Workers Vanguard No. 988
14 October 2011
Statehood Charade at UN
U.S./Israel Tighten Screws on Palestinians
On September 23, Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas formally asked the United Nations Security Council to sponsor the establishment of a state in the West Bank and Gaza by granting the Palestinians full UN membership. The Obama administration declared in advance that it would veto the proposal if it gained broad support in the Security Council. Thousands watching Abbas’ speech on outdoor screens across the West Bank cheered thunderously at what they viewed as a step toward relieving the dreadful oppression they suffer under the Zionist jackboot. This is a cruel illusion. As one young man watching the speech declared to the London Guardian (23 September), Palestine will remain “basically a big refugee camp. Nothing on the ground will change.”
The hopes of Palestinian officials that their appeal to the UN would pressure Israel into granting concessions quickly went up in smoke. Fascistic Zionist settlers in the West Bank, encouraged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government and the Israeli military, retaliated against the UN bid by burning and defacing mosques, assaulting Palestinians and torching their olive groves. Just hours before Abbas took the podium at the UN, a Palestinian father of seven was killed near Nablus when Israeli soldiers fired on villagers who were gathering to defend their farmland against a mob of settlers.
Several days later, Netanyahu announced the construction of 1,100 new housing units in Gilo, one of a ring of settlements built by the Zionists around East Jerusalem in order to cut it off from the Palestinians in the West Bank. That population has been increasingly confined by Israel’s rulers in bantustan-like enclaves demarcated by a heavily guarded wall and separated off by Zionist settlements, “Jewish-only” roads and military checkpoints. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, squeezed by a blockade imposed with U.S. support after Hamas militarily took control of Gaza in 2007, are trapped in an impoverished, devastated ghetto, surrounded by the sea, an electrified fence and a wall along its border with Egypt. The Islamic fundamentalist Hamas appeared torn by the PA’s bid at the UN, although some of its spokesmen distanced themselves from Abbas’ appeal.
The Obama administration had warned the PA of dire consequences if it brought the issue to the UN, and Congressional Democrats and Republicans voted almost unanimously to cut off aid to the Palestinians if the PA defied Washington’s admonition. When Congress then blocked $200 million in aid—threatening food programs, health services and infrastructure projects—the PA aptly termed it “collective punishment.” A PA spokesman remarked that “it is ironic to be punished for going to the United Nations.”
Not so ironic, really. From the three million killed in the 1950-53 Korean War to the terror bombing of Muammar el-Qaddafi’s Libya this year, the UN has acted as a tool of imperialist depredation around the world. The treatment of the Palestinians themselves starkly illuminates the nature of the UN as a den of imperialist thieves and their accomplices and victims. The UN sponsored the foundation of the state of Israel, touching off the 1948 War and the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their lands. It was the UN that disarmed Palestinian fighters during Lebanon’s bloody civil war, setting up the 1982 massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. At this year’s UN session, the new Libyan state that came into being through NATO bombing easily won recognition while U.S. officials worked furiously to head off any possibility that a Palestinian state might be recognized.
Workers internationally must stand in defense of the Palestinian people against Zionist terror. The Israeli state is backed to the hilt by the Democratic and Republican parties of U.S. imperialism, the biggest enemy of working people and the oppressed around the globe, and is supported as well by the rulers of Germany and other capitalist powers. To defend its interests in the oil-rich Near East, U.S. imperialism each year pumps some $3 billion in military aid to Israel and shells out another $1.3 billion for Egypt’s military, relying as well on the Saudi monarchy and the despots ruling the Persian Gulf states. Down with the blockade of Gaza! All Zionist troops and settlers out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem! Down with U.S. aid to Israel, Egypt!
For a Socialist Federation of the Near East!
At the heart of the Palestinians’ oppression is the fact that both the Hebrew-speaking and Palestinian peoples claim the same slice of land in the Near East. Figures on the Zionist right, such as Netanyahu’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, have long raised the rallying cry of “transfer”—i.e., the forced expulsion of all Palestinian Arabs from the Occupied Territories, and perhaps from within Israel itself. This perspective goes back to the “founding fathers” of the Zionist state. The head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department, Joseph Weitz, wrote in 1940: “Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country.... And there is no other way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries; to transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe should be left” (quoted in introduction to Maxime Rodinson, Israel: A Colonial-Settler State? ).
As has been repeatedly demonstrated in Israel/Palestine, the Balkans and Northern Ireland, under capitalism the only possible outcome to the conflict between geographically interpenetrated peoples is one nation on top with the other either expelled, subjugated or some combination thereof. To secure the national rights of the oppressed Palestinians without thereby denying the national existence of the Hebrew-speaking people, the Zionist garrison state must be shattered from within through Arab/Hebrew workers revolution. As long as the national principle prevails, the oppression of the Palestinians, who are the weaker side, can only worsen. Only within the framework of a socialist federation of the Near East can the right of national self-determination of both the Palestinian Arab and Hebrew-speaking peoples and the many other minority peoples of the region be equitably realized.
In 1974, after Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) first came out for a “two-state” solution to Palestinian national oppression, we declared that at most it represented “a very partial and deformed expression of the Palestinian Arabs’ right to self-determination” (“West Bank Mini-State No Solution,” WV No. 57, 22 November 1974). Since the U.S.-sponsored 1993 Oslo accord between Israel’s then-Labor Party government and the PLO, what has been on offer as an “independent” Palestine is a rump state consisting of the Gaza Strip and four isolated cantons in the West Bank. We warned at the time that far from offering even the most deformed expression of self-determination, Arafat’s deal placed the PLO’s seal on the national oppression of the Palestinians.
At best, the “two-state solution” being pushed by the imperialists, “left” Zionists and Arab nationalists would mean an impoverished Palestinian statelet under the stranglehold of the Zionist capitalist state and with no viable economy. Among other things, it would permanently consign the millions of Palestinian refugees to the camps in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere where they now languish or get them dumped into the impoverished mini-state.
A “socialist” rendition of the “two-state solution” is provided by Peter Taaffe’s fake-Trotskyist Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI, represented by Socialist Alternative in the U.S.). The CWI’s British mainstay, the Socialist Party (SP), declares that “a capitalist Palestine alongside a capitalist Israel would not end poverty and bring security for either state” and raises a call for “two socialist states in a socialist confederation of the region” (socialistparty.org.uk, 14 September). Yet the article nowhere mentioned the need for joint class struggle by the Arab and Hebrew-speaking workers, much less for Arab/Hebrew workers revolution. Thus the SP/CWI call for “socialist states” is just a social-democratic veneer to the perspective of a Palestinian mini-state ghetto.
In the concrete, the Taaffeites crassly capitulate to the Zionist rulers. The SP article fails to raise even the simple, unambiguous demands for defense of the Palestinian people against Zionist terror and for all Israeli troops and settlers out of the Occupied Territories. As for the CWI’s section in Israel, Tnua’t Maavak Sozialisti (Socialist Struggle Movement), an article it produced on this summer’s mass protests in Israel over the high cost of living maintained Zionist “unity” by avoiding any call to defend the Palestinians as well as any discussion of how to achieve Palestinian national rights. (The article is posted in English on the Web site of their U.S. comrades, SocialistAlternative.org, 9 August.)
Hailing the outpouring over skyrocketing housing prices and other necessities as a “magnet for almost all other social protests,” the article remarks that “even the police and prison guards...participated in some of the protests.” This is in line with the CWI’s long history of perpetrating the lie that the cops, prison guards and other armed thugs of the capitalist state are “workers in uniform.”
For Arab/Hebrew Workers Revolution!
The massive protests in Israel this summer were perhaps the largest in the country’s history. After years of government austerity and wage-gouging, Israel has one of the highest poverty rates of any industrialized country in the world. Like all capitalist societies, Israel is divided along class lines and beset by political fissures. The Ashkenazi (European-derived) elite lords it over the Sephardic (Near Eastern) Jewish population, many of whom live in conditions of poverty. The wealth gap between Israeli-born Jews and Israeli Arabs, who constitute some 20 percent of the population, is four to one.
The core of the protests, modeled on the petty-bourgeois “Indignados” (“the indignant”) movements in Spain and Greece, was a tent city that sprang up in Tel Aviv on July 14. As the protest movement was getting under way, public sector doctors and railway workers were carrying out strikes. Early this month, six Arab-populated Israeli towns in the Negev were shut down for a day in protest against a government plan to drive 30,000 Bedouins from their homes and confiscate their land.
While the most prominent slogan in this summer’s protests was “The people want social justice,” the “J14 movement” leadership refused to address the country’s most obvious injustice: the oppression of the Palestinians. The petty-bourgeois protest movement was firmly within the bounds of the Zionist ideology that binds Israeli working people to their capitalist exploiters. Indeed, the tent cities in Tel Aviv and elsewhere attracted their fair share of support from fascistic settlers. Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council, the main group representing settlers, met with a prominent leader of the protest movement to express his solidarity. Baruch Marzel, formerly the head of Kach, the (banned) fascist party founded by American ultra-Zionist Meir Kahane, likewise brought scores of supporters to the Tel Aviv encampment. The settlers have a program to address the high cost of housing: They demand that the government expand the West Bank settlements by forcibly expropriating ever more Palestinian land.
While largely avoiding any hint of solidarity with the Palestinians, many protesters sought to link this movement to what has been dubbed the Arab Spring. Demonstrators chanted, “Tahrir Square is here” and carried posters with the names of Netanyahu, ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, linking the three as common protest targets. The struggles of workers in Tunisia and Egypt played a critical role in the toppling of the despised regimes there. But the “Arab Spring” points to the treacherous consequences of precisely the sort of trans-class coalition that is seen in the protests in Israel.
The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have been dominated by class-collaborationist coalitions ranging from viciously anti-woman Islamic fundamentalists to bourgeois liberals and reformist leftists. In the name of “national unity,” the proletariat has remained politically submerged as a class. In Egypt, the same military that had been the backbone of the Mubarak regime is now openly the governmental power, arresting and torturing hundreds of leftists, worker militants and others. Women and Coptic Christians are increasingly besieged by reactionary fundamentalists and by the military regime itself, as seen in the horrific killing of two dozen Coptic protesters by security forces in Cairo on October 9.
As we wrote at the beginning of the North African uprisings: “What is urgently posed in Egypt today is that the powerful proletariat—the only class with the social power to overturn the brutal and decrepit capitalist order—emerge as the leader of all the oppressed masses” (“Egypt: Mass Upheaval Challenges Dictatorship,” WV No. 973, 4 February). Our article stressed: “As in Tunisia, what is necessary in Egypt is the forging of a revolutionary party that can lead the fight for a workers and peasants government.”
Bankruptcy of Palestinian Nationalism
The sheikhs, kings and military rulers of the Near East and North Africa are no less the enemies of the region’s oppressed, including the Palestinians, than Israel’s Zionist rulers. This is graphically confirmed by the history of the PLO which, following its founding in 1964, initially looked to the Arab bourgeoisies as allies against Israel. The result of this suicidal strategy was seen in the 1970 “Black September” massacre of more than 10,000 Palestinian fighters by the Jordanian monarchy and the tens of thousands more killed later in Lebanon.
By the early 1990s, the PLO’s reliance on the Arab regimes was supplanted by direct appeals to the imperialists, particularly the United States. After capitalist counterrevolution destroyed the Soviet Union in 1991-92, removing the main military and political counterweight to U.S. imperialism, the PLO was deprived of crucial diplomatic and financial support. This set the stage for the 1993 Oslo accords, under which the Palestinian nationalist leaders became enforcers for the Zionist occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The Palestinian nationalists’ view that the Zionist rulers are more reactionary than their imperialist patrons is shared by those in the U.S., Britain and elsewhere who call for “boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions” (BDS) against Israel. At bottom, the divestment campaign looks to employ moral suasion to pressure campus administrations, corporations and ultimately the imperialist rulers, centrally Washington, to break ties to Israel and implement a more benevolent policy toward the Palestinians.
The idea that the U.S. capitalist ruling class could be pressured into serving as a force for good in the world is obscene. From its emergence as an imperialist power in the late 19th century, the U.S. has left a grisly trail of carnage around the globe—from its murderous “pacification” of the Philippines after seizing those islands in the 1898 Spanish-American War to the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the current ravaging of Afghanistan. But for reformists like the International Socialist Organization and Party for Socialism and Liberation in the U.S., their backing of the BDS movement is but one facet of an entire program based on the illusory quest to pressure the profit-driven, bloodsoaked imperialist rulers and their state to serve the interests of workers and the oppressed.
Reforge the Fourth International!
Most of the left internationally offers nothing more than a “socialist” gloss on the treacherous nationalist program that has led the Palestinian masses into ever-deeper misery. A case in point in Israel is the Internationalist Socialist League (ISL), which is affiliated with the League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP) in the U.S. An undated statement last spring by ISL leader Yossi Schwartz declared (lrp-cofi.org):
“Since all Israel is stolen land, history has posed the question as follows: either the Israelis have the right to rule Palestine and not allow the right of self-determination of the Palestinians; or the Palestinians have the right of self-determination, which negates the right of self-determination of the Israeli Jews on Palestinian lands.”
In a later statement addressed to Israeli protesters this summer, the ISL promised that “Jews who would struggle alongside the Palestinians in a revolutionary struggle, will also become a part of the ruling class—the workers and the poor, Palestinians and Jews alike” (the-isleague.com).
But the Hebrew workers will never be broken from Zionism and won to the need for common class struggle with the Palestinian Arab toilers against the Israeli capitalist rulers if their own right to a national existence is denied. Unlike the Palestinian nationalists, the anti-Semitic fundamentalists like Hamas and indeed the Zionists themselves, we do not equate the Zionist state with the Hebrew-speaking people. Nor do we accept the line of the ISL, LRP and much of the left that only the oppressed nations are endowed with valid national rights.
In championing the defense of the Palestinians against Zionist terror, Marxists aim not to pit nation against nation but to point the way to the revolutionary mobilization of the proletariat, in Israel and the entire region. Only through the overthrow of the Israeli bourgeoisie and also the Jordanian monarchy, the Syrian regime and the other Arab ruling classes can the right of self-determination for both the Palestinian Arab and Hebrew-speaking peoples, as well as the many other peoples of the region, be equitably realized. There can be no revolutionary perspective in the Near East without the inclusion of the proletariat of Israel, the most technologically advanced and militarily powerful country in the region. We have no illusions that this will be an easy task; it will likely take some historic event, like the victory of social revolution in another country in the Near East extending a hand of proletarian internationalism to the Israeli working class, to jolt the Hebrew proletariat from its ties with the Zionist rulers.
What is necessary is to build revolutionary Marxist parties throughout the Near East that fight against all forms of nationalism and religious fundamentalism and put forward the perspective of international proletarian revolution, crucially including the U.S. and other imperialist centers. The greatest historical example of such a perspective is that provided by the 1917 Russian Revolution, which, despite its later bureaucratic degeneration under Stalin, brought unparalleled and all-sided social development and national collaboration to the Caucasus and other oppressed regions of the former tsarist empire. Likewise, in the Balkans, long a seething cauldron of interethnic bloodshed, the social revolution led by Tito in Yugoslavia laid the foundation for almost 50 years of national peace and social development. The restoration of capitalism in both the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia unleashed the old nationalist hatreds and murderous “ethnic cleansing” anew, aided and abetted by the imperialist powers.
In the struggle to forge a revolutionary workers party in Israel/Palestine, Marxists can take inspiration from the Revolutionary Communist League (RCL), the small Palestinian Trotskyist group that upheld the position of communist internationalism in the 1948 War between Israel and the Arab states (see WV No. 981, 27 May). While recognizing the right of both the Hebrew-speaking and Palestinian Arab peoples to self-determination, the RCL resolutely opposed the imperialist-imposed partition and took a position of revolutionary defeatism toward both sides in the war, concluding in an editorial in its Hebrew organ Kol Ham’amad (Voice of the Class):
“Jewish workers! Get rid of the Zionist provocateurs who tell you to sacrifice yourself on the altar of the Hebrew state.
“Arab worker and fellah! Get rid of the chauvinist provocateurs who are getting you into a mess of blood for their own sake and pocket.
“Workers of the two peoples, unite in a common front against imperialism and its agents!”