Workers Vanguard No. 1124
15 December 2017
Down With U.S. Provocations Against Palestinians!
Israel Out of West Bank, East Jerusalem!
For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!
With his official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Trump delivered U.S. imperialism’s latest provocation to the long-suffering Palestinian people. Along with protesters throughout the Muslim world, Palestinians took to the streets in East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli forces wounded hundreds of Palestinians and killed at least four. This was par for the course for the Zionist capitalist rulers, whose state was created through the expulsion of Palestinians and has been maintained ever since through brute terror.
Trump’s announcement was largely symbolic, since Jerusalem has long served as Israel’s de facto capital. But it was loaded symbolism. The Old City of East Jerusalem is not only of prime importance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It also represents Palestinian national identity, and national dispossession. Along with the rest of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem was seized by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and subsequently annexed. The vast majority of Palestinians in the city lack Israeli citizenship, face the constant threat of expulsion and are increasingly surrounded by Jewish settlers, many of whom are heavily armed.
As a Palestinian activist put it, Trump gave “a green light for Israel to speed up its colonization of Jerusalem.” He also gave something to his base among pro-Israel Christian evangelicals back home, who hope that Jewish migration to Israel will usher in the “second coming”—after which the Jews (and other “infidels”) are to be consigned to hell.
It is in the vital interest of working people throughout the world to stand for the defense of the Palestinian masses and to demand that all Israeli troops and settlers get out of the Occupied Territories. The current protests broke out 30 years after the eruption of the first Intifada (uprising), which lasted from 1987 to ’93 and was met with fierce repression. The second Intifada, which began in 2000, was met with not only a higher death toll but the rounding up of thousands into Israel’s torture dungeons.
The endless cycle of Israeli terror and desperate attempts by Palestinians to fight back is based on the foundation of Israel as a semi-theocratic Zionist state. Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs are interpenetrated peoples, laying rival claim to the same territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Within a capitalist framework, such situations necessarily mean that the exercise of self-determination—i.e., setting up a national state—can only come about at the expense of the other’s national rights. This has, indeed, been the lot of the Palestinians.
Beyond Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians languish in wretched refugee camps policed by Arab bourgeois regimes, with Israel denying them the right to return to their homeland. The only possibility of a just, democratic solution for the Palestinian masses lies in proletarian revolutions in Israel and the entire region to overthrow capitalist rule. In a socialist federation of the Near East, the right to self-determination for Palestinians and Israeli Jews alike would be respected, conflicting claims over land and resources would be equitably resolved, and discrimination on the basis of language, religion and nationality would be eliminated.
Some Democrats in Washington, along with several Republicans, have cynically criticized Trump’s Jerusalem announcement as undermining the “prospects” of a “two-state solution”—i.e., the sham promise of a viable Palestinian state sometime in the future. This phantasm was at the core of the “peace process” through which the U.S. and its United Nations tool gave cover to the Zionist regime as it turned Gaza into a giant Palestinian concentration camp and sent hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers into the West Bank, squeezing the Palestinians there and cutting them off from their brothers and sisters in the rest of Israel/Palestine.
The “peace process” was enshrined with the 1993 Oslo accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization of the late Yasir Arafat. Far from offering even a deformed expression of self-determination, the agreement brokered by the Clinton White House established the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the overseers of the Palestinians. Since 1993, Israel’s rulers have moved to largely cut off Palestinian laborers from the country’s economy, while the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank has more than tripled. The Israeli organization Peace Now estimates that the rate of settlement construction this year is running at two and a half times that of 2016. The PA, currently led by the utterly discredited Mahmoud Abbas, is little more than the police auxiliary of Israel and its U.S. backers. The PA’s betrayals set the stage for the growth of the reactionary, anti-woman fundamentalist Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2006 and falsely poses as champions of Palestinian national liberation.
Trump’s announcement took the veil off what has long been actual U.S. policy. The 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, mandated both recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and preparations to move the U.S. embassy there. (Successive administrations, including Trump’s for now, have refrained from carrying out the move.) As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama declared in 2008 that any negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians must accept that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” Washington’s support for Israel is driven by the latter’s role as a linchpin for U.S. imperialist interests in the Near East, fortified by over $3 billion a year in aid. We say: No U.S. aid to Israel!
Fearing that Trump’s antics could further inflame the Near East, France and Britain led the chorus at the UN scolding him for undermining the mythical “peace process.” This is truly cynical coming from the very imperialist powers whose divide-and-rule strategy helped lay the basis for the conflicts that continue to rip through the Near East. With the Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916, Britain schemed with France to seize and share the region, drawing arbitrary borders to forcibly divide or lump together distinct ethnic or religious populations. In the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Britain promised that Palestine could become a “Jewish homeland,” which would necessarily be at the expense of the native Arab population.
For their part, Jordan and other brutally oppressive Arab states are today, as ever, mouthing empty words of solidarity with the Palestinians while waiting for their next paycheck from Washington. Egypt, another recipient of massive amounts of U.S. military aid, keeps its border with the Gaza Strip shut tight. The Arab bourgeois regimes are committed enemies of Palestinian self-determination.
The dismemberment and ghettoization of much of the West Bank have led many Arab nationalists and Israeli liberals to abandon support for a “two-state solution” as hopeless. A year ago, Palestinian Authority legislator Mustafa Barghouti called for “a struggle to gain full and equal democratic rights in one state.” Who could possibly believe that the Zionists would allow themselves to be outnumbered by Palestinians in a unitary state?! That many Palestinian activists are pursuing such futile aims is a sign of their desperation in the face of murderous repression and continual dispossession.
The Zionist garrison state must be shattered from within, through workers revolution. Palestinian nationalists and ostensible socialists internationally generally regard the Israeli population as one reactionary mass hopelessly in thrall to Zionism. Indeed, the bunker mentality fostered by Israel’s rulers runs deep among all classes of that society. But like all capitalist countries, Israel is rent by class divisions, with a working class of mainly Jews but also some Arabs and immigrants from Africa and elsewhere exploited by a tiny, wealthy minority. Along with massive social inequality, Israel’s Palestinian citizens choke from judicial and economic discrimination, while many secular Jews, especially women, chafe under the dominance of religious zealots in the government and society.
Israeli workers can and must be broken from the stranglehold of Zionist chauvinism and won to defense of Palestinian national rights. To carry out this difficult but essential task, it is necessary to forge a revolutionary proletarian vanguard that also fights to break Palestinian militants from the dead end of petty-bourgeois nationalism and anti-Jewish bigotry, seeking to unite Jewish and Arab workers around their class interests. The International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) dedicates itself to building such parties as the indispensable agencies for workers revolutions from the Near East to the imperialist U.S., the main enforcer of murderous oppression and exploitation around the world.