70 Years of Injustice: Freedom for Palestine!
15-05-2018 – 70 years ago today, the Catastrophe (Al Nakba) rained down upon Palestine. The birth of the Zionist state of Israel was erected on the forcible expulsion of at least 750 000 Palestinians, many forced into exile to escape death squads, typified by the Irgun’s massacre of at 254 people, mainly women and children, in the village of Deir Yassin. It was April 9, 1948, and the annihilation of this village set the scene for what was to come. For the next 70 years, the Zionist Israeli state has continued to regard Palestinians as unpeople, against which can be carried out theft, murder, imprisonment and daily denial of basic humanity. The stealing of the very land on which people live is one of the most devastating acts colonialism can practice – and yet it continues to this day, with the borders of Gaza and the West Bank shrinking further and further. It goes without saying that there cannot be peace in the Middle East until there is justice for Palestine.
The Zionist Israeli state has existed for 70 years as it has the open political, diplomatic and military support of the imperialist powers – specifically that of the United States of America (US). Yet for the last seven years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been simmering in the shadow of the US led war on neighbouring Syria – both in proxy and open form. This war for regime change involved the Israeli state bombing Syria whenever it felt like it. It also involved direct collusion between Israeli armed forces and those of ISIS and Al Nusra, even to the extent of free medical treatment for these wounded mercenary barbarians. Israel still occupies the Golan Heights area of Syria, and its role in the war for regime change was not hidden, as it lined up with the governments of the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Kingdom (UK), France, Australia and others. Despite this, much of the Palestinian solidarity movement worldwide fell silent, despite their stated opposition to “Israel”. Many pro-Palestine activists even sided with the regime change war on Syria, despite the strengthening of Israeli state forces which would have resulted if the Syrian Arab Republic had have been overthrown by US backed genocidal terrorists.
The apparent anomaly for some Palestinian solidarity activists – loudly opposing the actions of Israel in relation to Palestine, but not in relation to Syria, is periodically revealed. Roger Waters, the famous guitarist from the band Pink Floyd, has long supported the Palestinian cause. In a recent concert, apparently someone wanted to come on stage and make an announcement about Douma, where the Western governments openly lied, claiming a false chemical weapons attack from the Syrian government. Waters did not allow this, and said that the organisation he supports, the White Helmets, are a “fake organisation that is creating propaganda for jihadists and terrorists”. He went on to strongly argue against calling on Western governments to bomb Syria in response. We can only hope that the Palestinian solidarity movement itself would defend Syria, or would at least speak out against the sinister workings of US and British imperialism, such as the “White Helmets” fraud.
Iran and World War III scenario
The Palestinian solidarity movement in Australia is heavily dominated by what became known as the “imperial left” – the “socialist” parties which followed the Liberal
National Party (LNP), the Labor Party (ALP) and the Greens in strenuously backing the US imperialist wars on Libya and Syria, from 2011 onwards. Much of the Western Palestinian solidarity movement appeared oblivious to the fact that the war on Syria very nearly came to a nuclear war between Russia defending Syria, and the US and Israel almost destroying it. Needless to say, a nuclear war over Syria would probably destroy Palestine, the imperial left notwithstanding. Now, this World War III scenario is on the cards again – this time with the US threatening another of the imperial left’s favourite whipping boys – the Islamic Republic of Iran. US President Donald Trump unilaterally “withdrew” (or openly violated) the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) on May 9, and vowed to impose even tougher sanctions on Iran. US plans for regime change in Iran have not abated since 1979, and it is feared that the US will strike before 2019 – the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.
The Israeli “Defence” Forces, usually routinely used against Palestinians, wasted no time in taking advantage of US President Trump’s tearing up of the JCPOA. Within one hour, Israeli warplanes struck Iranian targets in Syria, south of the capital Damascus, reportedly killing 15, including 8 Iranians. In response, the Iranian forces fired 20 rockets at the Golan Heights, and area of Syria still occupied by Israel. The Western media twisted and distorted these events to make out that Iran was the aggressor, and Israel was “defending itself”. The Western Palestinian solidarity movement has decried these false claims by Israel and the Western imperialist powers for decades – when it is directed against Palestine. Yet when it comes to a clear regime change operation against Syria or Iran – non-imperialist allies of Palestine – not a sound emanates from them.
There is also a gaping vacuum from the Western Palestinian solidarity movement when Palestine receives material and political support from Hezbollah, in neighbouring Lebanon. Hezbollah risked life and limb to defend neighbouring Syria against the atrocious US/Israeli/Saudi led regime change war, sending armed detachments to battle against the head-chopping lunatics attempting to overthrow Syria. In the process, they defended Palestine, along with the Russian and Iranian forces, in the process of defending Syria. No doubt Hezbollah’s actions in defending Syria were a huge factor in the recent parliamentary elections in Lebanon, where Hezbollah doubled the amount of seats it held, with big losses for the pro-US and pro-Saudi Said Hariri governing bloc. The Western Palestinian solidarity movement beseeches us to support Palestine, but itself offers not an ounce of support to its immediate neighbours – Hezbollah, Syria, Iran – who give material aid to Palestine. It is a mess of contradictions.
Again, the Western Palestinian solidarity movement will be tested. Will they oppose yet another US led imperialist war (on Iran), where they failed, or at least abstained, in Syria? The signs so far are not good, as the imperial left’s bitter opposition to Iran in practice means it forswears any of the desperately needed assistance provided to Palestine by the Iranian government. There are even some liberals who defend Iran on the basis of its long standing anti-imperialist stance vis-à-vis the US Empire, who blanch at hailing Israel or the other main US ally in the region – Saudi Arabia. There is an urgent need for working people with a basic anti-imperialist stance to join the Palestinian solidarity movement to counter, and overcome, the predominance of the imperial left. This needs to be a part of an anti-imperialist anti-war movement in general – given the US Empire’s similar threats to Russia and China.
BDS claims false victories
With a few exceptions, there is a cross-over between the imperial left and the liberal BDS movement – which calls for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” against Israel, which is somehow supposed to free Palestine. As we have mentioned previously, the main problem with the BDS movement is that it attempts to gain the support of the imperialist powers, rather than working to undermine them. The US, British, French and Australian ruling classes know very well why they politically and financially maintain the Israeli state, and they cannot be convinced to do otherwise, no matter how compelling the argument. Falling short of inveigling the imperialist powers themselves into a “Down with Israel” campaign, the BDS movement latches on to any expression of anti-Israel sentiment, as proof of the “success” of BDS.
BDS supporters lauded Oscar winning actress Natalie Portman’s decision not to attend a ceremony in Israel which awards the million dollar Genesis Prize, reportedly over “distressing” recent events in Israel. BDS supporters immediately claimed this decision as a victory for BDS, but Natalie Portman’s own words soon put paid to this contention. Portman, who was born in Jerusalem, but moved to the US at age three, stated on Instagram: “I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear to be endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony…..Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation”.
This pointedly reveals another of the shortcomings of BDS. The BDS movement in practice boycotts 8.54 million Israelis, rather than the Zionist Israeli state, which is responsible for the terrible oppression of the Palestinians. Israel is only 75% Jewish, and only around 15% of these are Ultra-Orthodox. A much smaller percentage is willing to commit violence against Palestinians and Arabs. Indeed, 20% of Israelis are Arabs themselves. Well over half of the population, perhaps more, are therefore not Zionists. However, it is acknowledged that Zionism – the ideology for a Jewish only state and/or homeland – does have strong influence throughout the country. It would seem axiomatic that to defeat Zionist ideology, one would necessarily have to enlist non-Zionist Israelis – the majority of the country. BDS does not have such a perspective, as it is ultimately an outgrowth of the Palestinian nationalism which has led to the current impasse.
When is nationalism progressive?
Some leftists and Marxist inspired Palestinian solidarity activists attempt to justify their backing of Palestinian nationalism by referring to Lenin’s work on the right of nations to self-determination. It is the case that Lenin and the Bolsheviks sometimes supported the “nationalism” of a small state when it was in conflict with a larger, dominating force. We would argue that the Marxist backing of the nationalism of small states goes only so far, and only under strict limits. It is only the direct content of the nationalism of a small state which is directed against imperialism, that can be supported by the working class internationally. Any step further than this, seeps over into petty-bourgeois nationalism, which then works against the prospects of its liberation. For example, the nationalism which currently defends Syria and Iran, in the immediate political context, is used against the dire encroachments of US led imperialism, with the Zionist state of Israel as an adjunct. The US/Israeli plans for Syria and Iran are clearly catastrophic regime change, and thus the nationalism of Syria and Iran in response directly counters imperialism.
Palestinian nationalism, on the other hand, generally does not work in a clear anti-imperialist direction, despite being its victim. Palestinian nationalism, in the hands of Fatah, Hamas or indeed BDS, continually seeks recognition from capitalist imperialism, instead of rousing workers against it. The nationalist Fatah and the Islamist Hamas do so more consciously, whereas the BDS movement does so less consciously. This is largely due to the fact that Fatah, Hamas and BDS seek to install their own Palestinian capitalist nation-state. The approach is one which effectively says to imperialism: “you have your capitalist state over there, we will have ours over here, and we will peacefully co-exist.”
Of course, there can be no peaceful co-existence with imperialism. One look at Libya, Syria, Russia and China today will demonstrate that the US Empire cannot even allow independence, let alone extended periods of peaceful co-existence. Finance capital must expand or die, and internationally this means unending wars for the re-division of the planet. More to the point, capitalism in Palestine will not be able to solve the dire problems affecting working people. Poverty, inequality, unemployment, underdevelopment, lack of infrastructure – which affects workers in Israel and Palestine – cannot be addressed without the overthrow of the system of production for private profit. Only socialism – the public ownership of the means of production, politically led by workers holding state power, can hope to address these urgent issues.
Anti-capitalist political action pre-supposes the linking of Palestinian and Israeli workers in common struggle. As far away as this perspective appears, common working class struggle against capitalism in the region is the only way to break the seemingly insurmountable antagonism between Palestinians and Israelis. Key to this is the forging of a Marxist vanguard party, which would seek to unite Israeli and Palestinian workers in a struggle for an Arab-Hebrew socialist state, which could be a basis for uniting workers across the Middle East and further abroad. Linking in with the defence of Iran, Syria, Russia and China against faltering but still dangerous Western imperialism, a socialist revolution in Palestine/Israel could be a focal point for desperately needed workers struggle in Europe, Japan, the US and Australia. A world of threatening imperialist war can only be ended when those who labour are in power.
PO Box 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012