We have been here before. Precisely three times before, since Hamas seized control of Gaza 15 years ago. The pattern is always the same. Israel makes yet another move to create “facts on the ground” such as the planned eviction of Palestinians from parts of East Jerusalem. Then Hamas fires off all the home made rockets it has been stockpiling and, as long as they do, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) responds with all the weapons in its arsenal (except its unacknowledged nuclear one, of course). The US vetoes any condemnation of Israel in the UN Security Council as the rest of the “leaders of the world” airily call for “peace”.
The results also follow the same pattern. The number of Palestinians killed is always vastly disproportionate to the number of Israelis killed. At the end of the first week of the current conflict some 211 Palestinians were dead, 61 of them children under the IDF bombardment whilst 10 have died in Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel (including two Israeli Arabs in Lod). This “asymmetrical warfare” against a population which is blockaded by Israel (and Egypt) in the Gaza Strip, 56% living below the poverty line, often facing power cuts, water shortages, and lacking adequate sanitation, naturally excites much sympathy across the world. This is part of the calculation of the Palestinian ruling class — 73 years after the Nakba (“the Catastrophe” whose anniversary was only a few days after the current conflict broke out) they have precious few strategies left. Cynically sad it may be, but “martyrdom” brings the movement moral and financial support, and for many, there is nothing left to lose in the hell of Gaza.
There is one difference about the present conflict. This time the 2 million Arab speakers (21.1% of the population) within the internationally recognised Israeli borders have also been stirred into action. For seven decades they have been second class citizens discriminated against over housing and jobs, their language not recognised. The impact of Covid-19 has only hammered this further down their throats. The pandemic has penalised the poorest around the world, and in Israel that is the Palestinian population. Israel has vaccinated almost the entire Israeli population but not the Palestinians who, in addition to the lack of vaccines, do not have access to great health facilities in places like Gaza. They live in the middle of a dire health emergency with massive shortages of basic medicines.
At the same time, under the cover of the pandemic, rents have been raised for Arab speakers in the inner cities, especially Jerusalem, in order to price them out. The aim is obvious. Trump’s 2018 decision (which led to the previous round of slaughter) to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem (something successive US Presidents said they would do) and recognise Jerusalem as the future capital of Israel (a departure from US policy) has emboldened the Israeli regime’s ultimate ambition to annex all Jerusalem. They have thus been trying in several cynical ways to evict Palestinian families from East Jerusalem. They are hemmed in by “settlement” buildings (and abused, stolen from and attacked by the new occupants), their houses sprayed with toxic putrid water from so-called “skunk trucks”, brutally beaten by the police if they protest, or they end up, as 27 families have in the most famous case of Sheikh Jarrah, fighting eviction in court. The final straw came when police repeatedly brutally attacked those who protested against the barriers the police had put up at the Damascus Gate where Muslims traditionally gather at dusk every evening during Ramadan. Hundreds were injured.
Little wonder that they are now fighting back. The Israel government’s solution is to let fascist groups like “La Familia” rampage through Arab quarters of towns like Lod shouting “Death to Arabs”. Also stirring the shit is Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the Religious Zionists (a party Netanyahu helped form), who never moves around Arab areas of the country without a television crew in attendance. His stated aim is to reclaim Temple Mount entirely for Jews, and tear down the Al-Aqsa mosque. The Arab youth have fought back and attacked Jewish targets. They echo the call of the fascists by shouting “Death to Jews”, a call which has brought the emotionally charged accusation of “pogrom” from the Israeli press. But there are now pogroms on both sides of this “communal violence”.
All this suits the incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was faced with an unlikely coalition of liberals, Arabs and ultra-right Zionist parties to unseat him, and which would leave him open to be tried on charges of corruption that go back years. In the face of the communal violence, Naftali Bennett (the potential Prime Minister and a former minister in Netanyahu’s government who once proudly admitted in a Cabinet meeting to personally killing Palestinians) has now withdrawn from the proposed coalition. It leaves Netanyahu in de facto control and this means that there will be no let up in the attacks both in Gaza and in Jerusalem. The lines are hardening. Now Israeli Arabs have joined in the general strike called by Fatah and Hamas against the bombing. It is a rare show of Palestinian unity in the face of the unrelenting aerial bombardment of Gaza, but Netanyahu gains both politically and personally. By mobilising the ultra-right he will be able to stay out of gaol by claiming to be “Mr. Security”.
Behind it All – The Imperialist Machinations
It would though be a mistake to look on this conflict as just a struggle between Jews and Arabs. They may be doing the dying, but behind the whole conflict lies the dead hand of imperialism — on both sides. Israel owes its very existence to a favourable conjunction of imperialist interests. It was formed at precisely the point when all the post-war great powers were looking to find allies and bases in the region with the world’s richest source of oil. Small wonder then that when Israel was proclaimed on 14 May 1948, the USA was the first to recognise it de facto and three days later the USSR was the first to recognise it de jure. However by 1954 Israel was in the Western camp in the Cold War and the USSR switched its support to the Arabs. Today the USA continues to give Israel about $10 million a day for military aid, and additional sums for other programmes such as building up its missile defences (Iron Dome, etc). About a fifth of all US aid goes to Israel. Defence of Israel is one of the few policies that has widespread support in all sections of the US ruling class. It is a relationship which has grown ever closer the more the US has lost influence elsewhere in the Middle East, most significantly in Iran in 1979.
And under Trump the mask of US “neutrality” in the Palestine-Israel conflict came off. Aside from the actions already mentioned, the US also brokered the Abraham Accords which normalised relations between Israel and the two Arab states of Bahrain and the UAE. This includes “intelligence sharing” against Iran. A similar transactional deal was also done with Morocco. In return for recognition of Israel the Israelis became the first state to recognise the Moroccan annexation of Western Sahara. Demonstrations in Morocco against the bombing of Gaza are normally state-sponsored and massive, but not this time.
Despite this it would also be a mistake to conclude, as so many on the so-called “Left” do, that the struggle in Israel/Palestine is imperialist on one side only. Sure, US imperialism is still the most powerful force on the planet. Thanks to its finance over the last 73 years, it has created in Israel a formidable regional power despite being a tiny state of less than 10 million people. In a reversal of the Biblical tale, the Goliath is now US-Israel and David is the Palestinians backed by Iran, Qatar and Turkey (and, on occasion, Egypt). Qatar pays the (low) wages of teachers and doctors in Gaza whilst Iran supplies drones and the parts to assemble rockets in Gaza. Small beer compared with the billions that go to Israel but the imperialism of the underdog is still imperialism, and no state can escape from its clutches as this is the nature of today’s highly concentrated capitalism.
Hamas claims that it launched its missile attacks as a response to the attempts to evict Arabs from East Jerusalem. This may at best be only partly true. Some of the Hamas military leaders have recently been in Tehran, and Iran has recently suffered a series of setbacks at the hands of the US and Israel. After years in which Iran has extended its influence to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, as well as sponsoring Hamas, and the Houthis in Yemen, the last few years have brought some setbacks. In April, not only did Israel (with some help from the US), once again demonstrate its capacity for sabotage of the power grid of the Iranian nuclear power plant at Natanz, but Mossad also managed to attach mines to an Iranian ship in the Red Sea. These are not the only reverses suffered by Iran in the last couple of years. Its nuclear engineers and generals like Soleimani have been murdered by Israel and the US respectively. Trump may have gone but the de facto alliance between the US and Israel remains as before. Netanyahu acts militarily in his own interests but Israel also is the most reliable regional ally of the US against Iran (especially since the Saudis have failed so badly in Yemen). The reward for its actions against Iran are US ratification of Israeli annexations on the West Bank and the Golan Heights, as well as the possible annexation of East Jerusalem. Biden called Trump’s decisions foolish at the time but has done nothing to reverse them since coming to office and three times last week the US vetoed resolutions in the UN Security Council aimed at ending the conflict.
The imperialist machinations do not stop there. In order to defeat US sanctions (which are almost global in reach) China and Iran have signed a 25 year global cooperation agreement which means China will invest in Iran, and buy its oil (at a discount). The accord also includes military cooperation but the details remain secret. The populations of Palestine and Israel are at the end of the predatory food chain of imperialism. They may be under the illusion that the conflict is about “the right of self-determination” but the harsh reality is that they are pawns in a bigger game.
No War But the Class War
There is no solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict under capitalism. There will be endless bloodshed mainly suffered by those who already suffer the most. The one hope — and a hope not just for the workers of Palestine or Israel but for the whole of humanity — is a working class revival which resists all the attempts of capitalism and imperialism to thrust their bloody agendas upon us. Workers make up the majority of humanity, and they alone can put an end to both exploitation and the existential threats that become more desperate with every year that passes. To do this they have to put class before nation. They have to reject the squalid “anti-imperialism” of the “Left” (the same kind who forty years ago heralded the Ayatollahs as “anti-imperialist” as they massacred Iranian workers) which is really a one-sided anti-imperialism. Exactly 100 years before the foundation of the state of Israel, Karl Marx wrote, “Workers have no country. You cannot take from them what they do not have”. The only answer to the Israel-Palestine question is not a one state, or two state solution, but the destruction of all states, where responsibility for the future of the planet is out of the hands of capitalist profiteers. Instead of an exploitative system, which leaves a quarter of the world’s population not sure where its next meal will come from, alongside billionaires whose bloated fortunes get bigger with every year that passes, we need a revolution which creates a world based on human need not capitalist demands. “We have a world to win”, and we can do it, but only if we can politically unite across all frontiers. The ICT is dedicated to building such an international and internationalist movement. Our slogan remains: “No War But the Class War”.
Il Partito Comunista Internazionalista (Italy)
Communist Workers’ Organisation (UK)
Gruppe Internationalistischer KommunistInnen (Germany)
Internationalist Workers’ Group (USA)
affiliates of the Internationalist Communist Tendency
Internationalist Communists of Oceania (Australia/New Zealand)
Bilan et Perspectives (France)
Thursday, May 20, 2021
This article first appeared on Leftcom.org