Workers Hammer No. 228
Zionist bloodbath in Gaza
Defend the Palestinians!
On 26 August, an indefinite ceasefire negotiated between Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority brought a halt to the Zionists’ brutal 50-day onslaught against Gaza that killed more than 2100 Palestinians, injured 11,000 and left more than 17,000 homes destroyed or badly damaged. Hundreds of thousands are displaced and living in UN shelters. As we go to press, this latest ceasefire appears to be holding. Despite the tremendous loss of life and the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure that it has wrought, the Netanyahu government has evidently failed in its objective of crushing Hamas. The ceasefire has been hailed as a victory by the Islamic fundamentalists of Hamas, but while a respite from the killing is welcome, the hellish conditions of life for the oppressed Palestinians have only become worse.
The article below is adapted from Workers Vanguard (no 1050, 8 August), newspaper of the Spartacist League/US. While today the US behemoth underpins the Zionist terror machine, the carnage in the Near East is the legacy of British imperialist divide-and-rule. Britain’s 1917 Balfour Declaration opened the door for the creation of Israel, carved out by the forcible expulsion of the Palestinian people off their lands.
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AUGUST 5 — “They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists.... They are all enemy combatants.” This screed by Israeli politician Ayelet Shaked, posted on the eve of “Operation Protective Edge,” is a genocidal expression of a cold Zionist ideology that views the Palestinian people as untermenschen (“subhumans”) to be killed with impunity. “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail” was how a notorious right-wing Israeli rabbi baldly put it some 20 years ago. Today, this is reasserted through the wholesale slaughter of more than 1800 largely defenceless Palestinians, with another 9400 wounded, by the imperialist-armed Israeli war machine, carried out under the pretext of responding to Hamas’s largely ineffectual rocket attacks.
As we go to press, it appears that Israel is withdrawing its forces from Gaza. At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to renew the massacres under the pretence of going after Hamas’s rockets and tunnels. In the face of Israel’s barbarity, we take a side militarily in defence of Hamas against Israel, without giving an iota of political support to that reactionary Islamic fundamentalist outfit. Defend the Palestinian people!
For the last month, the already devastated population of the Gaza Strip has been under a relentless barrage of Zionist state terror, with missiles raining down from the skies above and from the sea, while people are being shelled by artillery in an 86,000-strong ground invasion. The overwhelming majority of the dead are civilians, including at least 400 children. The streets are strewn with decomposing limbs and bodies. Whole blocks are flattened. Whole families are exterminated. Scenes abound of women and children fleeing on foot from missiles and shells.
Gaza lies in ruin upon ruin. The skyline of Gaza City and other towns in one of the most densely populated places on earth is a ragged outline of shattered buildings and torn minarets. Gaza’s meagre infrastructure is devastated, many of its few factories destroyed, its one power plant in flames. A population that has had to live on four hours of electricity a day will now be forced to subsist with neither electricity nor treated water nor a sewage system, while overwhelmed hospitals lose electrical power even just to keep blood and medicines refrigerated.
The sordid bourgeois media presents the carnage in Gaza as a “war” between two equal sides. Israel is absolved for any amount of murder of Palestinians, who, in turn, have no right to defend themselves. The leaflets that Israel drops telling Palestinians to flee are a cruel reminder that Gaza’s residents have nowhere to flee from what is a concentration camp surrounded by an electrified fence, a sealed border with Egypt and a Mediterranean shoreline patrolled by the Israeli navy.
There is no refuge for Gazans. UN schools — which have been sheltering more than 200,000 people, over ten per cent of Gaza’s population — have been bombed repeatedly. On 3 August, one such school in Rafah was hit by Israel, killing ten people — this after UN administrators at the school had communicated to the Israeli military no less than 33 times its precise co-ordinates and the fact that it was housing some 3000 refugees. This was the seventh such Israeli bombing of UN shelters. On 30 July, after announcing a four-hour “humanitarian pause” in the bombing, Israel struck a market in Shejaya where desperate people were trying to get food. The brutal bombardment killed at least 17 people and wounded over 200.
The scale of Israel’s current onslaught in Gaza has already surpassed that of its 2008-09 terror campaign, called “Operation Cast Lead”, in which some 1400 Palestinians were slaughtered. Whereas during the first (1987-93) and second (2000-05) Intifadas (uprisings) it took months and years for thousands of Palestinians to be killed, today such numbers are reached in days and weeks. This is the new “normal” that has been established by the war criminals in Tel Aviv.
Behind the Israeli terror machine stands the far more powerful and deadly terror machine of US imperialism. US National Security Advisor Susan Rice declares, “Here is one thing you never have to worry about: America’s support for the state of Israel.” For his part, Secretary of State John Kerry reiterates that Israel “has every right in the world to defend itself ”. The US arms Israel to the tune of more than $3 billion a year in military and other aid. And the US has announced that it will allow Israel to tap into US stockpiles of grenades and mortar rounds inside Israel. On 1 August the House [of Representatives] voted 395 to 8 to approve another $225 million for Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defence system, which the US helped to create; the measure passed unanimously in the Senate. Down with imperialist aid to Israel! Down with US and British imperialism!
Britain and other European imperialist powers are not far behind the Americans in consigning the Palestinian people to whatever fate the Zionists have in store. The French head of state, François Hollande, proclaimed on 9 July: “The government of Israel has the prerogative to take all measures to protect its people in the face of danger.” The “Socialist”-led government has banned demonstrations against the Zionists’ atrocities and its cops have arrested dozens at protests in Paris and other cities.
In the Near East, most of the venal Arab bourgeois regimes, with Egypt taking the lead, have effectively stood with Israel against Hamas. Even the empty declarations of solidarity with the Palestinians have been dispensed with this time. Al-Sisi’s regime in Egypt came to power last year through a bloody coup that overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi. To the current Egyptian government, Hamas, a close ally of the Brotherhood, is far more of an enemy than Israel. The Egyptian media retails accusations against Hamas — blaming it for provoking Israel’s current onslaught — to such an extent that Israel has been broadcasting Egyptian talk shows into Gaza. More significantly, the US-armed Egyptian military has sealed its border with Gaza, refusing to allow goods into the Strip or Palestinian refugees into Sinai. Down with US aid to Egypt!
There have been protests in many cities against the bloodbath in Gaza. The Spartacist League/US and other national sections of the International Communist League have intervened 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. Here in the belly of the beast we emphasise our class-struggle opposition to US imperialism. In the Near East, there is no hope of peace or a decent life for the myriad peoples of the region until the proletariat overthrows bourgeois rule through a series of socialist revolutions.
Zionist lies and disinformation
The premise for Israel’s current savagery in Gaza is built upon the sort of lies that would win the admiration of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. The bourgeois media dutifully prates that Israelis live in terror of Hamas attacks. In fact in all of 2013, a total of six Israelis were killed — three of them soldiers and all but one in the occupied West Bank, where hundreds of thousands of Zionist settlers, backed up by troops, routinely terrorise Palestinian residents. As for the Hamas rockets and mortars, the number of attacks in 2013 dropped by 97 per cent from the previous year according to the Israeli government’s own statistics. In fact, some fascistic elements have taken to picnicking in the hilltops near Gaza — within range of Hamas’s rockets. They bring with them lawn chairs, snacks, sodas and beers as they watch the bombardment of Gaza, taking thumbs-up selfies in front of black plumes of smoke and roaring with approval as Israeli missiles and shells hit their targets.
The supposed impetus for the pummeling of Gaza this time around was the kidnapping and killing of three yeshiva students in the West Bank in June. With no evidence whatsoever, Israel immediately declared Hamas guilty, ignoring the latter’s denial. It has since come out that the Netanyahu regime knew virtually from the moment they were kidnapped that the yeshiva students were dead. But for 18 days, the government maintained the lie of searching for them in order to build up the hysteria in the country and abroad against Hamas. As calculated, a round of fascistic terror was unleashed against Palestinians, capped by the torture and murder of a 16-year-old East Jerusalem youth: kidnapped by ultra-Zionists on 2 July, he was found burned to death.
During those 18 days, Israel carried out a large-scale crackdown against Hamas in the West Bank, destroying homes, carrying out raids that killed ten Palestinians and arresting several hundred senior Hamas leaders, including many of those recently freed under the terms of a prisoner exchange. It was in response to this that Hamas intensified its feeble rocket attacks.
The actual background to the current onslaught is the increasing isolation of Hamas. Having backed the Sunni fundamentalist insurgents in the brutal Syrian civil war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Hamas lost support from the Syrian regime as well as its backers, Hezbollah and Iran. At the same time, the overthrow of Morsi in Egypt resulted in the loss of a key ally right on the border of Gaza.
In this situation, Hamas entered into a “unity government” agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA), the dominant organisation in the West Bank. The PA had been the ruling force in Gaza until it was soundly defeated in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections by Hamas, which dislodged it from Gaza in a factional conflagration in 2007 that took hundreds of lives. As noted by foreign policy analyst Nathan Thrall in a 17 July New York Times op-ed piece, “Israel immediately sought to undermine the reconciliation agreement by preventing Hamas leaders and Gaza residents from obtaining the two most essential benefits of the deal: the payment of salaries to 43,000 civil servants who worked for the Hamas government and continue to administer Gaza under the new one, and the easing of the suffocating border closures imposed by Israel and Egypt.” Israel then went in for the kill. Israeli policy in recent decades has been to separate Gaza from the West Bank, to fragment and treat them as two separate entities.
Before this recent onslaught, Gaza was already a hellhole. Blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007, Gaza has been starved for years. Unemployment stood at 40.8 per cent. More than 80 per cent of the population had been dependent on UN and other international aid for survival. About 50 per cent of infants and children under two were suffering from iron deficiency anemia. The populations of Gaza City, Rafah and Jabalya in Gaza received fresh water only once every four days, for six to eight hours at a time. Down with the blockade of Gaza!
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 over 600,000 Zionist settlers who are backed up by thousands more troops, Palestinians are subjected to a series of military checkpoints and “Jewish only” roads that cut farmers off from their own fields and make travel between towns virtually impossible. All Zionist troops and settlers out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem!
For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!
For well over 65 years, the Palestinian masses have suffered under the jackboot of the Israeli state — an oppression that has only intensified since the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92. The collapse of the USSR, which had acted as a counterweight to US imperialism, deprived the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) of crucial diplomatic and financial support, paving the way for the 1993 US-sponsored Oslo accords, which established the Palestinian Authority as Israel’s police auxiliaries in the Occupied Territories.
Far from bringing “peace” or the easing of poverty and national oppression, Oslo and the various later “peace” accords deepened the Palestinians’ desperation. At the time of the Oslo agreement, the land seized by Zionist settlements was estimated at over 55 per cent of the total land area of the Occupied Territories; in the West Bank, Israel was taking about 80 per cent of the water for settlements and for use in Israel proper. The Oslo accords ignored the question of water resources while “postponing” any adjustment of land claims. In the subsequent two decades, the settlements have expanded virtually unchecked.
Relative freedom of movement within the territories and between Gaza and the West Bank has all but been eliminated. With Oslo, Israel dramatically accelerated the process of expelling Palestinians from the low-wage jobs they were able to hold within Israel, replacing them with migrant workers from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, who today face brutal exploitation and repression.
It was the political bankruptcy of the secular-nationalist PLO that paved the way for the rise of reactionary, anti-woman, anti-Christian and anti-Jewish outfits like Hamas, which in the 1970s and ’80s were promoted by Israel as a counterweight to the PLO and more left-wing Palestinian groups. Oslo and subsequent “peace” deals were the logical culmination of the PLO’s nationalist programme. When 2000 Palestinians, mainly elderly people and children, were being slaughtered at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982 at the behest of the Israeli army, PLO leaders were abroad being feted as statesmen (without a state) and rubbing elbows in Cairo cafes with other left-talking nationalists from throughout the Third World. The basis of Palestinian nationalism, like all nationalism, is to preach the unity of the downtrodden and exploited with their “own” exploiters and would-be exploiters. In this view, the Palestinians’ allies are to be sought not among the proletariat of the region, but rather among Arab rulers, and, failing that, the imperialists.
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is one of interpenetrated peoples, where two antagonistic populations lay claim to the same piece of land. This means that under capitalism, the exercise of national self-determination by one will necessarily be at the expense of the other. Only in a socialist federation of the Near East can the competing claims to land and resources be equitably resolved.
Some 50 per cent of the Palestinian population lives outside the Occupied Territories. This underlines that the national emancipation of the Palestinians — including the right of all refugees and their descendants to return to their homeland — necessarily entails workers revolutions not only to shatter the Zionist state from within but also to sweep away the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Syrian Ba’athist bonapartists and the capitalist rulers of Lebanon — countries that all have sizable and oppressed Palestinian populations.
Genuine Marxists recognise the right of the Israeli Jews as well as the Palestinians to national self-determination. The historical fact of Israel’s origins as a Zionist settler state founded on the mass expulsion of Arab inhabitants has no bearing on the right of their descendants — like all peoples — to exist. We reject the notion that there are any “progressive” or “reactionary” peoples; it is the ruling classes in power and not whole nations which are responsible for hideous crimes against humanity past and present, whether committed by German Nazis, Israeli Zionists or American imperialists.
We struggle to win the Israeli Jewish working class away from their Zionist rulers to see that their class allies are the working people of the Arab countries and to champion the national rights of the Palestinians. To be sure, such a perspective seems very remote. Over the last several decades, Israeli society has moved very sharply to the right. While 130 courageous teenagers have refused to be drafted into the army out of opposition to the occupation of Palestinian territories, a recent poll indicates that some 95 per cent of Israeli Jews support the Israeli onslaught against Gaza.
The liberal demonstrations in cities like Haifa and Tel Aviv against the assault have been small, emboldening fascistic counterdemonstrators who attack the protesters with rocks and lead pipes while chanting “Death to Arabs!” and “Death to leftists!” Where the cops have not simply repressed the liberal demonstrations, they have penned protesters up where they could be easily assaulted, or simply left the scene. Meanwhile, Palestinian “citizens” of Israel have faced brutal harassment and violence for their opposition to the bombardment and invasion of Gaza.
Nonetheless, Israel is a class-divided society, with a proletariat made up of not only Jewish workers but also Palestinians (as well as a growing sector of foreign migrant workers). More than 25 per cent of its citizens live in poverty and income disparities are higher than in even Egypt or Jordan. Palestinians constitute about 20 per cent of Israel’s population, second-class citizens who are consigned to segregated, impoverished areas and to low-paid labour or unemployment. Sephardic Jews, though overwhelmingly under the sway of right-wing and religious parties, suffer widespread discrimination and poverty. An even worse situation confronts Israeli Jews of Ethiopian descent.
It is only the working class of Israel that has the capacity and historic interest to destroy the Zionist state from within. It is the false consciousness of Zionist nationalism, religion and racism that binds the Israeli Jewish proletariat to its capitalist ruling-class enemy. The fact that Israel is surrounded by pervasive anti-Jewish bigotry in the Arab countries allows the Israeli ruling class to more easily sell the lie that the Zionist state “protects” Israeli Jews. Hamas (and other Palestinian groups) have no qualms about targeting Israeli civilians for suicide bombings in the cities. Such acts are criminal from the standpoint of the international proletariat and serve only to cement the loyalty of Israeli Jews to Zionism.
Grotesque, even by the lights of “socialists” who will tail anything, is the Socialist Struggle Movement, the Israeli affiliate of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), whose British group is the Socialist Party. Socialist Struggle issued a 29 July statement, “Gaza in Crisis”, which amounts to a left-Zionist critique of Israel’s assault. While condemning the bombings, not once does the piece state the elementary position of the need to defend the Palestinians, much less take a side militarily with Hamas’s forces. While complaining that Netanyahu’s “right-wing security strategy has proved a complete failure” because it did not succeed in toppling Hamas and instead “sowed more desperation, bereavement, death and destruction” (as though this were not conscious Israeli policy), the CWI laments the death of Israeli soldiers in the assault, writing that they “needlessly died”.
Unlike the 2008-09 Gaza invasion, in which only ten Israeli soldiers were killed (four of them by “friendly fire”), Hamas this time around has inflicted some casualties against Israeli soldiers, killing 64. Marxists are not bloodthirsty, but we understand that if large numbers of Israeli soldiers started coming back in body bags, there would be potential for rifts to develop within Israeli society over the government’s terror war on the Palestinians. As Marxists, we do not equate the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressor.
What is vital is to forge revolutionary Marxist parties throughout the Near East to unite the proletariat — Arab, Persian and Kurdish; Sunni and Shi’ite; Muslim, Christian and Jewish — in struggle against imperialism and all the capitalist rulers of the region. The conquest of power by the proletariat in the Near East will not complete the socialist revolution, but only paves the way 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, industrialised imperialist centres.
Defence of those subjugated by the imperialists around the globe demands the pursuit of class struggle in the US, Britain and other imperialist centres, pointing towards a proletarian struggle for power. The Spartacist League is committed to the fight to forge a revolutionary workers party to lead the multiracial proletariat in the struggle to sweep away imperialism through socialist revolution.
BDS and illusions in imperialism
In recent years, given the utterly desperate situation, many have turned to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a way to “do something” on behalf of the Palestinians. This liberal movement appeals to “international civil society organizations and people of conscience” to implement boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel. It also calls on its supporters to pressure their governments to implement embargoes and sanctions against Israel. The stated goal of the campaign is to force Israel to comply with “international law” and recognise the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
Whatever the intentions of the committed young activists in BDS, the fundamental premise of the movement is to appeal to the imperialist forces that are up to their necks in the subjugation of the Palestinian people. This was made clear by the reformist International Socialist Organization (ISO), which staunchly supports BDS. The ISO succinctly described that the aim of the divestment and sanctions is “to bring sufficient pressure to ‘ensure a change in Zionist strategic calculations’ that would make a democratic state an acceptable option” (socialistworker.org, 13 March). The ISO were formerly bloc partners of the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP), which likewise supports the BDS campaign.
There is a vast difference between negative demands on the imperialists, like “down with US aid to Israel”, and positive calls on them to act humanely on behalf of the oppressed. To seek to pressure the capitalist rulers to make more “socially responsible” or “ethical” investments is to build dangerous illusions in the supposed benign nature of the imperialists — whose class interests are fundamentally counterposed to those of the workers and the oppressed all over the world — as being somehow better than Israel. The imperialist ruling classes will pursue their interests in as merciless a manner as they need to regardless of what “people of conscience” have to say. The US supports Israel because Israel serves US imperialism’s interests in the region. Any change in that regard (unlikely though that is) would not be the result of “grassroots pressure” but rather the product of a shift in American foreign policy, which would be no less oppressive, violent and predatory.
Likewise, the BDS’s appeals to the UN to enforce “international law” reinforce dangerous illusions in “democratic” imperialism. Opponents of Zionist terror must place no reliance on this imperialist den of thieves and their victims. Time and again, the UN has acted to reinforce Palestinian oppression. The UN presided over the 1947 partition of Palestine. United Nations “peacekeepers” disarmed Palestinian fighters in Lebanon in 1982, setting up the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Imperialism itself lies at the root of the national dismemberment and resulting deadly antagonisms that have written the history of the Near East in blood. And all the treacherous nationalist leaders whose politics today boil down to seeking advantage at the expense of other peoples only reinforce the prostration of the region before the might of imperialism.
It is precisely the liberal-bourgeois political outlook promoted by the likes of BDS and others — working within a capitalist framework, seeking to pressure one capitalist force or another — that ensured that upheavals like the early 2011 uprising in Egypt, taking place amid massive waves of labour strikes, never developed into a challenge to capitalist rule in that country. This was most clearly expressed by the ISO’s fraternal group in Egypt, the Revolutionary Socialists, as well as the SWP, which in 2012 called for a vote to the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood only to support the coup carried out by the blood-soaked military a year later. The tragedy of Egypt today, where in place of the struggle for proletarian power military rule has only become more deeply entrenched, is also the tragedy of the Palestinian people.
As we wrote in “‘Boycott Israel’ Campaign and Illusions in Democratic Imperialism” (Workers Vanguard no 1045, 2 May):
“The current grim situation underlines that there is no easy road to the liberation of the Palestinian people, which requires the revolutionary overthrow of capitalist rule in nuclear-armed Israel and the surrounding Arab states. This perspective demands the forging of revolutionary Marxist parties committed to the struggle for working-class power and tempered through the most uncompromising struggle against all forms of nationalism and religious reaction. There is no other way.”