Middle East

Crisis in Gaza and Israel: Preliminary thoughts

Left: Israel bombs Gaza
Right: a destroyed building in Tel Aviv

Just when Biden (and Trump before him), Netanyahu and bin Salman thought they had the entire Palestinian population well under control, Israel and the world received a shock of as great magnitude as at the start of the 1973 war. There is no question as to why this happened. Israel has been maintaining the world’s largest open air prison – Gaza. Meanwhile, on its other side, in the West Bank, it has been engaged in creeping ethnic cleansing, and in Israel itself the discrimination and racism against the Palestinian population has been increasing. Given the general levels of violence in the entire region, something like this was bound to happen.

A home destroyed in Gaza. This is only the beginning.

Israel is responding with an assault on the entire population of Gaza. Already, entire apartment buildings have been flattened. These attacks will intensify. Meanwhile, with the support of the Biden administration, Israel has now put the entire Gazan population on starvation rations, cutting off all supplies of medicine, water, electricity and fuel. Nothing Hamas has done justifies Israel’s past and presently intensified war against the people of Gaza, nor the Palestinians of the West Bank nor those in Israel itself.

One question, and one that Israelis themselves apparently are asking, is how in the world did Israel’s vaunted intelligence apparatus not see this development in advance. Hamas claims it fired 5,000 rockets on Israel. Israel says it was 2200. However many it was, how could Hamas collect and store several thousand rockets with Israel being unaware of it? Were the rockets manufactured in Gaza or were they imported? And clearly this attack was planned and coordinated in advance. How could Israel have been caught completely flat footed? The entire attack shows that no amount of oppression, no amount of infiltration can stop the Palestinians from fighting back.

According to an article in the Times of Israel, top Egyptian intelligence officials had warned Israel days if not weeks in advance that “something big” was in the works coming from Gaza. According to these Egyptian officials, Netanyahu chose to ignore the warnings. At the very least, the Israeli “Defense” Force (the IDF) and Israeli intelligence forces were too busy developing and defending the West Bank settlers to pay attention. Probably the political crisis inside Israel also played a role in distracting Netanyahu & co. Author Seth Abramson has a more cynical interpretation.

“Israel’s 9/11”
Some are calling this Israel’s 9/11 and so it is in some ways, although with some major differences. But this attack is on a far greater scale and given everything it was more complex. It must have involved months of training. How could that have slipped under the radar of Mossad?

One similarity will be on the effect of the mood. In the year or two leading up to 9/11 there were mounting protests in the US and Europe against the globalization of capitalism. These protests started among the youth, and then layers of workers joined in. The most marked example (but not the only one) was the WTO protest in Seattle – the 1999 “Battle in Seattle”. There, layers of union members broke with their own union leaders to participate in actually shutting down the WTO meeting. The movement continued upward from there… until 9/11. That attack completely transformed the mood in the U.S. and in fact globally. We still have not completely recovered from that.

In Israel, hundreds of thousands had been protesting out in the streets against the far right Netanyahu government. According to our contact there, Ofer Nieman (see this interview), some protesters were starting to draw the connection between the rise of the far right, including even fascism, in Israeli politics and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the growth of the settlements. Also, Ofer explained that the icon of Israeli society – the Israeli military – had sustained a huge hit in prestige. Thousands of Israeli reservists were refusing to participate in their military legal obligations. Similar to 9/11, all of this will have been reversed in a matter of hours.

Israel, Russia and apartheid South Africa
There are strong similarities between the role of Israel in the entire region, especially in the West Bank and Gaza, and the role of the Russian government in its region, especially in Ukraine. Russia tried to take over all of Ukraine. The heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people foiled that drive. Now, it is striving to “just” take over almost 20% of the country. If it does that, it will simply come back for more later. Similarly, Israel was forced to abandon Gaza but is still steadily taking over the West Bank bit by bit. Every new Israeli settlement is just a step towards building more new ones.

Ukraine under occupation. There are similarities but also huge differences with the situation in Israel/Palestine.

There is a huge difference, though: Ukraine is an established state with regular armed forces. Not only that, but it has the support of major imperialist and sub-imperialist powers. A military victory for Ukraine, while difficult, is possible. As hard as it might be to accept, for the Palestinians it is not. Israel has been correctly called an apartheid state, and this term brings to mind the struggle against the original apartheid state – South Africa. There, the South African Communist Party (SACP) sought to utilize “the armed struggle” against apartheid. They took the most militant youth and sent them to “training camps” outside South Africa and then brought them back to conduct raids and acts of property destruction (AKA sabotage). This did little or nothing to bring down apartheid. The major force that brought down apartheid was the powerful black South African working class which built powerful unions and their own union federation, COSATU. The fact that today the COSATU leadership has betrayed the working class there is not the point, except in this sense: The very force that advocated the “military” struggle against apartheid – the SACP – is today one of the leading forces in the betrayal of the black South African working class.

There are also some huge differences between apartheid South Africa and Israel/Palestine. In the former case, the oppressed group – black people – were the overwhelming majority of society. Second is that US and Western European imperialism are absolutely committed to defending Israel with everything they have, including full on military defense. None of the Arab states will come to the real aid of the Palestinians. If further proof weren’t needed, bin Salman proved this with his attempt to reach an accord with Netanyahu. This means that no significant capitalist class anywhere in the world will help the Palestinians to any real degree. That is why a military victory is theoretically impossible, as opposed to the situation in Ukraine. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that Israel is the only nuclear power in the region (for now), and should it be under serious military threat it would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons.

“Two State Solution”
The “two state solution” was never a solution even before the settlements dominated large parts of the West Bank. An “independent” Palestinian state composed of the West Bank and Gaza would never have been anything but a vassal state for Israeli imperialism. It would have been used as a market for Israeli goods, an outlet for Israeli investment and as a source of cheap labor. Politically and economically it would always have been dominated by the racist state of Israel. And that was before all the settlements in the West Bank created the “facts on the ground” that make a mockery of any calls today for an independent state in the West Bank.

Israel’s steady land theft/ethnic cleansing: The “two state solution” is impossible on any basis.

But the calls for a single, democratic and non-theocratic state with equal rights for all is equally unrealistic, as long as the call stops there. After all, Israel is and always be a Jewish state. The minute it stops being a Jewish state, it stops being Israel. But the overwhelming majority of Israel’s Jewish workers will not abandon their “Jewishness” unless and until they have something better to reach out to. Nor will they be forced by “military” pressure to do so. On the contrary, the present attacks are accomplishing just the opposite.

Class struggle and socialism
The only way forward is through a regional working class movement.. If and when such a movement arises on a clear class basis and fights for working class demands, and unites throughout the region, and starts to bring down all the rotten, reactionary, oppressive and corrupt regimes, and fights for genuine socialism, and makes the liberation of Palestine part of its cause, but on a class and socialist basis, if and when that happens, then it would inevitably make inroads into the Israeli working class. Once that working class sees a positive alternative to Zionism, its loyalty to the Jewish capitalist class will start to weaken. That might sound like a day dream, but the Arab Spring gave a glimpse of what is possible. And anyway, what is the alternative?

For background reading, check out the Oaklandsocialist pamphlet: The New Apartheid: The rise of Zionism and the founding of the State of Israel

Left: Israel bombs Gaza
Right: a destroyed building in Tel Aviv

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