Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/455/5549
End the occupations
How can the Palestinians win national and democratic rights?
A number of journalists have suggested that the changed situation in the Middle East following the Israel-Hezbollah war has opened the door to an Israel-Palestine settlement.
They point out that Israel is in a weaker position militarily, the Palestinians are desperate for change and will soon have a new, more moderate Hamas-Fatah coalition government and that the Arab regimes are under great pressure from their populations to aid the Palestinians. However, in reality there is no settlement on the horizon to end the nightmare conditions faced by the Palestinians.
In the last three months, over 240 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli shelling in Gaza and the West Bank, including 48 children. Palestinian public-sector workers have barely been paid for the last seven months, because aid and taxes have been withdrawn by the world capitalist powers and Israel to punish the Palestinians for electing Hamas.
A World Bank review spelt out the severity of the situation last week: "Year 2006 will be the worst year throughout the Palestinian Authority's sad history. The Palestinian economy is on the verge of an unprecedented crisis".
The US and European Union say they will reinstate aid if the planned Hamas-Fatah coalition renounces violence and recognises Israel and previous international agreements. However, although Hamas has authorised pro-Western Fatah leader Mahmood Abbas to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA), it is clear there is much haggling over these issues to come.
The Islamist Hamas has implicitly recognised Israel's existence, but both Hamas and Fatah are united over the right to armed resistance against the occupation. A lifting of the aid boycott would alleviate the present starvation conditions, but would be far from bringing any resolution to the national conflict.
The withdrawal of Jewish settlers from Gaza one year ago was not part of a deal towards a Palestinian state, but was a unilateral move by the Israeli regime to cut off, atomise and isolate Palestinian areas. Its aim was to ease the military burden of the occupation and attempt to resolve Israel's demographic problem - the higher Palestinian birth-rate compared to that of Israeli Jews.
The unilateral plan has only worsened the Palestinians' plight, and so the second intifada (uprising) continues. The first intifada, which began in 1987, initially involved the Palestinian masses, but the hallmark of the second has been individual and group actions, including rocket attacks and suicide bombings on Israel.
However, violence against Israeli civilians is counter-productive, as it drives Israeli workers to support brutal retaliation by the Israeli army, rather than encouraging them into opposition to the occupation. Only mass, democratic action, led by accountable committees of struggle, can make real headway in ending the occupation and fighting for a genuine state.
The Socialist Party supports the Palestinians' struggle for self-determination and the right to their own state. Some left-wing organisations argue for a single, secular state encompassing Israel and the territories. But following the decades of conflict, most Palestinians view the idea of a shared state with hostility or suspicion, and it is a non-starter for Israeli Jews.
Israel was founded as a Jewish state on the basis of providing a safe haven for Jews worldwide. This was a profoundly mistaken strategy - Israel is increasingly seen as the least safe place for Jews in the world. However, Israel exists, and with nowhere else to go Israeli workers feel compelled to defend that state for their own survival.
The Israeli capitalist class has its own reasons for defending its state - a desire for increased profit and wealth, including economic superiority over the Palestinian territories and surrounding countries. It does not want both the security and economic consequences of allowing an armed Palestinian state on its doorstep. So as well as supporting a two-state solution, the Socialist Party believes it can only be achieved by the removal of Israel's capitalist class by Israeli workers, to bring in a socialist society that has no interest in economic or military domination over the Palestinians.
A socialist Palestinian state is also essential, as capitalism would not provide Palestinians with decent living standards. Even in today's capitalist Israel, with its relatively developed economy, workers are suffering from poorly paid, casual jobs and severe cuts in the welfare state.
Socialism in both Palestine and Israel, as part of a socialist confederation of the Middle East, would provide the conditions for a permanent end to the national conflict, and decent living standards for all in the region. Under the democratic control of the working class and peasantry, the region's resources could be used for the benefit of all, as part of an overall plan of production.
While capitalist politicians worldwide have no solution to end the cycles of bloodshed, workers and young people on both sides of the divide express a strong desire to end it. The intense suffering of the Palestinians is plain to see, and Israeli workers also face increased poverty and constant insecurity. Israeli public-sector workers have periodically fought back with large scale strike action, and at present tens of thousands of Palestinian public-sector workers are on strike against non-payment of their wages. Struggles like these are starting to build the working class solidarity necessary to build alternative societies.
In The Socialist 21 September 2006:
War and occupation
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Youth and Education
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis