Workers Vanguard No. 895

6 July 2007


Zionists Tighten Vise as Hamas Takes Gaza Ghetto

U.S./Israel Provoke Palestinian Bloodbath

Defend the Palestinian People!

For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!

Days after the takeover of the Gaza Strip by the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt on June 25 in a summit organized by Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Abbas had dutifully dispersed the elected government of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and Fatah forces rounded up Hamas members in the West Bank. Abbas installed a handpicked “emergency government” to the applause of his imperialist and Zionist paymasters and the venal Arab bourgeois regimes. To underline who is in charge of the Occupied Territories, Israel was planning its next assault on the Palestinians even as the four leaders met in Egypt. Within a few days, Israeli forces had killed some 20 Palestinians in the Gaza ghetto and attacked the West Bank town of Nablus, killing at least one Fatah fighter.

Exacerbated by Israel and the imperialists, the bloodletting between Hamas and the petty-bourgeois nationalist Fatah is but the latest chapter in the tragedy of Palestinian life. Through a variety of economic sanctions, the U.S., Israel and the European powers had been starving the Palestinians as punishment for the January 2006 electoral victory of Hamas, which the Zionists and imperialists have long labeled “terrorist.” Furthering its own interests against its Hamas rivals, Abbas’ PA has acted as the willing tool of Tel Aviv and Washington.

Revolutionary Marxists had no side in the internecine fighting between Hamas and Fatah. At the same time, we stand for the military defense of Hamas against military assault by Israel or the U.S. without giving this reactionary fundamentalist outfit any political support.

The spark for the fighting in Gaza was the deployment of 3,000 Fatah-allied security forces in Gaza City in early May over Hamas’ objections. Hamas also bristled at Abbas’ appointment of former Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan as his national security advisor. (Dahlan had been responsible for building up the PA’s security services in Gaza under the 1993 U.S.-brokered Oslo accord and oversaw the brutal repression of Hamas, carried out in collaboration with the CIA.) U.S. officials openly promised military support to Abbas against Hamas as part of an $84 million aid package; Israel made clear that it would allow arms to be shipped to Abbas’ Presidential Guard and allow U.S. training of his forces in the West Bank. After taking Gaza, Hamas claimed to have captured an arsenal of $400 million worth of weapons from Fatah.

In mid May, Israel allowed some 500 Fatah loyalists to enter Gaza from Egypt at the Rafah border crossing, setting off the fighting. Fatah’s forces had been trained in Egypt under the oversight of American Lt. General Keith Dayton, who told a Congressional committee on May 23: “We have a temporary security zone almost complete on the Palestinian side, financed largely by the Dutch, British, Norwegians and Canadians.” From the right-wing Bush gang to the ardently pro-Israel Democratic Party, the U.S. ruling class has long been committed to supporting Israel as a bulwark of American interests in the Near East.

At least 150 Palestinians died in the clashes, during which a U.S. envoy reportedly said, “I like this violence.” In the wake of Fatah’s defeat, Israel, Egypt and the imperialists further sealed off Gaza, causing meager food supplies to dwindle even further. Bush declared that Abbas was now “the president of all the Palestinians.” The Olmert government has begun doling out to the PA some of the hundreds of millions of dollars of Palestinian taxes it had withheld since the election of Hamas and said it would release some 250 of the 11,000 Palestinians languishing in Zionist dungeons, a promise that does not include dozens of Hamas legislators.

Surrounded by an electrified fence, sealed borders and the Mediterranean, Gaza is little more than a glorified concentration camp holding 1.5 million people. Even after Israel withdrew military forces from Gaza in 2005, it continues to isolate the area. Israeli forces now lob bombs and missiles into Gaza while also carrying out numerous incursions. Children going to the beach have been shot down with impunity by Zionist troops.

The Palestinian population in the West Bank barely fares better. The area is nearly sealed by an apartheid wall that cuts into Palestinian territories, separating farmers from their land. A Kafkaesque series of military checkpoints and “Jewish only” roads make travel between towns virtually impossible for Arabs. Palestinians in need of medical aid die and give birth waiting at the checkpoints. Backed by thousands of troops, at least 450,000 Zionist settlers occupy the West Bank. Israel hands off Gaza! All Zionist troops and settlers out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem!

For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!

The long record of treachery by Fatah, the central component of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) founded by the late Yasir Arafat, combined with Israel’s relentless, pounding oppression, opened the door to the rise of the Hamas reactionaries. Hamas’ imprint on Palestinian society can be seen in the reinforced oppression of women symbolized by the headscarf and veil. This situation starkly demonstrates the political bankruptcy of Palestinian nationalism, whose program is based on allying with the bloody Arab bourgeois regimes and appealing to the imperialists and their agencies like the United Nations.

At the heart of the question of Israel/Palestine is the impossibility, within a capitalist framework, of achieving national justice for the geographically interpenetrated Palestinian and Hebrew-speaking peoples, which both lay claim to the same small sliver of land. Under capitalism, the exercise of national self-determination by one will necessarily be at the expense of the other. 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 not only shatter the Zionist state from within but 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 myriad peoples of the region—including both the Palestinian and Hebrew-speaking peoples—will not know peace, justice or material well-being until bourgeois rule is overthrown through a series of proletarian revolutions that establish a socialist federation of the Near East.

Israeli society is not a seamless mass of reaction but a class-divided society, with a working class viciously exploited at the hands of its “own” ruling class. We have no illusions that it will be easy to shatter the chauvinism of the Hebrew working class. Indeed, it will likely require cataclysmic events—from economic crisis and military defeat to revolutionary upheavals in the region—to break the Israeli proletariat from Zionism. This task is not made easier by the criminal indiscriminate terror bombings carried out by Palestinian forces against Israeli civilians, which drive the Hebrew-speaking population further into the arms of the Zionist rulers. The key in Israel/Palestine, as throughout the region, is the forging of revolutionary workers parties that uncompromisingly fight against all manner of nationalism and religious reaction.

Nowhere in the region is the proletariat at “peace” with its rulers. For more than six months, Egypt has been convulsed by a wave of strikes carried out in defiance of the Mubarak dictatorship and the official union federation it controls. Textile workers, railway workers, trash collectors, subway workers, truck drivers, construction workers and others have engaged in hundreds of sit-ins and other labor actions, with women often playing a leading role. Protesting against privatization policies as well as over pay and benefits, workers have often won their demands from a government fearful that the unrest will spread. Meanwhile in Iran, with its powerful proletariat in the oil fields and other industries, the population suffers deepening poverty, exacerbated by imperialist sanctions, and suffocating social conditions under the mullah regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Beginning June 27, Tehran was gripped by fuel riots in response to government-imposed gasoline rations.

The struggle to mobilize the proletariat of the Near East in its own interests is inextricably bound up with the fight against the region’s imperialist overlords. As the U.S. continues to wreak havoc on Iraq, the expansion of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan has led to numerous incidents of civilians being slaughtered. Even Afghan president Hamid Karzai felt compelled to complain to his American handlers. All U.S. troops out of the Near East, Iraq and Afghanistan now! The Spartacist League/U.S. calls for class struggle at home against the capitalist rulers.

With U.S. imperialism bogged down in its Iraq quagmire, Washington continues to hurl provocative accusations at Iran, most recently claiming that its agents were responsible for a January raid in the Iraqi Shi’ite city of Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers. What hubris coming from the U.S. imperialists, whose invasion and occupation of Iraq has led to the displacement of millions from their homes and the deaths of hundreds of thousands, either through imperialist terror or the sectarian bloodbath unleashed by the occupation. George W. Bush, lame duck that he is, has used his remaining powers to keep “Scooter” Libby, assistant to Vice President Cheney and a key player in preparing the Iraq invasion, out of jail despite his conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame case.

The U.S. and UN are pursuing their attempts to block Iran from developing its nuclear program, which Tehran says is for energy purposes. In the face of threats from the nuclear-armed imperialists and the nuclear-armed Zionists, Iran needs nukes to defend itself and deter attack. Down with UN imperialist sanctions! Hands off Iran! It is the U.S. imperialists and their Zionist henchmen who threaten nuclear Armageddon. On July 2, an Israeli court sentenced Mordechai Vanunu, who spent 18 years in prison for revealing the extent of Israel’s nuclear arsenal, to another six months in jail for violating a gag order. Hands off Vanunu! Grant his request to leave Israel!

Nationalism and Islamic Fundamentalism

Petty-bourgeois nationalism has utterly shown itself to be a dead end for the Palestinian masses. But helping to pave that road was the reformist left internationally. In opposition to a Marxist, proletarian strategy, the U.S. Workers World Party (WWP), International Socialist Organization (ISO) and others for years cheered on Arafat’s PLO and other nationalist outfits. More recently, these groups have expressed shock at the PLO’s collaboration with the Zionists and have taken to lauding Hamas and other Islamic reactionaries as “anti-imperialist.”

Thus we are told by Workers World (24 June) that “the Gaza struggle was between irreconcilable class forces,” where “the forces of national resistance” were “represented by Hamas.” The British Socialist Workers Party (SWP)—formerly allied with the ISO—enthuses that Hamas’ victory “was a strike against imperialism in the Middle East” (Socialist Worker [Britain] online, 23 June).

Far from being “anti-imperialists,” the Islamic fundamentalists were historically promoted by the imperialists and their allies as a counter to Communism and even secular nationalism. Hamas was in fact initially promoted by Israel as a bulwark against the secular-nationalist PLO. In 1978, the Israeli government approved an application by one Sheik Ahmed Yassin to license the Islamic Association, a front for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and a forerunner of Hamas. In addition to funding the Islamic Association as an official charity, Israel helped it gain control of the Islamic University of Gaza as a base among the intelligentsia, while the association’s welfare programs helped the fundamentalists win a base among the Palestinian poor.

Some months after the outbreak of the 1987-93 Palestinian Intifada, Hamas was founded as an Islamist political movement with an armed wing, seeking to fuse the national struggle, previously secularist, with Islamic fundamentalism, larded with anti-Jewish demagogy. Israel did not break relations with it until the fall of 1989 after discovering that Hamas had killed two Israeli soldiers. Sheik Yassin was assassinated by Israel in 2004.

The WWP, ISO and SWP—all of whom praise Hamas—stand by the nationalist program that paved the way for Fatah’s abject treachery. Workers World claims that only “a small faction of Fatah” under Abbas and Dahlan represents “the forces of imperialist slavery.” The SWP declares that “Fatah has been transformed from an organisation that fought against Zionism and imperialism into an organisation that polices its own people in their service.” For its part, the ISO’s Socialist Worker (22 June) states: “The willingness of Fatah to act as a U.S.-Israeli proxy force against Hamas is the culmination of a long process that began with the Oslo ‘peace process’.”

The Oslo accords did indeed mark a turning point. As we wrote at the time, they represented a “grotesque bargain over the subjugated Palestinian people” that “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). But contrary to the contention of the ISO, the “long process” that culminated in Fatah’s current role as a “U.S.-Israeli proxy” began well before Oslo.

The basis of Arab 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 the Arab rulers. Even the most militant Palestinian nationalists recognized that they could not defeat the Zionist state militarily. The strategy of “armed struggle” pursued by the PLO in the 1960s and ’70s—when, according to the SWP, Fatah was “an organisation that fought against Zionism and imperialism”—was aimed at pressing for “Arab unity” against Israel.

But the Arab bourgeoisies are enemies to the cause of Palestinian national liberation. Between the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the West Bank and Gaza were controlled by Jordan and Egypt respectively. The Palestinian population remained politically dispossessed and subject to brutal repression. In the decade following the ’67 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 PLO’s appeals to the bourgeois rulers were eventually supplanted by direct appeals to the imperialists, centrally the U.S., and even the Zionists, culminating in the 1993 accords. Underlying that deal was the destruction of the USSR through capitalist counterrevolution—a world-historic defeat for workers and the oppressed internationally. As a military and political counterweight to the U.S. and other capitalist powers, the existence of the Soviet degenerated workers state allowed the PLO and other Third World nationalist movements and regimes room to maneuver between the Soviets and the imperialists. Without the diplomatic and financial support previously provided by Moscow, the PLO soon agreed to act as guardians for the Zionists in the Occupied Territories.

As Trotskyists, we fought for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union and the deformed workers states of East Europe against imperialist attack and counterrevolution and for proletarian political revolution to oust the ruling Stalinist bureaucracies. Today we raise the same program for the remaining deformed workers states of China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba. The ISO and their SWP former brethren took the other side, denouncing the Soviet Union as “state capitalist” and siding with “democratic” imperialism and every imperialist-backed movement aimed at the USSR, from Polish Solidarność to the CIA-funded mujahedin cutthroats who fought against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Counterrevolution in the former Soviet Union—over which the ISO and SWP rejoiced—has brought devastation to the working people of those societies and emboldened the imperialists in their attacks while fueling the resurgence of religious reaction globally. Our fight is for new October Revolutions. Key to this is combatting bourgeois ideology in all its forms—and the reformist leftists who promote it—in order to render the proletariat conscious of its historic task as the gravedigger of the capitalist system. Reforge the Fourth International—world party of socialist revolution!