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Workers Vanguard No. 1140

21 September 2018

U.S., Israel Strangle Palestinians

The U.S. and Israeli rulers are working hand in hand to pound the oppressed Palestinians into utter submission. Last month, the White House announced an end to all funding to UNRWA, the United Nations agency that provides food, education and medical care to more than a million Palestinian refugees, while cutting $200 million in direct aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Next Washington axed $25 million in assistance to Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem. On September 10, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) diplomatic office in D.C. All of these moves came on the heels of Israel’s enactment of a racist “nation-state” law enshrining the country’s essence as exclusively Jewish and giving unequivocal legal codification to the subjugation of non-Jewish minorities, centrally the Palestinians.

The aim of this offensive is to compel the Palestinians to crumble under the diktats of the right-wing Israeli regime of Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu and Trump’s reactionary fraternity was sealed with the move earlier this year of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem—a big middle finger to the Palestinians, who have long considered East Jerusalem to be their capital and a symbol of their national identity. The policy of the Trump administration is hawkish and bloodthirsty, with key figures like senior adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner embracing “Bibi” Netanyahu as family. Yet it is merely an acceleration of long-established bipartisan policy, including unwavering Democratic Party support to Israel. A recent bill authorizing $38 billion in military aid to the Zionist state was signed into law by Trump, but it was his predecessor Barack Obama who pledged the funds.

Such is the barbarity of U.S. imperialism, irrespective of the party in power: billions for Israel’s war machine, starvation for the Palestinian masses. An article (14 September) on the Israeli left-liberal website +972 pointed out, “It is easy to blame Trump or Bolton for the steps they have taken over the past year. But they are not acting alone. It is both houses of Congress that laid the legislative groundwork for each and every one of these measures.” Bellicose support to Israel, combined with cynical “peace” talks that extracted endless concessions from the Palestinians, has defined Democratic administrations for decades. Only more recently has the GOP begun to outdo the Democrats in resolute allegiance to the Zionist butchers, in large part reflecting the influence of Republican Christian evangelicals who believe that Israel is essential to the “second coming” of Jesus. The main difference today between the two capitalist parties with respect to the “Holy Land” is that Democrats still mouth the words “two-state solution,” in full knowledge that they are void of meaning.

Twenty-five years after the U.S.-sponsored Oslo accords, a grotesque pact brokered by Democratic president Bill Clinton, the American/Israeli axis of evil is set on stamping out any pretense of Palestinian national rights. The sham Oslo “peace process” gave cover to the Zionist regime to further dispossess, marginalize and ghettoize the Palestinians. Since then, Palestinian laborers from the Occupied Territories have largely been excluded from Israel’s economy, Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have swelled to over 800,000, and Gaza has been turned into a giant Palestinian concentration camp. The plight of the Palestinian people has become immeasurably worse.

The two and a half million Palestinians in the West Bank are trapped behind an immense concrete wall, surrounded by military checkpoints, divided by Jewish-only highways and brutalized daily by Israeli soldiers. Many of the ever-growing, militarized Jewish settlements are in fact modern cities, amounting to de facto annexation of Palestinian territory. As in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after the 1967 war, Palestinians in the West Bank lack basic services and face the constant threat of home demolition and evictions.

In Gaza, nearly two million Palestinians with little means of subsistence have been subjected to Israel’s crippling economic blockade and military siege for more than a decade. The Gaza population is encaged in an open-air prison—with little access to jobs, with housing devastated and water regularly cut off—and with no means of escape. In response to ongoing protests in Gaza, Israeli forces have massacred nearly 180 Palestinians and wounded another 18,000 since the start of the year. Egypt, another recipient of massive U.S. military aid, keeps its border with Gaza all but sealed.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians who live inside Israel, making up more than 20 percent of the population, are barely second-class citizens. Along with daily discrimination and segregation, they suffer from severely underfunded schools and receive average salaries 30 percent lower than those for Israeli Jews.

Defense of the Palestinian people against their Zionist oppressors is desperately needed. It is in the vital interests of workers in the U.S. and internationally to oppose U.S. support to Israel and demand an end to the Zionist colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem along with the murderous siege against Gaza.

Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs are interpenetrated peoples with rival claims to the same territory. Under capitalism, such situations 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. The possibility of a just, democratic solution for the Palestinian masses, including the right to return to their homeland, requires proletarian revolutions to overthrow capitalist rule in Israel and the surrounding Arab states. Only in a socialist federation of the Near East would the right to self-determination for Palestinians and Israeli Jews be respected, conflicting claims over land and resources equitably resolved, and discrimination on the basis of language, religion and nationality eliminated.

Israel’s Semi-Theocratic, Racist “Democracy”

Israel was created through the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948, and their oppression has been maintained through brute terror ever since. The persecution of the Palestinians is not the product of a particular chauvinist government but is intrinsic to Zionism, which defines Israel as the “state of the Jewish people.”

The new nation-state law was described by Netanyahu as the “essence of the Zionist vision.” Among other things, the law removes the (strictly formal) status of Arabic as one of the official languages, reaffirms that only Jews—wherever they presently live—have a right of return and acclaims the extension of Jewish settlements as a “national value.” It erases any pretense to legal equality for non-Jewish minorities and is a further attack on the language and national rights of Israel’s Palestinian minority. The law sends a message to Arabs within Israel: this is not your land, drop dead.

The law sparked protests inside the country that were, quite unusually, joined by both Arabs and Jews. On August 11, some 30,000 people, largely Palestinian citizens of Israel, descended on Tel Aviv for a mass demonstration. Signs included, “This Is Our Home, Arabic Is Our Language,” and some demonstrators defiantly carried Palestinian flags against instructions from the organizers. The protest was attended and built by liberal Zionist groups, which are concerned that the law undermines Israel’s threadbare facade as the only “democracy” in the Near East.

An earlier August 4 protest of nearly 100,000 people in the same city was called by leaders of the Druze, an Arabic-speaking minority that originated as a sect persecuted by an Islamic caliphate in Egypt in the 10th century and retains a unique religion. At the time of the 1948 founding of Israel, many of their leaders pledged loyalty to the new Zionist state. Roughly 150,000 Druze live in villages in the north of Israel and face poverty as well as discrimination in housing, jobs and education. The Druze are the only Arab group conscripted into the Israeli Defense Force, although today a growing number of Druze youth refuse to join the Israeli army.

The protest by Druze leaders, who regard the new law as a betrayal, had support from former top leaders of the military/intelligence establishment. The Israeli paper Haaretz (5 August) remarked that their rally featured “enough retired generals to launch three military coups.” One speaker was Yuval Diskin, the past head of Shin Bet, the security agency notorious for torture and murder of Palestinians. Any alliance with Israel’s barbaric state machine spells death to struggles of the oppressed, including the Druze.

Like other capitalist countries, Israel is rent by class, as well as ethnic and religious, divisions. The working class, mainly consisting of Jews along with some Arabs and foreign migrant workers, is exploited by a tiny wealthy minority. Many secular Jews, especially women, chafe under the dominance of ultra-Orthodox religious zealots in the government and society. While the bunker mentality fostered by the Zionist rulers runs deep, Israeli workers can and must be broken from chauvinism and won to the defense of Palestinian national rights. To carry out this difficult but essential task, it is necessary to forge a revolutionary proletarian vanguard party aiming to unite Jewish and Arab workers together with ethnic minorities and migrants.

Imperialism and Arab Regimes: Enemies of Palestinians

After decades of Palestinian dispossession and dismemberment at the hands of the Zionist regime, the petty-bourgeois nationalists of the PLO are thoroughly discredited among the Palestinian masses. The PLO-led Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by Mahmoud Abbas, is at bottom nothing more than the Zionists’ police auxiliary in the West Bank. The only Palestinian aid that the Trump administration has not canceled is tens of millions of dollars for PA “security forces.”

For years, the PLO looked for support from the Arab monarchs, sheiks and dictators who have always been enemies of Palestinian liberation—from subjecting Palestinian refugees to squalid camps to carrying out mass murder, as in Jordan’s 1970 Black September massacre. Later groveling at the feet of the U.S. and other imperialist powers, the PLO agreed to an array of empty UN resolutions and “peace plans,” leading to the 1993 Oslo accords. At the time, we declared that the deal “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). And that is precisely what happened. The PLO’s kowtowing to imperialism and the venal Arab capitalist regimes allowed reactionary anti-woman and anti-Jewish Islamists like Hamas, who rule Gaza, to pose as the only fighters against the Israeli occupation.

With the fraudulent “two-state solution” buried, liberals who oppose the Israeli occupation call for some version of “one state” in which all Palestinians and Israelis would have equal democratic rights. But the idea that Israel’s rulers would willingly be outnumbered by Palestinians and grant them full rights in a unitary state is a pipe dream.

Many pro-Palestinian activists, including around the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, invoke the UN as an ally against the Zionist rulers. Omar Barghouti, a prominent spokesman for BDS, responded to Netanyahu’s nation-state law by calling on “Arab nations and our allies around the world to pressure the UN to activate its anti-apartheid laws and impose serious sanctions on Israel.” The UN, which has long been a tool of U.S. imperialist depredation across the globe, sponsored the partition of Palestine and oversaw the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948.

BDS supporters have been the targets of a ferocious witchhunt based on the poisonous lie equating any criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry. Half of all U.S. states have passed laws against BDS advocacy, and some university administrations have banned BDS activities. Israel has barred entry to any foreigner who expresses support for BDS. We denounce these campaigns of slander and repression, which aim to silence all opponents of the ghastly crimes of the Israeli state. At the same time, we oppose the liberal strategy of BDS, which is based on pressuring the very imperialist forces that are the historic occupiers and oppressors of the peoples of the Near East to divest from and impose sanctions on Israel.

As noted by Nathan Thrall in a Guardian (14 August) article, the BDS movement, launched in 2005, “represented something of a last resort” for pro-Palestinian activists coming off the crushing of the second Intifada (uprising) and the political bankruptcy of the PLO/PA. BDS advocates look to the supposed good will of the U.S. rulers and corporations, a scheme that is not just utopian but is actually an obstacle to Palestinian liberation as it bolsters U.S. imperialism’s “democratic” cover.

The Zionists’ crimes against the Palestinians are abominable, but they pale in comparison to the grisly carnage wreaked by the U.S. around the world. While only a deranged person could appeal to Trump’s “good will,” the Democrats’ record of atrocities is no better than that of the Republicans. The imperial presidency under Obama ravaged the Near East and elsewhere—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan—taking “regime change” and drone strikes to new heights. The U.S. imperialists support Israel because it has served and continues to serve their interests in the region.

For Proletarian Internationalism!

Backing Israel is the stock-in-trade of all wings of the Democrats, including the new crop of “progressives,” and their adjunct Bernie Sanders. Sanders defended Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, which massacred more than 2,000 Palestinians. Playing to his young liberal supporters, he occasionally throws in calls to end the occupation of the West Bank. But he affirms that he is “100 percent pro-Israel.” In April 2017, Sanders signed on to a bipartisan letter from the Senate to the UN commending Trump’s ambassador Nikki Haley for her denunciation of “the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias” and demanding that UN committees that “inspire” the BDS movement be “eliminated.”

As Marxists in the U.S., our starting point is opposition to this country’s imperialist rulers, who wreak death and destruction abroad and exploit workers at home. From North America to the Near East, a class axis of struggle is desperately needed. In the U.S., we fight to break the working class from illusions in the Democratic Party and win workers to champion the cause of the oppressed—from the Palestinians abroad to immigrants and black people at home. Under the leadership of a revolutionary workers party, part of a reforged Fourth International, the proletariat will become conscious of its power as a class to sweep away the rapacious, war-mad capitalist system through socialist revolution.


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