The right-wing Labour leadership’s response to the conflict in Israel-Palestine is as shameful as it is scandalous. Their equivocation of blame is a betrayal of the struggle of the oppressed Palestinians against their massacre, by a highly militarised state based on systematic discrimination and oppression. The Labour Party must not become an accessory to the crimes of the Israeli regime, but must stand firmly for the liberation of Palestinians.
‘Sir’ Keir Starmer has been extremely keen to ‘rebrand’ the Labour Party, and to prove himself as a reliable representative of the British ruling class. ‘New management’, ‘credibility’, and ‘patriotism’ have been the order of the day.
This of course includes the Labour leadership’s attitude towards foreign policy. In the midst of endless flag waving, the rightward direction of travel of the leadership with regards to Israel-Palestine has been particularly poignant.
‘Zionism without qualification’
Lest we forget the Labour party leadership hustings in 2019, where all candidates either described themselves as Zionists, or a ‘supporter’ of Zionism.
All the candidates for leader endorsed the Board of Deputies’ Ten Pledges, which explicitly conflated anti-zionism with anti-semitism. Starmer, in order to emphasise his commitment to this political project, has even said he supports ‘Zionism without qualification’.
This was not just bluff or bluster. We have seen Starmer’s shadow ministers flock to become vice-chairs of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). Starmer has appraised this affiliate as being “crucial” to bringing “balanced debate” to relations in the Middle East.
All the while the LFI has described itself as "a Westminster based lobby group working within the British Labour Party to promote the State of Israel”. This is, of course, extremely concerning.
Just to take one example. Three years ago the Jewish Nation State law was introduced in Israel. This law is predicated on the continuation of Jewish settlements encroaching into Palestinian territories, and enshrining the oppression of Palestinians into the law of the land.
What ‘balance’ could any group bring to the question of Palestinian liberation that supports this racist and reactionary imperialist power?
None of the recent flare ups or escalations are accidental. In fact, the escalation has been a deliberate policy of the Netanyahu government, which is embroiled in crises.
The raiding of Al-Aqsa mosque - the third holiest site in Islam - has come after intense unrest within the borders of Israel. The Israeli ruling class knew this would provoke Hamas to respond with the firing of rockets. In doing so, the Israeli government calculated on stoking up anti-Palestinian sentiment, in order to divert attention away from its problems.
It is important to note that Netanyahu brought in COVID laws to shut down the Israeli parliament, in order to push back his own corruption trial - for which he potentially faces jail time.
In fact, provocations and counter-provocations are a fundamental tool to continue the divide-and-rule tactics that the Israeli state relies upon to cut across the class struggle.
This latest conflict is the direct product of the Zionist policies that Starmer supports “without qualification”. They include: the continued occupation of Palestinian terrirories such as the West Bank; the destruction of people’s homes to make room for Israeli settlers in Sheikh Jarrah; the stripping of Palestinians’ rights in Israel itself; and the blockade that keeps Gazans captive and without refuge.
None of these are aberrations of the policies of Israel. They are the modus operandi of the Israeli state.
We must remember that every Israeli city was once akin to Sheikh Jarrah - where Palestinians were crushed by the heavy hand of the Israeli state; ethnically cleansed to become refugees or to perish. To champion pro-Israel lobbyists, and to suggest that they bring a ‘balanced view’ to the question of settler colonialism, is quite literally absurd.
Equivocation of blame
Things are of course no better when it comes to Labour’s shadow foreign minister, Lisa Nandy. Nandy has claimed that with the Labour Party now under right wing control, it could play the role of an “honest broker” in this situation. We can afford no illusions in such a thing.
If you believed what Nandy has said about the events, you would believe that both sides are to blame. In her official statement on the conflict, she wrote of her ‘grave concern’ about the violent scenes in Jerusalem, and that “With the coordinated support of the international community, Palestinian and Israeli leaders must work to urgently de-escalate tensions”.
Despite previously being chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, her slippery response to the recent escalation shows her real priorities. British Palestinians have had their letters of concern for the treatment of Palestinians ignored for months under the ‘new’ leadership.
Condemnations of violence and pleas for ‘de-escalation’ ring hollow when you do not start with the question: Who provoked the violence in the first place, and for what ends? It makes no change from the routine portrayal of events in the capitalist media. Hamas pitched against Israel, Israel against Hamas; rockets from one, the ‘right to defend itself’ from the other.
This misses the crucial point. In defending the reactionary Israeli state, you have already picked your ‘side’. It is rather simple: you either stand for the oppressed, or with the oppressor. Hue and cry for (imperialist) ‘peace’ is ananthema to the aspirations of Palestinian masses for a homeland, and against the systematic oppression of the Israeli state.
But what is stark is the typical conflation between mass Palestinian resistance, and the firing of Hamas’ rockets. There has been defeaning silence from the Labour leadership over the question of Palestinian resistance within Israel - for example in the symbolically important town of Lydd - and how this was the basis for provocations in the first place with Hamas.
In the past, the Israeli ruling class were able to seal off resistance in Gaza or the occupied West Bank, and contain Palestinian uprisings from spreading over the Israeli ‘Green Line’. But the heavy handed discrimination against Palestinians has come to a head - with a general strike affecting the whole region taking place on Tuesday 18 May.
The fact that this unprescedeneted militant display of action from the Palestinian masses has been glossed over tells you all you need to know about the politics of the Labour Party’s right-wing leadership. They do not stand on the side of the oppressed, and will continue to sanitise the crimes of the Israeli state.
Nandy’s vague pleas of peace are always predicated on the idea that she is working very hard toward a two-state solution. But we must be very clear: this is no solution at all - it is a reactionary utopia.
Firstly, Israel would not allow the creation of an economically viable independent Palestinian state. The former would continue to rule over the latter through their military might, and its economically consolidated position in the region and beyond.
It brings to mind the words of James Connolly, when describing the narrow limits for the Irish liberation struggle if capitalism was left intact:
“England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.”
This is most certainly true for Palestine today. On a capitalist basis, a Palestinian state would be blighted with the exact same problems they now endure. Poverty would remain, as well as the scourge of unemployment. The struggle and suffering of the Palestinians would continue to be used as a political football by the despotic Arab regimes of the region.
Secondly, where would the boundaries even be drawn for a Palestinian state? We must bear in mind that Gaza is an absolutely tiny enclave where two million Palestinians are kept captive. The refugee crisis would remain, and Israel would repudiate plans for the settlements to be simply handed back.
The festering problem of Israel-Palestine would remain - if kept on a capitalist basis. And yet this is the cynical smokescreen behind which Starmer and Nandy duck and cover.
Internationalist we stand, imperialist we fall
Nandy has stated that “forced evictions must stop”, and appealed to “international law”. This is particularly revealing. Instead of supporting the struggle of Palestinians in Israel for their rights, in Gaza for their freedom to leave, or in the West Bank for employment: she appeals instead to the so-called ‘international community’.
I am deeply concerned by the violent scenes in Jerusalem. The forced evictions in East Jerusalem must stop. Israel must respect international law and end the attempts by Israeli settlers to take control of Palestinian homes.— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) May 9, 2021
Appealing to the ‘international community’ - when it is precisely international imperialist meddling that has the longest history of destabilisation and disruption in this region - means asking the enemies of the oppressed to come to their rescue! It is these imperialist powers - including the USA and Britain - that have cast a long shadow over Palestine’s fate.
In whose interest is such ‘international law’ written for? And who would be tasked with bringing the criminals in the Israeli state to justice? It should be obvious that in neither case would it be the working class and oppressed of the region.
The toothlessness of Nandy does not end there. She wrote to the government asking the Tories to “assess” the use of British arms exports and equipment in this conflict! For all Nandy’s sound and fury, this amounts to nothing.
None of the Labour leadership make any proposals for a worker’s boycott of arms to Israel. This is despite Campaign Against Arms Trade finding that the British government has licensed £400m of arms to Israel since 2015.
It should therefore come as no surprise that the right wing Labour leadership offer up their support for the Israeli state. These ladies and gentlemen at the top of the party see it as their mission to make the party a safe pair of hands for British capitalism.
This of course means supporting the ruling class’ imperialist foregin policy. Which after all is only an extension of its domestic policy of class rule.
Hence Starmer has in fact been banging the war drum, aping the Tories in all things war and ‘defence’. From the overseas operations bill to the spy cops bill at home, Starmer is certainly trying to prove himself ‘credible’ - that is, to the bosses and bankers!
Just as we have no confidence in Starmer or Nandy to fight for socialism at home, neither do we have any confidence in them to stand up for workers and the oppressed internationally. Our solidarity must be to the Palestinian youth and workers. Intifada until victory must be the watchword!
For a socialist federation of the Middle East!
Recently there have been massive mobilisations across the world against the oppression of the Palestinians. In South Africa, dock workers in Durban have refused to handle cargo from an Israeli ship. The workers can see the blatant injustice, and are sick and tired of the grandstanding of world leaders.
The Israel-Palestine problem cannot be solved on the basis of capitalism. As we have seen, the creation of the Zionist state based on Palestinian oppression can only be a ‘bloody trap’ guaranteeing an undignified life for the oppressed Palestinians, as well as for the Jews.
There must be a revolutionary transformation of the region at large, and this is the only perspective we can hold to put an end to this horrorshow.
There are some that believe that Israeli workers are dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries. This is not at all the case. Israel is one of the most unequal countries in the world. It is essential that the mechanism of fear exploited by the likes of Netanyahu to rally the support of the majority of Jewish society around his reactionary agenda is fully exposed. Israeli society must be broken along class lines.
The unified mass struggle of the Palestinians that has emerged from these past weeks is putting the racist agenda of Zionism to a severe test and must be fully supported by international working class solidarity. We must understand that the mass, unified Palestinian movement has and will continue to reverberate throughout the region.
The solution cannot be understood within a vacuum. There will continue to be struggles against capitalism and imperialism that will seriously shake the foundations of sand on which imperialism dominates and the despots and dictators rule the whole area. It is with this perspective that we put forward the solution of a federal socialist state of Israel/Palestine as part of a socialist federation of the Middle East.
It is on this basis of a socialist transformation of the region on which the Palestinian youth and Jewish Israelis who are seeking to overthrow the rotten Israeli state must approach their struggle.
This is the only way of guaranteeing autonomy of the Jews and Palestinians that isn't based on oppression. The pulling together of the resources under an economic plan - under the democratic control and management of the working class - would provide the basis for rapid economic development to take place.
This would allow for the solution to the problems of jobs, housing, healthcare, and all the rest. Only on this basis could the national question be solved, leading to the harmonious collaboration between all the peoples and nationalities of the Middle East.
As far as the struggle here in Britain is concerned, we must organise to kick out our own imperialist government, which is an important prop of the Israeli regime. We rely on the strength of the organised working class to transform the Labour Party into a fighting, anti-imperialist force, in order to carry through the socialist transformation of society.
This would be the greatest advance we can achieve to support the struggle of the Palestinian people.
Model Motion for Labour Party branches / CLPs:
The Israeli state is based on systematic discrimination against the Palestinian minority of Israeli citizens, and the oppression of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.
The people in Gaza are living in an open air prison. 50% of children are severely malnourished, and 50% of the population is permanently unemployed. They lack everything – energy, clean water, basic hospital supplies, even food, after years of blockade.
Thousands of bombs have been dropped by Israel over one of the most densely populated and poorest areas in the world.
Lynching mobs of extreme right-wing Zionist settlers, acting with the complicity of the Israeli state forces, are attacking Palestinian neighbourhoods within Israel itself.
The current ceasefire will not last, so long as the occupation and blockade of Gaza continues.
The British government gives political support to the Israeli government. It has sold £400m of arms to Israel since 2015. They have Palestinian blood on their hands.
This wave of Palestinian resistance started with a mass movement of the Palestinians inside Israel, against Netanyahu and his regime. This was followed by an unprecedented Palestinian general strike against the bombing of Gaza on 18 May.
We are in complete solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against oppression. We defend the right of the Palestinians to a homeland and their right to resist against oppression and defend their livelihoods by any means necessary.
However, the launching of rockets by Hamas is counterproductive for the Palestinian struggle and only serves to strengthen Netanyahu, pushing Israeli workers into the arms of the Israeli state.
Israel is one of the most unequal societies in the world. The same ruling class which oppresses the Palestinians is also attacking the living standards of the Israeli workers and youth. Last year we saw massive protests against Netanyahu.
The revolutionary mobilisation of the Palestinian masses must be supported by the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movement of the working class throughout the world.
We condemn British arms sales to Israel.
We condemn the lies of the media, which equates the violence of the heavily-armed and imperialist-backed Israeli oppressor with the resistance of the Palestinian oppressed.
We support working class solidarity such as strikes or protests at Israeli arms companies, such as the protest action taken to stop production at Elbit Systems in Leicester.
The only way forward for the Palestinian and Jewish workers and youth in Israel and Palestine is the establishment of a socialist federation of the Middle East with equal rights for all.