Workers Vanguard No. 1106
24 February 2017
Down With Zionist Colonization of West Bank, East Jerusalem!
Defend the Palestinian People!
For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!
The rulers of Israel are once again escalating their colonization of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Tel Aviv has been further emboldened by the election of Donald Trump and his virulent anti-Muslim bigotry and denunciations of Iran. Trump has also nominated David Friedman, a staunch Zionist and prominent fund-raiser for the fascistic settler movement, as ambassador to Israel.
In January, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) approved the construction of a further 6,000 housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It also passed a “regularization law” to retroactively legalize settlements that have already been built on private Palestinian land. The settlers are clamoring for Israel to annex Ma’ale Adumim, a settlement of 41,000 Jewish inhabitants covering an area almost the size of Tel Aviv. The construction of such massive, Jewish-only population centers amounts to de facto annexation and has always been aimed at extinguishing the possibility of a Palestinian state.
In a February 15 joint press conference with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump appeared to jettison Washington’s longstanding policy of nominally supporting a “two-state solution.” For his part, Netanyahu once again made it clear that his government would not tolerate a Palestinian state, declaring: “In any peace agreement Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River.” This assertion merely underscores the fact that since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel seized the Occupied Territories, there has been only one state power between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea—the Zionist Israeli state backed up by the U.S. imperialists.
As Marxists, we have a side in defense of the oppressed Palestinian masses against Zionist state and settler terror. At the root of Palestinian oppression is the impossibility of achieving national justice for geographically interpenetrated peoples within a capitalist framework. Both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews lay claim to the same land. The coming to power of the Nazis in Germany and the unspeakable crimes of the Holocaust played a key role in the consolidation of a nation of Israeli Jews. Refused entry into the U.S. and Britain, desperate Jewish refugees were forced to Palestine both before and after World War II. As we have explained in “Birth of the Zionist State: A Marxist Analysis” (WV 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.”
The only way to achieve an equitable solution to the conflicting national claims of the Palestinians and Israeli Jews 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—can only be realized through a socialist federation of the Near East in which both they and Israeli Jews would exercise their right of self-determination. What is necessary is an internationalist class perspective that looks to proletarian rule in the region, as well as to socialist revolutions in the imperialist centers.
Today, more than half of the territory of the West Bank has a majority Jewish population. Following the 1993 Oslo “peace” accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which were brokered by President Bill Clinton, the West Bank was divided into three administrative categories. The largest of these, Area C, makes up more than 60 percent of the West Bank, and its population today includes over 380,000 Jewish settlers and only 150,000 Palestinians. Nearly two and a half million Palestinians are crowded into the numerous non-contiguous areas that make up the remaining 40 percent of the West Bank (Areas A and B).
In Area C, Israel controls not only security but also all land-related civil matters, including planning and construction. Jewish settlements are built, while construction of Palestinian homes and other structures is regularly declared illegal. In 2016, citing lack of building permits as a pretext, the Zionist rulers destroyed the homes of more than 1,400 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the two million Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip, for all practical purposes a vast prison camp, have been blockaded by Israel and Egypt and are subject to Israeli airstrikes. Eighty percent of the Gaza population depends on humanitarian aid to survive.
We condemned the imperialist-backed Oslo accords as a “grotesque bargain over the subjugated Palestinian people.” A Palestinian mini-state in Gaza and the West Bank would have been a partial and deformed expression of self-determination. But we noted that Oslo “does not offer even the most deformed expression of self-determination” but, rather, “would place the PLO’s seal on the national oppression of the long-suffering Palestinian Arab masses” (“Israel-PLO Deal for Palestinian Ghetto,” WV No. 583, 10 September 1993). That analysis has been fully borne out by events of the succeeding years. The Palestinian Authority was established as the Zionists’ police auxiliaries in the Occupied Territories. Meanwhile, the plight of the ghettoized Palestinians has dramatically worsened, and the population of the Zionist settlements has expanded more than threefold.
Petty-bourgeois Palestinian nationalism has proven to be a dead end. The political bankruptcy and abject betrayals of the secular-nationalist PLO have paved the way for reactionary Islamic groups like Hamas to pose as the only fighters against the Israeli occupation. These fundamentalist outfits are made up of vile anti-Jewish and anti-Christian religious bigots who seek to enslave women. In Hamas-controlled Gaza, Palestinian women are forced to wear the hijab (Islamic headscarf) and are subjected to anti-woman sharia law.
Israel was founded upon the subjugation of the Palestinian nation. Its establishment in 1948 was marked by the expulsion of some 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland. And the Arab regimes that went to war with Israel that year did so not to liberate the Palestinians but to seize their land. Since its victory in the 1967 War, Israel has encouraged Jewish settlement of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including by providing subsidized housing. Today, there are more than 750,000 settlers on occupied Palestinian land.
The settlements are often designated “closed military zones” that are off limits to Palestinians, whose travel is severely restricted by military checkpoints and who are forbidden to travel on “Jewish” roads that are free of checkpoints. An apartheid wall ghettoizes the Palestinians, who are subjected to military occupation by thousands of Israeli troops. The heavily armed settlers act in collusion with the Israeli military in carrying out murderous repression against the Palestinian population. All Israeli troops and settlers out of the Occupied Territories!
For Proletarian Internationalism!
Israel is a regional power with its own interests that do not always coincide with those of the U.S. Both Trump and Netanyahu have made much of President Obama’s supposed “hostility” to Israel. In fact, Obama’s record of support for the Zionist state was second to none. In December 2016, the lame-duck Obama administration abstained on a toothless UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. That was the only time in eight years that Obama failed to side with Israel in the UN. By comparison, previous Republican administrations, including those of Ronald Reagan and both Bushes, allowed numerous resolutions against Israel to pass. In 1991-92, the first President Bush even held up ten billion dollars in loan guarantees to extract a promise that Israel would freeze settlement construction. Of course, it was an empty promise; settlement building continued apace, as did U.S. aid.
In a December 28 speech defending the Security Council abstention, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the Obama administration’s pro-Israel credentials. Kerry boasted that last year’s $38 billion military aid deal with Israel “exceeds any military assistance package the U.S. has provided to any country, at any time.” More than half of U.S. imperialism’s entire foreign military financing goes to Israel. Down with U.S. aid to Israel!
Despair over ever finding a solution to the oppression of the Palestinians has led many bourgeois liberals to embrace the idea of a “one-state solution,” under which Palestinians would fight for equality within Israel. Liberal Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy argues that the “two-state solution” is dead and “the alternative is one state” and that from now on the struggle should be for “democracy now, equal rights” (Democracy Now! 30 December 2016).
A similar sentiment is expressed by Ali Abunimah, cofounder of the online publication Electronic Intifada. He argued after the Trump/Netanyahu meeting that if Israel were to annex the West Bank, “pressure would escalate—as it did on South Africa—to end openly declared apartheid. Indeed there could be no greater boost to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement” (Electronic Intifada, 15 February). If Israel’s rulers were to annex the West Bank, they could very well consign the bulk of the Palestinians to an unviable statelet like Gaza or drive them into Jordan. One thing the Zionist rulers would never permit would be a single “democratic” state with anything approaching an Arab majority. And, aside from the 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel and the 4.5 million in Gaza and the West Bank, there are another four million Palestinians living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Abunimah’s perspective of seeing “openly declared apartheid” as a boost to BDS goes straight to the heart of that movement’s strategy, which seeks to employ moral suasion to pressure campus administrations and American corporations to withdraw investments from Israel, while organizing boycotts of Israeli academic and cultural activities. The aim is to pressure the U.S. and other imperialist powers—including Britain and France, the historic occupiers, colonizers and oppressors of the Near East—to pressure Israel to stop being Israel. This perspective can only build dangerous illusions in the presumed benign nature of the imperialists—whose class interests are fundamentally counterposed to those of the workers and the oppressed of the entire world. It is U.S. imperialism that is responsible for the utter devastation of whole swaths of the region today. All U.S. forces out of the Near East now!
Abunimah also repeats the liberal fiction that divestment ended apartheid in South Africa. In fact, it was the mass social struggles of the black and other non-white toilers, centered on the powerful working class, that brought an end to direct white-supremacist rule there. Before the end of apartheid, it was the significant wage gains won by black workers and the instability caused by a growing strike movement that deterred investment. Seeing its continued profits threatened, U.S. imperialism began to look upon the South African regime as a liability.
By the early 1990s, the imperialists and key sections of the apartheid ruling class had decided to go for a “power-sharing” deal with the African National Congress (ANC). A key factor was the 1991-92 capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, which for decades had supported the ANC materially and diplomatically. As the Moscow Stalinist regime disintegrated, ending what the imperialists saw as the “Communist threat,” the South African rulers came to terms with Nelson Mandela and the ANC. Moreover, the end of formal apartheid did not end the oppression of South African blacks. Under the current system of neo-apartheid, the mainly black working class is still superexploited by the same capitalist class that ruled under apartheid. The ANC-led Tripartite Alliance government serves as black front men for the capitalist rulers, who are still overwhelmingly white.
In South Africa, the white capitalists need the black workers, and thanks to its centrality to production, the black proletariat has tremendous social power. In contrast, the consolidation of the Israeli Jewish nation entailed large-scale displacement of Palestinian labor by Jewish labor. The exclusion of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories from participation in the Israeli economy deprives them of social power, while increasing their marginalization and impoverishment.
We would support time-limited, trade-union actions against the Israeli state, but we are politically opposed to standing economic boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Such boycott campaigns serve to reinforce the view of a monolithic Israeli society and drive Jewish workers even more deeply into the arms of their Zionist exploiters.
Despite our disagreements with the liberal strategy of BDS, we vigorously oppose the vicious Zionist-led witchhunts against BDS and other fighters for Palestinian rights. As we wrote last year in “Down With Zionist Witchhunt Against BDS Activists!”:
“Equating anti-Zionism with anti-Jewish bigotry is aimed at silencing all opponents of the bloody crimes of the Israeli state, including a growing number of Jewish students and activists who support BDS. It also serves to bury actual instances of anti-Jewish hatred under a mountain of lies. Moreover, in the supercharged climate of the imperialists’ ‘war on terror,’ to be charged as ‘allies’ of terrorism is to be branded as people whom the capitalist state can and should eliminate.”
—WV No. 1089, 6 May 2016
There has indeed been an increase in anti-Jewish threats and attacks in the U.S. in recent months. In January alone, 48 Jewish Community Centers received bomb threats. But these anti-Jewish incidents have nothing to do with BDS. They are part of the all-around racist reaction unleashed by Donald Trump’s campaign and election victory. Fascist and Nazi scum have been emboldened to go after blacks, immigrants and Jews.
However distant it may seem, fighters for Palestinian rights must look toward a proletarian solution to the oppression of the Palestinian people. Like every other capitalist country, Israel is a class-divided society, with a capitalist ruling class that exploits the Jewish, Arab and immigrant proletariat. And while Israeli society has continued to move to the right, there are Israeli Jews who are sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. Earlier this month, thousands of Jews and Arabs demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the demolition of the Bedouin Arab village of Umm al-Hiran.
There is broad support for the Palestinians among significant concentrations of the industrial proletariat in countries like Egypt, Iran and Turkey. These workers are exploited and oppressed by the imperialists as well as their “own” ruling classes, which reinforce their rule by pushing nationalism and religious sectarianism. These bourgeois rulers are enemies of Palestinian national liberation and channel justified anger against the subjugation of the Palestinians into anti-Jewish bigotry. Through the intervention of revolutionary Marxist parties and in the course of class struggle, the workers of the Near East must be broken from all-sided bigotry and won to the understanding that they share a common historic interest in sweeping away all the capitalist ruling classes of the region.
The perspective of the Spartacist League and the International Communist League is to forge revolutionary workers parties throughout the Near East, including Israel, and in the imperialist centers, not least the U.S. These parties will be national sections of a reforged Trotskyist Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution. Only with the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a voluntary federation of workers states in the Near East will there be a full and equal place for all the peoples of the area—including Israeli Jews and Palestinians.