the millions of refugees outside of Palestine/Israel were excluded from voting. That is the majority of Palestinians!

Western governments have largely expressed caution towards Hamas after its victory, threatening to cut off financial aid to the PA, saying that a Palestinian government with an Islamic group in power would not be recognised, or negotiated with only under certain conditions, though they expressed satisfaction with what they call the democratic process that has brought the Islamic movement to power.

Hamas has been on ceasefire for more than a year. It is said that it has been responsible for more than 400 deaths of Israeli civilians in some 58 suicide bombings during the past five years.

Hamas, (Haraket al-Mukawama al-Islamiyya, ‘Movement of the Islamic Resistance’) or ‘zeal’, describes itself as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and linked with the ‘chain of Jihad’ through Izz al-Din al-Qassam (leader of the 1930s revolt). The Hamas Movement started as a charity organisation with a registered status granted by Israel in the late 1970s, and funded, directly and indirectly, by Israel as well. “Israel, forever inclined to back divisive movements, surfaced as another supporter of Islam and began to fund the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas.” [Saiid Aburish, Brutal Friendship, p. 62 and Jochen Hippler and Andrea Lueg, The Next Threat, p. 128]. Aburish also says that the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas received money from Saudi Arabia “to keep Arafat from becoming too powerful.”

It was a conscious policy in “an attempt,” states a former CIA senior official, “to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative.” (See: What is behind the Hamas-PA conflict? by Yossi Schwartz). In fact, it was the policy of imperialism at that time to aid, support and fund Islamic groups to be used as a counterbalance against Arab nationalist movements and the left.

When the first Intifada erupted neither the official Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) – in exile in Tunisia at the time – nor Hamas had any hand in initiating or leading the revolt. The leadership of what was to be known as the stone-throwers’ Intifada arose from PLO members within the popular movements in the Occupied Territories as well as the prisons. It was a secular leadership based on students, trade unions, women’s organisations, etc. Massive strikes involving more than 60,000 labourers paralysed Israeli construction and agriculture as well as factories and workshops, inflicting huge financial loss to the economy. The mass movement on the West Bank did more for the Palestinian cause in a few months than Arafat and Co. had achieved in thirty years.

Hamas was to be established in 1988 under the pressure of its members who wanted to take an active part in the Intifada. Hamas’ charter advocated the destruction of the State of Israel, Palestine as part of the Muslim world, and an anti-communist stand. After the al-Aqsa massacre in late September 2000, Hamas launched its terrorist attacks inside Israel itself targeting mainly civilians. The first Intifada failed to achieve its goals when its leadership accommodated itself with both the official PLO leadership and Oslo Accords. From the first Intifada leadership, today Marwan Barghouti (now in an Israeli prison) probably remains the main figure who represents a ‘continuation’ of the embittered group of grass roots activists.

When during the first Gulf War Arafat sided with Saddam Hussein, support for the PLO in the West, greatly enhanced by the Intifada and the Temple Mount killings, faded away. Hamas, however, appealed to both the Iraqi regime and the US to withdraw their forces. And with no alternative leadership to the PLO, Hamas saw the opportunity: if Saddam Hussein lost the war, as seemed likely, the PLO would be further weakened and support for Hamas increased. Indeed, in the aftermath of the war, with the PLO’s finance dwindling, increasing numbers of Palestinians left the PLO and joined Hamas. Money coming from the Gulf States changed direction to end up in Hamas' coffers.

The Palestinian Authority, doing the job for the Israelis, arrested thousands of Hamas supporters, and even outlawed the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades in 1996 and by an order from Arafat, the PA placed the then spiritual leader of Hamas Sheik Ahmed Yassin (later to be killed by Israel) under house arrest. In the same year the CIA made arrangements to train Palestinian security officers in order to increase Israel’s confidence in their capabilities when dealing with ‘terrorists’.

Hamas opposed the Oslo Accords in principle. In 1996, it boycotted the polls and continued to strengthen its popularity among the Palestinians in Gaza, where it has been a dominant force, and in the West Bank. Along with Islamic Jihad, it also carried out military operations using suicide bombings. This was met by a wave of assassination operations by the Israeli Intelligence and forces targeting its frontline leaders, including its spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassine.

The second Intifada of September 2000 posed a difficult question to the Israeli ruling class: ‘who controls the Territories for us’? Thus began the quest for a partner: if Arafat is not able to do the job for us, we have to do it ourselves until we find a partner. Not only did Israel’s option to isolate Arafat and discredit him deepen the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but also within the PA itself. A vacuum has been created and this provided Hamas with a second opportunity, but this time to climb to power.

Like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas runs its own nurseries and schools that offer free meals for children, education for women, and youth and sports clubs. Hamas also established medical clinics with subsidized treatment; it has even extended its financial and technical support to those who had their homes demolished by the Israeli forces, and help to Palestinian refugees. And unlike Fatah, Hamas is not tainted with a tradition of corruption.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood increased its seats in parliament thanks to both the corruption and negligence of Mubarek’s party and the support the Brothers have among the poor people in particular because of their charity and community work. And like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas is willing to compromise and share power with the bourgeoisie of Fatah. “Most Palestinians still prefer compromise with Israel and oppose Sharia law, thus going against two of Hamas's core tenets. So Hamas may at first demand less controversial ministerial posts, such as health or public works, that showcase its reputation for efficiency and clean hands. The party campaigned mainly on domestic issues such as corruption and welfare.” [The Economist, January 26th 2006]

While it is the Palestinian Authority’s policy of capitulation, corruption, incompetence and negligence that pushed many Palestinians to vote for Hamas, it is primarily the occupation itself and the colonial imperialist policies of the state of Israel that led to such a result. Certainly, Ariel Sharon’s policy has been sowing seeds of hatred as well: the killing of the front line Hamas leadership, the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the apartheid Wall, the continuation of building settlements on the West Bank, and the suffocation of the Palestinians in their movement and their livelihood. A change was needed: "Of course I voted for Hamas. Why not try them? We need a change," said Nuha. “Fatah is paying the price for its negligence of its own people," stressed Tayseer, a member of the Palestinian National Council. (The Independent, January 27th 2006).

The same newspaper states: “Palestinian electors were actually showing they thought that not all their suffering could be laid at the door of the occupier; that better, cleaner, Palestinian governance could help too.” On another online newspaper a certain K. Bargouti said: “the majority [in this village] can’t explain why they voted for Hamas, but if you sit with them they will say: we hate Fatah. They did nothing for us. A few poor people suddenly became rich people. Hamas worked in another way. They worked with society. They worked with the poor.”

Fatah did nothing for the Palestinians, or better said, for the majority of the Palestinians. The present result has its origin in a long process that goes back to the nature of the Palestinian bourgeoisie and its leadership, but without, of course, downplaying the role of neither the occupation itself nor the imperialist encroachment internationally.

In a pamphlet published in the year 2000, we wrote: “Having failed for decades to advance the Palestinian cause on step, the PLO leaders were greedy to enjoy the ‘fruits of office’ which had been conquered by the people. What they accepted amounted to a betrayal of the national struggle of the Palestinians…

“The national aspirations of the Palestinian people naturally express themselves in the striving for their own territory and state. The present so-called Palestinian Authority in no sense fulfils this aspiration. It has proved to be a cruel trap for the Palestinian people. To the degree that this truth has dawned on the masses, it has given rise to burning sense of injustice and betrayal. The anger of the masses is directed not only against Israel but also against the PLO leadership.” (Alan Woods & Fred Weston,  Middle East - On the brink of the abyss, October 2000)

In effect, the so-called Palestinian Authority has been just a tool used by Israel. And it was used quite well until the tool was worn out. The PA’s role was that of policing the Palestinian people; it had elements of a police state from the beginning. With its corruption and repression, backed by both the Mossad and the CIA, it consolidated the power of Arafat and his hangers-on. Fatah’s traditional leaders, ‘the Tunisian group’, after their return to the Territories, were given top positions in the PA and worked to establish a pragmatic leadership that was to achieve a cordial relationship with Washington and work out a final agreement, no matter how derisory, with the Israeli state.

The lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi, who won one of two seats in the parliament under the Third Way List said that "Hamas responded by getting the angry vote and the rejection and revenge vote and the protest vote and of course the reform vote, and not necessarily all the ideological vote. Part of Hamas' victory was made by Fatah." (Al-Jazeera.net, January 26, 2006)

Nearly two-thirds of the population on the West Bank and Gaza live below the poverty line. Unemployment reaches 70 per cent in Gaza. A huge share of the total budget, which depends on international aid, goes to security. The total outside assistance to the Palestinians mounts to more than $1 billion a year. But given the level of gangrenous corruption and cronyism within the PA, the majority of the people have been left to grinding poverty or to Hamas’ social assistance. Adding all the other regional and international factors, the outcome has come as no surprise. As it was pointed out by Roni Ben-Efrat a few weeks before the elections, “if the public decides to opt for a fundamental change or for a party with internal discipline, its vote will go to Hamas.” (Challenge Magazine, No 95, January-February 2006, my emphasis, N.M.).

In addition, a wider view shows us that other factors have significantly contributed to the rise of Hamas in particular and of the Islamic movement in general. The imperialist powers, the ‘defenders of democracy’ in the Middle East, have for decades used the tactic of divide and rule to keep their interest untouched in the region; control of the strategic sphere of influence, oil, and Israel. The imperialist collaboration with terrorist groups is well-recorded in the annals of history, not in the schoolbooks however. But what is important here is their support of regimes and groups as long as it suits their interests. Let us not forget that the PLO itself was listed as a terrorist organisation, but later was ' baptised' and became a major partner and Arafat became someone who they could achieve “peace” with.

In fact, there were lots of talks and warnings prior the elections because the Israelis knew about the probability of Hamas getting a high vote, and tried to push for postponing the elections in order to prevent Hamas from taking part in them. Former Minister Silvan Shalom said that Hamas’ overwhelming elections victory was “an earthquake that will set us back 50 years and lead the entire region to chaos… For months I attempted to prevent Hamas participation in the elections… I warned him [Mahmud Abbas] they will remove him by assassination or in the elections themselves… He should have done what Arafat did in 1986, when he shaved their beards and detained hundreds of them. Abu Mazen (Abbas) out of fear and weakness did the exact opposite… It would have been better to prevent the elections from being held, because the writing was on the wall.” (My emphasis, N.M.)

So, Silvan Shalom was looking for someone to do the job for him, but Mahmud Abbas was not the right person and Hamas was the last they could think of. Even Arafat, in spite of clamping down on the movement detaining hundreds of them, putting their spiritual leader under house arrest, etc, before he died was not a good partner to rely upon anymore. Is it possible then to think that everything got out of Israeli control, or, as some fans of conspiracy theories might suggest, that the Israeli state just let it happen? We would go for the first possibility, and leave the second to those who can provide any evidence.

One of the outcomes of the elections is that Hamas has taken the bait. This may sound like wild speculation. But look at what happened to Hizb Bollah. After Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, it has lost its raison d’être. It is likely that the same will happen with Hamas. By bringing the Movement into the political arena, Israel and the Western powers will be able to accommodate Hamas and tame it. They will use pressure and dictate their terms and conditions; otherwise serious consequences will fall not only on Hamas, but also on the Palestinian people as a whole. In the long run, Hamas will be weakened.

The leaders of Hamas have called upon Fatah to form a national unity government. Hamas does not want to be isolated internationally, and Fatah does not want to be a mere puppet in a Hamas-dominated government. So the Movement is aware of the difficulties it will face. And as Hanan Ashrawi predicts, Hamas will seek to form a coalition with other parties. The Movement has no technocrats to run the ‘state’ apparatus. Furthermore, how will Hamas live with more than 100,000 PA employees and a security service mostly loyal to Fatah?

“Being in power, Hamas finds itself in the middle of international balances it can not ignore. Such balances will force it to amend some of its constants and lower its political ceiling,” states Hossam Tammam, an expert on Islamic movement’s affairs. The Economist magazine, however, has some doubt and thinks that “the view that Hamas might be persuaded gradually to abandon armed struggle for politics, as Irish Republicans have over the past few years, gets short shrift here.” [The Economist, Jan 26th 2006]

Why should Hamas abandon ‘armed struggle’ for politics? Is it not Hamas’ right to possess weapons, and use them, when the occupier is the third or the fourth strongest military power in the world, with, according to the CIA, the ninth biggest army? Furthermore, the Irish Republicans have been brought to the table of negotiations, but to achieve nothing of their historical goal: the unification of Ireland on the basis of socialism.

Diaa Rashwan from the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Centre went further by saying that “Hamas would accept pragmatic positions as it would manage the political process in Palestine amidst a turbulent regional atmosphere… Washington,” continues Rashwan, “does not totally reject Hamas. It merely wants to trim the movement’s political project to fall in line with US plans for the region.” This was confirmed by Ismail Haniyeh, a leading Hamas candidate, who told the BBC: ‘Don't be afraid. Hamas is an aware and mature movement... which is politically open in the Palestinian arena, and to its Arab and Islamic hinterland, and similarly open to the international arena.’” [The Independent, January 27, 2006] In the short-term, at least, Hamas would share power with the Palestinian bourgeoisie.

Internationally, the imperialists have started their attack on the democratically elected group by threatening to cut off the aid that the PA used to receive from international donors. Hamas has been told to meet certain conditions and ‘behave itself’ before it could be recognised. The Islamic group is listed as a terriorist organisation by the U.S. and the European Union. Hamas will find itself between the hammer and the anvil: how it could be considered a partner to deal with by the big powers, including Israel, and how it could maintain its popularity and support among the Palestinians who voted it into power.

The first reactions came from Israel. Ben Eliezer, former Defence Minister (Labour) said: “the equation is simple. Whoever recognises the state of Israel, and I stress, as the Jewish people’s state, we will be ready to talk to him.” A statement issued by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office declared: “The state of Israel will not hold negotiations with a Palestinian government led by an armed terror organisation that advocates its destruction. Israel will continue to fight terror resolutely.” The occupier always claims he has the upper hand and the bigger stick. Do as we say, or face the consequences. That is how it worked with the PLO and Arafat and Saddam Hussein, and many others who rebelled against their masters. A new partner must be either found or tamed. “There is no partner. We have to wait for international pressure to be exerted here, because it is not going to be simple,” added Ben Eliezer.

Back in 1988 Itzhak Rabin, the supposed peacemaker, said: “the inhabitants of the territories are subject to harsh military and economic pressure.” He explained, “In the end, they will be broken,” and added that they would accept Israel’s terms. That was Itzhak Rabin in 1988 speaking about the PLO after the latter had expressed peace initiatives. At that time the U.S. called upon the PLO to call off the ‘riots’ (i.e., the Intifada) in the Occupied Territories, which they viewed as “terrorist acts against Israel,” and to ensure the return of the status quo. Israel’s strategic interest has always been to separate the Palestinian people from the PLO and create an alternative leadership. That is why it was even ready to kill Arafat.

The Islamists of Hamas, “who have vowed to destroy the state of Israel,” have come to power. This argument has been repeated again and again in every media outlet as if it was a fact that Hamas could really destroy Israel. According to this argument it is Israel that is under threat, when it is in fact the main power in the region. We are asked to ignore the facts on the ground: that the Israeli state and the settlers have already not only destroyed the livelihood of the Palestinians, but have destroyed thousands of lives, including women and children, and houses, created enclaves on the West Bank, created three million refugees, controlled land, air and sea, water and electricity, employment, etc. It has been exercising ethnic cleansing for decades. If this is not destruction, we don’t know what it is.

Tens of thousands of lives have been destroyed by the bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan, the infrastructure is in chaos, individual terrorism is rife more than ever. Of course, we are supposed to think that suicide bombing is ‘evil’ while state terror is not. Paraphrasing the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua in 1984, “When they do it, it is terrorism. When we do it, it is freedom.” We oppose individual terrorism, but not for the same reasons put forward by the perpetrators of state terrorism, the Bushes and the Blairs, and the Sharons (the war criminals on a big scale), but because we believe that it is counterproductive.

Hamas, through suicide bombing has alienated the Jewish people and strengthened Ariel Sharon’s policies. The withdrawal from Gaza was not the fruit of the methods used by Hamas. If it was so, why then do not Hamas keep using such successful methods? Why emerge from underground and participate in elections? Why not stay as before and 'liberate the West Bank too'? The Gaza withdrawal was due to Sharon’s failure to achieve a strategic advantage; it was a disengagement aimed at ending Israeli economic responsibility (closing access to jobs and markets for the Gazans), but continuing its control of air, sea and land.

Hamas does not have a revolutionary programme and method to stand up to the imperialists. At the end it has to find a compromise between its aims and the aims of international capitalism in the region. In fact Hamas is not fundamentally different from the Muslim Brotherhood; its leadership and programme do not oppose the capitalist economy and they have a reactionary project concerning women’s rights, art, freedom of expression and other democratic and human rights. It will try to implement some aspects of the Shari’a (the Islamic law) but this will be limited and met by resistance from a large secular Palestinian population.

And this is Hamas’ own tragedy. The euphoria of today won’t last. If Hamas shows any intransigence, and tries to go back to the old methods of suicide bombing etc, it will face its death knell.

The electoral victory of Hamas, apart from being a resounding slap in the face for Fatah, is also a slap in the face of the Bush administration, ‘the preacher of spreading democracy to the entire Greater Middle East’. The imperialists’ policies have backfired. After the failure in Iraq and the coming to power of another Islamic group, the wrestling with the Islamic regime in Iran, the shift to the left and the radicalisation of the masses in Latin America, the most powerful state in the world is harvesting an utter bankruptcy from its foreign policy.

Another factor that will have an impact on Hamas is a probable rift that could open up between what the mainstream observers call the ' moderates' (such as Hamas’ leadership in Jordan) and the ‘hardliners’. Regarding disarming Hamas, for example, a few months ago Ahmed Andur, a Hamas leader, explained that the Islamic group would not give up on its weapons and would not become a part of the PA apparatus. Now Hamas says that what it wants is to participate in power. Here is one of the disagreements within Hamas, which might be compromised by renouncing violence and recognising Israel, but keeping itself armed so that the Movement, or, a section of it, could resort to military attacks again in the future. Here, it is worth remembering that the Islamic Jihad group, which is armed and uses suicide bombings, has boycotted the elections.

So, while Sharon’s policy has strengthened Hamas and weakened Fatah, Sharon’s successors will carry on with their policy unhindered. Deaf ears from the Israeli side would meet any opposition by Hamas to Israel continuing its occupation. In the long-term, Israel, because of the ‘demographic threat’, might consider giving some kind of ‘autonomy’ to the Palestinians by creating a de facto, caricatured, client state dependent on Israel, which would not really be independent.

“But on the American side,” argues Martin Indyk, a top Middle East negotiator in the Clinton administration, “the conceptual failure that contributed to disaster was the president’s belief that democracy and elections solve everything.” (New York Times, January 30, 2006). We would tend to agree with Indyk, though not completely. Since the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the invasion and the occupation of Iraq, the rhetoric has been that elections would bring democracy to the peoples in the region, and with 'democracy' people would be happy. Unfortunately for the imperialists and the warmongers, that has remained mere wishful thinking.

As long as so-called democracy remains out of the realm of economy nothing fundamental will change. The workers and the poor may elect this or that person, this or that party, but what affects their livelihood and decides the price of bread, oil, transport, housing, healthcare, education is dictated by the global capitalist market and the rich and the powerful who control the state apparatus, parliament and the Judiciary. Whether an Islamic group or a secular one is in power, does not change these basic facts. Only the revolutionary transformation of society by the working class can bring real liberation.

G. W. Bush insisted that if Hamas wants to cease being a pariah it has to renounce violence. Then that clever lady at the White House, who has been touring the world in a messianic mission to ‘democratise the un-democratic countries’ also added her great wisdom. Commenting on the elections in the Occupied Territories, Condaleezza Rice said, “there is a huge transition going on in the Middle East, as a whole and in its parts. The outcomes that we’re seeing in any number of places, I will be first to say, have a sense of unpredictability about them. That’s the nature of big historic change. It’s simply the way it is.”

Undoubtedly, the Middle East is experiencing a very big change, but to say that the change is unpredictable is utter hypocrisy. It is America’s brutal aggression, combined with Israeli state terrorism, that has engendered such mayhem and the rise of Islamism. The region has never been as unstable as it is today. Ms Rice’s sheer hypocrisy ignores the fact that the outcome is largely of their own making.

What is going to happen next will also depend on the coming elections in Israel. The present victory of the Islamic Movement Hamas will certainly leave its impact on the voters in Israel. The contenders (Likud, Kadima and Labour) will take this change into consideration. As happened before, the right-wing parties in Israel will sing the same tunes: uniting the Jews by whipping up anti-Islamic chauvinism combined with anti-Arab chauvinism. Even Amir Peretz, the Labour Party’s new leader, has hinted at a unilateral option that would be reached through peace talks.

The Israeli ruling class, as well as the international one, have started screaming about the threat of Hamas establishing an Islamic state and strengthening Iran. Likud officials say: ‘Olmert and Kadima are setting up a Hamas terror that will be a branch of Iran, several kilometres from Israel’s population centre.” On the one hand we should note that the reactionary Israeli ruling class itself has a whole ‘philosophy’ and outlook that is at the root of the ongoing antagonism between Jews and Arabs. From the moment of its foundation, Israel has been conceived as a racist state with theocratic characteristics. Israeli civil law is based on the ‘Halacha’ or Jewish medieval religious law which now threatens to turn in the direction of fundamentalist reaction.

According to the ‘Halacha’ and at least as a utopian desire “the aim is to transform the current polity into a system ruled by Jewish Law. The world is perceived as a binary order of ‘us’ (the Jews) versus ‘them’ (the rest of the world).” (Baruch Kimmerling, Politicide – Ariel Sharon’s War against the Palestinians, p.142) So before we look at whether Hamas, as part of the resistance movement against occupation, will establish an Islamic state, we should look at the policy of the occupier itself and never equate the violence of the slave-master and the slave.

We, revolutionary socialists, distinguish between the reactionary violence of the ruling class and imperialist oppressors and the violence of the oppressed people fighting in self-defence.

On the other hand, it is Israel that has been built as a colonial project to serve the imperialist powers in the Middle East, it is Israel that has nuclear warheads, it is Israel that is the biggest receiver of U.S. aid, it is Israel that invaded Lebanon, it is Israel’s policy along with the US’s that have caused the instability we have in the region today, and it is the Israeli ruling class that thinks that all its actions are founded on the Bible (‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’), and has been applying this rule ten-fold; the life of one Jew/Israeli, for example, must be paid by the lives of many Palestinians.

The coming period will be marked by the Israeli elections. The election of Hamas will have its effects inside Israel as well as outside. The class struggle in Israel and the beginning of a shift to the left after Amir Peretz became leader of the Labour Party have already brought changes and increased class polarisation (see: Israel: the shift in the Labour Party reflects growing class polarization). As Yossi Schwartz in Israel explained, after being a junior partner in Sharon’s coalition, Peretz’ Labour Party has become an opposition party raising social issues, which itself is a reflection of this developing struggle and reveals the potential of the struggles to come.

It is the lack of a credible working class based left alternative among the Palestinian population that has allowed Hamas to replace Fatah as the main party in the PA. The Palestinians are facing terrible social and economic problems. On top of this they face the constant, daily oppression at the hands of the Israeli state. The Palestinian Authority under Fatah has failed them. It is an urgent task of genuine Palestinian socialists to reappraise the situation and work to build a viable alternative.

The same applies on the Israeli side. While the Israeli ruling class oppresses the Palestinian people it also attacks the Israeli workers. Positive signals have emerged recently in the changes that taken place in the Labour Party, which reflect changes among a layer of the Israeli working class. On this basis an alternative can be built.

If this is not done, then in the long run terrible reactionary tendencies can come to the surface on both sides, which would not bode well for either of the two peoples.

31 January 2006

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