Editorial of the Socialist issue 1135

Palestinians need a new socialist intifada

Marching against Israeli state terror. Photo: Mary Finch

Marching against Israeli state terror. Photo: Mary Finch   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

The Israeli bombardment of Gaza lasted for eleven days, with terrible loss of life and devastation on the ground. The death toll of Gazans was 248, more than a quarter of them children. Residential buildings, hospitals and schools were destroyed. Power, water and sewage infrastructure was hit, adding to the humanitarian catastrophe.

While agreeing to a ceasefire, Israel’s government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, made no commitment to stop its brutal policing methods against Palestinian protests, nor to stop the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem.

So further provocations and attacks of the outrageous type that preceded the outbreak of war remain at the discretion of the Israeli regime, and the conflict could worsen again at any time.

The Israeli government had met its immediate war aims – a whipping up of nationalism to try to bolster its position and propaganda that it had severely damaged the Hamas leadership in Gaza.

Netanyahu is presently on trial in the Israeli courts on charges of corruption and has failed to achieve a ruling coalition majority in four successive general elections. So he had plenty of reason to encourage a distraction and surge of nationalism.

Oslo failure

For the Palestinians in the occupied territories, the ongoing expansion of Jewish settlements and other Jewish-only infrastructure is reducing and atomising the land on which the 1993 Oslo deal once gave some hope of a Palestinian state.

But none of the mainstream, pro-capitalist Palestinian political parties – including Fatah and Hamas – have a strategy to prevent this process. Likewise, the capitalist powers worldwide that have been involved in the cycles of ‘peace’ talks have shown their complete inability over decades to offer a way forward.

The Palestinians can only rely on their own struggle against the Israeli ruling class and the occupation, and this will inevitably also mean challenging their own pro-capitalist elite. They need a new intifada, a mass popular uprising, democratically organised and fully under their own control and decision making.

The Palestinian protests that arose in East Jerusalem before the war – against evictions, brutal policing and the storming of the al-Aqsa mosque – were showing the type of actions that need to be built, and achieved some victories.

But when Hamas and other militias in Gaza intervened by firing rockets into Israel, it shifted the struggle onto a different plane, out of the hands of the protest movements. In addition, the rockets, which killed 12 Israelis, helped the Israeli government with its war propaganda among Israeli Jews, as Israeli civilians were the worst hit by them.

As well as the need for the Palestinians to have democratic control of their own struggle, they also need to build their own mass workers’ political party, independent of capitalist interests.

This applies for the Israeli working class too. It needs its own political representation, to be able to put forward, a programme in its own interests, and because only the workers’ movement in Israel has an interest in and ability to put forward the programme that is necessary for a genuine Palestinian state to be achieved.

Countering division

An urgent task at present for Israeli workers is to counter the danger posed by the division between Jews and Palestinians which arose during the war, by organising against the far right and sectarianism wherever it is threatened.

The potential power of workers’ action was shown in a general strike on 18 May by Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territories in support of the protests against the repression in East Jerusalem and the war on Gaza. Also, thousands of Jews and Arabs demonstrated against their government and the war in Tel Aviv on 22 May, as well as there being protests in other cities.

The workers’ movements in Israel and Palestine will need to develop socialist programmes, as decaying and rotten capitalism can only offer inequality and insecurity on both sides of the divide.

Building a socialist Palestine and a socialist Israel will become part of a process of movements across the Middle East turning to the same objective – the removal of capitalism. That will be the only basis for a future that can satisfy the needs and aspirations of all the peoples of the region.

And for the tens of thousands who have taken to the streets in Britain over the last two weeks to protest at Israeli state terror and for Palestinian self-determination – joining the struggle to end capitalism and for a socialist system should be the next step.