The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 20th June 2008
Protest against the Bush visit to London
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NEW MIDDLE EAST CEASEFIRE
by our Arab Affairs Correspondent
ISRAEL HAS AGREED to a ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip
and opened talks with Syria in a flurry of secret negotiations across
the Middle East. But at least one Palestinian resistance movement says
Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, has made too many
concessions to the Zionists.
Israel and Hamas have agreed to a truce that started on Thursday,
ending months of bitter fighting and Palestinian negotiators are
confident that all the militias in Gaza would abide by the agreement.
Hamas took over Gaza in June 2007, driving out forces loyal to Fatah,
the political faction led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas. Since then, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the
imperialists have sought to isolate Hamas. Israel declared the Gaza
Strip a “hostile entity” and imposed a blockade making it difficult to
get supplies in and out of the occupied territory.
The first stage of the truce will lead to at least a partial end of the
Israeli blockade. The second stage of the plan would focus on the
return of a captured Israeli soldier by Hamas forces and on a deal to
re-open the main Rafah crossing into Egypt. Hamas official Ahmed Yousef
said he hoped that the ceasefire would lead to a further opening of the
crossing points from Israel into Gaza and an increase in the number of
He said that the aim now was to push ahead talks on a prisoner
exchange, as well as a new round of talks in Cairo between the rival
Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas. Egypt, which has worked for
months to bring Israel and Hamas to an agreement, said both sides had
accepted the first stage of the deal.
But the progressive Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
(PFLP) has not agreed to the terms saying the Hamas deal was way below
minimum expectations. Politburo member Rabah Mhaanna said the
truce was flawed because the Israelis were still occupying Palestinian
land and still oppressing the Palestinian people. The PFLP would do
nothing to cause the collapse of the ceasefire, he said, while
stressing that its terms fell far short of the conditions that Hamas
had told them it had set during the negotiations with the Israelis.
For his part Israeli premier Ehud Olmert is looking for a dramatic
breakthrough that will get him through the next election while still
giving little or nothing to the Arabs in exchange. Olmert is on a
corruption rap accused of taking over $150,000 in bribes over 15 years
from a Jewish-American businessman when he was Mayor of Israeli West
Jerusalem. Olmert claims the money was used for political campaign
expenses but the Israeli National Fraud Squad investigation will almost
certainly force him to resign and call fresh elections.
If Olmert can win the release of the Israeli soldier held in the Gaza
Strip and the two others captured by the Lebanese Hezbollah national
resistance in the 2006 war his chances, and those of his Kadima bloc,
will soar in the polls. A lot will depend on negotiations with Syria
over the return of the Golan Heights, which Israel has
occupied since 1967 and the resolution of the dispute with
Lebanon over the adjacent district of Shebaa Farms.
Last week Syria and Israel held indirect talks in Turkey which left
both sides “extremely satisfied” according to Turkish Foreign Minister
Ali Babacan. Now there’s talk of a peace summit between Olmert and
Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem says Damascus has received
Israeli commitments for a full withdrawal from the Golan but this has
naturally not been confirmed in Tel Aviv. Likewise Israel would need to
return the Shebaa Farms to Lebanon, a tiny 25 square km district
of 14 farms of alleged strategic importance, to meet Hezbollah’s
demands for an end to the confrontation with Israel.
In any case the Israelis will want the Syrians to cut their links with
Iran and Hezbollah as part of the deal.
But real peace will not come to the Middle East until the legitimate
rights of the Palestinian Arabs are restored.
President Bashar al-Assad has rejected Israeli demands that Syria
abandon its alliance with Iran and Arab resistance movements like Hamas
and Hezbollah as a requirement for peace. “It is not Israel’s right to
set conditions for the Syrians or any Palestinian or Arab state,” he
declared. “A wrong and aggressive move was made to occupy Palestinian
and Arab land and ... Israel can reverse this wrong move by
Irish speak for all
THE DECISIVE “No” vote in the
Irish referendum on the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty is a victory for
the working class of all Europe – and beyond – and a setback to those
bosses, financiers and imperialists who want to forge Europe into a
giant, single-minded world imperialist super-power. The Irish are the
only EU nation to reject the treaty because they are the only ones to
have had a referendum. All the evidence is that if other EU countries
had put the treaty to a popular vote they would have got a similar
answer – as the French and Dutch people rejected the EU constitution a
couple of years ago. The treaty was the same in content as the
constitution with a few tweaks and changes.
The treaty was bad news for the workers of Europe and good news for the
bosses; it would lead to an authoritarian European super-state with
minimal democracy and civil liberties.
Many labour movement organisations are fooled by better trade union
rights, human rights and so on in other EU countries into thinking the
EU can be a force for the benefit of the working class. But this is not
the agenda of Europe’s ruling class, who are trying to create the
superstate to protect only their own interests – as with any bourgeois
state machine; the fewer rights they can give to workers the better for
them. Their agenda was to reduce the existing rights that many workers
in Europe have won over the years in hard struggle down to one lowest
common denominator. And they were looking at the British model to
impose that on the rest of Europe.
Others point out that most EU governments took a more progressive line
than our own on George Bush’s illegal adventure in Iraq. But that was
not because they were anti-imperialist – these were the same
governments that eagerly jumped the gun to subvert and butcher
socialist Yugoslavia in the early 90s. It was good they did not back
Bush’s Iraq war but that was because they could see – unlike Blair –
that ultimately there would be nothing in it for them. They could see
it was ill-planned and ill-judged and in any case they were benefiting
after Saddam stopped trading Iraq’s oil in dollars and traded it in
The European ruling class used progressive arguments in their media
attacks on Bush and Blair in order to enlist popular support. And for a
while their interests coincided with the peace movement and the
worldwide working class. But ultimately their main argument with the
United States government is that it is a rival imperialist power
seeking to control the oil-rich Middle East – a region that was once
under European imperialist control.
Other progressives are deterred by the right-wing of the anti-EU
movement who are motivated by petty jingoism, xenophobia and racism –
which we completely deplore. We are working class internationalists and
we stand in solidarity with all of Europe’s workers – against the
ruling class EU quasi-state machine.
Now the leaders of the EU are divided on the way forward. They have
three options: to give up on the treaty altogether; to wait a few
years, rewrite the treaty and try to pressure the Irish people into
changing their minds in a new referendum; or to go ahead with the
treaty anyway but leave Ireland behind as a second-class EU nation.
Of course Ireland could opt out of the EU altogether; it greatly
worries the EU leaders that their own populations might realise that
European countries outside the EU have prospered quite well in recent
years and have far lower living costs with much less bureaucracy. They
do not want to see Ireland leave, its people prosper and the workers of
Europe wake up to the burden they are carrying in raised living costs
in the EU.
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