On Saturday 9th August, an estimated 150,000 people marched in London against the brutal assault of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people. Thousands travelled from all over Britain to show their outrage at the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, which has left nearly 2000 Palestinians dead, including approximately 452 children and 235 women.
The demonstration, called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War Coalition, assembled outside the BBC headquarters in central London, before marching past the US embassy and finishing at a rally in Hyde Park. This was the third large demonstration in London in the last month, and came a day after the three-day ceasefire between the Israeli army and Hamas ended.
Outrage and anger
The level of anger against the criminal attacks on Gaza was clearly on display. A protest of such size, energy, and militancy has not been seen in Britain since the large TUC demonstrations against austerity several years ago. Particularly noteworthy was the large number of youth, who are clearly disgusted with the actions of the Israeli state, along with their apologists in the British government and the bourgeois media, including the BBC.
Sanum Ghafoor, 22, from Luton said: “It is a massacre of the Palestinians, and the world is staying quiet. The British Government keeps supporting the Israeli establishment.”
Yasmin Rackal, 17, said: "People shouldn't stand by and watch an injustice. I have little brothers and sisters and if I was in that situation I would want people globally to fight for me." (Quoted in the FT, 09.08.2014).
The Marxists in Britain and internationally stand shoulder-to-shoulder with workers and youth across the world in solidarity with the people of Gaza, and in protest against the criminal actions of the Israeli state and our own imperialist government.
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions
Much was said by the speakers at the rally about the continuing horror faced by the Palestinians, and the miserable conditions of existence under the occupation. However, little to nothing was said by the organisers to explain why the situation exists, and how it may be resolved.
Instead, nearly all the organisations involved in calling the demonstration appealed to those in attendance to boycott Israeli goods, as part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. This campaign has clearly been taken up by a layer of enthusiastic youth, who feel a burning desire to help bring about the end of the suffering of the Palestinians.
We do not doubt their sincerity and good intentions in this aim. However the leadership of this campaign, and of those organisations such as Stop the War and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign who call for its support, fail to explain how the plight of the Palestinians will be relieved by boycotting Israeli goods.
This in turn flows from such organisations failing to explain events on a class basis. Instead we hear simply about Zionists versus Palestinians, or the activities of “imperialism” in the abstract. Nothing is said to place these events in the context of the world crisis of capitalism.
No distinction is drawn between, the Zionist state of Israel on the one hand and the Israeli working class on the other. The Zionist state represents the capitalists, landlords, and bankers, who in turn exploit not only the Palestinian working class through imperialism, but also the Arab and Jewish workers in Israel itself. This ruling class cynically utilizes the doctrines of Zionism and nationalism in order to divide the workers of Israel and Palestine from joining in a common fight against their real class enemy.
Divide and rule
This tactic of the capitalists, although having been utilised from even before the creation of the Israeli state, has become particularly critical to the ruling class since the outbreak of the worldwide crisis in 2008. Faced with increasing unemployment, lack of housing, and growing poverty, a questioning of society is taking place amongst the Israeli working class. The discontent reached the surface in 2011, when over 600,000 Israelis took to the streets in protest against the Netanyahu government, calling for social reforms. This followed the events of the Arab Spring across the Middle East, which toppled regimes in one country after another.
In order to cut across the class struggle, the Zionist rulers attempt to portray the Palestinians as the “common enemy”. The bourgeoisie, through its control of the media, education, and the military, whips up chauvinism and hatred of Arabs, in order to attempt to unite the working class with itself. There is nothing like a war to whip up such a feeling of nationalism and chauvinism, a fact that Netanyahu and his criminal gang in the Israeli government understand very well.
The Zionist ruling class therefore has no interest whatsoever in granting a peaceful solution to the Palestinians. However, the question of peace is a life and death issue, not only for the millions suffering in Palestine, but also for the Israeli workers, who have no objective interest in the continuation of the war or the occupation. It is the sons and daughters of the working class who are sent to die in the conflict. Meanwhile, the billions spent on war could be spent on housing, education, and public services. Many Israeli workers are beginning to realise this, as reflected in the growing polarization to the left and right.
For a second Arab revolution; for a socialist federation of the Middle East!
The only thing that can overcome this situation is the class struggle and the socialist transformation of society. This however is precisely what the leaders of the various Palestinian solidarity campaigns refuse to acknowledge. Instead, the blanket boycott against all Israeli goods advocated by the BDS campaign, serves to further enhance the feeling among Israeli workers that it is the world against them. Instead we must place the movement for Palestinian solidarity on class lines.
This means exposing the reactionary role of the Zionist ruling class, and placing working class internationalism at the forefront of the solidarity campaign. Rather than methods that serve to unite the Israeli workers with their oppressors, we should aim to drive a wedge between the workers and capitalists of Israel, pointing out that the common enemy of both the Jewish and Arab workers is the capitalist class.
Neither do we place any confidence in the leadership of Hamas or Fatah to lead the workers of Palestine in struggle. The leaders of these organisations have no interest in a socialist revolution anywhere. The Palestinian masses must trust only in themselves and in their working class organisations, which arise from the struggle, which should strive for unity with the Israeli workers organisations on a programme of socialist internationalism.
Instead of the blanket BDS campaign, a trade union based boycott, which distinguishes between Israeli workers and the Zionist regime should be adopted. Rather than hoping for the imperialist government of David Cameron to decide to end the arms trade with Israel, the trade unions in Britain (and around the world) should refuse to load shipments of arms to Israel, therefore taking direct and immediate class based action.
In Britain we call for youth and workers to unite against their own imperialist government (which supports reactionary regimes everywhere, including the Israeli state), and to fight for the socialist transformation of society. Only on the basis of international socialism can we end the oppression of all peoples, including the Palestinians.
Ultimately, only a “second Arab Revolution”, based on the unity of the Palestinian and Israeli workers can bring about socialism in the Middle East. On the basis of a common struggle, voluntary unity and cooperation, a socialist federation of the entire Middle East can be established, with autonomy for both Arabs and Jews. This is the only guarantee for a secure and lasting homeland for the Palestinians, in addition to all oppressed peoples. Only on this basis will there be an end to the conflict, unemployment, and poverty that plagues the Middle East to this day.