May 2008. Sixty years after the declaration of the state of Israel in compliance with the November 1947 resolution of the UN. The conflict with the Palestinians and the Arabs which at the Jewish state’s birth led to Arab invasion, war and the elimination of the Palestinian state stipulated in the UN resolution (almost all its territory went to Jordan and Egypt) is, perhaps, further from being resolved now than it was sixty years ago. The 41 year occupation of territory captured in the June 1967 war continues to poison Isreali-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab relations.
Israel economicaly blockades Gaza. Food, fuel and medicine in Gaza are in perilously short supply.
Egypt brokers a deal with the Gazan Islamist jihadist/nationalist factions for a ceasefire with Israel: the Israeli government dismisses the Egyptian “ceasefire process” on the grounds that it boosts Hamas. One hopeful sign: there is relative calm on the Gazan-Israel border: Hamas rockets have virtually stopped... for now.
A few days before the Egyptian deal, four Gazan children and their mother were killed by the Israeli military out on another mission to hit back at Hamas gunmen. Whether the ceasefire goes through or not, such things will continue.
Elsewhere on Israel’s borders, in Lebanon, another conflict is escalating — between Hizbollah and its Sunni and Druze rivals.
Israel celebrates 60 years of existence. That existence has been under greater threat in the past — when it faced many more hostile Arab governments than now. That existence has also been more secure — at times when Israeli governments were less belligerent, more willing to negotiate with the Palestinians.
The political failures and repeated cycles of violence that have brought about this tragic situation for ordinary Israeli and Palestinian workers are well known:
Arial Sharon’s invasion of the West Bank and virtual destruction of the Palestinian Authority;
the rise of Hamas and the Hamas-spearheaded campaign of suicide bombs in Israel;
the building of the separation wall and the scandalous construction of Israeli settlements;
the intricate Israeli “security infrastructure” — it isn’t just about security — which cuts Palestinian territory in pieces;
the isolation of Gaza;
Fatah corruption contributed greatly to the rise of clerical fascist Hamas;
Hamas suicide bombs helped turn most Israelis against believing peace was possible.
Central to the present terrible situation has been the refusal of the western big powers — in the first place the US — to put enough pressure on Israel to compel the Israeli goverment to negotiate and stick to a settlement with the Palestinians.
The peace movement newsletter, The Other Israel describes the consequent debasement of politics: “What makes it so extremely difficult to act nowadays is not the killing in itself — however sickening the daily news. It is the cloying cover of unbearably unconvincing sham and pretence, spread over the yawning gap of raw fear, hatred and bloodshed. The cheapening of words; terms, ideas which had once been taken seriously [about two states]. The solemn pronouncements and ceremonies which arouse no hope, nothing but a cynical shrug.”
Despite the US’s recent diplomatic efforts and Condeleeeza Rice’s frequent visits to Israel for the declared objective to help Palestinians win an independent state the efforts are more about undermining Hamas. They green light the Israeli blockade and other Israeli chauvinism which do not diminish Hamas, but increase its support.
It is a time for socialists to take stock, a time for restating our basic attitudes. We must once more commit ourselves to solidarity action that is consistent with the only long-term political framework that can reconcile the peoples of the Israeli-Palestinian territory: two states for two peoples.
• We oppose the economic blockade of Gaza. As US “liberal” Nathan Brown describes, this has nothing to do with any justifiable, “ordinary” political pressure against clerical fascist Hamas: “The cumulative effect [of the sanctions]… can hardly be described as calibrated pressure; instead it is better described as an attempt to shut down an economy encompassing a million and a half people combined with an international effort to mitigate the most severe effects of engineered economic collapse.”
Gaza, that is the entire population of Gaza, has been held to ransom.
• Socialists should not give one iota of political support to Hamas. Bit by bit Hamas is establishing a repressive clerical fascist regime in Gaza. It enforces repressive “security” and justice, media compliance and increasingly Islamist social pressure. In Gaza it applies its programme for the whole of Palestine, should it win overall control.
• Socialists should oppose the left that promotes Hamas as anti-imperialist heroes (often against the “imperialist stooges” of Fatah). Simon Assaf is Socialist Worker’s main Hamas promoter. It is dirty and dishonest work. For instance in an article in SW (29 January) he describe Hamas as a “movement” — not the strong highly organised and centralised group with a cell structure that it is. He calls it “a resistance organisation” — but not the political Islamist organisation that it is.
And Hamas stands for? He says that it is simply that part of the movement that “rejects any peace deal with Israel that does not address the central issues faced by Palestinians.” Implying that its rejectionism is to do with the terms of any two state deal. But Hamas rejects “two states” entirely; it wants to see an Islamic state in the entire territory of Israel-Palestine!
• Socialists must solidarise with those Palestinians who combine opposition to Israeli occupation with resisting Islamist social pressure and repression in Gaza and elsewhere.
• Socialists can have no political faith in the waning Bush administration to stitch up any deal in Israel-Palestine, let alone one that does much justice to the Palestinians.
• Socialists warn against future military moves by Israel against Gaza, moves that seen increasingly likely.
• Socialists must call for an international solidarity campaign which focuses on: Israel withdraw to the 67 borders, for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, in contiguos territory where the Palestinians are the basic majority. An independent Palestine — even if Hamas ruled there — would be better than the status quo. Palestinians would have their national rights.
• Socialists must support the Jewish and Arab Israeli grass root campaigns against the occupation. A demonstration against the most recent Israeli military incursion into Gaza mobilised broader layers than usual (see report by an Israeli socialist here).
• International socialists must support the campaign of Gush Shalom to send humanitarian aid convoys to Gaza;
• Back the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitons who speak out against Israel’s driving out of the Bedouin in the Negev.
• Support the Arab Jaffa residents who stood in solidarity with poor Jews expelled to make way for posh developments in Tel Aviv. The significance of this working class and poor people's solidarity accross the rives of blood and hatred is a small example of the sort of attitude that could radically transform the whole situation for the better.
The only way to undermine and destroy the dishonesty and bankrupt ideology of the ruling classes and reactionary political forces who dominate the terms of the Middle East conflict is a strong grass roots counterweight — a militant labour movement in the Israeli and Arab working classes committed to a democratic solution to the conflict, two states. That is the only way to build. A confident, uncompromising, democratic peace movement and credible secular alternatives. Our solidarity can help the alternatives that do exist to grow much stronger.
Amid the various points I think a few things stand out clearly.
Arthur is right I think that the two state solution is unworkable as it will only realistically come about as an imposition from the ruling class. Any Palestinian 'state' would have its borders decided by Israel, 'borders' which would be/are rigorously policed to prevent free movement of Palestinians but to allow Israeli army incursions and would in effect become bantustans.
Bill I think makes a good point that the Israeli prime minister himself recognises the parallel with South Africa. Of course we don't always believe what a prime minister says for the sake of it but his candour here is no doubt aimed at critics who don't even want the pretence of a semi-independent Palestinian state-let and sometimes we have to use our class enemies' words against them!
Of courser I dare say I risk being abused as an idiot anti-imperialist or kitsch or something but I think it’s entirely fair to extend support to Palestinians engaged in self-defence, for class struggle within Israel/Palestine, for links where possible between the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab populations and other ethnic groups such as the sizeable Ethiopian population (some of whom are Jewish) over basic class struggle demands, for democracy, for trade union rights, against the war. Of course there will be within these united fronts those who support two state solutions but as socialists I think we should be for united class struggle against the bourgeois, forging in that struggle class unity and solidarity. If Jewish or Arab workers wanted some kind of autonomy in a workers’ state then that is clearly a matter for them. But our immediate duty of solidarity is against the current inequality and national oppression imposed by the Israeli bourgeois as gendarmes for imperialism.
As immediate and practical solidarity I think we should be for demonstrations and direct action against the Israeli state’s aggressive military occupation and for the overthrow of the Israeli apartheid regime.
By the way as an aside, Richard Pipes, book,”The Russian Revolution” is a work of fiction, quite well written at times, though I found the style quite disfigured by a fanatical hatred. As history it is appalling. If you really want to know about the Russian revolution I’d suggest reading Revolution and Counterrevolution: Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory by Kevin Murphy (reviewed by me in next issue of Permanent Revolution) or The Bolsheviks in Power: The First Year of Soviet Rule in Petrograd reviewed in this issue of Permanent Revolution online soon
of a resurgent world wide capitalism. He saw the Russian revolution as a conspiracy. Archive material now avaible as well as any unbiased readung of what was available at the time leads me to think that revolutions are not conspitacies of a few fanatics. The version of Pipes I read had no footnotes as it happens- a most surprising omission. But I think it was a popularisation. The Murphy and Rabinowith books are scrupulously sourced. Are there legitimate questions about response to civil war? Of course. But to present the Russian revolution as a conspiracy of evil fanatic and the masses as inanimate playthings is fiction indeed.
On Israel I am for the overthrow of the apartheid state, of the state that discrimnates against Arabs and of its ruling class. Not the 'destruction of Israel.'