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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 October 2000

Middle East Crisis Staring into the Abyss

THE SPIRALING conflict in the Middle East is taking on a distinctly nationalist, religious character, with Imams in the Gaza mosques calling for the defense of Al Aqsa, and for attacks against Jews.

Mandy Rabin, Maavak Sozialisti, (CWI, Israel)

Within Israel, hundreds of Jewish demonstrators have been shouting "death to the Arabs," and vandalizing mosques. Yet despite this, the key issue of the conflict is not control over the Al Aqsa mosque, or Temple Mount, but the poverty and despair amongst both Arabs and Jews, and the national oppression that Palestinians still suffer, after seven years of peace negotiations.

Because of their double oppression as Arabs within the Jewish state, and in the absence of a socialist movement in the Arab communities, these attacks are sometimes directed against Jewish workers.

These actions have provoked a nationalist, religious response from some of the most downtrodden sections of the Jewish working class. Whipped up by the government and by reactionaries.

In reaction to attacks upon them by Jews, Palestinians within Israel are organising themselves for self-defense, within towns and villages. Palestinians living in the Galilee have begun to raise the issue of the need for autonomy.

Not only does the conflict have its roots in the class nature of society but the current conflict is taking its toll, not on the capitalists and their representatives in government on both sides, but on ordinary Palestinians and Israelis.

So far, the victims have all been working class. On the Palestinian side, it is not the decision-makers, such as millionaire businessman Nabil Sha'ath, who have been throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, and getting killed and maimed, but the youth from the refugee camps. Of the 100 or more Palestinians killed so far in this conflict, at least 27 are under-18.

On the Israeli side, it is not the sons of the politicians and millionaire businessmen who have been killed or kidnapped, but soldiers from the most downtrodden sections of the working class - from ethnic minorities such as the Druze, Bedouin, or the Ethiopian Jews and from the development towns.

The 12 soldiers serving at Joseph's tomb, which the army eventually concluded was indefensible after one soldier bled to death, were all Druze.

Of the three soldiers kidnapped on the border with Lebanon, one was a Bedouin, one was an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, and the third was from a working-class development town. It is ironic that the person in charge of negotiating their release is the managing director of a major cellular phone company.

While it is the ruling class who are directing the negotiations (and on the Israeli side, the conflict), it is the working class who are forced to pay the price of their peace and of their war, when 'peace' breaks down.

A real prospect of war

THE SHARM al Sheikh summit was a desperate, last-ditch attempt by the international ruling class to salvage the peace process and avoid war. US imperialism and international big business are terrified that a war in the region would threaten oil supplies and topple the already shaky world economy over into a world recession.

Israeli capitalists have watched with horror as Israeli technology stocks plummeted in recent weeks. They are worried a new war will lead to a flight of investment, the collapse of the Israeli hi-tech industry, and with it their profits.

The Arab leaders are worried that the mass, pro-Palestinian demonstrations seen throughout the Arab world, could threaten the stability of their own regimes. Later, these movements could threaten to overthrow the dictatorial Arab leaders themselves. Therefore, the Arab leaders did their utmost to force Arafat to attend the summit.

The Palestinian masses have concluded that peace talks among capitalist leaders will bring them nothing but further suffering and humiliation. For them, the only way to achieve independence, dignity and an end to poverty is through mass struggle.

The Palestinian masses have lost faith in capitalist peace talks, and in taking the path of mass struggle, have tasted the fruits of their own power. They will not abandon this path in a hurry, as a result of any paper agreements at the top.

But while it is theoretically possible that a mass struggle could achieve, at immense cost, a Palestinian state, under capitalism, such a state would be impoverished and would not be independent. It would be dominated economically by the Israeli and Jordanian states and remain a cauldron of discontent.

Only a mass struggle to overthrow the capitalist and semi-feudal regimes of the region, and to replace them with socialist, workers' governments, could bring genuine independence to the Palestinian masses, peace and security to the Israeli working class, and an end to poverty, unemployment and discrimination for all.

Crisis on the Left

WITH THE Middle East on the brink of a new war, the Israeli 'Peace Camp' is silent and in crisis.

The main 'left' parties, including the Communist Party, and peace movements such as Peace Now, all supported the Oslo peace process uncritically. They gave their full support for peace negotiations conducted by Barak and Arafat who represent capitalism's interests. They campaigned to get Ehud Barak elected prime minister, who has subsequently launched vicious attacks on Israeli workers.

They turned a blind eye to Arafat's corrupt, dictatorial, oppressive regime, and somehow failed to notice that as the peace process progressed, the lives of Palestinians got worse.

Now that the Oslo peace process has been shattered, they have no answers. Some blame Yasser Arafat, saying that he, or the Palestinian masses, are not yet ready for peace.

Maavak Sozialisti was the only organisation in Israel which explained that the Oslo peace process will not bring stable peace, because capitalism is incapable of solving the fundamental problems that fuel national unrest.

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In The Socialist 20 October 2000:

Fight the Job Cuts

Rail Safety before Profit

Middle East Crisis Staring into the Abyss

The Reality of being Black and British

Rallying against corporate capitalism

Can Brown's "cunning plan" buy off fuel protests?


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