Photo: Rafah Kid/CC
Photo: Rafah Kid/CC

Editorial of the Socialist issue 1278

As the UK general election campaign goes into full swing, many Tory and Blairite Labour politicians will probably be hoping that minds turn away from Gaza and their parties’ refusal during eight months of war to take or support action to end it. But with the Israeli military onslaught unrelenting and charities reporting “apocalyptic” conditions in Rafah, including starvation and disease, concern over Gaza among ordinary people remains high.

While Labour is the certain election victor, it will be in spite of its record on the war and not in any way validating it. Starmer has kept Labour’s policy on Gaza largely aligned with the Tories’ defence of the Israeli government’s brutality, only shifting from it slightly in the latter period of the war, for instance through questioning the continued endorsement of arms sales to Israel.

Some voters have made it clear that they can’t bring themselves to vote for either the Tories or Labour on the issue of Gaza alone. In some constituencies they will be able to vote for a Socialist Party member standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, with a key demand on our leaflet being “Stop the slaughter in Gaza; For mass trade union action to stop arming the Israeli state”. There are also other left and ‘independent’ candidates calling for an end to the war, with various programmes.

No doubt some voters will consider voting Green or Lib Dem on the basis that those parties at least called for a ceasefire at an earlier stage of the war. But neither of them have challenged capitalist interests when elected to positions of influence or power, and no solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict has ever come from any pro-capitalist government or political party.

Many of those parties, including the Greens and Lib Dems, foster illusions in what international capitalist institutions like the United Nations (UN) might be able to deliver. Palestinian deaths reached nearly 36,000, including 15,000 children, before the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) demanded that the Israeli military should hold back – a demand simply ignored by Israel’s leaders and those of its most powerful backer, the US. Also unable to end the war is the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose prosecutor is seeking arrest warrants for Israel’s prime minister and defence minister, along with leaders of Hamas.

Given the overwhelming Israeli military force faced by the Palestinians, most people worldwide welcome what they see as the Israeli state being called to account. But the ICJ, ICC and other international bodies have no means of enforcing their rulings. In 2022, the ICJ told Russia to suspend its military operations in Ukraine, but Putin just ignored the ICJ, as Israeli prime minister Netanyahu does now. It has recently been revealed that over five years from 2017 to 2021 Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency threatened the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to try to stop an investigation into Israeli military actions. Clearly the ICC did not feel powerful enough to expose that intimidation or take action against it.

Capitalist institutions

The capitalist international institutions are funded and maintained by capitalist governments who are more and more unable to act collectively in a world marked by capitalist economic stagnation and division. They continually come up against each other’s interests and the fact that the leadership in the world’s strongest power, the US, picks and chooses which international laws to subscribe to. Even laws the US formally accepts are applied selectively, according to its imperialist interests.

Globally, governments are feeling great pressure from below against the war. So they are increasingly resorting to largely symbolic gestures to appear to be doing something to uphold ‘humanitarian law’.

The processes of recognising a Palestinian state by the governments in Spain, Norway and Ireland, again while understandably welcomed by many people, won’t bring about an end to the war and a Palestinian state. Those governments have no programme that will help deliver a genuine state, nor does any other capitalist government. The UK parliament voted in 2014 to recognise a Palestinian state but that had no effect on the reality for the Palestinians.

In the US, president Biden is treading multiple tightropes, trying to defend the interests of the US Democratic Party and himself in the run-up to the presidential election in November, faced with anger from potential Democratic voters over his Gaza policy, while also trying to promote the interests of the US in the Middle East. Those interests include preventing a wider war, defending Israel as a key US ally, maintaining influence over the Arab elites, and warding off new workers’ uprisings in the region.

His postponement in May of sending the largest US-made bombs to Israel was a gesture of warning to Netanyahu’s government but very mild considering the overall massive supply of US arms to Israel. Its limited nature was shown when Netanyahu quickly snubbed Biden’s new public announcement on a peace proposal and stressed the war would go on, though it’s possible that further measures are being raised behind the scenes – at the time of writing the fate of the proposal isn’t yet known.

The failure of the capitalist powers to intervene decisively against the war discredits their governments and worldwide institutions further in the eyes of ordinary people. The western powers merely try to curb what they see as the most problematic excesses of the Israeli regime, while at root maintaining their close relations with Israeli capitalism.

Crocodile tears

All are utterly hypocritical, expressing crocodile tears over Palestinian suffering. France’s government approved of the ICC’s threat against Israeli leaders and president Macron was “outraged” by a recent Israeli missile strike that killed 45 civilians in a non-evacuated area of Rafah, but just last month Macron sent reinforcements of French troops across the world to use force against the independence movement in New Caledonia.

What about the situation inside Israel? Polls show a growing majority of Israelis believing that no ‘victory’ is possible in the war and reports indicate a mood of demoralisation due to the social and economic impact of the war, and the protest movements internationally and sanctions. But at the same time, most Israeli Jewish people are reacting to the sanctions and Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaigns with increased nationalist and defensive sentiment, added to by their fear of further military attacks from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas or elsewhere. Also, support for Netanyahu, which fell to a low level after the Hamas attack on 7 October, has recently increased a bit.

However, before the military assault on Rafah, a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 62% of Israelis preferred a hostage deal over a military offensive on Rafah. Also, the parents of more than 900 Israeli soldiers being deployed in Gaza have signed a letter calling for the Rafah offensive to be called off, fearing for the soldiers’ lives.

Open divisions are rife at the top of Israeli society, including in the war cabinet, particularly over what to advocate for the Gaza Strip after the war. When negotiations on the aftermath of the war do eventually take place, a genuine, independent Palestinian state will not be delivered by any combination of capitalist representatives in Israel, the region, or internationally, as the Socialist Party has consistently explained. Only on a socialist basis, with the complete removal of profit-reliant, unequal, rotten capitalism, can the Palestinians achieve national liberation and also decent living standards in a socialist Palestine. Israeli workers can only achieve security and decent living standards through the removal of capitalism too, through achieving a socialist Israel, alongside a socialist Palestine, in a socialist confederation of the Middle East.

This necessitates the building of independent workers’ organisations across the Palestinian territories, in Israel and across the region, that can grow to challenge and remove capitalism. Of course, no sanctions or other actions by the capitalist ruling classes are aimed at that outcome – on the contrary, they want to prevent it at all costs. So only sanctions carried out by workers internationally, through their trade unions, can be trusted, and can be aimed at the Israeli capitalist class and its instruments of repression and occupation and not at Israeli workers, to help expose the class divide in Israel.

Also, building action by organised workers in Britain, the US, and across the globe is the route to stopping the war. The working class has the potential for a decisive say in events through its ability to collectively withdraw its labour. Helping to bring the voice and action of organised workers into the anti-war movement needs to be part of the election manifesto of all socialists who stand in the UK general election, as it is for the Socialist Party.