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From The Socialist newspaper, 14 May 2008

60 year anniversary of Israel

Can there be a resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict?

The sister section of the Committee for a Workers International in Israel celebrate May Day with red flags. Photo Maavak Sozialisti

The sister section of the Committee for a Workers International in Israel celebrate May Day with red flags. Photo Maavak Sozialisti

Since the Israeli state was founded 60 years ago, many Jewish people around the world have moved there on the promise of prosperity and security. Yet despite Israel having one of the strongest military machines in the world, Israeli Jews do not feel secure, and a huge wealth gap means that a large section of the population lives in poverty.

Judy Beishon

For the Palestinian refugees dispersed across the Israeli occupied territories and surrounding countries, the 60 year anniversary is that of their 'Naqba' (catastrophe). They have lived away from their original homes, a majority of them in dire poverty, for those 60 years.

In the occupied territories their plight has recently become particularly dire. This is especially so in the Gaza strip, where the present Israeli blockade is preventing all trade and many basic supplies from getting in, including adequate fuel. The entire strip has been reduced to conditions of terrible destitution, with no escape.

When the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, was elected to govern the Palestinian Authority in 2006, Israeli military punishment was stepped up, with regular brutal incursions using tanks, bulldozers and helicopters. In February and March this year, over 170 Palestinians were killed, including many babies and children.

The Israeli government tries to justify its onslaught on the grounds that rockets are being fired from Gaza into Israel. This is despite the fact that the number of Israelis killed by Palestinian rockets since 2001 is 15, while last year alone 379 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. Last year's ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths in the conflict was 40:1.

However, while democratically organised, armed resistance by the Palestinians is necessary, the rocket and other attacks directed at Israeli civilians should not be carried out. As well as bringing more repression down on Palestinians, increasing their suffering and making struggle more difficult, they push Israeli workers away from sympathising with the Palestinians' plight and closer to the agenda of the Israeli capitalist class.

Ceasefire prospects

There is a dawning realisation among capitalist commentators and international 'mediators' that the Israeli stranglehold over Gaza is pushing Palestinian militias into new desperate and violent measures.

Last month, Palestinian fighters broke out of the strip twice to launch attacks, the second one injuring 13 Israeli soldiers and killing three of the Palestinians involved.

The present bloodshed is bad enough, but it could get much worse. For instance the Israeli army could launch a full scale invasion into Gaza, and the danger of a wider war drawing in surrounding states is ever present.

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert's weak coalition government is vehemently opposed to negotiating directly with Hamas, as is the US Bush regime. This is despite the fact that Hamas has said it would negotiate a long term truce and that around two-thirds of the Israeli population favours negotiations with Hamas.

Neither right-wing Islamic Hamas nor the secular Fatah has majority support in the territories. But the Israeli government's strategy of using brutal military force to try to weaken the Hamas leaders, while courting Fatah Palestinian Authority president Mahmood Abbas (based in the West Bank), has only served to bolster support for Hamas and reduce it for the Fatah leaders.

Not long ago, Olmert declared that Israel will have to accept a Palestinian state to avoid the prospect of Palestinians becoming a majority of the population within the area controlled by Israel. But he presides over a coalition government that hangs together by a thread. He is dependent on right wingers in the coalition who will not contemplate further withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the territories, negotiations with Hamas or even any significant concessions to the western imperialist-friendly Fatah regime in the West Bank.

The West Bank remains atomised, with now an incredible 560 Israeli checkpoints and barriers, and Palestinians there are subjected to regular Israeli military raids. Olmert is faced with an increasingly outraged Palestinian population with its institutions divided into two between Hamas control and Fatah control - a division that was a direct by-product of US imperialism's sponsoring of Fatah, backed up by the Israeli regime.

The international talks in Annapolis last November were not the launch of a remotely viable peace process, given the present stance of the Israeli ruling class. The building of Jewish settlements in the territories continued apace straight after the talks; 1,700 new settler homes have been approved since then.

The Palestinian militias, including those of Hamas, have offered a six-month ceasefire, but this has been rejected so far by the Israeli government. Hamas has also declared its willingness to accept a Palestinian state on the land occupied by Israel in 1967 (while not explicitly recognising the Israeli state alongside it).

There are seemingly endless numbers of meetings of rep-resentatives of the world's capitalist powers to discuss peace initiatives and intervention of various forms in the region.

But no imperialist initiative will ever at root be aimed at the interests of ordinary Palestinians, or for ordinary Israelis for that matter. And in any case, all the high level deliberations have been impotent in the face of intransigence on the part of the Israeli regime.

However, the bloodshed always tends to ebb and flow in cycles, and at some point the Israeli capitalist class will feel compelled - for the sake of its own interests and predicament - to make some, at least temporary, conciliatory moves. But these will certainly not solve the aspirations of workers on either side of the national divide.

As Israel marks its 60th year, among ordinary Israelis there is huge questioning of the direction of society and a collapse in the authority of state institutions. Virtually all leading politicians, including Olmert, are highly discredited and viewed as corrupt. Olmert is presently undergoing several corrupton investigations.

There is also great pessimism on prospects for a peace deal and growing disquiet about the occupation. But the greatest concern is over the huge inequality in society. The top 1% of wage earners collectively earn the same as the bottom 25%. While the Israeli economy has been growing, workers' share of Israel's national income has continued to fall.

Israeli workers

The sister section of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) in Israel celebrate May Day with red flags. Photo Maavak Sozialisti

The sister section of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI) in Israel celebrate May Day with red flags. Photo Maavak Sozialisti

There have been waves of attacks by successive governments on the welfare state and on secure jobs, in pursuit of a neo-liberal agenda. Tremendous anger has built up against these attacks and this has been reflected in some important workers' struggles in recent years.

Israeli workers will come increasingly into collision with their bosses and will at some point feel driven to build their own political representation, in the form of a new workers' party. This party could develop into a powerful force against the Israeli ruling class; a process that is necessary for the emancipation of Israeli workers, and also to give vital assistance to the aspirations of the Palestinians.

For the Palestinian struggle to successfully develop, democratic decision-making and control of all defensive and offensive actions is necessary. And their resistance needs to involve the widest possible number of people, rather than being carried out by many small, competing, secretive militias. There are many possible goals for mass action that could be pursued, including actions to prevent land annexations.

Also, Palestinian workers will need to turn towards socialist ideas. A poverty-free Palestinian state will not be achieved on the basis of capitalism, as it would not be seen as a stable, economically viable 'investment opportunity', and the benefits of any economic growth would go disproportionately to the rich. The imperialist ruling classes worldwide and the Arab elites have only their own interests at heart: to extract wealth and if possible not to import instability or threats to their position into their own countries. Their political and economic strategic interests include not wanting to undermine Israeli capitalism.

Nor do the aspiring Palestinian capitalists and their representatives have much in common with the interests of ordinary Palestinians. Their aim is exploitation and profit like capitalists the world over. West Bank Palestinian civil servants and other workers have repeatedly taken strike action in recent months on the issue of wages and other attacks made on their living standards by their Palestinian Authority 'leaders'.

Just as capitalism will provide no future for the Palestinians, in Israel too, despite its far more developed economy, capitalism is unable to provide security and adequate living standards for ordinary people.

Faced with the existence of the 'security' wall being built by Israel, eating significantly into Palestinian land; also with the expansion of Jewish settlements and atomisation of Palestinian areas; some people call for a single, secular, democratic state of Palestinians and Jews rather than two states side by side.

But the demand for one state raises enormous fear in the region - especially among Israeli Jews, who recoil at the idea of becoming a discriminated-against minority in such a state, as the Palestinian birth rate is out-stripping that of Jews. So this proposition is not conducive to winning Jewish workers over to seriously challenging the Israeli ruling class.

Only by supporting a socialist Israel alongside a socialist Palestine, can the path be set for the development of trust and cooperation between working people on both sides of the divide, a rise in their living standards across the board, and an end to the bloodshed for ever.

This is a shortened version of an article at www.socialistworld.net

Lebanon fighting

The latest eruption in violence in Lebanon between the beleaguered pro-US government of Fouad Siniora and the Islamist Hezbollah movement has raised the dire prospect of a return to civil war and sectarian conflict.

The recent violence has over-shadowed the general strike called by Lebanon's trade unions to protest against workers declining living standards.

For analysis of these events and updates, see, Lebanon: Pro-Western government militias routed by Hezbollah-led opposition on socialistworld.net

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In The Socialist 14 May 2008:

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Unison witch-hunt

Unison witch-hunt: Rory Bremner and Mark Thomas speak out

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Unison witch-hunt: Defend the four lobby of hearing


International socialist news and analysis

Burma cyclone disaster: Wealth and privilege put before aid

60 year anniversary of Israel: Can there be a resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict?

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Global capitalist crisis: Confidence in a socialist future


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Defend and extend abortion rights

Ladyfest: culture, politics and women


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Campaign for a new workers' party: conference 2008

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Socialist Party workplace news and analysis

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Wales TUC: Right wing attack on democracy

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Socialist Party review

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