Free Ahed Tamimi! For Palestinian Liberation!

Cartoon depicting Ahed Tamimi over an Israeli Defence Force soldier. Image from http://www.islam21c.com

09-03-2018 – The video footage went viral. A young 16 year old Palestinian woman, Ahed Tamimi, slapping an Israeli soldier as they were invading her family home. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) was yet again attempting to terrorise all Palestinians into submitting to the gross injustice of the Israeli state occupation. Ahed Tamimi and her family live in the village of Nabi Salih in the occupied West Bank. Some reports claim that the slapping incident took place just an hour after Ahed learned that her cousin, Mohammed Tamimi, had been shot in the head by the IDF.[1] Her cousin is just one of the many teenagers who take part in regular protests against the Israeli occupation forces, who frequently invade and threaten any Palestinian who resists, and many who do not. Shootings, being thrown in arbitrary detention to be faced by a military (not civilian) court, checkpoints, physical and verbal harassment and much worse are a daily experience for Palestinians under occupation. These collective crimes, and much worse, against the Palestinian people have continued almost without a pause since 1948, when the state of Israel was established on the forcible expulsion of the Arabic people of the region.

Needless to say, no damage was caused to the slapped soldier, save perhaps some pride. The real impact that Ahed’s actions had were that, despite the massive imbalance of power, the occupying Israeli armed forces were shown to be humiliated by an unarmed young Palestinian woman. The power of world public opinion turned sharply against the Zionist Israeli state yet again. The result was that the Israeli state charged Ahed herself, on ridiculous grounds such as “assault” (of a heavily armed soldier) and now faces arbitrary detention like many other Palestinian children and young people. One estimate has it that 375 Palestinians between the ages of 12 and 17 were under Israeli military detention in 2016, often for the charge of stone throwing.[2]  That children risk their lives daily in an attempt to somehow ward off the fourth strongest military in the world is testimony to incredible bravery the Palestinians constantly display.

US wars of regime change

Ahed Tamimi’s brave actions followed soon after US President Donald Trump’s announcement last December that Jerusalem will be recognised as the capital of Israel – or at least by his administration. This has actually been US government policy for decades, including under the previous Obama administration, but President Trump has only been the first to state it openly. As reactionary as Donald Trump’s actions are towards Palestine, he has been an inconsistent applicant of usual US designs. Trump campaigned on withdrawing the US from the war of regime change on Syria before becoming President. After being elected, he backflipped on this as much as on any issue. Nevertheless, Trump’s lack of total support for regime change in Syria dovetailed with the heroic defence of the Syrian Arab Army, backed by the military power of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. The result was that US imperialism and their allies suffered an ignominious defeat in Syria, even if the war is still smouldering.

Given that the Zionist Israeli state was one of the principal allies of the US in sustaining its catastrophic war on Syria, one would assume that Palestinians themselves and their international supporters would be the strongest opponents of the violent overthrow of a direct neighbour of Palestine by Saudi Arabian armed ISIS and Al Qaeda barbarians. Wouldn’t these perpetrators of unspeakable atrocities – some of whom were injured and then treated for free in Israeli hospitals[3] – turn their guns, or their beheading swords, against Palestine after Syria? Wouldn’t the Western Palestinian solidarity movement – if they truly opposed the Israeli state – vehemently protest Israeli air strikes in support of ISIS, and repeated Israeli air strikes on Syria?[4] Unfortunately, if one assumed this, one would be wrong.

With some important exceptions, much of the Western Palestinian solidarity movement was either silent, or actually gave material and political support to the US/Israeli war of regime change on Syria. Tragically, Palestinians themselves were divided on the “war next door”. In effect, Hamas treacherously backed its arch enemy Israel against Syria, while on the other hand some Palestinian militias fought heroically alongside the anti-imperialist coalition (Russia, Iran, Hezbollah) defending Syria. These Palestinian militias, which include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Liwa Al-Quds and Quwat Al-Jalil[5], fought against imperialist war – the right side of history. In the process, they exposed the shaky politics of large parts of the Western Palestinian solidarity movement.

BDS ?

The direct lesson is that the defence of Palestine is impossible without strident opposition to imperialism. It is imperialism, led by the US, but assisted by Britain, France, Australia and others, which sustains the Zionist Israeli state. Without the financial, military and political backing of US imperialism, Israel would not be a shadow of itself, and a secure Palestine would be closer to reality. Which brings us to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. With notable exceptions, international advocates of BDS and backers of the imperialist war on Syria largely coincided. There are important reasons for this.

BDS is an attempt to garner world opinion against “Israel”, in order to thereby free “Palestine”. Marxists however, recognise no nation as a unified whole, but an assemblage of classes. The BDS movement implicitly has a classless analysis of both Israel and Palestine, and this is then extended onto the world stage. The BDS movement therefore seeks any ally of any class who can be convinced to take any action against Israel. Though they welcome working class support, in effect who they really try to win to their cause are capitalist corporations (“divestment”) and capitalist governments (“sanctions”). BDS advocates are thus literally, and in practice, appealing to imperialism itself – as if imperialism can and should be your ally in a political campaign. Even the “boycott” part is aimed at workers as consumers, not as workers. It assumes that the whole set up of capitalism – and ultimately imperialism – is the natural order of things, and the most we can do is to choose not to shop for certain consumer goods. It was also in the natural order of things for imperialism to wage war against Syria, which many BDS advocates did not oppose, or openly supported. And so the circle closes.

BDS is in practice a moral position, rather than a political one. BDS effectively claims that Israel is uniquely immoral, that its continued occupation of Palestine contains so many crimes that it has no parallel on the planet. Anyone who questions this likewise brings their own morality into question. Yet there are no moral absolutes for those with a basic class struggle perspective. The morality of a worker who toils endlessly for enough to live on cannot be compared to the morality of billionaire financiers who bleed society white in order to purchase another seaside mansion. To be sure, the crimes of the Israeli state against the Palestinians are heinous and abhorrent, and are ongoing. But the nature and scale of these crimes, as repulsive as they are, scarcely reach, let alone exceed, the crimes of its benefactor – the US Empire. The historical colonialist records of Britain, France, Belgium, Spain and indeed Australia – contain abominations at least equal, and sometimes worse – than those committed by the Zionist Israeli state.

Diverse but unequal

There is no denying the manifest crimes against humanity deployed daily by this Zionist state – the detention and likely incarceration of Ahed Tamimi is yet another one. The point, however, is that these are crimes of the capitalist state of Israel, not Israel itself. Israeli, Jew and Zionist are three different entities. Only 75.5% of Israelis are Jewish, and 1% of these are Ethiopian Jews. The religious views and practices of the Israeli Jews cannot at all be lumped together either. Only 7% of Jews are Ultra-Orthodox, while 15% are Orthodox, 32% are ‘traditional’ – but the largest majority of Israeli Jews identify as secular.[6] Arabs make up 20.2% of the overall population of 8.45 million, and another 4.3% comprises minority groups such as non-Arab Christians and Circassians.[7] That is, around 25% of the population of Israel are not Jewish at all, let alone Zionists.

Given these brief statistics, one can already start to see the problems with a boycott of the whole of Israel. But it goes much further. Israel is one of the most unequal countries on Earth. Roughly 20% of Israelis live below the poverty line, with the poverty line declared as less than 50% of the median disposable income. Of the 34 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) countries – the world club of rich countries – Israel is close to the one which sustains the most inequality.[8] Ironically, Israel runs a close second to the US in terms of inequality. Its gross average annual earnings of full time employees sits below the US at just $28, 817, compared to a $40, 060 average for the rest of the OECD.[9]

Housing affordability – a major issue in Australia where young people are basically priced out of the market – is similarly a huge issue in Israel. In 2011, there were massive “Occupy” style protests in Israel specifically targeting the high cost of housing. In fact the scale of these protests dwarfed the Western Occupy protests at that time. One report stated that in Israel between 2007 and 2015, house prices increased by 114%, and rents by 49%, making housing almost unattainable for young people.[10] There is now the phenomenon of young Israelis leaving the country due to the high cost of housing!

Situational irony

We could go on, but just a glance at figures such as these show that there is huge scope for the workers movement to attempt to reach out to Israeli working class to ally with them against capitalism in their backyard, and abroad. Yet the BDS movement could very well set up a scenario of situational irony. That is, the BDS movement could have the opposite effect of what was intended. Rather than the BDS movement somehow turning Israelis against their own state, a boycott and sanctions effort often tends to drive the inhabitants of that state further behind it, in the manner of bunkering down against a siege. For example, when Iraq under Saddam Hussein was sanctioned by the West before its invasion, Iraqis rallied behind Hussein despite whatever crimes he committed previously against Iraqis. In a similar way, Syrians who were ambivalent towards, or even opposed, President Bashar Al-Assad before the US/Israeli led war against their country, soon rallied behind their leader when it became apparent he was leading an anti-imperialist defence of their secular state. BDS, despite its aims, arguably creates more Zionists rather than undermines them.

Most BDS advocates see themselves as left-wing and pro-worker, and BDS is backed by some socialist parties. These groups recognise instantly that inside a workplace, if anyone sides with the boss against the workers, it is an act of utter class betrayal, to be resolutely condemned. Yet they struggle to apply this correct principal outside the workplace, nor internationally. For example, BDS advocates try to unite the world against Israel. But “uniting the world” in practice means working with the political – and corporate – leaderships of the world states who are inveigled to boycott Israel. A worker in one factory who advocated joint efforts with employers of other factories against his own would be laughed out of any Union meeting.  Yet BDS advocates don’t see the contradiction in calling on the very imperialist states and corporations they usually campaign against – to join with them against the “evil” Israel.

Rather than a cross-class, imperialist friendly movement for Palestinian liberation, what is needed is a pro-working class, anti-imperialist movement. Rather than uniting with class enemies who claim to stand for Palestine (the Labor Party, corporations, capitalist governments, imperialist powers), what is required is to unite all those who recognise that class enemies cannot be allies in any way, despite whatever “progressive” language they may throw up from time to time. Palestinian liberation is bound up with the overthrow of the rule of capital in Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. This means uniting the Israeli, Palestinian and Middle Eastern working class in a struggle for socialism in their region. Palestinian liberation can scarcely come about in any other way. A pre-requisite for this task is the forging of Marxist vanguard parties throughout the Middle East and internationally, including on these shores.

FREE AHED TAMIMI!  FOR PALESTINIAN LIBERATION!

 

WORKERS   LEAGUE

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-behind-ahed-tamimi-s-slap-her-cousin-s-head-shattered-by-idf-bullet-1.5729500 (06-03-2018)

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/01/internet-famous-in-the-west-bank/549557/ (06-03-2018)

[3] http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Report-Israel-treating-al-Qaida-fighters-wounded-in-Syria-civil-war-393862 (06-03-2018)

[4] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43019682 (06-03-2018)

[5] http://www.meforum.org/5775/quwat-al-jalil-a-pro-assad-palestinian-syrian (06-03-2018)

[6] http://cija.ca/resource/israel-the-basics/demographics-of-israel/ (07-03-2018)

[7] ibid.

[8] https://www.haaretz.com/income-inequality-in-israel-among-highest-in-oecd-1.5364971 (07-03-2018)

[9] http://www.jpost.com/Business-and-Innovation/Poverty-inequality-mar-strong-Israeli-economy-OECD-report-finds-443386 (07-03-2018)

[10] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2017-02-14/soaring-housing-costs-approach-crisis-levels-in-israel-analysts-warn (07-03-2018)

Free Ahed Tamimi! For Palestinian Liberation!

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