This statement originally appeared in the Bulletin, April 22, 1988.
The Workers League condemns the savage death squad murder of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Abu Jihad.
We send our deepest condolences to his family, as well as to his comrades in the PLO. This abominable crime carried out by the Israeli Zionist regime with the support of US imperialism has robbed the Palestinian people of one of its most steadfast fighters in the struggle for national liberation and self-determination. For over 30 years, Abu Jihad’s life has been inseparably linked with this struggle. He has served courageously as an organizer, military commander and leader of the PLO and its main fighting organization, Al Fatah.
This cold-blooded assassination has once again demonstrated that the Zionist leaders of Israel are the real terrorists of the Middle East. Outside of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa, there is no other state in the world which so openly defends assassination and terrorism as legitimate instruments of rule. According to reports from Israel, the decision to assassinate the Palestinian leader was taken by vote of the Zionist regime’s inner cabinet, much in the same way Mafia gangsters decide on a hit.
Standing directly behind the Zionists in this heinous crime—as in every other over the last four decades—is US imperialism. There is absolutely no question that Washington gave its approval for the assassination. The action is in line with the blunt advice given recently by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who urged the Israeli regime to shut the press out of the occupied territories and drown the ongoing insurrection there in blood.
This repugnant act of state terror was aimed not only at Abu Jihad, but at the millions of oppressed Palestinians under Israeli occupation and in exile.
The Zionist regime was driven to this state killing by the uprising of the workers and youth in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. After more than four months of shootings, beatings, round-the-clock curfews and deportations, the mass revolutionary struggle of the Palestinians in the occupied territories continues to escalate.
The savage assassination of Abu Jihad in Tunisia is a demonstration not of Zionism’s strength, but its desperate crisis and its inability to suppress the resistance of the Palestinians.
While the Zionists aimed their blow at demoralizing and weakening the Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories, its effect has already proven the opposite. As news of the Palestinian leader’s assassination spread through the West Bank and Gaza, burning barricades were erected and workers and youth confronted the Zionist occupation forces, shouting, “We will take revenge.” A general strike shut down businesses throughout the occupied territories and over 100,000 Palestinian workers stayed away from jobs in Israel.
The day after Abu Jihad’s death was the bloodiest since the uprising began last December, with at least 17 Palestinians shot dead by Israeli troops. Witnesses said that the Israeli troops fired no warning shots, tear gas or rubber bullets, but poured direct fire into the ranks of Palestinians armed only with rocks and bottles.
Abu Jihad was shot to death before dawn on Saturday by an Israeli assassination team, which included some 30 members of the Mossad secret police, as well as army and navy commando units. Before reaching the Palestinian leader, the Zionist killers shot dead three of his Palestinian aides and a Tunisian gardener. Hearing the assassins’ shots, Abu Jihad rose to confront them with a revolver, but was cut down by submachine gun fire from several directions. He was hit by between 70 and 100 bullets as his wife, daughter and two-year-old son looked on in horror. A female Mossad agent filmed the entire bloody operation.
An Israeli Boeing 707 flew just outside Tunisian airspace during the killing, using sophisticated electronic devices to jam telephone communications in the area.
Shamir, himself a veteran terrorist and assassin of the Zionist movement, was reportedly so excited by the operation that he sent a telegram congratulating the murder squad while it was still sailing back to Israel.
In a statement dripping with hypocrisy, the US State Department claimed no knowledge of who carried out the assassination and declared, “the US regrets violence from whatever source.”
The pretense that such an operation could be conducted in the Mediterranean, involving spy planes, sea-borne commandos and the murder of an internationally recognized figure such as Abu Jihad, without the direct knowledge and approval of Washington is patently absurd. Statements of US “regret” just as the abortive “peace missions” of Secretary of State Shultz, serve only as a fig leaf for US imperialism’s continued support and financing of Zionist Israel’s genocidal policy against the Palestinians.
It should be recalled that within hours of the Berlin disco bombing, the Reagan administration falsely asserted, on the basis of supposed intercepts of radio transmissions, that it had proof beyond a doubt that Libya was the author of the attack. Within days, the US Air Force launched its own assassination attempt against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. But now, US imperialism’s global spy apparatus is strangely deficient, unable to detect electronic warfare planes, small armies of Zionist assassins and even congratulatory telegrams from Shamir!
Like its number one client, Israel, US imperialism has also been thrown into crisis by the uprising of the Palestinian masses. It fears that the heroism and determination of the Palestinian uprising will not only shake the imperialist bastion of Israel, but will inspire revolutionary movements of the working class and oppressed masses against the bourgeois Arab regimes as well, upsetting imperialism’s interests throughout the region.
Out of their desperation and fear of revolution, the Zionists and imperialists struck down Abu Jihad. Unable to halt the struggle of the masses and incapable of resolving the demand of millions of Palestinians for their national rights, they have once again resorted to the methods of terror and asssassination.
This has become the modus operandi of imperialism in crisis. The assassination in Tunis follows by barely one month the summary execution of three Irish Republican martyrs by British special agents in Gibraltar. The two men and one woman, all unarmed, were repeatedly shot without warning by Thatcher’s expert killers.
Imperialism’s increasing use of an international “Murder Incorporated” to carry out state terror and assassination under the pretext of “fighting terrorism” is its response to the deepening crisis of world capitalism and the coming revolutionary confrontation with the working class in every country. Every one of the major capitalist regimes, while churning out reams of sanctimonious propaganda against “terrorism,” maintains ready detachments of trained assassins and expert terrorists to strike down any who dare oppose imperialist policy.
Their latest target, Abu Jihad, was one of the finest representatives and spokesmen of the Palestinian national movement. Born Khalil Wazir 53 years ago in the Palestinian town of Ramleh, now inside Israel’s borders, from his youth he tied his own fate inseparably with that of the Palestinian people’s struggle for self-determination.
Abu Jihad was part of a generation formed by continuous repression, exile and war. Forced to flee from Palestine with his family to Gaza during the Zionist terror and massacres of 1948, as a teenager he was politically inspired by the militant Pan-Arab nationalism of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and by the Algerian war of liberation against French colonial rule. But from the very beginning of his struggle until the end of his life, Abu Jihad was driven into battle not only against Zionist Israel, but also against the Arab bourgeois regimes which had betrayed the Palestinian struggle as they sought to protect the new native ruling classes against the masses of Arab workers and peasants.
In 1954, at the age of 19, he was imprisoned by Egyptian authorities in Gaza for armed activities in support of Palestinian independence and against Egyptian rule. Two years later, as a law student at Alexandria University, he first met Yassir Arafat and Salah Khalaf, with whom he was to found Al Fatah, the main Palestinian liberation movement, in 1964. The same three remained in the leadership of the PLO until his death.
It was Abu Jihad who began the armed struggle against the Zionists in the early 1960s, leading the first major guerrilla raid on Israel from Syria’s Golan Heights on January 1, 1965, a date still commemorated by Palestinians as Revolution Day.
In the aftermath of the Arab defeat in the 1967 war and the new Zionist occupations, Abu Jihad’s organization of the successful Palestinian resistance to the Israeli Army at the battle of Karameh in 1968 brought on the explosive development of the Palestinian liberation movement, leading thousands of young fighters to join its ranks. Again, he was forced to confront the attacks of the Arab ruling classes, in the ruthless attempt of Jordan’s King Hussein to exterminate the Palestinians in “Black September” 1970.
Expelled from Jordan, the PLO set up its camps in Lebanon, where Abu Jihad became the military commander of the Palestinian forces, organizing both military operations against Israel and resistance to repeated Israeli invasions, culminating in the Zionist blitzkreig of 1982. Following the 1982 Israeli invasion, he was expelled by the Assad regime in Syria, which set out to destroy the PLO and replace it with a Palestinian movement controlled by Damascus.
Abu Jihad played a decisive role in the PLO leadership. In particular, he had the closest links to the revolutionary upsurge in the occupied territories. This, above all, made him the chosen target for the Zionist assassins.
He was not a communist or socialist, but rather a committed Palestinian nationalist. His unswerving goal was that of an independent Palestinian state. Despite the bourgeois limitations of his program, he sought to mobilize the masses in armed struggle to achieve it and worked to maintain the most democratic relations within the PLO.
The Workers League denounces the Zionist and imperialist assassins of Abu Jihad and pays tribute to his memory. Already, his martyr’s death has brought forward thousands of young Palestinians who are eager to fill the large gap which his death leaves in the struggle for national liberation.
The American and world working class must condemn the state terrorists in Israel and Washington and take action to defend the Palestinian people and the PLO against Zionism and imperialism.
The interests of the working class in the United States and internationally require the destruction of the racist and counterrevolutionary Zionist state and the establishment of a socialist Palestine, as part of a United Socialist States of the Middle East, in which Arab and Jewish workers can live together in peace.
The demand must be put forward in the trade union movement to punish the Zionist killers and defend the Palestinian people against their murderous policies by imposing a total union boycott on the shipment of all arms and other goods to and from Israel. Demonstrations must be organized by the unions against Israeli state murder and demanding an end to US support for the Zionist regime.
Above all, the American working class must put an end to imperialist state terror and violence against the workers and oppressed of Palestine and internationally by fighting to overthrow the capitalist system and establish a workers’ government.