The Israeli bombing of Gaza has already killed at least 48 Palestinians – among whom 14 are children – and injured hundreds, while six Israelis have been killed by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The international media has once again presented the bombings as a legitimate retaliation against Hamas’ decision to fire rockets into Israel. However, as usual, they give a completely one-sided view of the real causes of this escalation of the crisis in Israel and Palestine.
Were we to believe Jared Kushner – Senior Advisor on the Middle East and son-in-law to former US president Donald Trump – what we are seeing in Israel and Palestine isn’t even happening. In a typical display of arrogance, Kushner last month wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “We are witnessing the last vestiges of what has been known as the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
What we are seeing is yet another escalation of violence against the Palestinian population by the Israeli state. This is the poisoned result of attempts to impose an imperialist “peace” strong-armed by US imperialism, on the basis of suppressing the rights of the Palestinian majority. This policy was relentlessly pursued by Trump: with the US recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel; Netanyahu’s constitutional law declaring Israel a Jewish state; Israel’s territorial claim over the Golan Heights, and culminating with the signing of the so-called “Abraham Accords”.
The message trumpeted by the Accords, in reality, was aimed at the Palestinian youth and masses in Gaza, West Bank, Israel, and the millions-strong Palestinian diaspora: “You are alone. Your rights will never be recognised, and you have only one option left: to submit.”
Netanyahu gladly cashed the blank cheque provided by US imperialism by doubling down on the Israeli state’s relentless programme of land grabbing. He supported the legal recognition of demands advanced by the racist and nationalist right-wing Jewish settlers’ movement, in densely populated Palestinian areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Double standards have been applied in systematically discriminating against the Palestinian population living within Israel, let alone those living in the territories of the Palestinian authority or East Jerusalem. Here, the Israeli state is in fact an occupying power, with tight control over roads, water, telecommunications, energy, and all sorts of supplies: now including the lifeline of COVID-19 vaccines supplies.
The Kafkaesque maze of laws and regulations, designed to deny any substantial rights to the Palestinian population, and the violent suppression of any attempt to resist the trampling of fundamental human rights, has put the backs of more and more of the Palestinian population against the wall.
In recent months, we have seen a rising wave of struggles against evictions, demolitions, land expropriations and the daily anti-Palestinian provocations of the settlers, and the Zionist extreme right wing.
The militancy displayed by the youth in Gaza last year, with thousands defying the bullets of Israeli snipers for weeks on end, should serve as a warning: repression will not achieve anything other than an even-more determined resistance.
Once again, Netanyahu seized the opportunity to escalate the conflict in order to overcome the internal divisions threatening his grip on power. It is yet to be seen whether this gamble will produce the desired effect or – as is more likely – lead to an even-deeper political and institutional crisis, which will explode at some point in the heart of the Israeli state.
The deafening silence of Joe Biden in the US speaks volumes about the position of US imperialism. Any attempt to put distance between the new US administration and Trump’s policies would jeopardise their relationship with Israel and the reactionary Gulf monarchies, who are already alarmed by the current attempt at resurrecting US negotiations with Iran.
As usual, the truth is the first casualty of war. The barrage of propaganda blaming Hamas for the present escalation may temporarily rally the Israeli political establishment around Netanyahu, but it won’t be able to hide the real picture for long.
For weeks, aggression against Palestinian rights has escalated in a series of high-profile cases. In an attempt to further cleanse East Jerusalem of its Palestinian residents and replace them with Jewish settlers, the Israeli army and police forced through the stealing of a dozen Palestinian families’ homes by Jewish settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
While Palestinian residents were denied entry to the neighbourhood, armed settlers could come and go as they pleased. The Palestinian protest, which was initially peaceful, was put down with heavy-handed force by the Israeli state. Unarmed protestors and bystanders, including children, were arrested. Tear gas and rubber-mantled steel bullets were used against demonstrators. While Palestinians were harshly repressed, the settlers who launched tear gas at them had nothing to fear from the police.
The Israeli police’s decision to bar Palestinians from gathering in front of the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem, a common gathering spot for the city’s Palestinian residents, especially during Ramadan, was a further provocation. No explanation was given. Palestinians saw it for what it was: another attempt to take a central spot in the city away from them. Further initially peaceful protests were again met with gratuitous violence by the Israeli state.
Insult to injury
Insult was added to injury when a mob of Israeli fascists and racists, organised by the racist Lahava organisation, marched through the old city and East Jerusalem last week. The mob waved Israeli flags and shouted slogans like “Death to Arabs!” Some were loudly talking about beating up Arabs, and if this wasn’t possible, beating up Israeli leftists, repeatedly asking bystanders if they were leftists. Ahead of the protest, right wingers were talking about “burning Arabs today” and calling for the use of arms on social media, as Ha’aretz reports.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the fascist Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”) Party, in an act of provocation, moved his office right into the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
The party is a successor to the fascist Kach party, which was banned in the 1990s due to acts of terrorism against Arabs. Multiple times, Ben-Gvir expressed in no uncertain terms that he opposes citizenship rights for Palestinians as well as their right to vote or to be part of the Israeli parliament. The deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Arieh King, was recorded telling a Palestinian activist that it’s a pity that a bullet hit him in the leg instead of the head.
The actions by the police and army were a conscious escalation of aggression on the part of Israel. Israeli authorities escalated the situation even further by storming the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) and the Al Aqsa mosque situated on it, the third-most holy site in Islam. Tear gas granades were shot inside the mosque and unarmed Palestinian Muslims, who had come to pray, were attacked by Israeli forces. Throwing stones was their only means of response against the heavily armed and well protected Israeli soldiers.
The Temple Mount area has always been the focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Jerusalem, and the Israeli authorities knew very well what they were doing when they let their troops storm Al Aqsa during Ramadan without any justifiable reason. They knew perfectly well that Hamas would respond, especially given the move’s religious implications.
Hamas issued an ultimatum to Israel to clear the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) of Israeli forces by Monday (10 May) at 18:00 hours. When their deadline expired, rockets were fired into southern Israel and Jerusalem. The Israeli army responded with air strikes against Gaza.
Before the storming of Al Aqsa and Hamas’ response, it was becoming increasingly clear to the public, even inside Israel, that evicting Palestinians from their homes and using massive police violence against their protests was a conscious provocation.
Gaza’s living hell
The death toll says everything there is to be said about the completely asymmetrical balance of military power. At the time of writing, six Israeli civilians have died due to Hamas’ rockets. Meanwhile, 48 Palestinians including 14 children were killed by Israeli air strikes on Gaza. Among the Israelis who have died, two were Israeli Palestinians from the city of Lod, for whom the municipality doesn’t build bunkers.
The Israeli army claims it would only attack terrorists and Hamas targets. But the truth of the matter is that – even if we trust their intentions – that would simply be impossible. Gaza is densely populated by two million people living on a 360 square kilometers strip of land. Civilians have nowhere to escape. While Israeli citizens can flee to bunkers, and modern residential buildings in Israel are built to make them resilient against rocket attacks, Palestinians in Gaza have no such protections, thanks to the economic blockade imposed on the strip by Israel, which includes a ban on building materials. While most of the rockets fired on Israel are stopped by the Iron Dome air defence system, Gazans possess no such defenses.
All this piles on top of the tremendous suffering of ‘normal’ times: the blockade and the high population density make it impossible to develop an economy in Gaza. A 50 percent joblessness rate is the result. Due to the economic blockade, there is a lack of the most essential things like healthcare and sufficient food.
Stones against rifles
US and EU politicians responded to the escalation by condemning “violence on both sides”. This is utter hypocrisy. The conflict is completely asymmetrical. On the one side we have Israel, the strongest military power of the Middle East and a developed capitalist country. On the other side we have an oppressed people, under occupation, without a state or a military, whose homes are taken away or bombed.
Although Hamas’ rocket attacks are certainly traumatic for Israeli civilians, most of these rockets are primitive, self-made glorified fireworks with little range or detonation power. Their main use for Hamas is propagandistic. According to the Israeli Army, 90 percent of these rockets are stopped by the Iron Dome air defence system.
Hamas’ rockets are not designed to harm Israel, nor to fight the occupation. Like Netanyahu, Hamas is trying to claw back the shreds of its long worn-out legitimacy, by posing as the paladin of the Palestinian national struggle. In fact, the authority of Hamas – as well as that of the corrupt Palestinian leadership of Abbas and Fatah – has been increasingly undermined by the spontaneous mobilisation of the Palestinian youth: the source of mass resistance and struggle both in the Palestinian Authority and inside Israel.
Fight the occupation with mass protests and strikes!
Right now, many – including many Palestinians – are appealing to “the international community”. They hope the UN, Human Rights NGOs, the US or the EU might intervene to stop Israel. But this hope is an illusion.
Israel is the most reliable partner of Western imperialism in the Middle East. The US and the EU have already shown they will not sacrifice this important alliance by supporting any measure of Palestinian liberation. The UN is nothing more than a compromise between different imperialist powers, unable to do more than issue impotent warnings and mildly worded appeals to both sides. The Palestinians cannot expect anything from them other than perhaps a few empty words and crocodile tears.
Neither the collaboration of the Palestinian Authority (PA), nor Hamas’ rockets can advance the Palestinian cause for liberation even so much as a milimetre. Hamas’ rockets, on the contrary, rendered assistance to Israeli PM Netanyahu in rallying the Israeli population behind the Zionist state, and temporarily strengthened the position of his current government of crisis.
Furthermore, they draw the attention away from the theft of Palestinian land and houses in Sheikh Jarrah, and the police violence connected to it. They are used by Israel to portray itself as the victim to an international audience.
It also serves to draw attention away from the only effective methods of struggle: the methods of mass resistance being employed by the Palestinian youth in East Jerusalem. The only way to fight and eventually overthrow the occupation is by a mobilisation of the Palestinian masses. It was the mass protests of the Palestinians that forced the Israeli police to withdraw from the Damascus gate, and allow Palestinians to gather there again. It was the mass protests of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah that forced the Israeli authorities to postpone the eviction of Palestinians from their homes.
Mass protests and strikes must be organised in the Palestinian territories and towns in Israel itself. The Palestinian Authority has always tried to stop such mass mobilisations, precisely because they undermined the authority of the so-called Palestinian ‘leadership’. They must therefore find their mainspring in grassroot structures on the ground.
The Israeli youth and working class must understand that the occupation and oppression of the Palestinians is not in their interest. The occupation is a tool used by the Israeli ruling class to divide the working class of the region and play them off against each other. Zionism and fear mongering over the Palestinians is used by the Israeli capitalists to blur the divisions between Jewish workers and capitalists, suggesting that they have the shared interests, which is utterly false.
Friedrich Engels once wrote that “a people that oppresses another people cannot emancipate themselves. The power that is needed to oppress the others always turns against itself ...”
We saw in July 2020 how Israeli Jewish and Palestinian youth and workers took to the streets in protest against Netanyahu’s corruption, unemployment and high costs of living as a result of the economic crisis. In response, Netanyahu’s government deployed the same border police and Yasam special units that are now attacking and brutalising the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Aqsa.
On one side, a growing number of Palestinian youth understand that the only way forward is mass struggle and mass resistance. They are showing growing determination and defiance. In so doing, they are exposing the corruption and the sterile and counterproductive methods and outlook adopted by the conflicting factions within the so-called Palestinian leadership of both Hamas and Fatah.
This process of radicalisation and mass struggle of the Palestinian youth and workers is now going beyond Gaza and the West Bank. It is exploding in mass protests inside the green line (1948 Israeli borders), in solidarity with the struggle in East Jerusalem and against the bombing of Gaza. Clashes and protests are now being reported in Afoula, Lod, Acre, Galilee and other areas.
As long as the oppression of the Palestinian majority continues, the Israeli capitalists will push the mass of the Israeli youth and workers into supporting the crimes of the Israeli state. They will use it to divide the working class along national and religious lines, thus preserving their power and privileges. The Israeli ruling class needs to prevent the development of class unity among the exploited at all costs.
The only way forward for the mass of Jewish and Palestinian workers and youth in Israel and Palestine is the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist Israeli state and the occupation that goes with it, and the establishment of a socialist federation of the Middle East.
That can only be achieved by proletarian internationalism and class unity. But in order to achieve class unity, the Israeli working class and youth must acknowledge the right of the Palestinian masses to national self-determination, and support their current struggle against the occupation.
- No solution will ever be granted by imperialist “peace” plans. No trust in international imperialism.
- International mobilisation to stop the Gaza bombing and the suppression of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people!
- Fight the occupation with mass protests and strikes!
- For proletarian internationalism and the unity of the working class in the Middle East!