Workers Hammer No. 215
Israel "celebrates" founding by slaughtering Palestinians again
For Arab/Hebrew workers revolution!
For a socialist federation of the Near East!
The following article is adapted from Workers Vanguard no 981, 27 May 2011.
In a wave of protests, thousands of Palestinians from Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank gathered at Israel’s borders on 15 May to mark the “Nakba”, or “catastrophe”. This is what Palestinians call the anniversary of the founding of Israel in 1948 and the war with Arab states, when hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes and land — many to squalid refugee camps where they and their descendants live to this day. Israeli troops celebrated the anniversary in their own customary way by gunning down demonstrators, killing over a dozen and injuring scores more.
Ever since Israel was established in 1948 in accordance with a United Nations partition plan, Palestinians have been treated as untermenschen (subhuman), subjected to deadly cycles of war and terror, repeatedly robbed of their land and driven into ghetto-like enclaves. The drive for a “greater Israel” was inherent in the establishment of the Zionist state. Today, the entire West Bank, which Israel occupied along with the Gaza Strip as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, is dotted with military outposts, checkpoints and fortified settlements. Zionist settlers repeatedly rampage in the West Bank. That area is criss-crossed by “bypass roads” that are off-limits to Palestinians, who are walled off in towns and villages where water and other necessities of life are scarce.
Two and a half years ago, the Zionist butchers — armed with US warplanes, helicopters and missiles — slaughtered more than a thousand Palestinians and wounded thousands more in the Gaza ghetto. When a flotilla of volunteers carrying medicine, construction supplies and other goods defied the Israeli blockade of Gaza last year, elite naval units blasted away at the 700 passengers in international waters, killing nine people.
Workers internationally must take up the defence of the besieged Palestinian people and demand: All Zionist troops and settlers out of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights! For immediate removal of all anti-Arab fortifications! Down with the blockade of Gaza!
Obama backs Zionist terror
President Barack Obama last week repeated Washington’s long-held position in favour of a supposed “two-state solution” in which the Palestinians would be granted a rump state consisting of Gaza and part of the West Bank. Obama proposed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on the borders existing before the 1967 war, supplemented with land “swaps”. What that means was shown in secret documents released early this year (the so-called “Palestine Papers”) revealing the details of years of such “negotiations”. The documents describe how former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni told Palestinian negotiators that land swaps should involve separating Arab villages from Israel and annexing them to an eventual Palestinian state. Tens of thousands of Arabs could lose their Israeli citizenship under this scheme.
In presenting the US government’s position, Obama used language that was meant to appeal to Arab audiences in the Near East and North Africa, a region that has been swept by a series of protests and uprisings. His particular choice of words enraged Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he was about to arrive in Washington for talks with the White House. The Israeli government insists that final control of the territory seized in 1967 must remain in the hands of Israel. This has long been the consensus of all bourgeois parties in Israel, including the Labor Party.
Obama then took the occasion of a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — the main Zionist lobby — to reassure Tel Aviv that the US would not waver in its support to Israel. The White House has made this clear by opposing a planned UN resolution in favour of a Palestinian state. To defend its interests in the oil-rich Near East, US imperialism each year pumps some $3 billion in military aid to Israel and another $1.3 billion for Egypt’s military, relying as well on the Saudi monarchy and the despots ruling the Persian Gulf states. Down with US aid to Israel, Egypt!
At the heart of the Palestinian question is the impossibility of achieving national justice for geographically interpenetrated peoples within a capitalist framework. Both Palestinian Arabs and Hebrew-speaking Israelis lay claim to a small portion of the Near East. Key to the creation of a nation of Hebrew-speaking people in Palestine was the rise of the Nazis in Germany, which caused massive waves of Jewish emigration both before the Holocaust and again after World War II. The Zionists had appealed directly to British imperialism, which controlled Palestine militarily, to sponsor a so-called “Jewish homeland”. The British rulers, anti-Semitic to the core, agreed because they saw this as a way to further their divide-and-rule schemes in the Near East, at a time when the British Empire was in sharp decline. The European-derived Jewish settlers were supplemented by an influx of Oriental Jews fleeing Arab countries.
As we explained in “Birth of the Zionist State, Part Two: The 1948 War” (Workers Vanguard no 45, 24 May 1974):
“It was clear that the establishment of an independent nation-state, either by Palestinian Arabs or the Jews, would occur in Palestine only at the expense of the other nation. When national populations are geographically interpenetrated, as they were in Palestine, an independent nation-state can be created only by their forcible separation (forced population transfers, etc.). Thus the democratic right of self-determination becomes abstract, as it can be exercised only by the stronger national grouping driving out or destroying the weaker one.
“In such cases the only possibility of a democratic solution lies in a social transformation.”
So long as the national principle prevails, the oppression of the Palestinians by the massively armed Zionist state will only deepen. The only way to achieve an equitable solution to the conflicting national claims of the Palestinian and Hebrew-speaking peoples is through the overthrow of capitalist rule in Israel and the surrounding Arab states, where millions of Palestinians languish. The national emancipation of the Palestinians — including the right of all refugees and their descendants to return to their homeland — necessarily entails workers revolutions to shatter the Zionist state from within and to sweep away the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, where more than half the population is Palestinian, as well as the Syrian Ba’athist and Lebanese regimes.
The Arab working masses must be broken from Islamic fundamentalism and bourgeois nationalism, and the Israeli workers must be broken from the Zionist consciousness that politically binds them to their Israeli exploiters. We have no illusions that this is an easy task, but the alternative is the perpetuation and deepening of the misery of the Palestinians and continual threats of military conflict, with a nuclear-armed Israeli state prepared to obliterate its neighbours, whatever the consequences. Israel is a class-divided society, with high income disparities. Sephardic Jews, though overwhelmingly under the sway of right-wing and religious parties, suffer widespread discrimination and poverty.
Revolutionary Marxists fight to forge workers parties throughout the region in political combat against all forms of nationalism and religious reaction. Down with the oil sheikhs, emirs, kings, colonels and Zionist rulers — Workers to power! For a socialist federation of the Near East!
Bankrupt Arab nationalism
The outlines of what Washington sees as a “solution” in Israel/Palestine were laid out in the 1993 Oslo “peace” accords between Israel’s Labor Party government of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Brokered by then-president Bill Clinton, the deal established the Palestinian Authority as the Zionists’ police auxiliaries in the Occupied Territories, giving it some limited powers in the West Bank and Gaza. We noted at the time that the accord “does not offer even the most deformed expression of self-determination” (“Israel-PLO deal for Palestinian ghetto”, Workers Hammer no 137, September/October 1993).
The Oslo accords led directly to the doubling of the settler population in the Occupied Territories by the end of the decade. Most significantly, the Palestinians became even more marginalised from Israel’s economy as the Israeli capitalists increasingly resorted to the use of migrant labour from Asia and elsewhere.
The political bankruptcy of the PLO and the increasingly desperate situation the Palestinians faced set the stage for the rise of reactionary Islamic groups like Hamas. In 2006, Hamas won a Palestinian parliamentary election and then seized power in Gaza in a military conflict with Palestinian Authority forces. Presented by some in the Western left as a paragon of resistance to Zionist rule, Hamas in fact was initially promoted by the Israeli rulers as a counterweight to secular Palestinian nationalists. Israel set up conservative “Village Leagues” in the Occupied Territories where the Islamic Association, a front group of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and predecessor of Hamas, gained prominence. The Zionist government also funded welfare programmes to help the Islamists win a base among the poor. Israel broke relations with Hamas in the fall of 1989 after discovering that Hamas had killed two Israeli soldiers.
Recently the new Egyptian military regime brokered a “reconciliation” agreement in Cairo between Fatah, the dominant party in the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza. Twelve smaller organisations, ranging from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on the left to the hardcore reactionaries of Islamic Jihad, also signed on. The agreement calls for holding new elections and forming a coalition government, allowing the Palestinian parties to present the UN in September with the basis for declaring in favour of the semblance of a Palestinian state. In fact, this is more in the nature of bargaining over the terms of oppression of the Palestinians, who would remain locked down in their desperate ghettos.
The pro-Palestinian rhetoric of the capitalist rulers of the Arab states — which have long had their own modus vivendi with the Zionist rulers — is a cynical means to divert popular discontent at home into a show of opposition to Zionism. Thus, forces in Syria linked to strongman Bashar al-Assad bussed “Nakba Day” protesters to the normally off-limits border of the Golan Heights, which Syria lost to Israel in 1967. This came as Assad’s military and security forces have for weeks unsuccessfully sought to drown in blood the almost daily mass protests sweeping the country.
Contrary to the myth of Arab unity behind the Palestinian cause, the bourgeois Arab regimes have been ruthless enemies of Palestinian national emancipation. When Arab armies went to war with Israel in 1948, it was not to liberate the Palestinians but to seize territory allotted to the Palestinians under the partition plan. Between 1948 and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Jordan and Egypt occupied the West Bank and Gaza respectively, brutally repressing the Palestinians, who remained politically dispossessed. In 1970, Jordanian King Hussein carried out the “Black September” massacre of some 10,000 Palestinians — with the acquiescence of Egyptian president and Arab nationalist idol Gamal Abdel Nasser. From the oil sheikhs of the Gulf emirates to the bankers of Beirut and the bonapartists of Cairo and Damascus, the ruling classes of the Near East are subordinated to the imperialists, subject to the dictates of the world capitalist market and ultimately dependent on the US and other capitalist powers for their own survival.
For proletarian internationalism!
Particularly since the Zionist rulers’ massacre on the Gaza aid flotilla in May 2010, many defenders of the oppressed Palestinians, as well as reformist left groups have renewed their calls for “boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions” against Israel. As revolutionary internationalists, we support time-limited trade union actions against the Israeli state such as the Swedish dockers’ boycott of Israeli ships and goods in the wake of Israel’s attack on the “Freedom Flotilla”.
In general, we are in favour of the trade unions refusing to handle military goods being shipped to Israel, which would be a blow not only against the Zionist rulers but also against the British, US and other imperialist ruling classes. But we are politically opposed to standing boycotts and to campaigns for disinvestment and sanctions against Israel, which are counterposed to the international working-class struggle on which the liberation of the Palestinians is premised. Such campaigns serve to promote illusions in the benign nature of other capitalist powers — not least British imperialism — relative to Israel. If successful, boycott campaigns would hurt the working class of Israel, both Hebrew-speaking and Arab, causing mass layoffs and weakening its social power, which can and must be mobilised to smash the Zionist state from within through socialist revolution.
The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt during what has been dubbed the “Arab spring” have been dominated by class-collaborationist coalitions ranging from viciously anti-woman Islamic fundamentalists to bourgeois liberals and reformist leftists. In the name of “national unity”, the proletariat, whose strike actions had contributed to the downfall of Tunisia’s Ben Ali dictatorship and Egypt’s Mubarak regime, has remained politically submerged as a class. In Libya, the “coalition” of Islamists, tribal leaders, CIA stooges and defectors from Qaddafi’s regime appealed for imperialist military intervention and, aided by NATO bombs, has provided the ground troops.
In Egypt, the same military that had been the backbone of the Mubarak regime came forward openly as the governmental power, arresting and torturing hundreds of leftists, worker militants and others. The same military rulers who won plaudits for arranging the Palestinian “unity” agreement had earlier set their forces against Egyptians trying to march to the Gaza border on “Nakba Day” in solidarity with the Palestinian masses. Women and Coptic Christians are increasingly besieged by reactionary fundamentalists. This is the reality behind the so-called “Egyptian Revolution”.
Revolutionary Marxists fight for the proletariat to emerge as a contender for power in its own name, independent of all bourgeois political forces. A socialist revolution in Egypt, with its large, militant working class, could open a vista of national and social liberation for the oppressed Palestinian masses, and, extending a hand of working-class solidarity to the Hebrew-speaking proletariat of Israel, could help lay the basis for shattering the Zionist garrison state of Israel from within through Arab/Hebrew workers revolution. Throughout the region, internationalist workers parties must be forged. By linking the struggle for socialist federations of the Near East and North Africa to the fight for proletarian power in the US, Britain and other imperialist centres, such parties will open the way for a world society free of poverty, national oppression and war.