Down with anti-Palestinian oppression!

The IDF's West Bank rampage and the Palestinian movement


This spring we witnessed the horror of U.S.-supplied Israeli aircraft strafing impoverished Palestinian refugee camps with bullets and TOW missiles. In Jenin scores of Arab Palestinians were murdered in just a few hours. Israeli tanks and bulldozers smashed Arab Palestinian homes to rubble. Whole cities were starved. Thousands of men between 15 and 40 were ordered into the streets at gun-point, stripped, blindfolded, and hauled off to be tortured for information. Men, women, and children were tied to armored personnel carriers and used as human shields. Planned attacks were made on Palestinian hospitals and clinics, education facilities, mass media, agencies with social statistics, and more.

Prime Minister Sharon has now declared this fascist operation a “success”, and ordered a partial pullback of Israeli armed forces. He also talks of “new tactics” for administration of the people the Israeli state murders and oppresses. And part of the debate in the Israeli ruling class he represents is over whether "separation" (setting up vast ghettos surrounded by barbed wire and concrete), or "transfer" (expulsion of Arabs) is the ultimate "solution".

Meanwhile the Arab Palestinians in the ravaged West Bank are dealing with basic issues of mere survival---where to live, where to get medical help, where to get money, where even to get water---under conditions of intense military/police repression. But in April they also heroically fought back against overwhelming odds. (23 Israeli soldiers were reported killed in the battle of Jenin, and there are tales of heroism from all over the West Bank, concerning fighters and civilians alike.) They were defeated, yet their struggle is sure to continue. What is behind the everyday military/police juggernaut they face to begin with? Why must they live in this nightmare? And what is the way out?


Denial of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination


Zionist denial of the right of the Arab Palestinians to self-determination is the cause. In the late 1940s the big imperialist powers connived through the U.N. to partition the British Mandate (colony) of Palestine, and handed part of it to the political Zionists. The Arabic inhabitants had no say over this, nor did the national minorities. But political Zionism is racist and expansionist by nature (which the imperialist powers knew very well). According to its ideology Arabs were “native germs”, subhuman, something to be cleared out of the way according to the needs of Zionist capital. Moreover, the Zionists needed to keep a Jewish majority in Israel in order to justify that their theocratic state was somehow "democratic". So the new Israeli state the Zionists built up was founded on massacres of the Arab Palestinians, and driving out huge numbers (700,000 according to the U.N.) into refugee camps in the surrounding countries . Meanwhile, from 1948-1973 the surrounding Arab states fought several wars against Israel. These brought them into contradictions with the West, but their motivations were not defense of the right of the Arab Palestinians decide for themselves their political future. They feared the democratic strivings of the Palestinians, just as they feared the development of democratic movements in their own countries. For its part, the U.S. government has actively worked against Palestinian self-determination. As part of its imperialist strategy for dealing with the oil-rich Middle East it cemented an alliance with the Zionists. Today it annually hands them $billions as part of maintaining it ($4.13 billion in 2000). Thus historically, and right now, "our" government shares full responsibility for the oppression of the Arab Palestinians, and for all the slaughters of them when they've risen in struggles for national self-determination.


The Palestinian national movement and the working class---


This is a bourgeois democratic movement representing the interests of the masses of people against national oppression. The best outcome of it would be destruction of the Zionist state, and its replacement by a single democratic secular state with equal rights for Arabs and Jews, the right for expelled Arab Palestinians to return, etc. (a one-state solution). But the imperialist-backed Israeli armed forces are very strong, and the support of ordinary Jews for such a solution remains weak. Therefore the current national movement may not achieve this, even if were to adopt such a national revolutionary program. To achieve it may take a new national movement, or it may finally be achieved through a workers’ revolution---in the conditions of a big upsurge of revolutionary struggles in the region, and in the world. Meanwhile the masses are being shoved backwards.

The background to the current situation is that in the 1970s the petty-bourgeois PLO leaders became bourgeoisified, and took up the reformist orientation of a section of the Palestinian capitalists: two states, Israel and Palestine, existing side-by-side, with the PLO ruling the Palestinian mini-state (essentially a Bantustan) on behalf of the Arab capitalists---junior partners to the Israeli capitalists next door. In these conditions, in 1988 another important trend to arise was the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas. It too represented Palestinian capitalists, as well as having ties to fundamentalist forces internationally. It stood for one state, but rather than a democratic secular Palestine, it agitated for an anti-democratic one-state solution: replacement of the Zionist theocracy with an Islamic theocracy which would "rule over the Jews". During this period the Zionists continued to suppress the strivings of the Palestinian people for national freedom, however, and this gave rise to the first Intifada (1987-93). Arafat and Co. hadn’t planned this uprising, and were in many ways on the sidelines of it. But they used the opportunity to push their reformist solution. Hard-pressed by the mass uprising, the Zionists responded by agreeing that they might pull out of most of the occupied territories. As an interim arrangement, under the Oslo accord in 1993, they agreed to setting up the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to administer Gaza and parts of the occupied West Bank, hinting that they might eventually recognize a Palestinian state in this territory (if the PNA was effective enough in suppressing the mass democratic struggles). This was a maneuver by the Zionists, a way of co-opting the PLO leadership into a proxy administration over territories that they could no longer administer openly themselves. After the Intifada died down the Zioninists' half-hearted promises were qualified by extra conditions and carefully worded exceptions, and significant Arab Palestinian demands like the withdrawal of the settlements, the return of the refugees, and a capital in East Jerusalem, were both bluntly ignored, and used as bait for prolonging the negotiations. This fueled a new upsurge against Israeli oppression beginning in 2000 (the second Intifada). The Zionists couldn’t stop it from outside the occupied territories, nor could their PLO/PNA helpers stop it from within---even though they took measures to do so. The rage of the masses at having been stalled and frustrated for so long was too intense. The increasingly frustrated Israeli government struck out by sending “messages” in the form of bullets at the PNA itself (“we’ll destroy what you’ve built up, and kill you too, if you don’t stop this rebellion”), while making repeated raids into the Palestinian reservations. The masses resisted, and driven to the wall, the PNA fought back too (but still from a bourgeois-reformist perspective). The government responded with this spring’s slaughter and destruction.

So in less than a decade the Zionists have gone from granting an extremely limited autonomy while hinting at a two-state ultimate solution, to reinvading the occupied territories while talking about “separation” of the Arab Palestinians (a mini-non-state) as an ultimate “solution”. Two states, a dominant Zionist theocracy next to an oppressed mini-state would result in continual frictions, but it would be immeasurably better than a separation/non-state “solution”. This illustrates that it would be wrong to say “never two states!”. In fact, if won, the just demand that the Israeli government get out of the occupied territories would essentially result in two states: an economically and militarily dominated Palestinian one, and an exploiting and dominating Zionist one. The reformist perspective, often raised under the slogan "Statehood Now!", leaves out this sordid reality. A revolutionary perspective, on the other hand, doesn't prettify what ending the occupation (or two states) would mean: more favorable conditions under which to wage struggle against the national oppression which would certainly continue. And it mobilizes the masses on the basis that only by overthrowing the Zionist theocracy and replacing it with a democratic and secular Palestine can their national oppression be ended. Moreover, in whatever form it took, a miserable two state solution would serve to further enlighten the Palestinian workers as to exploited and oppressed position in society. For example, in the first years after Oslo the workers saw Arab capitalists enriching themselves through exploiting the workers' labor power, they saw national leaders grabbing money based on their positions in the PLO or PNA, and the PNA was autocratic. This poses that whatever situation the Arab Palestinians find themselves in, the workers need to develop and maintain their own independent movement; something which they have lacked. They need this to organize resistance to capitalist exploitation, whether by Arab, Jewish, or other capitalists (and ultimately to overthrow the capitalist system itself). They also need it to fight for democracy, including the best possible outcome of the struggle against national oppression---something which affects the workers and poor most viciously of all.

The Palestinian national movement has within it many political trends other than the PLO (which itself has various factions) and Hamas. These include petty-bourgeois trends, some of which speak in the name of the working class. Moreover, the divisions are complex, and even within the secular wing they can not simply be broken down on the basis of one state vs. two states as being the goal of the movement. Thus the tactics of an independent workers movement in this (or some future) national movement would have to be based on many considerations. Its class interests would dictate that various alliances be made, while also dictating that independent political work and organization not be given up. But because of our lack of knowledge we can say little more than this.

There is also the issue of building alliances inside Israel itself (which all the present secular trends to some extent attempt). This includes with the one million Arabs who continue to live there in oppressed conditions, and who wage struggles against their particular forms of national oppression, as well as in support of their brothers and sisters in the West Bank and Gaza strip. It also includes the need to make ties with progressive Jewish workers, and to encourage every step they take to split from Zionism, and toward building a proletarian internationalist trend. Of course, according to the establishment, the Jewish workers are supposed to satisfy themselves with the fact that they're privileged in comparison to the Arab workers, as well as "guest" workers brought in from around the world---even fight to maintain this privileged position. But satisfaction with such a "privilege" can only drag them down. They pay, along with the U.S. taxpayers, for the huge military machine the Zionist overlords use to suppress Palestinian resistance, they pay when their children are sent to fight and die in an unjust cause, and they pay more by not uniting with their Arab and "guest" worker comrades in common struggle against their capitalist exploiters. This unity can only be built if they themselves struggle against the national oppression of the Arab Palestinians.

Such an outlook goes against the Zionist ideas poured forth from the regime, from the oppositional bourgeois politicians, and from the trade union leaders. Hence the Jewish workers need to develop an opposing politics and inclusive organizations. We have no illusion that this is going to be easy, or happen soon. Yet there is a basis for it. Despite the huge amount of U.S. aid the Israeli economy still has crises, and these are shifted onto the backs of the working people. There’s a need for unified resistance struggles to this. Moreover, Jewish workers enticed to Israel from many countries find themselves discriminated against by the Zionist elite. This poses the choice of either meekly accepting their position in a reactionary pecking order, or struggling to overcome its Zionist source. Moreover, within Israel there have always been Jewish opponents to the oppression of the Arab Palestinians too. In the past few months this has been exhibited by many hundreds of Israeli troops not only refusing to serve in the occupied territories, but publicly denouncing the crimes they've witnessed there. These "refusenik" soldiers have not been opposing the existence the Zionist theocracy itself. Yet their statements and actions in defense of the Arab Palestinian masses against indignities, torture, and murder go against the racist premises upon which this state is based (and several have been jailed). What they need now is a political orientation which can only consistently be provided by a truly working-class political trend.


To oppose national oppression in Palestine we must build the anti-imperialist movement in the US


The Washington politicians are complicit in every nazi crime Sharon is committing in Palestine. And through Republican and Democratic administrations they’ve been complicit in all the violent repression of the Palestinian national movement carried out by previous Israeli governments, including Labour governments. From their standpoint, the Israeli government is the key tool to be used to achieve the economic and political interests of U.S. monopoly capital in the Middle East. Hence the longstanding "strategic alliance" between the U.S. and Israel. Hence the fact that it’s the top recipient of U.S. aid, receiving three times as much as the entire continent of Africa while it has only 1/132 of the population--- which goes to show the value the imperialists place on their “strategic”(oil) interests in the region. From this framework Bush and Powell have mildly postured against Sharon's violence, while also justifying it by "understanding the need to deal with terrorism". Meanwhile they brought diplomatic pressure on Arafat to accede to even more Zionist dictates. Now the U.S. is teaming up with the U.N., E.U., and Russia for a Middle East peace conference this summer (which may fail). They want to impose an anti-democratic imperialist solution premised on the existence of the Zionist theocratic state, I.e., no right of return for the hundreds of thousands of expelled Arab Palestinians, etc. And Bush’s none-to-secret motive for suddenly getting involved in this diplomacy is to calm the Palestinian struggle so that his Arab government allies can stay firm in the saddle when the U.S. makes further moves against Iraq. To support the Palestinian masses we therefore need to build the anti-imperialist movement here at home. This involves building and supporting solidarity demonstrations. It involves clarifying the facts behind what is presently taking place to the masses of people. It involves ourselves struggling to gain a better understanding of what the imperialist system is, and why and how it must be overthrown. And most fundamentally it involves building an independent political movement of the American working class. In this we must start from where we are, as individuals, or as organized groups. We must study working-class theory (the revolutionary experience of the international working class scientifically summed up), strengthen links among ourselves, and build organization. None of this is easy. But every successful step in this direction will strengthen the movement against U.S. imperialism---something which exploits and oppresses us here in the heart of the empire too. Every successful step in this direction will be an act of true solidarity with the struggling Palestinian masses.

Support the Struggles of the Palestinian Masses!

Seattle Anti-Imperialist Alliance, May 4, 2002

http://struggle.net/saia