Nick Clarke analyses the latest stages of Israel’s war on the Palestinians and the role of the solidarity movement
As the media spotlight on Israel’s latest re-invasion and brutal bombardment of Gaza begins to dim, the Israeli state’s punishment of the Palestinian people continues. The explicit aims of the new year invasion were to stop the sporadic missile launches against the southern Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon and to close the tunnels from Egypt that bring much needed supplies into Gaza. The primitive weaponry available to Palestinian forces in Gaza is no match for the high-tech, state-of-the-art hardware deployed by the Israeli state, supplied by their own weapons manufacturers or provided on generous terms by the US and Britain.
However, there was another agenda underlying these overt aims. Firstly, in October 2008, the ruling coalition government led by Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert’s Kadima Party had unravelled, hastened by the corruption charges facing the Prime Minister. A general election had been called and Tzipi Livni, replacing Olmert as leader of Kadima, found her party trailing Netanyahu’s Likud Party in the opinion polls, by some distance.
To give themselves a chance of beating Likud, Kadima turned to the Israeli state’s favoured scapegoats, the Palestinians. By launching the attack on Gaza, Kadima and its Labour Party partners pandered to the right by adopting Likud’s open hostility to the Palestinians and making it their own.
The fronting of this cynical offensive by Livni almost brought success as by polling day Kadima had eliminated Likud’s lead. However, it was not enough. While they won the most seats, Kadima’s electoral tactics backfired on them spectacularly. The IDF’s onslaught also increased the votes for the ultra right, in particular, Avigdor Lieberman’s party – Yisraeli Beiteinu. Lieberman’s party favours Israel abandoning territory on the West Bank inhabited by Arab families and annexing blocs of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories. He is also proposing a new loyalty test for Arab citizens of Israel. In other words, he is an open supporter of ethnic cleansing.
Whatever the differences between these Zionist parties as to tactics and policy, they are all committed to their fundamental support for Israel as a ‘Jewish state for a Jewish people’. Again the Palestinians are used and abused at the whim of Israeli electoral politics.
The second, unspoken agenda item was to clear the decks before the Obama presidency began in the US. Using the hiatus following his election but before his inauguration on 20th January, Israel knew that the final days of the Bush presidency would cause them little trouble over the Gaza bombardment and they were not disappointed. Bush’s response, or lack of it, was predictable. Israel wanted the crushing of Hamas and the pacification of Gaza to be complete before Bush left office. This would enable them to negotiate with the US from a position of strength just in case Obama had different ideas about how to handle the Israel/Palestine situation from his presidential predecessors.
They need not have worried. Obama’s response was as predictable as all the others. During June 2008 he made some very friendly noises to the Zionist American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), describing himself as
a true friend of Israel and stating
Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.
So the Palestinians should not expect any equitable treatment from the Obama presidency.
And what of the Middle East envoy of the EU, US, UN and Russia – a certain Tony Blair? He was appointed to this role 2 years ago due to his ‘success’ in ‘resolving’ the Irish War, no doubt accompanied by a healthy remuneration. How could he ever be seen as a credible negotiator in the Middle East following his illegal and enthusiastic part in bloodbath of Arabs that was the Iraqi invasion? This was further compounded by his refusal to condemn Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006, while he was still Prime Minister.
In recent weeks Blair has been awarded the Dan David Prize, through Tel Aviv University for
his leadership on the world stage and having shown
exceptional intelligence and foresight, and demonstrated moral courage and leadership. Did it not occur to him how acceptance of this award might compromise his nominal role as ‘honest broker’? Presumably his vanity and the $1m prize outweighed this consideration.
Despite having his role as envoy for 2 years, it took Blair until 1st March 2009 to actually visit Gaza. On inspecting the devastation caused by the Israelis, his response was that it was
enormous. That was obvious from the limited footage that came out of Gaza, despite Israeli censorship, during the bombardment in early January. As envoy for the EU, should he not be condemning the destruction by the IDF of projects funded by EU donations? It has taken him almost two months to call for the end of the blockade of Gaza. As with Obama, his silence in early January spoke volumes as to where his allegiance lies.
No imperialist solutions
So while the IDF’s military assault on Gaza has ceased for the time being, the siege being waged by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people has not. Gaza is a concentration camp. Israel still controls what goes in and out by land, sea and air (apart from that smuggled through the tunnels). They allow a drip of humanitarian aid to pass into Gaza. Convoys of food, medical supplies and other essentials such as fuel, including that being supplied by NGOs and the UN, are prevented from reaching the Palestinians who desperately need it.
The blockade, the Wall, the intimidation, the terror and deprivations imposed on the Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza amount to an attempt to crush all resistance, eradicate all historical memory of Palestinian settlement and prevent a Palestinian nation from emerging. The continued second class status, the denial of equal political rights and the continued removal of Palestinians and Bedouin people living within Israel itself, highlights the apartheid nature of the Israeli state. This is reinforced by the banning, in the run up to the general election, of political parties traditionally supported by Arabs in Israel.
Political solutions to the conflict must not be based
on the interests of British/US imperialism or Israeli
expansionism. All bids at imperialist ‘peace’ settlements (Camp David, Oslo and the Road Map) have all failed because they have not addressed the aspirations of the Palestinian people for genuine self-determination, and accept the continuation of Israel as an apartheid-type state, with Jewish people remaining as the economically and socially privileged, dominant political force.
Likewise any attempts made to broker agreements made by the corrupt rulers of the undemocratic Arab police states have been designed to buttress their own positions and privileges. The only meaningful wider support in the Middle East will come from the oppressed peoples in these lands.
All Palestinian refugees who have been displaced since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 must have the right of return to their homeland. All forms of ethnic cleansing must be opposed and the only truly democratic solution is for a singular, secular, democratic state for all the people of historic Palestine. Such a state needs to guarantee the democratic rights of all minority groups, irrespective of religious beliefs, including the right to practice their religion of choice.
A few on the Left have opposed any effective support for the Palestinians in Gaza. They argue that Palestinians have given their electoral support to Hamas, an Islamicist party. Ironically, it was Netanyahu, who originally gave Israeli state backing to Hamas in Palestine, to undermine the then politically dominant, secular nationalist PLO. However, since the PLO has fallen in behind an imperially imposed two-state ‘solution’, it has become more and more mired in corruption, accepting political backing and money from Israel, the US and the EU. Many now see the PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority as acting in much the same manner as those Judenrat officials who ran the Jewish ghettoes on behalf of the Nazis. It was the failure of the formerly politically dominant socialists in the Bund and communists in East European countries, to successfully defend Jews in the face of the Nazi onslaught, that led to the political victory of the Zionist Jewish supremacists amongst the surviving European Jews.
Hamas can, in some ways, be considered as Moslem ‘Zionists’, who want to create a state in which Moslems dominate. They can provide no just and democratic solution for the peoples of Palestine. However, just as the most committed socialists tried to defend all Jews persecuted by the Nazis, so today, we should provide active solidarity with the people of Palestine. As socialists we have to establish our political credentials amongst the Palestinians and other people in the Middle East. This means showing that the international solidarity we offer can be, not only more effective than any pan-Islamicist support, but also offer all the peoples living in historic Palestine an escape from the many forms of exploitation and oppression they face. Socialists also give their support to those Israeli Jews who defend Palestinian rights, especially those who refuse to perform military service.
Practical action, including occupations, has already been taken by students in some of Scotland’s universities, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Dundee. Students have demanded that the universities boycott Israeli goods, as well as get rid of any investment in weapons manufacturers, such as BAE Systems.
The political atmosphere must be created in which workers also have the confidence to directly implement solidarity actions. The Viva Palestina convoy, which left London in February, with more than 100 vehicles driven by volunteers, is one action which shows the potential to raise wider support, including trade unions. This convoy eventually crossed into Gaza at Rafah on 9th March with £1.5m worth of aid including medical supplies, clothes, food and toys as well as 20 ambulances, two buses, a fire engine and a fishing boat.
The campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state must be supported. The instruments and methods of oppression used against the Palestinians, by Israel today, have echoes of those used against the black population in apartheid-era South Africa. This comparison was picked up by South African dock workers in Durban who in February refused to off-load an Israeli ship in solidarity with the Palestinians as part of a week of action against
We have a special duty, living as we do in the UK, given successive British governments’ support for the Israeli state. The role of socialists in Scotland must be to provide practical solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and to support an international campaign to isolate Israel – economically, politically, socially and culturally.