[News] A Century-Old War: Palestine’s Class Struggle and the ‘Three Separate Enemies’
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Fri Aug 30 16:45:50 EDT 2019
A Century-Old War: Palestine’s Class Struggle and the ‘Three Separate
Ramzy Baroud - August 29, 2019
At the heart of the Palestinian struggle for basic human rights is the
enduring fight of Palestinian workers. While they currently find
themselves at the forefront of several battles, extending from Israel to
the Occupied Territories and Lebanon, the roots of this war, one that
aims at breaking the very will of the Palestinian people, go back decades.
Renowned Palestinian novelist and intellectual, Ghassan Kanafani, was
assassinated by the Israeli Mossad in Beirut, Lebanon in July 1972, but
only after he left behind a wealth of literature and unparalleled
historical analyses. In his essay, “The 1936-39 Revolt in Palestine”,
<https://www.marxists.org/archive/kanafani/1972/revolt.htm> that the
“principal threat” to the Palestinian national movement comprises three
enemies, “the local, reactionary leadership; the regimes in the Arab
states surrounding Palestine; and the imperialist-Zionist enemy”.
However, little focus is often placed on Palestinian working classes,
whether in Palestine or in the Middle East, which is required to develop
a coherent analysis, one that is able to link the historical roots of
the Palestinian struggle to its present manifestations. Kanafani,
however, was aware of these dynamics, which remain in place until this day.
“The change from a semi-feudal society to a capitalist society was
accompanied by an increased concentration of economic power in the hands
of the Zionist machine and, consequently, within the Jewish society in
Palestine,” Kanafani wrote shortly before he was assassinated. In his
essay <https://www.marxists.org/archive/kanafani/1972/revolt.htm>, he
linked the collective interests of Palestinian “urban upper bourgeoisie”
to the Zionist settlers, due to shared economic objectives.
Subsequently, this meant the marginalisation and targeting of
Palestinian workers and peasants, who found themselves excluded from the
new economic patterns, thus left abandoned and penniless.
The general strike and rebellion
1936-39 is very much an outcome of that reality. Eventually,
“[Palestinian] Arab proletariat had fallen”, according to Kanafani,
“victim to British colonialism and [Zionist] Jewish capital, the former
bearing the primary responsibility”.
The Nakba – the “Catastrophe” and destruction of the Palestinian
homeland in 1947-48 – has done more than forcefully separate most
Palestinians and their ancestral homeland. It has also ushered in a new,
even more tragic chapter in the war on Palestinian workers, who became
wholly reliant on international handouts. The loss of Palestinian land
was accompanied by the loss of Palestinian dignity, as exemplified in
the plight of refugees
<https://www.unrwa.org/userfiles/2010011791015.pdf>, standing in long
lines to receive a small ration of food and other negligible supplies so
that they could merely survive.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were also forced to seek safety
outside Palestine. While each refugee population found itself subject to
the unique social, economic and political circumstances of its
respective, host Arab country, they all carried the same, common
denominators: a deep sense of vulnerability, disempowerment and loss.
To further diminish Palestinians politically, the “three separate
enemies” of the Palestinian national movement, as described by Kanafani,
conspired to make the issue of refugees a mere humanitarian matter,
delinked from any meaningful political strategies. To sustain this
dismaying state of affairs, Palestinian workers had to remain
economically dependent and politically isolated.
In Lebanon, for example, Palestinians are denied
<http://www.arabnews.com/node/1526591/middle-east> the right to work in
72 professions. Over the years, this has left Palestinian refugee
workers vulnerable to exploitation, as they were forced to seek
employment in construction and other, less financially-rewarding fields.
Lacking opportunities and job security, a majority of Palestinian
refugees in Lebanon simply left the country. According to a 2017 census
conducted by the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics, the
number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon has significantly dwindled
from nearly 500,000 to 175,000.
The war in Syria has worsened conditions in the Lebanon camps due to the
of a working-class population, whether Palestinians or Syrians that fled
the horrific war. With more skilled and unskilled workers, the Lebanon
market was saturated, leaving the already struggling Palestinian working
class at a greater disadvantage.
The breaking point came in June when Lebanese Minister of Labor Kamil
Abu Sleiman decreed that Palestinians in Lebanon must obtain work
permits like other foreign workers. While Palestinian refugees protested
en mass in Beirut and throughout the refugee camps, they were not only
demonstrating against what they rightly saw as an unfair decision, but
they were also decrying long, protracted official policies that have
created an atmosphere of economic and political alienation.
However, none of this should be analysed separately from the larger
struggle facing Palestinian workers elsewhere. The Lebanon story is part
and parcel of regional political dynamics, instigated by a shared
that sees the very existence of Palestinian refugees as a problem that
must be countered one way or another. While the right of return for
Palestinian refugees is a moral imperative and an “inalienable” right
that is guaranteed
by international law, Washington, Tel Aviv and now even some Arab
governments are plotting
ways to dismiss that right altogether.
Indeed, many measures have already been taken on that front, such as the
US decision to defund
the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees
(UNRWA). While all Palestinian refugees who rely on UNRWA for various
health, educational and job services are suffering the consequences of
this financial crisis, Lebanon refugees are feeling the brunt the most.
In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees feel “harassed
and targeted for merely living in the country where sectarian
plays a major role in politics.
Similarly, demographic politics have in fact served as the raison d’être
for Israel’s policies towards Palestinians for generations. The ethnic
cleansing of historic Palestine in 1947-48, which persists
in different forms till today, has been carried out for the purpose of
ensuring a Jewish majority in Palestine. Not a single political strategy
concerning Palestinians that Israel undertakes fails to keep the subject
of the Palestinian “demographic threat
in mind. The construction of illegal Jewish settlements, Jewish-only
bypass roads, the Judaization
of Jerusalem, the siege on Gaza, the bantustanization
of the West Bank and even the “citizenship law
are all designed to repel that imagined Palestinian threat.
Israel, as is often the case, is not the only culprit. The Palestinian
Authority (PA)’s manipulation of jobs and salaries as a way to ensure
political allegiance or to punish dissidents is a strategy most
pronounced in the besieged Gaza Strip. As the PA’s main faction, Fatah,
continues its clash with its Hamas rivals in Gaza, Palestinian leader
Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly slashed salaries
and altogether denied employment to thousands of struggling Gazans,
prompting mass protests
similar to the ones underway in Lebanon.
In fact, Gaza is the perfect illustration of Kanafani’s three enemies of
Palestine argument, as the hardship in the Strip has been engineered
through three, major players: “the local reactionary leadership (the
PA); the regimes in the Arab states surrounding Palestine (Egypt) and
the imperialist-Zionist enemy (Israel)”.
It is as if history continues to repeat itself in all of its sordid
details. Colonizing Israel, conspiring Arabs and self-serving
Palestinian leaders are still playing the same old game, while
Palestinian workers, the overriding class within Palestinian refugee
communities, remain the primary target.
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