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THE MIDDLE East took another shuddering step towards war with the first ever invasion of the Palestinian Authority (PA) territory by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on Monday 15 April. KEVIN SIMPSON looks at the latest developments.
A war by any other name
EVEN THOUGH the Israeli tanks, which thundered into three areas of the Gaza strip, returned to Israel within 24 hours, this action represents a qualitative stepping up of regional tensions. An action like this carried out in any other part of the world would be regarded as a declaration of war.
The abrupt retreat of IDF tanks from their positions, however, as a result of huge US pressure has opened up big splits inside the Israeli ruling class.
Israeli generals have reacted angrily to what they see as another humiliating retreat by the army from its stated position of dealing with any attacks on Israel in the 'sharpest possible manner', this time purely to please Israel's US backers.
Following this fiasco, Sharon's position has been weakened as far as the reactionary Israeli Jewish parties - who are part of his cabinet - are concerned. The developing splits amongst the ruling class are a foretaste of much bigger splits throughout Israeli society at a later stage.
THESE latest events should not be seen in isolation. A number of cumulative factors make a wider conflict more possible. The increased severity of military action taken by the IDF indicates a change in tactics by the Israeli ruling class.
More extreme Palestinian groups like Hamas have responded with a stepping-up of suicide bombings inside Israel and the use of mortars on Israeli settlements and towns. This has led to a hardening of attitudes on both sides of the national divide, preparing the way for a continued spiralling of violence and tension.
It has exposed even more clearly the impossibility of any genuine solution of the aspirations of the Palestinian people for national liberation under capitalism.
Additionally, there is the growing feeling amongst the Arab masses that US imperialism, despite its rebukes of the Sharon government, in fact supports the Israeli ruling class's latest murderous campaign to smash the Intifada.
The perception that the new Bush administration has a more aggressive anti-Arab approach is building a huge subterranean reservoir of hatred towards US imperialism that could explode any time.
The Israeli ruling class now aims, through economic and military measures, to break the back of the Palestinian uprising. Even if Ehud Barak had been re-elected as prime minister he would have eventually adopted much the same policy as Sharon has implemented since coming to power.
ISRAEL'S RULERS want to force a defeated PA - with perhaps a different and more pliant leadership - to the negotiating table, to accept terms of surrender thinly disguised as a new "peace agreement". This involves the creation of a cantonised and emasculated Palestinian "state" surrounded by IDF bases and sub-divided by Israeli-controlled roads, ready to be used for reoccupation at a moment's notice.
A 'Palestine' of this sort would be completely dependent on Israel for economic trade and water supply. It would not be an independent Palestinian state but will be a series of impoverished, drought-ridden prison camps, guarded by the IDF on the outside and controlled by a corrupt PA on the inside.
In fact the IDF actions mean the further subdivision of the PA into 60 smaller cantons. The vast majority of Palestinians are barred from travelling between these cantons.
This current Israeli siege has caused over $2 billion in losses to the Palestinian economy and seen unemployment levels soaring to 48% of the population - poverty levels have rocketed.
Whilst the Israeli ruling class's attempt to militarily crush the Intifada will fail, the tactics of the more extreme Palestinian groups, like Hamas of bomb attacks on Israeli civilian targets have acted to drive sections of the Israeli Jewish working class into supporting the most reactionary, right-wing parties.
Socialists oppose the use of such actions by individuals no matter how heroic these actions may be viewed as by Palestinian activists. Such tactics solidify the Israeli population behind the Israeli ruling class and its generals.
A strategic goal of the Palestinian national liberation struggle must be to split the Israeli Jewish working class from its present support for the Israeli regime's continued repression of the Palestinian masses. This can only be done by exposing the class nature of Israeli (and Palestinian) society.
This could be done by producing propaganda explaining that the only way to end the bloodshed in the region would be by answering the national aspirations of the Palestinian people and the security fears of Israeli Jewish workers, which is impossible under capitalism.
Without this being done the mass opposition of the Palestinian people would continue.
Such material should also explain that the US-sponsored, capitalist Oslo accord has not brought genuine peace because of the class interests of those who negotiated the deal on both the Israeli and Palestinian side.
During the period of the peace accords, conditions for the Israeli working class have worsened as a result of the social and economic attacks by the political representatives of Israeli big business.
For Palestinians the corruption of the PA leadership means their conditions have become far worse. The failure of Oslo to answer the national aspirations of the Palestinian people now meant that Israeli conscripts were being killed on the frontlines while the same big businessmen were making super-profits.
These ideas could be linked to the necessity to overthrow capitalism in the region and creating a socialist alternative. On this basis working-class representatives from both sides of the national divide could negotiate a genuine agreement in the interest of the masses of the entire region.
CONTINUED USE of armed force and the increasing Israeli fatalities with no solution in sight will eventually open up sharp divisions in Israeli Jewish society, which will undermine the appearance of national unity that currently exists.
On both sides of the national divide, especially amongst Israeli Jews, there is huge social pressure to unify in the face of an outside threat. This can effect genuine activists in to relinquishing a class approach to the situation.
But, precisely in war conditions a socialist approach is necessary as the only means of resolving the issues.
A socialist approach requires the overthrow of Israeli capitalism and the PA as well as the corrupt undemocratic Arab regimes and the formation of a socialist confederation of the Middle East - involving a socialist Israel and the creation of a genuine independent socialist Palestinian state.
This is an edited version of a Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) statement. The full text can be seen on the CWI website at: www.socialistworld.net
- Withdraw IDF forces from all of the Occupied Territories.
- Support the right of all Israeli Jews to refuse to serve in the IDF. Build a mass, socialist working-class movement to end the drift towards war and the continued attacks on Israeli working-class living standards by the National Unity government.
- No imperialist intervention in the Middle East.
- For a mass revolutionary struggle - armed for the purposes of self defence - to end the IDF occupation of the territories. Elect popular committees for the running of all aspects of daily life in the PA. For the incorporation of all armed groups into self defence committes.
- Such committees to be under the democratic control of the masses to chart a commonly agreed strategy for the Intifada.
- For the right to freedom of expression and the right to organise in the PA.
- For an end to all discrimination and oppression based on national, religious and ethnic background.
- For an end to Israeli and Arab capitalism and the creation of a socialist Israel alongside an independent socialist Palestine. For a socialist confederation of the Middle East.
In The Socialist 27 April 2001: