Saturday, April 30, 2011


Haripada Das

THE economic policies, including the agricultural policy, which the Congress led UPA-2 government at the centre is pursuing, is dictated by US imperialism to serve the interest of the corporate world, injuring the interest of the country’s peasantry and other sections of the toiling masses. Our plight would know no bound if this dangerous subservient pro-imperialist polices of the central government are not contained through a united mass movement throughout the country. So warned S R Pillai, President of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), at a huge kisan rally at Agartala on April 24.

The rally marked the culmination the year long programme of the All India Kisan Sabha’s Tripura state council for observance of 75th anniversary of its foundation in 1936. The rally was presided over by Niranjan Debbarma, general secretary of the Tripura Rajya Upajati Ganamukti Parishad (GMP). State kisan council secretary Narayan Kar also addressed the rally where the CPI(M)’s Central Committee member and its state secretary Bijan Dhar, Central Committee member and women’s leader Rama Das and Ganamukti Parishad president Narayan Rupini were present on the dais.


Elaborating the background of the foundation of Kisan Sabha, which is the biggest as well as the oldest peasant organisation in the country, Pillai said since its establishment on April 11, 1936 at Lucknow, the organisation has had a glorious tradition of historic and heroic kisan movements. These include the Tebhaga movement in undivided Bengal, Punnapra Vayalar struggle in Kerala, Worli tribal revolt in Maharashtra, the glorious Telangana armed struggle in Andhra Pradesh and the anti-monarchy struggle in Tripura. At the same time, the organisation carries the tradition of battle for the country’s freedom. Innumerable comrades fell victims during these kisan movements, many sacrificed their lives, many suffered long imprisonments and barbaric repression in British jails, and many others had to go underground for years together. It is after traversing such hard days that the All India Kisan Sabha now stands as the biggest kisan organisation of the country with 2.2 crore members this year, Pillai informed.

Pillai also lashed out at the post-independence Congress rulers who betrayed the “land to the tiller” demand of the peasantry. He said even in independent India the Kisan Sabha had had to carry forward the movement for proper implementation of land reforms, remunerative prices, loan waivers, subsidies on agro-inputs etc, against the onslaughts of the landlords and big landowners, and to get rid of the yoke of private moneylenders.

Frustrating the aspirations of the peasantry, Pillai said, the Congress government at the centre adopted LPG policies in 1991, which made agriculture a non-profit sector. With the prices of agro-inputs spiralling upwards, and the scope of bank credits increasingly shrinking, kisans were compelled to knock at the door of private moneylenders. The devastating consequence of this policy, Pillai informed, is that according to the central government’s own sources, about 50 per cent farmers of the country are indebted at present. The proportion of landless farmers in the population has increased from 22 per cent in the 1990s to 36 per cent at present. About 2 lakh peasants perished themselves, finding no way to get rid of their indebtedness. In 1992 the share of the agriculture sector in GDP was 32 per cent; now it has come down to 15.7 per cent while the sector involves almost an equal labour force because of non-expansion of the industrial sector.

Referring to the Wikileaks and Radia tapes, Pillai said, these are glaring instances of how US imperialism is interfering in the internal affairs of our country, manipulating even the posting of persons of their choice in the central cabinet. This is really a matter of serious concern as it is detrimental to our independence, sovereignty and democracy, Pillai asserted.

AIKS state secretary Narayan Kar explained the 10-point charter of demands and said 60 per cent people of the state’s workforce is engaged in agriculture. Many of them belong to the below poverty line (BPL) category. They extremely deserve incentives from the government to make their farming a “no-profit no-loss” venture. It is at this stage, however, that the central government drastically reduced fertiliser, food and other subsidies meant for the people. This is a direct attack on the peasantry.

President of the rally, Niranjan Debbarma, severely criticised the prime minister who had assured of bringing down prices of essential commodities within 100 days of assuming power and enact a food security act for the poor. But after two years, the price index has touched an all-time high and the huge stockpile of food grains are being to rotten, defying the apex court’s order to distribute them among the hungry people. He urged the kisans to build up united struggle to reverse the anti-people policies of the UPA-2 government.


A set of programmes have been implemented throughout the year in various stages in order to observe the 75th anniversary of the foundation of AIKS.

1) In July-August 2010, a workshop with the leading workers of the kisan movement in each DKC area was held. The topics discussed in these workshop were history of the kisan movement, the tasks of the kisan movement in Tripura in the present situation, and organisation.

2) In September 2010, panchayat level kisan rallies were organised to highlight the state level charter of demands as well as local issues.

3) In November 2010, block level rallies were conducted on the same charter of demands.

4) In December 2010 and January 2011, block level vegetables exhibitions, cultural functions, rural sports and blood donation camps were organised by the local units of the Kisan Sabha.

5) It was as the culmination of this year-long programme that a central kisan rally was organised at Agartala on April 24, attended among others by AIKS president S R Pillai.


1) No withdrawal of subsidies on food, fuel and fertilisers; state control on the trade of these goods must continue. Buffer stocks of these items in the state must be raised.

2) A universal public distribution system (PDS) must be introduced. All the poor families must be served 35 kg of rice or wheat per family at Rs 2 per kg; BPL cards must be issued to all of them, and 14 essential goods must be sold through the PDS at subsidised rates.

3) All nationalised banks must open their branches in rural areas of the state. They must attach priority to the agriculture sector for distribution of loans at 4 per cent per annum.

4) The central government must formulate a package programme and implement it for proper rehabilitation of the tribal families and allotment of land to them under the Forest Rights Act. An amendment to this act must be made for protection of the rights of the non-tribals who are traditional dwellers of forest areas.

5) At least 150 days of work at Rs 200 as wage per day must be provided under the NREGA.

6) The Land Acquisition Act 1894 must be amended and the landless and homeless families must be allotted the khas land which they are at present in possession of.

7) The proposed Seed Bill, which rejects the birth right of the Indian kisans over their indigenous seeds, must be withdrawn.

8) Free trade agreements with other countries, which seriously affect the rubber, tea, fruit and milk producers, must be scrapped.

9) Railway line up to Agartala must be upgraded to broad gauge and extended up to Subroom.

10) The central government must compensate the state due to the deprivation caused to it by the 13th Finance Commission’s award. The central government must not impose conditionality of banning recruitments in the state.

The rally was told that the total membership of Kisan Sabha in the state stood at 3,18,378 for the year 2010-11.

Courtesy: www.pd.cpim.org/


Kiran Moghe

A state level team of the Maharashtra CPI(M) led by its state secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale, state secretariat member and MLA from Dahanu, Rajaram Ozare, state secretariat member Kiran Moghe and state committee member Dr Vivek Monteiro visited the Jaitapur project area in the Ratnagiri district of Konkan region on April 24, 2011. They were accompanied by Mangesh Chavan, a dedicated local activist of the Janahit Seva Samiti that is leading the struggle against the Jaitapur Nuclear Project.

This is the second CPI (M) delegation to visit the area; it will be recalled that a CPI (M) parliamentary delegation consisting of Khagen Das, MP from Tripura and former MP Subhashini Ali had earlier been to Jaitapur on March 12, 2011 in order to meet the people who are opposed to the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (see People’s Democracy, March 14-20, 2011). The CPI (M) has already called for an immediate halt to the project, an end to state repression and return of land acquired from farmers by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.

The immediate cause of the second visit was to console the family of the young man, Tabrez Sayekar, who was killed in police firing at Sakhri-Nate village on April 18, 2011, to meet the other youth who were injured in the same police firing, and also to express solidarity with the Janahit Seva Samiti, the local organisation consisting of farmers, fisherpersons, youth and women, all of whom are unitedly and totally opposed to the project.

Accordingly, the CPI (M) team reached Ratnagiri on the morning of April 24 and immediately proceeded to the Ratnagiri Civil Hospital where it met two of the 17 young men who were seriously injured in the police firing and were still recovering in the hospital. One of them Mushtaq Meeerkar is hardly 20 years old. He miraculously survived after a bullet grazed the right side of his head just above the ear, causing a finger deep wound that required several stitches. We also met with Hasina Wadkar, the worried mother of Firoz, another 19 year old whose two teeth were shattered as a bullet entered just above his left lip, and has caused grievous wounds in his mouth cavity. Both Mushtaq and Firoz are daily wage workers on fishing boats earning 200-250 rupees per day. Their families described the feeling of terror that has enveloped the entire village and its surroundings after unprovoked firing by the police, and how it has also affected their livelihood as fishing activity has come to a standstill. The team met the doctors in charge of the treatment and also enquired about the post-mortem report of Tabrez Sayekar. We were informed that it has been sent to the police station at Nate village.

Thereafter, the team went to Nate village. As we entered the village, we came across the houses with shattered window panes and shards of glass lying around. We met Sharmeen Solkar; she is only 21 years old. She described how she clutched on to her 40 day old baby girl and along with her mother hid for several hours in the bathroom when the police entered the house shouting abuses and wielding their lathis. She took us around the house, pointing to the large stones that were lying around, the broken glass panes, the motorcycle that had been damaged. A similar story was heard from houses nearby. It seems the police were simply on a rampage, terrorising the people because they continued with their opposition to the nuclear power plant.

A crowd gathered at the house, and described to the team the chain of events that eventually led to the police firing and the death of Tabrez. It appears that there was some trouble between the police and a set of protestors at the neighbouring village of Madhban. Some young men from Nate also were part of the protest. Rumours started to float that the men had been arrested and a crowd comprising mostly of women started gathering at the police station. Meanwhile some vehicles with SRP personnel entered the village and started entering the houses of Sharmeen Solkar and others and started wielding their lathis on the women. More and more people started gathering and the mob swelled. The leaders of the anti-Jaitapur struggle appealed to the mob to go back.

However, without any warning, firing was ordered. It was not preceded by any lathicharge or tear gas. The people say that the police went into their vans and fired from the windows, which is why many of the injuries including the fatal ones suffered by Tabrez are all above the waist. (According to the post mortem report, Tabrez suffered internal haemorrhage in the upper part of his body). The mob then ran helter skelter. When Tabrez’s wife and others asked for Tabrez to be handed over to them so that they could take him to hospital, the police refused. They put him in a jeep and took him to Ratnagiri. Eye-witnesses say that he was left lying on the floor of the vehicle, and no care was taken to ensure that he reached the hospital in a dignified state. It took the police more than three hours to admit him to the Ratnagiri Civil Hospital, where he was declared dead. There is great anger and anguish about the disrespectful manner in which the body of Tabrez was handled by the police.

In Nate, we visited the home of Tabrez and expressed our deepest condolences to his grieving wife, mother, father and other family members. There we learnt that he was a hard working man, 30 years of age, who had just managed to put together some capital to buy his own boat. His friends told us that he was a quiet personality, never interfering in others’ affairs, and was the last person to pick a fight with anyone. He was the sole child of his parents and the loss has hit them hard, as also his wife.

The team also met a large number of young men who were injured in the police firing. Zuag Kate is hardly 10 years old, studying in the 3rd standard. He was hurt in the head by a large stone thrown by the police. The people say the police came armed with stones stored in their vehicles. Altaf Solkar is studying in the 9th standard and a bullet has gone through his leg. His mother is a poor domestic worker. They all gathered to meet us, recounting the police excesses. They are enraged about the fact that the police initially put out a false story that the mob had burnt down the police station, when this was patently untrue. We met the leader of Nate village Amjadbhai Borkar who recounted the horrifying events of April 18 and the notorious role of the police and the administration.

But the most heartening aspect was that despite facing these terrible atrocities and police terror, the people are totally united in their opposition to the project and are willing to lay down their lives to prevent it. From Nate the team went to Madhban to meet Rajan Wadekar, one of the leaders of the Janahit Seva Samiti, whose son was mercilessly beaten up by the police. The police did not care that the boy was in his school uniform and left him half-unconscious in the fields behind the shop owned by his family. There we also met Pravin Gavhankar, Manda Wadekar, Dr Milind Desai and other leaders, who discussed the future strategy of the struggle with the CPI (M) team.

At the end of the day, Dr Ashok Dhawale, Rajaram Ozare and Dr Vivek Monteiro jointly addressed a well-attended press conference wherein they described the details they had gathered from their visit. They said that the police firing was a serious violation of human rights that deserved to be condemned in the severest terms. They called for a judicial enquiry into the entire episode, with the strongest of punishment to be meted out to those who were guilty for loss of life and limb. They also demanded that the SDO of the area, Ajit Pawar, who was responsible for the firing, and about whom a large number of complaints have been made by the local protestors, should be immediately suspended and enquiry proceedings started against him. They asked that he be immediately transferred out of Ratnagiri district. They demanded that all prohibitory and ban orders issued against the participants and leaders of the struggle should be withdrawn immediately.

The CPI (M) team pointed out that the ministry of environment and forests had given conditional permission to the Jaitapur project; among the 35 conditions, one was its compliance with the CRZ regulations and the other was permission from the AERB. The AERB has not yet received any proposal for the EPR to be used in the Jaitapur nuclear power plant. But the NPCIL has already started work and this is patently illegal. The CPI (M) demanded that the work be stopped immediately and that the landholders be allowed to continue with their farming and other activities and allowed to enter their own lands. The CPI (M) has already raised the issue in parliament through its MP Khagen Das; it has demanded that the project be scrapped and the land acquired illegally be returned to the original owners.

It is necessary to re-examine the entire project especially in the light of the events in the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The state secretary also informed the press that the CP(M) and the CPI would be jointly observing April 26 “Chernobyl Day” as a day of protest against the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project by holding demonstrations and dharnas all over the state. The CPI (M) will also assist the Janahit Seva Samiti in approaching the National Human Rights Commission and the Minorities Commission about the human rights violations of those who are in the struggle against the project. Another visit by CPI (M) members of parliament and other senior leaders is planned in the coming days.

Courtesy: www.pd.cpim.org/


IT could not have been a greater contrast. From Kasba constituency, in Kolkata, the Left Front has fielded a 25 year old M A economics student, Satrup Ghosh, to take on Mamata's trusted lieutenant and old warhorse Jawed Khan. This SFI state secretariat member and student of Ravindra Bharati University is the youngest candidate in 2011 elections for Bengal assembly. Khan is sitting MLA, though large parts of this constituency have changed due to delimitation exercise.

Both Satrup and his opponent have deep roots in this assembly area, one as a gentle, intelligent and academically good, next-door lad and the other as a land magnate controlling and dealing in vast stretches of land. One comes out as a suave, soft-spoken, handsome, genuine boy full of energy and dreams, while the other as a bully, bothered mainly about using political power to acquire more power, to serve his own interests better.

It is not for nothing that computer graphics designer Rizwanur Rahman, driven to commit suicide for marrying a girl from powerful business family of Todies, is said to have mentioned local MLA Jawed Khan in his suicide note, though CBI pursuing this case has decided to look the other way in spite of court questioning omissions of this kind. This incident has dented his hold on those sections of minority community that might have looked up to him as a protector-bully.

No doubt Satrup, an active member of SFI since 2005, is no novice to politics. Still his candidature brings youth's and particularly student's perspective to politics, which is also refreshingly new and creative. By putting up 153 new candidates in this election (up from 137 in 2006 elections), the Left Front has definitely given a push in the direction of harnessing energy of youth.

Talking to People’s Democracy in a backroom of a very modest but equally busy, two room local office of CPI(M), Sachin Sen Smriti Bhawan that is also his election office, Satrup is confident of overwhelming support of youth for not only his candidature but the entire plank of the Left in this election. He puts a complex idea very simply. There is a fundamental difference in the way youth is looked at by politics of the ruling classes and that of the Left in India. While ruling class politics looks at youth as a burden and wants to reduce investment in youth through privatisation of education, jobs etc and reducing democratic space for them, the Left's policy is just opposite of that, wanting maximisation of investment in youth.

He brings two relevant examples in this connection. The central government spends hardly 4 per cent of its budget on education, but Left Front government in Bengal has spent 18 per cent of its budget on the same. The Left and particularly CPI(M) is the only force in the country that has seen to it that the voice of organised students’ movement is heard in parliament, especially Lok Sabha. SFI all India president P K Biju is elected to Lok Sabha from Kerala.

As a proof of youth's huge and growing support to the Left, Satrup points out that in 336 college student union elections held last year, SFI has won in 226 unions while TMC-Congress’ student organisations could win in only 110 unions. Similarly, in school teachers body elections of last year, Left candidates have won in all the districts. This shows growing support for the Left amongst important opinion making sections of society.

Kasba is a new constituency created by chopping and stitching together parts from earlier Ballygunj — represented at one time by Sachin Sen —and Dhakuria — now gone out of existence — Jadavpur and Sonarpur constituencies. As one of the most diverse constituencies, this totally urban constituency has areas from very posh and rich to huge poor working class ones, mainly as bustee clusters. The Left strength lies primarily in these clusters.

But Jawed Khan's area of strength is also in large bustee clusters in areas like Topasia. Very largely Muslim population here has been traditionally in work of leather tanning. Though large parts of tanning business has been shifted out of this area, still a very large number of small leather goods units are functioning here. But this fortress of Jawed Khan also seems to have been breached, as Muslim women in huge and growing numbers are flocking to Left Front's meetings.

Fears of replay of late sixties and early seventies are pushing minorities away from violent politics of TMC-Congress and their face in Kasba. Same is true of middle classes in general and even large parts of 'parivartanvallas'. Satrup underlined the fact of killing of 16 students in the campuses at the hands of Trinmuli goons and their allies as a reason for revival of fears of voilent Sixties and Seventies.

Another interesting feature of Kasba constituency is its once thriving 'China Town'. Still it has a noticeable Indian-Chinese presence, which does not want any breach in peace at all.

No doubt in Kolkata Municipal corporation elections less than a year back, inspite of winning three of the six corporation wards constituting this assembly segment, CPI(M) was little less than 12 thousand votes behind the total votes polled by TMC and Congress together. But swelling support to Left's election campaign suggests this gap could be made up and new Bengal assembly may have a MA economics student as it's youngest member.

(April 21, 2011)

Courtesy: www.pd.cpim.org/


Rajendra Sharma from Jadavpur

POLITICS is not always rational. Even more so politics of one man/woman and one point outfits like that of Mamata Banerjee. Her choice of Manish Gupta, retired chief secretary of Bengal, to take on chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, looking for his fourth successive win in Jadavpur, has simply baffled knowledgeable and lay people alike. A round of this constituency at what must have been periphery of Kolkata metropolis just four days before the polling, shows no signs of Gupta throwing even a healthy challenge to Buddhadeb, who won from this constituency of roughly 2,52,000 voters in 2006 by a big margin of 58,000 votes.

But irrational too has its own rationale. In this case this is based on simple arithmetic devoid of politics and a cynical twist. Simple arithmetic is based on the fact that in 2009 parliamentary elections, in reconstituted Jadavpur assembly segment, the lead of CPI(M) candidate was reduced to around 19,000 only. Further on in Kolkata Municipal Corporation elections held only last year, if vote of all the 10 wards that make this sprawling constituency are put together, the Left Front has trailed behind by around 700 votes. This might have deluded TMC chief. But there comes that twist that cynics point out. Smelling possibility of a huge victory in Jadavpur, TMC leader could not allow any of her known and powerful lieutenants to claim credit for a giant killer victory and further add to his/her stature. Hence the mantle fell on a politically rootless retired IAS officer, though this seems to have led to a kind of non-contest in Jadavpur.

Anyhow voters in Jadavpur are largely unconcerned about these number crunching exercises. For this constituency of around 80 per cent East-Pakistan refugee population, Red flag is the only one that they have always identified with and stood with. And this association is born out of their experience of more than half a century. It is the Red flag that has stood with them through instrument of UCRC (United Central Refugee Council), ensured rights to them, including rights to their bustees and lands and it is the Red flag that has always fought for them and has also made huge sacrifices. It is the Left Front rule that has ensured a secure life for them. They may complain, they may crib, some of them may just refuse to listen, as some feel had happened during last corporation elections, but once chips are down they cannot but stand with Left Front in general and CPI(M) in particular. Khokan Gosh Dastidar, CPI(M) district secretariat member and secretary of Jadavpur zonal committee-2, talking to People’s Democracy in one room office of the Party, sees this consolidation in favour of Left already happening.

His optimism is not without reasons. On April 9, when Buddhadeb Bhattacharya went in padayatra to meet his electors, it turned out to be an unprecedented mass procession. Deepa Ray, another veteran member of CPI(M) district committee confirms that in her Party life since 1957 she has not seen such a huge procession in Jadavpur ever before. Khokan thinks that even if you reduce few thousand from neighbouring Kasba constituency, more than a lakh voters of CM's constituency were part of his procession. An overwhelmed Buddhadeb said 'this is going to be bigger than my 2006 victory.' On the other hand Mamata Banarjee's meeting in the same constituency two days before our visit only had an audience of around three thousand with three fourths brought from outside the constituency in a large number of vehicles.

The chief minister’s challenger has been able to think of only one issue to raise. 'CM does not devote much time for the constituency.' Even this does not cut much ice firstly because people here know this is not true. On April 24, the evening before campaigning ends, he plans to address three meetings in his constituency. But people of Jadavpur are not exercised about frequency of CM's visits because water, sewage, power, education institutes etc .. all their demands from the government are largely getting fulfilled. And their biggest concern of peace and security is being adequately taken care of. Reliving horrors of 1970s is the last thing they would like to see.

(April 23, 2011)

Courtesy: www.pd.cpim.org/


Yohannan Chemerapally

WITH the political upheaval in the Arab world showing no sign of abating, the right wing government in Israel is trying to fish in troubled waters. The Israeli government like the other regimes in the region was initially upset with the successful uprising of the people in Tunisia and Egypt. The Israeli government was particularly angry with the Obama administration for allowing the political demise of Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian leader was somebody the Israeli leadership had long trusted. But the subsequent events in Libya and Bahrain have brought back some cheer in Tel Aviv as the international focus has now shifted to Libya and Syria, two countries that have had a track record of standing up against the West and Israel. The recent upsurge in the Arab world has further widened the Sunni-Shia schism, which is viewed as a helpful development in the corridors of power in Tel Aviv.


As the attention of the international community was diverted, the Israeli government started laying the groundwork for yet another military assault against the hapless population of Gaza. Tensions started rising after Israeli air strikes killed two Hamas members inside Gaza in mid-March. The killings forced Hamas to retaliate for the first time in two years with a 15 minute barrage of rocket fire. This is the first time in two years that the group has admitted responsibility for firing rockets into Israel. Since the murderous ‘Operation Cast Lead’ launched by Israel two years ago, Hamas has reigned in its militants from firing rockets into Israel in order to ensure that the fragile cease fire is not broken by the other side. On the few occasions rockets have been fired into Israel, the responsibility has been claimed by the Islamic Jihad and other militant groups who operate independently from Hamas.

On March 23, a bomb exploded in a crowded bus station in Jerusalem, killing one person and injuring 24. This was the first serious terror incident inside Israel in the last three years. Hamas was quick to deny responsibility but all the same the Israeli government was quick to pin the blame on Hamas and wasted no time in escalating its policy of targeted assassinations and kidnappings inside Gaza and in foreign countries. After the Jerusalem bombing, Hamas had issued a statement stressing on the importance of restoring the cease fire. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu as expected assumed a belligerent posture. He postponed a scheduled trip to Russia and issued a statement promising prompt retribution from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

Even before the bomb in Jerusalem had gone off, the Israeli deputy prime minister, Silvan Shalom, openly talked about the need for another ‘Operation Cast Lead’. He said that he was saying this despite being aware that such an act “would bring the region to a far more combustible situation”. Shalom had also said that Israel will not tolerate a pro-Iranian government on its border. He was referring to Lebanon which today is run by a government backed by the Hezbollah. Israel had launched a full scale war on Lebanon in 2006 in an abortive attempt to militarily defeat the Hezbollah militia. In the event, the much vaunted Israeli army, the most powerful in the region, dismally failed and had to return with a bloody nose. Hezbollah leaders have warned that if Israel once again tries to invade Lebanon, Hezbollah rockets will target Tel Aviv, the country’s capital.

Both Hezbollah and Hamas have close ties with the Iranian government, as they have been ostracised by the Arab governments in the region, barring Syria. The pro democracy wave sweeping the region however could make things more conducive for the two groups. The new Egyptian government has already softened its stance on Hamas and could open the Rafah border crossing in the near future. This would considerably ease the economic blockade on Gaza. This emerging scenario is viewed with dread by the Israeli political and military establishment.

Israel has since the Jerusalem incident been regularly targeting the Gaza Strip, causing many deaths. One Israeli airborne attack in the third week of March killed three Palestinian youths playing football. Four militants belonging to the Islamic Jihad travelling in a car were blown up by an Israeli bomb in the same week. On April 1, three Hamas activists travelling in a car in Gaza were killed in Israeli air strikes. Thousands of people attended their funeral. An engineer who was in charge of the only functioning power generating unit in Gaza was abducted by the Mossad (Israel’s notorious secret service) earlier in the year as he was visiting his wife’s family in the Ukraine. He resurfaced in an Israeli prison with the authorities claiming that he was a senior Hamas military commander. In the first week of April, Israeli planes hit a car in Port Sudan killing four passengers. Sudanese authorities have said that this is the second time Israel has targeted civilians in the far away Africa country. Israel claims that arms are being smuggled to Gaza through Sudan.

On the West Bank, the Israelis have accelerated their settlement activities. The US veto on the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policies has only encouraged the right wing government to grab more Palestinian land. All the other Security Council members, including Washington’s close allies had supported the resolution. Many Palestinian families have forcibly evicted and their farms bulldozed to make way for Jewish settlers. An Israeli settler family was killed in early March by a Palestinian in response to the arrests and evictions of Palestinians from their lands in the occupied West Bank.

Hamas looks prepared to forget the painful episodes of the past, if the Fatah does not insist on going ahead unilaterally with municipal and presidential elections only in the West Bank in the middle of this year. It will not be a level playing field for Hamas as the elections in the West Bank will be closely supervised by the PA security forces. Besides, the West Bank is under occupation by Israel, making the prospects of a free and fair election, an impossible prospect. Many Hamas legislators have been languishing in Israeli jails.


Meanwhile, Netanyahu and the Israeli establishment are not too happy at the prospects of Palestinian unity. Mahmoud Abbas, seems keen to rebuild bridges with Hamas. He has offered to visit Gaza to try and convince them to participate in elections that are being planned this year. Israel is trying its best to scupper the unity moves. In a move meant to get Washington’s attention, Netanyahu has issued an appeal to the PA to choose Israel as its partner rather than Hamas. “You can’t have peace with both Israel and Hamas”, warned the Israeli prime minister. Netanyahu is well aware that the Fatah cannot negotiate a separate peace with Israel without the consent of Hamas, which is in control of Gaza. Recent revelations of Fatah’s collaboration with Israel and the US in the leaked “Jerusalem Papers” have eroded its credibility in the eyes of the Palestinians.

The propagandists for Israel have now started saying that the government will have no partner to negotiate with in case the Fatah and Hamas decide to join hands. The US has conveniently put Hamas on its “terror” list and refuses to enter into any sort of dialogue with it. The Israeli government’s position is that Hamas should recognise its existence. The Hamas leadership has on several occasions said that it was willing to coexist with Israel provided it withdraws to its 1967 border.

In the first week of April, Israel had another reason to cheer. Justice Richard Goldstone, the South African judge who chaired the UN mandated commission in 2009 that looked into Israeli war crimes during ‘Operation Cast Lead’ suddenly tried to back-track on some of key conclusions of the report. In a signed article in the Washington Post, the judge who is Jewish said that in hindsight he would have come to a different conclusion about Israel’s actions during the war. “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document”, he had written. He even tries to whitewash the killing of 29 members from one singe family---the Shimouni family. Now Goldstone says that the shelling of the Shimouni residence “was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image”. Netanyahu was quick to demand that “the original report should be thrown into the waste bin of history”. The Israeli government which till now was busy demonising Goldstone invited him to visit the country. Goldstone wasted no time in accepting the invitation.

The old judge, who is a staunch believer, was being pressured by his co-religionists in many ways, crude as well as subtle. Zionist Jews tried to prevent him from attending his own grandson’s ‘bar mitzvah’ in Johannesburg accusing him of being a “self hating Jew”. The Israeli historian, Illan Pappe, has written that the “shameful U-turn did not happen this week. It comes after more than a year and a half of a sustained campaign of intimidation and character assassination against the judge”. In March, the Israeli military intelligence announced that a special unit was created to monitor and even hunt down individuals and organisations suspected of “delegitimising” Israel abroad. Goldstone has always said that he was at heart always a “Zionist”. Pappe wrote: “You can either be a Zionist or blame Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity — if you do both, you will crack sooner rather than later”.

Goldstone’s apparent recanting will not in anyway alter the facts. The other reputed colleagues of his who were part of the team that drafted the report, stand steadfastly by its conclusions that Israel was guilty of very serious war crimes in Gaza. The reports of other groups like “Breaking the Silence” and UN representatives who were on the ground, also attest to this fact. The pictures and images that emerged from Gaza during ‘Operation Cast Lead’ also tell the real story. The Goldstone Report quotes the IDF Northern Command chief, Gadi Eisenkot saying: “We will apply disproportionate force on every village and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved”.

Even today, Israel bars the people of Gaza from accessing construction material to rebuild their shattered homes. Recently the ICRC issued a statement describing the continued blockade of Gaza “as collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligation under international humanitarian law”. The statement noted that all of Gaza’s civilian population “is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility”.

Courtesy: www.pd.cpim.org/