Workers Vanguard No. 928
16 January 2009
U.S. Imperialists Cheer on Israeli Terror in Gaza
Zionist Mass Murder
Defend the Palestinian People!
For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!
JANUARY 13—Some 1,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, nearly half of them women and children, have been slaughtered in little more than two weeks of Zionist terror, with over 4,300 wounded. The carnage began December 27 with round-the-clock air assaults that turned virtually all of the Gaza ghetto into ash and rubble, with streets littered with limbs of Palestinians dismembered by Israeli bombs and missiles. Under the pretext of responding to Hamas’s (largely ineffectual) rocket attacks on nearby Israeli towns, the Zionist butchers—armed with U.S. warplanes, helicopters and missiles—have already slaughtered nearly twice as many Palestinians as during the first whole year of the Palestinian uprising that began in September 2000.
A week after the December bloodbath began, Israeli stormtroopers began their ground invasion. Over 10,000 troops of one of the most highly mechanized and powerful military machines in the world have torn a swath of terror and destruction through Gaza, split the Strip in two and are now poised for an invasion of the cities. It is vital for the international proletariat to stand for the military defense of Hamas against Israel without giving that reactionary Islamic fundamentalist outfit any political support. Down with U.S. aid to Israel!
Israeli officials declared that there was “no humanitarian crisis” in Gaza; indeed, to the Zionist rulers, Palestinians are nothing more than untermenschen (“subhuman,” as the Nazis described those whom they enslaved and exterminated). The leaflets that Israel drops warning Palestinians to flee are a cruel reminder that Gaza’s residents have nowhere to flee from what is essentially a concentration camp surrounded by an electrified fence, a sealed border with Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. Israel has bombarded schools, mosques and United Nations refugee centers—as the Zionists have done in the past. On January 6, over 40 Palestinians taking refuge in a UN school in Jabaliya were killed by Israeli bombardment. Two days earlier, Israeli military forces shelled a house in Zeitoun, southeast of Gaza City, after telling over 100 Palestinians to take shelter there, killing up to 30. Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of using U.S.-made white phosphorous shells, which burn the flesh down to the bone. Israel used white phosphorous during the 2006 war in Lebanon and the U.S. used it in Iraq during the 2004 attacks on the city of Falluja.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the Palestinian population has been sealed off by an apartheid wall and subjected to a deadly Israeli military occupation, including the shooting of demonstrators protesting the rampage in Gaza. Surrounded by 450,000 Zionist settlers who are backed up by thousands more troops, Palestinians are subjected to a series of military checkpoints and “Jewish only” roads that make travel between towns virtually impossible. All Zionist troops and settlers out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem!
The Zionists’ war on the besieged Palestinians is part of their drive for lebensraum (“living space,” the Nazi term for displacing those they conquered), which threatens to engulf the entire Near East in conflagration. The New York Times (11 January) reported that in 2007 Israel sought U.S. “bunker buster” bombs to take out what the Israelis believed to be Iran’s nuclear development sites. The Times said that the U.S. (for now) denied the request because it had its own program to undermine the Iranian regime. As we have repeatedly asserted, in the face of imperialist threats and blackmail, Iran needs nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems to defend itself and deter an imperialist attack.
Predictably, the Bush administration has backed Israel’s onslaught against Gaza to the hilt. For his part, president-elect Barack Obama made clear his support for Israel’s attacks during the 2008 election campaign, stating during a visit to Israel: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” Earlier, in January 2008, Obama wrote a letter to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on the eve of UN discussions on Israel’s blockade of Gaza since Hamas’s takeover of the Strip in 2007, a year after Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections. Obama claimed that “Israel is forced” into imposing the blockade and that it “has the right to defend itself.”
Behind Israeli terror stands the far greater terror of U.S. imperialism, which has slaughtered hundreds of thousands in the bloody occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has vowed to augment the Afghan occupation with 30,000 additional U.S. troops, while maintaining American forces in Iraq and ratcheting up threats against Iran and Pakistan. Referring to Obama’s “seeming reticence to comment on Gaza,” the reformist International Socialist Organization (ISO) complained that “Israel has nothing to fear from an Obama administration” (Socialist Worker, 9 January). Meanwhile, the Workers World Party (WWP) declared, “Obama’s Middle East policy is not fundamentally different from the policies of Bush or McCain” (Workers World, 15 January). Such declarations are rich coming from these organizations, whose entire political outlook is determined by what is “possible” under the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression. On the night of the U.S. presidential elections, the ISO threw a party in Harlem to “celebrate the end of far too many years of republican rule” and to discuss “what can activists do to press their demands on the next administration?” WWP, in the very same issue cited above, declared that Obama’s election “was a watershed moment in U.S. history because it represented a breakthrough in the struggle against racism”!
The idea that one can expect “change,” including on Near East policy, from Obama and the Democrats is as obscene as it is absurd. Nearly every Democratic politician has lined up behind Israel’s war. New York governor David Paterson spoke at a pro-Zionist rally in New York City on January 11, while Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sponsored a resolution in support of Israel’s onslaught—which passed by 390 to 5.
There have been protests in cities across the world against the bloodbath in Gaza—and against the pro-U.S. Arab regimes, such as that of Egypt, which has virtually sealed its border with Gaza. The Spartacist League/U.S. and other sections of the International Communist League have intervened into these protests to express our solidarity with the Palestinian masses and to put forward the only perspective—international socialist revolution—that can put an end to Palestinian national oppression. The myriad peoples of the Near East will not know peace, prosperity or justice until bourgeois rule in the region is overthrown through a series of socialist revolutions.
For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!
Nearly a century ago, revolutionary Marxist leader Rosa Luxemburg declared that the choice facing humanity is “socialism or barbarism.” What the world is witnessing today in Gaza is an expression of the barbaric logic of capitalist imperialism and Zionist nationalism. For more than 60 years, Palestinians have suffered under the jackboot of Zionist Israel—an oppression that has intensified since the 1991-92 counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union. The collapse of the USSR, which acted as a counterweight to U.S. imperialism, deprived the late Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) of crucial diplomatic and financial support, paving the way for the ignominious 1993 U.S.-sponsored Oslo “peace” accords, establishing the Palestinian Authority as the Zionists’ police auxiliaries in the Occupied Territories. In an article headlined “Israel-PLO Deal for Palestinian Ghetto” we wrote that this deal “does not offer even the most deformed expression of self-determination” and “would place the PLO’s seal on the national oppression of the long-suffering Palestinian Arab masses” (WV No. 583, 10 September 1993). It was this betrayal by the secular-nationalist PLO that paved the way for the rise of reactionary Islamic groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad among the Palestinians.
Since Oslo, one “peace” accord after another has been heralded as opening the door to Palestinian national emancipation. In reality, under the rubric of the “peace process,” the noose of Zionist oppression has only tightened, with ever deadlier cycles of terror against the Palestinian population.
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is one of interpenetrated peoples: two peoples laying claim to the same piece of land. Under capitalism, the exercise of national self-determination by one will necessarily be at the expense of the other. So long as the national principle prevails, the oppression of the Palestinians, the weaker side, will deepen.
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, the Syrian Ba’athist bonapartists and the capitalist rulers of Lebanon—countries that all have sizable Palestinian populations.
The Arab bourgeois regimes have always been enemies of Palestinian national liberation. When the Arab armies went to war with Israel in 1948, it was not to “liberate” Palestine but to carve it up among themselves. Between 1948 and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the West Bank and Gaza were occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively. And the Palestinians there remained politically dispossessed and subject to brutal repression. In the decade following the 1967 war, nearly 50,000 Palestinians were slaughtered by Arab governments, including some 10,000 militants killed by the Jordanian monarchy in the 1970 Black September massacre.
The solidarity of the Arab masses with the oppressed Palestinian people must be directed toward proletarian revolution against their own Arab rulers, who, whether bourgeois nationalists or Islamic traditionalists, are fundamentally the political agents of Western imperialism. If this does not happen, the intense and justifiable hostility against Israel and its American protector will serve to further strengthen the forces of Islamic fundamentalism, which posture as the “radical” opposition to the mainly pro-Western Arab regimes. We look to the proletariat of the region more widely, such as in Egypt, which has been a center of working-class strikes and protests over the past several years. For a socialist federation of the Near East!
With some 50 percent of the Palestinian population living outside the Occupied Territories—in Jordan, Lebanon, Israel—the national liberation of the Palestinians demands a perspective of socialist revolution throughout the Near East, including within Israel, the most powerful and economically advanced country in the region. This means recognizing the right of the Hebrew-speaking people to national self-determination. In turn, breaking the Hebrew proletariat from their Zionist rulers requires that they champion the national rights of the Palestinians. We have no illusions that winning the Hebrew proletariat to this perspective will be an easy task. Indeed, it will likely require the victory of socialist revolution in one of the other Near Eastern states to break the Hebrew proletariat from Zionist chauvinism. This task is not made easier by the criminal indiscriminate terror bombings carried out by Palestinian forces against Israeli civilians, which drive the Hebrew population further into the arms of the Zionist rulers.
The Zionist state is not only a catastrophe for Palestinians—it is also a deathtrap for Jews. As long as Zionist oppression of Palestinians continues, Israeli Jews will continue to be a target of hatred and outrage by the more than 100 million Arabs who surround them. It is only the working class of Israel—Hebrew and Arab—that has the capacity to destroy the Zionist citadel from within. Israeli society is not a seamless reactionary mass. Some 25 percent of citizens live in poverty and income disparities are higher than in Egypt and Jordan. It is the false consciousness of religion and Zionist nationalism and racism—in the face of pervasive anti-Semitism—that is the glue binding the Hebrew proletariat to its Israeli ruling-class enemy.
Even in the face of the current anti-Arab hysteria and widespread support for the Gaza war, there have been antiwar demonstrations in Israel, including a 10,000-strong rally in Tel Aviv on January 3. Sephardic Jews, though overwhelmingly under the sway of right-wing and religious parties, suffer widespread discrimination and poverty. The Palestinian Arabs, nominally “citizens” who constitute 20 percent of Israel’s population, are consigned to segregated, impoverished areas and low-paid, unskilled jobs. On January 12, Israel’s Central Elections Committee banned two Arab political parties from running in next month’s elections.
It is vital to forge revolutionary Marxist parties throughout the Near East to unite the proletariat—Arab, Persian, Kurdish and Hebrew, Sunni and Shi’ite, Muslim and Christian—in struggle against imperialism and against the Zionists, mullahs, colonels, sheiks and all the other capitalist rulers. The conquest of power by the proletariat in the Near East does not complete the socialist revolution, but only opens it by changing the direction of social development. But that social development can be consolidated only through the international extension of the revolution, particularly to the advanced, industrialized imperialist centers. Defense of those subjugated by the imperialists around the globe demands the pursuit of class struggle in the U.S. and other imperialist centers, pointing toward a proletarian struggle for power. The Spartacist League, U.S. section of the International Communist League, is committed to the fight to forge a revolutionary workers party to lead the multiracial proletariat in the struggle to sweep away U.S. imperialism through socialist revolution.
Zionist Rulers Supported Rise of Hamas
Our Marxist perspective is counterposed to those reformist socialists who reject the prospect of Arab/Hebrew workers revolution as utopian. Instead, they have vicariously cheered on one form or another of Palestinian nationalism. In 2002, when Israel was fighting the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and pummeling the Jenin refugee camp, Workers World had no criticism of Arafat or his calls for Western imperialist intervention into the region. Instead, an 11 April 2002 article enthused that in the wake of the first Intifada in the early 1990s, “Washington and Tel Aviv were forced to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization after 20 years of struggle,” calling this a “victory they had won on the battlefield.” In fact, the outcome of that “victory” was the Oslo accords. Today, even as Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, while condemning the bombing of Gaza, blames Hamas for the Israeli onslaught and has suppressed protests in those areas of the West Bank that his Fatah organization controls, one will find no word of criticism of Abbas, Fatah or the Palestinian Authority in the issue of Workers World (15 January) containing their statement, “Support Gaza Resistance!”
One will also not find a word of criticism of Hamas. In a similar vein, the British Socialist Worker (10 January) of the late Tony Cliff’s Socialist Workers Party carried an article headlined, “Hamas’s History of Resistance,” enthusing over Hamas as the “bearer of a tradition of Palestinian resistance.”
In reality, Islamic fundamentalists like Hamas and Islamic Jihad are vile anti-Jewish and anti-Christian religious bigots who seek to enslave women and extirpate any manifestations of social progress. Hamas is descended from the clerical-fascist Muslim Brotherhood, which became particularly prominent in Egypt in the late 1940s. Under the slogan “communism=
atheism=liberation of women,” the Muslim Brotherhood mobilized a terror campaign against Communists and other secular forces. Hamas preaches the social segregation of women, the wearing of the hijab (Islamic headscarf) and anti-woman sharia law.
Far from embodying a “history of resistance,” Hamas was initially supported by Israel as a counterweight to the secular-nationalist PLO. In 1978, Menachem Begin’s right-wing government approved an application from Sheik Ahmed Yassin to license the Islamic Association, a front group of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. As an official charity organization, Yassin’s group received funding from Israel. In 1986, the former military governor of Gaza, Yitzhak Segev, said: “We extend some financial aid to Islamic groups via mosques and religious schools, in order to help create a force that would stand against the leftist forces which support the PLO.” Carrying out attacks on secularists and Communists, the Islamists engaged in neither political nor military struggle against Israel.
In the 1980s, the Yitzhak Shamir government set up conservative, tribal-based “Village Leagues” in the Occupied Territories. The Islamists became a force in these organs of collaboration. Israel’s rulers helped the Islamic Association gain control of the Islamic University of Gaza and a base among the intelligentsia, while funding welfare programs to help the fundamentalists win a base among the poor.
With the beginning of the first Intifada in 1987, the Islamists feared that if they stood aside they would lose their following. Hamas was founded in the spring of 1988 as an Islamist political movement with an armed wing. Hamas sought to fuse the national struggle, previously a secular movement containing a leftist component, with reactionary Islamic fundamentalism. It was only in the fall of 1989, after discovering that Hamas killed two Israeli soldiers, that Israel broke relations with the group.
For Arab/Hebrew Workers Revolution!
Out of utter desperation, many have called on the UN or European powers to engineer some kind of cease-fire in Gaza. This has been seized upon by reformist leftists, who always promote one imperialist agency or another as a potential supporter of the Palestinians. Olivier Besancenot, spokesman for the fake-Trotskyist Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, denounced “the hypocrisy of the international community that votes tons of resolutions that they never apply” (Le Monde, 10 January). The toothless “cease-fire” resolutions that have passed the UN so far do not even call for lifting the starvation embargo against Gaza. Meanwhile, a leading spokesman of the French Communist Party has demanded that “European intervention forces are put in place between the belligerent forces” (l’Humanité, 30 December 2008).
It is grotesque to appeal to the European imperialists, whose bloody legacy of divide and rule laid the basis for the continuing misery of the peoples of the Near East. Following the collapse of the Turkish Ottoman Empire after the First World War, the British and French imperialists carved up the region. From Egypt to Syria and Iraq, they bloodily suppressed one anti-colonial struggle after another. Both Britain and France joined with Israel in invading Egypt in 1956 after the Egyptian government nationalized the Suez Canal. And it was the French imperialists who played a key role in assisting Israel in its development of nuclear weapons.
For its part, the United Nations is an assembly of the imperialist powers and their semicolonial victims. The UN presided over the establishment of the state of Israel at the expense of the dispossessed Palestinian people in 1948. It was the UN that disarmed Palestinian fighters during Lebanon’s bloody civil war, setting up the 1982 massacre of some 2,000 civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Christian rightist forces directed by Israeli troops under the leadership of the (now-comatose) butcher Ariel Sharon. No to UN, European Union intervention!
Every “solution” to the Palestinian national question under capitalism either perpetuates the oppression of the Palestinian Arab people or envisions a reversal of the terms of oppression, denying the legitimate national rights of the Hebrew-speaking people. The Arab nationalists and Islamists look to a “holy war” of the Arab peoples against Zionist Israel. Marxists fight to bring the class question to the fore, to mobilize the proletariat of the predominantly Muslim countries of the Near East in struggle against their own bourgeoisies. As V.I. Lenin, founder of the Bolshevik Party which led the only successful workers revolution in history, stated in 1913, “Marxism cannot be reconciled with nationalism, be it even of the ‘most just,’ ‘purest,’ most refined and civilised brand. In place of all forms of nationalism Marxism advances internationalism.
The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which laid the basis for the liberation of the tsarist empire’s many subjugated peoples, was a beacon of liberation for the oppressed throughout the world, inspiring anti-colonial revolts throughout the Near East. This legacy continued despite the Stalinist degeneration of the USSR. In 1958, Iraqi workers led by the multinational Iraqi Communist Party—which included Muslims, Jews and Christians, Arabs and Kurds—fought to make a revolution and came to the brink of power. However, this and other revolutionary opportunities were betrayed by the Kremlin and the Stalinist-led Communist parties, subordinating the proletariat to an alliance with “progressive” bourgeois nationalists, who, once in power, launched a bloodbath against the Communist-led workers.
What is necessary is the forging of revolutionary Marxist parties throughout the Near East, built in opposition to all forms of nationalism and religious fundamentalism, and committed to the struggle for socialist revolution, which, on an international scale, can finally open the door to human equality and liberation. As we wrote in the International Communist League Declaration of Principles (Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 54, Spring 1998):
“The victory of the proletariat on a world scale would place unimagined material abundance at the service of human needs, lay the basis for the elimination of classes and the eradication of social inequality based on sex and the very abolition of the social significance of race, nation and ethnicity. For the first time mankind will grasp the reins of history and control its own creation, society, resulting in an undreamed-of emancipation of human potential, and a monumental forward surge of civilization. Only then will it be possible to realize the free development of each individual as the condition for the free development of all.”