Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Gazans streamed across the bulldozed Gaza-Egypt border during just a few days, desperate to buy basic goods that are no longer available in Gaza, and in some cases to see family they had not seen for decades.
By Judy Beishon, Socialist Party
Everything from cement to food supplies and animals was being snapped up in Egypt and transported back to Gaza in a festival like atmosphere. The Israeli-controlled Philadelphia corridor became “a giant shoppers’ car park”.
Israeli and Egyptian border security forces were helpless, taken by surprise by people moving en masse. The Israeli blockade was temporarily broken!
This was a humiliation for the Israeli regime, that had tightened the noose so vigorously on the Gaza strip, that almost nothing and no-one had been crossing the borders. Virtually all trade and movement of people had been prevented for many months, and more recently, basic humanitarian aid and fuel for Gaza’s power station were drastically cut.
Conditions that were already unbearable had become worse, including growing starvation, and life support machines in hospitals no longer being powered.
The horror of a densely packed population of 1.5 million being imprisoned in these conditions, and at the same time facing bombardments from Israeli helicopters and tanks that have killed over 45 Palestinians in the first month of 2008 alone, evokes massive indignation from workers in the surrounding Arab countries and worldwide.
It just took the bold action of exploding some sections of the six-metre metal border fencing – said to have been done by Hamas – to release a tremendous outpouring of relief in the form of a human tide flooding towards Egyptian towns.
Egypt’s president Mubarak was forced to tolerate the influx at first because of the wave of sympathy in Egypt, including large demonstrations, but soon moved to use water cannon, to shore up the damaged border fence, and when it was again breached, to viciously cut supplies to the shops near the border. The Israeli regime was urging him on.
But reflecting the mood for association between ordinary people, a Palestinian taxi driver was quoted as saying “I don’t know who did it, but this is an agreement between two peoples, not between governments”. Now, various governments, including those of Israel, Egypt, the European powers, Fatah and Hamas, are squabbling over who will police the border.
The breaching of the border was only a temporary respite, and most Gazans had too little money to benefit much from it, but it provided a brief insight into the potential impact of a large number of people acting together.
Unfortunately, Palestinian workers do not have a leadership at this stage with the will and ideology to mobilise that power against the capitalist ruling classes in the region and in solidarity with other workers in the region.
Both the Hamas leaders in Gaza and the Fatah leaders in the West Bank have no desire to move beyond the limits of capitalism and some are, or aspire to be, capitalists themselves.
Faced with the broken border, some Israeli politicians talked of handing repression of the Gaza strip over to Mubarak’s regime.
But apart from inevitable unwillingness by Mubarak to accept this, it would further expose internationally the Israeli ruling class’s lack of intention to concede a Palestinian state, and in any case it would not bring greater security to Israel. The primitive rockets fired from Gaza onto the Israeli town of Sderot would continue, as would other bloodshed.
So Ehud Olmert’s Israeli government was reduced to trying to get the border resealed and felt compelled to promise that a limited amount of aid and fuel will be restored to Gaza. His government is submerged in huge problems, not least the release of the Winograd report into the 2006 Lebanon war this week.
It will only be when the Palestinian masses, the Egyptian working class and similarly the Israeli working class take the future into their own hands and build the forces of socialism, that decent living conditions and a permanent end to the bloodshed will be achieved. And only on the basis of a socialist confederation of the Middle East, will the present capitalist-upheld borders be in the hands of ordinary people.