Photo: Paul Mattsson
Photo: Paul Mattsson

Editorial of the Socialist issue 1262

From the start of the war on Gaza, the ferocity of the firepower marked a horrific new departure compared to previous Israeli military offensives on the Strip. Over four months later, slaughter, terror and devastation are still being inflicted, on what has become a mercilessly pursued population. The trapped Palestinians are repeatedly forced to move, with no safe destination or the basic necessities of life available anywhere.

Over 28,000 have been killed, 67,000 injured, and large urban areas have been flattened to rubble. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet now has its sights on starting a ground invasion into the 1.3 million people struggling to survive in Rafah, a southern town that has already been bombed from the air.

Joe Biden’s US administration, Rishi Sunak’s UK government, and all the other governments that have grotesquely supported this war are complicit in it. Included in the supplies of weaponry from the US to Israel have been heavy ‘bunker buster’ bombs, which have caused widespread and indiscriminate destruction. Overall, Israel has received over 10,000 tons of military equipment from the US, Britain and other countries since the start of the war.

Working-class action

This reflects the staunch support given by western imperialism to the Israeli capitalist class and its state, in turn a reflection of imperialist geopolitical and trade interests. There is also another side to the situation, however. The potential to counter those interests lies with working-class people in the western countries and across the globe, through further building the anti-war movements and workers’ participation in them, including the development of democratically decided trade union actions, such as by workers in the arms, logistics and transport industries, and supplementary actions such as student walkouts.

That Biden and Co are not immune from the outrage from below can be seen by their verbal twists and shifts. In the US, a majority of young people think an Israeli ceasefire should be declared, a mood which Biden has been unable to completely ignore, although so far – in the absence of a strong enough anti-war movement – he has only responded in a tokenistic, meek way. He merely called the war “over the top”, and quipped that the starvation and death of innocent people has “gotta stop”. He, and others around him, have called for the protection of civilians in Rafah, but without yet making any threats against Israel’s military or economic interests.

Britain’s Tory government has faced a larger anti-war movement, which last year succeeded in getting Suella Braverman sacked as home secretary. It has not yet achieved a powerful enough level to move Sunak and foreign secretary David Cameron beyond expressing ‘deep concern’ about the prospect of a full-scale Israeli offensive on Rafah. As well as shedding those crocodile tears, Cameron has tried to pose as being more keen than Labour’s Keir Starmer on pushing ahead the idea of a Palestinian state, no doubt with the proximity of a general election in mind.

He isn’t the only capitalist politician speaking of the need for a Palestinian state. Yet, for years they have gone along with Israeli leaders’ creation of ‘facts on the ground’ – mainly in the form of expanding Jewish settlements – designed to ward off any prospect of a Palestinian state. It is only now, with the war on Gaza causing increased instability across the Middle East and anger over it in their domestic populations, that Cameron and other strategists of Western imperialism, along with the Arab elites, are once again raising the need for a turn to ‘talks’ with the promise of some kind of Palestinian state entity.

Genuine self-determination

That path will only lead to new blind alleys and rounds of conflict. The Socialist Party has always warned that a genuine Palestinian state will not be possible on a capitalist basis. While most of Israel’s capitalists don’t advocate the agenda of mass expulsion of Palestinians promoted by Israel’s far-right parties – and they view those parties as endangering their interests – no wing of that capitalist class is in favour of an independent Palestinian state coming into existence in the occupied territories. At the same time, along with other capitalists internationally, they have no solution to the national conflict, and so perpetuate the status quo of brutal repression and rounds of outright war, with the occasional diversion and smokescreen of negotiations in between. 

The Socialist Party is at the forefront of helping to build mass pressure and workers’ actions against both our own government and that of Israel, with the necessary demands including a ceasefire and an end to the war. An immediate ceasefire is essential both for humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians in Gaza and for progress to take place towards the release of the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails and the Israeli hostages held in Gaza. Also essential is the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli military from the Gaza Strip and an end to the blockade.

‘Socialist intifada’

Beyond that, how can the Palestinians achieve full liberation? During such a shockingly savage war this can seem like a question for the ‘day after’, but addressing the roots of the conflict is crucial to ending the rounds of bloodshed. First and foremost, while Palestinian workers and the poor need the support and solidarity of workers internationally, they can lead the way with their own struggle in the form of a ‘socialist intifada’ – in other words, a mass movement that takes up socialist ideas.

Their first intifada began in 1987 as a spontaneous mass uprising of the entire Palestinian population in the occupied territories, which was powerful enough to force the Israeli regime at that time to recognise that brutal repression was not working, and that some kind of Palestinian entity would have to be conceded. That led to the Oslo Accords and setting up of the Palestinian Authority, which the Socialist Party always warned would not solve any of the issues in the conflict, as capitalism remained. The second intifada broke out in the year 2000 as a further revolt against oppression, but much less effective than the first intifada because the struggle lost its mass character. It became dominated by secretive armed actions by individuals and groups, including indiscriminate suicide bombings inside Israel which played into the hands of the Israeli right wing.

A socialist intifada would draw on the effective method of mass action of the first intifada, but combine it with developing democratically organised, fully accountable committees at every level of society. Those bodies could organise mass participation in discussion and debate on the methods of struggle and the socialist policies that will be needed for achieving full liberation from both national oppression and capitalist exploitation.

Socialist programme

One aspect of that programme will need to be advocating for workers in Israel to break from the agenda and interests of Israel’s capitalist class. The Israeli ruling elite will never bring physical and financial security for Israeli workers, just as it will never allow genuine self-determination for the Palestinians. Even at present in Israel, during the heightened nationalism and general support for the war following the 7 October Hamas-led offensive, there are limits to reaction shown by the fact that most Israelis reject the agenda of the far right that proposes full Israeli control of the Gaza Strip and the rebuilding of Jewish settlements there.

The building of workers’ parties independent of capitalist interests, in both Israel and the occupied territories, would lay the basis for links and cooperation between workers on both sides of the national divide. On the basis of adopting programmes for replacing capitalism with socialism – including socialist economic planning, public ownership of the top companies and democratic workers’ negotiations over natural resources and land  – an independent, socialist Palestinian state will be possible, alongside a socialist Israel, with guaranteed rights for all minorities, as part of a voluntary socialist confederation across the Middle East.