Palestine flag, Gaza Palestine flag, Gaza. Photo: Public Domain

Michael Lavalette introduces our new series on Palestine and explains what we can learn from history

Once again the eyes of the world are being drawn to the oppression of the Palestinian people by the Settler Colonial state of Israel. Since start of 2023 hardly a day has gone by without the killing of a Palestinian by either Settler groups or by the Israeli Occupation Forces.

Such actions throw up significant questions:

  • Is the recent violence new, or caused by the far-right government in place at present, or is it a continuation of Israel’s policies of ethnic cleansing? 
  • What is the role of the imperial powers in carving up the Middle East and in the creation of Israel?
  • What role does Israel play in the imperial rivalries that shape the Middle East? What does it mean to call Israel a ‘watch dog state’?
  • What do we mean when we describe Israel as a Settler-colonial state?
  • What is the history of Palestinian resistance?
  • How can Palestine ever be free?
  • What is the role of international solidarity in the struggle for Palestinian liberation?

Battle of Karameh

Over the next 8 weeks we will publish articles that address these and related questions. Our first piece, by Alex Snowdon, will go up on Monday and will look at the current situation. We start this week because it marks the 55th anniversary of the ‘Battle of Karameh’ on 21 March 1968.

Karameh is a village in the Jordanian side of the Jordan valley. The previous June Israel had inflicted a terrible defeat on Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian forces in the ‘Six Day War’. Israel took control of the West Bank (from Jordan), Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula (from Egypt) and the Golan Heights (from Syria). A supremely confident Israel was determined that it would now inflict a significant defeat on the small number of Palestinian fighters hold up in the village of Karameh.

In Palestinian circles the Six Day War had smashed illusions that a pan Arab force would liberate Palestine. The defeat of Egypt, Jordan and Syria (and the deaths of an estimated 20,000 Arab fighters) meant some started to look for a new and different strategy. As the Israeli forces gather on the Jordanian borders, Jordanian armed officials told the Palestinians to flee before their certain destruction. The leader of Fatah, Yasser Arafat, made it clear that Fatah would not retreat any more. 

As a result Jordanian heavy artillery prepared to offer support. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine forces moved to the hills to confront parachutists, and Fatah forces dug in, in the village. After 13 hours of bloody fighting Israeli forces retreated. For the first time Palestinians had inflicted defeat on Israel and in the days that followed thousands of young men and women in refugee camps across the Middle East joined the Palestinian guerrilla forces. Karameh is rightly celebrated as a great Palestinian victory and marks the point in which Palestinians made it clear that victory will be led by Palestinians themselves.

The catastrophe

The series ends the week of the global Nabka 75 events in early May, when 75 years ago Zionist forces unleashed  a series of vicious attacks on Palestinian villages, towns and cities. The Palestinians refer to these events as the Nakba, which translates into English as ‘the catastrophe’.

What is clear today is that the events of 75 years ago were an example of planned ethnic cleansing. The Zionist forces were implementing ‘Plan Dalet’ that was agreed by political leaders, like Ben Gurion, and military leaders on 10 March 1948 in Tel Aviv. The aim was to expand the borders of Israel beyond the UN partition line, to expel Palestinians from their homes and their land and to set up an exclusivist Jewish state.

All these years later Palestinian refugees are still barred from their homes and their land. Their right of return is a prerequisite for any viable peace in the region.

Over the next 8 weeks the series will offer answers to key questions about Palestinian history, suggest solutions to the present crisis answers and hopefully provoke debate over the key question: how can Palestine be free?

Before you go

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