For Palestinian Liberation! Israel/US/AUS: Hands Off the Middle East!
15-05-2017 – 69 years. For 69 years, ever since the 15th of May 1948, or Al Nakba (the catastrophe), the Palestinian people have endured expulsion from their land, murder, slaughter, imprisonment, starvation, blockade and more at the hands of the Israeli state. For almost all of those decades, the Israeli state has executed these crimes with the material and political support of the strongest imperialist powers, principally the US state. Today the situation is little different, and is arguably worse. Aside from the routine shootings of Palestinians by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), and even by Zionist settlers, the Palestinian economy lies in tatters, and has barely recovered from the war on Gaza by the Israeli state in 2006. As of last year, only 10.7 % of the 11 000 housing units totally destroyed in the 2006 war have been rebuilt, and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) losses in Gaza since then have been greater than 50%.
The oppression of Palestine is central to the question of the Middle East, and for that matter the world. However, for the last six years, the question of Palestine cannot but be viewed through lens of the US led war for regime change in neighbouring Syria. This imperialist war, unprecedented in history for both its level of barbarity and its accompanying corporate media and Western government lies, has also defined the Palestinian solidarity movement during that time. The Palestinian solidarity movement seems to have been split into three sections: 1. Those who have come behind the US led war on Syria, which unfortunately includes some left parties. 2. Those who oppose the US led war to destroy the Syrian state and 3. Those who defend Palestine against the Israeli state’s crimes, but who are genuinely confused and do not wish to take a side in the Empire’s war on Syria. Unfortunately, those in category 3 have, for the most part, gone along with those in category 1, even if they have their doubts about those fighting to bring down the Syrian government.
Israeli state co-operation with ISIS and Al Qaeda death squads in Syria
Palestinian solidarity activists know better than most how extensive the remorseless inhumanity of the Israeli state is towards the Palestinian people, and play a useful role in making working people aware of this. Yet some of them have not seen fit to make working people aware of the Israeli states’ role in the war for regime change in Syria. If their aim is to condemn the Israeli government, why not make working people aware of Israel’s role in assisting ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and other genocidal lunatics, in their efforts to overthrow Syria? Story after story recounts that Israeli hospitals treat injured Al Nusra death squad members, and how Israeli ambulances cross through Palestinian territory, and into Syrian territory to evacuate injured terrorists. Why not expose the ISIS-Israeli state axis?
For that matter, why wouldn’t one report on the fact that Israel has launched missile strikes on Syria on multiple occasions during the war for regime change? The latest one was on 23rd of April this year. Why not outline how the Israeli state has attacked Syrian Army positions, as well as Hezbollah fighters? Because to do so would undermine their claim that they stand in total opposition to the Israeli state, and would highlight their silence in the face of these attacks.
If one would assume that Palestinian solidarity activists would expose the role of Israel in assisting ISIS, we might expect that Australian Palestine solidarity activists would also expose the Australian military for doing the same thing. Yet, when the Australian government admitted that it assisted the US in the bombing of Syria on September 19, 2016, there was deathly silence. These strikes clearly assisted ISIS to temporarily move in on Deir Ez-zor. Yet the only protests in Australia came not from the Palestinian solidarity collectives, but the groups around the various Hands Off Syria branches.
BDS: A mistaken tactic based on a mistaken strategy
The silence of the majority of Australian Palestinian solidarity activists with regard to the US led war on Syria was arguably aided by their adoption of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. In the main, Palestinian solidarity activists posit BDS as axiomatic if one wishes to defend Palestine. However, there is much that is mistaken with BDS, for all of its laudable intentions. For one thing, the BDS campaign appeals to the very imperialist powers which have been waging war against the Palestinian people for decades on end. It aims to “pressure” the governments of Australia, the US, UK and others to impose sanctions on Israel for its gross mistreatment of Palestinians. Even if this was possible, this tactic of appealing to the governments which are ultimately responsible for the oppression of the Palestinians arguably prevented them from condemning, in this case, Australian military assistance to ISIS to undermine the Syrian state. For if on the one hand, you are lobbying the Australian government to condemn and impose sanctions on Israel, it would be counter-intuitive to simultaneously demonstrate against the Australian government for bombing Syria on the other hand.
With regard to Palestinian liberation, either the Australian ruling class is your friend, or it is something you help organise workers to oppose. BDS tries to walk both sides of the street. As this is not possible, it tends to side with the most powerful side, despite its intentions. Let us look at the “boycott” part. This refers to a consumer boycott. In almost every other campaign against war and/or national oppression, and much else, the left usually warns that consumer boycotts are ineffective, because working people cannot boycott the capitalist system if they want to survive – they have to organise to overthrow it. Yet we are told that BDS is an exception – Israel is supposedly so unique, that in this case, the left should call for consumer boycotts of Israeli products. Yet, with the Western capitalist economies in a dire state of crisis, working people have even less disposable income than before. The messaging is also skewed. The “victory” in this case, may be, if it comes off, a corporation deciding not to invest in Israeli businesses. Aside from the possible loss of jobs for Palestinians and Israelis in Israel, this corporation may simply decide to buy other shares on the stock market. The corporation becomes something to work with, rather than something to campaign against.
Similarly with “divestment”. Divestment implies all kinds of efforts to convince a corporation, which runs on the basis of private production for private profit, to divest, or invest elsewhere – somewhere other than Israel. The efforts seem to be intended to weaken everything Israeli, so that it will be unable to carry out repression against the Palestinians. Yet “Israel” is not a single unit. It has come about through the terrible suffering of others, but it has become a nation, which survives through the hideous repression of several different peoples within. As a nation it is far from homogenous, with around 20% of the population being Palestinian Arabs, around 25% being non-Jewish, along with migrants and refugees from Africa and other countries, as well as a large domestic working class. This working class includes some who oppose Israeli state militarism, as well as those who in 2011 embarked on “Occupy” style social justice protests in Tel Aviv, which protested gross inequality within Israel.
Needless to say, a BDS movement, if “successful”, would target all of these potential allies, rather than reaching out to them. Worse than this, it tends to drive the Israeli working class deeper into the hands of the Zionist state, which in some sense is a natural reaction to an external siege. What is desperately needed is to break the Israeli working class from Zionism, as difficult as that may seem, and link them with the Palestinian working class in order to overthrow capitalism in the region. It is a sobering fact, but Palestinian national rights cannot be solved on the basis of a nationalism which remains entirely within the imperialist framework. The Palestinian solidarity movement must learn that support for Palestinian nationalism, on its own, is not enough to win justice for Palestine.
The BDS movement, backed by some left parties, not only does not challenge the capitalist division of the world into competing nation states, but goes cap in hand towards it. Think of the agencies it appeals to: Boycott – individual consumers going shopping, Divestment – corporations plundering the world, and Sanctions – the governments of the very First World states enforcing world poverty. At no point does it question the very forces pushing the world to the brink of world war and/or climactic destruction – capitalist corporations and the governments that serve them. In fact the BDS founder has emphasised the need to reach out to the “liberal mainstream”. That is, the mainstream which accepts the system as a system, but only attempts to push for changes of policy within it.
Working people can liberate Palestine, and end the threat of war
While we should defend BDS campaigners against any repression from the Zionist state, or any Western state backing Israeli militarism, we need to seek to unleash the power of those the BDS campaign passes by – the working class. We recognise this is easier said than done, but it is only the working people who collectively have the power to liberate Palestine, end war in the Middle East, and stave off the threat of world war. The largest obstacle to mobilising the working people in Australia remains the self-serving Union leaders, which, almost without exception, are tied by a thousand threads not only to the capitalist system, but also the foreign policy of Australian imperialism. The left parties which have come behind the US led war for regime change in Syria, unfortunately are another link in the chain to these careerist bureaucrats. But they can be challenged.
Attempting to campaign for justice for Palestine, in 2017, without mentioning the US led war to destroy Syria, is akin to trying to save a French village in 100 AD without mentioning the Roman Empire. For Australian Palestinian solidarity activists, it is vital to attempt to mobilise opposition to the junior imperialist role Australia plays in these atrocious wars, from Syria, to Iraq, to Afghanistan. If Syria is overthrown by Washington, with the assistance of Canberra, Palestine will stand little chance of surviving. The US clearly seeks to isolate Russia by taking out Syria, making Iran an easier target. Russia is the ultimate target of regime change in Europe, while China is the ultimate target of regime change in Asia. The US seeks not only to dominate Eurasia, but the planet. As the US is also the principal sponsor of the Zionist Israeli state, targeting only “Israel” is only targeting one of its agents.
Our tasks in relation to the liberation of Palestine should be twofold. Firstly, we need a political shift away from the dead end of ceaselessly supporting Palestinian nationalism. National rights for Palestine, as well as basic living and working conditions for its people, cannot be addressed by fighting for a “free” i.e. capitalist, Palestine. BDS plays into this strategy, despite the good intentions of its adherents. What is required is to link the working classes of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and others in a struggle for socialism in the Middle East. This will require the forging of genuinely international workers’ parties. We hold no illusions as to the difficulty of this task, but the nationalist only strategy has produced what we have today, which obviously is not acceptable.
Secondly, and most immediately for those on Australian shores, we need to make all attempts possible to break working people from the foreign policy of Australian imperialism, tied as it is to the wild depredations of the US Empire. Even if your own priority is justice for Palestine, we need to seek to mobilise working people and their Unions in opposition to Australian support for the Western imperial project in the Middle East and Europe by demanding the complete withdrawal of all Australian troops and hardware from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. We also need to demand that the US and Australia cease all military, diplomatic and political co-operation and protection of the Zionist Israeli state, as well as any co-operation or arming of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has been waging an appalling war on the popular resistance forces in Yemen.
Working people need not fear sell-out Union leaders, or the Western governments threatening to unleash even more worldwide carnage. With remarkable heroism, the Palestinian people have been resisting such forces of repression for 69 years. We have an obligation to at least match them. Working people the world over have the power to bring about an end to the system of capitalist-imperialism, before it brings about an end to us. ISRAEL/US/AUS: HANDS OFF THE MIDDLE EAST!
PO BOX 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012